Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Runaway Wife by Elizabeth Birkelund





About The Runaway Wife

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (July 12, 2016)

Three beautiful French sisters entrust an American hiker with the mission of rescuing their mother high in the Alps. But what if she doesn’t want to be found?

Recently fired from his high-power finance job and dumped by his fiancée, Jim Olsen has come to the Swiss Alps to clear his head. At the charming Cabane des Audannes, he meets Clio, Thalia and Helene Castellane, who are on a quest of their own: their mother, Calliope, has fled to these mountains to escape her philandering politician husband’s most recent scandal. As snow threatens to descend upon the Alps, the women have come to bring their mother home.

But the sisters are at the point of surrender; it is time for them to return to Paris. Buoyed by wine and inspired by their beauty, Jim impetuously volunteers to assume their search, but soon realizes that he is in over his head. The Alps are filled with beauty and danger, not the least of which is Calliope’s desire to stay hidden. And all the while Jim finds himself haunted by the memory of her daughters and conflicted in his desire for them.

The Runaway Wife is a story of adventure, survival, and romance—and of a man’s discovery of a world outside his conventional life and a new vision of himself within it.



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Elizabeth Birkelund AP

About Elizabeth Birkelund

Elizabeth Birkelund is the author of one other French-inspired novel, The Dressmaker. As a freelance magazine journalist, Elizabeth was the personal finance columnist for Cosmopolitan and wrote for more than fifteen years for Working Woman, Self, and Glamour, among other publications. She lives in New York City. Connect with Elizabeth on Facebook.


My Review

Poor Jim Olsen.  His mission to get over his bad break-up with his fiancée and clear his head before beginning a new job on Wall Street is completely derailed once he meets the three sirens in the guise of the formidable Castallane sisters.  He and his friend Ambrose are seduced by their charms, and Jim agrees to a quest to find their missing mother Calliope.  Their father is a powerful French politician in the midst of a Presidential campaign, and he needs his wayward wife by his side which explains the constant whir of rescue helicopters in the area.   Jim isn't a very experienced hiker, and it's the end of the season.  When he leaves the comfort of the hutte and blindly searches for Calliope, he has no idea what trials face him in the treacherous Swiss Alps.

I am in awe of Birkelund's ability to craft unique, well-drawn characters.  I was so worried about Jim and his reckless decisions throughout the book.  He becomes a lotus eater to Calliope 's Calypso: He is on a deadline to return to New York to start his new job, yet he becomes less and less concerned about making his flight the longer he's in Calliope's company.  I must say that the duality of Calliope's character disappointed me in the end.  I was really pulling for her as well as Jim.  The ending is a wee bit ambiguous.  I would like to know more, but overall I enjoyed Jim's adventure in the Alps which is chock-full of suspense, beautiful scenery and quirky characters.



Apparently the Swiss hutte where Jim and Ambrose meet the Castallane sisters really exists.  This is a photo of La Cabane des Audannes.



Disclosure: I received a copy of The Runaway Wife from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ninth Annual Mad Tea Party *plus* a Giveaway




Welcome to the Ninth Annual Mad Tea Party!  


Please play the following song for your listening pleasure while you visit my party.  It gives a clue to this year's theme.



Paul McCartney
"It's Only a Paper Moon"




Hurry!  Don't be late!  It's time for the Ninth Annual Mad Tea Party hosted by Vanessa @ A Fanciful Twist!








Anytime is the right time for tea!






Come right on in and don a hat crafted by the Mad Hatter!






Let's get this party started.  The Cheshire Cat has taken the most comfortable chair.






Be my guest and choose your teacup!












You chose a lovely teacup!



Are you ready for some tea and refreshments?  Mayhap some berries?











It's too hot today for hot tea, you say?










It truly is hot as blazes here in Central Alabama with heat indexes in the 100's.  How about some Southern Peach Iced Tea instead?













And if you'd really like to cool down, how about some lime sorbet?












I hope you've enjoyed the party.  Please take a posy home with you!









Here is my recipe for peach tea.  The homemade syrup will last in the fridge for about two weeks, but it's usually consumed within a matter of days around here.





Peach Iced Tea

Ingredients:
Black Teabags (I used Lipton, three small)
two peaches, pits removed and sliced into half inch wedges
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup water

Procedure:
Make tea and steep according to taste.  While tea steeps, make peach syrup.  Combine peaches, sugar, and water in a heavy saucepan.  Heat on high and allow to boil.  Stir, and once sugar is melted, remove from heat. Smash peaches and cover pot for about twenty minutes.  Pour and strain into a container.  

Pour tea into glasses and add syrup to taste.  I also like to add mint leaves and fresh peach slices.


Resources:

Sorbet Glasses: Vintage
Tea Pitcher:  Lismore by Waterford
Syrup Pitcher:  Williams-Sonoma
Tea Glass:  Neiman-Marcus
Napkin:  Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic


All paper crafts were made from back issues of Daphne's Diary Magazine:





Coloring pages via Wonderland by Amily Shen:





Would you like to win a copy of this lovely coloring book?  Do you like to color?  Below is a cupcake and a plate I colored from the book:



I used Caran d'Ache colored pencils (box of 18)



Enter the contest below which starts at midnight tonight.  Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Don't forget to visit our hostess Vanessa for links to all the parties.  Thanks so much for hosting, Vanessa!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Your Invitation to the Mad Tea Party 2016



You're invited to the Ninth Annual Mad Tea Party hosted by Vanessa @ A Fanciful Twist.  I've been busily preparing in this relentless heat.  I hope y'all will join us.  It's my favorite link party of the year!




See you this Saturday morning!




Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What We Had for Lunch: BLT Sandwiches

Hello, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all are staying cool.  With high nineties and heat indexes over 100, we're spending more time indoors (sadly).



Look at the tomatoes!  They'll be ripe soon!


We've been watering everything around our home relentlessly, and I wanted to share a few of our tomatoes with you.


Mrs. Powers is "watering" our tomato plant.


We're growing big boys and creole purple tomatoes.  The creole tomatoes aren't ripe yet.


Two of our first big boys.  Aren't they pretty?






I sliced the tomato thinly for our BLT's.


We're trying to keep gluten out of our diets, so I made the BLT's like a lettuce wrap, or like my favorite burgers from Burgerfi with stacked lettuce substituted for hamburger buns:



BLT's


Summertime BLT's

Ingredients:
Sliced Big Boy Tomatoes
Applewood Smoked Bacon, one rasher per person
Iceberg Lettuce
Stonewall Kitchen Sriracha Aioli 
Salt and Pepper

Procedure:
Wash lettuce and stack several lettuce leaves on a plate.  Add sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a tablespoon of aioli on the tomatoes.  Stack more lettuce and add bacon.  Put both together and make a sandwich.  

Easy peasy and yummy!  I hope you try this....perfect for summer!



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill

Friday, July 15, 2016

Literary Friday: The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

Recently I read the Best.  Book.  Ever.  Seriously it's definitely the best book I've read during 2016: The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos.  I've read several of her books, and they are all fantastic, but this one is my favorite.

According to Goodreads:

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once. 

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

Told in alternating voices — Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings — The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works.

My Review

I will never forget the characters in this book.  They are drawn to perfection, and having both Taisy's and Willow's points of view give depth and perspective that wouldn't have been possible without them. Alternating POV's don't help my opinion of Wilson.  UGH!  He is horrible and I hate him. Taisy's obsequious relationship with him made me want to hit something really hard.  Not only is her father responsible for tearing apart her family, he's also responsible for her biggest heartache she's ever experienced: her break-up with the love of her life, Ben.

Willow grows on the reader as she makes typical and not so typical teenage mistakes.  She matures and begins trusting and loving her big sister.  The dynamic between the sisters change when Taisy shares the story about her relationship with Ben.  This opens the door for Willow to share aspects of her difficult adjustment to high school after having been homeschooled her entire life. Willow has placed herself in a dangerous situation, and fortunately she has Taisy for advice and encouragement: she's the one Willow turns to in her darkest hour.  They both join forces to create the family they want against Wilson's better judgement, and that's the lesson of the book:  It is possible to decide what type of relationship one wants with others (especially family members) irregardless of strong, manipulative personalities who always want things their way.  

This is one of the best family dramas I've ever read.  The characters are engaging, the plot is a page-turner, and the complicated relationships ensure this novel's excellence.  There are a couple of sweet romances in the story that made me sigh.  These would not have been possible without interesting male characters who are willing to forgive and focus on what could be.  This book is being placed not only on my keeper shelf, but my favorites shelf.

What has been your favorite book of 2016 so far? Please share in the comments section!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Neverwhere: Author's Preferred Text by Neil Gaiman


About Neverwhere

• Paperback: 464 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 7, 2016) National Bestseller 

Selected as one of NPR’S Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of All Time The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including his special Neverwhere tale, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” Published in 1997, Neverwhere heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now Gaiman’s preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these works and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books. Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.


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Neil Gaiman

About Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College. Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, and his blog.


My Review:

I read the American edition of Neverwhere many years ago, and it is the standard by which I judge all urban fantasies.  This edition is a combination of the British version with its quirky humor and the American edition, and it is much longer.  Even if you've already read Neverwhere, this edition is worth it just to read about one of the most intriguing characters in the book, the Marquis de Carabas. At the back of the book there's a short story entitled "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back."  The action in the story takes place after we last see the Marquis in Neverwhere.  Without sharing any spoilers, I can promise you that the circumstances of the story made my jaw drop, literally.  I wasn't expecting it!

London Below is one of the most eerie settings I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  Once a person becomes a part of that world, London Above becomes a thing of his or her past: That person becomes invisible.  The whole premise of "falling through the cracks" is frightening.  In addition there are two of the most insidious and down-rite evil villains in the duo of Mr. Croup and Mr. Valdemar.  They give me the willies!  Even the characters with better intentions are creepy as Richard Mayhew attempts to navigate London Below in his quest to aid the Princess Door.

If you enjoy urban fantasy, you really should read Neverwhere, and I recommend you read the Author's Preferred Text.  Once you're finished, watch the BBC miniseries.  I love it!  Here is the Introduction of the Marquis from the miniseries.  Notice his amazing coat!



Got to *love* Richard Mayhew's Scottish burr


Residents of London Below meet for floating markets.  "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" begins at one of these markets being held at the Tate Gallery, and the Marquis is purchasing mushroom toast below this painting:


Sir Edward Coley Burne-JonesTitle
"The Golden Stairs"
1880
Oil paint on canvas


Of course I must love a story set partially in the Tate!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Neverwhere: Author's Preferred Text from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Botanical Style: Inspirational decorating with nature, plants, and florals



Happy Wednesday Morning, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you the latest from one of my favorite home stylists, Selina Lake.  For those of you who've followed me for awhile, you know that I have read all of Selina's books and I consider them all wonderful sources for inspiration.

Here is a synopsis according to Goodreads: 

In her latest book, 'Botanical Style', stylist Selina Lake shows how to tap into the current trend for bringing nature, plants, and florals into the heart of the home. The first chapter, Botanical Inspirations, takes a look at the ingredients of the look--antique botanical prints and artworks, flower stalls, potting sheds, and houseplants--and draws upon these sources for fresh ideas to transform your home into a leafy haven. Moving on, Selina explores five different facets of the botanical look. Vintage Botanicals celebrates the gentle palette and delicate style of floral watercolors and pressed flowers, while Boho Botanicals has more of a free-spirited 1970s vibe, with jungly potted plants, flower garlands, and even a decorated teepee. The varied textures and contemporary appeal of Industrial Botanicals give it a modern edge, utilizing materials such as polished concrete, rusted metal, and laboratory glass and combining them with peeling paint and vintage science posters on the walls. Next, Natural Botanicals is based around antique botanical prints and museum specimen cases for a nostalgic feel while Tropical Botanicals features bold leafy prints, spiny cacti, and palm trees for a distinctly glamorous retro flavor. Throughout the book, Selina's imaginative 'DIY Makes' and insightful 'Style Tips' provide a wealth of inspiring suggestions for how to recreate the textures, tones, and ambience of Botanical Style in your own home.


My Review

If you want to bring nature and botanicals into your home, then you truly need this book in your home library.  I loved it, and I think it's my second favorite of all Selina's books next to Pastel Style (of course). There are too many beautiful ideas to mention in one blog post, so instead I'll share my three favorite ideas from Botanical Style.

From the Botanical Inspirations section, I enjoyed the section entitled "Living With Houseplants." Selina has a collection of houseplants in white ceramic pots ascending white stairs surrounded by white walls.  Plants include maidenhair ferns and a Swiss cheese plant.  The contrast between the super white walls and stairs and deep greens of the plants is truly stunning.

I was completely smitten by the Boho Botanicals section and the collection of dark, moody floral wallpapers. Imagine pale roses, peonies, and chrysanthemums against a deep, dark background.  I want to wallpaper a room with a dark floral soon!  For a girl who loves her white walls and pastels, I might just be swayed to try this look.

Perhaps my most favorite section is Vintage Botanicals.  Selina introduces a plethora of creative ways to incorporate vintage dishes, fabrics, and prints with new finds.  I love the vintage, chippy wood furniture in this section, and Selina's penchant for mixing prints is sure to inspire.  

The book also includes a convenient Sources section with contact information for Selina's favorite botanical style resources.  Selina also includes several lists in the book, for example: her Favorite House Plants List and 10 Favorite Garden Plants.


I've been inspired by Botanical Style!  Check it out:



Houseplants on a simple white linen table runner







I love this little flora doora made from vintage fabric and crocheted flower.  




The lovely houseplant images have inspired me!


Ivy in front of a tiny botanical oil painting




Chippy white paint plus greenery




Botanical wallpaper in my art studio




Flowers in a contemporary ceramic vase




Source unknown



What's inspiring you today?  Please share in comments!


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill