Friday, November 24, 2017

Literary Friday: The Sketchy Reader November Letters Reveal

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Are you getting out in the Black Friday madness today?  I have an idea to save you lots of time and trouble for the reader in your life.  Why not a subscription to one of my bookish letters?  Everyone loves getting snail mail!

Here's a sample of what my letters look like:



November 2017 letters from The Sketchy Reader


Each letter is illustrated with watercolor pencils.  I make copies of letters on heavy card stock paper, and then I address each letter to the recipient.  I include discussion questions, a tag, and sometimes ephemera.  I can customize handmade cards for special occasions, like Christmas!

I offer several subscriptions: one month, three months, six months, or twelve months.  Plus, you can select from two categories: an all-time favorite book, or if you're feeling more adventurous, a selection from the Indie Next List.

Plus, all the "archived" letters are available, like these for November:



This letter is a selection from a recent Indie Next List, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero




This is a favorite book selection, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen




I place all the goodies in a large envelope and mail them using stamps.

Take a look at my Etsy Store, and shop from your computer or other device.  Easy peasy!  You can shop from your home and not worry about wrapping or sending a card!


You can always access my shop by clicking on the "Shop" page on my Nav Bar above.  


I hope you have some downtime to read this weekend.  You can see what I'm reading on my sidebar!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert




Today I finished reading The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert.  It's yet another World War II historical that I've read this year, but this one is very different because there are two settings: Italy and South Africa.  I can't recall ever having read one based in South Africa before, and I enjoyed it because of the unique setting and culture.

According to Goodreads:

As retired physician Lettie Louw looks back upon her life, she recounts her coming of age in WWII-era South Africa in this compelling story of delayed love, loss, and reconciliation.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of the town physician in their South African village. She spends her childhood in the warm African days playing with her friends and being adored by her doting parents. When she becomes a teenager, she experiences her first taste of unrequited romantic love in the form of her best friend’s older brother, De Wet Fourie. When De Wet pursues the beautiful and wealthy Annabelle, Lettie’s dreams are crushed, and she moves to Johannesburg to pursue her studies in medicine.

Life in Johannesburg feels strange to Lettie, and the world around her is in profound upheaval as the Second World War rages. Her feelings for De Wet never waver, and Lettie is heartbroken when he marries another of her childhood friends. Lettie soon meets Marco Romanelli, an Italian immigrant, and they marry and raise two daughters, as the racial and political tensions in South Africa swirl about them.


Lettie never forgets her first love, even as the ravages of time, war, and illness play upon her life and the lives of those she loves. In their later years, Lettie and De Wet are thrown into one another’s company again, and they are given another chance at a life together.






My Review:

Although this book is Lettie's story, a big chunk of it belongs to Marco.  Marco is a brilliant Italian who risks his life and ultimately sacrifices his health for Rachel, his Jewish girlfriend, and her family.  He hides them for years in the Italian Alps before they're found by Nazis and sent to a camp in Northern Italy and eventually to Poland.  Marco's work in the camp's factory damages his lungs, and he suffers from bouts with pneumonia annually.  He eventually leaves Northern Italy's harsh winters and immigrates to South Africa for the climate.  

There are several sections in this novel, and I enjoyed the sections featuring Marco and Lettie together.  Reading about the Afrikaans culture is very interesting, but there isn't as much politics in the book as I anticipated.  One thing that bothers me about the book is that Lettie and her friends seem vapid (even when they were older), focusing way to much on their looks rather than their intelligence (most of them are smart women).  However, Lettie is very brave, and no one's perfect.  I love the faith element in the book, and it's apparent that Irma Joubert is a former history teacher because she inserts a lot of history into not only the plot but the characters' dialogue as well.  She also includes a Cast of Characters, a glossary for words that can't be easily translated from Afrikaans to English, and a bibliography.  I highly recommend this novel if you're looking for WWII fiction with an interesting setting and historical accuracy.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Crooked Path from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



Happy Thanksgiving, My Sweet Lovelies!  Come back early Friday morning for an important Black Friday shopping tip!


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Monday, November 20, 2017

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart *plus* a Giveaway





Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I'm thrilled to be the first stop on this tour promoting Nicole Baart's Little Broken Things.  If you're looking for a remarkable, suspenseful book to read during the holidays, your search is over.

According to Goodreads:

An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.


While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.






My review:

I almost read this entire book in one sitting: It.  Is.  That.  Good.  I was completely intrigued with the book's premise (via the Goodreads synopsis) and it didn't disappoint.  The action of the story takes place in less than a week's time (Wednesday through Saturday), from the time Nora sends her sister Quinn the first cryptic text message requesting that Quinn "keep something safe for her" until the emotional conclusion.  What makes this book so incredible are the family dynamics and drama between the sisters and their mother Liz.

The "something" is Everlee, and her story breaks my heart.  Nora is insistent on keeping her safe from one of the most vile predators ever to grace a book's pages.   Quinn loves children, and she wants to teach (her degree is in secondary education), however Quinn is disappointed that she wasn't offered a job at a local preschool.  Although Nora and Quinn have never been close, Nora trusts Quinn with Everlee, insisting that she's "one of us."  This and the fact that Everlee has "Sanford eyes" leads to a couple of misunderstandings.

I enjoyed getting to know Liz; she's much more complex and capable than I thought at the beginning of the story. It's one element that makes this book a compelling read: Nicole Baart gives us information about Liz like peeling and onion.  She removes one layer, and you think you have Liz all figured out until she removes the next one.  Liz is a widow, but her late husband Jack Sr. was such an ass in life that his ghost is all over the place in this book.  Thank goodness that in spite of horrible, predatory men in the book there are a few sweet, kind, loving men, like Quinn's husband Walker, her ex-fiancĂ© Bennett, and Nora's friend, Ethan.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books with: family drama and dynamics; very well-drawn, complex characters; and suspenseful plots.  I figured out a major plot point early in the book, but it did not impede my enjoyment of this book at all.  Plus, the "After" or epilogue is so brilliant that I smiled all afternoon thinking about it.  It's one of the best-written epilogues I've ever read, and it epitomizes how beauty can stem from little broken things.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Little Broken Things from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  And thanks to TLC, I have a copy to giveaway as well.  The giveaway is open to readers living in the United States.






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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Below please find the Goodreads link, purchase links, and links for Nicole Baart's social media:




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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble










Nicole Baart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 20thThe Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 21stFrom the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 21stKritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, November 22ndBooks a la Mode – author guest post
Friday, November 24thBooks & Bindings
Friday, November 24thJathan & Heather
Monday, November 27thSnowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, November 28thA Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 29thReadaholic Zone
Friday, December 1stThe Baking Bookworm
Monday, December 4thKaty’s Library blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 6thLit Wit Wine Dine
Friday, December 8thMs. Nose in a Book
Monday, December 11thBewitched Bookworms
Monday, December 11thNovel Gossip blog and Instagram
Tuesday, December 12thWest Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, December 13thLaura’s Reviews
Monday, December 18thGirls in Books blog and Instagram
Monday, December 18thPatricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, December 20thThoughts on This ‘n That
Friday, December 22ndNot in Jersey




Friday, November 17, 2017

Literary Friday: Lona Chang by Ashleyrose Sullivan

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing the sequel to Awesome Jones, Lona Chang by Ashleyrose Sullivan.   Although Lona Chang can be read as a standalone, I think you'll miss out a bit on world-building, character development, and important plot points if you don't read Awesome Jones first.  You can read yesterday's review of Awesome Jones HERE.  As a stated yesterday, both books would make fun Christmas gifts, especially if you have any millennials on your list.



About Lona Chang

• Paperback 
• Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (August 30, 2017)

When one of the world's greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona's soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He'll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves. As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City's criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.


 

Purchase Links

Amazon

About AshleyRose Sullivan

Originally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Monkey Bicycle and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press. She can be found at ashleyrosesullivan.com.


My Review:

The book begins with Lona and her fiancĂ© Awesome Jones adopting a mutt, Trulie, and making a comfortable, peaceful home together.  They've been sanctioned by the governing body of superheroes and agents called The Guild because Awesome broke the rules in the previous book by using deadly force against one of the most vile villains ever.  They continue to train and hone their unusual superpowers; Jones trains and works with the "sheets," superheroes who aren't officially "capes," or Guild sanctioned superheroes (the explanation of the distinction between both groups is a lot of fun).  On their wedding day at Arc City's courthouse, super villains The Alchemist and Ironhide disrupt their nuptials while they attempt a bank heist.

Soon after their botched wedding, Captain Lightning lands on Jones and Lona's patio after being fatally shot with an unknown weapon.  He dies in Lona's arms, and she and Jones are devastated. Lona is determined to solve the murder mystery of Captain Lightning.  Lona was adopted, and she learns that her father was a detective of sorts.  Her adoptive mother gives Lona her father's journal, but unfortunately it's written in an indecipherable code.  Lona spends a lot of time reading in Lona Chang...reading a popular detective series and a rare, obscure allegory that becomes the key to solving Captain Lightning's murder. I thought this was an interesting aspect of the book, and the obscure, rare book is certainly helpful.  The detective series doesn't seem to help, but it does provide Lona with a few humorous tips she incorporates into her investigation.  Lona's gift of always finding luck is interesting to read because even when it seems like she's experiencing bad luck- like when she gets a flat tire- these events serendipitously lead to lucky discoveries.

The Guild rules the superheroes with an iron fist.  We don't like them, and we saw in Awesome Jones how they separated Awesome from Lona while he trained.  They also control the news media, so public opinion is manipulated and often based on lies.  Comic books are also used to propagate narratives created by the Guild.  This book is all about sticking it to the man. The underdogs are bullied by an ancient organization that needs to be taken down.  The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I can't wait to read the next installment because I believe between Awesome Jones, the sheets, a few of the honest capes, and Lona's emerging mad detective skills, they can set the corrupt Guild aright.

I highly recommend this uniquely fun series!


Disclosure:  I received a copy of Lona Chang from the writer via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Awesome Jones by Ashleyrose Sullivan




Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  Many of y'all will be holiday gift shopping the next few weeks, and I have a suggestion for anyone on your gift list who enjoys comics and/or fairytales:  Awesome Jones by Ashleyrose Sullivan, and the sequel, Lona Chang.  I'll review Lona Chang tomorrow for Literary Friday.  Both books would make excellent gifts (I've already bought them for daughter #1, but please don't tell her).

According to Goodreads:

The only thing Awesome Jones wants is to be a super hero. Until he falls in love. Despite his colorful name, Awesome Jones is a painfully average man who dreams of being a super hero, just like the ones who patrol his city. It's been that way since he was a little boy, raised by his grandfather after his parents' death. The day Jones starts his new job as a file clerk at Akai Printing Company he meets secretary Lona Chang and everything changes. Lona sees something in Jones that no one ever has and the two quickly become inseparable. But when the perfect pair's domestic bliss is threatened by a super-powered secret from the past, Awesome Jones has to make a choice. He must decide whether he should play it safe or find the strength to live up to his name and risk everything he's come to love to save the day like he always dreamed. This super hero novel is more than just a comic book in prose-it's a fairytale for adults.


My Review:

Warning:  My review is slightly spoilerish, but I think it's necessary to illustrate the charm of the book.

First of all I must totally agree with the last sentence in the Goodreads blurb above:  Awesome Jones reads both like a comic book in prose and a fairytale, and that's what I love most about it!  There's an old-fashioned feel to this book, almost a nostalgia for the comic books our parents and even our grandparents grew-up with (think 1930s and 1940s).  Awesome is an orphan, but what he doesn't know is that his parents were superheroes.  However, there isn't anyone more mundane than Awesome.  The omniscient narrator describes his average day of reading the paper (in order of preferred sections), going to work, buying flowers {almost} daily, and other minutiae of daily life.  Unfortunately, Awesome Jones lives in a city overrun with villains and superheroes, and Awesome yearns to join the ranks of the heroes.  Soon after they first meet at work, Lona Chang follows Awesome outside during a heavy downpour only to have her umbrella blown out of her hand and under a car due to the backdraft of a flying superhero.  Lona seems oblivious to the superhero which illustrates her interest in Awesome.  While filing at Akai, Lona begins to observe seemingly magical abilities in him.

It's fun when a comic story is not all about the plot, when it's also character-centered.  The characters in Awesome Jones are not one dimensional at all.  They're well-drawn, and you feel like you know Awesome and Lona.  I like how good they are together.  Theirs is a drama-free, budding romance I enjoyed so, so much.  It's so much fun to watch them train and harness their powers.  I really love one of Lona's superpowers: She never loses her place in a book.  I wish I had that one!  No dog-eared books around here!  The action builds up slowly, but once it starts, whoa, Nellie!  You'd better have dinner in the crockpot or order pizza lest your family starve.  I couldn't put it down!

I must also note that this book should appeal to most readers.  Don't let the comic aspect turn you off because there is no dark, broody superhero main character in this novel.  To me the comic aspect is the concise writing style that Sullivan crafts exceedingly well. The fairytale aspect of the book is enhanced by romance, creepy evil villains, and magic.  Readers who enjoy action/suspense will probably also enjoy Awesome Jones.   Awesome Jones lives up to his name by living up to his potential, a lesson everyone should take to heart.


Don't forget to come back tomorrow for my Literary Friday about Lona Chang!


Disclosure:

I received a copy of Awesome Jones from the writer via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill






Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Doodling in French




Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Sorry I've been MIA, but we've been out of town, and once we returned home, I had lots of stuff to do.

Today I'm reading Doodling in French: How to Draw with Joie de Vivre by Anna Corba.  After my art class today, I'm coming home to practice more French doodles.  This book is too much fun!

Doodling in French is five years old, but I didn't discover it until our beach trip: I bought it at the cutest store in Seaside, Florida called The French Apartment.  Anna Corba is a collage artist, and I think she paints as well.  She teaches a workshop in the French countryside, and I'd love to go!  Anna has been featured in Where Women Create Magazine and Country Living.




This book not only teaches the reader step by step how to draw simple common French objects, it also teaches creative ways to use ephemera.




Le pichet




I doodled la topiaire




I have a nice beginning to yesterday's art journal page, and it's the first page in a new journal.



Hopefully I'll have the time to share more French Doodles with you in a weekend post.  

What are you reading today?


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill








Friday, November 10, 2017

Literary Friday: Vintage Mary Engelbreit *plus* a Recipe

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  We've only had one brief cool spell so far this fall, but this weekend promises a few cool days which makes me happy.  It's been unseasonably warm for most of the season!





Last week was Homecoming at Shelley's college, and I remember that Mary Engelbreit's Autumn has a little chapter on Homecoming.  I took it out and re-read it.  Published in 1996, I was surprised that I still love this little book, and all the fun projects and decorating ideas are classic.






The book begins with a Back to School chapter, followed by Halloween, Homecoming, Leaf Peepers, and ends with a chapter on Thanksgiving.




I tried the Apple Bread recipe from the Leaf Peepers chapter: I had everything in my kitchen to bake it, and I bet you do, too.


Apple Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup chopped, unpeeled apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 T grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cup flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat oil with sugar and eggs.  Stir in the apples and lemon zest ( and walnuts, if desired).

Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.  Add to apple mixture.  Do not over mix.

Pour into a 9" X 5" loaf pan.  Bake for 55 - 60 minutes.

Cook's note:  I substituted 1 1/2 t Penzey's Cake Spice mix for spices.  Also, check after 45 - 50 minutes because mine cooked more quickly than 55 minutes (just to be on the safe side).









I had mine for lunch on Monday with a cappuccino.  



Autumn is part of a series of all four seasons.  Although out of print, it's still available on Amazon via several used book and/or vintage/rare book sources.  

I love Mary Engelbreit's illustrations.  She is so talented!  Did you ever read Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion Magazine?  I miss it so much!  It was one of my favorites.




This year marks Mary's 40th anniversary as a licensed illustrator.  Congratulations, Mary!



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Tale of Two Tables *plus* a Winner






Happy Thursday, My Sweet Bloggy Friends!  I've fluffed Chez Treleaven for Thanksgiving, and as I promised in Monday's post, here are this year's Thanksgiving tablescapes.

The Breakfast Room












The pumpkins are tea light holders.























One thing that's unusual about this tablescape (for me) is that I have many candles, but no flowers.  I was trying for a more rustic look in our kitchen.

Nothing is new on the table except for the ceramic pumpkin tea light holders and the spice crochet-trimmed napkins, both from Pier1.



The Dining Room

























Our dining room is much more feminine.  Nothing new other than the goose plates and leaf napkins, both from Pier1.  (Can you tell I had Pier1 gift cards?)

I pulled elements from the archives that looked nice with the plates, like the MacKenzie-Childs dinner plates and table runner.  I placed roses and blooming oregano to complement them.

I rarely place silverware on the table until right before a meal.  When I'm just entertaining family, we serve ourselves buffet-style and select silverware at the buffet table from a caddy.


Which do you prefer: the dining room table or the breakfast room table?

Congratulations to Jenny Y. the winner of a copy of Dear Mr. Knightley.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: HINT: It's Vintage and It's Scottish!

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Wednesdays are my favorite....I go to my art class, go to luncheons with my sorority sisters, shop.....Wednesdays are the *best*

I know y'all are *dying* to know what I'm reading this lovely Wednesday.  It's the latest book from my Prudence and the Crow vintage book subscription.



I love this subscription.  All the books come in their own little pouches.  So much fun!  Plus they always send tea and ephemera.  :D


Let's see what's inside......



Ooooo....Sarah's Cottage by D. E. Stevenson.  L@@K at the pretty cover!


I was very excited about this one because...

Recently married to Charles, Sarah is furnishing a cottage in Scotland and starting on a life in sharp contrast to their wartime experiences. They work together, collaborating on translations for a publisher, yet increasingly it is not books but life itself that engrosses him and Sarah.

Furnishing a cottage in Scotland?  Be still my heart!  If only it were illustrated.....

....AND.....

D. E. Stevenson (1892–1973), Dorothy Emily Peploe (married name) was a Scottish author of more than 40 light romantic novels. Her father was the lighthouse engineer David Alan Stevenson, first cousin to the author Robert Louis Stevenson.  (WOW!)

2009 saw a renewed interest in Stevenson's books with the reissue of two of her most popular novels, Mrs. Tim of the Regiment (from Bloomsbury) and Miss Buncle's Book (from Persephone Books). The sequel, Miss Buncle Married, was reissued by Persephone in 2011. 
(Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)



I've had several blog friends read Miss Buncle's Book recently, and all their reviews were positive!  I have this on my TBR list.



Have you subscribed to Prudence and the Crow?  You really should because it's some seriously fun snail mail.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill