Friday, March 30, 2018

Literary Friday: 1001 Ways to Be Creative

Happy Literary Friday and Good Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you an interactive book that's fun and helpful, especially if you're looking for ways to enrich your life and spark your creativity. I know that this isn't the type of book I normally post for Literary Friday, but 1,001 Ways to Be Creative by Barbara Ann Kipfer is so unique I think most of my readers would enjoy its inspiring content.

About 1,001 Ways to Be Creative

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 27, 2018)

Best-selling author Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is back with a new, beautifully illustrated book that will help you break free from to-do lists and find time to think and live more creatively. The third entry in Kipfer's successful 1,001 Ways series, this interactive list book will inspire anyone looking to unleash their creative genius. In today's overscheduled world, there is often little room for creativity in our daily lives. 1,001 Ways to Be Creative shows you how to set your brain free, and will help you find the time and energy to play, dream, imagine, breathe, and explore. This inspirational book of lists offers a treasure trove of ways to bring a little creativity into your life, including ideas for innovative things to do, practical tips, and thought-provoking quotes. Interactive prompts inspire art projects, storytelling, innovative thinking, seeing like an artist, and more. With this energizing book by your side, your next Big Idea could be just around the corner!


Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon

About Barbara Ann Kipfer

Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is the author of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About and the Page-a-Day calendars based on it. She has written more than 60 books, including 1,001 Ways to Live Wild, The Order of Things, Self-Meditation, Instant Karma, 8,789 Words of Wisdom, The Wish List, and 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone,and she edited Roget’s International Thesaurus. She holds PhDs in linguistics, archaeology, and Buddhist studies. Dr. Kipfer is the Chief Lexicographer of Temnos and has worked for such companies as, Ask Jeeves, and

My review:

The first thing I noticed about this book is that it's thick yet tiny!  It's only about 6" square.  I looked though the book the first day I received it, and I liked the suggestions.  But where to start?  The suggestions seem random and not in chronological order. Some call for action, and some reflection only.   As an example, here are a few of the entries:

#67: Write a sonnet.
#523: The first step to controlling your destiny is to imagine it.
#859: Open this book to a random page and perform one of the entries.

Okay!  So I think I'll take #859's suggestion and do just that...although maybe it would be better to go to a number generator app and select three numbers randomly.

Here are the numbers and the tasks:

#510:  Be constantly and quietly aware.

#886:  Write your life story in 250 words or less.

     I was born on Decoration Day (Sunday, May 2), and my family always teases me about it, saying things like, “You were born at the decoration.”  If you’re Southern you know what this means.  I became a Christian at a young age only by God’s grace, and I can see his hand guiding me my entire life. When I was a little girl, I loved books, coloring and drawing, and bikes.  Not much has changed! I was a bit of a tomboy, and my best friend in elementary school was Ken.  I loved high school, but hated college because I didn’t love what I was studying (but luckily that changed in graduate school). However, I did love my sorority sisters and other things about the University of Alabama, and I met my husband Trip at a fraternity party.  A friend from mine from high school named Ken (a different Ken) introduced me to him. I married Trip young and started graduate school at Tulane and finished my courses at Belmont because we moved.  We moved again to Scottsdale, Arizona where Shanley Belle was born, and then to Alabama where Shelley was born.  I’ve been an English teacher.  I became a stay at home mom and loved it.  I’m well traveled, and I enjoy learning new things.  Now I’m an empty nester and Westie mom to Finlay and Mustang Sally with way too many hobbies.  I’m prayerfully considering dropping most of them and going back to school for another degree (MFA).

(By the way....the word count is 250 exactly!)

#701:  Go on a drawing retreat.

I'll definitely try #510, and I'd love to do #701, but that will take a bit of planning!

There are also inspirational and fun quotes in the book.  This is one of my favorites:

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to live a more creative life.  Some of the suggestions are humorous, some are funny, and some are good for pondering.

Disclosure:  I received a hardcover copy of 1,001 Ways to Be Creative from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair an honest review.

Below is an affiliate link for IndieBound if you'd like to purchase this book:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading AND creating!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Decor in the Breakfast Room

Literally I think this is the only ray of sunshine that broke through the clouds this morning. 
I wish I'd gotten a shot of the full table, but I didn't work quickly enough!

Happy Maundy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I wanted to show you a little of our Easter decor, but unfortunately it's very overcast today, and the only room with halfway decent light is our breakfast room.  I did get the rest of our home decorated by the skin of my teeth!  ;P

Nothing new on the table this year other than this little bunny planter from MacKenzie-Childs, one of the candlesticks, and the plate on the bottom left side.

This bunny planter is one of my anniversary gifts.  I'll post about our anniversary at a later date.

I love the pattern of my new plate.  It's called Hitchcock Field.

This is the new candlestick in the Cabbage Rose pattern.
I like how the bobeche looks with this pattern.

I don't know why that every single time I want to take blog photos of our home it's overcast.  I guess it's a Murphy's Law thing!  

I'm hurrying to finish my chores because today's Opening Day for Major League Baseball.  The Cubbies are in Miami to play the Marlins, and the first pitch is at 11:40 AM, I think.  

How would you like a nice freebie download for your Easter table?  Daphne's Diary Magazine is offering a very cute free bunny cutlery holder for Easter.  Click on THIS LINK for the PDF file.  I'll be downloading and printing this pretties later today.

By the way, if you haven't signed-up for my newsletter, please do so! I'm tickled that I've gotten lots of positive feedback about it, and I share exclusive content in my newsletter not on the blog.  There's a newsletter sign-up widget at the top of my sidebar.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Excerpt from We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reading We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt, and I have a special surprise for you.  Below is an excerpt from the book for you to read!  Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me in this Book Excerpt Tour.  

According to Goodreads:

“We looked down at the cliff jutting into the sea, a rubber boat full of kids going under the arch, and then you started running and jumping through the grass, dodging the rabbit holes, shouting at the top of your voice, so I started chasing you, trying to catch you, and we were laughing so hard as we ran and ran, kicking up rainbow showers in the leaves.” 

Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness. 

We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.

Book Excerpt:

     That evening at Anna’s parents’, I huddled under a blanket in my room reading an old
James Herriot novel. Even though we were now married—an impromptu wedding on a beach in
Bali—we were still given separate bedrooms. The room was sparse: a bed, a bedside table and a Bible. There was no Wi-Fi or phone signal, just a single shelf full of old, beige hardbacks, their titles worn away. Our sleeping arrangement was punishment, Anna thought, for our unplanned and unannounced wedding, a union that hadn’t been blessed by the church. That was the difference between them. My father couldn’t have been happier, thrilled by the surprise, telling us it was our wedding, we could do whatever we liked. Anna’s parents just smoldered.  I heard a soft knock at the door, and Anna came into the room, wearing her coat. “I can’t take this anymore,” she said. “We need to find a pub.”

     We said we were just going for a quick evening stroll, but instead marched the two miles into the nearest town. The breeze on our faces had never felt so sweet. So intent on finding signs of life, we barely spoke as we speed-walked along the dark country road.

     The little seaside town of Southwold was dead. Only the lighthouse seemed alive, incongruous and towering over the town, its beam of light dueling with the moon. All we could hear were our footsteps and the soft sound of the sea.

     “Everything’s going to be closed, isn’t it?” I said.
     “We’ve got to keep looking, we must,” Anna said, as we turned into yet another dark,
cobbled street.

     Just as we were thinking about giving up, or trying to get a taxi to the next town, we
turned the corner and light spilled out onto the street. A hotel that doubled as a pub. As we opened the door, it was like easing ourselves into a steaming hot bath. We stood in the doorway and took it all in: the warm glow and chatter of the bar, the flicker and ping of the slot machines. In the corner, there was a loud group of locals wearing Christmas sweaters and Santa hats.

     “What do you want?” I asked Anna at the bar, having to shout above the noise.
     “A pint of something, and I think I’ll have a double of something.”
     “A what?”
     “A double. I’d like a double. A double measure of spirits.”

     I started laughing. Anna didn’t drink a huge amount, and I had never seen her drink

     “Er, okay. I’m just having a beer.”
     “Very well,” Anna said, sounding a little like her father. She was looking at the optics
above the bar.
     “Gin. I think I’ll have a gin.”
     “Okay,” I said, trying to catch the bartender’s attention. “A beer and a gin.”
She nudged me.
     “But Rob, it has to be a double. Two of them in one glass.”
     “Yep, I got it, sweetheart,” I said, smiling.

     We sat at the bar, on two stools facing each other. Anna drank her gin down in one and
winced a little, her cheeks flushing red. She let out a sigh of relief.

     “I’m sorry,” she said, chasing the gin with her beer. “About them I mean. I realize it’s not
     “It’s fine,” I said.  Anna shook her head.
     “It’s not fine actually. They’re so strange, the older they get. And the thing is, this is actually them being nice.”
     “Really?” I said, nearly spitting out my lager.
     “Really,” she said. “They just don’t like it here. In England, I mean. They’re unhappy and it shows.” She took a long sip of her drink. “I much prefer it with your dad. It’s a horrible thing
to say, but I wish we could go there every year.”

     I knew now why Anna was so keen to spend Christmas in Romford, at our little row house, which Dad decorated with reindeer lights and a giant blow-up Santa in the front yard.  I had been nervous the first time I had taken Anna back home for Christmas. Since Mom died, Dad didn’t really want to celebrate. One year we ordered Chinese; another we ate our Christmas lunch in the pub.

     But with Anna coming, Dad said he would do the full works, just how Mom used to do it. He got Little Steve’s wife to show him how to do the turkey and roast potatoes. He got the artificial tree down from the attic and bought some crackers from Tesco. And for the first time in his life, he bought a brown sliced loaf of bread instead of his usual white.

     From the first moment he met her, Dad said Anna was family. I always thought he might joke—got yourself a high-class lady, son—but he never did. That first Christmas, they spent most of their time chatting in the living room. He loved hearing about Anna’s time in Africa and her stories from boarding school. And she loved his tales of the taxi stand and watching football at West Ham.

     When the drinks were flowing later in the afternoon, Dad got out the photo albums and
we all scrunched up on the saggy, worn-out couch.

     “And that’s your mom, Rob?” Anna said, pointing to a photo of her in a sun hat on
Brighton beach.
     “Yep. When was that, Dad?” I said.
     “Oh, I don’t know, son. That’s when you were about seven or eight I reckon…” Dad said,
his voice cracking a little.
     “She’s beautiful,” Anna said suddenly, and we all stared at the photo of her again.
     “Yeah, she is…” Dad’s choice of tense was deliberate because he had never accepted that
she was gone. “Look,” he said, turning the pages. “There’s a nice one here. That’s us at
Christmas. Your mom just had her hair done.”
     “She looks absolutely lovely,” Anna said. “Goodness and look at you,” she said, pointing
to awkward pubescent me. “You’re so skinny.”
     “He always was. Don’t know where he gets it from. Certainly not from me,” Dad said,
laughing loudly.

Intrigued?  Save it on Goodreads...

Or, you can purchase it via the IndieBound affiliate link below:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

NOTE:  My excerpt is the thirteenth one.  You can click on the links below and search for the other excerpts and read even more!

Excerpt tour for WE OWN THE SKY:

Monday, March 12th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, March 13th: What is That Book About
Wednesday, March 14th: The Romance Dish
Thursday, March 15th: Create Explore Read
Friday, March 16th: Mama Reads Blog
Tuesday, March 20th: Books & Spoons
Wednesday, March 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, March 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Friday, March 23rd: Just One More Chapter
Monday, March 26th: Books a la Mode
Tuesday, March 27th: Novel Mom
Wednesday, March 28th: The Sketchy Reader
Thursday, March 29thA Holland Reads
Friday, March 30thBook Reviews and More by Kathy

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Surrender My Heart

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing with you a unique romance entitled Surrender My Heart by LG O'Connor.

Do you remember your first love in high school?  What if you never stopped?

According to Goodreads:

For decades, Katherine "Kitty" McNally has secretly loved John Henshaw, the man lying shot and unconscious in the hospital bed next to her. Then again, maybe not so secretly. Those closest to her, including her soon-to-be ex-husband, have suspected it for years. Their story ended with a gunshot wound the last time, too. Life seems to have taken her full circle, but only the dead know the secrets she still keeps.

Detective John Henshaw fell in love with his "Kat" the moment she became his geometry tutor in high school. When they graduated, he thought their future was sealed. Wrong. Enter life's nonstop curveballs. The worst two moments of his life were the two times he lost Kat. After thirty-five years and one failed marriage trying to forget her, he can't escape the fact that he's never stopped loving her. Maybe it's just his ego, but he could swear he sees a spark of love in her eyes every time she looks at him. That's what keeps him in the New Jersey town that holds his most painful memories. That's why he accepted his place decades ago as a family friend to the McNally sisters.

As John recovers from his hospital stay in Kitty's care, they slowly rediscover each other. This is Kitty's last chance to confront her past and rekindle their love--if John can forgive her once he learns the truth.

My Review:

This is a sweet romance for women of all ages especially for those who had a first love in high school.  O'Connor does a great job keeping the mood less sentimental and more wistful.  I kept asking myself if people truly ever get over their first loves, especially if they're a part of the same community and run into them from time to time, or if they see them again at reunions.  How easy is it for old flames to reignite?  John and Kat both move on after high school, and both have failed or failing marriages mostly because neither moved on emotionally.

Kat breaks John's heart when they're teenagers because she thinks she's doing the best thing for him.  He doesn't read her actions appropriately, and he becomes bitter towards her.  Later in the narrative, she breaks his heart a second time.  (The plot shifts back and forth from the present to the past).  I like that the story is told from both points of view because that's the only way the reader can understand what each thought of the other's actions.  Toward the end of the book, things get very emotional for John, and I literally cried during the pivotal scene of the book.

Kat's family is an interesting one: there are skeletons in the closet and they're dancing!  I enjoy books with lots of family drama, and to me the most poignant plot point involved Kat's family and had nothing to do with John.  Kat's Aunt Vera is a treasure: Every woman should have an Aunt Vera in her life.  So if you like romances with family drama, two main characters you'll adore and root for throughout, a fantastic playlist of 70s, 80s, and 90s music (there's a handy-dandy playlist in the front of the book), and second chances, then you'll love this book.  Also, the ending is from John's point of view, and it is perfect!

NOTE:  This is book #3 in a series, but Surrender My Heart reads as a stand alone.  However, I do want to read the previous books.  The series is called Caught Up In Love, and it's about three McNally sisters: Jillian, Jenny, and Kitty (Kat).

LG O'Connor

You can sign-up for the Caught Up In Love Newsletter HERE.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Surrender My Heart from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, March 26, 2018

The House on Harbor Hill by Shelly Stratton

Happy Monday!  I hope that y'all are having a blessed Holy Week.  Today I want to share with you The House on Harbor Hill by Shelly Stratton.

According to Goodreads:

Set in the past and present, The House on Harbor Hill is a murder mystery that tackles the issues of racial prejudice and spousal abuse in the lives of two very different women...

She's generous, kind, and compassionate--yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she's come or how many she's helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband's mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets--and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.

Tracey won't say where she's from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was--and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah's handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey's worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore--and at last learn how to truly be
free . . .

Resonant, moving, and unforgettable, The House on Harbor Hill paints an unforgettable portrait of two women struggling to forgive themselves, take a chance on change, and challenge each other to finally live.

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised with this book, and part of the reason why is because  I loved Delilah's character so much.  She's smart, kind, giving, and she has excellent taste in literature (of course I must mention that little tidbit).  Delilah's mysterious backstory is told via flashback.  It's the 1960s, and she's working as a maid.  Unfortunately for her, she falls for the wrong man and it has nothing to do with his race.  It's a common trope: smart girl falls in love with dishonest man who wore a mask in the beginning, full of romance and charm, only to turn into his monstrous true-self once he's manipulated her into falling for him.  Delilah's husband Chauncey is so abusive over the slightest things.  His rules are ridiculous, and his wrath is quick: He bruises her because the soup is overly salted, and he punches her in the mouth when she wakes him up late at night when his not-very-delightful sister Mindy calls.  It doesn't take much to set him off.

The rest of the narrative takes place in the present:  Delilah runs a shelter for women and children who need a safe haven.  She can relate to the abused women and minister to them on a level that most can't as she's experienced spousal abuse herself.  Tracey's story mirrors Delilah's although she doesn't divulge much about her history.  However, Delilah's history is fodder for gossip, and Tracey questions whether or not it's a good idea to allow her children to stay with a women who was accused of murder.  Tracey decides to move into Harbor Hill, and she begins to blossom, especially in the eyes of Aidan the caretaker's eyes.  She even feels secure enough to re-enroll in college and finish the last few credits towards her degree.  I love Aidan's character, too.  He has a tragic past and needs healing like many of the women who've stayed at Harbor Hill.

Although I correctly anticipated several plot points, there are unexpected surprises in the narrative that I don't want to spoil for you.  I do highly recommend this book not only because of the wonderful characters, but because I liked the pace; there isn't a single boring scene.  Plus the ending is very satisfying!  This is the first book I've read by Shelly Stratton, and I'll definitely read more of her books.  If you like Menna van Praag (The House at the End of Hope Street),  Elizabeth Berg (Open House) and Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), you'll enjoy The House on Harbor Hill.  Put it on your spring reading list!


I received a copy of The House on Harbor Hill from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Connect with Shelly at her website HERE.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, March 23, 2018

Literary Friday: The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'll be sharing with you a Christian sci-fi/fantasy novel entitle The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart.  

About The Man He Never Was: 

A Modern Reimagining of Jeckyll and Hyde

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (February 20, 2018)

What if You Woke up One Morning and the Darkest Parts of Yourself Were Gone?

Toren Daniels vanished eight months back, and his wife and kids have moved on—with more than a little relief. Toren was a good man but carried a raging temper that often exploded without warning. So when he shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, they’re shocked to see him alive. But more shocked to see he’s changed. Radically.

His anger is gone. He’s oddly patient. Kind. Fun. The man he always wanted to be. Toren has no clue where he’s been but knows he’s been utterly transformed. He focuses on three things: Finding out where he’s been. Finding out how it happened. And winning back his family.

But then shards of his old self start to rise from deep inside—like the man kicked out of the NFL for his fury—and Toren must face the supreme battle of his life.

In this fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us—and one man’s only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul.

“Rubart will leave readers inspired . . .” —Publishers Weekly STARRED review for The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

My Review:

I don't normally read science fiction/fantasy, but I was so intrigued with the premise of this book I wanted to be included in the book tour.  Robert Louis Stephenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is still relevant today because everyone can relate to Dr. Jekyll's struggles with his dark side.  This contemporary retelling of the story within the context of Toren's crisis of faith is so well-written and compelling that I read it in one sitting: Yes, it's that good.

One of the reasons I read it in one sitting is the story arc is unique.  I loved the pace of the plot, and the editing is superb.  Some of the story is told in flashback giving the reader insight into why Toren is so angry.  His anger was so out of control before his disappearance that even the NFL suspended him.  When his outlet for his anger is taken away, he begins to rage at his family.  Upon waking up in a hotel after his disappearance, he's a changed man, yet shocked that he has no recall of the past eight months.  Although his family loves him, they experience peace during his absence, so I don't need to tell you their mixed emotions upon his return.

A large portion of the narrative concerns where Toren was while he was missing.  Not only are his family members and friends curious about his story: The press and community want answers, too.  After his press conference, he begins losing his calm, patience, and temper when he encounters a childhood friend who now stalks him and his family.  Struggling to remain the man he is now, he's determined to find out where he was and how he changed because he knows he's in desperate need for a refresher course; he doesn't want to slip back into his old ways.

Christians will love this book.  The message is not complicated; it's a reminder that before we can forgive others, we must first forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us through Christ's blood.  We must love ourselves before we can love our neighbors as ourselves. Also, the themes of the book: God's gift of grace; our struggles with darkness versus light; how God sees us (i.e. the prodigal son); and the most important thing that remains in the end, which is love, make this an uplifting and empowering read.  I highly recommend it.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Man He Never Was from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Add to Goodreads badge

Purchase Links

Amazon | iBooks | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About James L. Rubart

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer, speaker, and writer. He serves on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and lives with his wife and sons in the Pacific Northwest.

Connect with James

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy Pi Day (3.14) 2018! *plus* a Recipe

Happy Pi Day, My Lovelies!  This is a fun day for nerds everywhere: the day we celebrate pi and PIE!

This week I've been reading Luck, Love & Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert.  I haven't finished yet because it's Shelley's spring break: We've been super busy!  But so far, it's just as fun as The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, and you can find my review HERE.

According to Goodreads:

From the author of the “clever, creative, and sweetly delicious” (Kirkus Reviews) The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and The Simplicity of Cider comes a novel about an exasperated wife and mother who makes a play to reignite her marriage—and risks everything in a gamble she hopes is a sure bet.

When Milwaukee-area wife and mother MJ Boudreaux notices her husband Chris seems more interested in the casino than her, she’s more bothered that she isn’t upset than by her husband’s absence. She picks up poker as a way for them to spend more time together—and reignite their marital flame.

Although the game doesn’t give her the quality time with Chris that she’d hoped, MJ finds she has a knack for it. Increasingly unhappy at home, she turns to the felt top of the poker table for comfort. Intoxicated with newfound freedom, MJ begins spending more time at the gambling tables and less with her family, finally carving out for herself a place outside her role of wife and mother.

After a string of great wins, MJ finds herself in Vegas, attracting the attention of a certain magnetic poker star. But when she’s forced to choose between her family and her new exciting lifestyle, the stakes may be higher than she thought and MJ will have to play her hand carefully…or risk losing it all.

My thoughts so far...

The book begins with MJ on the back terrace at a restaurant, alone, on her wedding anniversary.  Chris was supposed to meet her for a celebratory luncheon, but he's a no show.  In the past, Chris baked an anniversary pie for them, but last year he claimed he didn't have time to bake.  MJ attempts to bake the pie this year, but her unsuccessful result prompts her to ask the chef at the restaurant to bake it for them.  So she eats the entire pie along with three old fashions over an almost two hour time span while she waits for Chris.  From the get-go the reader knows that this marriage is in a wee bit of trouble.

I like MJ's wit and gumption as she becomes better at poker.  Her character is sassy, and I think she believes she's a good mother because she wants to be a good mother.  Their family motto, B-DIO (pronounced bee dee o), "Boudreauxs Do It Ourselves," needs an overhaul, but I can't tell you why because it would be a spoiler.  I think that mothers everywhere can relate to MJ's search for balance in her life.  Her attempts to make time for the important things including herself make her a relatable character.

Chris's Anniversary Pie recipe is in the back of the book, and it's for a basic Lemon Custard Pie, but the genius in it is a lemon sugar syrup that's used to paste the piecrust after baking and used in the whipped cream.  Wow, does it make a difference!

"Dwelling on the what-ifs will blind you to the wonderfulness of what is." -MJ from Luck Love & Lemon Pie

Below is my grandmother's recipe for lemon pie.  I hope you try it and like it!

Lemon Pie

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
7 tablespoons fresh key lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 T key lime zest
1T lemon zest

For the topping:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

One prepared pie crust, either graham cracker or deep dish

Place rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Whisk condensed milk and yolks together in a large bowl. Add key lime and lemon juice and whisk until well-combined (mixture will thicken slightly).  Stir in zest.

Pour filling into crust and bake until center is just set, about 15 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool completely (filling will set as it cools), about 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until cold for two hours at least.

Make the topping:

When ready to serve, whip cream with a whisk or electric mixer to very soft peaks. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whipping until it holds stiff peaks. Dollop cream in center of pie (leaving at least a 1" border of visible pie filling) and serve.

NOTE:  When I'm certain we won't eat the pie in one sitting, I leave the topping off the pie and add the topping to single servings.  Sometimes I cheat and use a store bought whipped topping.

My grandmother sometimes added meringue to this recipe.  Use two egg whites, beat, and add four tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Add to pie and bake until bake until meringue is browned.  

Happy Pi Day, y'all!

If you'd like to order a copy of Luck, Love & Lemon Pie, please click on the IndieBound affiliate link below!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

We have lots of stuff going on the next several days: a big wedding anniversary, my grandmother's 98th birthday, and our daughters' spring breaks.  I'll be taking a break and return on March 23rd.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, March 9, 2018

Literary Friday: I'll Be Your Blue Sky

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos.  She's one of my favorite writers, and The Precious One was my favorite book of 2016.

About I'll Be Your Blue Sky

• Hardcover: 320 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow (March 6, 2018)

The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer. 

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancĂ©.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Tisa Della-Volpe

About Marisa de los Santos

A New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family. Connect with Marisa on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

This book is a gift to Marisa de los Santo's readers because we "visit" beloved characters from Love Walked In and Belong to MeI'll Be Your Blue Sky is the last book in this trilogy, and although it can be read on its own, I highly suggest you read the other two first because I think it's helpful to know the backstories, and the other books are so well-written.

Clare breaks her engagement to Zach on the day of their wedding after having a conversation with an elderly woman she'd just met named Edith.  Clearly Clare and Zach are mismatched, and what I found hard to believe is that Clare's almost mother Cornelia and her mother Viviana doesn't put a stop to the wedding nonsense sooner.  Not only does Edith save Clare from making a huge mistake, she also bequeaths a lovely Delaware beach house called Blue Sky House to Clare.  Obviously there's much  more to the story than meets the eye because the big question is: Why did Edith leave the beach house to Clare?  

Cornelia, Viviana, and Clare's ex-boyfriend and (still) best friend Dev help Clare solve the mystery of Edith using the ledgers found under the sink at Blue Sky House.  As Clare explores the cottage, she learns about her benefactress Edith's love for her husband, Joseph.  What perplexes Clare is the mystery of Edith's abandonment of the cottage in the 1950s.  Clare and Dev interview many people, and eventually a secret is revealed that connects Edith to Clare.  Edith is a courageous and fascinating character, and I found myself thinking about her days after finishing the book.  

I absolutely love Clare and Dev's story, and I was constantly nervous that Zach was going to do something stupid throughout the book.  I failed to see the charm in his character: I thought he was like a cocked gun ready to go off!   De los Santo's strength is crafting compelling characters and then delving into the heart of her characters' relationships.  They are flawed, they make mistakes, life gets messy, and I can so relate to them.  I also love how she depicts family dynamics, and with Clare's loving extended family, there's lots of material from which to draw.  De los Santos has written a very satisfying end to this trilogy; I highly recommend all three books.

The books below are affiliate purchase links via IndiBound:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of I'll Be Your Blue Sky from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The DIY Home Planner by KariAnne Wood

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I've been reading The DIY Home Planner by KariAnne Wood.  I'm sure y'all know KariAnne: She blogs @ Thistlewood Farms.

You might remember a few weeks ago when I started playing with this planner.  It's so helpful, and I love how it's organized to help the reader plan a complete room from empty box to fluffing with accessories.

The DIY Home Planner was released yesterday, so you can purchase a copy wherever fine books are sold.  Kirklands is even carrying this handy book!

I've been using the planner to help me redecorate Shanley Belle's bedroom.  As y'all know she's in Baton Rouge at LSU working on her doctorate, and her room is rarely used these days.  I want to convert her room to a pseudo-library, yet keep the bedroom option for when we have guests and when Shanley Belle comes home for holidays and visits.  The room needs to do double duty!

Unfortunately it's my least favorite room in the house because it's dark and awkward.  It's a dormer bedroom, and the ceiling is 8' at its highest and slopes downward toward the front wall that has the dormer.  Let's look at the floor plan I constructed in the space planning section of the DIY Planner:

Shanley said she thought it would be fun to have a couple of floor pillows in front of the shelves.  Anthropologie has some pretty ones that would work with either scheme we choose. The bathroom door is on bottom, and the closet door is on top.

You can see the dormer which contains the only window in the room.  To make matters worse, the room is on the north side of the house.

The bed looks like this:

The nightstand beside the bed and the small chest of drawers beside the bathroom door are pine, not too different from the photo.  But we also have some stark white furniture in the attic that will fit, too.

I have two different plans for this room, and I need your feedback to help me make my decision between the two.

Let's call the first design "Millennial Pink."

I would paint the walls Pleasant Pink and the trim including bookshelves Dreamy Cloud.  All paint is Benjamin Moore.  

I would order this pretty quilt from Shabby Chic:

I love this quilt because it's reversible.  
Shanley has a pale pink sheet set and shams to match.

The chair would be recovered in this mauve linen.  Can you believe that mauve is a thing again?
I'd use the same linen for a roman shade window treatment.

I'd purchase this throw pillow for the chair.  Both the mauve linen and this pillow are also from Shabby Chic.

This is the library lamp I'd choose for this scheme.  It's from Houzz.  Mr. Sketchy Reader is building a box on the very top shelf for mounting the lights.

Let's call the second design "Modern Highlighter."

This design is much more minimalistic.  Everything in the room will be white (well almost everything) which I like because did I mention how flippin' DARK this room is?

I'd paint everything Super White.  (Note:  Most of our home is either painted Mayonnaise or Super White.)  Everything, that it, but the bookshelves: they would be painted a highlighter yellow called Bright Yellow.  It would look like someone drew a line or highlighted the books.  The thick shelves would be mounted on brackets that would be painted white like the walls, so literally the shelves would look like lines.

Someone needs to give KariAnne a drink of water because she's in a state of shock over the yellow!

This is the linen bedding I'd order from Shabby Chic:

Prairie stitch linen bedding
We already have white sheet sets and euro shams.
I would cover the chair in white linen, and the roman shade would be made out of the same linen.

Faux fur pillow for chair

Library shelving light, also from Houzz.

There you have it!  Both designs for Shanley's room/library.

Y'all can vote on which design you like best by leaving a comment below!  Vote for either "Millennial Pink" or "Modern Highlighter."

Here's another page from the book with the possible paint selections:

There are fun surprises in the book, even how to make an origami bookmark!  I love the front and back inside covers with the pockets for holding swatches and other papers:

Are you currently planning a DIY project?  If so, KariAnne's planner will help you with each step.

If you'd like to order The DIY Home Planner, below is an IndieBound affiliate link.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill