Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  What have you been up to this week?  I've been spending tons of time outside, enjoying our beautiful October weather.  :D  If you've been out and about all week and want some downtime with a book this weekend, I have a suggestion...

Today I'm sharing Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson.  She is a favorite of mine, and you can read my review of one of my favorite books of 2017, The Almost Sisters, HERE.


According to Goodreads:

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance. 


My Review:

I knew I would love this novel because I have loved everything that Joshilyn Jackson has ever written, and I have read most of her books (The Opposite of Everyone is one of my all-time favorites).  This book is different because it's a psychological thriller: I was on the edge of my seat for the entire read.  The story begins at a book club meeting, hosted by the story's protagonist Amy and her best friend Charlotte.  A new neighbor who is beautiful, obviously has had lots of work done, and spends an inordinate time at the gym, disrupts the book club meeting and monopolizes the activities.  There is no discussion of the book few had read; instead Angelica Roux the interloper begins an insidious game of Never Have I Ever.  She lures each woman into her creepy web via false flattery, which includes assigning a spirit animal to each woman.  She then escalates the game as she continually refills glasses with wine or other spirits.  Tongues are loosed, secrets flow.  I recognized many of the players of the game in women I've known in my community, and you probably will, too.

However Amy isn't playing her game.  She immediately recognizes Angelica as the predator that she is, and she perceives correctly that Angelica is in town because of her.  Blackmail ensues, and the battle of wits between these two intelligent and secretive women begins.  Amy loves her new life and her new identity, and she is not about to let anyone destroy her family.  One of my favorite aspects of the book is Amy's stream of consciousness internal dialogue.  Her thought process as she attempts to foil Angelica is fascinating to me!  I also love the Pensacola, Florida setting.  As I was led through a maze of Amy's past and her pursuit of Angelica's story and motivations, the plot could not have been any more surprising: I could not figure out anything, and I am usually pretty good at guessing plots.  The resolution was shocking: I did not see it coming.  If you know of anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, recommend this one because it is that well written.



Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing Never Have I Ever.



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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



 


Shanley Belle outside St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Folks call St Stephen's "God's Treehouse."
All photography by Chrissy Rae photography


Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I want to wish a Happy Birthday to our oldest daughter, Shanley Belle!  I had also promised to write a longer post about her wedding (which occurred on February 15, 2020).  When we received the photos it was at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and quite frankly, I didn't know how to handle posting about the wedding because we know brides who had to cancel wedding plans.  But now that things are opening up more in some areas, I wanted to go ahead and share a bit more about Shanley Belle and Christopher's wedding, and what better time than her birthday?

2020 has been a banner year for Shanley Belle.  Not only did she marry the love of her life in February...she also successfully defended her dissertation two weeks ago.  Congratulations, Dr. Treleaven!

I wanted to feature the venders we loved and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND.  The wedding planners, Ally and Jourdan from Grace & Truth Wedding Coordination, are the very best.  We were truly blessed that we found and hired them!  Both ladies made Shanley Belle and Christopher's Pinterest Board dream wedding come to life.  They worked well with all the vendors during the planning process, and they ensured that everything went smoothly the "day of" from make-up and photos early in the morning, until the caterers loaded-up after the reception.  If you live in Central Alabama and you have need for wedding coordinating services, hire them.  It will be the best decision you'll make.  They will definitely plan Shelley's wedding one day!



All floral creations were made by the extremely talented Ricky Whitley.  Shanley Belle wanted a very unique look, and Ricky nailed it.  What a treasure Ricky is!




Engagement ring, Cartier




Opal and diamond brooch, and opal, diamond, and ruby rings, family heirlooms, as were both wedding bands (something old)
Tiffany & Co. Earrings (something new)
Pearl bracelet (something borrowed)
Cufflinks, Brooks Brothers
Shanley's (something blue) shoes, Kate Spade
 (a sixpence in your shoe) pictured, above


"Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe"





Shanley's dress, stole, and shoes were purchased at Kay's Kreations in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Their designer selection was remarkable, and they made the wedding dress shopping experience unforgettable in a GOOD WAY.  It was worth the drive to Tupelo!  We highly recommend them.  I also purchased my dress from Kay's Kreations.






Hand-dyed velvet ribbon in cream for the bride and pale sage green for the bridesmaids from Dyeing2MeetU via Etsy, Castres, France





Groom's cake and mini Harry Potter Sorting Hat chocolate ganache cupcakes from Dreamcakes Bakery, Homewood, AL
These were a hit!  Everyone enjoyed being sorted into their Hogwarts houses.









At St. Stephen's, we'd like to thank Marianne Howell, Parish Administrator; Leslie Dunlap, Wedding Coordinator (she worked so well with Ally and Jourdan); and Anise Morris, pianist.  The music was lovely!  Thanks so much to our Rector John Burruss, who preached the sweetest homily that was perfect for them!  He, along with Drew Rollins at St. Alban's Baton Rouge, provided premarital counseling for the happy couple.  Both gave the couple the best advice, and Shanley Belle and Christopher are grateful to them!

The reception DJ was remarkable!  We highly recommend Ellis Entertainment.

Other exemplary vendors:

Custom Wedding Cake Stand:  Jeanette Zeis Pottery
Wedding Registry:  Christine's Mountain Brook, AL
Vintage Car Rental and Driver:  Vintage Auto Wedding Chauffeur 


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




 


The author sent me the ARC wrapped in this fun, shiny Christmas paper!
There's nothing better than fun snail mail!


Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I'm so excited to share with you the cutest Christmas romance ever: Christmas Ever After by Karen Schaler.


Paying it forward, Karen is donating a percentage of each book sold to help support libraries and independent bookstores.


About Christmas Ever After

  • Paperback: 396 pages 
  • Publisher: Hawktale Publishing (September 29, 2020) 

From Karen Schaler, the writer of the Netflix phenomenon A Christmas Prince and Hallmark's Christmas Camp comes this new heartwarming holiday romance. Mamma Mia meets The Bachelorette in Christmas Ever After... 

While promoting her next novel, a Christmas love story, author Riley Reynolds is caught off guard when she's asked during a live national television interview how she can write about romance when she still hasn't found "the one" herself. Scrambling for an answer, she quickly answers that she has had great love in her past and that love inspired her novels. 

Little does she know that this one offhanded remark will turn her world upside down. Three of her ex-boyfriends see the interview, and each, believing she's talking about him, shows up for her Christmas Camp book event at the Christmas Lake Lodge, determined to rewrite his happily-ever-after with her! 

Over the festive weekend, Riley's old boyfriends compete to win her heart, pulling out all the stops while planning the most romantic Christmas dates on the planet. Despite herself, Riley starts falling for each guy- again-but for different reasons. As Riley revisits each relationship and discovers more about herself, she embraces the magic of Christmas and finally finds true love and her own Christmas ever after... 





Bonus Content: Christmas Ever After includes delicious original Christmas recipes and fun holiday crafts and activities. 

 


There's even a secret ingredient for hot cocoa in the book that I want to try!


  ***Head over to Karen Schaler’s website to sign up for her VIP newsletter for the latest on her many giveaways, special event and sneak peeks and much more!*** 



Purchase Links

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Target | Walmart | Apple Books 


  

About Karen Schaler

Karen Schaler is a three-time Emmy Award–winning storyteller, screenwriter, author, journalist, and national TV host. Karen has written original Christmas movies for Netflix, Hallmark, and Lifetime, including the Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince, Hallmark’s Christmas Camp, and four books, Christmas Ever After, Finding Christmas, Christmas Camp, and Christmas Camp Wedding, earning her the nickname “Christmas Karen” in the press. Karen has also created a real-life Christmas Camp experience for grown-ups, held around the world, where she carefully curates and hosts magical holiday activities from her movies and books and the show Christmas Karen: Behind the Story. For Karen’s novel Finding Christmas she also wrote the movie. Traveling to more than sixty-five countries, Karen is the creator and host of Travel Therapy TV. All of Karen’s stories are uplifting and filled with heart and hope. Find out more about Karen at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.





My Review:

I've been reading several heavy history and current events books lately, so it was a very nice change to read Karen Schaler's adorable new Christmas romance novel Christmas Ever After.  It reminds me of screwball comedies from the 1930's (which is my favorite movie genre) because the two main characters must put aside their differences in order to work together to achieve their separate goals.  

The protagonist is Riley Reynolds, a romance author who's successfully written several best sellers set in the summer.  Her last one was a bit of a disappointment because it wasn't authentic, and it didn't really resonate with her many fans. Her overzealous agent Mike negotiates a Christmas romance with her publisher, promising that she is "Miss Christmas."  It is a make or break assignment: Her career is dependent upon the success of the book.  Before she shares her Christmas novel's outline with her publisher, she has been assigned to lead a Christmas Camp for her fans at a quaint family resort named Christmas Lake Lodge in the Rocky Mountains.  The big problem for Riley is that she hasn't celebrated a real Christmas since she was eight years old.

After a disastrous national morning show interview, her three ex-boyfriends misunderstand a statement Riley makes about her true love.  All decide to surprise her at the Christmas Camp in the hopes of winning her back.  Luke, the son of the resort's owner, finishes her interview when Riley walks off the set during a commercial break; he is not happy with her, and wants to cancel the Christmas Camp.  However, Riley and Luke do have a cute-meet before the unfortunate interview.  The three exes get in touch with Luke individually to enroll in the Christmas Camp, and they each swear Luke to secrecy.  Riley hates secrets, and she has no idea they're coming until the opening cocktail party reception.  Madness ensues....

This book is hilarious, and I laughed out loud throughout it.  If Hallmark ever adapts it, it will definitely be the funniest Countdown to Christmas movie ever in the history of the network.  The secondary characters are well-drawn and delightful.  It has everything a reader could ever want in a Christmas romance: lovely small town setting; a plethora of Christmas activities; a Bernese Mountain Dog named Comet; snappy dialogue; and sparks between the main characters.  This funny book also has heart, and it's a sweet reminder of what's truly important during the season: faith, family, and traditions (old and new).  

The following quote (found on page 280) sums-up the plot perfectly:

She exhaled slowly.  "Okay," she said, already wondering what in the world she was getting herself into.  Speed dating with her three exes at Christmas Camp while working to save her career and pretending she's Miss Christmas when she didn't even celebrate the holiday...What could possibly go wrong except everything?



Are you in the Christmas spirit yet?  
I know I am!



Because sales of this book will help support Indie bookstores, I am including an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book.


 
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org



I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me in this fun tour, and Karen Schaler for sending me an ARC of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


 



Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I hope that your week is going well so far.

Today I'm sharing a few of our Halloween decorations.  I really don't like Halloween very much...I usually just stick with candy corn and mums!  

I haven't decorated for autumn per se because we have had the most beautiful summer and early fall.  The summer was fairly mild here in Central Alabama, and the we've had lots of rain which is making our early autumn spectacular!



I've put out a few of my favorite pumpkin paintings.



I have mini pumpkins in several rooms.  These are in the kitchen in a muffin baker.




Mr. Sketchy Reader bought the cauldron for me a couple of years ago for Christmas.  He thought it was Courtly Check, and had no idea it's a Halloween piece, LOL!




Our dining room table




Breakfast room table






I love football mums.  They remind me of homecoming when I was in high school!



Cinderella's carriage at midnight
I prefer things like this for Halloween because they are less scary!

















I am thinking about decorating for Christmas early this year, shortly after Halloween and not taking the Thanksgiving down from the attic.  I'm really looking forward to Christmas this year!  Plus, if I get all the decor and shopping done early, I can really enjoy the Advent Season.

Do you decorate for Halloween?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




 



Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies! Today I'm sharing my review of The Outlook for Earthlings by Joan Frank.


About The Outlook for Earthlings

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Regal House Publishing (October 2, 2020)
The Outlook For Earthlings traces a difficult friendship across a lifetime. Melanie Taper is rule-bound, timid, self-erasing. Yet in unguarded moments she demonstrates such deadly insight into human foibles as to suggest a strength that has, for dark reasons, deliberately hidden itself lifelong. Scarlet Rand is rash, willful, abrasive—vexed by “demure” traits and “small fussing motions.” Shocked by Mel’s passivity and near-archaic saintliness, Scarlet disbelieves it. Their friendship suggests to each a final frontier, a saving sanctuary. Yet at its core each woman takes a secret, moral offense at the other’s inmost nature—and her choices. Against the deadline of the illness which is slowly destroying one of them, a reckoning must occur. The Outlook for Earthlings considers the limits of friendship—and of witnessing. It asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring. 

   


About Joan Frank

Joan Frank is the author of ten books: eight of literary fiction and two essay collections. Her recent books are WHERE YOU'RE ALL GOING: FOUR NOVELLAS and TRY TO GET LOST: ESSAYS ON TRAVEL AND PLACE. A MacDowell Fellow and recipient of many honors and awards, Joan also reviews literary fiction and nonfiction for the Washington Post. Find out more about Joan at her website.


My Review:

The Outlook for Earthlings depicts the lifelong friendship of Melanie and Scarlet.  Both are reared in Northern California, and are daughters of the sixties.  They meet on the school bus, but couldn't be in any of the same classes as Scarlet is a year ahead of Melanie.  Both of their fathers teach at the local community college, yet the families do not socialize.  Both girls come from dysfunctional families, especially Melanie.  This is where the similarities end: Melanie is a rules follower and seems to fall in love easily and deeply, whereas Scarlet is a bit of a hippie and dates lots of young men she doesn't seem to like for very long.

Both women take different paths in life: Melanie marries, has a daughter, and just can't seem to finish her English dissertation for her doctorate; Scarlet travels the world as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune.  About twenty years after high school, the two women reconnect and become close,  yet both are very judgmental about the other's choices.  I admit that I'm annoyed at Melanie because she compromises her happiness to marry a narcissist.  As middle aged women, both seemed to veer in directions I would not have guessed.  

There is really nothing outstanding or compelling about this story or the characters.  Yet Joan Frank's prose is so beautiful.  Her writing style is very descriptive, and I wonder if maybe she's also a visual artist because she paints scenes so clearly and concisely.  Below is an example during a scene when Melanie has asked an unthinkable favor from Scarlet, and Scarlet must decide what to do:

Scarlet stared at the camellias, rose-pink turning caramel.  The two colors could have been cake icing, Easter candy.  Her hands fisted into her middle.  Here, then, the final loneliness of adulthood.  No one alive anymore to be indignant for you.  No mommy or daddy, no brilliant psychiatrist, not all the collective wisdom on earth to protect, protest, make it better.   But compared with what Mel faced~this was blueberry pancakes.

This book is not chick lit: It is definitely literary.  It is a short read, and if you enjoy reading about the complicated friendships between women, then you will appreciate this novel.  The lesson I learned from this book:  Love your friends, and don't be so quick to judge them.  No one is perfect, and pettiness is a waste of time and energy.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Above is an IndieBound affiliate link


Disclosure:  I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.  A softcover edition was sent to me via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.




Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill







Meet Georgie, my grand-dog.  Georgie is an English Cream Golden Retriever.

Georgie recently visited us at Lake Martin, Alabama.

Georgie is very busy.  He loves to run upstairs and downstairs.  He likes to jump on everything, and he loves to steal shoes and run.  Did I mention that Georgie likes to run?  

Georgie likes to run.

Georgie is a blur, so it is difficult to get a good photo.  Clearly I need an action lens!

Because Goldens love the water, we thought we'd take him on the boat.





Georgie loves the boat!  He loves the water.  




Georgie loves Lake Martin!



Finlay likes to play with Georgie.
Both like to play on the mat.



Georgie is a sweet addition to the family.  

Georgie is a good dog!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





the favorite

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  My reading slump is finally over.  Yay for me!  I decided to check-out Eleanor Oliphant is Com...