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.

Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten

Pub Date Sep, 7th 2021

Oceanview Publishing

Mystery & Thrillers

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Witten and he writes one heck of an at the edge your seat, nail biting thriller! It doesn’t take the reader anytime at all to be completely absorbed in the story. His protagonist Susan Lentigo is one that we can all admire and cheer for. She is a complex woman but there is no doubt, she will fight for justice and do the right think no matter what. She has been dealt a terrible hand of cards and losing her daughter to rap and murder is something no parent should ever endure. That was heart breaking to read about and at first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to read the story but felt I must. I’m so glad I did because the story also focuses on executions of murderers. Needless to say, no one in this story has a problem with executing a person who murders children.

I must caution you; the story might be too sensitive of a subject to some readers and there is profanity throughout the book. Other than that, this is a well written, fleshed out thriller.

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

St. Martin’s Press

Mystery & Thrillers | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 11 Jan 2022

About the cover: The blues and greens of this cover caught my eye. I use these hues often in my art. The position of the wrought iron fence, house, tree and the people walking towards the house, along with the colors, shows mystery and intrigue. Nicely executed.

About the book: I love a good mystery and a historical one at that. This story is a dual time line and takes place in North Carolina in the present and past. Or I should say, the year 2010. Yes please!

Description

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

Book Review: The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

Published August 3rd 2021 by Minotaur Books

Three couples travel to a destination wedding for the weekend in Portugal, a stunning villa high on the cliffs with the sounds of roaring waves crashing on the rocks below. What could go wrong? Everything!

My gosh! There is so much drama in this story that I felt I was transported back to high school. Needless to say, this story is not my usual fan fair but I found myself unable to put it aside, and I was imagining of all sorts of scenarios of how this would end. The author weaved bread crumbs throughout the story, and then there would be a twist to throw you off, just to lead you back to the same conclusion. The story went in all sorts of directions to the very end. Did I figure it out before the ending? Yes, I did with a couple details I didn’t see coming.

The Quilt Trip emphasizes just how much stupid and destructive things people do and say under the influence of alcohol and for just down right selfish and petty reasons. Furthermore, how secrets and lies are a tender box waiting to ignite at any moment when least expected.

The build up to this story was great, however, I found some minor errors in details to be an unbelievable and the ending did not measure up. For example, without going into too much detail, the tragedy at the wedding scene was overly complicated and did not work for me.

As far as the characters go, the person I felt most empathy for was Jack’s brother Will. Despite his role being in the background a bit, I enjoyed his personality and free spirit. He is the nomad type, a wanderer. A person who would happily sleep under the stars without worry. With this crowd and his brother, its no wonder! Rachel, Jack, Paige, Noah and Ali were extremely unlikable characters and their dysfunction drove me nuts. I dare say, that is the point of the story, I’m sure.

Despite my misgivings, I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy the book. -Stephanie Hopkins

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

Book Description:

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 hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

Cover Crush: Aria’s Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin

Harper 360

HQ Digital

General Fiction (Adult) | Romance | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 10 Aug 2021

About the cover: I adore everything about the book cover. The brightness of the light shinning through the window; the books stacked up along the window seal; the coffee mug sitting on top of the tower of books and where the miniature van is situated on what appears to be a cabinet of sorts. Perfectly atmospheric for the story and great composition. Even the colors are pleasing to the eye. 

About the book: I’m intrigued anytime a story involves books, book shoppes and libraries. Even more so when it’s a traveling book shoppe. Now, this story looks like it has a lot of romance. While I’m a romantic at heart, I’m not a romance reader in the same sense. For the exception of poetry that is…That said, the premise sounds adventurous and we all need a little adventure in our lives. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book description:

This summer will change everything!

Aria Summers knows what she wants.

A life on the road with best friend Rosie and her beloved camper-van-cum-book-shop, and definitely, definitely, no romance.

But when Aria finds herself falling – after one too many glasses of wine, from a karaoke stage – into the arms of Jonathan, a part of her comes back to life for the first time in years.

Since her beloved husband died Aria has sworn off love, unless it’s the kind you can find in the pages of a book. One love of her life is quite enough.

And so, Aria tries to forget Jonathan and sets off for a summer to remember in France. But could this trip change Aria’s life forever…?

July: Book Round-Up

I can’t get over how fast this year is flying and there are still many books to be read! How is your reading going this year? Are you reading more or less books?

This month I’ve read two printed books from my own bookshelf, two NetGalley ebooks and listened to three audio books. Not bad considering how busy have been with other projects. I no longer consider myself an official book reviewer but I am still working on getting through my galley reads. I went a little crazy when I first joined a few years ago. That happens to newbies on NetGalley.

A couple of the books, I’ve read before and wanted to re-visit them. Can you believe I’m still undecided on how I would rate them? I don’t like the five-star rating system we have in place. Not all parts of a story are equal and the system needs to be changed. The two books I re-read are The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti and Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott. Have you read those two books? I noticed a contradiction in Abbott’s book right off the bat. Even minor details are important not to miss. I’m surprised the editor missed it.

Tomorrow I’m blogging about three books I thinking about reading next! Be sure to check out my 2021 Books Read and follow Layered Pages by email to keep up with the latest. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: Brilliant Disguise by Mary Anne Edwards

(The Charlie McClung Mysteries #1)

Published November 2020 by Sellem Books

Mystery & Thrillers | True Crime | Women’s Fiction

Are you sure you could tell the difference between murder and suicide?

Having had more than enough of the big city, Detective Charlie McClung moves to a small town looking for a simpler life. Turns out his first case is the most complicated of his career.

A young woman is found shot and while everyone is telling him suicide, his gut, and the dead woman’s beautiful neighbor, are telling him something quite different.

How far can he dig before he uncovers secrets never meant to be unearthed? Throw in a shady police chief and an unexpected love interest and McClung quickly finds himself with more trouble than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts:

I love a good mystery and while it’s not often I read cozy ones, I enjoyed Brilliant Disguise. Discovering that the story takes place in Georgia made it all the better!

The story began with a death by a gun shot and Marion the next-door neighbor, doesn’t believe it was a subside. Marion knows her friend Dianne would never commit such a travesty as taking her own life. Soon after the heart-breaking indecent, McClung interviewed Marion and they hit it off pretty quickly. They soon joined forces to find out what happened to Dianne and they uncover a cover up that took them into the heart of the very police force he works for.

The story flowed well and there was enough intrigue and suspense to keep you me invested. I have to admit, there were only two characters in the story I cared about and surprisingly neither of them was Marion. Strange that seeing that she is the star of the show, along with McClung. That said, since McClung likes her, maybe she will grow on me. I did, however, want to walk in her garden and try one of her freshly baked cookies and sit with her and talk about books.

Brilliant Disguise is one of the better cozy mysteries I’ve read. I look forward to reading the next book in this series!

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Cover Crush: Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1) by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder was a quick read and I found myself fully absorbed in the story. I must admit, I chose the book because of the cover and title. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for quite sometime and decided to pick it up this weekend. This story is fascinating and sad at the same time. Yet, beautifully written and there’s descriptive scenery throughout.

Madison captured my heart. As a little girl, she was taken and missing for three years, she quickly creates a world of her own based on a fairytale story she loves, for survival.

Naomi, is a woman who was abducted herself when she was younger and is called to find Madison. At all odds, her discovery of the girl’s whereabouts reveals memories of her own past.

The Child Finder is a uniquely told story, that takes you into the world of a highly imaginative and clever mind of a child, whose self-preservation is astounding.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Hardcover, 274 pages

Published September 5th 2017 by Harper

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Book Spotlight: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

A secluded island mansion deep in the woods and a missing teen. Years after a death in the family, they make a gruesome discovery. I would say this family has been through it and then some!

Mystery/thriller stories are among my favorite genres to read! With the right elements, or pieces like a puzzle, you watch the mystery unfold and develop to the very end. Or would it be, develop and then unfold? Either way, along with other fellow readers and bloggers, I’m excited about this book coming out! Thank you, Atria Books for a copy.

Now it’s time to go grab that second cup of coffee. It is going to be a reading marathon the next two days! What are your bookish plans this weekend? Happy reading! -Stephanie Hopkins

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Atria Books

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 17 Aug 2021  

Description

When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse remains haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has been unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house where the family soon makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of the Lighthouses react to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.