Book Titles That Stand Out

Not only does the design of a book help catch a reader’s eye but the title does as well. I’m drawn to clever book titles and how the writer decides what to caption the story. Often times, when I’m reading a book, I look for the phrase in the story or a situation that the writer might have decided on to use.

Titles matter in the scheme of things when it comes to not only selling a book, but by giving a reader’s imagination of what is inside. What and how the story is weaved and so begins the world building.

In this post, I’m sharing three book titles I came across recently that has captured my interest.. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick

Have you ever wished you were someone else?

Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So, she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship.

But when Essie dies suddenly, a devastated Liv is astonished to learn of her last wish: for Liv to complete Essie’s final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes, and as Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women–one that will change Liv’s own story forever…

The Myth of Perpetual Summer

Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.

If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.

Catching Broken Fish by Matthew Stewart Simon

It starts with understanding the paradigm of others and the words we choose.

More than ever we live in a world in constant conflict, and Christians are not exempt from the battleground. In fact, we are as broken as the next person, our own tragedies, mistakes, and poor choices shaping us, leading us to rely on Christ even more. As believers walking out our faith daily, facing our own challenges, we travel a road with weary and even lost souls-but that route is a target-rich environment for those who would use Christ’s message to revive God’s mission of grace on earth.

Blogger Matt Simon believes there’s a track to healing, and it begins with believers choosing to encourage, uplift, and offer words and acts of kindness to those who cross their paths. In his devotional Catching Broken Fish, based on Matthew 4:18, the author inspires each of us to step out of our comfort zones and to embrace being examples of God’s love. Using illustrations drawn from his own life as a farmer and school bus driver, Matt takes the reader on a humble trek of discernment and serving-products, he discovered, of his own failure and growth. He invites you to practice discipleship with him, no matter where you are in your life journey, in the belief that by uniting together in a goal to catch broken fish, we can change the destiny of the world.

What I’m Reading and Pondering

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

My thoughts so far:

I am deeply fascinated with Southern Gothic stories and I decided to give Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson a go. This is more of a young adult book, which I don’t normally read, but still find it compelling. I do have a few complaints but will reserve sharing those thoughts at a later time since I’m not quite at the half way mark.

About the book:

Dovey learns that demons lurk in places other than the dark corners of her mind in this southern gothic fantasy from the author of the Blud series.

A year ago, Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction—and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real…including Carly at their favorite café. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah—where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk—she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Educated by Tara Westover

My thoughts so far:  

I find this story fascinating and find Tara’s father to be sorely misguided in the fact that you can have your beliefs about Government, know the tools of survival, live off the land (which is important) or almost completely off grid in this case and still be educated, well-read and knowledgeable in the ways of the world through literature and self-learning without compromising your beliefs. After-all, education in many different areas gives one an advantage. Not allowing his children to learn how to read is heart breaking in my opinion. Now, I don’t believe everything I read, see or hear and that is where my critical thinking comes into play but I still need to know what is out there. I firmly believe that is a major part in our survival and it does sharpen the mind.

A few of Mark Twain’s quotes about education comes to mind.

“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that cannot read them.”

“It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.”

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

While I believe our school system is failing and lacking in many ways, I discovered that if I wanted to be “educated” by my own terms and definitions of the word, that I needed to read as many books as I can, try new things, listen to as many people’s outlook as I can and their experiences on life. I also, look at things with a critical mind, while keeping an open mind. That is important. I consider school a jump start into one’s education. Learn the tools that are given to you and branch out from there. You should never stop learning. Tara’s parents could have home schooled their children if they did not believe in the public education system, while holding to their beliefs!

I am still in the early stages of this story and Tara is still living with her family. With the thoughts I’ve already formed about the story, I look forward to discovering more. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Book Review: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

Hardcover, 336 pages

Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Minotaur Books

More times than not, truth of the past tragically dies with people. This is one of those stories.

Eleanor, a woman who has a neurological condition, called prosopagnosia, that torments her with the inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, arrives on the scene of her hard-hearted Grandmother Vivianne’s murder. Before Eleanor realizes what has happened, she comes face to face with the murderer but can’t make any sense of their face. The aftermath of her Grandmother’s death leaves her in a state of anxiety and devastating  emotions of not being able to identify the killer.

Months later, a lawyer calls Eleanor to tell her that her grandmother leaves her and her Aunt Veronika an estate situated deep in the Swedish forests, and they must take inventory of the house and grounds.

Eleanor and her boyfriend, Sebastian, arrives to the estate along with the lawyer and her Aunt looking for buried secrets and answers that takes them on a treacherous journey they wish they have never taken.

The Resting Place is an intense dual time line that slowly builds while deliberating leaving clues to the mysteries of Eleanor’s family in such a way, you’re not quite sure you know how the story is going to play out. About half way through, I was sure I had most the mystery figured out despite the twisty turns the story takes you on. I was pleasantly surprised with a few details I didn’t see coming.

There were a couple details about two characters that needed to be fleshed out but that said, Sten does a marvelous job casting doubt on the people in surrounding Eleanor and having you second guess yourself on their realities and intentions. Nothing is what it appears and everyone has motives.

I enjoyed reading about the old estate with its great house, out- buildings, lake and woods. You don’t know much about the history of the house or land per say but you get enough to leave up to your imagination.

Stem brilliantly weaves Eleanor’s prosopagnosia and it certainly adds to the creep vibe of the story!

There is so much more to this story that can’t be mentioned and my wish is for readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries to jump on this book when it is release to the public.

Atmospheric, twisty, hauntingly good story.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Book Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

It is not often you come across a thriller where every scene and detail are relevant to the story and evenly paced. Furthermore, it is not often when a book is plotted so well that it leaves you with no holes in a dissatisfied manner. A Flicker in the Dark is without a doubt one of the best thrillers I have read and I was impressed to learn early on that this story is Stacy Willingham debut novel. Her craft of story-telling is marvelous and if I hadn’t known this was her debut, I would have thought her a seasoned published author.

I must add that Willingham creates a brilliant cast of characters and her development of their personalities are flawless. Everyone is suspect and when you believe you have who the killer is, there is a twist leaving you blindsided.

I was fully engaged in this story and before I knew it, I found myself reading late into the night and early morning.

This book is getting a five-star rating from me and I am grateful for receiving an ARC from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review. It’s funny really, that often times, it’s harder for me to find the words to express my delight in discovering stories that grab my attention in such a way.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Expected publication: January 11th 2022 by Minotaur Books

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Hardcover, 368 pages

Expected publication: December 7th 2021 by Atria Books

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

My thoughts:

Pastoral, once a peaceful and reclusive community, with calm order and purpose, becomes sinister and takes “reclusive” to a whole other level. Yes, please! When I came across this book on NetGalley, I had a feeling about it and my thoughts were right on the money.

These days, it is hard to disconnect in more ways than one. Everything is fast-paced and mental illness is on the rise. It is no wonder many people dream about a simpler life. In History of Wild Places, the people seeking this life get more than they are asking for.

One of the main important elements of a story is connecting with the characters. You don’t get that in this story, perhaps because you aren’t given a lot of backstory. That said, there is a reason why and readers will begin to understand that based on the theme of the story.

Ernshaw employs artistic composition in a unique and refreshing way that has you hanging on to every word. Her ability to articulate any situation or surrounding in the story is outstanding. Ernshaw had me hooked with the first line!

As the story unfolded, I began to see clearly how prolonged isolation can be used to manipulate people of the tightknit community and the mind-distorting effects it creates.

I found myself fully immersed in unraveling, along with Theo, Calla and Bee, the dark secrets that keep them locked within the commune.

One aspect I would have liked to have been more developed was the characters’ daily lives and their relationships with each other. It would have made the plot more profound. In regards to the relationships, Bee’s and Levi’s were the only relationship fleshed out. I cannot say much more than that without giving any spoilers.  

A great mystery about the disappearance of people, manipulation, a reclusive community brilliantly weaved with atmospheric woods, survival and spooky elements.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Cover Crush: Heard It In A Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves

About the Cover: I discovered this book on Instagram and the title and cover drew me in with fascination. There is a song with that title by The Marshall Tucker Band. Highly recommend listening to it. The song has great lyrics and instrumental poetry…

The book cover showcases wonderful imagery. There are many mixed media artists who take faces and create florals above and around the heads and the affect expands on visual attention. I love the choice of colors as well and when a cover and title sparks this much interest, it makes one even more curious about what is inside.

About the Book: I have a feeling if I read this book, I would be in tears throughout the story. Or maybe I’m clinging to that old feeling for way too long and could handle the premise. Despite my mixed emotions, I’m curious about how this story is told and what the author offers in the conclusion. -Stephanie Hopkins

Side Note: I’m moving my cover crush series to Wednesday’s!

Description:

From Tracey Garvis Graves, the bestselling author of The Girl He Used to Know comes a love song of a story about starting over and second chances in Heard It in a Love Song.

Love doesn’t always wait until you’re ready.

Layla Hilding is thirty-five and recently divorced. Struggling to break free from the past―her glory days as the lead singer in a band and a ten-year marriage to a man who never put her first―Layla’s newly found independence feels a lot like loneliness.

Then there’s Josh, the single dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where Layla teaches music. Recently separated, he’s still processing the end of his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. He chats with Layla every morning at school and finds himself thinking about her more and more.

Equally cautious and confused about dating in a world that favors apps over meeting organically, Layla and Josh decide to be friends with the potential for something more. Sounds sensible and way too simple―but when two people are on the rebound, is it heartbreak or happiness that’s a love song away?

Journal Rework

Have you ever taken a journal apart that you wanted to transfer into one signature journals or you weren’t happy with the volume? Yep, that’s me. I love this journal so much and I’ve been working in it for over a year and a half now, I guess. I’m just not happy with how chunky it got and I still want to do lots more journaling in it. My solution was to take the signatures out and make each one individual journals. There are five signatures in all and I can’t wait to create covers for them and show you more. Let me know if you’ve ever done this.

People rework art works all the time. Why not journals, eh?

I’m working on so many projects that I have neglected my blogging a bit. Today I am playing catch up and It was nice to take some time to recharge. Blogging is seriously time consuming but in a good way. Just be sure you are taking care of yourself and learn to pace yourself.

This coming Friday and Saturday, I’m selling more ephemera packs with my paintings and I have a lot of my tags available for purchase over at my Instagram! My mini tags sold out in less than five minutes last Friday! So, be sure to follow me for the chance to snag one or more sets before they sell out.

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

A Saffron Everleigh Mystery

Pub Date Jun 7, 2022

About the Cover: This cover is really pleasing to the eye. The vibrant colors of the background, bottle and flowers add that extra spark to the overall layout. Often times, artists describe vibrant art as meaning pure, energetic and radiant. Quite the contrast to this novels premise. Though, I dare say, the most beautiful objects can be deadly.

About the Book: I love a good period mystery and what a great premise for a story! Imagine yourself alongside Saffron Everleigh, working to uncover the murderer and in the throes of intrigue and mystery.

Stephanie Hopkins

Description

London, 1923.  Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.
 
Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.

Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list? 

Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

I want to share something with you about C.S. Harris’s story Good Time Coming. I still think about the story and my interview with her. I went over to Amazon so I can order a physical copy of her book to add to my collections of books I most admire. I read the reviews and I feel people are misunderstanding the story by saying it’s one-sided and this and that. It is far from that and she wrote a story that is rarely or if at all talked about. If these readers truly appreciated and studied history and were avid historical fiction readers of the period, they would know this. We need more stories about civilians’ experiences in the south. I also feel that she wasn’t conveying that all union soldiers are bad like what one reviewer stated. I did not get that impression at all when I read the book. I wish people would leave their modern-day sensibilities out of history so that they can truly learn history in its raw form. Harris beautifully and heart wrenchingly portrayed how horrible the war was for the women left unprotected, while their men and sons were off fighting and dying by the hundreds of thousands. Nothing wrong in giving a southern view of the experience. I wish people would be more objective and open to hearing all sides because you cannot learn or teach history without it. We need to take the good, the bad and ugly and discuss it openly without prejudice. To blame a wrong solely on a group of people is counterproductive and causes further divide. After-all, honest talk is only how we will learn human experiences and heal as a community. So please, stop bringing political correctness into everything. It is polarizing, damaging and complete utter nonsense!

“The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians.” – C.S. Harris

The link to my interview with C.S. Harris will give readers a better sense of what the author was conveying with Good Time Coming. I highly recommend reading the book and to read the interview in full. One of the best civil war related stories I’ve read and that says a lot because this period in our countries history, interest me the most.

-Stephanie

About the book:

It’s the beginning of the American Civil War, and the Union army is sailing down the Mississippi, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The graceful river town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has known little of the hardships, death, and destruction of the War. But with the fall of New Orleans, all changes. A Federal fleet appears on the Mississippi, and it isn’t long before the depredations and attacks begin.

For one Southern family the dark blue uniform of the Union army is not the only thing they fear. A young girl stops a vicious attack on her mother and the town must pull together to keep each other safe. But a cryptic message casts doubt amongst the townsfolk. Is there a traitor in the town and can anybody be trusted?

Twelve-year-old Amrie and her family have never felt entirely accepted by their neighbors, due to their vocal abolitionist beliefs. But when Federal forces lay siege to the nearby strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the women and children of St. Francisville find themselves living in a no mans land between two warring armies. Realizing they must overcome their differences and work together to survive, they soon discover strengths and abilities they never knew they possessed, and forge unexpected friendships.

As the violence in the area intensifies, Amrie comes to terms with her own capacity for violence and realizes that the capacity for evil exists within all of us. And when the discovery of a closely guarded secret brings the wrath of the Federal army down on St. Francisville, the women of St. Francisville, with whom Amrie and her mother have shared the war years many deprivations and traumas, now unite and risk their own lives to save them.

Cover Crush: A Flicker of Light by Katie Powner

About the Cover: I never tire of landscapes and I’m drawn to the calm and peaceful feel to this cover. The soft shades of colors and the girl facing the sun setting over the mountains evokes longing or a sense of renewal, and the landscape depicted gives you a sense of contemplation.

About the Book and Genre: I have read quite a few Christian fiction books since my early childhood and enjoyed a few of them despite my feelings towards the genre. I must confess, it is not my go-to read because more times than not, I find them cheesy, with weak dialogue, unrealistic to the human condition and often times, there is false sense of biblical teaching. Despite my misgivings of the genre, I’m curious about this story and what it has to offer to readers. I will be keeping my eye on this book and at some point, I might even give it a read. – Stephanie Hopkins

Description:

Pub Date 05 Oct 2021 by Bethany House

Christian Fiction

Secrets are like pennies. Everybody’s got one, even the poorest among us.

For generations, the Jensens have raised their families in the small Montana town of Moose Creek, where gossip spreads faster than the wind. Yet some secrets need to be told.

When twenty-one-year-old Bea discovers she’s pregnant on the heels of her husband losing his job, she’s forced to admit she needs help and asks her dad for a place to stay. But past resentments keep her from telling him all that’s going on.

Mitch Jensen is thrilled to have a full house again, though he’s unimpressed with Bea’s decisions: dropping out of college, marrying so young–and to an idealistic city kid, of all things. Mitch hopes to convince Bea to return to the path he’s always envisioned for her, but she’s changed since her mom died. And he refuses to admit how much he’s changed, too, especially now that he might be losing his mother as well.

Grandma June is good at spinning stories, but there’s one she’s never told. Now that her mind is starting to fade, her time to tell it is running out. But if she reveals the truth before her memories are gone forever, the Jensen family will never be the same.