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.

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

Cover Crush: The Well by Stephanie Landsem

About the cover: I’ve examined this cover so much that I’m second guessing myself on if I have shared this one already or not. If so, refreshers are good.

If I were to rate the book cover, I’d give it five stars, maybe more. You can see the woman’s face! Well, her profile but that is a lot better than seeing her back. The landscape is stunning and the colors vibrant and evoking. I love everything about this cover design. Including the title, oh, and the author has a beautiful name. Hint, hint.

About the book: I have mixed feelings about Biblical re-telling’s and Christian fiction in general. Often times they are unrealistic water-downed (no pun intended) and one must always remember that these re-telling’s are fictional that draw from details and facts from the Bible. Or the reader hopes so… If you’re not certain, it’s best to go straight to the source. As I said above, I have mixed feelings about this medium of story- telling, however, as a story enthusiast, person of faith and my love for history, I’m highly interested in this one.

If you are a reader of the Bible, you will know the story of Jacob’s well in the New Testament. If I recall, the passage is in the book of John. The well and where it is situated is a notable and historic site today. The story of Jacob goes all the way back to the Old Testament.

As The Well goes, Landsem takes us to the Samaritan Village and introduces us to a woman and her family who is shunned for their mother’s sins. Then one day, two men arrive to their village, one of them is Jesus. His teachings of faith and belief in God sending His son to save us, service, love, forgiveness, kindness and hope are about Christian life.

Not everything turns out the way we want them to and bad things happen but I firmly believe in redemption and a higher purpose to our strife in life. I look forward to reading this story. – Stephanie Hopkins

Grungy abstract inspired by the landscape in the background of the book cover. -by Stephanie Hopkins

More about the story:

Paperback, 304 pages

Published June 4th 2013 by Howard Books

In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.

For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.

But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties.

In The Well, debut novelist Stephanie Landsem brings to life the culture and people of Jesus’ day, skillfully demonstrating how redemption can bring about the life-changing effects of forgiveness and love. 

Be sure to check out my Mixed Media Art Gallery and Instagram to see more of my art journey!

Book Review: The Sign of the Gallows (A Lucy Campion Mysteries, #5) by Susanna Calkins

About the book:

London, 1667. On her way to a new market to peddle her True Accounts and Strange News, printer’s apprentice Lucy Campion quickly regrets her decision to take the northwestern road. Dark and desolate, the path leads her to the crossroads – and to the old hanging tree. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she’s not sure ghosts don’t believe in her. But before she even reaches the crossroads, she’s knocked off her feet by two men in a hurry. What were they running from? To her dismay, she soon discovers for herself: there, dangling from the tree, is the body of a man. Did he commit self-murder, or is there something darker afoot? The more Lucy learns, the more determined she is to uncover the truth. But this time, even the help and protection of magistrate’s son Adam, and steadfast Constable Duncan, may not be enough to keep her safe from harm . . .

My thoughts:

Seventeenth Century, London was a calamity to say the least! With the century brought the Great fire of London, the plague and co-conspirators plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament including the King. My word, I’d say that in itself is brutal enough. However, there are other dark forces at work.

Author Susanna Calkins brings the century to life through her Campion series of murder, mayhem and intrigue. Lucy, finds herself in the center of another murder investigation and the search for the murderer reveals that there are darker forces at work.

Lucy is an apprentice-of sorts for a printer and bookseller, Master Aubrey. While all his staff are important to his business, I find Lucy to be the most spirited and undoubtedly clever at telling stories and selling book. I believe Aubrey know Lucy’s value and its why I think he gives her a pass quite to bit to aid in the investigation.  She is quite the social warrior and truly cares for people.

I’m really pleased with the support system Lucy’s has among her friends and formal employees, the Hardgraves. I admire the Hargraves respect and affection they have for Lucy despite their class distinction. What lively, caring and intelligent people.

Banner and painting by Stephanie Hopkins

Every single character in the story is fascinating and fun to read about, even the villains. Calkins does a marvelous job in showing the reasons people act on things due to their own situations in life. Regardless if we agree with them or not, its important to know the reasons. The human mind is an extortionary and often times, dark place. We can learn much from it.   

The investigation in the murder at the crossroads had lots of great twist and turns and it was an enjoyable read and one feels caught in trying to figure out who done it right along Lucy and the others.

The two men she ran into before making her way to the crossroads are something else. While their actions are suspicious at best, their grievance is understandable as the story unfolds.

I appreciate the story-line of Aubrey’s print shop and the reading material he sells. It has inspired me to look further into how books were printed during the 17th century.

I started this series at book four because I agreed to review it and find myself wanting to go back and read the first book and on…Despite that, I believe from the two books I’ve read, they are good stand-alone stories.

Calkins is a creative and imaginative story-teller and she weaves a story marvelously at a wonderful pace that keeps you engrossed. -Stephanie Hopkins

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

Review: A Death Along the River Fleet (Lucy Campion Mysteries #4) by Susanna Calkins

What World Building Includes

Photo by Stephanie Hopkins

A Reader’s Perceptive

World building serves the purpose to establish, time period, location, landscape, climate, and cultural surroundings. Its foundation of these elements is important for the reader to be transported in the character’s world. By accomplishing this, a writer must research and understand the world they are creating. Saying where your story takes place and adding a few notable locations, and buildings, doesn’t cut it. Make the reader believe they are there.

Use the Senses

You want your readers to be fully engaged in your story. It is a must!

Examples: Do your readers hear the horse’s hoofs on the cobble stone road drawing near? Do they see the dense fog rolling in the city’s streets? Does the reader know the culture’s way of dress, social class norms and rules? What are the events happening in the period they are living in? Such as, how things are made, talked about, and what is the population like? How do they get along or what are their resources? The list goes on…

I read a great story recently but didn’t feel transported to the time period. Which made it harder to understand the character’s actions. World building is vital.

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: Painting the Light by Sally Cabot Gunning

About the Cover: I chose this cover because of the ocean and cliffs. A calming and beautiful scenery. How the light is shown from the sky. One can imagine the smell of salt air and feel of the breeze coming from the ocean.

About the book: This story takes place in my favorite period to read about and I love that Ida is an artist. During that time it wasn’t “done” for a woman to enroll in art classes.

Imagine living on a seaside farm. Though, ,sadly, it sounds if she is having to put her passion of art behind her to tend to her duties on the farm.

Oftentimes, art is drawn from tragedy and heart-break. I wonder and hope she finds her passion again. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description

William Morrow and Custom House

William Morrow

General Fiction (Adult) Historical Fiction |Literary Fiction

Pub Date 01 Jun 2021

From the critically acclaimed author of Monticello and The Widow’s War comes a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkable” for women to take, and showing a budding talent for watercolors.

But no more. Ida Russell is now Ida Pease, resident of a seaside farm on Vineyard Haven, and wife to Ezra, a once-charming man who has become an inattentive and altogether unreliable husband. Ezra runs a salvage company in town with his business partner Mose Barstow, but he much prefers their nightly card games at the local pub to his work in their Boston office, not to mention filling haystacks and tending sheep on the farm at home—duties that have fallen to Ida and their part-time farmhand Lem. Ida, meanwhile, has left her love for painting behind.

It comes as no surprise to Ida when Ezra is hours late for a Thanksgiving dinner, only to leave abruptly for another supposedly urgent business trip to Boston. But then something truly unthinkable happens: a storm strikes, and the Portland sinks. Ezra and Mose are presumed dead.

In the wake of this shocking tragedy, Ida must settle the affairs of Ezra’s estate, a task that brings her to a familiar face from her past—Henry Barstow, Mose’s brother and executor. As she joins Henry in sifting through the remnants of her husband’s life and work, Ida must learn to separate truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t.

Painting the Light is an arresting portrait of a woman, and a considered meditation on loss and love.

Be sure to follow and check out more of my art at my Instagram!

before the second sleep cover crush

Stephanie Hopkins

Conversing About Novellas

I’ve committed 2021 to be a year of catching up-somewhat-on my back list of books that have been patiently waiting on me. Well, maybe not too patiently. The new year brings new reading goals, habits and a fresh start on many things. This week, I have pondered the idea of adding more novellas to my ever-growing pile of books I want to absorb.

There are various opinions about reading novellas. Some say it is a waste of time and leaves you unsatisfied, but I beg to differ. I admire the writer who takes on the task of weaving a story with fewer words. Often times when having read a six-hundred-page novel, I wanted more. So, there you are. It is not, in truth, about the number of pages but what you make of them and allowing your imagination to explore the what-ifs. -Stephanie Hopkins

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Published May 28th 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures – their pleasures and their difficulties – are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Published January 1st 1970 by Heinemann (first published 1966)

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.

But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.

Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century. 

So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano, Euan Cameron (Translation)

Published September 15th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A haunting novel of suspense from the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature

In the stillness of his Paris apartment, Jean Daragane has built a life of total solitude. Then a surprising phone call shatters the silence of an unusually hot September, and the threatening voice on the other end of the line leaves Daragane wary but irresistibly curious. Almost at once, he finds himself entangled with a shady gambler and a beautiful, fragile young woman, who draw Daragane into the mystery of a decades-old murder. The investigation will force him to confront the memory of a trauma he had all but buried.

With So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood Patrick Modiano adds a new chapter to a body of work whose supreme psychological insight and subtle, atmospheric writing have earned him worldwide renown — including the Nobel Prize in Literature. This masterly novel, now translated into twenty languages, penetrates the deepest enigmas of identity and compels us to ask whether we ever know who we truly are.

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

What are some novellas on your to-read list?

New Book Release: Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper

Congrats to Kristin Harper book publication of, “Aunt Ivy’s Cottage!”

About the book:

Description

Up in the attic, with views across the sparkling bay, she opens the lid of the carved trunk. Carefully moving aside, the delicate linen wedding dress once worn by her great-aunt, she unpacks all the smaller boxes inside until she finds the leather-bound diary. She knows this will change everything…

All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, being spoiled with cranberry ice cream and watching the tides change from the rooftop. Now, heartbroken from a recent breakup, Zoey can see her elderly aunt’s spark is fading, and decides to move to the island so they can care for each other.

When she arrives to find her cousin, Mark, sitting at the solid oak kitchen table, she knows why Aunt Ivy hasn’t been herself. Because Mark—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the cousins clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when the local carpenter who’s working on Ivy’s cottage takes her side. As he offers Zoey comfort, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper, and throws doubt on Mark’s claim…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. The discovery could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but can Zoey trust that the carpenter really has Ivy’s best interests at heart? And will dredging up an old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.

Cover Reveal: The Steel Beneath the Silk by Patricia Bracewell

A breathtaking conclusion to Bracewell’s Emma of Normandy Trilogy, brimming with treachery, heartache, tenderness and passion as the English queen confronts ambitious and traitorous councilors, invading armies and the Danish king’s power-hungry concubine.

Release Date: 2 March 2021

The eBook is available for pre-order now via the links below.

The paperback edition will be available for pre-order soon.

About the Book:

A breathtaking conclusion to Bracewell’s Emma of Normandy Trilogy, brimming with treachery, heartache, tenderness and passion as the English queen confronts ambitious and traitorous councilors, invading armies and the Danish king’s power-hungry concubine.

In the year 1012 England’s Norman-born Queen Emma has been ten years wed to an aging, ruthless, haunted King Æthelred. The marriage is a bitterly unhappy one, between a queen who seeks to create her own sphere of influence within the court and a suspicious king who eyes her efforts with hostility and resentment. But royal discord shifts to grudging alliance when Cnut of Denmark, with the secret collusion of his English concubine Elgiva, invades England at the head of a massive viking army. Amid the chaos of war, Emma must outwit a fierce enemy whose goal is conquest and outmaneuver the cunning Elgiva, who threatens all those whom Emma loves. 

Links:

Patricia Bracewell’s website

AMAZON

AMAZON.CO.UK

AMAZON AUSTRALIA

BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO

SNEAK Peek AT WHAT’S INSIDE

Book Review: Madam by Phoebe Wynne

About the Book:

For 150 years, high above rocky Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat untouched, a beacon of excellence in an old ancestral castle. A boarding school for girls, it promises that the young women lucky enough to be admitted will emerge “resilient and ready to serve society.”

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie: a 26-year-old Classics teacher, Caldonbrae’s new head of the department, and the first hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose is overwhelmed to be invited into this institution, whose prestige is unrivaled. But she quickly discovers that behind the school’s elitist veneer lies an impenetrable, starkly traditional culture that she struggles to reconcile with her modernist beliefs—not to mention her commitment to educating “girls for the future.”

It also doesn’t take long for Rose to suspect that there’s more to the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor—a woman whose ghost lingers everywhere—than anyone is willing to let on. In her search for this mysterious former teacher, Rose instead uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, forcing her to confront the true extent of the school’s nefarious purpose, and her own role in perpetuating it.

A darkly feminist tale pitched against a haunting backdrop, and populated by an electrifying cast of heroines, Madam will keep readers engrossed until the breathtaking conclusion.

My Thoughts:

I must confess that this book was a horrible start for me on several accounts. Not only was it dragging, for a lack of better word, I couldn’t make sense of what was going on with the people at this school. It was as if Rose stepped into the twilight zone. The movements and the speech of the characters were not natural. The dialogue was clunky and the conversations between the characters were confusing at times. Nothing was making sense but something was telling me to push on.

I kept reading and my frustrations grew. To my dismay, I couldn’t relate to any of the characters nor did I sympathize with them. I was about to give up on the story and almost half way through, there was a change…

The story takes a turn to an interesting development and I began to see the reasoning of the oddness of the story in the first half of the book. As I read on, I must say that I still didn’t care for any of the characters or their situation. But I was pleased the dialogue had improve somewhat and I didn’t feel so disoriented!

If there ever was a character you wanted to grab and shake and yell, “What is wrong with you? Wake up and snap-out of it!” It would be Rose. When she first arrived at the school, everything started off wrong for her and her lack of gumption made things worse for her. I would not portray her as a heroine. While she saw the horrible things going on around her, and at times spoke up, she just wasn’t strong enough to handle anything! I believe you will find interesting who the true, “Heroines” are.

I would also like to point out that in the second half of the book, there are two disturbing scenes that might be too sensitive for some readers. While I understand the context was important to drive the plot, I could have done without it. It made me feel extremely uneasy.

I give this story three stars solely on the reason that the school’s purpose makes for a relevant story but creepy read and the setting has all the right elements of a Gothic tale.   

Stephanie Hopkins

Side note: The book description gives away too much information about the story.

I obtained a galley copy from the Publishers through NetGalley.