Normally, I do my best not to discuss which books I will read on any particular month because I believe I did that in December and I did not end up reading, The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel. Which irked me to say the least. That said, I’m thrilled with the selection of titles below and wanted to share them with you. Heck, us book bloggers love talking about books and sharing our excitement of what is to come. The year is still young and the reading forecast has been terrific thus far. I’m confident the pace will keep up.
There are thirty-one days in March, and I am hoping to read 10 books. You can find all these titles on goodreads, Amazon and at other booksellers. Lets’ take a look at the covers in this slideshow. -Stephanie Hopkins
Projected March Reads
A New York Secret (Daughters of New York Book 1)by Ella Carey
This weekend was strange and I didn’t have anything planned to blog about today. Do you ever have days like that? When even your favorite pastimes need a rest. If that makes any sense. I kind-of like that, “Pastimes need a rest.” That said, the weather has been really off that last few days and I haven’t been able to go for my strolls. I woke up this morning and looked out the window to discover the weather isn’t any better.
Yesterday was more productive and I created a page in my bullet journal and started another art project. Oh, and of course, got some reading time in. I definitely think my mind and soul need a rest and refuel.
“Weekends are days to refuel your soul and to be grateful for the blessings that you have.” — Unknown
Do you read multiple books at once? I know some people can’t and some people can’t only just read one at a time. Normally, I have several books going and spread them out during my day. Currently, I’m reading two books and listening to one through audible. Though, I must mention, that it took me quite a few years to program my brain to read more than just one book at a time.
Two of the books I’m currently reading are two that I’ve already read before. One I’m actually listening too and want to re-write my review. The third one is an ARC and it is quite a long read! I do have lots to say about that one already. Looking forward to the reading forecast ahead!
I want to wish you all a beautiful and adventurous week!
A few days ago, I was chatting with my good friend Lisl on the phone and she was talking about creating a blog post of her favorite things. Hello! Stop the presses! What fun! May I join? She is brilliant and our ideas turn into great conversations. Once we utter our silly and often times crazy greetings, before we know it, hours have gone by and we have gone down many rabbit holes. No joke. At some point, we usually start putting our heads together to come up with new blog topics and series. This blog topic, of favorite things, we decided on a few entertaining questions to answer.
After going through and answering these questions, I thought to myself that I would like to dig deeper into this topic. Or do I? It could be a scary place to venture. Kidding! Though I’m still pondering that it could possibly get really complex.
In Lisl’s post, she mentioned, about these things related to the lock-down many are experiencing globally and trying to find our happy place. Or how we can get to know each other more as individuals. I’ve heard many people around the world talk about how they found themselves through these troubling times and they’ve learned they have interests and talents; they otherwise would have probably never realized.
Be forewarned, some of my favorite things are subject to change at a moments notice. I have a tendency, on occasion, to be indecisive. Or is is because I love so many things? Let’s get into this, shall we?
Favorite lunchbox snack? Sugar, of course!
The chocolate variety. Possibly with peanut butter added to the mix. I don’t think I could survive without chocolate.
Favorite game to play outside? Bocce Ball
Love playing this game outdoors with family and friends! It has been far too long since the last time. It is one outdoor game I’m actually good at.
Fun fact: Did you know that Bocce’s origins date back to 5000 BC?
Favorite fairy tale: The Princess and the Pea
Don’t ask me why?
Favorite childhood memory? There are so many but going to the beach often was the best. Immensely grateful for growing up near the ocean. I’m always longing for the beach and try to go as much as possible.
Favorite nursery rhyme? Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Probably because it involves a boat and water.
Favorite bird: Chickadee
They’re so cute and tiny!
Favorite color(s) rose? Red or White
I’m a hopeless romantic. Swoon.
Some of you history lovers may be thinking of the Tudor rose. I dare say, I could be as well.
Favorite sea creature? Does Starfish count?
They are referred to as sea stars. How cool is that!?
Favorite thing about a rainy day? Listening to the sound of rain against the windows and rooftop. There is something calming about the sound of rain fall. Great time for reflection or to gather your pillows and comfy blankets to curl of with a book(s).
Often times when I’m writing or reading, I will listen to a rain app if it’s not raining outside.
Favorite dinosaur? Velociraptor
I know, that sounds vicious and dark. But I have a perfectly good reason why they are my favorite. Honest. Might write about it in another blog post.
Favorite fictional place you’d want to visit?
Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings.
Oh, for so many reasons. Narnia comes in second or sometimes first.
Favorite road to drive on?
There are so many wonderful roads in my State. Choose one?
Goodness, that is simply impossible. I would have to say the back roads to Dahlonega from the Ball Ground area are a treasure. This is ridiculous because I really can’t choose a particular road in North Georgia. Also, the roads in the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular. One doesn’t mind getting lost driving along those back roads. Watch out for Dear and other wild animals, such as, Squirrels! I swear, they seem to have a death wish.
Favorite things about America? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of expression, individualism, opportunity, diverse cultures and freedom to live by your faith in God.
Favorite 80’s song? Oh, heavens. There are a lot of 80’s favorites! I have to choose just one? What is the fun in that?
U2: With or Without You
Or Free Fallin by Tom Petty. Hmm…Okay, lets go with, With or Without You. Sigh. Not a fair question at all.
Favorite music genre(s)? I have several favorite music genres, depending on my mood. For everyday purposes: Classical music and 90’s Alternative.
Favorite American Classic movie? Picking just one classic movie is like asking someone to pick just one favorite book or one favorite song. Impossible!
All About Eve, comes to mind. I never get tired of watching that one. It’s brilliant and the cast of characters…swoon. The film came out in 1950 and, and, and Betty Davis and Anna Baxter co-stars in it! Love!
BUT, if I had to choose a favorite film period, it would be the 1940’s. Oh, for so many reasons. I think this causes for a blog post about the film industry in the 1940’s. Yes, I think I will.
Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movie? How can I even…
If I had to choose the best acting, he performed in a movie, it would have to be, Shutter Island. I think. I’m torn. Because of his acting in, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and a couple of others. Hmm…
Perhaps, many of you will disagree with me on this one. I would probably would disagree with myself too.
Favorite Harry Potter movie? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (set in 1992-93)
Favorite celebrity? Ryan Reynolds Swoon. Fanning myself over here. I know you must be thinking, really Stephanie? I can’t help it. .
I’m a mixed media artist and I appreciate the essence of crafting as a whole. My Main go-to craft is collage because of its form and I use it quite often in my journals and ephemera making. I’m also an abstract painter and my current focus is creating new paintings and exploring different techniques. Truly, I can’t answer this question by naming one form of craft. Surely many will understand this.
Favorite thing to cook?
Favorite comfort food?
Most foods that are related to pie or stews.
Favorite Asian dish?
Crispy Honey Chicken with Fried Rice though I try real hard to stick to a plant based diet. Alas, I’m failing miserably right now. Though I’m totally blameless, of course.
Favorite ice cream flavor? Rocky Road
Favorite season? Autumn
Favorite holiday? Christmas
Foreign country: Scotland. I’ve never been and one day I will journey there. Might blog about this more.
Favorite TV show: Currently, Miss Scarlet and the Duke. Oh, and Sanditon.
Period shows and movies are my favorite.
I will say I long for more period shows that takes place in America. That I can tolerate and not cringe at every inaccuracy. Don’t think me a snob. I’m a history enthusiast, particular and I can not abide certain liberties concerning real-life events, social norms, objects not of the period, manner of dress and people. History is interesting enough without it being distorted. Though do not mistaken that I’m not aware when it comes to historical, there are allowances for artistic license-if you will. There are so many ways to look at this topic. Maybe we shall another time.
Instrument: Always, Classical Piano. I keep having this strange feeling I might have said something else once?
One of my favorites played on the piano, “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven.
Bach/Gonoud – Ave Maria is another great one! Okay, there are a lot of classical favorites played on the piano.
Have you listened to, Chopin – Preludes, Op. 28: No. 15 “Raindrop”? A must!
I seem to be doing a lot of swooning lately. Have you noticed?
Way to Relax: Reading, crafting, sewing and long walks in the woods.
This was so much fun! What are your favorite things? -Stephanie Hopkins
This year’s reading started off with a bang! I got through ten books and that is a current record for me. It has been a long time since I’ve read that many in a month. This is encouraging since my goal is to read 100 books this year. Who knows? I might surpass that goal. My original goal was to read a book a week but I knew I could read more than that with the great selection of books that are coming out and what novels I have on my shelf at home.
I am also making a point to read books that I would normally not pick up. Two of the books are young adults’ books. I must confess, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I thought I would. The story-telling just wasn’t to my taste and I struggled to stay focused. Having said that, I’m not giving up the genre. My daughter has a few on her shelf that I want to give a go at.
Today I’m sharing the books I read this month. Two of them where audio books I listened to through YouTube. Three of the books I’ve read before and I’ve read them more than four times! There will be four books reviews in total. My review for, The Garden of Spite and The Signs of the Gallows will be posted next week.
Last but not least, Robert Frost’s Selected Poems, which I adore. If you want to practice writing poetry, read Frost and other poets. Reading Poetry teaches language, ideas and meaning. Writing poetry allows us to explore the world that reaches beyond the limitations of our senses. There is a whole other world out there that poetry gives us. One can say that about reading it as well. The subject of poetry is an endless delight of wonders. -Stephanie Hopkins
Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins
Coming up tomorrow at Layered Pages: Image of the Month and Poetry!
Last year my Goodreads challenge was to read twenty fiction books. I surpassed that goal and read thirty. However, I read more than thirty books. Beyond that was research books for my writing project and other research projects. I did not count those on goodreads because I’m continually referring to them.
The fiction books below are my top favorite reads, though not in a particular order. This year’s reading goal is much bigger. I will be talking about that more a little later on. What were your favorite 202 reads? -Stephanie Hopkins
Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau
The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen
The Lost Village by Camilla Sten
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
Be sure to check these titles out on Goodreads and Amazon!
Here are my favorite covers out of the bunch. Which covers do you like?
“New year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately, we write it. The choice is ours.” —Alex Morritt
What will you make of the new year?
These are uncertain times we live in due to world wide shut downs, riots, protest, political unrest and the virus. Everyone has stories to tell. Many are the same and many are different. Today is the start of a new year and what we bring to it matters.
I choose to focus on the positive and the valuable lessons I learned about myself with regards to my faith in God, supportive people, art, books, mindfulness and creating good habits. All of these carry over in my daily life no matter the struggles. Your positive endeavors are what gets you through bits and pieces you cannot control. Or better yet, it is something you control because you refuse to give in to the darkness.
This year at Layered Pages, I will be sharing ideas, thoughts, books, art, motivations, my love of history and many more worthwhile projects. Be inspired, have faith, be positive, seek kindness, and explore. Happy New Year!
I’ve committed 2021 to be a year of catching up-somewhat-on my back list of books that have been patiently waiting on me. Well, maybe not too patiently. The new year brings new reading goals, habits and a fresh start on many things. This week, I have pondered the idea of adding more novellas to my ever-growing pile of books I want to absorb.
There are various opinions about reading novellas. Some say it is a waste of time and leaves you unsatisfied, but I beg to differ. I admire the writer who takes on the task of weaving a story with fewer words. Often times when having read a six-hundred-page novel, I wanted more. So, there you are. It is not, in truth, about the number of pages but what you make of them and allowing your imagination to explore the what-ifs. -Stephanie Hopkins
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Published May 28th 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf
A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.
In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures – their pleasures and their difficulties – are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
Published January 1st 1970 by Heinemann (first published 1966)
After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.
But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.
Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.
So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano, Euan Cameron (Translation)
Published September 15th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A haunting novel of suspense from the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature
In the stillness of his Paris apartment, Jean Daragane has built a life of total solitude. Then a surprising phone call shatters the silence of an unusually hot September, and the threatening voice on the other end of the line leaves Daragane wary but irresistibly curious. Almost at once, he finds himself entangled with a shady gambler and a beautiful, fragile young woman, who draw Daragane into the mystery of a decades-old murder. The investigation will force him to confront the memory of a trauma he had all but buried.
With So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood Patrick Modiano adds a new chapter to a body of work whose supreme psychological insight and subtle, atmospheric writing have earned him worldwide renown — including the Nobel Prize in Literature. This masterly novel, now translated into twenty languages, penetrates the deepest enigmas of identity and compels us to ask whether we ever know who we truly are.
The Lifted Veil by George Eliot
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
Writing is an art form that weaves together words that tell a story. My passion at Layered Pages is to capture their essence and to further explore the craft so people will have a deeper understanding of reading, writing and their importance to our society. Today, Judith Starkston is here to discuss with us her Tesha book series.
Thank you for visiting with us, Judith. Before we talk about your story, “Of Kings and Griffins,” what is your favorite childhood story and why?
There were many. I was a bookworm from the get-go, but “The Wind in the Willows” was a particular favorite, partly because my older brother did such a lively job reading aloud the voices and personalities of Mole, Ratty, and Toad. Friends messing about together outdoors, which is its main theme, appealed to me. That was back when a kid could wander unsupervised around the hills, canyons, and waterways near her house. At least, my mother never knew where I was or what I was up to. Also, I was a cautious child, and I think the main plot suited me. Toad receives his come-uppance for wild and absurd behavior, and he realizes that treating his friends kindly mattered most. So much of that book meanders rather than races—not how books are paced these days, but I loved it.
Has your love for reading influenced you to become a writer?
Absolutely! I have to get lost in a story on a regular basis or I get buggy in the head. I love that sensation of being drawn compulsively forward through the pages inside a twisty, layered plot amid characters I can’t stop caring about. To make that happen for someone else is such fun. And doing that wouldn’t be possible for me if I didn’t have a lifetime of models bombarding my imagination with every word I write.
Tell me a little about how you became interested in ancient worlds and historical fantasy?
My career before I became a fiction writer was as a scholar and teacher of Greek and Roman languages and literature. So, I had the knowledge base and enthusiasm for ancient worlds. When writing my first novel, set at Troy, I discovered the culture of the Hittites, powerful neighbors of the Greeks. The archaeology of this massive empire (roughly today’s Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon) had only begun to emerge when I was a graduate student, and I didn’t learn about it then. It’s very exciting for a whole people to step from historical obscurity with the help of all the brilliant, contemporary archaeological tools. It helps that this literate people left behind archives that are gradually being translated.
No one was bringing the Hittite world alive in fiction at that point, so I couldn’t resist. All the more when I met in the written record the most respected and unusual of the Hittite rulers, a queen named Puduhepa, whom I renamed Tesha in my fiction. (Tesha is the Hittite word for “dream,” and this queen was known for her divinely inspired dreams.)
The fantasy aspect flowed naturally from there because the Hittites believed in rites and practices that we call magic. This queen was also a priestess, and she excelled in all these supernatural skills. Allowing the magic full expression inspires my plots with creative power. The framework remains historically grounded and accurate.
If a reader came up to you and asked about, “Of Kings and Griffins,” how would you describe your story?
A Bronze Age queen takes on a vicious king, vengeful griffins, and a scheming goddess.
The somewhat longer version is this:
For Tesha, priestess and queen, happiness is a world she can control, made up of her family and the fractious kingdom she and her husband rule within the Great King’s empire. But now the Great King is dead, and his untried son plots against them. Tesha fights back with forbidden sorcery and savvy. In yet another blow, the griffin king lures Daniti, Tesha’s magical blind sister, into a deadly crisis that Daniti alone can avert.
As danger ensnares everyone Tesha loves, her goddess offers a way out. But can Tesha trust this offer of divine assistance or is it a trap—one that would lead to an unstoppable bloodbath?
Does, “Of Kings and Griffins,” make a good stand alone or should readers start with your first book in the series?
“Of Kings and Griffins” is the third in my Tesha series, but readers will have no trouble starting with this book if they wish—especially if they are drawn to mythical beasts! “Priestess of Ishana” is the first book in the series for those who like to start at the beginning. I am careful to write each book as a satisfying stand alone.
My interest was sparked when I read on goodreads that your series is inspired by the Hittite empire. For those who might not be familiar with that particular empire, can you please tell us a little about it?
The Hittites ruled Anatolia and parts of the Near East from 1650 to 1200 BCE. Their capital, Hattusa, now a World Heritage site, lies about an hour northeast of Ankara. Kingdoms like Troy on the western coast shifted over time from loosely allied to vassal states subservient to the Hittite Great King. The primary rival of the Hittites was Egypt. During Puduhepa’s reign, she and her husband sealed a peace treaty with Ramses II, the Pharaoh in the Biblical Moses story. The Hittite language is related to Greek, although it’s written with the Near Eastern writing system of cuneiform, groups of wedges made with a reed stylus in clay that represent words and syllables, so it doesn’t look anything like Greek. Their culture borrows a lot from Mesopotamia, but it also has a significant core of distinctly Hittite religious and ethnic traditions. In many ways, the Hittites are the bridge we’d lost between the Greeks and the Near Eastern world. Historians now recognize how much “Western Civilization” owes to the cultures further east.
Will there be another book in the series? If so, when can your readers expect the publish date?
Fortunately for me, Queen Puduhepa (my Tesha) ruled from her teens into her eighties, so there is almost never-ending inspiration for more books, and the Late Bronze Age was a time of great turmoil and international political scheming—all great raw material for epic historical fantasy. I end each book with a satisfying sense of completion, even while the next “chapter” in Tesha’s life beckons, so no frustrating cliffhanger endings that require the next book instantly to cure the pain. No one has to “wait until the series is complete” with mine—a comment I hear a lot about some books.
The fourth Tesha novel will hopefully come out next Fall/early Winter. I say hopefully because I’ve taken a short detour and haven’t started it yet. I am working at the moment on a novella set in the land of the griffins because I’ve been having such fun with those characters, and I wanted to explore them entirely in their own terms. They live for centuries, so my main griffin character in “Of Kings and Griffins” has some seriously grand life stories to dive into. I will publish the novella in a month or so and give it to my newsletter subscribers as a present before I make it available to buy. This is a good time to head over to JudithStarkston.com and sign up!
Thank you for such an intriguing interview, Judith. Where can reader purchase your books?
My books are available in the “real world” at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore (They’ll mail you signed copies, which are also sealed with my reproduction of Puduhepa’s actual seal) and online at Amazon. “Hand of Fire” is my Trojan War book told from a woman’s point of view. The three Tesha series books are “Priestess of Ishana,” “Sorcery in Alpara,” and “Of Kings and Griffins.”
Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get two degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gradually gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write fantasy set in the exotic worlds of the past. Fantasy and Magic in a Bronze Age World. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award. Judith has two grown children and lives in Arizona with her husband.
Introduction to exploring why we read and what methods we use.
The topic of speed reading has been around a long time. For a while now I’ve been meaning to explore why it is even a consideration.
The concept of speed reading according to Wikipedia is to improve one’s ability to read quickly. Reading further on the subject, I discovered that the term was coined by Evelyn Wood in the late 1950’s. She was a school teacher who wanted to understand why some people read faster, and to create a method to increase speed. Wood claimed her intentions were also to improve comprehension.
It is safe to say that most have heard of the speed reading. Does the method over shadow the main objective that comes with reading? Or should it even be something you try? How will it benefit you? Does it really improve comprehension? Is there value in the method? Would speed reading decrease your ability to be a critical thinker? Will there be important details you might miss? Do you speed read just to see how many books you can read within a limited time? Or to reduce your ever-growing pile of books? Those are a lot of questions to ponder.
I’ve looked at this from different angels and I’ve come to the conclusion that you might as well not read if speed reading is your main objective. The point of reading is broad and a matter to explore further. One of the points of reading is to expand your knowledge. I realize that everyone learns differently. What one method might work for some; it might not work for others.
When we take the time to appreciate and reflect upon the material we are reading, we add value. Especially if you apply it. Let’s face it, you’ll enjoy a book more or get more out of it by slowing down your pace. Of course, if you incorporate reading in your daily routine, you’ll find yourself consuming books faster.
I’m still wanting to write about this subject in more depth and to discuss the many important points of reading. Looking forward to it. Who knows where this might lead us?
On November 11th, I discussed forming positive reading habits and I mentioned a few steps I was taking to incorporate reading every day. One of the topics, was to use better system on organizing my notes and using the Bullet Journal method for that purpose.
In my research about this style of journaling, I soon discovered a writer who wrote a book on this very subject. Ryder Carroll’s, “The Bullet Journal Method”, explores what it means to live an intentional life. The journal is to help you develop mindfulness and use the Bullet Journal as a medium for productivity. I’ve added Carroll’s book to my to-read list and I’m looking forward to delving in the practice.
Why the the method is important for me to improve on a number of activities.
To strengthen my organization skills.
To encourage daily reading and writing.
To help me remember details in stories that have made an impression on me and that I feel are important to focus on in my reviews, or to further research.
To keep learning and growing intellectually.
The five steps I mentioned are just a few of habits I want my focus to be on with my reading and writing. I’m confident that Carroll’s book will be helpful with my journey.
I’m still not entirely certain what medium I will use for my journal. I’m leaning towards altering a book. That way I can create art pages and add images as well that relate to the story. Of course, you can do that with a blank notebook or an actual journal. I prefer to use what I have on hand to limit my spending. I’m really looking forward to this worth-while endeavor and sharing my progress with you all.
Be sure to read, before the second sleep’s post on, Bullet Journaling 101. There are wonderful insights on the art of using the Bullet Journal method and how you can utilize the journal in other ways.
Help support Layered Pages to keep providing great content by donating to our PayPal Tip Jar. Thank you! -Stephanie Hopkins