Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  

In today's post I'll share with y'all my favorite books of 2018.  There are a few books I've read that I haven't had time to review yet; I'll get to them at the beginning of the new year.  Below each book will be a link to my review, so if one catches your eye you can click on the link and read about it.

Best Books of 2018

These books below are also favorites, however they weren't published in 2018:

Overall I did not have tons of luck reading this year, however the above books are all so fantastic!  

I'm already looking forward to The Sketchy Reader Book Club starting in 2019!

We will be reading Little Women in November for Book Club!

Until next time...

Happy reading and Happy New Year!
Ricki Jill

Finlay is annoyed that he's being disturbed while watching Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas.

I could write so many things concerning what I love about Christmas.  I thought that I'd share just a few of them with you today.

1.   I love the anticipation of Christmas.  The whole Season of Advent is such a precious time to focus on the arrival of a tiny baby who would change the world.  

2.   I  love spending time with my family, especially the traditions we enjoy each year.

3.   I love lighting Christmas candles.

4.   I love seeing Christmas lights while driving at night.

5.   I love eating special dishes I only cook during the season.

6.   I love the decorations; LOTS of decorations.

7.   I love shopping for gifts.

8.   I love Advent calendars.

9.   I love reading by a cozy, warm fire.

10. I love sipping hot chocolate and talking to my girls.

11. I love reflecting on the waning year.

12. I love thinking about the possibilities of a new year.

13. I love smelling the greenery at our church on Christmas Eve.

14. I love the children's Christmas pageant at our church.

15. I love the Lessons and Carols service at church, too.

16. I love how excited little children are during Christmas.

17. I love the Twelve Days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany.

18. I love the smell of gingerbread (and the taste of it, too).

19. I love wrapping presents.

20. I love Christmas stockings and filling them with all the fun things for my family.

This year we've had a very laid back Christmas.  We aren't traveling, and we're enjoying spending time resting, baking, eating, and doing fun activities.  We had a simple Christmas lunch this year with ham sliders and other finger foods and desserts.  We didn't even use the dining room this year.

Here are a few photos of our Christmas Day Treats:

Shanley Belle and I baked five different kinds of cookies.  We had so much fun baking them!  Trip and Shelley ate almost all of the World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from Tastee, so we only had four left for Christmas Day!

What do YOU love about Christmas?  Please share in comments below.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Merry Christmas, My Lovelies!

I have an exciting announcement I want to share with you:  I'm starting a book club!

This year has not been the best year for me as far as reading is concerned...There have been many disappointments.  Several over hyped books were boring and disappointing; they in no way lived-up to the "hype."

One of the other disappointments I've had this year in my reading life is the injection of politics in fiction books.  If I want to read bad things about Trump and the "deplorables" who elected him, I'd read a newspaper.  Any newspaper.  

I don't want to read about politics in fiction.  This past year, fiction has been chock-full of anti-Trump sentiment.  I suppose writers had 2017 to express their angst (and in some cases denial) as they wrote their books that were published in 2018.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not in favor of censorship or boycotting, but I choose not to participate.

Also, many of the plans I made for 2018 never happened due to family obligations and my health, so I decided in 2019 to keep things simple.

Each month, we'll read a classic novel based on The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore...

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The book cover (above) is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book.

You do NOT have to read this book in order to participate, but it would probably enhance your reading of each novel.  Every month we'll read a classic with a strong female character who possesses a trait every woman should aspire to have.  And the best thing about my plan is this: I know that I will NOT be disappointed at least once each month because these books are all so well-written.

Below are the titles for The Sketchy Reader Book Club for 2019:

January:  SELF:  Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

February:  FAITH:  Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

March:  HAPPINESS:  Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

April:  DIGNITY:  Celie in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

May:  FAMILY TIES:  Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

June:  INDULGENCE:  Claudine in Claudine at School by Colette

July:  FIGHT:  Katy Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

August:  COMPASSION:  Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

September:  SIMPLICITY:  Laura Ingalls in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

October:  STEADFASTNESS:  Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

November:  AMBITION:  Jo March in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

December:  MAGIC:  Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Obviously many if not all of these titles will be re-reads for you and me, but reading them again will be like visiting old friends, don't you agree?

I'm planning a few activities and surprises each month as we read these classics.  On the last Friday of the month, I'll share a special Book Club Literary Friday post that will include questions and perhaps a giveaway or two.  Readers can check in throughout the day and share their thoughts.  If you don't follow me on Instagram, it might be a good idea to do so because I will also posts fun things on that social media platform.  I am no longer on Facebook.

Please feel free to participate as much or as little as you like.  Everyone is welcome, and this is a free book club.  

If you don't have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, pick one up soon from your favorite bookstore or library because we will have our first book club discussion on Friday, January 25th.

This is the edition I'll be reading.  It hints at some activities I'll be sharing with y'all!

I hope y'all will join me in reading these classics during 2019.  Book Club will be my primary focus on my blog in 2019, along with recipes, decor, crafts, and other activities inspired by the month's book.

Until next time...

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!
Ricki Jill

Above are a few favorite Christmas books I'm reading this season.

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

Are you ready for Christmas?  I'm more ready in spirit than in all the other stuff, like presents and baking, but that's okay...

I wanted to drop in today and share a few books I enjoyed this fall.  NOTE:  This has NOT been a great year for reading for me (overall), but more on that in a later post.

All five of these books received a 5-star rating on Goodreads from me.

Here they are:

I wanted to read Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor because the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries movie entitled Christmas with Holly was based on this book.  The movie was a very good adaptation, by the way.  It's the story of an uncle named Mark whose recently deceased sister bequeathed her six year old daughter Holly to him in her will.  With Holly's selective mutism, a girlfriend living on the mainland, Mark's coffee roaster/coffee shop business, and Mark's growing feelings for the cute toy shop owner, the plot is surprisingly uplifting and sweet in spite of all the conflict.

This is a popular French novel, and it was so much better than what I expected.  I received this book as part of my Capsule Books book subscription, and it is part Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and part Amelie.  It's definitely quirky like many French novels, but this one has a happy ending.  If you love the written word, quests, and unique characters, then you must read this short book.  I literally read it on a flight from Birmingham to Las Vegas, and I'm a slow reader!

Oh, how I love you Jamie Fraser.  Emma Sheridan loves him, too, and after a slight breakdown of sorts, she sells everything she owns in Chicago, escapes to Scotland to find a modern-day version of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, and starts a blog to document her progress.  This is a very cutes story, although I did get annoyed with Emma's character until she has an epiphany and finds herself.  I highly recommend this for all Outlander fans!

The Little Shop of Found Things was not what I was expecting.  Xanthe is a young woman who owns an antique shop with her mother Flora.  Xanthe has a gift: objects sometimes "sing" to her and tell her stories about the people who once possessed them.  Almost all of the stories have been benign and sweet...until she sees a chatelaine at an auction.  The object is the source of a family tragedy, and a maleficent ghost residing in Xanthe and Flora's antique shop is connected to it.  Said ghost is forcing Xanthe to return to the past (1605) and "fix things" or she'll harm Flora.  Very unique ghost and time travel story.

This novel is about two families who've suffered tragedies, yet a young girl brings them together.  The story is tough to read because of the suffering of the main characters, Daniel and Holly.  Daniel's tween daughter Ivy knocks on Holly's door one day before Christmas break, and she is the catalyst that Holly needs to begin living again.  I like it because it is very well-written and sweet.

If you haven't subscribed to my newsletter, now would be a good time to do so because I'll be sharing a few super last minute Christmas gifts in it over the weekend.

But in the meantime if you're looking for a few fun items to purchase for the book lover in your life, I might have a great suggestion:

Literary Book Gifts!  Check out these t-shirts:

If Don Quixote and Edgar Allan Poe aren't your cup of tea, I'm sure you'll find something you like on their site.  They have pretty tote bags, too, for all your bookstore and library needs!

My readers will receive 20% off on all products on the site by using the code: RICKITRELEAVEN20

Stop by and check out their products!  This offer is exclusive to my readers, and it will not expire.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Happy December, My Lovelies! It's time for another Tales of the Traveling Totes post!

We traveled to three of my favorite places in the world this past quarter:  Seaside, Florida, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Sedona, Arizona.  

Our first stop was Seaside during Shanley Belle's Fall Break.  Unfortunately our girls' fall breaks did not coincide, but Shelley was able to drive down for the weekend and meet us.  

La Countess du Monet loves to ride bikes, and so do I!  Seaside is a bike lover's paradise.  It's fun looking at the architecture, shopping, and visiting the Seaside Airstream Trailer Food Trucks!

Mr. Sketchy Reader and I have considered retiring to Seaside, but we've taken it off the list of possibilities because the red tide was in while we were there!  It was my first experience with the airborne menace, and I have asthma.  It was horrible for a couple of days, but we did have a few good days, too!

Shelley is cooling off in one of the fountains at Watercolor.  It was very hot while we were there, and I loved it!  Our girls have very different personalities!

Boathouse at Watercolor

Western Lake

Of course while we were there Shanley Belle and I had to visit one of our favorite Indie bookstores, Sundog Books.

I bought these books, and Shanley Belle and I went to Lisa Patton's book signing for her new book, Rush.  I haven't read it yet (and I'm dying to do so) because I've been either sick, traveling, or reading books I'm obligated to read for publishers.  

I love the architecture at Seaside.  This is Truman's house from the movie The Truman Show.

We attended the Farmers' Market on Saturday.  I loved the selection of heirloom pumpkins!

Next, we visited Scottsdale during Thanksgiving.  We lived in Scottsdale in the early 90s.  Shanley Belle was born there, and I love it.  Although I love Alabama, and I grew-up here, Scottsdale is the home of my heart.  I would move back there so fast it would make your head spin!  I've always wanted to take both girls and show them why I love it so much.  I'm so blessed we were able to go.  However, the red tide situation from Seaside eventually caused me to get bronchitis, and we left for Scottsdale the day after I finished my second round of antibiotics.  I felt a little better after a day or two in Scottsdale, but I did not take as many photos as I wish I had, but the rest of the family took some good pictures.

La Countess du Monet loves Scottsdale, too.  This is our home away from home for the week: the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch.

I love Gainey Ranch for its location.  We almost bought a house in Gainey Ranch when we moved there. It's the first time I've ever stayed there (usually we stay either at the Scottsdale Princess or The Phoenician).

This is Maggie.  She's a rescued Great Horned Owl, the largest owl inhabiting Arizona.  The Hyatt invites these rescue birds of prey to visit during the daytime to keep the birds away from guests (and their food) while dining alfresco.  What a great idea because other hotels and restaurants we visited didn't have the predators keeping the birds at bay!

It was fun having breakfast with Maggie!

We spent a lot of our time in the car showing the girls around.  Some of the places (like the original Chuck Box in Tempe) aren't very photogenic.  We took the girls to see our house, my favorite parks, shops, our former church where Shanley was dedicated, etc...

The two photos above are from the General Store in Pinnacle Peak.  We lived not very far from here, and it was our favorite place to have breakfast while living in Scottsdale.  This is the outside plaza where I like to eat.  Shelley loved it!  It hasn't changed much at all except that they've opened a new coffee shop recently in the store.

We took Shanley to visit ASU which was like a ghost town because the students were out for the Thanksgiving Break.  I wanted to see what she missed by not going to ASU for their doctoral program and choosing LSU instead.  Yes, I admit that I'm that petty!  I sure am!!!  Maybe she can join their neuro-lab once she's finished her post doc!  *tee hee*  She loved the campus, by the way.

We also visited Old Town Scottsdale because we enjoyed going there a lot when we lived there.  Of course we had to go to The Sugar Bowl for ice cream.  

The seasonal flavor is peppermint, and it's my favorite!

On Thanksgiving Day we had dinner at the Arizona Biltmore.  

Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the Holiday Tea at The Phoenician.  It was probably one of the best High Teas I've had anywhere. Ever.  It was the best!

Shelley in the lobby at the Phoenician after we enjoyed our tea.  She said she enjoyed Arizona, but Alabama's home!  She's a funny bird!!!

Next stop:  Sedona!

We wanted the girls to visit the beautiful red rocks of Sedona.  It's such a beautiful part of Arizona, and we had a blast!  Below are a few of the highlights.

The red rock formations truly are spectacular!

Each time I visit Sedona I hike up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It is so beautiful!

We enjoyed the art, food, shopping, and Christmas spirit at Tlaquepaque. 

I love how this fountain is decorated for Christmas!

La Countess du Monet and I are tired!  We need to recover, so we're spending Christmas at home, hopefully outside by the fire watching Hallmark movies!

What are your Christmas plans?

Please visit the other ladies and see where their travels have led them.   Jackie is hosting a lovely giveaway, so make sure to leave a comment at the Purple Chocolat Home for a chance to win a MacKenzie-Childs tote!

The Traveling Tote bloggers would love for you to visit.  

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths
Emily with Miss Courtney Childs @ The French Hutch
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  (enter to win here)
Cherry Kay and Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women (She's new!  Welcome, ladies!)
Jenna with Miss Coquille @ The Painted Apron

Join us for our next adventures March1, 2019!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill