Friday, January 27, 2017

Literary Friday: The Fire By Night


About The Fire By Night

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (January 17, 2017)

A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale. 

In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.

Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.

When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About Teresa Messineo

Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night, her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania. Connect with Teresa on Facebook.


My Reivew:

Wow, this book is a page-turner!  Two women who are very unlikely friends bond while in nursing school in New York City.  Their friendship becomes unbreakable when they join forces to defeat a lecherous doctor.  Once war breaks out in Europe, they are trained to become army nurses. Kay travels to the Pacific and is soon right in the middle of the Pacific Theater before becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp.  Jo begins her service in the Mediterranean/North African Theater before she's transferred to the western front of the European Theater.  Teresa Messineo's extensive research is evident: Her descriptions of the nurses' lives and service are extensive and colorful.  I was particularly impressed with the mundane details of life in a surgical tent and the descriptions of the various wounds and surgeries these women treated and endured.  This book is not for the squeamish. Honestly Messineo's detail rivals that of Diana Gabaldon in her Outander series. Her fearless descriptions of wounds and the squalid conditions in POW camps might be a little tedious to some readers, but I appreciate them.

I think that Jo's character is a bit more developed than Kay's, and I enjoyed Jo's story more.  Both are brave and strong, and their faith and friendship sustains them during their darkest hours.  I wish more of their correspondence before, during, and after the war had been shared in the novel (one of my few criticisms of the book).  If you enjoy World War II historical fiction and stories about empowered women, then you will love The Fire By Night.  It isn't that long, but you might find yourself rereading some of the sections when the nurses aren't lucid due to fever or starvation.  This book would make a great book club selection, and I plan to recommend it to mine.


Disclosure:  I received an advanced reader's copy of The Fire By Night from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill






Thursday, January 26, 2017

New From MacKenzie-Childs

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I'm ready to spruce up the home for spring, and I was so happy to see these fun new products from MacKenzie-Childs in my email inbox.  We've been collecting MacKenzie-Childs since we married in the late eighties, and it's been a long time since I was this excited about what's new from Aurora, New York.






I like the pattern of this Bunny Planter.  Wouldn't it make an adorable centerpiece for Easter?







This is the Molly Butter Dish.  I think it's so cute, but I probably won't buy it because I already own an Aurora Butter House.




This is the Molly Creamer.  I will probably buy it because I'd use it almost everyday.





This is the Taylor Jumbo Pot in the Sherwood Gardens pattern.  I love this!  I'd like to buy it and place a rubber tree plant in it.  ;P




This is the Taylor Mini Wall Vase in the Sherwood Gardens pattern.  I love this planted with the creeping Jenny.




The wall vase comes in two sizes.


There are many new products on their website; these are my favorites.  What do you think?



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Cute Cozy Mystery: Fudge and Jury

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'll be sharing an adorable cozy mystery with you:  Fudge and Jury by Ellie Alexander.  It's the fifth installment in her Bakeshop Mystery Series.






According to Goodreads:

Welcome to Torte—a friendly, small-town family bakery where the pastries are delicious…and, now, suspicious.

It’s almost spring in Ashland, Oregon, and the town is preparing for the Shakespeare and the annual Chocolate Festival. Business is cookin’ at Torte, and the store is expanding as Jules’ team whips up crèpes filled with mascarpone cheese and dark chocolate. Torte stands a chance of being this year’s confectionery belle of the ball! Life couldn’t be sweeter—unless murder taints the batter.


Evan Rowe, of Confections Couture, makes a chocolate fountain that would put Willy Wonka to shame, and his truffles are to die for—literally? Yes, the world-renowned chocolatier has just turned up dead…right after sampling a slice of Jules’ decadent four-layer chocolate cake. Now all eyes are on Jules as she tries to find the mysterious ingredient in her own recipe. Can she sift out the truth before another contestant bites the buttercream?


My Review:

Juliet Montague Capshaw is my new favorite cozy mystery sleuth.  She's living the dream in a Hallmark-Movie-worthy small town that hosts a world-renown Shakespeare Festival, and she has the best career in the world.  She has recently had the surprise of her life as her estranged husband Carlos is visiting Ashland, and there is a glimmer of hope for them even though Carlos has been hiding a secret for the entirety of their marriage.  She's also expanding her business: Things are looking up for Jules...until there's yet another murder with a connection to her business.

The mystery is fantastic.  The deadly "murder weapon" is completely new to me, and I even read a few articles about it because it's very interesting.  But even more than the mystery, what I truly adore about this book are the characters.  Jules's friend Lance is so much fun (every girl needs a Lance in her life), and the support she has from her mom and her dream team at Torte (Andy, Julie, and Stephanie) are as entertaining as they are reliable.  Told in the first person, I love Jules's voice.  I enjoyed this mystery so much that I intend to read all of them soon.  The titles are fun, aren't they!













This is the sixth installment that will be released in June of this year.



It makes me happy when I find a cozy mystery series, especially during the winter and horse show season which begins this weekend.  I also want to mention that the book has several tasty recipes to try, and I've decided to surprise my older daughter with a Mango Chai Latte Friday.

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




Have you read any fun cozy mysteries lately?  If so, please share in the comments section!


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill





Friday, January 20, 2017

Literary Friday: Orphan Train: A Novel

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  So happy it's the weekend.  I hope to have a wonderful one filled with books, art, and family!

This week I read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.



About Orphan Train

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel—the captivating story of a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to long-buried questions…now with an extended scene that addresses the number one question readers ask, and an excerpt from Kline’s upcoming novel A Piece of the World.

 “A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of America’s history. Beautiful.”—Ann Packer 

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, and unexpected friendship.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon



Photo by Jerry Bauer

About Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives out-side of New York City and on the coast of Maine. Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


My Review

Orphan Train is a book that moved me to tears.  Christina Baker Kline depicts a rarely talked about chapter in American history: the orphan trains.  These trains transported orphans from East Coast cities to the Midwest from before the Civil War up until the Great Depression.  Vivian, whose Irish birth name is Niamh (pronounced Neev), represents the fates of these children as she has three placements from bad, to hideous, to safe and comfortable.  She can relate to Molly's circumstances because children in the foster care system never know what to expect: Their fates are often determined by the whims of foster parents and social workers.

As Molly helps Vivian organize her possessions stored in her attic, Vivian shares her life as they open each trunk or box.  Molly decides to record Vivian's stories for a history project for school, and quickly the community service hours she's earning by helping Vivian organize her attic and the history project become less work and more fun.

In spite of their age difference, Vivian and Molly form a friendship based on more than their shared sadness and abandonment.  They soon trust each other with secrets never shared with others, and both seek to find answers to questions from their pasts and look ahead to brighter futures.  I think this is a big deal for both women because children in foster care often live in the present: The past is too painful, and the future is so uncertain.  Children who make it through the system with closure for the past and optimism and hope for the future are truly the fortunate ones.

Orphan Train is a quick read, and I highly recommend it.  It will keep you engrossed the entire time you read it.


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



Until next time...

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill



Thursday, January 19, 2017

December's Art Snack

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!   I've been spending a little more time lately journaling, painting, and drawing, and I must say that I really enjoyed December's Art Snack.





Here's what's on the Art Snack menu for December:

Caran d'Ache Discovery Set

Magnesium Long Point Sharpener by KUM

Higgins Black Magic Ink Pump Marker

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Marker Pen



I've tried all the products except for the Higgins Black Magic Ink Pump Marker.
(Shown on the far left)




I have used the Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Artists' Crayons that are water soluble, and I'm a fan.  Also water soluble, these colored pencils are very bright and lovely.  I will enjoy these and will probably buy more in the future.  the set also comes with a Full Blender Bright, but it broke easily.  I don't know if I like that or not.




The sharpener is great, and I also highly recommend the Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Marker Pen.  I was happy that they sent it in red because I used it for Christmas gift tags.  I want to buy more of these markers, and I'm picky about markers!
Also, each Art Snack comes with a little snack, and I got a little peppermint for December.



Below is a drawing I drew using the Caran d'Ache Supracolor colored pencils:



I also used a graphite pencil since the set didn't come with gray or black.
The vase looks wonky because it is wonky.  I was driving myself crazy sketching it until I reminded myself that MacKenzie-Childs majolica pieces are handmade and hand painted. 


MY REVIEW:

Overall I was very pleased with Art Snacks' December menu.  I will definitely buy more of the colored pencils and markers, and I highly recommend the pencil sharpener.  



Until next time...

Blesings!
Ricki Jill


Monday, January 16, 2017

Once Upon a Book Club: All the Good Parts

Happy MLK Day, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all enjoy your holiday.  Today I'm sharing the October Once Upon a Book Club selection (at least I think it's October's...I'm reading December's now, and I've already posted about November's selection).





October's selection is All the Good Parts by Loretta Nyhan.




According to Goodreads:

At thirty-nine, Leona Accorsi is broke, single, back in school, and living in her sister Carly’s basement. She’s perfectly content being quirky Auntie Lee to Carly’s four children. That is, until Leona’s doctor tells her that if she wants to have a child, she’d better do it now.

Leona does want a baby. She always has, but the circumstances have never been right. Now she has a huge decision to make: face motherhood on her own or risk missing out on its rewards.

Unfortunately, she’s let her romantic life go stagnant. She barely even knows any single men. She has just a few prospects: a Vietnam vet and partial amputee, his intimidating son, the sweet but troubled man who tutors her niece, and a fellow nursing student she’s never actually met.

As Leona discovers more about each one, she realizes any of them could be the right man for the job. The more important question is, has she become the right woman?


My Review

Leona is a difficult character in several ways.  She majored in art in college, but she never did anything with it.  She took care of her father during his terminal illness with very little help from her sister.  She's living with her sister's family in their basement in exchange for helping with the children and paying the occasional bill.  She's an online nursing student and an at-home healthcare worker: These two decisions are the only two she makes that make sense given her need to nurture.  Plus her OB-GYN warns her that she needs to have children soon as her biological clock is winding down.  

Leona wants a baby.  Is she self-centered? Although having a baby given her circumstances is a selfish decision, I don't think she's selfish in general.  She also means well even though she doesn't make good choices in her job or in trying to help her niece's homeless math tutor when she has no idea what his issues truly are.  Why would she even consider him for her baby daddy when he could have a genetic mental illness? What is she thinking?  I also wanted to jump in the pages of the book and slap her silly when she doesn't share important information concerning her thirteen year old niece with her sister (after all: Leona is NOT the mama).

I really wanted to dislike Leona, but I couldn't.  All the Good Parts is a quirky chick lit book with plenty of drama, humor, and a satisfying ending I wasn't expecting; there's hope for Leona after all.


Like before, I enjoyed the gifts in this subscription box.  Inside the book there are post it notes that tell you to open your gift (the corresponding git has the page number on it).












A favorite quote from the book







Purple scarf gift from page 101












I love this mirror.  The quote on it says:
You are Beautiful!  Mistakes are made by those who are learning to really live life.




LOVE the notebook.  There is a spoiler printed inside the notebook, so I didn't want to share it with you.   



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Shelley's NEW Dorm Room



Happy Weekend!!!  So happy to be spending the weekend with my family.  Shelley moved dorms last week, and I went to Marion twice this week to help her fluff her dorm room.  It's a different set-up than her first one, and I think she likes it better because now she and her friends are close to each other (several girls were moving last week).

I made a little video of her room.  I also watched her ride during team practice.  I made the video with my iPhone SE.






What did you think of the video?  Would you like to see more of them on my blog?



Katie from the Westie Julep Blog made the adorable French pillowcase for Shelley's dorm.




Shelley's new room has an extra bed so we made it into a daybed.






What have you been doing this weekend so far?  We've watched movies, gone out to dinner, and enjoyed each other's company.

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Friday, January 13, 2017

Literary Friday: Her Every Fear

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  SO HAPPY it's the weekend.  YAY!  What a difference a week makes. Last weekend it was ice and snow, and this weekend we're enjoying sunshine and temperatures in the seventies.  We're planning a movie night outside on our patio, and I can hardly wait.

This week I read Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson.  It's a suspense thriller I couldn't put down.  Not to take anything away from the book, but one of the main reasons I kept reading is I was too scared to turn off the lights!



About Her Every Fear

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (January 10, 2017)

The author of the wildly popular The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying and downright Hitchcockian psychological thriller—as tantalizing as the cinema classics Rear Window and Wait Until Dark—involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder. The danger isn’t all in your head . . .

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life. But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London. When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met? Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real. And much, much closer than she thinks.

Told from multiple points of view, Her Every Fear is a scintillating, edgy novel rich with Peter Swanson’s chilling insight into the darkest corners of the human psyche and virtuosic skill for plotting that has propelled him to the highest ranks of suspense, in the tradition of such greats as Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Patricia Highsmith, and James M. Cain.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble




Photo by Jim Ferguson

About Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson is the author of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. He has degrees from Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College. He lives with his wife in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is at work on his next novel. Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter.


My Review:

Her Every Fear does remind me of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window due to the setting complete with a courtyard apartment complex, the voyeuristic plot, and two beautiful blondes: Audrey, the murder victim, and Kate, the neurotic English cousin of Kate's next door neighbor Corbin.

Kate seems to be a freak magnet.  Her overbearing and sociopathic boyfriend from university becomes obsessive and abusive.  After Kate breaks-up with him, he stalks her and violently threatens to kill her, only to lock Kate in a closet while he blows his own brains out.  If that isn't enough, the moment Kate arrives at her cousin's apartment in Boston she meets one of Audrey's friends who's concerned because she hasn't been able to reach Audrey and fears foul play.  When Audrey's body is discovered, Kate becomes even more paranoid, and her jet lag and anxiety disorder isn't helping her mindset.

Kate is an artist, and she enjoys sketching people best.  She has a photographic memory; she can sketch anyone hours later extremely accurately.  Whenever she looks back at people she's sketched while in Boston, she notices subtle changes in her sketches.  Is her memory failing her, or is she being gaslighted?  I found it odd that she would question her abilities, but exhaustion coupled with anxiety does a number on her confidence.  Adding to her terror is Sanders the cat: He's allowed to roam all over the apartment complex (the owner lives down the hall from Kate).  Kate seems to have difficulty remembering whether or not she's let him out of the apartment because whenever she's convinced she's let him out, she notices him roaming around the apartment later.

(This is why I prefer dogs.  All cats are traitorous hookers.  If Corbin had had a dog for Kate to take care of I guaran-darn-tee you that she would have not been as confused about her dire situation.)

I enjoyed the plot twists and turns as well as the multiple points of view.  The structure of the novel is basically this: A character will tell you the story given a specific timeframe, and then another character will tell his or her story during the same time.  Although there is a bit of back peddling in the plot it's necessary to see what other characters are doing at the same time.  Mixed in with this structure are flashbacks from Kate and Corbin's lives.  There's a twist at the end from a minor character's point of view that truly gave me itchy underarms.

If you enjoy this genre then you must read Her Every Fear.  I highly recommend it, but you might want to get a yappy dog before reading it or you might not be able to turn out your lights and sleep!


Disclosure:  I received a copy of Her Every Fear from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Art @ Home First of the Year Update

Hello, My Lovelies!  I am so happy to have all the Christmas put away.  It took several days because I organized everything a wee bit better than last year.  I actually like the way our house looks once everything is put away and most of our surfaces are clear.  I'm thinking about paring down our decor all over the house (with the exceptions of art and books, of course).












Nothing but a large flower frog on our dining room table 




Breakfast room table


On January 3rd we moved Shelley from one dorm to another: She wants to be closer to friends she's met since school started.  We've been busy fluffing that dorm room, and it's different from her previous one.  I'll be posting photos of her new room in a few days.  Thankfully the day we moved her in was warm (shorts and t-shirt weather) and it was raining.  But what a difference just a few days make because by Friday, January 6th, we were enjoying an ice and snow storm.  Welcome to winter in Alabama!



Mustang Sally is ready for the cold weather in her GAP sweater Santa brought.




Someone special recently celebrated a birthday.  Can you guess who?










If you guessed Finlay, you're right!  He's 3!  The cute plates are a Christmas present from Mr. Art @ Home.



Shanley Belle made some cupcakes to celebrate the snow day.  They were fantastic, and she used a recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction.










These cupcakes had a surprise filling of sprinkles and colored sugar.



In between putting away, cleaning, and moving, I have been reading a few online decorating articles and looking at Pinterest boards.  Here is some inspiration I enjoyed:  Here's How the Kids from Harry Potter Would Decorate their Grown-Up Homes.

One of my favorites: Harry and Jenny's adorable cottage.



(Image credit: Keltainen Talo Rannalla)



What is inspiring you these days?



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill