Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bedtime Stories

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have something important to share with you today.  We recently got a new bed, and the mattress has changed my life.  (More about that later....)

This is what our bed looked like before.  It's a queen, and now it's in our oldest daughter's room.

This is the bedding we used during winter.

We lightened the bedding in summer

This is our new standard king bed.  We bought it at Arhaus here in Birmingham.

It's very heavy because it's wrought iron.

The bed, although pretty, isn't why my life has been changed.  It's because of the mattress and the base that lifts it so when Mr. Sketchy Reader snores, I can lift him up with a remote control and he stops!  

I'm sleeping now.

Many of you have asked me over the years how I find the time to read.  I had time when I waited on my daughters and their activities.  I've waited hundreds of hours on them to finish lessons.

And I didn't sleep well...rarely did I sleep well.

When I couldn't sleep I read.

I'm a book blogger, and now I have a big problem because I'm sleeping!  I'm sleeping!!!  

If you don't have a bed that's tailored to you and your needs, you truly need to do something about it.  You spend a third of your life in bed (or at least that's the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy life), so why not invest in a bed that encourages sleep?

Bedding Resources:

Bed:  Arhaus
Mattress:  Beautyrest Memory Foam with Black Ice (Scarlett Plush Model)
Bedding:  Peacock Alley, except:
Waterfall linen coverlet:  Pinecone Hill
Teal Watercolor Stripe Body Pillow:  Shabby Chic

These bedtime stories are being neglected because I'm sleeping so well!  I'm hoping to blog about a couple of these after the first of the year (this is one of my TBR piles).

I wish we'd bought this bed and mattress sooner.  

Are you an insomniac, or do you sleep like a baby every night?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay *plus* A Giveaway

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Weekend.  Ours was :  {busy}.  But it was nice to spend some time with both girls although they kept us going nonstop!  My mother was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with us, too.

Last week I read A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay.  It's extremely well-written, and it's also a very emotional story with complex characters.

According to Goodreads:

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. 

My Review:

If I had to place the gist of this book into a nutshell (which is a very hard feat given that this story is complicated) I'd say that it's about two mothers who've lived in the same house, and the first one (Elsie) represents the second one's (Lucy's) vardøger.  A vardøger is like a doppelgänger except a vardøger is a spirit that precedes its double.  People believe they've seen the person saying the same things and performing the same actions shortly before the real person arrives.  It's like déjà vu in reverse.  Elsie reared her children in the house, and after her children move her to assisted living and sell her house, Lucy and her family move-in and the process begins again.  

She drifted into the kitchen, still humming along as she flicked on the tea kettle to make tea.  "You even lived in London and you never drank the stuff," Ben had marveled that morning.  "I wonder why you've started now--some late-onset postpartum tastebud glitch?"
"You and your grown-up descriptions."  She'd laughed at him.  The answer was behind the beveled glass of one of the kitchen cabinets.  A teacup, saucerless; a slightly fluted cream cup with a big blue floral blaze...
She thought of returning it to Elsie...Then, on a whim, she'd taken it from the kitchen bench and made herself a cup of tea.
A Hundred Small Lessons, page 25

Lucy Kiss has a very exotic name, and she keeps her maiden name when she marries Ben.  They've lived all over the world because Ben is a journalist, but once baby Tom comes along, they decide to settle down in Ben's hometown of Brisbane, Australia.  The setting fascinated me: Brisbane seems beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and I kept googling wildlife and other elements of the city while reading the book.  The subtropical climate, pythons crossing roads, and torrential rains threatening to flood the Brisbane River add to the moody and panicked atmosphere of this novel.

Lucy seems to have an obsession with the former homeowner Elsie.  She senses Elsie's presence and even believes she has talked to her.  When there is a home invasion and only Lucy's cell phone is taken,  Ben and the police assume that a local teenager stole it.  Ben gets completely exasperated with Lucy's fixation on Elsie, and he wants her to stop talking about her as he persists in telling Lucy that Elsie is a figment of her imagination.  There are times in the book I don't really like Ben because I think he's selfish and that maybe he's gaslighting Lucy.

The sections of the book that focus on Elsie's life are interesting because of one particular event: her portrait sitting.  A neighbor and artist asks Elsie to sit for a portrait, and as an artist I found this part of the book magical.  Ashley Hay's reverent depiction of the artistic process, especially the process of oil painting (my preferred medium) mesmerized me as it did Elsie.  It truly affected me, and I will never take for granted my ability and opportunity to create and paint ever again.

If you enjoy stories about families with complicated relationships, unusual settings, and slightly unnerving atmospheres, then you will love this novel.  Ashley Hay has written a book about two average moms with extraordinary observations about the mundane.  However, there are elements of space and the universe: We might live small lives, but we are a part of something immense and beautiful.  Hay's writing style is lyrical (I love her voice), and her plot is perfectly paced and interesting.  A Hundred Small Lessons is literary, and it would make a great book club selection.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Courtesy of TLC Book Tours, I'm giving away a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons (for American and Canadian readers only).  Good luck!  You won't be disappointed when you read this book!

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Below please find some useful links for the book,  Ashley Hay, and tour stops.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Ashley

Website | Facebook

Ashley Hay’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 27thThe Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 28thJathan & Heather
Tuesday, November 28thLiterary Jo Reviews blog and Instagram
Wednesday, November 29th5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, November 30thBookNAround
Monday, December 4thWest Metro Mommy Reads
Tuesday, December 5thKahakai Kitchen blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 6thPatricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, December 7thNovel Gossip blog and Instagram
Monday, December 11thKaty’s Library blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 13thBookchickdi
Thursday, December 14thGirl Who Reads
Monday, December 18thSuzy Approved
Tuesday, December 19thWrite Read Life
Thursday, December 21stFiction Aficionado

Friday, November 24, 2017

Literary Friday: The Sketchy Reader November Letters Reveal

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Are you getting out in the Black Friday madness today?  I have an idea to save you lots of time and trouble for the reader in your life.  Why not a subscription to one of my bookish letters?  Everyone loves getting snail mail!

Here's a sample of what my letters look like:

November 2017 letters from The Sketchy Reader

Each letter is illustrated with watercolor pencils.  I make copies of letters on heavy card stock paper, and then I address each letter to the recipient.  I include discussion questions, a tag, and sometimes ephemera.  I can customize handmade cards for special occasions, like Christmas!

I offer several subscriptions: one month, three months, six months, or twelve months.  Plus, you can select from two categories: an all-time favorite book, or if you're feeling more adventurous, a selection from the Indie Next List.

Plus, all the "archived" letters are available, like these for November:

This letter is a selection from a recent Indie Next List, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

This is a favorite book selection, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

I place all the goodies in a large envelope and mail them using stamps.

Take a look at my Etsy Store, and shop from your computer or other device.  Easy peasy!  You can shop from your home and not worry about wrapping or sending a card!

You can always access my shop by clicking on the "Shop" page on my Nav Bar above.  

I hope you have some downtime to read this weekend.  You can see what I'm reading on my sidebar!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Today I finished reading The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert.  It's yet another World War II historical that I've read this year, but this one is very different because there are two settings: Italy and South Africa.  I can't recall ever having read one based in South Africa before, and I enjoyed it because of the unique setting and culture.

According to Goodreads:

As retired physician Lettie Louw looks back upon her life, she recounts her coming of age in WWII-era South Africa in this compelling story of delayed love, loss, and reconciliation.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of the town physician in their South African village. She spends her childhood in the warm African days playing with her friends and being adored by her doting parents. When she becomes a teenager, she experiences her first taste of unrequited romantic love in the form of her best friend’s older brother, De Wet Fourie. When De Wet pursues the beautiful and wealthy Annabelle, Lettie’s dreams are crushed, and she moves to Johannesburg to pursue her studies in medicine.

Life in Johannesburg feels strange to Lettie, and the world around her is in profound upheaval as the Second World War rages. Her feelings for De Wet never waver, and Lettie is heartbroken when he marries another of her childhood friends. Lettie soon meets Marco Romanelli, an Italian immigrant, and they marry and raise two daughters, as the racial and political tensions in South Africa swirl about them.

Lettie never forgets her first love, even as the ravages of time, war, and illness play upon her life and the lives of those she loves. In their later years, Lettie and De Wet are thrown into one another’s company again, and they are given another chance at a life together.

My Review:

Although this book is Lettie's story, a big chunk of it belongs to Marco.  Marco is a brilliant Italian who risks his life and ultimately sacrifices his health for Rachel, his Jewish girlfriend, and her family.  He hides them for years in the Italian Alps before they're found by Nazis and sent to a camp in Northern Italy and eventually to Poland.  Marco's work in the camp's factory damages his lungs, and he suffers from bouts with pneumonia annually.  He eventually leaves Northern Italy's harsh winters and immigrates to South Africa for the climate.  

There are several sections in this novel, and I enjoyed the sections featuring Marco and Lettie together.  Reading about the Afrikaans culture is very interesting, but there isn't as much politics in the book as I anticipated.  One thing that bothers me about the book is that Lettie and her friends seem vapid (even when they were older), focusing way to much on their looks rather than their intelligence (most of them are smart women).  However, Lettie is very brave, and no one's perfect.  I love the faith element in the book, and it's apparent that Irma Joubert is a former history teacher because she inserts a lot of history into not only the plot but the characters' dialogue as well.  She also includes a Cast of Characters, a glossary for words that can't be easily translated from Afrikaans to English, and a bibliography.  I highly recommend this novel if you're looking for WWII fiction with an interesting setting and historical accuracy.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Crooked Path from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Happy Thanksgiving, My Sweet Lovelies!  Come back early Friday morning for an important Black Friday shopping tip!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, November 20, 2017

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart *plus* a Giveaway

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I'm thrilled to be the first stop on this tour promoting Nicole Baart's Little Broken Things.  If you're looking for a remarkable, suspenseful book to read during the holidays, your search is over.

According to Goodreads:

An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

My review:

I almost read this entire book in one sitting: It.  Is.  That.  Good.  I was completely intrigued with the book's premise (via the Goodreads synopsis) and it didn't disappoint.  The action of the story takes place in less than a week's time (Wednesday through Saturday), from the time Nora sends her sister Quinn the first cryptic text message requesting that Quinn "keep something safe for her" until the emotional conclusion.  What makes this book so incredible are the family dynamics and drama between the sisters and their mother Liz.

The "something" is Everlee, and her story breaks my heart.  Nora is insistent on keeping her safe from one of the most vile predators ever to grace a book's pages.   Quinn loves children, and she wants to teach (her degree is in secondary education), however Quinn is disappointed that she wasn't offered a job at a local preschool.  Although Nora and Quinn have never been close, Nora trusts Quinn with Everlee, insisting that she's "one of us."  This and the fact that Everlee has "Sanford eyes" leads to a couple of misunderstandings.

I enjoyed getting to know Liz; she's much more complex and capable than I thought at the beginning of the story. It's one element that makes this book a compelling read: Nicole Baart gives us information about Liz like peeling and onion.  She removes one layer, and you think you have Liz all figured out until she removes the next one.  Liz is a widow, but her late husband Jack Sr. was such an ass in life that his ghost is all over the place in this book.  Thank goodness that in spite of horrible, predatory men in the book there are a few sweet, kind, loving men, like Quinn's husband Walker, her ex-fiancé Bennett, and Nora's friend, Ethan.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books with: family drama and dynamics; very well-drawn, complex characters; and suspenseful plots.  I figured out a major plot point early in the book, but it did not impede my enjoyment of this book at all.  Plus, the "After" or epilogue is so brilliant that I smiled all afternoon thinking about it.  It's one of the best-written epilogues I've ever read, and it epitomizes how beauty can stem from little broken things.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Little Broken Things from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  And thanks to TLC, I have a copy to giveaway as well.  The giveaway is open to readers living in the United States.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Below please find the Goodreads link, purchase links, and links for Nicole Baart's social media:

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Nicole Baart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 20thThe Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 21stFrom the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 21stKritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, November 22ndBooks a la Mode – author guest post
Friday, November 24thBooks & Bindings
Friday, November 24thJathan & Heather
Monday, November 27thSnowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, November 28thA Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 29thReadaholic Zone
Friday, December 1stThe Baking Bookworm
Monday, December 4thKaty’s Library blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 6thLit Wit Wine Dine
Friday, December 8thMs. Nose in a Book
Monday, December 11thBewitched Bookworms
Monday, December 11thNovel Gossip blog and Instagram
Tuesday, December 12thWest Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, December 13thLaura’s Reviews
Monday, December 18thGirls in Books blog and Instagram
Monday, December 18thPatricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, December 20thThoughts on This ‘n That
Friday, December 22ndNot in Jersey

Friday, November 17, 2017

Literary Friday: Lona Chang by Ashleyrose Sullivan

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing the sequel to Awesome Jones, Lona Chang by Ashleyrose Sullivan.   Although Lona Chang can be read as a standalone, I think you'll miss out a bit on world-building, character development, and important plot points if you don't read Awesome Jones first.  You can read yesterday's review of Awesome Jones HERE.  As a stated yesterday, both books would make fun Christmas gifts, especially if you have any millennials on your list.

About Lona Chang

• Paperback 
• Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (August 30, 2017)

When one of the world's greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona's soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He'll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves. As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City's criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.


Purchase Links


About AshleyRose Sullivan

Originally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Monkey Bicycle and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press. She can be found at

My Review:

The book begins with Lona and her fiancé Awesome Jones adopting a mutt, Trulie, and making a comfortable, peaceful home together.  They've been sanctioned by the governing body of superheroes and agents called The Guild because Awesome broke the rules in the previous book by using deadly force against one of the most vile villains ever.  They continue to train and hone their unusual superpowers; Jones trains and works with the "sheets," superheroes who aren't officially "capes," or Guild sanctioned superheroes (the explanation of the distinction between both groups is a lot of fun).  On their wedding day at Arc City's courthouse, super villains The Alchemist and Ironhide disrupt their nuptials while they attempt a bank heist.

Soon after their botched wedding, Captain Lightning lands on Jones and Lona's patio after being fatally shot with an unknown weapon.  He dies in Lona's arms, and she and Jones are devastated. Lona is determined to solve the murder mystery of Captain Lightning.  Lona was adopted, and she learns that her father was a detective of sorts.  Her adoptive mother gives Lona her father's journal, but unfortunately it's written in an indecipherable code.  Lona spends a lot of time reading in Lona Chang...reading a popular detective series and a rare, obscure allegory that becomes the key to solving Captain Lightning's murder. I thought this was an interesting aspect of the book, and the obscure, rare book is certainly helpful.  The detective series doesn't seem to help, but it does provide Lona with a few humorous tips she incorporates into her investigation.  Lona's gift of always finding luck is interesting to read because even when it seems like she's experiencing bad luck- like when she gets a flat tire- these events serendipitously lead to lucky discoveries.

The Guild rules the superheroes with an iron fist.  We don't like them, and we saw in Awesome Jones how they separated Awesome from Lona while he trained.  They also control the news media, so public opinion is manipulated and often based on lies.  Comic books are also used to propagate narratives created by the Guild.  This book is all about sticking it to the man. The underdogs are bullied by an ancient organization that needs to be taken down.  The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I can't wait to read the next installment because I believe between Awesome Jones, the sheets, a few of the honest capes, and Lona's emerging mad detective skills, they can set the corrupt Guild aright.

I highly recommend this uniquely fun series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Lona Chang from the writer via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill