Friday, July 21, 2017

Literary Friday: The Almost Sisters

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I read the most delightful book this week:  The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.  I know it will definitely make my "Best of 2017" list (which usually only consists of three books).  It is laugh out loud funny and poignant at the same time.  You must place it on your To Be Read List immediately!

According to Goodreads:

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

My Review:

I love everything about this book.  I'll start with the setting:  Tallapoosa County, Alabama, near the shores of Lake Martin.  I read this book in Tallapoosa county (Dadeville, to be exact) on the shores of Lake Martin (we have a lake cabin there).  Leia spent all of her summers with her grandmother in the fictitious town of Birchville, so the residents of said town consider Leia one of their own; they show no compunction at alerting Leia to her grandmother's "Late Unpleasantness" (or breakdown) at the Baptist Church's annual fish fry.  This scene is one of the funniest in all of Southern fiction: I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.  Leia's phone starts blowing-up about her grandmother while she's at her stepsister Rachel's house during what was supposed to be her family's weekly Sunday lunch.   Rachel had canceled lunch due to a knock-down drag-out fight with her husband, but Leia missed Rachel's message about the cancellation. Take charge Rachel helps Leia make travel arrangements to Alabama, and she insists Leia take her thirteen year old daughter Lavender with her.

I absolutely love Leia's character.  She's a nerdy comic book artist (she's a DC Girl, but I won't hold that against her) with a thing for Batman.  I can't even begin to tell you how this book appeals to my inner nerd.  Plus the fact that Leia meets batman at a Comic-Con in Atlanta is a perfect plot point. Leia shares her predicament with Lavender before she has a chance to tell Rachel, and things truly start to get interesting.  (Thirteen-year-olds have mad social media skills.)

Although the book is laugh out loud funny, it also explores serious issues like racism (especially in the Deep South), dementia, and familial roles.  Sisterhood is also a major theme.  Women in the South can get things done, but pair two together working in tandem and they are practically invincible.  The Almost Sisters is truly more than just a fun story.  It will make you think about what role you play in your family, and, if you're Southern, it will challenge you to determine in which South you live:

"The South I'd been born into was all sweet tea and decency and Jesus, and it was a real, true place.  I had grown up inside it, because my family was there.  Wattie's family owned real estate there, too.  The Second South was always present, though, and in it decency was a thin, green cover over the rancid soil of our dark history.  They were both always present, both truly present in every square inch, in every space, in both Baptist churches, at both tables."

The Almost Sisters, page 221.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Almost Sisters from the publisher William Morrow in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interactive Books to Spark Your Creativity

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  It's VERY HOT here in Central, Alabama.  It's so hot My Mom canceled her birthday plans for today (Happy Birthday, Mimi!)

When the hot midday weather keeps me indoors, I like to pursue creative activities.  I recently bought a few fun books to spark my creativity when I don't want to go to the trouble of taking out oil paints.

Plus, they're very portable.  I can easily take them to the lake, a coffee shop, or on a plane.  All I need are a few Stablio pens, drawing pencils, an eraser, and sharpener.

I keep a few art supplies for travel in my "sketch" pouch, above.

Danny Gregory's Art Before Breakfast has a handy workbook.  I am a fan of Gregory's books, and this workbook combines creative tips with fun drawing prompts.

This is the first page in the journal.  There are several challenging prompts, like drawing items using only triangles.  

Literary Listography is what it sounds like: A book of lists!  No drawing in this book, but my inner nerd couldn't resist!

Although there isn't any drawing in this book, there are pretty watercolor illustrations on almost every double page spread.

There are more drawing prompts in this book than not.  I love some of the categories, like drawing your favorite literary villains.

This activity didn't involve drawing, but how could I resist a good Shakespearean insult (or four)?

I haven't started this guided journal yet, but it promises to help spark your creativity across several disciplines.

Finally, I checked out this book from my local library.  I thought I might learn a few techniques to use in my art journaling, but I really need to not use so much wet media and practice drawing.

Is it unbearably hot in your neighborhood?  What do you like to do (other than swimming and going to movies) when it's so hot?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 14, 2017

Literary Friday: The Keeper of Lost Things

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read the very best book I've read all year:  The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

Below is a video introduction of the book featuring Hogan:

According to Goodreads:

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

My Review:

Well that explains it!  If you read the last paragraph of the Goodreads review, three of my favorite books are compared to The Keeper of Lost Things:  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Anthony Peardew (love the anglicized version of "perdu" which means lost in French) is an obsessive keeper of lost things because of something precious he lost decades earlier.  Now Laura must take the reigns and try to put to rights the massive collection of lost things Anthony has meticulously curated and stored in his study.  In exchange for continuing his work, she has inherited his lovely home and gardens, not to mention the handsome and sexy gardener named Freddy who tends to the property. Plus there's a disruptive ghost.   She doesn't execute her mischief in a malicious way, but more in do-I-have-your-attention-yet way.  

Shortly after moving into the home, Laura befriends Sunshine, a young lady and neighbor with Down Syndrome.  Sunshine is aptly named because she sheds light, humor, and often times wisdom on various situations within the household.  She has amazing gifts that are supernatural and helpful to Laura.  I really enjoyed her interaction with the characters of the novel.

This book is so well-written, and the characters are unforgettable.  The resolution of the mystery of Anthony's lost thing as well as the thing his beloved fiancée Therese lost on that fateful day decades earlier is genius, I tell ya.  If you love romance, mysteries, magical realism, and ghost stories, this book is what your Summer Reading List is missing.

What's on your Summer Reading List?

Until next time...

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Two New Taylor Patterns from MacKenzie-Childs

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I hope you have had a wonderful week so far.  Mine has been busy, and the traffic in Birmingham has been very bad this week, especially for summer.

A few weeks ago I received an email about the newest Taylor patterns from MacKenzie-Childs. They are both so pretty!  Here they are:

This pattern is called Kings Corners,

and this one is Forest Home.

I love both patterns.  I like the unique center of Kings Corners, and I like the green and purple stripes on Forest Home.

Mr. Art @ Home likes Kings Corners much more than Forest Home.  I want to purchase two of the flat rimmed plates in each.  

I recently bought a Kings Corners mug.  I like the silhouette of this mug better than the old style mugs because it's more sturdy.

The Barn Sale is right around the corner.  I would love to go and purchase more items in these beautiful new patterns.  My daughter and I went five years ago, and we had so much fun!

Will you be going to the Barn Sale this year?  Don't can be honest.  I'm not looking for a personal shopper or anything like not me.  Seriously I'm not!

I would also want this bunny planter if I went...

It looks like this one is planted with Mexican heather, and it looks pretty!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pretty Paper Goods

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  It's that time of the year....Independence Day is over, and the Back to School commercials and ads are in full swing.  It feels like summer is over, and it makes me a wee bit sad.  But summer isn't over, especially here in the South.  After all, it's the All Star Break in Major League Baseball which means the season is only half over.

But on the other hand, I love back to school supplies.  I love paper goods, planners, sticky notes, stickers, and anything else that is pretty and useful.  Recently, I bought several very nice paper-y type stuff to use in my tiny office nook in our kitchen.  I know I've featured my desk before on the blog, but it's time for another visit just to see my new paper goodies.

My desk with the charging station for my devices.

I keep books that I haven't blogged about yet on my desk as well as books I need to return to the library or to friends. 

This year's planner 

Here is a sample spread from my planner.  I prefer those I can see a whole month at a glance.

Notice the print on the cover.  It's from August 2016 - December 2017.

This drives me wicked crazy!!!!!

WHY do the planner people do this???  Are you supposed to have TWO planners going simultaneously from August to December?  Would someone care to explain this to me?  I hate planners like this!  The first half is blank because I started using it on January 1, 2017!

So you may ask why in the world I bought this one to start with....well it's because it was the only one I could find that is thin and opens flat.

I love to plan a weekly menu, and this pad is wonderful because it also has a space for the grocery list that is perforated.

I will use the above sticky notes and stickers in my 2018 planner.  I love how they match each other and.... new planner!  And guess what!?!?!?  It ONLY covers the 2018 calendar year!!!
Praise the Lord someone at Paper Source realizes that there's a market for normal twelve month planners!!!

I thought this was totally cool.  I can share recipes with Shanley in Baton Rouge...

The recipes come with these cute little envelopes for mailing.

All the paper goods were bought on sale, even the 2018 planner was offered on sale for a limited time last month at Paper Source.  In addition to Paper Source, I bought these items at Michael's and Anthropologie.

I love getting in touch with my inner nerd with back to school supplies and paper goods.  How about you?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill