This Weeks Inspirational Journey

“The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal.”

— Robin Sharma

This week I have been busy making YouTube craft videos, writing, painting and reading! I’ve enjoyed every step of the way in these pursuits. My videos are geared towards paper crafting and the art of journaling.  

The images shown are just a few of what I’ve been creating this week. I’ve recently had a thought about how interesting it is when I’m crafting, the journey inspires new pieces. That in itself is rewarding to find inspiration within your own endeavors. What are a few of the ways you find inspiration in your own creations? If this something you’ve thought about before?

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YouTube Recent Craft Links:

Tag Tuesday | How to a Make Mini Pocket Bellyband 

Journal Cards Made Easy

Vintage Haul Unboxing | For Crafting and Journal Making 

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December 2021: Book Round-Up

I am a bit late in the game of posting my December book round-up! The Holidays, lots of work, painting, and crafting put this post on the back burner to say the least. Better late than never!  

In the year 2021, I’ve enjoyed listening to books more than I’ve enjoyed reading physical ones. That is not to say that physical books have ceased to be my favorite medium of story-telling. I got through 75 stories for the entire year and there were a few I got half way through and put aside because they weren’t for me.

For the month of December, I listened to five audio books. I really enjoyed listening to these ones and I do believe you can find all of them on YouTube. There are as follows:

Coming soon, I will be posting my favorite stories of 2021!

Stephanie Hopkins

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

I’m in the throes of cleaning out two closets in my bedroom and I discovered stacks of books I’ve forgotten about or rediscovered-if you will. How is that even possible with a book worm? Believe me, it happens. As I started to undergo the stacks of books, I came upon Garth Stein’s novel, A Sudden Light. I had purchased the hardback when it was first published and I cannot recall how it ended up in my closet. For shame! That said, the novel was sitting on a wired shelf, protected by leaves of clothes surrounding the stacks. The closet cleaning quickly became a distant memory, for about ten minutes, as I opened the book to read the description and peeked through the pages. Intrigued with the premise, I chose to start reading this extraordinary story the night of rediscovery and I’m delighted with my decision to do so. I have much to say about this story thus far. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant whole trees and is set on a huge estate overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch the ailing and elderly Grandpa Samuel to a nursing home, sell off the house and property for development, divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But as Trevor explores the house’s secret stairways and hidden rooms, he discovers a spirit lingering in Riddell House whose agenda is at odds with the family plan. Only Trevor’s willingness to face the dark past of his forefathers will reveal the key to his family’s future.

Morning Journal: Memories

This is the last page in this morning journal I’ll decorate. I wanted it to be extra special. A memory of what I created the most in my childhood. I was always coloring, painting, sketching, doodling landscapes, water and skies whether it be at home, church, school, camp or at friends’ houses. I never thought about it really, I just created them. Maybe it’s being in the constant frame of mind of nature and God’s glorious creation. This page is a dedication to those memories.

The flower stem is from one of my painted papers I love to create and every time I glance at it, the stem reminds me of a zucchini peal. Ha! The ephemera in the pocket to the right side of the spread is for journaling. I like to keep my journaling hidden for the most part.

I really enjoyed working in this journal I made and I cherish writing in the morning time. Every morning is a new day with endless of possibilities. It is also a fresh start. Why not make the most of it?

I made this journal from scraps of paper that I collage onto a bigger piece, from mail packaging, for the cover. The signature is a selection of scrap papers, including vintage papers. I would say that this journal comes very close to be considered a junk journal. It is definitely a mixed media journal of created and found objects.

Do you journal? What do you like most about it and how does it impact your life? These are questions to think about.

My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired.

Stephanie Hopkins

Insightful Quotes About Characters

“Writing is a time-honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.” My perspective as a reader.

My niche expands in several areas that influences my overall creativity. They consist of creating art, crafting, sewing, reading, exploring nature, blogging and journaling. Discovering quotes about these endeavors inspire and encourage one to rally on when one is feeling less than inspired for whatever reason. I like writing them and include them in my journals and often times, use quotes from other artists. Besides, they are fun to read, to inspire and you learn so much! Above is one I wrote years ago about the writer breathing life into characters.

Today, I’m sharing quotes from other artists about characters in stories. There are so many and I’ve compiled my top ten favorites. Which one do you favor? – Stephanie Hopkins

“You mean Piglet. The little fellow with the excited ears. That’s Piglet.” ― A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin Gives Pooh a Party

“I think all writers are always collecting characters as we go along. Not just characters of course, we’re collecting EVERYTHING. Bits and pieces of story. An interesting dynamic between people. A theme. A great character back story. A cool occupation. The look of someone’s eyes. A burning ambition. Hundreds of thousands of bits of flotsam and jetsam that we stick in the back of our minds like the shelves full of buttons and ribbons and fabrics and threads and beads in a costumer’s shop.” — Alexandra Sokoloff

“Whether a character is good or evil depends on your perspective.” ― Steve Jones Snr

“You cannot have an effective protagonist who simply responds to events happening around him or her. Your protagonist must act, not just react.” — Rachelle Gardner

“She had a way about her that spoke of homemade bread, and caring for people, and the kind of patience that women have when they help a ewe birth a lamb, or stay up in the night with a baby calf bawling for its momma.” ― James Aura, When Saigon Surrendered: A Kentucky Mystery

“Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.” — K.M. Weiland

“Usually, we combine internal and external conflicts for a richer story. That means we have to understand how our characters approach and resolve conflict.” — Jami Gold

“Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions. This development needs to be forged in scenes, the better to employ your intuition rather than your intellect.” — David Corbett

“How can you take characters out of their elements and still convey who they are and why they are the way they are? Their dialogue, their goals and their motivations move the plot and give us a glimpse. But how can we punch it up and create memorable characters without their usual surroundings? With the things they carry.”— Jessica Topper

“People—and characters—are made up of their past experiences. When crafting a character, one of the most important aspects we consider is her past.”—Skye Fairwin,

Be sure to check out my post: Insightful Quotes About Reading

September: Book Round-Up

This month has been tough to get reading time in and I listened to more books rather than reading physical ones. I didn’t use to be able to listen to audio stories at all and it is something I’ve been training myself to do more of. Overall, I enjoyed what I read with a few minor hiccups.

I read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane years ago and it is one of my favorites. I decided to revisit the story again but this time, to listen to it. I must say, my experience with the story was better reading it than listening to it. Though, I wonder if maybe I’m examining the story differently. Has that ever happened to you? You know, as readers, we grow and our taste can change.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (The Physick Book #1) by Katherine Howe

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

I listened to this book and it took me a while to get through it. I really enjoyed the story but I felt it dragged on in certain parts, which made me struggled to keep up at times. I will say that Mary’s character development was fantastic! I would still rate this book high.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

I read this book for review and won’t post it until January.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

I read this book for review. It did take me a while to get through the story but glad I pushed on.

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

A woman has gone missing

But did she ever really exist?

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

In an industry where everything is about creating illusions, how do you know what is real? And how much would you risk to find out?

Insightful Quotes About Reading

My niche expands in several areas that influences my overall creativity. They consist of creating art, crafting, sewing, reading, exploring nature, blogging and journaling. Discovering quotes about these endeavors inspire and encourage one to rally on when one is feeling less than inspired for whatever reason. I like writing them and include them in my journals and often times, use quotes from other artists.

Perhaps, I’ve blogged about this before, but one always needs a refresher. Today, I’m sharing quotes from other artists about reading. There are so many and I’ve compiled my top ten favorites. Which one do you favor? – Stephanie Hopkins

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Cicero

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ― Jane Smiley

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ― Anna Quindlen

“We read to know we’re not alone.” ― William Nicholson

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles W. Eliot

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” ― Annie Dillard

“A word after a word after a word is power.”― Margaret Atwood

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” ― Joyce Carol Oates

The Importance of World Building

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.

Regards,

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Published April 15th 2021

The Thin Place is told in three points of views with their stories told in different time periods and they become interwoven with its supernatural elements.

Marion, a woman newly married, moved to her husband’s estate to only be neglected by him, used and dealt with repeated miscarriages.

Constance, a young sad, sickly girl who was basically kept locked away by her mother. Her need to please her mother became wrought in anguish and bitterness. There was an interesting, yet disturbing theme about the mother daughter relationship that helps drive the plot.

Ava, a female journalist, pregnant, lives in a small town, encounters Overtoun Estate and decides to investigates its tragic history. In doing so, she becomes obsessed with the place and its mystery, puts her life in jeopardy.

The Thin Place is described as a place where two worlds joined. To some, it can be a place of an abyss of sorts or heaven- if you will. Confusing, yes? It is widely known that many people feel these places when they come close to them. Especially, in England and Ireland. Though I can imagine these experiences happen everywhere and people just don’t understand them. Apparently, the more you experience these places, the more your sense of them are intensified. This theme is interwoven in the story and I’m still undecided if it worked or not. I have to admit, I felt as if I was told about this place rather than shown. I felt disconnected to Ava, Marion and Constance’s experience with the area, and their plight with Overtoun House.

Ava is the leading character and I have to admit I disliked her. Which is a problem for me because I’m usually cheering for the protagonist. I found her to be self-absorbed and often absent of feelings, neglectful and unkind to family and friends. Was it because she had become obsessed with the Overtoun House? So much so, that it consumed her to the point that she wasn’t even thinking about others and the baby’s well-being growing inside her? I’m not convinced despite the final conclusion of the story.

The only person I felt sympathy for was Constance and even then, I felt her story needed to be fleshed out a bit more and for The Thin Place to be more convincing. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling the supernatural and creep vibe as I thought I would be entering into the story.

That said, the premise is a good one and I enjoyed parts of the author’s descriptions of things, the premise, setting and the history of Overtoun House. Overall, I’m happy I chose to read this story.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy of The Thin Place from the publisher through Netgalley, for an honest review.

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