This weekend was strange and I didn’t have anything planned to blog about today. Do you ever have days like that? When even your favorite pastimes need a rest. If that makes any sense. I kind-of like that, “Pastimes need a rest.” That said, the weather has been really off that last few days and I haven’t been able to go for my strolls. I woke up this morning and looked out the window to discover the weather isn’t any better.
Yesterday was more productive and I created a page in my bullet journal and started another art project. Oh, and of course, got some reading time in. I definitely think my mind and soul need a rest and refuel.
“Weekends are days to refuel your soul and to be grateful for the blessings that you have.” — Unknown
Do you read multiple books at once? I know some people can’t and some people can’t only just read one at a time. Normally, I have several books going and spread them out during my day. Currently, I’m reading two books and listening to one through audible. Though, I must mention, that it took me quite a few years to program my brain to read more than just one book at a time.
Two of the books I’m currently reading are two that I’ve already read before. One I’m actually listening too and want to re-write my review. The third one is an ARC and it is quite a long read! I do have lots to say about that one already. Looking forward to the reading forecast ahead!
I want to wish you all a beautiful and adventurous week!
When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the US enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.
Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services—forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.
Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.
Filled with twists, romance, and plenty of white-knuckled adventures fit for a James Bond film, The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a remarkable American woman who risked everything to serve her country.
I’ve read a lot of World War II stories but I must say, The Princess Spy is the first book I’ve read, that really delves into the espionage world. The research alone that went into this book is impressive! I obtained a physical copy and enjoyed marking lots of details I want to go back and read and do a bit of my own research. I also enjoyed the images throughout the book. That was a nice touch and really helped bring it all to reality.
I don’t think I’ve paid attention to just how many different government agencies had spies in Europe during World War II until reading about it in these pages. Absoultuly fascinating and absorbing. I found it all incredible, really, because I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ins and outs of how it all worked. Could anyone? That said, Loftis does a marvelous job with drawing you in and gives you an understanding how much of it operated.
I’m impressed with Loftis taking on this project and telling Aline’s role during the war. Too often, throughout our history, women’s roles were largely ignored. She lived an astonishing life, and went from your average American girl to being a spy, and becoming friends with and related to the elitist society. I was amazed with how many people she knew and her, “schedule,” to say the least. The energy she had, I’m sure, is part of what made her a great spy. What a brave woman.
I immensely enjoyed reading about her friendship with Juanito Belmonte. He was a Spaniard and a wealthy Matader-Bullfighter who spotted Aline when she first arrived to Madrid and sought her out.
Before reading about Bullfighting in this book, I was turned off by the sport-if you will. Well, I’ve changed my mind and found the details of Bullfighting to being an art and intriguing.
Be sure to read the epilogue and notes at the back of the book. You’ll get more insight into the people Loftis wrote about and what he had left out.
A must read!
My thanks to Artria Books for providing me with an ARC.
A few days ago, I was chatting with my good friend Lisl on the phone and she was talking about creating a blog post of her favorite things. Hello! Stop the presses! What fun! May I join? She is brilliant and our ideas turn into great conversations. Once we utter our silly and often times crazy greetings, before we know it, hours have gone by and we have gone down many rabbit holes. No joke. At some point, we usually start putting our heads together to come up with new blog topics and series. This blog topic, of favorite things, we decided on a few entertaining questions to answer.
After going through and answering these questions, I thought to myself that I would like to dig deeper into this topic. Or do I? It could be a scary place to venture. Kidding! Though I’m still pondering that it could possibly get really complex.
In Lisl’s post, she mentioned, about these things related to the lock-down many are experiencing globally and trying to find our happy place. Or how we can get to know each other more as individuals. I’ve heard many people around the world talk about how they found themselves through these troubling times and they’ve learned they have interests and talents; they otherwise would have probably never realized.
Be forewarned, some of my favorite things are subject to change at a moments notice. I have a tendency, on occasion, to be indecisive. Or is is because I love so many things? Let’s get into this, shall we?
Favorite lunchbox snack? Sugar, of course!
The chocolate variety. Possibly with peanut butter added to the mix. I don’t think I could survive without chocolate.
Favorite game to play outside? Bocce Ball
Love playing this game outdoors with family and friends! It has been far too long since the last time. It is one outdoor game I’m actually good at.
Fun fact: Did you know that Bocce’s origins date back to 5000 BC?
Favorite fairy tale: The Princess and the Pea
Don’t ask me why?
Favorite childhood memory? There are so many but going to the beach often was the best. Immensely grateful for growing up near the ocean. I’m always longing for the beach and try to go as much as possible.
Favorite nursery rhyme? Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Probably because it involves a boat and water.
Favorite bird: Chickadee
They’re so cute and tiny!
Favorite color(s) rose? Red or White
I’m a hopeless romantic. Swoon.
Some of you history lovers may be thinking of the Tudor rose. I dare say, I could be as well.
Favorite sea creature? Does Starfish count?
They are referred to as sea stars. How cool is that!?
Favorite thing about a rainy day? Listening to the sound of rain against the windows and rooftop. There is something calming about the sound of rain fall. Great time for reflection or to gather your pillows and comfy blankets to curl of with a book(s).
Often times when I’m writing or reading, I will listen to a rain app if it’s not raining outside.
Favorite dinosaur? Velociraptor
I know, that sounds vicious and dark. But I have a perfectly good reason why they are my favorite. Honest. Might write about it in another blog post.
Favorite fictional place you’d want to visit?
Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings.
Oh, for so many reasons. Narnia comes in second or sometimes first.
Favorite road to drive on?
There are so many wonderful roads in my State. Choose one?
Goodness, that is simply impossible. I would have to say the back roads to Dahlonega from the Ball Ground area are a treasure. This is ridiculous because I really can’t choose a particular road in North Georgia. Also, the roads in the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular. One doesn’t mind getting lost driving along those back roads. Watch out for Dear and other wild animals, such as, Squirrels! I swear, they seem to have a death wish.
Favorite things about America? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of expression, individualism, opportunity, diverse cultures and freedom to live by your faith in God.
Favorite 80’s song? Oh, heavens. There are a lot of 80’s favorites! I have to choose just one? What is the fun in that?
U2: With or Without You
Or Free Fallin by Tom Petty. Hmm…Okay, lets go with, With or Without You. Sigh. Not a fair question at all.
Favorite music genre(s)? I have several favorite music genres, depending on my mood. For everyday purposes: Classical music and 90’s Alternative.
Favorite American Classic movie? Picking just one classic movie is like asking someone to pick just one favorite book or one favorite song. Impossible!
All About Eve, comes to mind. I never get tired of watching that one. It’s brilliant and the cast of characters…swoon. The film came out in 1950 and, and, and Betty Davis and Anna Baxter co-stars in it! Love!
BUT, if I had to choose a favorite film period, it would be the 1940’s. Oh, for so many reasons. I think this causes for a blog post about the film industry in the 1940’s. Yes, I think I will.
Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movie? How can I even…
If I had to choose the best acting, he performed in a movie, it would have to be, Shutter Island. I think. I’m torn. Because of his acting in, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and a couple of others. Hmm…
Perhaps, many of you will disagree with me on this one. I would probably would disagree with myself too.
Favorite Harry Potter movie? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (set in 1992-93)
Favorite celebrity? Ryan Reynolds Swoon. Fanning myself over here. I know you must be thinking, really Stephanie? I can’t help it. .
I’m a mixed media artist and I appreciate the essence of crafting as a whole. My Main go-to craft is collage because of its form and I use it quite often in my journals and ephemera making. I’m also an abstract painter and my current focus is creating new paintings and exploring different techniques. Truly, I can’t answer this question by naming one form of craft. Surely many will understand this.
Favorite thing to cook?
Favorite comfort food?
Most foods that are related to pie or stews.
Favorite Asian dish?
Crispy Honey Chicken with Fried Rice though I try real hard to stick to a plant based diet. Alas, I’m failing miserably right now. Though I’m totally blameless, of course.
Favorite ice cream flavor? Rocky Road
Favorite season? Autumn
Favorite holiday? Christmas
Foreign country: Scotland. I’ve never been and one day I will journey there. Might blog about this more.
Favorite TV show: Currently, Miss Scarlet and the Duke. Oh, and Sanditon.
Period shows and movies are my favorite.
I will say I long for more period shows that takes place in America. That I can tolerate and not cringe at every inaccuracy. Don’t think me a snob. I’m a history enthusiast, particular and I can not abide certain liberties concerning real-life events, social norms, objects not of the period, manner of dress and people. History is interesting enough without it being distorted. Though do not mistaken that I’m not aware when it comes to historical, there are allowances for artistic license-if you will. There are so many ways to look at this topic. Maybe we shall another time.
Instrument: Always, Classical Piano. I keep having this strange feeling I might have said something else once?
One of my favorites played on the piano, “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven.
Bach/Gonoud – Ave Maria is another great one! Okay, there are a lot of classical favorites played on the piano.
Have you listened to, Chopin – Preludes, Op. 28: No. 15 “Raindrop”? A must!
I seem to be doing a lot of swooning lately. Have you noticed?
Way to Relax: Reading, crafting, sewing and long walks in the woods.
This was so much fun! What are your favorite things? -Stephanie Hopkins
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 . . .
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.
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.
In the Garden of Spite is an intriguing 19th and early 20th century historical fiction story with true crime leanings. Belle, formally known as Brynhild, is a Norwegian whose troubles in her homeland lead her to America where she joins her older sister Nellie in Chicago for a better life. When Nellie meets her at the train station, she is greeted by a less than cheerful sister and soon realizes that life with Belle isn’t a bed of roses.
People began to whisper about Belle and their suspicions of her, and bodies are piling up but that didn’t stop men from flocking to her! Longing for a life away from the city and to live on a farm, Belle gets her wish and sure enough, things get a lot more interesting.
But who is Belle Gunness?
Yeah, you’re really going to get to know her well by reading this book.
In the beginning of the story, I felt empathy for Belle. She was abused badly-to say the least-by the farmer’s son she worked for. Her family life was dysfunctional, stark, poverty-stricken, abusive and cruel. The people in her community did not look kindly on her family. Not long into the story my feelings for Belle took a turn when the she crosses over the forbidden boundary in taking a life.
What are the traits of a female serial killer? If you don’t already know, I think it is safe to say, you’ll discover quite a few of them in this tale.
Nellie observed troubling signs of Belle’s character when she was a child but never dreamed it would lead something so sinister. She can’t help but make excuses to herself to not take action. No one wants to think the worse of their kin.
As much as I tried to sympathize and understand Nellie’s inner turmoil, I struggled with the fact that when lives are being taken, she continued to be in a state of denial. Or was it fear? There are moments in life when you’ve got to stop making excuses for people. Murder would be one of them!
To make the story even more engrossing, Belle has a particular friend. His name is James Lee and they have a lot in common to say the least. It’s creepy how Belle and James discuss the killings so casually. Like it’s just a normal conversation about daily tasks and the like. It leaves you feeling quite unnerved yet morbidly fascinated. James is a bit of a mystery though. Other than being in Bella’s life, her support and a killer for hire, I often wondered how else he lived his life. Hmm…
The topic of serial killers’ is gruesome and some of the murder scenes in the book are a bit graphic, Bruce is careful not to delve too much into gory details in such a way, that it would be too disturbing to read. Her descriptions of the murderous acts, and Belle’s rationalizing the killings in her mind, gives you a clear picture of how truly wicked Belle is. Though Belle sees it differently. All she wants is a simple life, nice things, plenty of food on the table, a family that adores her and pig farm of her own. Is that too much to ask for?
I do enjoy reading true crime stories because I’m interested in the human mind. One can imagine psychological thrillers are not easy to write or research for that matter. You really have to dig deep in the minds of psychopaths if you want to be true to the subject. A scary place to be for sure, though not all of them are murderers, of course.. This is the first book I’ve read by Bruce and I must say, this sub-genre is her niche-if you will. Despite the daunting premise, she definitely had me on edge throughout the book in a bizarre, entertaining sort-of way. She is a great story-teller and one heck of a writer.
I obtained a copy of In the Garden of Spite from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.
I’m deeply sadden to hear of Author Sharon Kay Penman’s passing. She will always be among my favorite Historical Fiction writers. I had the pleasure meeting her once-briefly-and wish I had the opportunity to know her more. There were so many things I would have liked to ask her. Her stories are also among the first of many books I’ve read in the genre. Penman breathed life into historical figures through her stories. Her stories have touched many readers and she will always be remembered as among the great writers of our time. May God fold her in His loving arms and give her eternal comfort. -Stephanie Hopkins
“I should like to freeze in time all those I do love, keep them somehow safe from the ravages of the passing years…”Rather like flowers pressed between the pages of a book!”
― Sharon Kay Penman, The Sunne in Splendour
Penman received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, she majored in history, and also received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Rutgers University School of Law, and later worked as a tax lawyer.
The Sunne in Splendour, a novel about Richard III of England is one of the most popular books on the Historical Novel Society’s list of best historical novels. In 1996, following the success of When Christ and His Saints Slept (which dealt with the Anarchy and the early career of King Henry II of England), Penman ventured into the historical whodunnit with four mysteries set in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine during the reign of Richard I. The mysteries did not enjoy the same success as her “straight” historical novels, to which she returned in 2002, with Time and Chance, again covering the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. In 2008, she published Devil’s Brood, which was to be the final book in her trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She soon realized that there was still more of the Angevins’ story to tell and the result was Lionheart, followed by The King’s Ransom. Henry and Eleanor’s celebrated and controversial son, Richard the Lionheart is the major character in both books, although Eleanor, John, and Richard’s favorite sister, Joanna, also get to spend time on center stage. She has just finished The Land Beyond the Sea, set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late 12th century. It will be published in the U.S. by G.P. Putnam’s and in the U.K. and Down Under by Macmillan and co; the publication date is early March, 2020.
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
William Morrow and Custom House
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.
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