Sunday Reflections

Floral Painting by Stephanie Hopkins

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”– Terri Guillemets

Sunday Reflections

“History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity.” – Dexter Perkins

Yesterday morning, I posted a page on Instagram I made in my fall journal. The morning air was cool and crisp and the season brings reflections of times past and the people who lived long ago. To ponder their story as what it may have been like. How did they live? What did they witness? We may not always know who they were but the love and opportunity of using their pictures in our journals keeps their existence intact.

Many family’s belongings are lost or discarded and that is sad to say the least. I consider crafters who save these treasures and use them in their journals and their other creations, that give them a new life, memory keepers. By using their images, we are keeping an essence of them alive through their images.

I do not know the lady’s name in the photo I’m using. I can only imagine what her life must have been like. There is a story there.

Today, as I work in another page, I will use another photo and think of the people in the past and wonder what they would think of us today.

Journaling fills one’s soul with gratitude and healing calmness. It’s an appreciation for the old and the newness of life’s journey.

May your Sunday be filled with contentment and peace.

My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired. God bless.

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.

Slough House Series by Mick Herron

It has been a while since I’ve read a book series and I’m on the hunt for one that I want to read next year. I came up with an idea to blog about a few series I’ve chosen, to select one to read. My fist on the list is series I came across on twitter called the Slough House. The author, Mick Herron writers’ thrillers and mystery and has an English from Balliol College, Oxford. He now lives in Oxford and works in London. His second series, The Oxford Investigations, features Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm according to his bio on goodreads. I’m still working out if I will add the latter to my list.

The Slough House series has seven books to its list, so far and two of them are novellas. I’ve chosen to feature three of the books and you can find the full list on goodreads. I hear there is a television show being made based on these novels starring Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas. Have you read this series? Will you watch the television series based on the stories? -Stephanie Hopkins

Slow Horses (Slough House #1)

The first book in CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning British espionage series starring a team of MI5 agents united by one common bond: They’ve screwed up royally and will do anything to redeem themselves.

London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

River Cartwright, one such “slow horse,” is bitter about his failure and about his tedious assignment transcribing cell phone conversations. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone has his own agenda. 

Dead Lions (Slough House #2)

Hardcover, 348 pages

Published May 7th 2013 by Soho Crime

London’s Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

Now the slow horses have a chance at redemption. An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. The despicable, irascible Jackson Lamb is convinced Dickie Bow was murdered. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade’s circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient Cold War secrets that seem to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, who is either a Soviet bogeyman or the most dangerous man in the world. How many more people will have to die to keep those secrets buried?

The List (Slough House #2.5)

Dieter Hess, an aged spy, is dead, and John Bachelor, his MI5 handler, is in deep, deep trouble. Death has revealed that deceased had been keeping a secret second bank account—and there’s only ever one reason a spy has a secret second bank account. The question of whether he was a double agent must be resolved, and its answer may undo an entire career’s worth of spy secrets. 

Art in Motion: Flower Vase Paintings

Original Panting by Stephanie Hopkins

Impressionism flowers are up there with my favorite art subjects to paint. Its emphasis on movement with small brush strokes fascinate me on several levels.  Claude Monet’s art work comes to mind when I think of Impressionism. In short, his use of color, movement and perception of nature is extraordinary.

Since abstraction painting is my main study, I like to infuse abstract with impressionism when creating flowers. I’m always amazed where the journey takes me and the discoveries I make along the way. Each piece I create gives me inspiration beyond anything I thought possible for me. Not only that, but the results give one confidence and assurance that creating art does matter for one’s growth and well-being in life.

These cards represent abstraction, impressionism and realism. – Stephanie Hopkins

Original Panting by Stephanie Hopkins

Be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art gallery here at Layered Pages! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

Original Artwork by Stephanie Hopkins

(Images are subjected to copyright. All book reviews, interviews, guest posts, art work and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie Hopkins.)

Cheers to the Week Ahead

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!

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones by Larry Loftis

Published February 9th 2021 by Atria Books

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.

My thoughts:

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!

Stephanie Hopkins

My thanks to Artria Books for providing me with an ARC.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Art by Stephanie Hopkins

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. .

Favorite craft?

Abstract by Stephanie Hopkins

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?

Breakfast

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!

Swoon.

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

Be sure to check out Lisl’s Favorite Things at before the second sleep!

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