Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Welcome to What I'm Reading Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have a treat to share with you today:  Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller.

About Caroline

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 12, 2018)

USA Today Bestseller! One of Refinery29's Best Reads of September

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril. 

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

My Review:

Since reading about Caroline via the October, 2017 Indie Next List, I placed it on my TBR list.  So when TLC Book Tours presented me with the opportunity to read, review, and share on my blog, I jumped at the chance!  The Little House series is a favorite of ours, and I read the entire series to both of our children because it was one of my favorites as a child.  I was eager to read this beloved story of the little house on the prairie from Caroline's point of view.  I was not disappointed, but it did take me a little bit of time to get used to the adult point of view because I'm so familiar with the Little House series.

Miller's version of the story is well-researched, and it's a blend of Laura Ingalls Wilder's story from Little House on the Prairie and historical accuracy.  I found the story so frustrating for the Ingalls family because they leave their life and family in Wisconsin to stake a claim in Kansas; the beauty of the plan is that they would be debt-free with the money from selling their land in Wisconsin.  The family's travel to Kansas is difficult and suspenseful: crossing the frozen Mississippi River as it's thawing; severe storms and torrential rains; and wet and mildewed supplies.  The family makes it to Kansas, and Mr. Edwards helps Charles build a home for the family (where they survive a wolf pack that could have easily entered their quilt-covered door).

Carrie is born in Kansas, and Charles and Caroline start meeting people and forming bonds.  Then Gustafson defaults on his loan to Charles and moves on.  Charles can't pay for the Kansas land, and his former property reverts back to him.  Now the Ingalls must move home.  There are several things that stand out in my mind about this book.  The first one is Caroline's concern over her baby's quickening as they travel.  There's always that anxiety paired with everything else as the family moves with their meager belongings in their covered wagon.  Plus Charles' reaction to Gustafson's inability to pay for his property is heartbreaking.  That scene is so powerful that it made me cry!

If you love the Little House series, you'll love Caroline.  I enjoyed it so much that I've already placed holds on Miller's books about Lizzie Borden and Helen Keller.  If I enjoy them as much as I did Caroline, then I'll purchase them for our home library.

About Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller began writing her first novel at the age of ten, and has spent the last two decades working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of two previous historical novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown. Her nonfiction debut, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, was hailed by the New York Times as "a historical version of Law & Order." She lives in Michigan. Find out more about Sarah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

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Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 8, 2018

Literary Friday: The Weaver's Daughter

Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all have made some fun weekend plans.  Our older daughter is coming home for a visit, and we have lots of fun activities planned.

This week I read The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd.   I'm finding that I enjoy titles written by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and I'm so happy I've discovered them via TLC Book Tours.

According to Goodreads:

Kate's loyalties bind her to the past. Henry's loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?

Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder --including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father's pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war seeking refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather's goals to modernize his family's wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family's livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry's side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village's future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls - even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Review:

This Regency historical novel had me hooked from the first scene when Kate is a child, and she is informed by her best friend (and sure to be rival as an adult), Frederica,  that they can no longer be friends because Kate's family are weavers and the Penningtons, once weavers, are now millers.  This scene also illustrates the rift between an old, traditional way of life and modernization.  Later in the novel, the two groups can't even share the dance floor at the End of Winter Festival Ball, with the weavers dancing one round, and the millers the next, etc.

Class is often a source for conflict in Regencies, but in this novel it's more than that.  It's about losing: one's livelihood, creative process,  regional tradition, and the devastation of one's pride due to losing all three.  Kate's father Silas is a leader of the weavers.  He doesn't trust Henry Stockton because of his prejudice against Henry's grandfather.  War has changed Henry, and he is more open to listening to others with differing viewpoints and meeting them halfway, however, he also understands his responsibility to his family's business and their workers.  Kate enjoys her work, yet her father only sees her as a woman.  Plus he's bitter because his son Charles went to work for the Stocktons at their mill.  Kate has a difficult time maintaining her relationship with her brother because Silas forbids Kate to see Charles, and he isn't allowed in their home.  One of the many things I love about this novel is that Henry and Kate aren't stock characters; they are well-developed and unique.

Given the restrictions placed on Kate and the prejudices instilled in Kate and Henry about the other's family, their relationship seems doomed from the start.  One unexpected twist is Kate's budding friendship with Henry's sister, Mollie, and another is Henry's dependence on Charles's skills at the mill.  But love conquers all, and this Regency has the added benefit of suspense and a surprising mystery.  The Weaver's Daughter is a fantastic novel, and I highly recommend it especially if you enjoy Regency romances.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Weaver's Daughter from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Connect with Sarah

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Rosie Project and theRosie Effect

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I can't believe that I've never shared either of these books by Graeme Simsion.  Don Tillman is one of my favorite characters, and I recently read both books again.

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The Rosie Project

According to Goodreads:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My Review:

Don Tillman is a scientist, and he believes that all things should be accomplished through the scientific method.  He lives a very regimented life and has little patience for nonsense and social nuances.  Many of his habits do make sense, like his weekly "standardized meal system."  When Don decides to take dating into his own hands and pursue the Wife Project, brilliant PhD student Rosie Jarman calls on Don and his mad grasp of DNA to help her find her biological father.  This sweet romance has so many hilarious scenes, yet Simsion is very sensitive to Aspergians (I would not have liked the book otherwise).  One scene in particular that I loved is when one Don's colleagues asks him to give the keynote speech at a conference for teens with Aspergers and their parents.  He gets the teens all riled up, and it's clear that Don is unaware that he has Aspergers.

I love witty dialogue, and this novel is full of it.  I belly laughed throughout most of the book, and some scenes had me crying with laughter. Don's ability to make everything in his world more efficient makes for entertaining reading especially compared to Rosie who's one hot mess in all aspects of her life with the exception of academics.  Don's abilities far outweigh his social challenges.  If you think you'd enjoy an unusual romance, I highly recommend The Rosie Project.

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The Rosie Effect

According to Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they're about to face a new challenge because - surprise - Rosie is pregnant. 

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he's left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. 

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. 

Graeme Simsion first introduced these unforgettable characters in The Rosie Project, which NPR called "sparkling entertainment along the lines of Where'd You Go Bernadette and When Harry Met Sally." The San Francisco Chronicle said, "sometimes you just need a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud." If you were swept away by the book that's captivated a million readers worldwide, you will love The Rosie Effect.

My Review:

I was a little anxious to read this book because I did not want Rosie and Don to break-up.  Don is facing so many stresses: a big move to New York City; a new job as a researcher at Columbia University; plus Rosie is expecting.  In pure Don style, he approaches the pregnancy as a scientific project, and gets arrested when he takes one of Gene's suggestions to "observe young children."  Moms and nannies in Central Park do not appreciate Don's video recording of their charges at play.

Don isn't the only one stressed out about becoming a parent.  Rosie is burning the candle at both ends as she's simultaneously working on her PhD and her medical degree.  She has many issues from childhood that are affecting her current decisions, and she's completely leaving Don out of the parenting loop.  Intrepid Don doesn't give up on Rosie nor on fatherhood.  In spite of the stress and the secrets he and his friends are keeping from Rosie, he limits himself to only one freak-out.  I was so surprised by this sequel, and I think I like it slightly more than The Rosie Project.  I read that Simsion is working on book three in the Rosie trilogy, and I can't wait to read it!

The book covers above are affiliate links to purchase the books via IndieBound.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

At Home With Plants

Hello, My Lovelies!  Today I'm staying inside due to a code orange air quality alert.  It was so beautiful and cool this morning.  The sky is blue.  I want to be outdoors so badly but with my asthma I would pay dearly for it.

So today I'm staying inside and playing with houseplants and reading my new book: At Home With Plants by Ian Drummond and Kara O'Reilly.

According to Goodreads:

Get a little greenery in your life with this beautiful, practical guide to decorating with houseplants. At Home with Plants helps you select, plant, and display an array of easy-to-source, easy-to-care-for botanicals. Includes stylish projects—such as terrariums and hanging planters—as well as a special section of design ideas for each room of the house, plus the best plants for each space.

Houseplants are hot, and creative interior planting is becoming increasingly easy to achieve. Indoor gardening is not just about growing a plant, but about using it as an accessory to boost your home’s style and mood. In this inspirational book, interior landscape designer and Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Ian Drummond pairs up with interiors writer Kara O’Reilly to show you how to transform your home with plants, offering up more than 250 gorgeous aspirational images and ideas for each space in the house.

These plant-design experts will walk you through the steps to create your indoor oasis with chapters on:
THE PRACTICALITIES: Health Benefits, Cleaning the Air, Houseplants & Allergies

PLANT FAMILIES: Bold, Edible, Flowers & Fragrance, Tough & Tolerant, The Indestructibles

CONTAINERS: Potential Planters, Container Materials, Return of the Terrarium

DESIGN WITH PLANTS: Where to Start, Scale & Contrast, Symmetry & Repetition, Alternative Displays

RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT ROOM: Living Spaces, Kitchens & Eating Spaces, Sleeping Spaces, Bathing Spaces, Children’s Spaces, Working Spaces, Connecting Spaces

THE BASICS: Light, When & How to Water, Plant Care, Plant Doctor

My Review:

The first thing I noticed about this book is it lacks the seventies-revamp-boho-vibe I was expecting based on the cover.  Most of the interiors are not your typically cluttered English style, either.  They tend to be minimalistic allowing the gorgeous plants to take centerstage. Another thing I noticed is that most of the interiors were either bright white or dark and moody.

Above is a listing of the book's sections and chapters.  Of course I found the chapter on the health benefits of houseplants refreshing because they filter toxins and pollutants from the air in our homes.  I appreciate the list of the most effective plants that clean the air, and I will purchase a few within the week.  Another benefit of this book is that it lists houseplants to avoid if family members suffer from allergies and/or asthma.  So many people believe that bringing in houseplants will cause their allergies to worsen, but since most of them release few (if any) pollen spores AND they act as natural detoxifiers and filters, they are good for everyone if they are dusted regularly (which is good for the plant).

There are many tips and tricks about how to display plants in your home, and I was fascinated with the section about which plants are appropriate for which rooms.  There are also a few great ideas about where to place them because we have very little surface area in our home. The beginning of the book mentions trends in houseplants, and I was fascinated reading about them, especially kokedama.  Kokedama means moss ball in Japanese, and this trend looks so beautiful, but it might be above my skill level.  The Basics section has tons of helpful information on how to care for your houseplants, and the beautiful and colorful photos of both the plants and interiors make this book a wonderful resource.  Speaking of resources, there's also a fantastic list of suppliers in the back of the book.

Since I was a child, I've always been fascinated by terrariums.  I bought this one years ago at Smith & Hawken, and I've had it filled with a variety of plants and other objects over the years.  I was inspired by "The Return of the Terrarium," so I took my terrarium to Leaf 'n Petal and they helped me plant it.

Y''s difficult to get a good photo of a terrarium!  Almost as hard as a shiny library book!

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I love the cover photo.  The textures are fantastic in this interior!
My books is a gift, and it was purchased at Anthropologie.
The photo above is an affiliate link for purchasing the book via IndieBound.

Now I'm off to peruse this book again and make a list for the nursery.  Do you have lots of houseplants in your home?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Treleavens v. Nutty the Squirrel

Glaucomas volans
southern flying squirrel

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  Would you like to be entertained? If so, then you've come to the right place.  Let me tell you about our skirmish with a tiny little squirrel over the weekend.

We were woken up in the wee hours of the morning in our town house by Mr. Sketchy Reader's phone.  He has an app that's connected to our "front door" camera mounted inside our lake cabin.  It was around 3:00 A.M.  

HIM:  It's probably just a car's headlights tripping the camera.
ME:  Do you want to check it?
HIM:  Nah....

At 4:33 A.M. Mr. Sketchy Reader's phone notifies us that something is moving in the lake cabin.

ME:  I think you should check the live feed.
HIM:  No, I doubt it's anything, seriously.

As we're packing to leave for the lake early Friday morning, Mr. Sketchy Reader approaches all timid-like:

HIM:  We have a squirrel in the cabin.
ME:  :O
HIM:  You're a country girl.  How do you get a squirrel out of the house?
ME:  :O
HIM:  You're not saying anything.
ME:  City boy, have you ever heard of fleas, ticks, mites, rabies, and SQUIRREL POX? We need to call an exterminator ASAP.  Plus, we need to figure out the point of entry.  I hope he didn't chew through the roof and the attic.
HIM:  The exterminator was just there on Wednesday because I saw him on the Canary App.
ME:   :/
HIM:  What's that look for?
ME:  Call him again!  It's bad enough we have to go down there and disinfect the entire cabin. We really need to call an exterminator to get the squirrel out of there.
HIM:  I bet he was in and out and he didn't bother anything.
ME:  So you think the wild animal held himself in check and didn't pee in our cabin?
HIM:  (looking rather sheepish)  I bet he isn't there.  I think I left the fireplace damper open, so he probably scurried right back up.
ME:  :/

So I loaded-up extra cleaning products, like Clorox, Clorox Wipes, Microbial Febreeze, you name it....I was armed!  

We wanted to keep the dogs out of the cabin for a few minutes while we looked around for the squirrel.  After all, Sally has her Barn Dog championship points, and I didn't want her to get bitten by the nasty little vermin!  

We didn't find the squirrel, but by golly Miss Molly that little menace left sooty footprints ALL OVER THE CABIN I kid you not.  It looked like a Loony Tunes cartoon with little black footprints all over almost every surface which was easy to see because most surfaces in our lake cabin are white.  I like white because white can be bleached!!!  There were footprints on the kitchen table, up the refrigerator, across the coffee table, across the countertops, on top of white poster frames, on the floor....everywhere!  Oh, and he did pee because you could see it....and poo, too, but there was more pee.

My hands are raw.  My hands are cracked.  :(

Still no sign of the squirrel.

At about 5:30 when we'd finished cleaning, we lit the Big Green Egg for grilling our steaks.  We enjoyed dinner while watching the Cubbies destroy the NY Mets.  After dinner, we retired to the sofa with the Westies to watch the rest of the game.  About the bottom of the 8th inning, Mr. Sketchy Reader's friend Bart called.  Bart owns the cabin next door to us, and we started telling him about the squirrel.  Something caught my eye and I saw the little bugger peeking out from under a lampshade!  I freaked the heck out.  Mustang Sally, only two feet away on top of the sofa, stared.  She clearly did not do as she was trained!  He did two loops around the base of the lamp and disappeared back under the lampshade.

This is the lamp where the little menace was hiding.  I cleaned the entire cabinet and all the stereo equipment, and I can't believe he didn't bite me.

So I kept wondering why it didn't come out sooner.  Was it hiding?  It could have been sleeping because flying squirrels are nocturnal.  

There was lots of screaming....even Mr. Sketchy Reader.  But I have to say in his defense he only reacted to Shelley's very loud screams of alarm.  

It took about thirty minutes to get the squirrel out of the cabin.  It was achieved via trial and error (more error) and eventually he ran out the cabin door.

Then we got to disinfect the cabin's living room.  Again.

Renamed him Nutty because he acted crazy.  The damper is closed, and I hope he doesn't return.

I hate rodents.  I hate them even more when they are in our home.

But the biggest mystery is this:  The Westies bark incessantly at gray squirrels in our backyard.  They didn't bark much at the one in our house!!!  What's with that?  And, why couldn't they smell it?  Maybe it's because we had so many other smells with the first round of disinfecting.  Who knows?

Thanks for visiting today.  I hope this story entertained you just a wee little bit!  

If you'd like to learn more about the southern flying squirrel, CLICK HERE.

Have a great week!  I should be back in a couple of days to share some books.  I've been praying to the internet gods to fix the stupid internet in our neighborhood because it's been unreliable the past four weeks.  We've had a history of poor service in this neighborhood, and at one time I knew the Charter Communications Guy who was constantly parked in our cut de sac on a first name basis.  He was like our Eldin from Murphy Brown.  Remember Eldin?  The painter who never left?  Seriously it's been a problem for Shelley because she's taking tow classes distance learning from her college which is a good thing since her college flooded thanks to TS Alberto.

This is starting out as a weirdly strange summer...

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, June 1, 2018

Tales of the Traveling Totes: Tripless (and I'm not referring to my husband)

Hello, My Lovelies!  Happy June!!!

It has been an interesting spring to say the least.  We had two trips planned, and we had to cancel both.

The Countess de Monet is lonely.

But we have been to Lake Marin a couple of weekends, but we spent Memorial Day Weekend anticipating subtropical storm Alberto.  We were fortunate that we didn't incur any damage other than some large tree limbs, but our daughter's college (Judson College) sustained lots of damage due to torrential rains to the equestrian center, and several buildings had basement flooding, including the one that houses the college's servers.  Shelley is taking two distance learning courses this summer (so she wasn't on campus), but with the servers down she can't access her lectures.  Plus, the internet in our neighborhood has been unreliable for the past month.  Lots of frustrated folks around here, and yers they're all first world problems! 

Thankfully no one was hurt, and most of the horses are spending their summer off campus, and all are fine.

Since I've been homebound, I thought I''d share a few photos from our garden here at home, and the lovely landscapes around our marina at the lake.

At home:

At Lake Martin:

This morning we're headed to the lake cabin.  In the wee morning hours, our lake cabin security system notified us that there was someone inside.  Mr. Sketchy Reader said he thought it was a passing car, but when he saw the video this morning, a squirrel was smiling at the camera.  Then it took a long leap to the sofa.

I'm so sketched out I'm not going to lie.

It's probably sitting on top of the fridge binge-eating the chips we left when we were last there a couple of weeks ago...

...and these two won't be happy at all about the squirrel.  Mustang Sally in the background has her champion points as a barn dog.  

Yep.  This is going to be a fun weekend....

But all is not lost on this post.  I do have friends with much more exciting lives than mine.

Honestly, I think I live the most boring life in America.

Take a look:

During the rainy days I've been organizing; this is my table linen armoire.

So boring.

Thanks for your time and attention.  I promise next time I'll have something more interesting to share!


Until next time...

Ricki Jill

But you can check out these ladies' posts.  They'll be fun plus one of them is hosting a giveaway, so hop on over and see what dynamic women who have fun are up to!

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 
Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
 Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron
Katie with Miss Daisy @ Preppy Empty Nester
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie and Miss Madi K Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill and Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader
Lea and Miss Scarlett @ Cici's Corner

Isn't this a great prize!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why I'm Off Facebook, and How I Plan to Make My Blog GDPR Compliant

One of my friends gave me this birthday bouquet.  I will be sharing other birthday surprises and niceties at a later date.

GDPR Compliance

Hello, My Lovelies!  

I have been busy with birthday, Mother's Day, and other family activities lately, and now I have to worry about making sure my blogs are GDPR Compliant.

Disclaimer:  I am in NO POSITION to give legal advice.  I'm strictly sharing what I'll be doing to update my blog and sharing a resource or two for your benefit.  I don't know enough about GDPR to give advice, I'm mostly sharing my frustration!

This hasn't made blogging particularly fun for me, and leave it to the Europeans to screw everything up for the rest of the world.  ;P   Although a pain for bloggers, I understand some of the benefits for European consumers, however I don't for the life of me can see how bloggers can be in compliance with this law because it's way too muddy and confusing.

What is GDPR?  It's a new EU law that goes into effect May 25th.  The purpose of the law  is data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.  According to the MOST HELPFUL ARTICLE I've read so far about this topic, the aims of the GDPR are:

1. To reinforce data protection rights of individuals
2. Facilitate the free flow of personal data in the digital market
3. Reduce the administrative burden.  (on the reader, obviously, NOT the blogger....)

You may be asking, how does that affect me?  I'm American.  Well it does, and you need to protect yourself and update your blog. This is even true if you do not make money from your blog.

Jennifer Priest from Smart Creative Social has written a comprehensive post about steps she's taking to make her blog GDPR Compliant.  I highly recommend that you read Jennifer's post.

The first thing you should do is make sure your blog has a security certificate.  Blogger has made it easy for us to get security certificates with literally two clicks, so I suggest you get one ASAP.  The next important thing to do is write a privacy policy for your blog.  I plan on writing one and posting it via a page soon.

The second thing is adding a cookies consent bar if you haven't done so already.  Here is a resource for adding it to the html of your template.  UPDATE: Make sure your cookies bar won't  be outdated on May 25th.

Another important element is to make sure everything has an "opt in" button.  Blogger is supposedly working on one for the comments section of Blogger blogs.  I'm hoping that it will we available by May 25th, if not, I will temporarily disable my comments.

Under GDPR, personal data can mean almost anything, like blog post comments, Google analytics, third person hosted services like Bloglovin', and social media buttons and "likes."  

Do you have a headache yet?

Here is a free tool to help you write your privacy policy.  Also, you'll need to send emails to your email lists to re-request consent, including your RSS feed (honestly, this is what gives me the biggest headache; this alone makes me want to make my blog private).  You'll also need to confirm privacy policies about all third party services you use and disclose in your privacy policy.  I've read that email services will have a function for this, but I have not tried this yet for my Tiny Letter newsletter.  If you have not subscribed to my newsletter and you want to keep up with me, I highly suggest you subscribe because I will be sending out updates via my newsletter.  The form is at the top of my sidebar.

I'm seriously thinking about making my blogs private (if I can't figure this out by May 25th), or making one private (this one) and keeping my art journaling blog public, and here's why:

I own the domain for this blog.  If I have a private blog, then when folks read my blog they are consenting to read it because they will have to enter their email every single time they read my blog.  I can write in my privacy policy that they are knowingly using their email as the password to read my blog, and explain that I will not share this information to a third party entity.  Also, I'm hoping this will help with comments as well because so many fewer people will read my blog if I take it private.  But I'm still planning on using Blogger's opt-in box on comments once it becomes available.  Also, the RSS feed issue I mentioned, above, is another reason I want to switch to private.  I'm planning on contacting Google about my idea and see if going private will help with this issue.

If you want to read my blog, I will need your email so I can add you to my blog reading list once I take it private.  I can also add you to my Tiny Letter list if you want, but you MUST give your consent to both when you email me.  

My email is rickijill@gmail(dot)com

My art journaling blog is not owned by me, it's owned by Blogger.  I'm confident that Blogger will provide us with tools to become GDPR compliant, so as of the writing of this post, I'll probably keep it a public blog.

Another tip if you're blog is on the Blogger platform:  Read some of the posts on the help forum.  I found them very interesting.


I was reading about GDPR Compliance on the Google Help Forum, and this is the biggest problem, and I do not have the skills to address it.  This is a direct quote from the forum posted by "Gracey":

It isn't really a matter of updating the cooking notice with an opt-out option. 

The requirement is that they must actually opt-in before any cookies are loaded. 

And in order to opt-in to all the different things on a site that requires the user is aware of ALL the cookies that will be encountered when they visit your site, and must be given the choice to opt in to individual services ... like analytics, and ad cookies, and anything else that uses cookies, like email subscriptions or follow options.

That means all of the cookie choices should be listed so they can opt in individually to each service, or opt out of each service.

Honestly, I can't imagine that most bloggers will do this.  So I'm wondering if this is intended to be more of a revenue stream for the EU rather than simply "caring about the consumer."  You must ask yourself, "What is the EU's agenda?" because if it were about protecting the consumer, the law wouldn't be so muddy, and it would be simple and easy for bloggers to comply.  THIS POST explains a lot about GDPR, and how expensive it is for UK bloggers to register with the Information Commissioners Office.  Also, I can't imagine readers willing to "click all the boxes" required to "opt-in" to all the individual services.  What a fun suck! 

However, I do care about privacy.  I care about my own private as well as the privacy of my readers.  Please read my updated privacy policy posted on the legal page.  Click on the link on the tool bar at the top of the blog.  I've worked very hard on this policy, and I hope at least it's a good start.

Why I'm Off Facebook

I'm now off Facebook, although for the moment it's only a suspension of my account.  However, once May 25th rolls around, it will be much easier to delete my account which I plan on doing then.

I never was a fan of FB, and I only opened an account for a book club I belonged to which is now disbanded.

The things I don't like about FB are numerous, but the one thing I don't like is it's a time suck for me.  Since FB quit using a chronological feed, my feed has been problematic.  Lately, I have the same three people's posts, followed by TONS of ads, only to then repeat older post by the same three people before I could scroll down, WAY DOWN, to new posts.  For the most part, if I wanted to catch-up with a friend, I'd have to search for them and then click to reach their wall.  This is a lot of time-consuming work, and yes, I know about the "three dots" but it did not work in my case.

According to AdSense, FB does NOT have an accurate assessment of me.  I am NOT alt-right, and I can't help but wonder if FB doesn't like me for this reason.  After all, they deemed Diamond and Silk as a "threat to the community," and I wouldn't characterize either of them as "alt-right."  Now I know I'm not a household name like these ladies, but keep in mind that FB conducts social experimentation on users without their knowledge not to mention the selling of friends' information of millions of users to third party entities.

I'm also NOT A FAN of the FB privacy policy.  I don't like that FB followed me on the web when I left the platform, and that's not the only policy I don't like.

Another reason is this is one less third party entity I'll have to worry about on my blog.

However, I do like Instagram, and honestly the fact that FB owns IG might be the one thing that saves the company from ruin.  I will continue enjoying IG until I don't like their policies; I do love how much more POSITIVE IG seems over FB.

So far, I have not missed FB at all.  It has given me more free time to pursue more interesting things, like figuring out the GDPR.

I guess that's all for now.  I'll be working on my Privacy Policy most of the weekend.  This is not how I'd like to spend my time, but I want to make sure my blog is compliant only because I've meet so many sweet friends via blogging.  I hope you will take the extra step to enter your email in order to read my blog.  I know it's a pain, but for the moment it's the best plan for me until I'm certain my blog is GDPR Compliant.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Two Steps Forward

About Two Steps Forward

• Paperback: 384 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow (May 1, 2018)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Project comes a story of taking chances and learning to love again as two people, one mourning her husband and the other recovering from divorce, cross paths on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain.

“The Chemin will change you. It changes everyone…”

The Chemin, also known as the Camino de Santiago, is a centuries-old pilgrim route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Every year, thousands of walkers—some devout, many not—follow the route that wends through quaint small villages and along busy highways alike, a journey unlike any other. Zoe, an artist from California who’s still reeling from her husband’s sudden death, has impulsively decided to walk the Camino, hoping to find solace and direction.

Martin, an engineer from England, is road-testing a cart of his own design…and recovering from a messy divorce. They begin in the same French town, each uncertain of what the future holds. Zoe has anticipated the physical difficulties of her trek, but she is less prepared for other challenges, as strangers and circumstances force her to confront not just recent loss, but long-held beliefs. For Martin, the pilgrimage is a test of his skills and endurance but also, as he and Zoe grow closer, of his willingness to trust others—and himself—again.

Smart and funny, insightful and romantic, Two Steps Forward reveals that the most important journeys we make aren’t measured in miles, but in the strength, wisdom, and love found along the way. Fans of The Rosie Project will recognize Graeme Simsion’s uniquely quirky and charming writing style.

My Review:

As mentioned in the book blurb, Martin (an atheist) is using the Camino as a reason to promote the design of a cart he's marketing to the British military and other interested entities. He's also blogging about his progress and the durability of his cart's designs and was able to get a link to his blog included on one of the more popular Camino websites. As his blog gains followers, it's clear that his readers are much more interested in him and his progress rather than the cart's durability.  Zoe has been harboring disdain for the church for years.  Her reasons for walking are: to escape facing her college friend Camille she's supposed to be visiting in France; and grief over her husband's recent death.  This is my one disappointment in the story: there are very few pilgrims walking for spiritual reasons.

This is a mature love story for the most part, although Martin and Zoe are at constant cross-purposes with each other throughout the entire narrative.  They meet interesting characters along the way, and one of my favorites was actually based on a young man that Graham Simsion and his wife Anne Buist met while walking the Camino.  He actually suggested they write this book, and they did!  I appreciate the details in the book about the landscapes and the villages Martin and Zoe stop in along the way.  But the mention of bedbugs, unwashed bodies, blisters, and injuries made me squeamish, not to mention the living conditions in a few of the hostels.  This long trek is not for sissies!  It's obvious that Graham and Anne paid close attention and took notes for this book.  There's a map that shows the various routes for the Camino in the front of the book that is very helpful because not only could I keep-up with Zoe's progress, but also Martin's progress and a few of the minor characters as they take different paths and then meet-up later along the way.

I enjoyed the story, and I recommend it for that, but don't expect anything remotely Christian in it other than a few encounters with nuns, monks, churches, and Christian art.  Simsion is a fantastic writer, and The Rosie Project is a favorite book.  Also, I'm currently reading The Rosie Effect, and I was happy to read in this ARC that Simsion is currently working on the third and last Rosie novel.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Rebecca Rocks

About Graeme Simsion

GRAEME SIMSION is the author of the #1 bestseller The Rosie Project, which has been optioned for film by Sony Pictures, was a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year and won the Australian Book Industry Association Book of the Year. The Rosie Effectwas also a #1 Globe and Mail bestseller, an instant New York Times bestseller and a People magazine Pick of the Week. Simsion’s most recent novel, The Best of Adam Sharp, has also been optioned for film. This is his first novel co-written with his wife, Anne Buist. Follow him on Twitter @GraemeSimsion.

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

Below is an affiliate link from IndieBound for purchasing the book.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill