I belong to two ATC swap groups and I thought I would share the latest cards I created for these swaps.
The cards with the pumpkins on it, are for an October swap and they’re as Halloween as I’ll get. I love how they turned out and can’t wait to see which artists receive them and their thoughts.
The cards with Butterflies are also for an October swap for the second swap group. As you can see, I didn’t use the Halloween theme or a fall theme. Each background is painted, inked and stickers are added for the final touch.
The cards with the hand sewing on them was for a September swap and I’m looking forward to seeing how these cards were received. I really enjoy looking at all the details on these cards and the sewing inspired me to create others with this technique. -Stephanie Hopkins
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.)
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.” – Jen Williamson
As many of you know, I keep journals and notebooks. I’m constantly taking notes and writing my thoughts or things I’ve learned or want to remember. There are many types of journals and I enjoy exploring new ways in creating them. I find the more you journal, the more ways you discover new techniques and ways to use them. I’d have to say that journaling is a very important part of my life and it has helped me develop new ways in expressing my thoughts and feelings better.
For the last eight weeks, I guess it was, I shared a morning journal on Instagram that I made out of small envelopes. Small index cards I used for journal cards, fit perfectly in the pockets. Each week I decorated a new page and each pocket represents a week’s worth of journaling. Despite it only had six pockets, I managed eight weeks because of the decorating… I use a ribbon to keep the journal closed when I’m not using it. I’m surprised how sturdy it is and the compactness of how the envelopes ended up with all the ephemera and journal cards I added. The envelopes are from the Dollar Tree. I believe there was forty to the pack and the brand is Mead.
My morning journals consist of my morning thoughts, encouraging words, prayers and things I want to get done for the day. I’m pleased with how this one turned out and will be using this style of journaling more often. Do you use a morning journal? How has it impacted your life?
There are a lot more images of the journal on my Instagram! Be sure to follow my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art Gallery here at Layered Pages!
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
Pub Date 05 Oct 2021 by Bethany House
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.
About the Cover: Firstly, I have to confess that it wasn’t the cover that directed my attention to this book, but the title. If I were designing the layout, I’m not entirely sure I would have chosen the shade of blue to contrast the Mona Lisa painting. Nonetheless, if you look closely, you will see the cracks in the painting carrying over to the right side of the cover. I thought that was a nice touch and the pealing of the upper left corner and tears in the image represents age.
About the Book: The Mona Lisa is a famous portrait painting by artist Leonardo da Vinci and is, without a doubt, the most talked about painting in history. I remember as a young child learning about the Mona Lisa and the artist. I have to admit, throughout most of my life, shockingly, the painting didn’t leave an impression on me as one would expect. It wasn’t until later in my adulthood that I developed an appreciation for the painting and the history. Maybe, it’s because of its artist and depiction in various forms and media that sparked an interest in me to learn more about its creation.
I’ve added The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer to my book pile and look forward to reading the story. – Stephanie Hopkins
Published August 17th 2021 by Sourcebooks Landmark
August, 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincent Peruggia. Exactly what happens in the two years before its recovery is a mystery. Many replicas of the Mona Lisa exist, and more than one historian has wondered if the painting now in the Louvre is a fake, switched in 1911.
Present day: Art professor Luke Perrone digs for the truth behind his most famous ancestor: Peruggia. His search attracts an Interpol detective with something to prove and an unfamiliar but curiously helpful woman. Soon, Luke tumbles deep into the world of art and forgery, a land of obsession and danger.
A gripping novel exploring the 1911 theft and the present underbelly of the art world, The Last Mona Lisa is a suspenseful tale, tapping into our universal fascination with da Vinci’s enigma, why people are driven to possess certain works of art, and our fascination with the authentic and the fake.
Our September 15th bookmark swap is quickly approaching and I couldn’t be more excited! Our group is growing and I’m always blown away by the raw talent of our members! The bookmarks you see in this post is a little sneak peek at what is to come. This group is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people from different places in the world and what a joy it is to receive happy mail to put a smile on your face. There is not a required theme, we just create what inspires us and enjoy the process!
This group swaps bookmarks in the shape of tags and the standard shape. I’m currently accepting US crafters and will open more spots internationally soon.
We are swapping 4 bookmarks a piece. You can not only use them for books, but for your journals and notebooks! I’m also including a bookmark holder, an extra bookmark and extra fun ephemera to craft with in each set going out to our members.
For those who would love to join, you still have a little time to get your bookmarks turned in but, if you can’t get your bookmarks turned in on time, do not be dismayed. Our next swap is in December and we would love to have you join.
The due date for this month is September 15th.
Our hashtag on Instagram: #stephslpbookmarkswap The lp in the hashtag stands for Layered Pages.
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
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)
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.
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 inthe 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?
I find joy in saving books from the landfills and giving them a new life. This is an inexpensive and creative way to journal and gives you the opportunity to be mindful of materials we often take for granted.
A few days ago, I made new spread in one of my working journals. This journal is an altered book I’ve created from thrifting damaged books a while back. I love journaling in them, paper-crafting and what-not. Often times, I’ve created collage around passages that stood out to me on the pages.
As I turn each page in my altered book, I read the words coming from the pages and at times, surprisingly, they’ve given me inspiration for what I want to journal about. I’m constantly thinking about things and planning, so keeping a record of my thoughts really helps with organization and from keeping my mind from getting cluttered.
The butterfly postcard you see on the left page is a hidden pocket to stow a tiny leaf of paper that I’ve written my thoughts on.
A few days before I created this spread, I made journal cards by using collage for my backgrounds and I finally decorated a few of them for this past weekend of journaling. They turned out great and I have added them to this altered book. Later on, perhaps I will show you how I used them.
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.
A Better Understanding for Your Reading Experience
My Dear Fellow Readers,
I’m always pondering about what the writer’s intentions and thoughts are when creating a story. How the readers’ perceptions vary and if they’re what the author is conveying. As an avid reader and one who reviews books, there are themes and elements to the story that I feel make the story equally come to life. The core of a believable story is world building and realistic characterization, in my opinion. These ingredients combined help drive the plot, the character’s movements, motives, and pull the reader in.
I believe contrasts in world building are an important structure for stories to work. For example: The key setting or location, if you will, of the story and how it is described. The contrast would be another location shown in a different light all together. What distinguishes one place to another? Readers want to feel transported to time and place. Tone, mood, senses and atmospheric surroundings is key. Even down to the little details, such as a table, how it looks and how it’s positioned in a room. The juxtaposition of the furniture, if you will. Landscape is another element that needs contrast, which plays a role in how and where the characters feel the most vulnerable or the safest. Is it daylight, nighttime or is the weather cold, warm, dry or rainy? Does the writer include these details at all?
I remember this one book I read where a scene took place out to sea. The way the writer described the swaying ship sailing along the water surface with the waves crashing against the sides of the ship, the spray of water on their faces and the smell of the salty air. It was as if I was standing on the deck, experiencing the elements myself. What an experience!
On the other hand, I’ve read stories that took place in the 18th century and you would have a young family member of a great house sneak in the kitchen to speak to the cook or to grab what food they could muster, and you didn’t have a sense for the 18th century kitchen life.There is a vast difference between the 18th century kitchen and the 21st century kitchen. Modern readers need to experience that through writer’s historical stories. Imagine a 18th century great house with the a kitchen bustling with activity and observing the sounds and sights of people moving to and throw. The kitchen servants preparing food to be cooked by fire or coal. Kitchens in the 18th century were not a place of luxury and you didn’t have family members entertaining at the kitchen table. Those rooms were usually dark, hot and prone to catch on fire. These kitchens were situated as far as possible from the families social and private spaces. For instance, in the 19th century, many homes in America, particularly in the south, built their kitchens in a separate building out back because the danger of fires. Not only that but the servants day started before sun up and didn’t end until late in the night, then their day started again shorty after that. Pay attention to those details.
Social and cultural elements are equally important in regards to contrasts in world building. Readers must learn something from the character’s social standing, beliefs, traditions, life experience that is good or bad, their surroundings and manner of speech that is in contrast or similar to theirs. The list goes on…
Questions to think about when reading/reviewing a story: Were you transported to time and place? Can you picture the scene in your mind’s eye? Can you visualize the characters movements and imagine their senses as if they were your own? Did you make a connection? What have you learned from them and how did they impact you? If you can answer yes to all these questions and feel impacted positively by the story, then that is a sign of a great read. I admire authors who take their world building seriously.
There’re innumerable ways writers create their worlds. Many writers map out their world before beginning to write their story. I’m always curious about other writers’ methods and what works for them. Especially, with the social structure in certain walks of life that is not their own. I also believe there is a fine balance with world building. I’ve read books where the writer got bogged down by the characters’ surroundings, that the plot was lost in the world being created.
A short list of books I enjoyed with remarkable world building:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Dune by Frank Herbert
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My wish for newbie book reviewers is to be inspired by these observations, the list of books I provided and to have a better understanding how stories should work.
About the Cover: Landscape turned upside down? Great effect for the story’s apparent mystery, intrigue and violent escalates. Though, I’m not certain I like where the title is placed but I guess that can’t be helped because the positioning of the person’s hand. In addition, I would have gone with a different shade for the sky. Despite my minuscule nitpicking, I quite like the design.
About the book: I have two minds about this story seeing as I love mystery and crime thrillers. I’m just not sure this particular story is up my alley on several scores, I won’t go into, but I sense my mood changing in how these stories are written. Hmm…I’m sure there will be readers out there that will enjoy Five Strangers. -Stephanie Hopkins
Pub Date: Oct 5, 2021
Five strangers witness a brutal murder in broad daylight — but can they truly believe what they saw?
With its grassy hills and breathtaking city views, London’s Hampstead Heath is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with friends and loved ones—and on an unseasonably warm Valentine’s Day, the lawns are especially full. So, when an aggressive lovers’ quarrel breaks out, there’s an audience of park goers nearby to hear the shouts traded back and forth, and to watch as the violence escalates suddenly to murder, then suicide.
For the five strangers who observed the gruesome act, the memory of the gore is unshakable. But one of them—disgraced journalist Jen Hunter—is compelled to question the truth of what she thought she saw. Are the facts of the case plain as day, or were they obscured, in the moment, by the glaring sunlight?
As she mounts an obsessive investigation for a seemingly-impossible alternative, the lives of the other witnesses begin to unravel, each in its own particular way. Soon one thing becomes clear: the crime they witnessed was more terrible, more twisted, and more far-reaching than they ever could have imagined.
About the Author:
E. V. Adamson is a pseudonym of award-winning journalist and author Andrew Wilson. He is the author of four acclaimed biographies, including one on Patricia Highsmith, and four Agatha Christie novels, which feature the Queen of Crime as a series sleuth.