Friday, December 14, 2018

Literary Friday: Five Mini Reviews *AND* a Special Offer for YOU!

Above are a few favorite Christmas books I'm reading this season.

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

Are you ready for Christmas?  I'm more ready in spirit than in all the other stuff, like presents and baking, but that's okay...

I wanted to drop in today and share a few books I enjoyed this fall.  NOTE:  This has NOT been a great year for reading for me (overall), but more on that in a later post.

All five of these books received a 5-star rating on Goodreads from me.

Here they are:

I wanted to read Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor because the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries movie entitled Christmas with Holly was based on this book.  The movie was a very good adaptation, by the way.  It's the story of an uncle named Mark whose recently deceased sister bequeathed her six year old daughter Holly to him in her will.  With Holly's selective mutism, a girlfriend living on the mainland, Mark's coffee roaster/coffee shop business, and Mark's growing feelings for the cute toy shop owner, the plot is surprisingly uplifting and sweet in spite of all the conflict.

This is a popular French novel, and it was so much better than what I expected.  I received this book as part of my Capsule Books book subscription, and it is part Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and part Amelie.  It's definitely quirky like many French novels, but this one has a happy ending.  If you love the written word, quests, and unique characters, then you must read this short book.  I literally read it on a flight from Birmingham to Las Vegas, and I'm a slow reader!

Oh, how I love you Jamie Fraser.  Emma Sheridan loves him, too, and after a slight breakdown of sorts, she sells everything she owns in Chicago, escapes to Scotland to find a modern-day version of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, and starts a blog to document her progress.  This is a very cutes story, although I did get annoyed with Emma's character until she has an epiphany and finds herself.  I highly recommend this for all Outlander fans!

The Little Shop of Found Things was not what I was expecting.  Xanthe is a young woman who owns an antique shop with her mother Flora.  Xanthe has a gift: objects sometimes "sing" to her and tell her stories about the people who once possessed them.  Almost all of the stories have been benign and sweet...until she sees a chatelaine at an auction.  The object is the source of a family tragedy, and a maleficent ghost residing in Xanthe and Flora's antique shop is connected to it.  Said ghost is forcing Xanthe to return to the past (1605) and "fix things" or she'll harm Flora.  Very unique ghost and time travel story.

This novel is about two families who've suffered tragedies, yet a young girl brings them together.  The story is tough to read because of the suffering of the main characters, Daniel and Holly.  Daniel's tween daughter Ivy knocks on Holly's door one day before Christmas break, and she is the catalyst that Holly needs to begin living again.  I like it because it is very well-written and sweet.

If you haven't subscribed to my newsletter, now would be a good time to do so because I'll be sharing a few super last minute Christmas gifts in it over the weekend.

But in the meantime if you're looking for a few fun items to purchase for the book lover in your life, I might have a great suggestion:

Literary Book Gifts!  Check out these t-shirts:

If Don Quixote and Edgar Allan Poe aren't your cup of tea, I'm sure you'll find something you like on their site.  They have pretty tote bags, too, for all your bookstore and library needs!

My readers will receive 20% off on all products on the site by using the code: RICKITRELEAVEN20

Stop by and check out their products!  This offer is exclusive to my readers, and it will not expire.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Tales of the Traveling Totes: Seaside, Scottsdale, and Sedona

Happy December, My Lovelies! It's time for another Tales of the Traveling Totes post!

We traveled to three of my favorite places in the world this past quarter:  Seaside, Florida, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Sedona, Arizona.  

Our first stop was Seaside during Shanley Belle's Fall Break.  Unfortunately our girls' fall breaks did not coincide, but Shelley was able to drive down for the weekend and meet us.  

La Countess du Monet loves to ride bikes, and so do I!  Seaside is a bike lover's paradise.  It's fun looking at the architecture, shopping, and visiting the Seaside Airstream Trailer Food Trucks!

Mr. Sketchy Reader and I have considered retiring to Seaside, but we've taken it off the list of possibilities because the red tide was in while we were there!  It was my first experience with the airborne menace, and I have asthma.  It was horrible for a couple of days, but we did have a few good days, too!

Shelley is cooling off in one of the fountains at Watercolor.  It was very hot while we were there, and I loved it!  Our girls have very different personalities!

Boathouse at Watercolor

Western Lake

Of course while we were there Shanley Belle and I had to visit one of our favorite Indie bookstores, Sundog Books.

I bought these books, and Shanley Belle and I went to Lisa Patton's book signing for her new book, Rush.  I haven't read it yet (and I'm dying to do so) because I've been either sick, traveling, or reading books I'm obligated to read for publishers.  

I love the architecture at Seaside.  This is Truman's house from the movie The Truman Show.

We attended the Farmers' Market on Saturday.  I loved the selection of heirloom pumpkins!

Next, we visited Scottsdale during Thanksgiving.  We lived in Scottsdale in the early 90s.  Shanley Belle was born there, and I love it.  Although I love Alabama, and I grew-up here, Scottsdale is the home of my heart.  I would move back there so fast it would make your head spin!  I've always wanted to take both girls and show them why I love it so much.  I'm so blessed we were able to go.  However, the red tide situation from Seaside eventually caused me to get bronchitis, and we left for Scottsdale the day after I finished my second round of antibiotics.  I felt a little better after a day or two in Scottsdale, but I did not take as many photos as I wish I had, but the rest of the family took some good pictures.

La Countess du Monet loves Scottsdale, too.  This is our home away from home for the week: the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch.

I love Gainey Ranch for its location.  We almost bought a house in Gainey Ranch when we moved there. It's the first time I've ever stayed there (usually we stay either at the Scottsdale Princess or The Phoenician).

This is Maggie.  She's a rescued Great Horned Owl, the largest owl inhabiting Arizona.  The Hyatt invites these rescue birds of prey to visit during the daytime to keep the birds away from guests (and their food) while dining alfresco.  What a great idea because other hotels and restaurants we visited didn't have the predators keeping the birds at bay!

It was fun having breakfast with Maggie!

We spent a lot of our time in the car showing the girls around.  Some of the places (like the original Chuck Box in Tempe) aren't very photogenic.  We took the girls to see our house, my favorite parks, shops, our former church where Shanley was dedicated, etc...

The two photos above are from the General Store in Pinnacle Peak.  We lived not very far from here, and it was our favorite place to have breakfast while living in Scottsdale.  This is the outside plaza where I like to eat.  Shelley loved it!  It hasn't changed much at all except that they've opened a new coffee shop recently in the store.

We took Shanley to visit ASU which was like a ghost town because the students were out for the Thanksgiving Break.  I wanted to see what she missed by not going to ASU for their doctoral program and choosing LSU instead.  Yes, I admit that I'm that petty!  I sure am!!!  Maybe she can join their neuro-lab once she's finished her post doc!  *tee hee*  She loved the campus, by the way.

We also visited Old Town Scottsdale because we enjoyed going there a lot when we lived there.  Of course we had to go to The Sugar Bowl for ice cream.  

The seasonal flavor is peppermint, and it's my favorite!

On Thanksgiving Day we had dinner at the Arizona Biltmore.  

Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the Holiday Tea at The Phoenician.  It was probably one of the best High Teas I've had anywhere. Ever.  It was the best!

Shelley in the lobby at the Phoenician after we enjoyed our tea.  She said she enjoyed Arizona, but Alabama's home!  She's a funny bird!!!

Next stop:  Sedona!

We wanted the girls to visit the beautiful red rocks of Sedona.  It's such a beautiful part of Arizona, and we had a blast!  Below are a few of the highlights.

The red rock formations truly are spectacular!

Each time I visit Sedona I hike up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It is so beautiful!

We enjoyed the art, food, shopping, and Christmas spirit at Tlaquepaque. 

I love how this fountain is decorated for Christmas!

La Countess du Monet and I are tired!  We need to recover, so we're spending Christmas at home, hopefully outside by the fire watching Hallmark movies!

What are your Christmas plans?

Please visit the other ladies and see where their travels have led them.   Jackie is hosting a lovely giveaway, so make sure to leave a comment at the Purple Chocolat Home for a chance to win a MacKenzie-Childs tote!

The Traveling Tote bloggers would love for you to visit.  

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths
Emily with Miss Courtney Childs @ The French Hutch
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Patti with Miss Kenzie and Miss Taylor @ Pandora's Box
Rita with Miss Luna C @ Panoply
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Ricki Jill with Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader
Jackie and Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolate Home  (enter to win here)
Cherry Kay and Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women (She's new!  Welcome, ladies!)
Jenna with Miss Coquille @ The Painted Apron

Join us for our next adventures March1, 2019!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, November 9, 2018

Literary Friday: On Magnolia Lane

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  It has been storming and raining all week, plus I'm nursing a bad cold.  Luckily for me I was able to read Denise Hunter's latest novel from her Blue Ridge Series, On Magnolia Lane.  So far I am absolutely loving this series!

According to Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same. 

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My Review

This book has the cutest love story!  I love Pastor Jack's character: He's patient, kind, athletic, and easy on the eyes.  He's had a crush on Daisy for at least two years, and she's totally oblivious to his feelings for her.  What makes it even more humorous is that she is a constant fixture in his office seeking counseling.  That's what's so sweet about their romance: He knows everything about her, warts and all!  

All of Jack's friends have noticed that he's crushing on Daisy, so they begin to plot in order to nudge them together.  Jack's friend Noah sets-up an account for Jack on a dating website under a false name.  When "TJ" and Daisy meet online, they are definitely compatible and enjoy conversing with each other.  Daisy is definitely smitten with TJ, but at the same time she starts going on rock climbing dates with Jack.  She becomes torn between the two, and she wants to meet TJ in person.

If Daisy's love life isn't enough, she discovers a devastating family secret from a woman visiting from North Carolina.  She is perplexed on how to proceed with her family, so of course she seeks the advice of Pastor Jack.  I love books about family secrets!  This story has a lot to ponder, including how we sometimes put our parents on a pedestal where no one but God belongs.  It also addresses forgiveness, overcoming obstacles, and the comfort in learning how God sees us rather than how the world sees us.

I highly recommend On Magnolia Lane and this entire series, especially if you enjoy Christian fiction.

Below are the first two books in the series.  I've read both, and I reviewed Sweetbriar Cottage.

Read my review HERE.

I also enjoyed Honeysuckle Dreams.

Denise Hunter

Aren't the Blue Ridge Series book covers gorgeous?

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Disclosure:  I received an ARC from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Thank you!

What are you reading this weekend?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill