Finding Your Writing Voice Through Journaling

There are several methods of journaling that I incorporate in my daily life. The one activity they all have in common is they tell a story. They hold a deep and lasting meaning of my life and the lives I see around me. Looking back on all my journals and diaries, I’ve come to realize that in this endeavor is where I discovered my true writing voice. It wasn’t from reading books, though reading helps one grow their understanding of the written word, how stories are told, other life experiences and expands on one’s vocabulary, my writing voice developed over time from writing in journals. Could have it also been from blogging? Yes, I do find blogging a form of journal writing. A record keeping of thoughts, words, expression, emotions and even those awkward sentences where I couldn’t quite express myself in the way I felt inside. Those particular words don’t always come naturally to me in public form or rather, my private journals is what speaks of my truest inner voice.

Many people want to write in their journals but their uncertainty is holding them back. They say, “I’m not a writer or I would ruin my page, or rather my beautiful journal with my awkward words and ramblings.” Those awkward words and ramblings are what drives one to become a stronger writer. You must be deliberate with your writing and in the time, you take to write. Think of all the visits you made to a library filled with books that hold millions of words. Often times, those words did not come easy to the writer. Imagine the time and deliberate ink to paper or key strokes the writer put forth to build worlds in those numerous books. Believe me, it didn’t happen overnight for them. Don’t allow that voice in your head saying, “You’re not a writer,” intimidate you. Writing is a beautiful art regardless of one’s uncertainty in the act. Write what you know, write what you see and hear. Write a word or two and keep adding words after that. Allow those words to build on each other and soon you’ll find your voice as a writer. Once you do, words will flow and writing will be like exploring space. The act will take you to limitless places.

Stephanie Hopkins

December 2021: Book Round-Up

I am a bit late in the game of posting my December book round-up! The Holidays, lots of work, painting, and crafting put this post on the back burner to say the least. Better late than never!  

In the year 2021, I’ve enjoyed listening to books more than I’ve enjoyed reading physical ones. That is not to say that physical books have ceased to be my favorite medium of story-telling. I got through 75 stories for the entire year and there were a few I got half way through and put aside because they weren’t for me.

For the month of December, I listened to five audio books. I really enjoyed listening to these ones and I do believe you can find all of them on YouTube. There are as follows:

Coming soon, I will be posting my favorite stories of 2021!

Stephanie Hopkins

November: Book Round-Up

I must confess that this year I’ve enjoyed listening to books more than I’ve enjoyed reading physical ones. That is not to say that physical books have ceased to be my favorite medium of story-telling. Perhaps, it is because I have been undoubtedly engrossed in my art than ever before and listening seems to be easier while working on art. In fact, I’ve created an incredible number of florals, landscapes and abstract paintings. The journey has and is a worthwhile pursuit of growth and discovery. I digress.

As I said above, I’ve been listening to more books than reading physical ones this year. However, this month was an almost even selection and below are those stories. What books have you read or listened to this month and which ones are your favorite?

Stephanie Hopkins

Physical Copy: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

Physical Copy: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Audio Book: Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.
Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.


A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer

Audio Book: The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie

The Unexpected Guest—A foggy night, a lonely country house, and a woman with a gun in her hand quietly surveying the dead body of her husband. It looked like a straightforward case of murder. Or was it? As the ghosts of an old wrong begin to emerge from the past, the case begins to look anything but straightforward.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

In a manor by the sea, 12 sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were 12, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last – the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge – and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods. 

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who – or what – are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family – before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

October: Book Round-Up

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed I haven’t posted as much lately. I’ve taken a bit of time of because one needs to refresh and regroup every once in a while. That isn’t to say, I haven’t thought of you all and I’ve been wondering how everyone is doing, and what you’re reading or creating. I have been posting on Instagram regularly, however. That seems to be simplifier sometimes and that is what I need at the moment. Without getting too personal, we’ve had a death in the family early this month. When someone we love passes on, it really makes us pause to reflect on the person we lost and to celebrate their life at the same moment.

This month I haven’t been able to read all that much. I read one book and listened to a book and now listening to another one. I just seem can’t concentrate long enough to read a physical book. I know this too shall pass and I will get in the grove again. Below are the books I’ve spent time with. I do have a blog post that I have been working on and it was meant to go live today for Halloween, but I’m still working on it. I want it to be just right and it is a powerful subject.

I hope to rally on again soon and bring you all regular posts. My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Pub Date 15 Mar 2022

Description

A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect—a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

 Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases—a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

Find Me by Anne Frasier

A bone-chilling family history is unearthed in a heart-stopping thriller by New York Times best-selling author Anne Frasier.

Convicted serial killer Benjamin Fisher has finally offered to lead San Bernardino detective Daniel Ellis to the isolated graves of his victims. One catch: He’ll only do it if FBI profiler Reni Fisher, his estranged daughter, accompanies them. As hard as it is to exhume her traumatic childhood, Reni can’t say no. She still feels complicit in her father’s crimes.

Perfect to play a lost little girl, Reni was the bait to lure unsuspecting women to their deaths. It’s time for closure. For her. For the families. And for Daniel. He shares Reni’s obsession with the past. Ever since he was a boy, he’s been convinced that his mother was one of Fisher’s victims.

Thirty years of bad memories are flooding back. A master manipulator has gained their trust. For Reni and Daniel, this isn’t the end of a nightmare. It’s only the beginning.

Currently listening to, House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

In a manor by the sea, 12 sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were 12, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last – the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge – and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods. 

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who – or what – are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family – before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

Insightful Quotes About Characters

“Writing is a time-honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.” My perspective as a reader.

My niche expands in several areas that influences my overall creativity. They consist of creating art, crafting, sewing, reading, exploring nature, blogging and journaling. Discovering quotes about these endeavors inspire and encourage one to rally on when one is feeling less than inspired for whatever reason. I like writing them and include them in my journals and often times, use quotes from other artists. Besides, they are fun to read, to inspire and you learn so much! Above is one I wrote years ago about the writer breathing life into characters.

Today, I’m sharing quotes from other artists about characters in stories. There are so many and I’ve compiled my top ten favorites. Which one do you favor? – Stephanie Hopkins

“You mean Piglet. The little fellow with the excited ears. That’s Piglet.” ― A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin Gives Pooh a Party

“I think all writers are always collecting characters as we go along. Not just characters of course, we’re collecting EVERYTHING. Bits and pieces of story. An interesting dynamic between people. A theme. A great character back story. A cool occupation. The look of someone’s eyes. A burning ambition. Hundreds of thousands of bits of flotsam and jetsam that we stick in the back of our minds like the shelves full of buttons and ribbons and fabrics and threads and beads in a costumer’s shop.” — Alexandra Sokoloff

“Whether a character is good or evil depends on your perspective.” ― Steve Jones Snr

“You cannot have an effective protagonist who simply responds to events happening around him or her. Your protagonist must act, not just react.” — Rachelle Gardner

“She had a way about her that spoke of homemade bread, and caring for people, and the kind of patience that women have when they help a ewe birth a lamb, or stay up in the night with a baby calf bawling for its momma.” ― James Aura, When Saigon Surrendered: A Kentucky Mystery

“Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.” — K.M. Weiland

“Usually, we combine internal and external conflicts for a richer story. That means we have to understand how our characters approach and resolve conflict.” — Jami Gold

“Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions. This development needs to be forged in scenes, the better to employ your intuition rather than your intellect.” — David Corbett

“How can you take characters out of their elements and still convey who they are and why they are the way they are? Their dialogue, their goals and their motivations move the plot and give us a glimpse. But how can we punch it up and create memorable characters without their usual surroundings? With the things they carry.”— Jessica Topper

“People—and characters—are made up of their past experiences. When crafting a character, one of the most important aspects we consider is her past.”—Skye Fairwin,

Be sure to check out my post: Insightful Quotes About Reading

September: Book Round-Up

This month has been tough to get reading time in and I listened to more books rather than reading physical ones. I didn’t use to be able to listen to audio stories at all and it is something I’ve been training myself to do more of. Overall, I enjoyed what I read with a few minor hiccups.

I read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane years ago and it is one of my favorites. I decided to revisit the story again but this time, to listen to it. I must say, my experience with the story was better reading it than listening to it. Though, I wonder if maybe I’m examining the story differently. Has that ever happened to you? You know, as readers, we grow and our taste can change.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (The Physick Book #1) by Katherine Howe

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

I listened to this book and it took me a while to get through it. I really enjoyed the story but I felt it dragged on in certain parts, which made me struggled to keep up at times. I will say that Mary’s character development was fantastic! I would still rate this book high.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

I read this book for review and won’t post it until January.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

I read this book for review. It did take me a while to get through the story but glad I pushed on.

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

A woman has gone missing

But did she ever really exist?

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

In an industry where everything is about creating illusions, how do you know what is real? And how much would you risk to find out?

Thrift Finds Wish-List: Botanical and Wildlife Books

As an avid journal maker and crafter, I’m always on the lookout for a collection of books with illustrations I can use to craft with. The best way to build your collection is to explore thrift stores, estate sales, yearly book sales at your local libraries and yard sales. When looking for particular books, one is not always successful but every once in a while, you can hit the jack pot.

There are quite a few botanical and wildlife books that have been on my wish-list and alas, I haven’t been actively searching for them, nor have I visited a thrift stores of late and want to remedy that. The hunt alone is thrilling and makes the experience more precious when you come across something you’ve been looking for.

Today, I’m sharing selected works I’m wanting to acquire and my wish is that you will find yourself inspired to search for these books to add to your collection. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden

This entirely new diary is composed in a similar style to the Country Diary, with Edith Holden’s thoughts, anecdotes, and writings interspersed with poetry, mottoes, and her exquisite watercolor paintings of flowers, plants, birds, butterflies and landscape scenes.

The Illustrated Book of Wild Flowers by Zdenka Podhajská, Květoslav Hísek (Illustrator)

A facsimile reproduction of a naturalist’s diary for the year 1906. Edith Holden recorded in words and paintings the flora and fauna of the British countryside through the changing seasons of the year. Edith Holden’s words, all carefully written by hand, include her favorite poems, personal thoughts and observations on the wildlife she saw surrounding her home in Warwickshire, and on her travels through England and Scotland. The exquisitely beautiful paintings on every page of birds, butterflies, bees and flowers, reflects her deep love of nature; they have been executed with a naturalist’s eye for detail and the sensitivity of an artist.

The Spotters Guide to Healing Plants by Jindrich Krejca

It is not the object of this book to present a complete morphology of plants, for which see a botanical dictionary. Here we present only a selection of medicinal plants – most of them flowering plants – and true-to-life color illustrations of them.

A Garden Eden Masterpieces of Botanical Illustration by H. Walter Lack

In pursuit of both knowledge and delight, the craft of botanical illustration has always required not only meticulous draftsmanship but also a rigorous scientific understanding. This new edition of a TASCHEN classic celebrates the botanical tradition and talents with a selection of outstanding works from the National Library of Vienna, including many new images.

From Byzantine manuscripts right through to 19th-century masterpieces, through peonies, callas, and chrysanthemums, these exquisite reproductions dazzle in their accuracy and their aesthetics. Whether in gently furled leaves, precisely textured fruits, or the sheer beauty and variety of colors, we celebrate an art form as tender as it is precise, and ever more resonant amid our growing awareness of our ecological surroundings and the preciousness of natural flora.

Basilius Besler’s Florilegium: The Book of Plants by Klaus Walter Littger

A magnificent pictorial document of the flowers grown in the greatest German garden of its time, the Hortus Eystettensis is in a class of its own when it comes to the range of flowers engraved.

First published in 1613, the 367 copperplate engravings by Basilius Besler (1561–1629) capture the spectacular diversity of the palatial gardens of Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad von Gemmingen (1593/95–1612) in Eichstätt, Bavaria, Germany. The meticulous illustrations are organized according to the four seasons, and, following the classification system used today, show plants belonging to a total of 90 families and covering 340 genera. The whole collection is regarded as one of the finest treasures of botanical literature; it was described by Carl Linnaeus, the legendary 18th-century botanist and zoologist, as an “incomparable work.”

Besler’s pictorial catalog long outlived the gardens, which were destroyed in 1634 by invading Swedish troops. In auction, the asking price for a first-edition copy of Hortus Eystettensis is now more than half a million dollars. With this edition, TASCHEN opens up the garden to a much wider audience: a rich and beautiful record, destined to keep the garden’s beauty in bloom.

Mini Junk Journal: Part IV

Today is part four of my mini junk journal series. In this series you will discover ways to use recycled materials to make pretty journals without breaking the bank. It is possible to make pretty journals with junk!

I love taking things you would normally throw out and use them for my crafting projects. It’s a fun, creative, rewarding and a cheap way to craft. Junk Journals are books made through found objects, and recycled materials.

I have an insane amount of scrap paper from various craft projects. I’m constantly trying to use them up until there is nothing left to use instead of throwing them away. Well, I have way too many that are little bits of paper that have been recycled many times over. I collected a pile and say them on my desk to either create one more craft with them, or throw them away. I’ve been wanting to make little dollhouse journals for a very long time and thought the scraps would be perfect for this project! Sure enough, they were and these little journals turned out great!

I can’t not express enough how much these little books were fun and rewarding to make. The biggest challenge, will be to decorate the inside pages. This endeavor is a worthy one and will no doubt, show how creative one can be. I did, however, decorate a page on one of the journals to show you how they can look. Of course, there are thousands of ways to do this.

The trick is to fold the papers in half and join them together as a signature. Once you have done this, then you cut to size and added it to your journal cover. Then take paperclips to hold it together so you may start the binding process. I mostly used staples to bind the spin. Then added trim along the spin to cover the stable. Only two of the spins are bind with thread and are shown om my Instagram.

These little journals would make great gifts and they can be used for various reasons. Part five and the final post of this series will be a journal made out of junk mail, and plastic food wrappers and mail packaging!

Meanwhile, be sure to check out my other blog posts in this series. The direct links are provided below.   

Stephanie Hopkins

Mini Junk Journal: Part I

Mini Junk Journal: Part II

Mini Junk Journal: Part III

Check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art gallery here at Layered Pages! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

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

August: Book Round-Up

I’m pleased with the devotion of reading I’ve put in this year and, in truth, I’ve developed better reading and writing habits that were much needed. Also, as enthusiast of stories, it’s not uncommon for one to feel burn out or a sense of frustration with what is or isn’t being published. I’ve deeply felt those things over the last several years and it seems to be escalating with the cancel culture, social unrest, societal ignorance, culture shaming, pandering and political correctness. I believe many authors are being pigeon-holed by main-stream publishers (especially in America) and voices are being silenced. Forcing many traditional publishing authors to go the hybrid route or seek publishers outside the states. Especially, in the historical fiction, history and political genre.

I cannot tolerate political correctness, authoritarianism, public bullying or publishers swaying or denying authors in what they choose to write about and how its’ subject is minimized. Yes, that’s right, folks. It’s happening more than you realize. It goes against the fabric of what a free society stands for. Not only that, it should be left up to the adult individual if they choose to read a particular book or not. It should not be decided for us. We need to be shown every human experience possible. History has taught us that. Now, before you react, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be boundaries…like, sexualizing children and so forth.

Perhaps, I will discuss further on this subject at a later time. It’s certainly a hot topic and will undoubtedly ruffle a few readers’ and publishers’ feathers. I digress.

This month’s reading was collectic to say the least and I quite enjoyed the journey, despite having a bump in the road with The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable and The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman. I am determined to finish reading those stories and review them. Unfortunately, I’m just not in the right frame of mind to do so at present. My top two favorites for this month are A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham and The Resting Place by Camilla Sten. What are your favorite reads for this month? -Stephanie Hopkins

The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Published April 15th 2021

I read this book twice. My Review HERE

She has to know the truth about Overtoun Estate, but there is a reason it has stayed buried for so long.

When journalist Ava Brent decides to investigate the dark mystery of Overtoun Estate—a ‘thin place’, steeped in myth—she has no idea how dangerous this story will be for her.

Overtoun looms over the town, watching, waiting: the locals fearful of the strange building and the secrets it keeps. When Ava starts to ask questions, the warm welcome she first receives turns to a cold shoulder. And before she knows it, Ava is caught in the house’s grasp too.

After she discovers the history of a sick young girl who lived there, she starts to understand the sadness that shrouds it. But when she finds an ominous old message etched into a windowsill, she is forced to wonder—what horrors is the house protecting? And what will it cost her to find out?

With her own first child on the way, Ava knows she should stay away. But even as her life starts to unravel, and she receives chilling threats, the house and the bridge keep pulling her back…

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Published November 28th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published October 16th 1959)

It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

Published August 3rd 2021 by Minotaur Books (first published May 31st 2021)

My Review HERE

Six friends.

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.

As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .

But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them holds begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Minotaur Books

Review on hold for a later date, per publisher’s request.

The medical term is prosopagnosia. The average person calls it face blindness—the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face, even the faces of those closest to you.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer—a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, her anxiety mounts. The dark feelings of having brushed by a killer, yet not know who could do this—or if they’d be back—overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house—a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a dark past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to bringing the truth to light, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

A heart-thumping, relentless thriller that will shake you to your core, The Resting Place is an unforgettable novel of horror and suspense.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Expected publication: January 11th 2022 by Minotaur Books

My review will be posted closer to the publish date. What a story!!

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?

Slough House Series by Mick Herron

It has been a while since I’ve read a book series and I’m on the hunt for one that I want to read next year. I came up with an idea to blog about a few series I’ve chosen, to select one to read. My fist on the list is series I came across on twitter called the Slough House. The author, Mick Herron writers’ thrillers and mystery and has an English from Balliol College, Oxford. He now lives in Oxford and works in London. His second series, The Oxford Investigations, features Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm according to his bio on goodreads. I’m still working out if I will add the latter to my list.

The Slough House series has seven books to its list, so far and two of them are novellas. I’ve chosen to feature three of the books and you can find the full list on goodreads. I hear there is a television show being made based on these novels starring Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas. Have you read this series? Will you watch the television series based on the stories? -Stephanie Hopkins

Slow Horses (Slough House #1)

The first book in CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning British espionage series starring a team of MI5 agents united by one common bond: They’ve screwed up royally and will do anything to redeem themselves.

London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

River Cartwright, one such “slow horse,” is bitter about his failure and about his tedious assignment transcribing cell phone conversations. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone has his own agenda. 

Dead Lions (Slough House #2)

Hardcover, 348 pages

Published May 7th 2013 by Soho Crime

London’s Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

Now the slow horses have a chance at redemption. An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. The despicable, irascible Jackson Lamb is convinced Dickie Bow was murdered. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade’s circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient Cold War secrets that seem to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, who is either a Soviet bogeyman or the most dangerous man in the world. How many more people will have to die to keep those secrets buried?

The List (Slough House #2.5)

Dieter Hess, an aged spy, is dead, and John Bachelor, his MI5 handler, is in deep, deep trouble. Death has revealed that deceased had been keeping a secret second bank account—and there’s only ever one reason a spy has a secret second bank account. The question of whether he was a double agent must be resolved, and its answer may undo an entire career’s worth of spy secrets.