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

Are You Reading?

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate.” -General Maddox

“I cannot understand how some people can live without communicating with the wisest people who ever lived on earth.” -Leo Tolstoy

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. “-Mark Twain

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”– Jim Rohn

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” —Kate DiCamillo

What books are you reading?

What questions are you asking?

Do you know what critical thinking is? Reading plays a hug role in critical thinking. Are you applying it to your life? There are books about everything. You can learn from all different types of writers.

Today, I’m sharing a few titles of books that are must reads, books that I will always re-read and that I can’t recommend enough. I might have recommended a few of them previously but refreshers are always a good thing. These books will impact you in so many ways and you will be shown intriguing realities, powerful perspectives, insightful meditations on life and relationships. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in thirty-five years—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy. In fresh and unencumbered English, Hays vividly conveys the spareness and compression of the original Greek text. Never before have Marcus’s insights been so directly and powerfully presented.

With an Introduction that outlines Marcus’s life and career, the essentials of Stoic doctrine, the style and construction of the Meditations, and the work’s ongoing influence, this edition makes it possible to fully rediscover the thoughts of one of the most enlightened and intelligent leaders of any era.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch: In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness. 

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American civil rights movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations. Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of America, torn and finally transformed by a revolutionary struggle unequaled since the Civil War.

Taylor Branch provides an unsurpassed portrait of King’s rise to greatness and illuminates the stunning courage and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder. Epic in scope and impact, Branch’s chronicle definitively captures one of the nation’s most crucial passages. 

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: New York Times best-selling author of Affinity, Sarah Waters was named Author of the Year at the 2003 British Book Awards. Fingersmith was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize, and was chosen as book of the year 2002 by more organizations than any other novel. Orphaned as an infant, Susan Trinder was raised by Mrs. Sucksby, “mother” to a host of pickpockets and con artists. To pay her debt, she joins legendary thief Gentleman in swindling an innocent woman out of her inheritence. But the two women form an unanticipated bond and the events that follow will surprise every listener.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan:

Three O’Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio

The Blue Castle by L. M Montgomer

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

June: Book Round-Up

It feels like this year is flying by and sometimes I feel like I’m not going to get all the reading in that I planned. According to my goodreads reading challenge, I am 16 books ahead of schedule, but still…

Anyhow, I wanted to mention that I’ve been thinking after this year, not participating in the reading challenges anymore. That said, I do like to keep track of my yearly reads but not on demand. I have not enjoyed reading this way for a while now. I have something else in mind to keep track of the number of books I read in a year that I might discuss at a later time.

My daughter’s book

In my  Home Library Books post, I talked about reading books from my own bookshelf at home and reading stories my daughter has read. I was able to get in two of her books and I quite enjoyed them. This month, I read seven books total and you will notice that I’ve veered away from historical fiction somewhat. I’m frustrated with the direction the genre is going in and the censoring going on in the publishing industry. That is for another time to discuss, if at all.

A few of these books I have read at a leisurely pace and the one by Dean Koontz, I’ve read before a couple times.

It shall be interesting what July brings.

Stephanie Hopkins

The LP Bookmark Swap Update

On May 8th, I announced a new crafty swap group I have started over at Instagram. This group swaps bookmarks in the shape of tags and the standard shape. Each bookmark is handmade by crafters and artist from the United States. The first swap is on June 15th and we’ve started the group off with a bang! Twenty members have joined thus far and their enthusiasm is encouraging.

We are quickly approaching the first swap date! If you’re participating, be sure to have the bookmarks with three forever stamps turned in by the 15th. For those who would love to join, and you can’t get your bookmarks turned in on time, do not be dismayed. Our next swap is in September and we would love to have you join.

We are swapping 4 bookmarks a piece. You can not only use them for books, but for your journals and notebooks! If you are interested in participating, DM me for more information. The hashtag for our swap group: #StephslpBookmarkswap or you can email me at: layeredpages@yahoo.com

P.S. I’m opening limited spots for this swap to Canadians and others who have shown interest from other countries. More info about that coming soon.

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

Stephanie Hopkins

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.

Home Library Books

I still have quite a few NetGalley books to get through. However, I made a promise to myself that I would read books from my home library that I haven’t read yet-which I’m currently proactively doing. There are many books in this pile I have read before, and have read more than once. I’ve also made a promise to my daughter, a while back, to read books she read and enjoyed during her middle school and high school years. These piles consist of thirty-three books I’m hoping to read this year, or finish by next spring. I’m also considering annotating quite a few of these books. It’s important to re-read books, to read a variety of books, to keep on reading, to truly think about what you are reading and what the story conveys. Reading is knowledge and gives you the tools to keep ignorance at bay to say the least.

There are a few books in this pile that English majors are required to read. Keep in mind, all required reading material for English degrees vary and Professors do not adhere to the same lists. In a nut shell, be well read and be prepared. An English major is a whole lot more than just enjoying reading books. This subject is for another blog post, which I shall post in the near future.

Which of these titles shown, have you read? Have you read any of them more than once? What did you think of them? Would you consider reading them again and quite possibly experience something completely different the second time around?

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Kelly Heard

Published April 9th 2021 by Bookouture

I wake in a bed, with a stranger leaning over me. She asks my name and I realise I don’t know what it is. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here…

I’m grateful to the police who found me on the remote stretch of highway, covered in blood, with crimson flowers in my hair. To the doctors, too, who brought me back from the brink of death.

But I see the suspicion in their eyes.

They don’t believe me when I say I don’t remember who I am. They are unsure if I can be trusted.

Am I the innocent victim? Or guilty of a terrible crime?

No one has reported me missing or come looking for me. But today, a bouquet of blood-red roses has been delivered to my room.

Am I in danger? Or is someone trying to help me?

Searching for anything in this town that might seem familiar, I’m cornered by a woman with wild eyes who calls me I name I don’t know. She tells me my brother is in danger and only I can save him.

But how do I know if I can trust her, if I can’t even trust myself?

My thoughts:

Imagine being found on the side of the road with flowers in your hair, beaten badly and a few days later, you wake up with no memory of who you are. That is what happened to Sophie and it becomes apparent, rather quickly, that she is in danger. She starts to remember things from her childhood and she knows she has a brother named Miles and she has strong emotions about him.  After the doctors and police give her permission to leave the hospital, she must find food and shelter. Sophie lands a job at an historic home, that is known to be haunted, as a landscaper. She develops a relationship of sorts with the overseer and his son. As the chapters continue, she slowly gains more memories and her continued thoughts of her brother become stronger. She is certain that she needs to find him and that he will resolve everything.

For someone who woke up with that kind-of trauma and not knowing you are, I thought Sophie would be a bit more disturbed and concerned about her well-being. She wasn’t and I found that to be strange for this type of story. The reader is shown glimpses of her apparent personality as the story unfolds but you’re still not sure who she really is and what she has gotten herself involved with.  

I did like many of the aspects of the story but felt things weren’t fleshed out at a good pace throughout book and the whole “haunted house” part seemed contrived. Twist and turns in a thriller are important but sometimes those can take too many turns before you start to totally veer off in the wrong different. There were times, I began to wonder if that was happening. But then everything falls in your lap at the conclusion.

Despite those issues, I kept on reading because I needed to know what was going on and who she really was!

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown

Historical Fiction

Berkley Publishing Group

Pub Date: Aug 03, 2021 

I started reading this book last night and so far, so good! Check out the book description below. A big thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for a copy. Happy weekend! -Stephanie Hopkins

Massachusetts, 1869. Margaret Maher has never been one to settle down. At twenty-seven, she’s never met a man who has tempted her enough to relinquish her independence to a matrimonial fate, and she hasn’t stayed in one place for long since her family fled the potato famine a decade ago.

When Maggie accepts a temporary position at the illustrious Dickinson family home in Amherst, it’s only to save up enough for a ticket west to join her brothers in California. Maggie never imagines she will form a life-altering friendship with the eccentric, brilliant Miss Emily or that she’ll stay at the Homestead for the next thirty years.

In this richly drawn novel, Amy Belding Brown explores what it is to be an outsider looking in, and she sheds light on one of Dickinson’s closest confidantes–perhaps the person who knew the mysterious poet best–whose quiet act changed history and continues to influence literature to this very day.

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.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin Giveaway!

The Girls in the pciture giveaway

Novel Expressions Giveaway!

Enter to win a signed copy of The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin HERE

Giveaway starts today and ends on February 18th. Winner will be announced on February 19th.

This giveaway is open internationally.

Good luck!