The Dust Needs to Settle

We had quite the storm this past Saturday evening of heavy rain, strong wind and lightning. On the back screened porch Sunday morning, everything was damp and the southern humidity didn’t help matters. At least the birds were in song and the coffee was strong. I was sitting on the back porch, not sure how long that was going to last, to write letters, organize to-do lists and to jot down thoughts about, The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah. In the picture, you see John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you say. “Where’s, The Four Winds?” I bought this copy of The Grapes of Wrath back in 92′ and yes, it’s still in great condition. Gosh, saying that makes me feel old.

To answer your question, assuming you’re asking it, I’m re-visiting The Grapes of Wrath because The Four Winds is a good companion and the stories are still relevant today. They both give you a fountain of information to think about and I have so much to say about both of them. The Four Winds is resting on one of my bookshelves. I will be un-shelving the book soon to gather some marked passages and discuss both books with its contrasts and similarities.

This will be a rather ongoing project and perhaps will share in bits and pieces at Layered Pages. Each post will be linked, so you many keep up with this project, if you wish.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Published April 10th 2014 by Viking (first published April 14th 1939)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Published February 2nd 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Cover Crush: Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar

About the Cover: The beautifully stark landscape and the contract of the flowers caught my attention. The shades of colors draw your eyes to the depth of the mountains. I do love the title but I feel the size of the font overwhelms the layout and takes away from the depiction of the mountains in the background.  

Thoughts about the story: I noticed that readers are shelving this book as Historical Fiction. Despite the history of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict, this particular story does not take place fifty years ago and the genre is generally considered historical when fifty years has passed.

The premise of this story is something I want to explore in-depth. The conflict in Iraqi is prevalent to our time and history. To experience the period in the eyes of an aspiring photographer, Olivia Murray and her Kurdish boyfriend, Delan will be fascinating and gripping to say the least. I’ve added this book to my to-read pile. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book: Published May 1st 2021 by Lake Union Publishing

An aspiring photographer follows her dreams and faces her fears in a poignant novel about finding beauty, promise, and love amid the chaos of war-torn Kurdistan.

It’s 1979. Olivia Murray, a secretary at a Los Angeles newspaper, is determined to become a photojournalist and make a difference with her work. When opportunity arrives, she seizes it, accompanying her Kurdish boyfriend, Delan, to northern Iraq for a family wedding, hoping to capture an image that lands her a job in the photo department. More important, though, the trip is a chance to understand Delan’s childhood and bridge the differences of their pasts. Yet when the return home proves less safe than Delan believed, Olivia is confronted with a reality she had not expected, and is awakened to the dangers of a town patrolled by Iraqi military under curfew and constant threat.

But in this world torn apart by war, there are intoxicating sights and scents, Delan’s loving family, innocence not yet compromised, and small acts of kindness that flourish unexpectedly. All of it will be tested when Olivia captures a shattering, tragic moment on film, one that upends all their lives and proves that true bravery begins with an open heart.

Memorial Day: Remembrance

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” – Lee Greenwood

Today we are honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. arm forces. It is important to recognize and respect their dedication and sacrifices for our freedoms that we hold dear as a Nation and to not lose sight of those freedoms fought for us.

Let us take a moment of pause and reflect on the true meaning of this day. God bless America and God bless our soldiers who have fought bravely and died to preserve our freedoms and protect the lives of Americans and others around the world. We thank you for your service and sacrifice. -Stephanie Hopkins 

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Published February 2nd 2021 by Berkley Books

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

My thoughts:

The Nature of Fragile Things is without a doubt, my favorite book by Meissner. The different elements and themes are engaging and her story is unique, and although you are transported to time and place, you feel connected to the characters as if they were living today.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake devastated the city and left well over 200,000 homeless and a high death toll. A fire broke out and quickly spread through parts of the city making it even more unsafe. Meissner’s historical telling of the earthquake and fire is wonderfully woven into the story.

What I liked most about Sophie is that she is a complex protagonist. She is not what you would call a goody-two-shoe heroine, but a woman with flaws and at times, doubt is cast about her motives and her life. Meissner steps out of the norm of one- dimensional characters I often see in stories. Readers need to see the characters battle their own demons, grow and learn from them. You get that and more from this story.

A compelling story blended with history and fiction.

I couldn’t put this book down.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: Sunflower Sisters (Lilac Girls #3) by Martha Hall Kelly

Random House Publishing Group

Ballantine Books

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 30 Mar 2021

About the Book:

Lilac Girls, the 1.7-million-copy bestselling novel by Martha Hall Kelly, introduced readers to Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist who helped young girls released from Ravensbruck concentration camp. Now, in Sunflower Sisters, Kelly tells the story of her ancestor Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse who joins the war effort during the Civil War, and how her calling leads her to cross paths with Jemma, a young enslaved girl who is sold off and conscripted into the army, and Ann-May Wilson, a southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists.

Georgeanne “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and demure attitudes of women of her stature. So, when the war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women a bother on the battlefront. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg and witness the unparalleled horrors of slavery as they become involved in the war effort.

In the South, Jemma is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, where she lives with her mother and father. Her sister, Patience, is enslaved on the plantation next door and both live in fear of LeBaron, an abusive overseer who tracks their every move. When Jemma is sold by the cruel plantation mistress Anne-May at the same time the Union army comes through, she sees a chance to finally escape–but only by abandoning the family she loves.

Anne-May is left behind to run Peeler Planation when her husband joins the Union Army and her cherished brother enlists with the Confederates. In charge of the household, she uses the opportunity to follow her own ambitions and is drawn into a secret Southern network of spies, finally exposing herself to the fate she deserves.

My Thoughts:

When I began to read this story, I must confess my feelings were not completely favorable. I’ve read and studied the American Civil War for quite some years and was looking for something I haven’t read before. As the story unfolded, I became less frustrated and was intrigued with how the author portray the character’s personalities. Needless to say, she doesn’t hold back.

Kelly marvelously shows us multi-dimensional people of the time. Which is important to have a better sense of mindsets and not told just in the perspective of the people who oppose them. Yes, it can be a slippery slope in today’s social norms but it is extremely counterproductive when people’s voices-all around-are silenced. 

I was quite impressed with the realistic imagery of the Civil War background and the author’s portrayal of the evils of slavery. Heart-wrenching to say the least…

As the war continued, just about every household lost someone they loved. Death became commonplace and with Sunflower Sisters, you experience that fact, vividly.

The Civil War topic still holds to this day with powerful and emotional attitudes. There was a particular scene in the story where I felt the author was bringing up a subject that many don’t speak of openly. Powerful business men in the north of that time profited from slavery. Yes, they surely did as the sun rises. Still applies today, really. Slavery is the oldest institution in the world. The author also portrays quite a few prejudices by people in the north had towards people of color.

There was a couple themes in the story that reminded me of what C.S. Harris wrote in an interview I had with her a few years back. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

Bravo, Martha Hall Kelly! You have written a story that provokes discussion and clarity on this sensitive subject. You give new meaning to the good, bad and ugly. Memorable characters and an unforgettable story that needed to be told.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Learning to Speak Southern

What are you up to now, Stephanie?

On NetGalley, often times, book reviewers can, “wish-for,” books to review. When I spotted, “Learning to Speak Southern,” I knew this one was for me. Ha!

Why?

For several reasons really. I’m a southern girl, I love journaling, writing and family is very important to me. Oh, and I love the cover of this book!

Did the publishers grant your wish?

Yes! I was quite surprised really. I usually old my breath when I wish for a book. So delighted and thankful.

I thought you are trying to catch up on your back-list? What are you thinking?

Err…I am. I promise. This one looked too good to pass up. I know, I know…I can’t keep doing this. In my defense, Sourcebooks rarely disappoints in their reading selection and looking at my back-list, I’ve realized I’ve put myself in a corner of-sorts with my selection. One needs options so you don’t get burned out. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thank you, Sourcebooks Landmark for a galley copy of this story! Looking forward to diving in very soon. -Stephanie Hopkins   

Learning to Speak Southern

by Lindsey Rogers Cook

SOURCEBOOKS Landmark

General Fiction (Adult) | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 

Description

A searing Southern story about confronting the difference between the family you’re born into and the family you choose, from the acclaimed author of How to Bury Your Brother

Lex fled Memphis years ago, making ends meet with odd jobs teaching English around the world. She only returns when she has no choice, when her godmother presents her with a bargain she can’t refuse. Lex has never understood her mother, who died tragically right before Lex’s college graduation, but now she’s got a chance to read her journals, to try and figure out what sent her mother spiraling all those years ago.

The Memphis that Lex inhabits is more bourbon and bbq joint than sweet tea on front porches, and as she pieces together the Memphis her mother knew, seeing the lure of the world through her mother’s lush writing, she must confront more of her own past and the people she left behind. Once all is laid bare, Lex must decide for herself: What is the true meaning of family?

Balance Rock Moab Utah

 

Balance Rock Edited

By Stephanie Hopkins 2020

My artistic rendition of Balance Rock in Moab, Utah inspired of Walker Scott Moore’s photo taken at night.

When creating the sky, I envisioned illimitable depth and movement. I am pleased with the results! I took pictures of this piece in different lights and the camera captures the many layers of colors of the night sky in each location I took the shot. It’s truly astonishing how viewing this art piece from different angles reveals another layer or change-if you will- of color in the night sky. Having said that, I used my ancient phone camera to take the pictures and it really doesn’t do the painting justice.

The rock formation was my biggest challenge and I enjoyed exploring this technique in creating landscape. I have used paste before in my art projects but not to this extent. I have learned a lot with this piece-as I do with all my art-and look forward in seeing where my next big project takes me.

BalancingRock_Milkyway01

Photo Taken by Walker Scott More

To see more of Scott’s photography, please visit his website at WSM Photography

“Balanced Rock is one of the most popular features of Arches National Park, situated in Grand County, Utah, United States. Balanced Rock is located next to the park’s main road, at about 9.2 miles (14.8 km) from the park entrance. It is one of only a few prominent features clearly visible from the road.” -Wikipedia

Close Up Shots

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My process

I used wood from my Father’s wood shop and cut the wood to size and sanded it for a smooth surface. I believe the wood I used is Birch and it was great to work with.

I collage the front and sides of the wood with outdated dictionary paper and used Matte Medium to adhere the paper. When dried I applied two coats of Gesso, allowing each layer of coat to dry. Then sketched the rock formation and tower with a regular number two pencil.

I used Ranger Ink Grit Paste for the texture of the rocks. As that was drying I painted Sky with Teals, Purples and several shades of Blues and used Matte, Satin and Gloss Acrylics. Then painted the rocks with blends of Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna, Milk White, Black and Yellow OCHRE. Through this process I added White Gesso at times to help with the look of movement I wanted to crate and to lighten some of the colors for depth. Gesso is also good for helping with the spread of paint which was needed since I was painting over collage.

After the sky and towers were completely dried, I added the stars by using Platinum White Acrylic mixed with a little water. The Acrylic Varnish is the last step and it is  important to wait a few days until applying. The mediums used in the painting need time to set properly. I’m not sure I will apply the Acrylic Varnish to the rock formation seeing as I used paste. I need to research that a bit more first being sealing it. Having said that, there are several layers of paint on the paste so I wonder…

The Brands of Acrylic Paints I used for this project are Golden, Liquitex, Master’s Touch and Folk Art.

Gesso and Matte Medium by Liquitex

-Stephanie

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Images are subjected to copyright. In order to use art images, photos or any content on Layered Pages website, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

The Fight for Freedom

Founding Fathers ILast Friday my Father brought me a copy of National Geographic, “Founding Fathers” edition. I was quote surprised and overjoyed! I love U.S. History and thought it was cool my Father thought of me when he came across this magazine. At first, I flipped through the pages and liked what I saw. There are several articles and stunning images. There are also three titles history book titles on the back that I want to check out.

Founding fathers IIMy Father pulled at my heart strings with this treasure. Every night since, I read an article and closely examine the images. There are a lot of information I’m learning or had forgotten. A few of the images has inspired me to create art based on our countries history.

Founding Fathers IIIIWhat has always impressed upon me about our Founding Fathers, is that despite the fact they were all different in many ways, they shared a common ideology. A government for the people and by the people.  An idea that no other country had been able to do before. These men came together knowing it was treason to go up against the crown-with courage-fought for the very freedoms we hold dear today.

People today need to know and understand how important our constitution is and how extraordinary the lengths our Founders went to for all of us and future generations to come. -Stephanie Hopkins

Happy 4th of July

USA FLAG

“This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.”-President Woodrow Wilson, 1917

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The essence of America—that which really unites us—is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea—and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.- Condoleezza Rice

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

This is one of many Collage Art Journal pages I created in April. It holds a lot of meaning to me and its powerful. I really enjoyed creating these two pages. The image of the girl is from a art magazine I subscribed to a few years ago. I believe she had a British flag image where I placed the Liberty Bell Stamp.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Art Journal Pages by Stephanie Hopkins

A Life Liberty II Edited

(Images may be subjected to copyright. All book reviews, interviews, guest posts, art work, photos and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie.)