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The Tales of the Traveling Totes September 1, 2018 Edition

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hello, My Lovelies!  I has been a long time since my last post.  It's been a most interesting summer to say the least.  Shelley was home all summer taking distance learning courses from her college, and she monopolized my desktop watching lectures and writing papers.  Not that I minded, really, because she earned twelve more hours towards her degree.  Also, I worked on projects (things that aren't Pin-worthy), my health, and I also had a couple of family obligations that were unexpected.

Both of our daughters are back at school with classes underway.  I am so excited to see both of them this weekend; we're spending Labor Day at Lake Martin, one of our favorite places on Earth.  Life is good!

Unfortunately, The Countess de Monet and I have not traveled this summer; we've been home and at Lake Martin.  Instead, I've been an "armchair" traveler, so I'm sharing my six favorite summer reads in this post.

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Setting:  Medieval England, France, and Spain

I saw this book listed on the Top 100 List for PBS's The Great American Read, and I decided to read it.  Several blog friends had already read it, and all of them highly recommended it.
I was not disappointed.

The Pillars of the Earth is one of the best books I've ever read.  I was surprised because I know that Follett is known for his suspense thrillers, yet this is one of the very best historical fiction novels I've read to date.  It's the first book in the Kingsbridge Trilogy, and I would like to read the other two within the next year.

The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known.  Philip's character is one of my favorites in all of literature.  He's truly devout and tries very hard to please God, yet like all of us he is flawed (but only slightly).   Tom, the mason who becomes his architect, is a natural-born leader.  His enthusiasm for architecture is catching, and he's an encourager to the men and women who work with him.  The book also features one of the most insidious villains *ever*, and a plot that will keep you engaged for all 1,024 pages.

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Setting:  Contemporary Yorkshire, London, Paris, India

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a fantastic book similar to A Man Called OveMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand, and even The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.  However, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is my favorite of all of them.  

Arthur is mourning his wife Miriam's death.  On the first anniversary of her death while clearing out her things, he finds a mysterious charm bracelet hidden in the toe of a pair of boots.  He's never seen it before, and when he finds a telephone number on one of the charms, he dials the number hoping for answers.  This call sets off a series of events that takes Arthur on an adventure of a lifetime; plus, he learns that his quiet wife led an exciting life before marriage.  This is a sweet story, and I highly recommend it.

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Setting: Contemporary quaint English village

Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone is also written by Phaedra Patrick.  Benedict Stone's life is becoming unraveled.  His wife has left him, his jewelry store isn't profitable, and a niece he didn't know existed arrives on his doorstep.  If you like a quirky, character-drive novel, then you will love this book.  

Benedict is trying his best to win back his wife, and with his niece Gemma on his side, he will succeed.  I love how each chapter is named for a gem, and how the book educates the reader on the purposes of gemstones and crystals.  I'm not new age at all, and this book doesn't read that way, either, but it adds to the story.  Benedict's "awakening" and metamorphosis is heartwarming, and I found myself cheering out loud for him.  I might like this book slightly better than The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  Phaedra Patrick can write, y'all!

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Setting:  Paris, Past and Present

I admit I bought The Balcony by Jane Delury for the cover.  My least favorite of the six books I'm sharing from my summer reads, it still made my top six, so it isn't terrible.

The book is about the families who've lived in a grand estate home and the gardener's cottage over the course of a hundred years or so.  Each chapter is an individual story about one of these families, but it is not told in chronological order.  Plus, there are some eerie connections between some of the families that you can miss if you aren't paying close attention.  These connections between the characters make the book interesting, but I'm also certain that I probably missed a few because I didn't read it carefully enough (after all it is baseball season and the Cubbies are an ever-present distraction from mid-February through September).  I think this is probably a book that will improve on a second reading, and I think when I reread it I'll probably catch even more connections and coincidences in the plot.

If you like French culture and family dramas, you'll probably enjoy The Balcony.

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Setting:  Contemporary Rural England, Inverness, Scotland, and Silkeborg, Denmark

Meet Me at the Museum is about two lonely people who find each other by accident.  Farmer's wife Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she accepted long ago, and marks her time with the changing seasons.  In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, a scientist, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future.  Tina writes to the author of a book about the Tollund man only to discover that he has passed away because Anders answers her initial letter.

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man (yes this bit is a little morbid), subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to one another. They form a friendship because they have common interests, and their values are very similar.  They are both surprised how compatible they are in spite of their vastly different backgrounds. I'm not usually a fan of epistolary novels, but Anne Youngson does an amazing job with this format.  Although I would've preferred more closure at the end, their friendship changes each other...both are more confident and optimistic about their futures.

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Setting: Philadelphia and Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles

Have you noticed the plethora of books about bookshops lately?  I admit I'm a sucker for must be the nostalgia for the loss of Indie bookstores and of booksellers who know you by name and put aside books they know you'll love based on your past preferences.  The title alone made me pick-up and purchase The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.

Miranda Brooks inherits her Uncle Billy's bookstore, Prospero Books.  She grew-up in the stacks of the store and enjoyed the challenging scavenger hunts he created just for her until Billy and her mother have a falling out when she is around twelve years old.  Sadly, she never hears from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy, and one final scavenger hunt.  This hunt leads her on a journey of discovery about her past and family history.  She connects with people close to her uncle and learns about his tragic past and its connection to her immediate family.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a lyrical story of family, love and the healing power of community.  I enjoyed the many literary references via the scavenger hunt, and my favorite references honor Shakespeare's The Tempest.  If you enjoy books about family drama and secrets, quirky, interesting characters, and close-knit communities, you will love this novel.

Which book would you choose to read?  Let me know your answer in the comments section below!

Sweet Linda the Blog Fairy is hosting the Traveling Totes Giveaway for September.  Aren't the Halloween MacKenzie-Childs guest towels fabulous? Please leave a comment on her post. 

Be sure to visit the other Tales of the Traveling Totes posts!

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

I hope y'all have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!  The next Tales of the Traveling Totes will be live on December 1, 2018!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Thanks for the book recs, Ricki Jill! I downloaded a couple of them. I hope that you have a fabulous weekend.

  2. Well, Miss Armchair and your Countess, you are in good company with staying put! I hope your summer finds you handling all those things and more like a pro! Any time spent on the water has to be a good time. Have a wonderful weekend with your girls.

  3. Hi RJ, I know you may not have traveled this summer but you certainly were busy with your daughters and spending time at the Lake. The books all sound interesting and I think my choice would be Rise and Shine. A quaint English village and life surprises got my attention. I enjoyed lunching with you and Jenna this summer. Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I hope our team wins and you'll get plenty of exercise running up and down the stairs checking on scores. Roll Tide!!!

  4. I would love to read The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. I was on goodreads today looking at your book list. I'm checking books out of the library today (digital). Thanks for the fun! Hugs!

  5. Always so many fun things to read here! I am sure the Countess loved staying home - sometimes I need to stay home more! The Lake sounds wonderful and I hope you have a great weekend there! The Balcony sounds fun and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. My oldest daughter and her family are all Cubbies fans too! I loved reading that. The little six year old said, "Grandma, don't you just love the Cubbies?!!" Well that took me by surprise and now I would answer, "YES, of course!!!" Enjoy your time this weekend at the lake.

  6. Hi RJ -- Welcome back. I wasn't at my computer the other day when you came into my mind and I thought I must write you (which I didn't because I wasn't at the computer!) -- just to see if you were all right. I'm glad you've been able to get some good time at the lake, enjoy books and your girls.

    I am the outlier on Pillars. I got through about the first 500 pages and thought "Life is too short." I found it upsetting. Like I said, the outlier!

    I must read Arthur Pepper. This sounds very much like me!

    Please take care and hope to see you back here soon!

  7. Hi, I missed you!
    I just finished reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

    The Cubs are playing well. :-)
    We have some fun games ahead.
    Love, Carla

  8. What better armchair traveler than the Countess! Enjoy your weekend with the girls.

  9. My summer has been the opposite of yours...we spent so much time traveling (which is odd for this devoted homebody) that I had no time to read. Thanks for the book recommendations. I'm looking forward to some cozy reading time this fall.

  10. What a delightful post RJ, aren't you smart to travel the world from home by reading! You always have such interesting books to share. I have read Pillars of the Earth, and Follet is an excellent author. The Curious Charms of Arthur Popper caught my attention, so I think I will start with that!

  11. I only had time to read a few books this summer...your selection looks great!! You "traveled" to many places while reading, I am sure!! An idea would have been to put all your books into your tote for a photo op!!

  12. I love your pumpkin spice everything mug! I hope you're having a wonderful Labor Day Weekend, and I know that Life is Good at the Lake Martin! Thanks for the book recommendations. I have a few books that I am taking to Italy next week.

  13. Your photo with the Countess and the pumpkin spice is so pretty. Love the idea of piling your books in your tote. I would love to see photos of Lake Martin, I am not familiar with it. I could envision you and the Countess De Monet all around you your town. Sometimes we don’t all travel, so sharing our hometown can be very special with our totes of happy reading. I have been too busy to read anything.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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