Image of the Month: Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Proserpine

Dante Gabriel Rossetti-Proserpine (1874)

This month, I re-visited a book called, That Summer by Lauren Willig and quite a few memories of reading her story beforehand and previously studying the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood came flooding back. Then it hit me, Rossetti’s Proserpine painting (1874) is among my favorites! I quickly did an on-line search and found the picture with some information. What is extraordinary is that, before the second sleep recommended via email that I might consider featuring a painting from the Pre-Raphaelites, the very weekend I read Willig’s book. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?

Victorians are known for their dramatic romantic notions, take on mortality and among other things…For instance, death was on their mind quite often to say the least. How they died and the afterlife was extremely important to them. Rightly so during that era both in England and America.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti often created his art based on his own experiences in life and love. In this painting, Proserpina is the queen of the underworld and the wife of Pluto. She was abducted by Pluto and her mother Ceres cast a famine on earth until her daughter was returned. The fruit Proserpina holds represents death. Anyone who ate it had to stay in the underworld for the rest of their life. Imagine that! As the story goes, Pluto made an agreement to release Proserpine back to her mother, once a year.

Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. A group of English painters, poets and art critics who showed extraordinary talent. They formed the Brotherhood that was inspired by a rejection of the essence of art that the Royal Academy, London was promoting at the time.The members included William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Am I leaving anyone out?

They are widely known for turning back to lavish detail (such as using props), vibrant color and complex compositions. What really stands out to me are the themes and characters drawn from of literature in history, folklore and Greek mythology. You will also find these artists believed a return to nature was paramount.

Many renown authors such as Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, Keats and Scott inspired their art. To this day these artist’s paintings are still well-known. Many of you will be familiar with Edward Burne-Jones-The Beguiling of Merlin-which is on the book cover of Possession by A.S. Byatt. The story happens to have set in a dual time-line of 19th and 20th Century. “A novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.” There was also a movie made in 2002 based on this book starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Anne Ehl, Game of Thrones Lena Headey and other notable actors. There is a particular scene where Jennifer Anne Ehl (Christabel Lamotte) is modeling for Lena Headey’s (Blanche Glover) painting and she is in a medieval custom. Very Pre-Raphaelite feel. I highly recommend both book and movie.

One can seriously go down a rabbit hole exploring Classic Literature and Art History. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface!

Stephanie Hopkins

The sources come from Wikipedia, Wikimedia (Image: Proserpine painting) the free encyclopedia and my own independent studies. The description of Possession by A.S. Byatt is from goodreads.

Be sure to take a look at January’s Image of the Month: By the Water’s Edge. I include half of a poem I have written.

Books Aplenty: March Reading Forecast

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

The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker

The Steel Beneath the Silk by Patricia Bracewell

The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel

The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenbery

The Abduction of Pretty Penny by Leonard Goldberg

The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Necklace by Matt Witten

Book Review: Heartbreak Hotel (Alex Delaware #32) by Jonathan Kellerman

Published February 14th 2017 by Ballantine Books

About the book:

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

Heartbreak Hotel is classic Delaware and classic Kellerman. 

My thoughts:

The subject of human behavior has been the driving force of Alex Delaware series and Kellerman has made a name for himself. Like many others, his interest in psychology brings detective work to the forefront. Criminal Psychologists study the moral compass-or lack of-of the human mind. They strive to understand the motivations, reactions and actions of people who commit various levels of crimes.

Thirty-two books in a series is quite a feat to say the least. I appreciate and respect writers who take on the task of writing such stories. It cannot not be easy and there definitely is an art to the process. This particular genre’s depth is widely known. Some prefer to read about the subject without becoming too uncomfortable. While others want to read stories that delve deeper and darker into people’s behaviors. Kellerman’s stories are among the very few books in this genre that I began with when I was a younger reader.

I rather enjoyed the beginning of Heartbreak Hotel. With the brief yet cryptic conversation about psychopaths between Alex and Thalia that is meant to grab the reader’s attention. That in itself was nicely executed and absorbing. I liked Alex and Milo’s interviews and interactions with witnesses and suspects. Those scenes were entertaining to say the least.

Alex and Milo both likable and they work well together. Almost as they are conjoined. I guess that happens when you work closely with a person long enough. If you’ve read the other books in the series, you will know that Alex has seen far more than his fair share of tragedy that any person could fathom. How he maintains his cool is quite impressive. Alex’s every thought seems to be measured before uttering a word. To anyone. His principled and intellectual mind makes for an intriguing person but I found myself wanting more from him

While Kellerman takes us in-depth into human behavior, I felt the background story of the characters needed to be fleshed out and over half way through the book, I found it difficult to maintain my interest and remain objective. The mystery is captivating but you find the elements of the investigating and characters-in this case- Alex and Milo become all too formulaic. I swear I could almost predict what their next plan of action was going to be and what they would say next.

There was a time-several books back now-where I looked forward to reading an Alex Delaware story. But the main characters have become too comfortable in their roles. Perpetual dilly-dallying comes to mind when I read this book. Heartbreak Hotel is a vague remembrance of what was once a great series, in my opinion. I feel the series has long run its course for me to remain a fan.

Don’t allow my experience with this story sway you. Heartbreak Hotel is a good story for readers who want to stay safely in their comfort zone. No wrong in that. If you’ve never read the any of the books in the series, might I suggest you start with his earlier books?

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

Stephanie Hopkins

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.

Cheers to the Week Ahead

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!

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake

About the Cover: I love the lady’s reflection in the water and how her red dress and bad contrast with the blue. I do wish we could see more of her face. One can tell her walk shows determination. If you look closely, you’ll notice medical instruments on either side of the book title. I do like the flourishes in the corners of the layout. It does give the image a bit of a mirror affect. Which compliments the reflection scene.

About the Book: Clearly the story takes place in the 19th century but the description of the story does not state that. I believe that needs to be added so it won’t leave readers guessing until they read the book. Another issue I have is that it doesn’t mention where the story takes place. I’m guessing, England because of the doctor’s name. Though many Americans have English names. Most likely, I could find out the time and period by seeing if there are any reviews written that state the information, but I rather wait to see if I am able to get a copy of the book for review.

I did, however, do a little digging on the name Croft. Did you know that the surname Croft, has pre 6th century origins and emerged as a notable English name? From what I read; the name originates from English northern counties

I’m really interested in the premise and I will definitely be reading this book one way or another.

Stephanie Hopkins.

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 04 May 2021

Description

The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted—and secret—assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role—that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is—even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

Book Review: Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green

(The Windy City Saga #1)

Paperback, 416 pagesPublished February 4th 2020 by Bethany House Publishers

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

My thoughts:

I’ve heard of the Great Fire in Chicago during that period but I don’t believe or can’t remember if I’ve read an historical fiction story that takes place during that time. I was delighted to come across, Veiled in Smoke and I had not read any of Green’s stories beforehand. Needless to say, I was unfamiliar with her work and was eager to delve in her world-building.

I have to say, while the introduction of the characters in the beginning was intriguing, the build-up to the day of the fire felt rushed and lacked a certain substance. I started to have doubts about this book but rallied on. The story didn’t take off until the fire broke out. At that very moment, I felt a shift in the structure of the storytelling and became immensely captivated. The telling of the fire itself and was outstanding and so realistic, you are completely transported to time and place.

I enjoyed reading about Meg and Sylvie’ life during this tragic event and the author does a marvelous job at creating sisterly tension and, at times, unease in their relationship. She also shows their love for each other, for their father and others.

Although different in many ways, Meg with her artistic ability and Sylvia with her love of books and independent in thought, they are both intelligent and they didn’t give up, despite their daunting predicaments. There are many life lessons to be learned with their story.

Banner by Stephanie Hopkins

Stephen’s suffering from Soldiers Heart AKA PTSD from his time as a POW in Andersonville is heartbreaking, yet, eye opening to read about. The Prison camp is reported to have been the largest prison for holding Union soldiers and its conditions are heartbreaking to say the least.

Having said that, there is a topic about how Andersonville was portrayed that I felt needed to be addressed in the story and wasn’t. I felt the subject a bit one sided and conveniently left out to drive a particular narrative about the South. The soldiers weren’t suffering entirely at the fault of people in charge of running the camps. The guards weren’t in much better shape due to the lack of supplies for all. As the war raged on, throughout the south, there was great suffering of starvation, death due to food shortages, water pollution, lack of clothing, disease, increase violence among the civilians, particularly to the females, and lack medicines. While it is known that the north managed prisons differently, both Union and Confederate, really, suffered deficiencies. There was also Lincoln’s blockade of the southern states that played a huge role in this problem.

I can’t say for certain what the author’s intentions were regarding this topic, but nonetheless, I have to say, this particular part slightly vexed me somewhat because I see this premise often in historical fiction and in our education system. That said, and to be fair, the author does give an indication of how the union prisoners treated each other in Andersonville and quite possibly she is portraying how a union solder’s mindset-at the time-probably was due to trauma experienced to drive the stories narrative. Another consideration is that writing a historical story is far more difficult than it appears. You can’t please everyone.

Years after the war, Stephen still struggles with PTSD. Then when Stephen is charged with a serious crime, that took place during the fire, and taken to the Cook Cunty Insane Asylum, would be anyone’s undoing. In one instance, when he arrived to the asylum, they reduced him to a number, stripping his identity to make him less human.

From previously reading about asylums during that period, I had already known what they were like but reading Stephen’s experience made it all too real and affected me in such a way, that even now, I’m still outraged and sadden over the ill treatment of patients in those places. It is absolutely appalling how he was treated and the lack of respect he was given for his service during the war. Even before he was put in that place. His struggles are deeply felt.

Despite what I said about the prison camp topic, I must confess that this is one of the better stories written I’ve read that takes place during post-civil war in the 19th Century. I have noted many passages that I found to be inspiring and I feel deeply about many of the characters.

Green weaves a compelling story of a family’s fight for survival and healing. She gives us a well-constructed insight into the lives of the characters, Stephen’s mental state and trauma the fire caused the city and its’ people. Overall, there are many elements to the story that make it a noble read.

Veiled in Smoke will be placed among my go-to 19th Century Historical Fiction reads and I look forward to reading the next book in this saga.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Side note: If you are a fan of Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott, most likely you will enjoy this story a great deal!  

Cover Crush: The Thin Place by C D Major

Cover: I like the simplicity of the cover. The decorative frame adds a quiet elegance. The image of the yellow house is compelling in a unusual sort-of way. Though it may seem out of place to many, one might see its’ relevance and meaning.

Thoughts of the story:

I was delighted to be able to get a galley copy of The Thin Place. This book is not listed on goodreads or on Amazon in the US as of yet. Looking forward to reading and reviewing this story!  -Stephanie Hopkins

The Thin Place by C D Major

Amazon Publishing UK

General Fiction (Adult) | Historical Fiction | Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 15 Apr 2021

Description

“I devoured this novel in a single sitting. The Thin Place will stay with you long after you turn the final page.” –Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of After the End

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…

A Few of My Favorite Things

Art by Stephanie Hopkins

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. .

Favorite craft?

Abstract by Stephanie Hopkins

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?

Breakfast

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!

Swoon.

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

Be sure to check out Lisl’s Favorite Things at before the second sleep!

Book Review: In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

Banner by Stephanie Hopkins

In the Garden of Spite is an intriguing 19th and early 20th century historical fiction story with true crime leanings. Belle, formally known as Brynhild, is a Norwegian whose troubles in her homeland lead her to America where she joins her older sister Nellie in Chicago for a better life. When Nellie meets her at the train station, she is greeted by a less than cheerful sister and soon realizes that life with Belle isn’t a bed of roses.

People began to whisper about Belle and their suspicions of her, and bodies are piling up but that didn’t stop men from flocking to her! Longing for a life away from the city and to live on a farm, Belle gets her wish and sure enough, things get a lot more interesting.

But who is Belle Gunness?

Yeah, you’re really going to get to know her well by reading this book.

In the beginning of the story, I felt empathy for Belle. She was abused badly-to say the least-by the farmer’s son she worked for. Her family life was dysfunctional, stark, poverty-stricken, abusive and cruel. The people in her community did not look kindly on her family. Not long into the story my feelings for Belle took a turn when the she crosses over the forbidden boundary in taking a life.

What are the traits of a female serial killer? If you don’t already know, I think it is safe to say, you’ll discover quite a few of them in this tale.

Abstract by Stephanie Hopkins

Nellie observed troubling signs of Belle’s character when she was a child but never dreamed it would lead something so sinister. She can’t help but make excuses to herself to not take action. No one wants to think the worse of their kin.

As much as I tried to sympathize and understand Nellie’s inner turmoil, I struggled with the fact that when lives are being taken, she continued to be in a state of denial. Or was it fear? There are moments in life when you’ve got to stop making excuses for people. Murder would be one of them!

To make the story even more engrossing, Belle has a particular friend. His name is James Lee and they have a lot in common to say the least. It’s creepy how Belle and James discuss the killings so casually. Like it’s just a normal conversation about daily tasks and the like. It leaves you feeling quite unnerved yet morbidly fascinated. James is a bit of a mystery though. Other than being in Bella’s life, her support and a killer for hire, I often wondered how else he lived his life. Hmm…

The topic of serial killers’ is gruesome and some of the murder scenes in the book are a bit graphic, Bruce is careful not to delve too much into gory details in such a way, that it would be too disturbing to read. Her descriptions of the murderous acts, and Belle’s rationalizing the killings in her mind, gives you a clear picture of how truly wicked Belle is. Though Belle sees it differently. All she wants is a simple life, nice things, plenty of food on the table, a family that adores her and pig farm of her own. Is that too much to ask for?

I do enjoy reading true crime stories because I’m interested in the human mind. One can imagine psychological thrillers are not easy to write or research for that matter. You really have to dig deep in the minds of psychopaths if you want to be true to the subject. A scary place to be for sure, though not all of them are murderers, of course.. This is the first book I’ve read by Bruce and I must say, this sub-genre is her niche-if you will. Despite the daunting premise, she definitely had me on edge throughout the book in a bizarre, entertaining sort-of way. She is a great story-teller and one heck of a writer.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy of In the Garden of Spite from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.