To all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, godmothers, and friends who've made a difference in a child's life, I hope you have a very Blessed and Happy Mother's Day!

{especially} I'd like to wish my mother and Finlay's mom Mustang Sally a very special day, too.



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


 




Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing my review of An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart.  Like you, I am ready to head to the beach, lake, and other locations far from home: I want to make-up for lost time!  If you're looking for beach reads, you've come to the right blog.  This is the first book of the season I'm recommending for your beach tote.


According to IndieBound:

An endearing novel of friendship, forgiveness, and second chances by New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart.

It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town's golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie's dreams--and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.

Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting--and embracing--the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won't be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true.

Montlake, 9781542025362, 378pp. (Note: Montlake is an imprint of Amazon Publishing)

Publication Date: May 1, 2021



Connect with Mariah

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My Review:

This is the first book in Mariah Stewart's new Wyndham Beach Series.  So if you're looking for a new series to read, you can begin at the beginning!  

The story centers around Maggie Flynn and her two best friends from childhood, Lydia and Emma.  The trio grew-up in Wyndham Beach, Massachusetts, and two of the friends remained there after college. Maggie moved to Philadelphia, married a lawyer, and reared two daughters.  The plot begins when Maggie returns to her hometown for her fortieth high school reunion.  She is very happy to spend time with her friends, yet she's anxious about running into her high school boyfriend Brett: He broke her heart, and a part of her never recovered.

There are also sub-plots that focus on Maggie's daughters who are in their early thirties (Grace and Natalie).  Both of these intelligent young women have made a few very poor choices, especially with men.  Grace, an attorney at her father's law firm now run by Maggie, pines for her ex-husband who cheated on her with a paralegal.  Both her ex Zach and the slut paralegal Amber still work at the firm.  Grace was the last to know about the affair....everyone else at the law firm had knowledge of it, so she decides to start a blog entitled Last2Know.  The purpose of the blog is for women who have been cheated on by their significant others can vent in a safe space.  This plot line is so cringe-worthy.  I'm one of those readers who truly gets embarrassed for characters who humiliate themselves...I literally cringe!  Natalie is a community college professor teaching remedial English and creative writing.  She was married to a man who becomes an addict during their marriage and leaves her once she discovers she's pregnant.  *heavy sigh*

Overall, I liked the book, and I want to know what happens with a few of the secondary characters like Emma's only son Chris, a famous rockstar and talented musician.  I have no idea who will be the focus of the next book because there are several directions in which the next installment can go.  My only gripe about the book is this:

SPOILER ALERT!  STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ A SPOILER.

One of the characters who is forty years old (almost at the end of the book) mentions that his parents and his wife (all three healthcare workers) "died during last year's pandemic."  This is the ONLY MENTION of the pandemic in the book.  It was jarring.  I understand that there is controversy about whether or not the pandemic should be mentioned in works of fiction, and my vote is a resounding NO!  When I read fiction, I want an escape.  It seemed like it was just added as an afterthought since it was not mentioned anywhere else in the book.  It was probably an editorial decision, but it was a poor one.  I'm docking a star for it!

END OF SPOILER

Conclusion:  If you are looking for a light beach read about the bonds of friendship, family drama, assertively emotional characters, and a beautiful seaside setting, you should enjoy An Invincible Summer.





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Disclosure:  I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for the softcover edition of An Invincible Summer via the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.








Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



 



Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!   I was hoping to have given you an update on our clean-up after the tornado, but it is going very slowly.  Give me about another week or so, and maybe I'll have some news then.

Today I'm sharing my review of The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen.  I agreed to be a part of the book tour months before the storm, and I do try very hard to keep my commitments!  One reason I was excited about this book is because I've enjoyed Rhys Bowen's cozy mysteries over the years, especially her Molly Murphy Mysteries.  



According to Goodreads:

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.


Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.



Connect with Rhys

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Review:

I have read way too many World War II historical fiction novels over the past ten years or so, but I thought this one would be different as it's set in Venice.  I also like family dramas and dual timelines: This story has both.  Caroline's Aunt Juliet has passed away, and Caroline is her heir.  Her inheritance barely affords her a trip to Venice to learn more about the contents of a box that had once belonged to her aunt: two sketchbooks, Venetian glass beads, a ring, and three keys.  With little hope of solving the mysteries of the items, Caroline is determined to enjoy her holiday.  Surprisingly, she serendipitously discovers the function of one of the keys, and that leads to even more discoveries about her Aunt Juliet.

Juliet's storyline begins when she's around nineteen.  She travels with her Aunt Hortensia to Italy, the best place for a budding young artist to be inspired.  While in Venice, Juliet meets Leonardo Da Rossi: Their meet-cute is fun.  He takes her on a late night picnic, but they're caught by the innkeepers who tell Aunt Hortensia.  She is furious with Juliet and changes their plans to leave Venice early;  Juliet is unable to say goodby to Leo.   Upon her return to England, Juliet is unable to attend art school because her father loses their wealth during the market crash of 1929.  However, ten years later, she is gifted a bursary as an art teacher to travel to Venice and study art for a year.  She runs into Leo, and as the war in Europe begins, she and Leo forge an interesting partnership.  I found Juliet's story bittersweet, and the plot is engaging albeit predictable at times.

Caroline's storyline is a bit problematic.  She's a mom, and her flighty, fashion designer ex-husband is in New York City living with a pop star.  Their young son is living with him because his summer holiday is extended due to the tragedies of 911...or at least that is the ex's excuse for not bringing Teddy back home to Caroline in England.  This is why I have an issue with Caroline's character.  She takes off to Italy for her little adventure and doesn't fly to New York to at least see her son.  Her lack of maternal instincts are not endearing.  Still, I did enjoy how Caroline discovers her aunt's secrets.  The setting is beautiful, and Bowen's descriptions of Venice and her culture are stunning.  If you enjoy mysteries and historical novels set during World War II, you should enjoy The Venice Sketchbook.


Disclosure:  I received a beautiful hardcover copy of The Venice Sketchbook from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Thanks for letting me a part of the tour!


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Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill



 


Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I will be taking a blog break for a couple of weeks as we clean-up from the EF-3 tornado that ripped through our neighborhood.  The winds were up to 140 miles per hour, and it was truly the most frightening experience of my life.

Over 100 homes in our neighborhood were damaged, and about 30 or so are uninhabitable.  We were fortunate.  We lost many trees, and two cars: The damage to our home is minor compared to most (windows and painting).  Trees covered our driveway, and several were blown down in the back of our property, too.  Our patio and other outdoor areas sustained damage due to falling trees and debris. We will be dealing with the insurance agents, tree and landscape professionals, and other contractors for the next several days.  Our neighborhood looks like a war zone, and it will never be the same.  

I have to give kudos to our city.  Crews were out within the hour to clear streets for first responders.  Miraculously, no one was killed nor seriously injured (it's a miracle).  Our police have been patrolling nonstop and are not letting people in our neighborhood unless they are residents or vendors.  Truly, our first responders are the best!  The city also brought in a charging station for medical devices, phones, and iPads.  We have been overwhelmed with volunteers bringing water, snacks, and other needed items. 
Alabama Power worked day and night getting our power back on, and Thursday night (the tornado hit Thursday afternoon) we could hear chainsaws all night long.  We didn't get much sleep, but we were only without power for about three days.  Spectrum also worked to get us back online. 

We are expecting more strong storms Wednesday, and I'm praying that the storms won't be severe.  I'm concerned about leaning trees everywhere that might fall and cause even more damage to homes and other property.

I want to wish you and your family a Blessed Holy Week and Easter.  I will be posting everyday on my devotional blog because that's one of the few things keeping me grounded right now!  

Take care, and hopefully I will be back sooner than later!




Until next time...

Happy Easter!
Ricki Jill




 



Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  Today I will be sharing with you a Bible reference book that is also a gorgeous coffee table book: Who's Who in the Bible by Jean-Piere Isbouts.  This book has been out for several years (2013), yet this is the first time I've read it.


About National Geographic Who's Who in the Bible: Unforgettable People and Timeless Stories from Genesis to Revelation

• Publisher: National Geographic; Illustrated edition 
• Hardcover: 384 pages 

Written by best-selling author Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Who's Who in the Bible is the ultimate reference guide to the men and women in the Bible, featuring more than 2,000 entries spanning Genesis to Revelation. From the author of In the Footsteps of Jesus and The Biblical World comes a vibrant family reference that brings to life the fascinating characters of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. From the fall of Adam and Eve to Judas' betrayal of Jesus, the key events of the Bible are expressed through the lives of hundreds of people. Told through exquisite art and artifacts, intriguing sidebars, and unique family tree features, this illuminating volume tells the stories of Biblical characters and highlights their greater meaning for mankind. Illustrated with lavish color photography and exquisite historical artwork, this reference runs chronologically, with each person listed by order of appearance. 


 

Purchase Link

 IndieBound

About Jean-Pierre Isbouts

JEAN-PIERRE ISBOUTS is the author of National Geographic's best-selling books The Biblical World and In the Footsteps of Jesus and the director of Charleton Heston's Voyage Through the Bible. He is a professor at Fielding University in Santa Barbara, CA.


My Review:

This book is beautiful, and it is very helpful if you need to look-up a biblical character.  It is large, so it is not easy to hold: It's easier to place the book flat on a table and read it.  Presented chronologically, each section (books of the Bible) features alphabetical entries of the people depicted in the books.  The maps and timelines are helpful, too.

What I love most about it is the art.  Some of the most beautiful Christian art is included.


Daniel in the Lion's Den 
c 1615 
by Pieter Paul Rubens
Daniel is one of my favorites, and this painting is unbelievable. 




Martha and Mary Magdalene
by Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 
circa 1598 
oil and tempera on canvas


I also like that the book goes into quite a bit of historical detail about everyday life including photos of artifacts. 


This page features treasures from the Roman Age.  The Romans appreciated Greek craftsmanship, but the Romans excelled at glassmaking, like the beautiful glass urn (lower right).


What I don't like about the book is that it doesn't explain the purpose for Christ (the Light of the World) and God's plan for humanity (salvation through Christ).  The section about Jesus was not as comprehensive as it could've been, so that was also a bit of a disappointment.  Also the dates in the book are BCE and CE: The irony is not lost on me because it is 2021 AD (anno Domini), the year of Our Lord.  Christ split time, after all!

I do recommend this book as a reference for the character entries, history (use discernment), art, and maps in spite of its lack of explaining the purpose for the Bible.




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Disclosure #1:  I am not certain that all of the timelines in this book are accurate because I'm not a historian.  Please read this and any/all biblical history and commentary with discernment. 

Disclosure #2:  I would like to thank the publisher and TLC Book Tours for gifting me this beautiful book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  



Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill


 



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today's review is for a book with a unique setting: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper.


According to Goodreads:

A young prodigy in need of family.

A painting that shatters a woman’s peace.

And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

About Tea Cooper:
 
Tea is an award winning Australian author of  historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Naturalist's DaughterThe Woman in the Green DressThe Girl in the Painting and The Cartographer's Secret. 



Connect with Tea

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram



My Review:

I love novels about smart, dynamic women, and Elizabeth Quinn and her ward Jane Piper are both, plus they excel at mathematics and science.  Siblings Michael and Elizabeth want to pay it forward by giving bright orphan Jane a better life through education and opportunity.  Jane moves in with them when she's around ten, and they educate her and hire her to work in the family firm.  Elizabeth is a role model for Jane, and she admires Jane's intellect and strength: She is always poised and put together.  Elizabeth quickly falls apart after visiting an exhibition of Victorian curiosities and art.  She starts shaking in the gallery, and is hysterical: Jane is shaken and doesn't know how to console Elizabeth.  Once calm, Jane quickly gets Elizabeth home.  Eventually a doctor is consulted, and as was common during this era, Elizabeth was diagnosed with mid-life hysteria.  But Jane thinks it's nonsense because she believes that Elizabeth was traumatized by either the bird exhibits (because she has ornithophobia, or a fear of birds) or something else she saw at the gallery.  Elizabeth is also remembering frightening memories from her early childhood, memories she had repressed.  Eventually Jane realizes that a painting at the gallery is what caused Elizabeth's trauma, and she is determined to solve the mystery about the significance of the painting to help Jane.

This is the first time I've ever read a historical novel set in Australia during the Victorian era, and I loved it.  Tea Cooper did a super job researching several historical truths shared in the book, and one I find disturbing is child migration.  The English sent these "vagrant" children all over the world, starting as early as 1618 when children were sent to the Americas, and as late as 1967 when children were flown to Australia. If a child was over fourteen, he or she was considered an adult.  Another interesting plot point is the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria's son, Prince Alfred.  On March 12, 1868, an Irishman, Henry James O'Farrell, attempted the assassination by firing his pistol at close range.  The bullet only caused a superficial wound thanks to the prince's braces.  There are other real historical events and places in the book, and Maitland, Australia is full of history along with the Ugg Boot Factory.  I think it would be a lovely place to visit!

This book has a little bit of everything: Victorian Australian history, romance, family drama, mystery, art, suspense, and a surprisingly sweet ending.  The plot is fast-paced enough that I had a difficult time finding a stopping point to do important things, like cooking dinner.  I love discovering new writers I enjoy: Australian historical fiction is a new genre to me, and I hope to read more of Tea Cooper's books soon, probably beginning with The Cartographer's Secret.  

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Girl in the Painting from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TILC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



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I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



the favorite

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing with you the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  It's a bit of a round-up post bec...