Friday, October 28, 2016

Literary Friday: News of the World

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I read the neatest little book this weekend, and although it's short, it's a mighty good story.  :D   If you have a list of must-reads for 2016, News of the World should be at the top of your list!

About News of the World

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 4, 2016)
  Shortlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land. Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

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Purchase Links

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Paulette Jiles

About Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX. Find out more about Paulette at her website.

My Review

Nothing makes my week like discovering a true wordsmith:  Paulette Jiles is a lyrical writer, and I've already ordered a couple of her books to read during the Christmas holidays.  News of the World is now a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award and it is a book deserving of accolades.  Jiles is a true artist: she paints pictures with her words.  Her lyrical style is breathtaking!  Here's an example:

It was March 5 and cold, his breath fumed and his old muffler was dank with the steam.  Above and behind them the Dipper turned on its great handle as if to pour night itself out onto the dreaming continent and each of its seven stars gleamed from between the fitful passing of clouds (Page 96).

The characters in this novel are unforgettable.  Capt. Kidd earns his living traveling around Northern Texas reading newspapers to large gatherings of folks for a dime a pop.  He carefully chooses which articles to share with his audience: the more exotic the better, and he has learned which articles to begin and end each session.  He never reads local news especially about politics.  Texas is way to divided, and the last thing he wants to do is incite a riot. Obviously Kidd loves the printed word.  He lost his printer, business, and "almost everything else" in the War Between the States because he's Southern.  I absolutely love the concept of a traveling news reader because today we get our news instantaneously, so much so that anything that happened last week is old news.  

Kidd has such a big heart that he couldn't turn down the opportunity to return ten-year-old Johanna to her German aunt and uncle who live near San Antonio.  Fortunately some of the book is told from her point of view rather than the Captain's.  She is a smart, complex little girl who has lived with the Kiowa Indians since she was six.  American white culture is lost to her, but she's a quick study, and I was happy to get inside her head to learn what she was thinking at different points during the story.  She has a knack for reading people, and she trusts Kidd from fairly early on in the narrative.  I adored Doris's description of her.  Irish and wise, she describes Johanna as being "like an elf.  She is like a fairy person from the glamorie.  They are not one thing or another (page 55)."

Most of the plot concerns Captain Kidd and Johanna's  travels from Wichita Falls to D'Hanis.  There are many obstacles en route, and unfortunately most are from the lawless Texans rather than the weather or terrain.  Kidd's commentaries on these nefarious characters as well as his interactions with them are literary genius.  Still, I am amazed that Kidd is so well defined in such a short book.  

My ARC included the above map of Capt. Kidd and Johanna's route from Wichita Falls to D'Hanis.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of News of the World from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

What have you been reading?  Please share in the comments section below.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Random Tuesday: Chicago Random

Happy Random Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I hope your week is going well so far.  Today in honor of the Chicago Cubs I want to share with you our favorite places to visit in Chicago.

We *love* games at Wrigley Field.  We are the most devoted Cubbies fan!  Here are Mr. Art @ Home and the girls outside Wrigley Field before this season's Game 6 against the Colorado Rockies.

Go, Cubs, Go!
Go, Cubs, Go!
Hey, Chicago!
What do you say?
Cubs are gonna win today!!!

First of all, we like to stay at the Palmer House hotel because it's close to my Mother Ship, The Art Institute of Chicago.  We like to fly into Midway and take the L straight to the hotel.

After checking in, I like to immediately walk to the Art Institute of Chicago.  When we visited in April, we saw the Van Gogh's Bedrooms exhibit.

Van Gogh painted three versions of this bedroom.  This version was loaned from the Musée d'Orsay.

Shelley's favorite art at the museum is Marc Chagall's "America Windows."  We were also able to see the reinstallation of Chagall's "White Crucifixion."

After spending most of the day at the museum we enjoy visiting the Bean at Millennium Park.

The girls enjoy Wicker Park.  A lot.

The coolest coffee shop on the planet is in Wicker Park:  The Wormhole.

All the walking makes us hungry!

We love starting our day with a continental breakfast at Goddess and the Baker.

Our favorite place for dinner:  Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.  They make the best pizzas that are part pizza, part potpie.  L@@K:

I hope you enjoyed my mini tour of Chicago!  If Chicago were in the South I'd live there!  It's my favorite city to visit, and I really would love to visit this week and go to a game or two of the World Series.

Go Cubbies Go!

In honor of the Cubbies spectacular season, the Art Institute is flying the W flag and the lions are sporting Cubbies caps.  LOVE this!

Until next time...

Hey, Chicago....what do you say?  Cubs are gonna win today!
Ricki Jill

Monday, October 24, 2016

Prudence and the Crow: The Vintage Literature Subscription Box

Happy Monday Morning, My Lovelies!  Oh, what a great weekend!!!  My beloved #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the #6 ranked Texas A & M Aggies.  *PLUS* My Cubbies defeated the Dodgers and the won the NLCS and will be going to the World Series for the first time since 1945.  *squee*

Today I want to share with you a fun subscription box.  Do you subscribe to any subscription boxes? My daughters love Ipsy, and my oldest daughter thinks that Owl Boxes (young adult fiction and other surprises) are the best.  So I decided to try out a few subscription boxes of my own, and I'll review them here on my blog as I receive them.

The first subscription box I found that intrigued me:  Prudence and the Crow.

This subscription is a little more expensive because it's based in London.  However, I was very pleased with my package.  Let's take a look!

The packaging for October is fun!

I received a book in the fabric pouch, the library card that's always a part of the subscription, candy, two tea bags, vintage ephemera, Halloween confetti, candy, and instructions for how to make an origami raven with origami paper.

The Edgar Allan Poe postcard is fun....more on that later.

Cute book plate

The back of the Poe postcard has a list of book recommendations for October: one from Prudence and one from the Crow.

My vintage book:  The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.  Waugh wrote one of my favorite books, Brideshead Revisited, but I haven't read this one yet.

According to Goodreads:

Following the death of a friend, British poet and pets' mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday. There, Dennis enters the fragile and bizarre world of Aimée, the naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr Joyboy, the master of the embalmer's art...

A dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide, The Loved One depicts a world where love, reputation and death cost a very great deal.

Doesn't this sound like the perfect read for Halloween?!?!?  I can't wait to read it.  I'll post a review one week from today on Halloween.  I highly recommend Prudence and the Crow.  You can visit their Facebook page here.

I have one more book subscription coming, and an art one.  Do you subscribe to any subscription boxes?  Please share in the comments section below!  

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, October 21, 2016

Literary Friday: Gretel and the Dark

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope your week has been productive and wonderful.  Recently I read another great book: Gretel in the Dark by Eliza Granville.

From Goodreads:

A dark, distinctive and addictively compelling novel set in fin-de-siècle Vienna and Nazi Germany—with a dizzying final twist.

Vienna, 1899. Josef Breuer—celebrated psychoanalyst—is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings—to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people,’ so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed. . . .

Eliza Granville has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich.

My Review:

This novel is one of the best debuts I've ever read.  Its structure is a little complicated as there are two narratives woven together within the context of a fairytale.  The turn of the century narrative in Vienna has magical realism elements.  Lillie is found by Dr. Breuer's servant Benjamin and brought to Breuer's home.  She's in pitiful shape when she arrives: She's naked, bald, and mute.  As Lillie overcomes her selective mutism she confides to Dr. Breuer that she isn't human, and her mission is to kill.  Her words do not match her beauty; Both Breuer and Benjamin are enchanted.  The mysterious appearance of butterflies at the Breuer home adds to the magical realism atmosphere and mood, and their symbolism represents the co-narrative set in Nazi Germany.  Benjamin is my favorite character in the book because he sees the world as it is and maintains his honesty.

In the Nazi Germany narrative Krysta's character isn't likable.  I sympathize with her nanny Greet (her mother has passed) because Krysta is such a little pill.  She tells Krysta many stories and fairytales in order to give her a moral education.  When Krysta and her father move away to an insidious complex that houses "animals" not "humans," Krysta draws from Greet's stories to try and make sense of her circumstances because everyone in her world creates false narratives.  Fairytales provide her construct for survival.

Beautifully written, Gretel and the Dark is as the title says: dark!  I find Granville's premise about the Nazi's use of fairytales as propaganda both interesting and insidious.  I highly recommend this book in spite of the disturbing narratives which merge in a surprising twist.  Eliza Granville is an author I will continue to read because her voice is unique and exceptional!

Below is a video with an excerpt from the beginning of the book.  It exemplifies the fairytale atmosphere and narrative style of the novel.  I hope you enjoy it!

I'm adding this book to the list because it certainly has gothic elements!

Have you read any good books lately?  Please share in the comments section below!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Shanley Belle!

Yesterday Shanley Belle celebrated her 24th birthday!  She had a twelve-hour day because she worked and had class until 7:30, but after class she came home to a small family birthday party. The theme: The Chicago Cubs!  We watched game 4 of the NLCS.  The Cubbies defeated the Dodgers 10-2:  Shanley Belle had a very happy birthday indeed!

I made the big gift bag filled with Cubbies-themed gifts from materials I found at Paper Source.

The cake is from Edgar's Bakery.

I used flowers in Cubbies colors.

I chose this runner for the blue and red Cubbies colors in it.

The puppies wore their Cubbies jerseys for the party.  They will be cubbies for Halloween:  Mustang Sally will be Miguel Montero, Finlay will be Javier Baez, and Lily will be Addison Russell.

Happy Birthday, Shanley Belle!  I hope you enjoyed your little party, and Go Cubbies for Game 5 tonight!


NOTE:  Nothing on the table is that new except for the blue vase.

Table runner, gingham napkins:  Pier 1
Salt and Pepper Shaker Set:  MacKenzie-Childs Aurora pattern from the Taylor Collection
Votives:  Leaf 'n Petal
Red vase:  Cheap plastic thing from the grocery store (flowers came in it and I saved it for the color!)
Blue ceramic vase:  Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic
Square white cake platter:  Williams Sonoma
Blue and white dessert plates:  Anthropologie

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  It's the middle of the week, and I thought I'd share a fantastic pancake recipe for you to try this weekend.  I had these at a local restaurant, and after a couple of trials {and mostly} errors, I'm happy with the recipe results below.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

2 cups pancake mix (I used The Fresh Market's Buttermilk Pancake Mix)
1 egg
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract (optional)
2 tablespoons melted butter
For serving:
Fresh Blueberries
Lemon Curd


Mix all ingredients together.  Heat griddle and/or pan according to pancake mix instructions.
Serve with lemon curd and blueberries.

Serves 4 - 6

I made silver dollar pancakes.  The blueberries are large mutants, too.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Random Tuesday: The Good, The Bad, The Lovely, The Wicked, and The Creepy

Happy Random Tuesday, My Lovelies!  This post is a little long, but I haven't been posting a whole lot lately because I've been busy doing fun things....

The Good

Recently I had lunch with Ellen, Emily, and Jenna.  Jenna put together the {above} little Halloween surprises for us.  

I finally finished decorating the kitchen for Halloween.  Yay, me!

The Bad

These candy corn are s'mores flavored.  They are too good and if my daughter brings anymore of them home I'll cry.

I know I've posted about these before, but they truly are my guiltiest pleasure.  Luckily they're a bit rich so I can't eat many at once.

The Lovely

It's been difficult going into the classroom with Shelley off at college.  I finally totally cleaned it out and organized it.  I stored Shelley's high school stuff she won't need for college, and it's a much neater room for Shanley Belle and me to use.  

Look at the books I'll be reading and reviewing this fall!

The Ikea cart has books Shelley will need for college.  She can study in here when she visits on the weekends.

I'm using this work table and large desktop computer for blogging.  For now.  :)

Recently we visited Rome, Georgia for a horse show.

Berry College hosted the show, and it's one of the prettiest campuses in the world.

The Wicked

Recently I read Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier.  This is the first Lucy Stone Mystery I've ever read, and it isn't the cozy mystery I was expecting.

According to Goodreads:

With planning the town's annual Halloween Party, the drought wreaking havoc on her garden, and her brood of four children, Lucy Stone's got her hands full this fall. As the air turns crisp and the trees blaze red and gold in the tiny town of Tinker's Cove, Maine, a newcomer arrives who seems to suit the Halloween season. Diana Ravenscroft has just opened Solstice, a charming little shop featuring candles, crystals, jewelry, and psychic readings. But after an unnervingly accurate reading by Diana, Lucy starts to get more than a little spooked. 

Then there's the dead body Lucy finds, way up on one of the old logging roads behind her house. The deceased is identified as Malcolm Malebranche, a seemingly harmless magician who worked at children's birthday parties. When it turns out that Diana knew the murder victim, Ike Stoughton, a prominent local businessman, starts a campaign against Diana, blaming 'the witch' for everything from the unseasonal dry spell to his wife's illness and his pumpkins' lack of plumpness. But Lucy's not so sure that Ike himself is innocent. Still, as the town Halloween party approaches, Lucy's more concerned about the costume competition, pin-the-nose-on-the-pumpkin, and baking three dozen orange cupcakes and Beastly Bug cookies. But as the October moon rises, a killer plans a lethal celebration of his own and Lucy's the guest of honor.

My Review:

I'll keep this review brief because this post is long enough as it is!  ;P

I know that almost all cozy mysteries involve a murder, but this one is gruesome, and the prologue of the book depicts witches in a sexual pagan ritual.  The Witch Diana tries to get several of the local teenagers to join her coven without parental consent, and the citizens who dare question the motives of Diana and the other witches are called bigots and intolerant although they are right.  There is much explanation of the pagan religion, and the book is divided into five sections: Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Spirit.  This is not my favorite cozy mystery, and if you've read any of Leslie Meier's other books I'd like for you to leave a comment and tell me about it.

The Creepy

This one is for Andrea.
She likes creepy monkeys  *giggles*

You mean like wipe it?  Like [with] a cloth?  

This post is long enough.  Come back tomorrow for a lovely breakfast recipe!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill