Saturday, May 27, 2017

Literary Friday: American Gods

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Okay so I know that it's Saturday, and this post is a day late, and I apologize.  Unfortunately, Shanley Belle has been very sick.  She has a severe kidney infection that is antibiotic resistant, and I had to take her to her appointment yesterday for an IV infusion.  She has had a history of kidney infections her entire life, and this one is scary.  Plus, she is moving to Baton Rouge in a couple of weeks to begin her doctoral program at LSU.  We will do all we can to help her move and get settled.  Hopefully she can get some much needed rest this weekend.

When we got to the lake yesterday, the Internet wasn't working properly, but it is this morning and I'm able to post this review.

The irony is that American Gods is Shanley's all time favorite book, and she would be very sad to think that I forgot to post this yesterday morning because I was so focused on her.  She loves mythology and lore, especially Norse mythology.  I think I'll order her Neil Gaiman's book on Norse mythology because she doesn't have that one yet.  She will love it!





About American Gods

Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; The Tenth Anniversary Edition, with TV Tie-in jacket art (March 28, 2017)

Now a STARZ Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber | Premiering Sunday, April 30, at 9pm EST

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadowís best friend are killed in an accident.

With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesdayís bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing an epic war for the very soul of America and that he is standing squarely in its path.

PLUS: don't miss American Gods: The Official Coloring Book, featuring illustrations by Yvonne Gilbert, Craig Phillips, and Jon Proctor. Indulge your inner artist and revel in the stunning imagery of the gods and people, places and artifacts of Neil Gaimanís American Gods.







Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday from the American Gods Coloring Book



 

Purchase Links†for the TV Tie-in Paperback

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble






Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

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 InstagramFacebooktumblr, Twitter, and his blog.


My Review:

This is a new edition of American Gods, and I wish I could compare this one with the original, but honestly I read the original so many years ago I can't determine what wasn't in the first because I only remembered the basic storyline from before.  I did read that this is the edition Neil Gaiman is the most proud of, and it is also an improvement of the tenth anniversary edition.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers.  Our daughters love him, too, and when the youngest was in sixth grade and the oldest in the eleventh I took them to see Gaiman speak in Tuscaloosa.  We had so much fun, and both were thrilled when he answered their questions during the Q & A session (notecards had been distributed before his talk and he chose which questions to answer).  Anyway, I digress about Gaiman's rockstar status in our home.  On to my review...

American Gods is social satire at its best.  Basically it's about a war between the old gods from European lore (the ones immigrants brought with them to America) and the new ones indigenous to America:  freeways, internet, TV, etc.  The old gods have lost much of their allure and power when following their native folks to the new world, and they have been reduced to petty criminals like grifters and prostitutes.  But a Norse god has determined that the old gods must win at all costs: Apparently the oncoming "storm" of a battle is for America's very soul as a nation.  Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods, has some humorous and sometimes disturbing run-ins with the "new" gods as he works for Mr. Wednesday.  By the way, Wednesday's name is a big clue to his true identity.

Honestly the character that makes me the most uncomfortable more than any of the other (very colorful) characters is Laura.  Her blasé attitude toward everything is cringe-worthy.  Readers love Shadow: How could she?  How could she have betrayed his trust like she did?  But unfortunately, Shadow's devotion to Laura is what landed him in prison to start with.  What men will do for....well....you know.... *sighs*

I couldn't help but wonder if the story would have been any different if Gaiman had written after 9/11 and the advent of social media.  I kept thinking about that while reading this new edition. Unfortunately, I think it would have been very different with a much more disturbing ending.  I'm happy he wrote it when he did.

The story is a difficult one to follow with all the subplots, and the language definitely has an R rating. But still it is literary worthy and I highly recommend it.  And if you've never read Neverwhere or The Graveyard Book you really must read them.  There are characters in both books I shall never forget.  If you'd like to read a few of my reviews of Gaiman's other works, use the search widget on my sidebar.

Disclosure:

I received a copy of the above edition of American Gods from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill







Friday, May 19, 2017

Literary Friday: Close Enough to Touch *PLUS* a Giveaway!




Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read one of my favorite books of the year so far, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley.  Y'all must add this title to your Summer Reading List: It's the *perfect* lake or beach read!


According to Goodreads:

From the author of Before I Go comes an unconventional love story perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes.

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died... 

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...

Close Enough to Touch is an evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.


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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble



Connect with Colleen

Website | Facebook | Twitter






My Review:  This book appeals to my inner book nerd.  Jubilee is an avid reader, and she earned her online degree in English Literature.  When she's forced to leave her home for the first time in almost a decade, she runs into Madison, one of the mean girls responsible for "humiliating near-death experience in high school," at a convenience store.  When she learns that Jubilee needs a job, Madison uses her influence as a member the local library's board of directors to secure her a one there.  I confess that I enjoyed all the book/literary references and discussions throughout the book, especially the chick lit Eric reads in order to connect with his daughter.  The book also appeals to my inner comic book nerd: There are plenty of references to the X-Men Comics, and as many of my loyal readers know I am a Marvel Girl!

I love the characters in this book.  Jubilee is so inspiring...I admire her bravery and capacity to love the people she encounters in her very small world.  Eric's world is much larger and even more complicated. He is trying very hard to connect with his wayward teenage daughter, and he's determined to help his adopted godson Aja deal with his grief over his parents' tragic deaths.  Aja is such a fun character: He is precocious and extremely intelligent.  He and Jubilee bond over many things, including the X-men, books, and trivia.  

Needless to say, I also enjoyed the story.  It's heartwarming, uplifting, and enthralling.  I read it in an afternoon: I couldn't put it down!  If you enjoy family dramas, romance, and chick lit (Madison and Jubilee form a strong friendship), you will love Close Enough to Touch.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Close Enough to Touch from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



And now on the the Giveaway...

Use the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a copy of Close Enough to Touch.  Good luck!








Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: The Plant Paradox

Happy May, My Lovelies!  I keep meaning to write a post sharing with you all the exciting things going on with me and my family.  I promise to catch you up via a longer post soon, but first I'm very happy to share with you one of the most important health books I've ever read: The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven R. Gundry.  I am so grateful for TLC Book Tours allowing me to be a part of this tour.  (As you know, I typically review literature and historical fiction; I rarely review nonfiction.)  

Please read this review.  It will change your life!




About The Plant Paradox

• Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: Harper Wave; 1 edition (April 25, 2017)

“Dr. Gundry is a true trailblazer, always at the forefront of scientific knowledge. The Plant Paradox shows the world what pioneer thinking is about and is a must-read book for anyone interested in being as healthy as nature has designed them to be.” —Alejandro Junger MD, New York Times bestselling author of Clean, Clean Gut and Clean Eats

The Plant Paradox elegantly explains how plants defend themselves from being consumed by humans, and how eating the wrong ones at the wrong times immeasurably hurts our health. An eye-opening read.” —Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor of Surgery, New York Presbyterian/Columbia University

Most of us have heard of gluten—a protein found in wheat that causes widespread inflammation in the body. Americans spend billions of dollars on gluten-free diets in an effort to protect their health. But what if we’ve been missing the root of the problem? In The Plant Paradox, renowned cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry reveals that gluten is just one variety of a common, and highly toxic, plant-based protein called lectin. Lectins are found not only in grains like wheat but also in the “gluten-free” foods most of us commonly regard as healthy, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and conventional dairy products. These proteins, which are found in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of plants, are designed by nature to protect them from predators (including humans). Once ingested, they incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.

At his waitlist-only clinics in California, Dr. Gundry has successfully treated tens of thousands of patients suffering from autoimmune disorders, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases with a protocol that detoxes the cells, repairs the gut, and nourishes the body.

Now, in The Plant Paradox, he shares this clinically proven program with readers around the world. The simple (and daunting) fact is, lectins are everywhere. Thankfully, Dr. Gundry offers simple hacks we easily can employ to avoid them, including: · Peel your veggies. Most of the lectins are contained in the skin and seeds of plants; simply peeling and de-seeding vegetables (like tomatoes and peppers) reduces their lectin content. · Shop for fruit in season. Fruit contain fewer lectins when ripe, so eating apples, berries, and other lectin-containing fruits at the peak of ripeness helps minimize your lectin consumption. · Swap your brown rice for white. Whole grains and seeds with hard outer coatings are designed by nature to cause digestive distress—and are full of lectins. With a full list of lectin-containing foods and simple substitutes for each, a step-by-step detox and eating plan, and delicious lectin-free recipes, The Plant Paradox illuminates the hidden dangers lurking in your salad bowl—and shows you how to eat whole foods in a whole new way.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble




Photo by Drea Castro

About Steven R. Gundry, M.D.

Steven R. Gundry, MD, FACS, FACC, is the director of the International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California, and the founder/director of The Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. Find out more about Dr. Gundry and his work at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.


My Review:

I have read many health and diet-related books over the years, but never one like The Plant Paradox. Dr. Gundry combines history, chemistry, and biology to explain why and how certain plants were never meant for us to eat.  However, don't let this dissuade you from reading the book because it does not read like a dry, academic journal piece.  I also think it's important that his research has been peer reviewed, and his endnotes are extensive.  Much of what he writes about he's known for years to be anecdotally true, but some of the science like "immune system scanners" is relatively new science: the description for these scanners won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2011 and the discovery of the receptors (G-spotters) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2012.  These new discoveries help explain the patterns Dr. Gundry has noted in the immune systems of his patients.

What's really disconcerting is how physicians and the media have erroneously encouraged the consumption of whole grains and other "super foods" that are not healthy at all.  Gundry explains why these foods are dangerous to our immune systems, and he lists them so they can be avoided.  But the good news is he's included a list of healthy options as well as recipes to get the reader started on a path to a healthier life.  Also included in the book: anecdotes from patients who struggled with varying health issues and how changing their diet changed their health drastically for the better.

I don't mean to get off topic, but this book reminds me of my grandfather: He was one of the artists for Jenny Craig's "You Are What You Eat" campaign back during the 80s, and I can remember one of his drawings was a beautiful giraffe made entirely of leaves.  While we may not literally be like the giraffe and look like or "become" what we consume, we can certainly be constrained by eating lectins found in so-called "healthy" foods.  So instead of "You Are What You Eat," this book teaches us why "You're Sick Because of What You Eat."

I am currently purging our pantry and restocking it with the good choices found in the book.  I truly believe that it will make all of us feel better, and I will update my family's progress from time to time here on the blog.  I hope you will read this book, and I'd love for you to share your thoughts with me either below in the comments section or via email.

Disclosure:

I received a copy of The Plant Paradox from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Friday, April 14, 2017

Literary Friday: The Forbidden Garden

Happy Good Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope that each and everyone of you has a blessed and meaningful day.

This week I read the most delightful book entitled The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick.  We've been planning spring plantings all week, especially since we lost so much shrubbery during last year's drought, so the timing of reading this book couldn't be more perfect!



About The Forbidden Garden

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 4, 2017)

“Captivating [...] Herrick weaves a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and love.” —Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Fifth Petal

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden, waiting to spring to life. Every garden is a story, waiting to be told…

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble



About Ellen Herrick

Ellen Herrick was a publishing professional in New York City until she and her husband moved to London for a brief stint; they returned nearly twenty years later with three children (her own, it must be said). She now divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a small town on Cape Cod very much like Granite Point. Find out more about Ellen at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


My Review:

Nothing speaks more to my inner geek than a book about a walled Shakespeare garden.  I've been looking forward to reading The Forbidden Garden for a long time because I knew I would love the garden, magical realism, family intrigue, and romance.  I was not disappointed, and if you enjoy these genres you will love it, too.

Sorrel Sparrow is a well-drawn, unique character.  Her intrepid determination and her knowledge of medicinal plants certainly make her an asset in restoring the long-neglected garden.  But what I love more about her is her willingness to take a chance on love with Stella's brother Andrew.  I enjoyed their love story along with the family curse and suspense.  Andrew has a great personality, although it's rare that I've wanted to wash an Anglican priest's mouth out with soap. Apparently he picked up some bad habits in boarding school that never were righted, but in spite of his potty mouth, he's an endearing character, too.

The big mystery of the book is why the garden is cursed, and why it can make Kirkwoods ill. There are hints aimed at solving the mystery in the estate's beautiful tapestries.  As an artist, I love tapestries so I enjoyed reading Herrick's detailed descriptions of them.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of the garden's plants and their medicinal purposes.  Herrick makes the garden come alive with her descriptive passages of the garden's restoration.  She not only uses sight, but smell, hearing, and touch.  She also cleverly includes an illustrated map of the Shakespeare garden at the beginning of the book.  Again, the timing is perfect!  I can't wait to get my hands in the soil this weekend and plant.

NOTE:  This is a stand alone book, but Herrick wrote a previous book about the Sparrow sisters, and I'm ordering it today:





Here are just a few of the plants in Kirkwood Hall's Shakespeare Garden:



Monkshood




Anemone




Beardtongue




Firewitch dianthus


Veronica



I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend.  Go out and plant something after reading The Forbidden Garden!


Discosure:  I received a copy of The Forbidden Garden from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.





Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Saturday, April 8, 2017

Literary Friday: Miss You



About Miss You

• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 4, 2017)

"If ever a couple was ‘meant to be,’ it’s Tess and Gus. This is such a witty, poignant, and uplifting story of two lives crisscrossing over the years, with near miss after near miss. . . . I couldn’t put it down."—Sophie Kinsella

A wryly romantic debut novel with echoes of One Day that asks, what if you just walked by the love of your life, but didn’t even know it? "TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE." Tess can’t get the motto from her mother’s kitchen knickknack out of her head, even though she’s in Florence on an idyllic vacation before starting university in London. Gus is also visiting Florence, on a holiday with his parents seven months after tragedy shattered their lives. Headed to medical school in London, he’s trying to be a dutiful son but longs to escape and discover who he really is. A chance meeting brings these eighteen-year-olds together for a brief moment—the first of many times their paths will crisscross as time passes and their lives diverge from those they’d envisioned. Over the course of the next sixteen years, Tess and Gus will face very different challenges and choices. Separated by distance and circumstance, the possibility of these two connecting once more seems slight. But while fate can separate two people, it can also bring them back together again. . . .


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Photograph by Leanne Dixon

About Kate Eberlen

Kate Eberlen grew up in a small town thirty miles from London and spent her childhood reading books and longing to escape. She studied Classics at Oxford University before pursuing various jobs in publishing and the arts. Recently, Kate trained to teach English as a Foreign Language with a view to spending more time in Italy, a country she loves and has visited many times. Kate is married with one son. Find out more about Kate at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


My Review:

Miss You is excruciatingly frustrating because the reader knows that Tess and Gus belong together. Their paths cross, and either they miss each other or one of them fails to act on instinct.  Meh!  Plus the reader also knows that their relationships with other people are doomed to fail.  Fate must be one frustrated lady with these two characters!  Gus is my favorite.  His family has suffered a horrible tragedy, and he evolves from a timid, awkward young man into a confident, caring prince of a man. He is the perfect romantic hero by the end of this book.  *le sigh*

Tess and Gus both tell their stories from their points of view alternately.  It's fun to figure out all the times they miss out on finding each other.  After their initial "cute-meet" in Italy the summer before starting university, their next supposed chance is doomed as Tess's mother fights and eventually succumbs to breast cancer.  Tess stays home to care for her Kindergartner sister rather than attending university in London.  The next section told from Gus's point of view reveals that the room across from his in the dorm becomes available at the last minute according to the lucky girls who had been waitlisted for the room.  The book continues along in a similar fashion, and it truly is poignant considering all the time Gus and Tess miss being together.

SPOILER ALERT:

One thing I loved most about the book is Tess's relationship with her sister Hope.  Hope has autism, and Tess is a fantastic parent to her.  I appreciate books that depict autism in such a positive light. Kudos to Kate Eberlen!

This book was difficult for me to read because breast cancer is a major character in Tess's narrative. My best friend is battling breast cancer currently, and she has had many unexpected complications. Unfortunately all of us know women who have fought cancer with determination, courage, strength, and grace just like Tess.

END OF SPOILER...

Eventually, Fate successfully pushes these two together, and the ending is fantastic, much more than satisfying.  Miss You is a fun read, and it made me wonder about chance meetings and whether or not anything in life is truly random.  I highly recommend it, and it would make a fun Spring Break or Easter Break read.

Disclosure:

I received a copy of Miss You from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill



Friday, March 31, 2017

Literary Friday: Mississippi Blood



About Mississippi Blood

• Hardcover: 704 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 21, 2017)

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author The endgame is at hand for Penn Cage, his family, and the enemies bent on destroying them in this revelatory volume in the epic trilogy set in modern-day Natchez, Mississippi—Greg Iles's epic tale of love and honor, hatred and revenge that explores how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present.

Shattered by grief and dreaming of vengeance, Penn Cage sees his family and his world collapsing around him. The woman he loves is gone, his principles have been irrevocably compromised, and his father, once a paragon of the community that Penn leads as mayor, is about to be tried for the murder of a former lover. Most terrifying of all, Dr. Cage seems bent on self-destruction. Despite Penn's experience as a prosecutor in major murder trials, his father has frozen him out of the trial preparations--preferring to risk dying in prison to revealing the truth of the crime to his son.


During forty years practicing medicine, Tom Cage made himself the most respected and beloved physician in Natchez, Mississippi. But this revered Southern figure has secrets known only to himself and a handful of others. Among them, Tom has a second son, the product of an 1960s affair with his devoted African American nurse, Viola Turner. It is Viola who has been murdered, and her bitter son--Penn's half-brother--who sets in motion the murder case against his father. The resulting investigation exhumes dangerous ghosts from Mississippi's violent past. In some way that Penn cannot fathom, Viola Turner was a nexus point between his father and the Double Eagles, a savage splinter cell of the KKK. More troubling still, the long-buried secrets shared by Dr. Cage and the former Klansmen may hold the key to the most devastating assassinations of the 1960s. The surviving Double Eagles will stop at nothing to keep their past crimes buried, and with the help of some of the most influential men in the state, they seek to ensure that Dr. Cage either takes the fall for them, or takes his secrets to an early grave.

Tom Cage's murder trial sets a terrible clock in motion, and unless Penn can pierce the veil of the past and exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed. Unable to trust anyone around him--not even his own mother--Penn joins forces with Serenity Butler, a famous young black author who has come to Natchez to write about his father's case. Together, Penn and Serenity--a former soldier--battle to crack the Double Eagles and discover the secret history of the Cage family and the South itself, a desperate move that risks the only thing they have left to gamble: their lives.

Mississippi Blood is the enthralling conclusion to a breathtaking trilogy seven years in the making--one that has kept readers on the edge of their seats. With piercing insight, narrative prowess, and a masterful ability to blend history and imagination, New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles illuminates the brutal history of the American South in a highly atmospheric and suspenseful novel that delivers the shocking resolution his fans have eagerly awaited.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About Greg Iles

Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children. Find out more about Greg at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.


My Review:

Greg Iles is one of my favorite writers, and The Quiet Game is one of my all-time favorite books. Unfortunately I was disappointed in the first two books in this trilogy, Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree.  Click on the links and read my reviews.

Finally.  Questions are answered in this final installment of the trilogy.  However after three books of overly-complicated plots and outrageous storylines that involve not only the MLK assassination, but also Kennedy's assassination, still I feel like there are plot points concerning Penn and his family still floating up in the air.

I used to like Penn.  I used to really, really like Penn.  Now? Not so much. Perhaps my biggest criticism of the novel is my disappointment in Penn's character.  I thought that Penn loved Caitlin, but apparently his grieving period of only two to three months or so is enough to get over his second love of his life as he falls into the arms of Serenity.  Also, Mia from Turning Angel makes an appearance.  She was a teenager in that novel (cheerleader from the local high school who babysits Penn's daughter).  In Turning Angel, Penn thought about seducing her until he screwed his head on straight again.  Now she's twenty, and she's certainly a distraction Penn doesn't need.  I really hate it that Penn has turned out to be such a horn dog.  All I can think is: karma. Think of your daughter, Penn.

The profanity started grating on my nerves.  Again.  Truly I got sick and tired of reading the "n" and "f" word.  Maybe it's me.  His language it cringe-worthy.  This isn't a criticism, but the title is distracting to me: I kept singing Lynyrd Skynyrd's Mississippi Blood in my head during certain parts off the novel.  It was a needed distraction.

Greg Iles is a fantastic writer, I'll give him that.  He isn't shy when writing about controversial topics like physician-assisted suicide and Southern racism.  I do think that this trilogy could have been better with some ruthless editing.  The books didn't need to be that long, and they would have been much better without the more outrageous plot points.  I am happier with the trilogy overall after this final installment, and I would give it four out of five stars.

I can't help but wonder if Penn will appear in future novels.  I have a feeling he will.

For those of you who live near Birmingham, Greg Iles will chat about and sign copies of Mississippi Blood at The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood Saturday, April 1st at 3:00 PM. 

Disclosure:

I received a copy of Mississippi Blood from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Friday, March 17, 2017

Literary Friday: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir



Happy Literary Friday, Y'all!  This week I read one of the best books: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan.  The book is based on the organization known as Mass Observation (a United Kingdom social research organization) that encouraged ordinary citizens to keep diaries journaling their observations and thoughts during the war years.  The story is told from multiple viewpoints in the form of letters, journal entries, and even church notices.  The structure reminds me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, but the setting isn't the Nazi-occupied channel islands.  The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is set in Kent, just miles across the English Channel from Nazi-occupied France.  Ryan clearly researched her topic extensively because there are so many wonderful historical details in the novel. 


According to Goodreads:

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!" 

As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives. 

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life. 

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.



Jennifer Ryan




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My Review:

The girls and women of the Chilbury Ladies' Choir are well-drawn characters who know how to get things done.  Most of them are heroes by any standard, and the rest are shouldering their war responsibilities with steadfast determination and grace.  Although the ladies are the stars of the village, there are also several strong, well-developed male characters who are very surprising, and not always in a positive way.

The setting takes place between March 26 and September 6, 1940.  This is my only criticism of the book because I'm invested in these ladies' stories, and there are still a couple of questions left unanswered.  There is a shocking scene in the book I wasn't expecting because a couple of the main characters are killed.  That's why I'm wondering about the fates of the other characters especially since several are transferred to London.  But I understand why Ryan chose September 6 for the last day of the setting:  The Blitzkrieg began September 7, 1940.

Sophie, the young Jewish refugee, is one of my favorite members of the choir.  She's traumatized because of what's she's witnessed firsthand in Europe, and her story and character are fascinating. The growth of all the women are inspiring during these short months especially the sisters Venetia and Kitty.  If you enjoy World War II historical fiction, family drama, romance, intrigue, action, and unique characters, then you'll enjoy The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.  I couldn't put it down!

Note:  Ryan said that the diary of Nell Last helped her understand the war years.  You may read more about her incredible diary HERE.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Plethora of Gardening Goodness





These lovelies are via Terrain
Maybe I should bring some succulent goodness inside until it's time to plant outside!


Happy Spring Break!  For one of daughters, at least! We've been busy, and I've missed blogging the past several days.  I'm a little obsessed with all things gardening, so be forewarned that this is a long post for me!

It is so cold today here in Central Alabama....it isn't getting our of the forties, and we had a hard freeze last night and another one promised for tonight.  Boo!  Unfortunately my plans to garden on this beautiful sunshiny day have been thwarted due to the cold temperature.  Oh, well.  I can still dream for spring and digging in the dirt!

Speaking of dreaming....

I adore Carol's adorable California cottage garden.  But when she shared her cute she-shed library?  I totally fell in *love*

Carol was kind enough to take these beautiful photos.  Let's take a look:




According to Carol:  This house is only 4' deep and 6' across and 8' tall. The size was dictated by 8' tall windows that were being thrown away by a builder in Ojai. They became the side walls. The door was donated by a friend who owns a large door and window company - someone ordered it and didn't like it.






Look!  It's a little library!  I am dying!  Carol has all her home and gardening books out here, and she has magazines stored in the cute wire wall bin.




There's just enough room for a small table and comfy chair.  I love the colors!




The table contains doodling and coloring supplies, so it's also a mini art studio.  I'm dying again!  Art and books!  It's so *me*




I love this corner of Carol's garden so much!
If I had a she-shed like Carol's I'd read in it all day long and get nothing done!



Better Homes and Gardens  put together the most lovely garden inspired paint palette for spring:



So pretty!  The shades are: raspberry, violet, daffodil, mossy green, sky blue, and mushroom. 

Which of these shades is your favorite?  Can you guess mine???
It looks like these shades were inspired by Carol's she-shed.  *le sigh*







I recently read the Once Upon a Book Club January selection:  In The Light in the Garden.  I loved reading it!  I have been extremely pleased with each Once Upon a Book Club book.



Heather Burch is the author of One Lavender Ribbon.  I want to read it soon.  Have any of you read it yet?


I enjoyed the gifts this month.  If you are unfamiliar with Once Upon a Bookclub, it's a subscription box with a fantastic book and gifts that relate to the plot.  There are post-it notes instructing the reader to open the gift with the corresponding page number on it.  

Here are some of the gifts from January:






There's clay inside this pouch used for a facial mask.  The recipe is on the back of the tree card below.  I might try it soon, and if I do I'll share!





One thing I love about Once Upon a Book Club is there's always a wonderful quote from the book on a 5" X 7" print.  I've enjoyed collecting these!
The little purse-sized umbrella is already coming in handy as we approach spring.


According to Goodreads:

Inheriting her grandparents’ island estate on Florida’s Gulf coast is a special kind of homecoming for thirty-one-year-old Charity Baxter. Raised by a narcissistic single mother, Charity’s only sense of a loving home comes from childhood summers spent with Gramps and Grandma. But piercing her fondest memories is her sharpest grief—the death of her beloved grandmother, when Charity stopped believing in the magical healing power of the weeping willow that still casts a shadow on their property.

Now that Charity has returned, she’s full of longing and regret, until she befriends her neighbor Dalton Reynolds, who has come to Gaslamp Island carrying his own heartache. As other exiles arrive—a great uncle harboring secrets, a teenage runaway—Charity begins to reconsider what makes a family. When her own estranged mother shows up in crisis, Charity is challenged to search her heart for forgiveness. But forgiving herself may require a little magic from the last place she’d expect to find it.

My Review:  

The main theme in this book is forgiveness, and there are several characters who need to not only ask for forgiveness but to also forgive themselves.  There's plenty of family drama, and Charity's mother is the cause of most of it.  She's perfected selfishness to an art form, and thankfully Charity has had the love of her grandparents until her grandmother dies when Charity is only eleven years old. Unfortunately she blames herself for her grandmother's death because of her awful mother's careless words.  

Dalton has issues of his own that are beyond tragic.  His friendship with Charity begins his long process of healing, and Dalton is fiercely protective of Charity and the teenager, Daisy, who's been squatting in The Baxter House attic.  I love the romance storyline between Dalton and Charity, and I like the family dynamics between the three of them along with Uncle Harold.  

The willow tree is also a character in the novel, and there's just enough magical realism in the book to thoroughly entertain.  Not only is the willow tree magical, but the pottery Charity makes with a "special ingredient" can make wishes and dreams come true.  If you enjoy reading Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman, then you'll enjoy In the Light of the Garden.  The next time you see a flash of movement in the light of your garden take a closer look: It could be a pixie!



Thanks for reading this (long) post, and a special thanks to Carol for sharing her she-shed with us!  Please visit Carol at her blog, Art and Sand using this LINK.  


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill





Friday, March 10, 2017

Literary Friday: The Mermaid's Daughter




Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This has been the week for mermaid stories, hasn't it! This is the second mermaid book I've reviewed this week.

About The Mermaid's Daughter

• Paperback: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)

A modern-day expansion of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this unforgettable debut novel weaves a spellbinding tale of magic and the power of love as a descendent of the original mermaid fights the terrible price of saving herself from a curse that has affected generations of women in her family.

Kathleen has always been dramatic. She suffers from the bizarre malady of experiencing stabbing pain in her feet. On her sixteenth birthday, she woke screaming from the sensation that her tongue had been cut out. No doctor can find a medical explanation for her pain, and even the most powerful drugs have proven useless. Only the touch of seawater can ease her pain, and just temporarily at that. 

Now Kathleen is a twenty-five-year-old opera student in Boston and shows immense promise as a soprano. Her girlfriend Harry, a mezzo in the same program, worries endlessly about Kathleen's phantom pain and obsession with the sea. Kathleen's mother and grandmother both committed suicide as young women, and Harry worries they suffered from the same symptoms. When Kathleen suffers yet another dangerous breakdown, Harry convinces Kathleen to visit her hometown in Ireland to learn more about her family history.

In Ireland, they discover that the mystery—and the tragedy—of Kathleen’s family history is far older and stranger than they could have imagined. Kathleen’s fate seems sealed, and the only way out is a terrible choice between a mermaid’s two sirens—the sea, and her lover. But both choices mean death…

Haunting and lyrical, The Mermaid’s Daughter asks—how far we will go for those we love? And can the transformative power of music overcome a magic that has prevailed for generations?



 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Photo by Brian Persinger

About Ann Claycomb

Ann Claycomb’s fiction has been published in American Short Fiction, Zahir, Fiction Weekly, Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, The Evansville Review, Title Goes Here, and other publications. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University.



My Review

For those of you who've followed me a long time, you know how I love fairytales.  This retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is a cross between the classic and Disney's animated musical.  As I read the book, I kept hearing Ariel from the movie practice her vocal scales because the characters in the book are studying opera. But unlike Ariel, they wouldn't willingly agree to give-up their voices!  This book is much darker and morbid than I anticipated. Kathleen's family history is tragic, and she suffers terribly from her afflictions.  Poor Harry is beside herself with worry for much of the novel.

The book is very creative.  Claycomb does an amazing job retelling a classic story with a modern twist. I liked Harry's analytical mind and how she thought that writing down Kathleen's story could somehow help her (think analyzing a story in English 101).  Harry and Robin (Kathleen's father) believe that writing an opera for Kathleen will help her formulate a solution for her plight. I also like how it's told from multiple points of view: Harry's in "Aria for Mezzo Soprano" chapters, Robin's in "Composer's Notes" chapters, and Kathleen's in "Aria for Soprano" chapters. There is a fourth point of view in the book: the sea witches'.  I wasn't a huge fan of their backstory told in flashback.  I might have preferred a separate book for them, maybe a prequel.

My favorite thing about the book is Ann Claycomb's voice.  I think she's a wonderful storyteller, and I hope that she updates many more fairytales in the future.  There might even be a hint at the end of The Mermaid's Daughter about what's next, and if so, there will be a sequel with Harry writing another opera based on a fairytale.  Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part!




The Little Mermaid
Copenhagen, Denmark



Disclosure:  I received and ARC of The Mermaid's Daughter from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill