Friday, February 24, 2017

Literary Friday: A Piece of the World

About A Piece of the World

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (February 21, 2017)
"Graceful, moving and powerful.” --Michael Chabon, New York Times bestselling author of Moonglow

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists. Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy. This edition includes a four-color reproduction of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Jerry Bauer

About Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives outside 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:

I was so excited when I received the ARC of A Piece of the World.  It was like Christmas!  I absolutely love Andrew Wyeth's art, so to read a novel based on his iconic painting Christina's World was truly a treat.  I've always been fascinated about Wyeth's chosen medium: egg tempera.  I've never tried it before, but many of the old masters used this method: It makes paintings look ethereal.

"Christina's World"
Andrew Wyeth
Egg Tempera on Panel

"There she is, that girl, on a planet of grass.  Her wants or simple: to tilt her face to the sun and feel its warmth.  To clutch the earth beneath her fingers.  To escape from and return to the house she was born in."
pp. 304 - 305

Although I enjoyed Orphan Train immensely, Christina's World is better written.  Christina's world is literally small due to her disability.  Now, neurologists think she may have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.  This inherited condition damages the nerves and affects movement.  You can read more about this disease and Christina's story HERE.  I am not a fan of Christina's bitterness as a jilted spinster.  She was prideful to a fault and unforgiving.  However, viewing her through Andrew Wyeth's eyes I understand her better.  By the end of the book I feel neither disdain nor pity for her.

"Christina Olson"
Andrew Wyeth
Egg Tempera on Panel

"What she wants most~ what she truly yearns for~ is what any of us want: to be seen."
p. 305

Christina's mother was a Hathorn, a descendent of one of the Salem Witch Trial's prosecutors.  I enjoyed reading about her family history and the family dynamic of the Olson household. Wyeth's wife Betsy befriended Christina when she was a child, and their relationship is sweet from the beginning.  When Wyeth first comes to their little corner of Maine, Betsy knows where to take him for beautiful views and eggs to mix with his pigments: the Olson Farm.  Although this is Christina's story, Andrew Wyeth drifts in and out of the house like the ghosts of the Salem witches Brigit Bishop promised would haunt the Hathorn family forever.  This disappointed me slightly, but Kline does a fantastic job of describing Wyeth's creative process.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys books about art, artists, family drama, and a New England setting.

"Oil Lamp"
Andrew Wyeth
Egg Tempera on Panel

This is a portrait of  Christina's brother Alvaro Olson.  He didn't like to pose for Wyeth.


I received a copy of A Piece of the World from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Changes in the Family Room

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I've been working on redecorating our family room.  We replaced most of the furniture and added a rug.

This is what our living room looked like before:

We had a large sofa, chair, and ottoman.  We also had a large English country coffee table and end table.

Here is the after:

We no longer have a chair and ottoman, only a smaller sectional.  The sofa was a compromise.  each end has motors.  Yep!  There are electric recliners on each end, which require a smaller coffee table if both ends are in the reclining position.  The sofa is from Macy's.

Cold weather pillow covers from Sundance.

I love the unusual coffee table.  It is much heavier than it looks with its steel base.  The coffee table is from West Elm, and the ceramic vase is from Shabby Chic.

I also restyled the bookcases.  Only decorating and gardening books are on these shelves.

The carpet has more gold in it than is showing in the photos.  Rug is from Anthropologie.

Mustang Sally and Finlay don't like the new sofa.  The motors scare Finlay!

My favorite Flora Doora

Artwork, above, from White Flowers
Artwork, below, one of my own mini paintings

The marble box contains our numerous remote controls.  The salvaged wood coasters are from Dryads Dancing.

Other side of fireplace.  History books are on this side of the room along with the girls' high school senior portraits.

And in case your wondering: art books are in the art studio, all cookbooks are in the kitchen, and fiction in the library/classroom.  It's nice to have my books organized!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day 2017

Mr. Art @ Home chose these flowers for me.

Happy Valentine's Day, My Lovelies!  I wish you lived in my neighborhood so you could come over for some sweet Valentine's Day treats!  I didn't make them this year because I've been too busy, but these delights in this post are from Heritage House Coffee Shop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  We were in Tuscaloosa over the weekend for a horse show hosted by my alma mater, the University of Alabama. The Judson College Equestrians all rode well.  I am so honored to know these outstanding young women!

Congratulations to Shelley!  She placed reserve on Sunday, and she looked great.

Judson College will be hosting a Western Pleasure show this weekend, and I can't wait to go. Shelley won't be competing because she rides Huntseat, but it will still be so much fun to watch!

I don't have anything new for Valentine's Day this year (it's difficult to shop between Christmas and February) but we're having tea with our treats.  I noticed that I forgot my mugs on the counter.  Gah! I'm a bit scattered these days!  ;P

The gummy hearts are my favorites....they are strawberry flavored!

Last night Mr. Art @ Home grilled chateaubriand for two.  YUM!  We're going to the movies tonight. I have no idea what we're going to see.  I haven't been to the movie since Hidden Figures (which is great), and I really don't know what's out!  Do you have any suggestions?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, February 10, 2017

Literary Friday: The Dressmaker's Dowry

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read The Dressmaker's Dowry by .Meredith Jaeger.

About The Dressmaker's Dowry

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 7, 2017)

For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner, this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...

San Francisco: 1876 Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Meredith Jaeger

Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog. Find out more about Meredith at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

This book is not bad for a first novel!  Jaeger's well-researched vision of Victorian San Francisco is compelling and inspiring.  I appreciate well-researched historical fiction, and I often put down the book and Googled several locations mentioned in the story both from the past and in the present. Hanna's story is much more interesting, and Hanna is a more fully developed character than Sarah. There are several mysteries and questions between both storylines, and there is plenty of suspense to keep the reader thoroughly engaged.  Lucas and Hanna make a great team as they solve Margaret's disappearance.  Unfortunately the mystery's true resolution is so insidious it frightens Hanna enough to flee Nob Hill.

Sarah has a tragic secret she's kept from everyone, especially her husband Hunter.  I find it almost incredible that someone of Hunter's stature would marry a girl he knows nothing about. He never visits Sarah's hometown, has never met anyone she knew as a young girl.  Although her secret is a tragic one, I don't think it's enough to cause her anxiety.  I also find it highly unlikely that a character who truly loves his wife wouldn't take a more proactive approach to help her cope.  But Sarah isn't the only one with a secret: Hunter's family has skeletons in the closet and they're dancing!  The best part about Sarah's storyline is while working on her thesis for her MFA in writing, Sarah walks away from a terrible novel she's half-heartedly written and instead decides to research Hanna and Margaret's story.

I find the connection between both stories interesting, but I would have been happy if it had just been a historical romance.  If you enjoy historical fiction and are interested in reading a story with a San Francisco setting, then I recommend The Dressmaker's Dowry.

Long Bridge c. 1867
Hanna, Margaret, and Lucas walk along this bridge 

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Dressmaker's Dowry from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, February 6, 2017

Are You on Instagram?

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  Horse Show Season is in full swing, and this past weekend was the last one I'll spend at home until March.

I have a question:  Are you on Instagram?  If you are, please follow me and I'll follow you back! I'm trying to post at least once daily, including pages from my art journal.  It's my goal to draw at least a little bit everyday (trying to be disciplined here).

Would you like to see a few of my pages so far?  Thank-you!  You're so kind!   ;P

If you're on Instagram, would you consider following me?  I'd appreciate it so much.  I could use a little encouragement, and I would enjoy your lovely posts, too!

If you look on my sidebar, you can see my Instagram feed.  My Instagram account is @westiechicks.

Also, each Monday I'll feature my favorite page from the previous week here on my blog.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, February 3, 2017

Literary Friday: The Odds of You and Me

About The Odds of You and Me

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 31, 2017)

In the vein of Meg Donohue and Sarah Jio, Cecilia Galante’s second novel delivers the powerful story of one young woman who’s faced with an impossible choice—one that could have her making the biggest mistake of her life.

Thirteen days. That’s all Bernadette, “Bird,” Sincavage has left to go until she’s done with her probation and can be free again. Free from making payments to the supermarket she wrote bad checks to. Free from living at home with her overzealous mother who’s constantly nagging her about attending church again. Free to give her four-year-old son, Angus, the normal life he deserves. Her impending freedom and move to Moon Lake, where she’s plunked down a deposit on a brand new apartment, is so close she can almost taste it. What trouble could she possibly get into in just thirteen days?

But trouble does follow in the form of James Rittenhouse—someone she worked with a few years ago. At first, Bird is stunned to see James make the evening news when he’s arrested for assaulting someone in a local bar. But that’s nothing compared to the shock she gets when she discovers James hiding out in an abandoned church choir loft. Somehow he escaped police custody, broke his leg, and got his hand on a gun, which he’s now pointing at her.

Although Bird doesn’t tell anyone she saw James, there’s no way she’s helping him. She can’t screw up her probation or her second chance for a new future. And she has her son’s welfare to think about. Still. If only she could stop thinking about the terrified look in James’ eyes and the fact that he’s hurt. If only she could forget that once, long ago, James helped her out, and she owes him a debt like no other.

Will Bird jeopardize her future for someone who helped her out in the past? A past that holds secrets she’s not quite sure she’s ready to face? Or will she turn a blind eye and learn to live with the consequences?

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Cecilia Galante

Cecilia Galante, who received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Vermont, is the author of eight young adult novels and a children’s chapter-book series. She has been the recipient of many awards, including an NAIBA Best Book of the Year, and an Oprah’s Teen Read Selection for her first novel, The Patron Saint of Butterflies. She lives in Kingston, Pennsylvania with her three children. Find out more about Cecilia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

I almost put this book down several times.  I tried to like Bird, but the more I learned about her life, about her mistakes, I became distracted by Pink's "Stupid Girls" that kept looping through my brain.

The book begins when Bird meets with her parole officer: She only has thirteen days until her parole is up.  She paid back the judgment against her for writing bad checks, but she had to move into her mother's home in order to afford the payments.  Bird doesn't get along with her mother.  She is resentful, disrespectful, and disdainful of her mother's Catholic faith.  As the thirteen days are counting down, Bird runs by the church to pick up a sweater her mother had left behind (totally staged by her mom), and that's where she sees fugitive James Rittenhouse hiding out.  She risks her probation to help James, and the reader discovers what James means to Bird through flashbacks.  Their storyline is surprising and poignant.

Bird isn't all bad because many people like her and try to help her, especially a few of her clients. She tries very hard to be a good mother which is admirable as is her strong work ethic.  She needs to work on being a better daughter, though.  I, too, was rooting for her until she says "F*ck God." That's when I almost put the book down.  She says it to her mother:  Her mother tries to encourage Bird to attend church out of love; Bird says hateful things to her mother, maligning her faith out of spite.  But since I was obligated to read the book and write a fair review, I picked it up again and finished reading the book.  It has a VERY satisfying ending, and if you enjoy women's fiction, then you will like The Odds of You and Me.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Odds of You and Me from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill