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: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

About the Cover: I love images of country homes and their setting on the edge of woods. I lived in rural North Georgia for nine years with a home on the edge of woods before moving back to the suburbs. I would often sit at the kitchen table that faced the woods and spent a lot of time thinking about the history of the land and the people that lived there before us. This book cover is atmospheric and I like the mirror effect of the image. You can image all sorts of stories the house and trees hold.

About the Book: I like reading a wide range of genres though I am extremely choosy about the horror genre for several reasons but there are a few I will read or give it a try. Maybe I chose this one because it takes place in the country and the story touches on family secrets. Did I mention I love the title of the book?! Definitely an eye catcher.

Stephanie Hopkins  

Book Description:

Hardcover, 530 pages

Published July 20th 2021 by Del Rey Books

A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part VII

I’m thrilled to be sharing with you all this week’s ICAD’s. The abbreviation ICAD means, “Index Card A Day.” This challenge was created a few years ago by artist Tammy and her challenge has really grown over the years. Below, is her IG account where you can find out more about her and her art.

It is absolutely wonderful to see the collection of cards I’ve made thus far. I have them sitting pretty on my bookshelf in a ceramic basket. Where is the picture? I’m going to share it on the last post of this challenge. I can’t wait! Like all the previous weeks, I love this week’s cards!

This week’s cards are days 41-47

Day 47

Which one is your favorite?

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part I

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part II

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part III

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part IV

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part V

ICAD 2021 Challenge Part VI

Tammy IG @gypsy999

I look forward to sharing the rest of this week’s challenge and the following week with you next Saturday! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged. Have a blessed weekend! -Stephanie Hopkins

Check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art Gallery here at Layered Pages!

New Book Release: The Nine by Gwen Strauss

Congrats to Gwen Strauss’s book publication of, “The Nine”

(The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany!”)

About the book:

St. Martin’s Press

History

Pub Date 04 May 2021

“This haunting account provides yet more evidence not only of the power of female friendship but that the often-unrecorded courage and resilience of ordinary women must be honoured and celebrated. It’s a most inspiring read…Utterly gripping.” —Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes

The Nine follows the true story of the author’s great aunt Helene Podliasky, who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German forced labor camp and made a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII from Germany back to Paris.

The nine women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends. During the final days of the war, forced onto a death march, the nine chose their moment and made a daring escape.

Drawing on incredible research, this powerful, heart-stopping narrative is a moving tribute to the power of humanity and friendship in the darkest of times.

A Week of Regrouping

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

I am taking the week off of blogging and to work on bringing you more creative content for future posts. Please be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art Gallery here at Layered Pages! I will continue to post new pictures on those media platforms. My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged. Have a beautiful week!

Stephanie Hopkins

New Book Release: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Many congrats to Rhys Bowen’s book publication of, “The Venice Sketchbook!”

About the Book:

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins. 

**********

“Juliet “Lettie” Browning, an English woman, is a woman of strength and courage. The life she experienced and saw during her stay in Venice were during uncertain times. Her will to behave uprightly puts her in many dangers but her resilience is an example to us all…read more of my review at this post link.” -Stephanie Hopkins

Art in Motion: Beauty of the Butterfly

Paper Crafting by Stephanie Hopkins

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. -Maya Angelou  

Be sure to 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.

Mini Junk Journal: Part I

How to make pretty journals made out of trash and leftovers.

Welcome to Layered Page and thank you to those who follow my blog. Today is part one of my mini junk journal series where you will discover ways to use recycled materials to make pretty journals without breaking the bank. It is possible to make pretty journals with junk!

I love taking things you would normally throw out and use them for my crafting projects. It is a fun, creative, rewarding and a cheap way to craft. Junk Journals are books made through found objects, and recycled materials. In this five part series, I will be showing various ways I use those materials in my mini journals.

This past Easter we did a lot of baking and I had the opportunity to grab a Pure Vanilla Extract box to up-cycle. Hooray! In the slideshow below, you will see my process of making the journal. I used to newspaper from a packaged I received in the mail. I love when painting companies wrap the paints you order in newspaper or shipping package. Never throw those out. You can use them for all sorts of crafts and art making.

I cut the taps off and used cheap glue to add the newspaper to the outside and inside cover. Often times I use Dollar Tree glue for these projects. No need to use expensive art craft. Then I covered it with a thin layer of paint. You can use paint, white gesso, coffee to stain your cover, markers, crayons and etc…Or just use scrap paper collage. A create source for that is from your junk mail. Recycled fabric is another great material to use for covers. Do what feels right to you. Next, I grabbed some of my leftovers paints AKA painted papers and used that to start making my signatures.The paper with words on it, is from an outdated Webster Dictionary that was headed to the dumpster. Be sure to know the size of the journal to determine the size of your pages. I usually go a little smaller on the pages. Again, do what feels right to you. Some crafters like their pages to stick out. Mix it up and have fun with it. Once I have them organized in the order I want them in my journal, I’m ready to attach them to the spin. I used leftover black cotton thread this time. If you do not have a paper piercing kit, you can use a sharp sewing needle to poke the whole in the spin and to attach the pages.

When attaching the pages, I like to start in the inside middle (see pictures). Don’t feel stressed if you don’t get it perfect. It is a junk journal after all. I like mine to look a bit sloppy. Gives it the homemade look it is suppose to have. The more you practice the better you will get at this step. One the signatures secured, I cover the outside spin with recycled paper or fabric. Then I finish decorating my cover. For ephemera AKA embellishments, I use my leftover scraps/chipboard from this project. The chipboard are the tabs I cut off from the Pure Vanilla Extract box.

This project took me just under an hour to complete. If you are looking for more crafting ideas for your kids, this is it. Please supervise the project due to using scissors and a needle. Another great idea for signatures is to use your children’s school pages or drawings. As a parent, I know those things pile up fast and often times we feel we have no choice to let go of some of them.Why not use bits of them for your journals?

I hope you enjoyed this first part of my new series and if you have any questions about my process, please do not hesitate to ask below in the comment area.

Stephanie Hopkins

New Book Release: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Congrats to Jennifer McMahon’s book publication of, “The Drowning Kind!”

About the book:

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us

“A good mystery writer needs to know how to build dramatic tension and suspense that flows evenly through their stories. McMahon certainly knows how to balance those elements and more… She shows, brilliantly, how her characters work through complex situations in their lives and has a unique way of drawing the reader in as if they were experiencing the conflicts for themselves. She most certainly holds a special place in the mystery genre.” You can read more of my review at this post link. -Stephanie Hopkins

What is Your Purpose in Life?

Art by Stephanie Hopkins

While I have been creating a lot of art this past week, I have had a lot on my mind. Okay, who are we kidding here. I always have a lot on my mind! As I have been crafting, I’ve been thinking about the younger generations and how much hopelessness, pain and anger there is out in the world. And what the younger generations are witnessing and experiencing through these trouble times. Like everyone else, I’ve also witnessed the good, the bad and ugly of technology and main-stream media. I’m not going to mince words here, as a society, we are going in the wrong direction in more ways than one. We have been for a while now. That said, take heart. there is a lot of good in this world.

This year I will be in my mid-forties (yikes) and I have seen a lot, heard a lot, experienced a lot, learned a lot and-heck-still have a lot to learn. No one is perfect. No one is blameless. No one knows everything but what we do with what we’ve learned makes all the difference in the world.

If someone were to ask me what advice I would give to people in the age of technology, propaganda and the cancel culture, my words might surprise them..

I read, write, study and create art every chance I get. Through those mediums alone, I’ve come to understand adversity, life circumstances and etc. This is not even mentioning my own life experiences but I don’t need to go into all that to share my advice to the younger generations.

Ask yourself, what is your purpose? What should it be? How can YOU make it happen? What would others say and would you heed their approval? Do you really need approval from complete strangers (like on-line) or from people that barely know you and who don’t encourage or lift you up? Are you just another sheep among the herd? Are you trapped in a soulless, never-ending cycle of anger, blaming, hopelessness, shouting to the masses, or to anyone, endlessly about things-in truth-you’re not really certain about? Like what you see and hear from the news media, strangers on social media, government, the education system, or your circle of friends you hang with. Or even the neighbor next door. All the while, deep down you’re asking yourself, “Where is this getting me?” Nowhere.

Never be a victim of mindset or traumatized by cultural differences. Don’t cancel history, diverse opinions, beliefs, or encourage lawlessness because you don’t like something or have been told you should cancel them. Stop being offended. Educate yourself every single day, read a lot, have meaningful conversations, don’t talk at people but with people and learn how to think objectively AKA be of open mind. That is when you bring honest and real conversation to the table of productivity and healing. The continual silencing, shouting, slandering, negative drama, disorder and lawlessness leads to disregard for society as a whole, a break down in moral conduct and from sustaining a civil life.

Surround yourself with positive people and be a person of faith. Be of strong mind and, my goodness, sheep not and herd not. Be an individual in life decisions, stop seeking others for validation because you ARE a person with a mind. Use it. If you need advice, or are uncertain about the path you’re considering or have chosen, seek God first then those people whose advice is worth receiving.

Resist propaganda and the echo chamber. It is everywhere and right smack front and center in your sphere. Don’t believe everything you see on social media or the news. Think first-don’t assume something is real- before reacting. Get off your phone, Facebook, main-stream media and Netflix. If you’re on your smartphone, watching shows or on social media longer than you sleep, at school or work in a day, you’re on it way too much! It is slowing down your brain power, attention span and your critical thinking is fading away…You’re becoming an indoctrinated zombie. Who wants to live like that? I know I don’t. It isn’t even living for Pete sake. I know you know what I’m talking about.

Stop looking for a hand-out, pick yourself up and leave idleness behind. Work hard. Never stop learning. Never give up. Be creative. Try something new and often. Be a doer with the right tools. Be evolving. Be kind and generous. Be a good listener. Be a good friend. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s opinion, defend their right to say it. Stop expecting people to make you happy. Serve God and others. Live intentionally with purpose in this life. There will always be bumps in the road, but you can do it because you matter.

Peace, I’m out.

Stephanie Hopkins