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.

Book Spotlight: Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce

This book looks interesting! I love the cover! According to the description, the story pays homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. -Stephanie Hopkins

Ruby Falls

by Deborah Goodrich Royce

Post Hill Press

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 04 May 2021

Description

“Imaginative, unique, spine-tingling, and just the right amount of eerie, Ruby Falls is what a reader wants a psychological thriller to be.” —Sandra Brown, New York Times bestselling author 

Ruby Falls will sweep you headfirst into the life of Eleanor Russell, an actress setting up house in the glamorous Hollywood Hills with her handsome new husband, Orlando. Secrets abound in this bang of a book, a haunting tale sure to give readers chills. A stunner with some serious Gothic vibes.” —Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Dear Wife and Stranger in the Lake

Like the chilling psychological thriller, The Silent Patient, Deborah Goodrich Royce’s Ruby Falls is a nail-biting tale of a fragile young actress, the new husband she barely knows, and her growing suspicion that the secrets he harbors may eclipse her own.

On a brilliantly sunny July day, six-year-old Ruby is abandoned by her father in the suffocating dark of a Tennessee cave. Twenty years later, transformed into soap opera star Eleanor Russell, she is fired under dubious circumstances. Fleeing to Europe, she marries a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague and keeps her past closely hidden.

Together, Eleanor and Orlando start afresh in LA. Setting up house in a storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills, Eleanor is cast in a dream role—the lead in a remake of Rebecca. As she immerses herself in that eerie gothic tale, Orlando’s personality changes, ghosts of her past re-emerge, and Eleanor fears she is not the only person in her marriage with a secret.

In this thrilling and twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story ricochets through the streets of Los Angeles, a dangerous marriage to an exotic stranger, and the mind of a young woman whose past may not release her.

The Dust Settles

House 4

Landscape Art Journal Page

Off Day in The Garden Oasis-Life Lesson

House 1I started working this journal page on August 10th-I believe- and I really didn’t have a set plan on where I wanted it to take me. I knew I wanted to paint abstract flowers in a field. It was a rocky start so I put the pages aside for a bit to get back to center. We all have days like that.

Not every art project starts out the way it was envisioned or they lead us in other directions. This gave me more determination to keep pushing on and learn from this experience. I was not giving up! When I came back to the pages and started painting, I knew there was a story here. House 2

I envisioned a family living on this land at times battling nature’s unpredictability and what their daily lives must be like living on a farm. The struggles, sadness, working the land, traditions they pass down through the generations and joys they face.

 

House 3I decided not to put windows on the lower part of the house nor the back fields or detail to the gazebo. I wanted some quirky feel to it. To open the mind to a story of one’s own imagination. The sky and back fields represent a dust storm settling and draws your attention to the front fields of abstract flowers. This piece has inspired a much larger abstract I want to paint on canvas.

House 5This is the most paint I’ve ever put on book pages before. The paper held up great! I wish you could see these pages in person. I couldn’t quote seem to capture the vibrant colors with my phone camera. All in all, I’m pleased with the pages and this project  turned out to be an eye-opening experience in painting abstract flowers. I’m used to just drawing life-like ones then painting or coloring them. A new art journey begins…

Stephanie Hopkins

 

 

 

Cover Crush: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Mexican GothicThe Cover: The vibrant colors caught my attention at first. That is a fantastic first impression to the cover. The background, the way the Lady is holding the flowers…this book just bumped up at the top of my wish-list.

The Story: First let’s start with the title. Wow. Wow. I love it. The Gothic Period in History is one of my favorites and the title alone gives meaning to what the story could be about. Does that make sense? Or an atmospheric setting-if you will.

The description of the story sounds engrossing!  A frantic letter-I love letters, Mexican countryside, mysterious doom, an Englishman, chic gowns, madness, high class society, and dark secrets? Yes please!

Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book:

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published June 30th 2020 by Del Rey

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

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I’ve Got My Eye On You

World War II affected every aspect of life worldwide and one couldn’t possibly learn everything there is to know about the war experience. There are so many extraordinary stories out there that Historical Fiction writers have written on the subject.

There are countless stories about women during the war and their involvement.  While I have read a number of those stories, I have to say that I’m a bit burned out on these novels at present. Having said that, I’ve got my eye on, “The Invisible Woman” by Erika Robuck, and hope to discover material I haven’t come across before.

Where is my current interest in the era, you might ask? I’m captivated with the Medieval Strongholds aka Castles in Germany during World War II and the roles they played. Are there any Historical Fiction books that focus on this very topic? If you know of any, please comment below! -Stephanie Hopkins

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The Invisible WomanThe Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 09 Feb 2021

Description

“An extraordinary profile of immense courage and daring.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Left Cuba

“If you only read one WWII book this year, make it this one.”—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphans

In the depths of war, she would defy the odds to help liberate a nation…a gripping historical novel based on the remarkable true story of World War II heroine Virginia Hall, from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl

France, March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn’t like the other young society women back home in Baltimore—she never wanted the debutante ball or silk gloves. Instead, she traded a safe life for adventure in Europe, and when her beloved second home is thrust into the dark days of war, she leaps in headfirst.

Once she’s recruited as an Allied spy, subverting the Nazis becomes her calling. But even the most cunning agent can be bested, and in wartime trusting the wrong person can prove fatal. Virginia is haunted every day by the betrayal that ravaged her first operation, and will do everything in her power to avenge the brave people she lost.

While her future is anything but certain, this time more than ever Virginia knows that failure is not an option. Especially when she discovers what—and whom—she’s truly protecting.

Stitch Stories: Personal Places, Spaces and Traces in Textile Art by Cas Holmes

Today I’m highlighting one of Cas Holmes art books about creating art inspired by place, space, objects and more…Below I share a link to her website and I highly recommend taking a look. Her work is extraordinary and expressive with each stitch and collage. I could spend hours looking at all the detail and escape in the story she tells. -Stephanie Hopkins 

9781849942744.jpgStitch Stories: Personal Places, Spaces and Traces in Textile Art

by Cas Holmes

The events of your life, from local walks to exotic trips, can provide endless inspiration for textile art. This inspiring book shows you how to record your experiences, using sketchbooks, journals and photography, to create personal narratives that can form a starting point for more finished stitched-textile pieces. Acclaimed textile artist and teacher Cas Holmes, whose work is often inspired by her life and the journeys she makes, helps you find inspiration through your own life and explains how to record what you see in sketchbooks and journals, which can often become beautiful objects in themselves. She explains how you can use photography, both as documentation and as inspiration, and sometimes incorporate it into the work itself, along with found objects and ephemera. Throughout the book are useful techniques that can be harnessed to add extra interest to your work, such as methods for making layered collages, how to ‘sketch’ with stitch, and advice on design and colour. If you want to create beautiful, unique work inspired by your life and travels, this is the perfect book for you.

About the Artist:

Cas Holmes was born in Norwich, U.K in 1960 and graduated from University College of Creative Arts in the mid-eighties. For thirty years she has traveled, taught and exhibited and is renowned for her use of ‘the found’. Her many-layered, atmospheric pieces have been shown and collected around the world. She received a Winston Churchill Memorial Award and Japan Foundation Award for research into paper-making and textiles in Japan.

Since 2005 she has run courses for the Edward James Foundation at West Dean College as well as continued workshops in the UK and overseas. She works to commission and has pieces in the collection of the Museum of Art and Design New York, Rochester Cathedral and Arts Council England.

More recently, an Arts Council Award led to research in India and subsequent exhibition. This led to a Pride of Britain Award by the NRI Institute for excellence in her field.

The Found Object in Textile Art is her first publication for Batsford.

You can see her profile and work  HERE

Cover Crush: A Saint from Texas by Edmund White

Cover: I like the simplicity of this book cover and the sketch-like drawing of the image. Cover layouts doesn’t always have be heavy-if you will- or bright with contrast to make a statement.

Premise: Two sisters from humble beginnings and decades of life changing experiences and what they make of it sounds intriguing.

Stephanie Hopkins

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A Saint from TexasA Saint from Texas

by Edmund White

Bloomsbury Publishing

Pub Date 04 Aug 2020

Description

From Edmund White, a bold and sweeping new novel that traces the extraordinary fates of twin sisters, one destined for Parisian nobility and the other for Catholic sainthood.

Yvette and Yvonne Crawford are twin sisters, born on a humble patch of East Texas prairie but bound for far more dramatic and tragic fates. Just as an untold fortune of oil lies beneath their daddy’s land, both girls harbor their own secrets and dreams-ones that will carry them far from Texas and from each other. As the decades unfold, Yvonne will ascend the highest ranks of Parisian society as Yvette gives herself to a lifetime of worship and service in the streets of Jericó, Colombia. And yet, even as they remake themselves in their radically different lives, the twins find that the bonds of family and the past are unbreakable.

Spanning the 1950s to the recent past, Edmund White’s marvelous novel serves up an immensely pleasurable epic of two Texas women as their lives traverse varied worlds: the swaggering opulence of the Dallas nouveau riche, the airless pretension of the Paris gratin, and the strict piety of a Colombian convent. For nearly half a century, Edmund White’s work has revitalized American literature, blithely breaking down boundaries of class and sexuality, and A Saint From Texas is one of his most joyous, gorgeously written, and piercing works to date.

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