Friday, March 22, 2019

Literary Friday: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you a book I read back in February.  I'm sort of behind on my book reviews, so I might write a post with a few mini reviews in it in a couple of weeks.  But The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller deserves its own post and to be featured on Literary Friday.  I first read about it on Mary's lovely post HERE, and it's taking me way to long to finally read it.  Better late than never!


According to Goodreads:

"Mix in one part Diane Mott -Davidson's delightful culinary adventures with several tablespoons of Jan Karon's country living and quirky characters, bake at 350 degrees for one rich and warm romance." --Library Journal 

A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home--and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn't even know you were looking

When Olivia Rawlings--pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club--sets not just her flambeed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of--the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country's longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn's property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired--to help Margaret reclaim the inn's blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee--or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected--it could be even better.






My Review:

This is one of the best romances I've ever read.  Hallmark need to take notice because it could be adapted into the BEST movie for the channel.   It has all the elements:  small town, fall festival, sleigh rides, cozy inn, quirky, creative characters....you name it, and this book has it in spades!

First of all, I love that in spite of the *perfect* setting, Livvie and Martin have their faults and baggage; however, I still love them both!  Livvie is such an interesting character: She made a few bad decisions in her past before visiting her best friend Hannah in Guthrie.  Yet I forgive her because she has made a life for herself against all odds, and she made a great choice in moving to Guthrie to become the pastry chef at the Sugar Maple Inn.  I love Livvie's passion for baking, her creative spirit, and the fact that she can tear-up a banjo.  The girl has mad skills!  Plus she's a dog lover: Salty's personality is as large as he is.  Martin is the son who escaped to the other side of the country, yet he comes back home to help care for his ailing father.  He is also a very talented musician, and he and Livvie play in the same contra dancing band.  His life is complicated to say the least, and I so badly want him to see how awesome Livvie is because they are the perfect match for each other.  Men can be so dense sometimes in real life as in fiction.

A big part of the plot is Margaret Hurley's determination to regain her status as the best pie baker in Vermont.  Livvie and Margaret spend endless hours perfecting apple pie recipes by changing the type of apples, spices, and pie crust combinations.  The romantic side of me loves that Livvie can create what she loves most (pastries) in an idyllic small town and still earn a living.  If we could all be so lucky!  If Guthrie were real and south of the Mason-Dixon line, I'd beg my family to move there!  Louise Miller is also a pastry chef, and she includes her best apple pie recipe in the back of the book.  I had intended to try the recipe myself and feature it on Pi Day (3.14, not "pie") but life got in the way of fun plans.  I will try it in the near future, and I'll report back on our thoughts about the recipe.

If you enjoy sweet romances about very complicated, well-drawn lovers; cozy hometown settings with a cast of quirky characters; a plot full of family drama and frenemies; and a main character you will truly root for throughout the book, then I highly recommend The City Baker's Guide to Country Living.  I can't wait to read her next one, The Late Bloomers' Club, which is also set in Guthrie.  Expect to read my review for it next month.





Just a reminder:  Our Book Club discussion of Anne of Green Gables will be next Friday, March 29th.  


Below are affiliate links for purchasing Louise Miller's books via IndieBound.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org



"The waltz held the feeling you get when you finish a well-loved book. It left me longing for something I couldn't name." 
— Louise Miller (The City Baker's Guide to Country Living)


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Field Trip to America's Hometown: Laurel, Mississippi


One of two shops owned by Ben and Erin Napier in Laurel, Mississippi


Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  A few weeks ago I went on a field trip to Laurel, Mississippi: America's Hometown.  Laurel is featured in Ben and Erin Napier's HGTV show, Home Town.  On the day I visited, it was overcast, and it eventually stormed before I left.  I'd like to share the highlights of my trip with y'all.

First of all, Laurel is not far from Interstate 59.  Laurel is about 150 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and about 142 miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana.  It's a fun day trip if you live in Alabama or Louisiana, and I plan on returning at some point this year.

My first stop was the Laurel Mercantile.  The shop isn't large, but it is very well curated.  There were several people shopping on the Saturday I visited in spite of the inclement weather.  




I liked the selection of milk glass in the shop as well as the vintage-looking glassware.




The Mercantile sells toweling by the yard (i'd love to think of a creative way to use it) and I also loved the cheerful artwork.




If you need anything for your kitchen, you can find it in the shop.




The Mercantile also has a lovely selection of Farmhouse Pottery.  I have a few pieces of their pottery and love it!  The shop sells pieces from the Laurel collection like the crock, above.




The pillows with the iconic Scotsman truck on them are so cute.  I regret not buying one!




I did purchase Ben and Erin's book.  




The book has a handy map in it showing the area where the homes are located that Ben and Erin have renovated for the show.  


After I left the Laurel Mercantile, I went to lunch at the famous Pearl's Diner.  It was crowded, but I didn't have to wait long for a delicious lunch of fried chicken and vegetables.  Pearl's is famous for fried chicken.  I did not take any photos because there were too many people, and by this time it had started raining.


The next stop:  The Scotsman General Store and Woodshop.







Ben and Erin were still filming this season, but as the light was off in the General Store, I didn't get to see Ben filming in his workshop *sadface*








The General Store sells lots of candy, and other food stuffs.  Ben runs on caffeine, apparently.  I also bought some Camellia red beans because they're hard to find in Alabama.




Big Ben's Blend is very strong, but excellent.  I also bought a mug and a Scotsman t-shirt for trip.


After I visited the Scotsman General Store I used the handy-dandy map from Ben and Erin's book and drove around and looked at all the beautiful homes in Laurel that have been featured on the show.  I also saw Ben and Erin's adorable craftsman-style cottage.  By this time it was raining hard, so again I didn't take any photos.  This is why I want to visit again, maybe during the week, when the weather is pretty.

One final note....Today is Mr. Sketchy Reader and my anniversary!  :D  We've been married 31 years today.  Miracles DO happen!  ;P

Do you watch Home TownI love Ben and Erin's designs, and I also enjoy their show!


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





Monday, March 18, 2019

Mid-March Update


Finlay is sharing his St. Patrick's Day spirit!


Happy Monday, My Lovelies!

I hope y'all had a very Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We had a nice, restful day, and we ate some wonderful, authentic Irish food.

I barely got the house decorated for St. Patrick's Day on Friday, so we won't get to enjoy it for long, but that's okay!






I went with vintage MacKenzie-Childs in pinks and green for our St. Patrick's Day table.  I cooked traditional Irish soda bread and corned beef stew.


I'm sorry I've been MIA the past couple of weeks.  I had to help Shanley Belle in Baton Rouge because she had a scheduled minor surgery that led to an ER visit for sepsis.  A few days later, I contracted a nasty upper respiratory illness I more than likely caught in the ER.  I'm just now getting over it,  but I'm not 100% yet.

There are several things I want to share with y'all as we finish out March.  Here are a few posts to expect in the near future:



I took a field trip to America's Hometown, Laurel Mississippi




Because I've been sick, I haven't read much, but I did read The City Baker's Guide to Country Living in February.  I'll be sharing it with you this Friday.




I just received The Library of Lost and Found in the mail, and I will share this on Thursday, March 28th.  I love Phaedra Patrick.  She's one of my favorite writers!




I planted these pansies in October.  Our pansies have never wintered as well!  It's a shame that it's almost time to pull them all up!  I'm planning our spring container gardens this week.  I have a fun Pinterest board for container gardens!



I'm also considering a few spring home decor projects.  I love how Rachel Ashwell has wallpaper on her cabinet.  The colors are so pretty!  If you don't follow Rachel on Pinterest, you should  Click on THIS LINK to follow her inspiring pins and boards!




Last but not least, I have been savoring my library's annotated Anne of Green Gables.  I'm also immersing myself in all things Anne with an "e."  I will put together a post or two about the above books before our Book Club Discussion on Anne of Green Gables Friday, March 29th.


Today is my grandmother's 99th birthday.  Because I've been sick I'm not going to visit her today because I do have a bit of a cough (still).  I definitely do not want her to catch what I have!  Hopefully I can visit her in April when the weather is warmer and I'm hopefully better!  

That's about all for now!  What have you been up to lately?  Tell me in comments!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill









Friday, March 15, 2019

Literary Friday: The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing with you a a very interesting supernatural mystery:  The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick.  

According to Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can't tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.





My Review:

First off, I think some of the comparisons in the Goodreads synopsis are interesting, but I think the BEST comparison would be with Susanna Kearsley's books.  If I could describe the plot in a nutshell, I'd say that the plot centers around a mysterious dress and how it impacts three women: two who lived in the past (Lady Isabella Gerard and her lady's made Constance) and one in the present (Fenella Brightwell, or Fen).  The narrative's supernatural elements include a "timeslip" enabling the enchanted dress to "travel" from the past to the future.  The dress's erie qualities aren't ever truly explained, and this is one of my only criticisms of the book.  What we do know as readers is that whatever unique tendencies our personalities have (good or evil) the dress magnifies them exponentially.  Also, all three women are abused by the men in their lives, so the major theme is female empowerment as all three overcome the abuse.

Because the story is told from all three women's points of view and the plot is very fast-paced, none of the three were well-developed.  For example, I really don't understand what Fen actually teaches at the college where she's employed; it is never truly explained.  Still, I love the story, and I couldn't put it down; I literally read it in one sitting.  Another thing that Nicola Cornick does in her writing as she weaves together two dispirate plotlines is this:  She will throw out a sentence (usually a passing thought of one of the three women) and it's like a little tasty morsel about the mystery.  Then nothing!  I would think: What did I just read?  What is the backstory to this?  Fortunately for her readers, Cornick does explain most of these tasty plot morsels, but she does leave a few to the imagination especially about the power of the dress.

If you enjoy gothic, historical, time-slip novels, you will love The Woman in the Lake.  I learned from Nicola Cornick's author's note that one of the novel's characters was based on a real person: Lady Isabella was based on a real-life aristocrat, Lady Diana Spencer, an ancestor of Princess Diana.  Cornick is also inspired by the history of Swindon, especially the moonrakers.  Serendipitously, I recently read a little blurb about the history of the moonrakers in the UK edition of Country Living Magazine, legend has it that smugglers were first called moonrakers in the Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite.  Smugglers avoided arrest when retrieving their bounty from the village pond by claiming to be moonraking, or trying to catch the mooon, which was reflected in the water.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Woman in the Lake from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a raid and honest review.




Have you read anything fun lately?  If so, please share in comments.

Also, I wanted to remind you that we are reading Anne of Green Gables for book club this month.  Discussion will be on Friday, March 29th.  


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Review: Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton



Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I.  Am.  BACK!  My absence is a discussion for a different day because today I have a lovely book to share with you:  Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton.  This book's release date is March 19, so make sure to pre-order for your Spring Break reading needs!

SYNOPSIS:

The only thing certain is change—even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.

Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants—operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions—particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. Once again, Jessie feels her protected and predictable life shifting.

In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve.

“Rich colorful characters capturing my heart, combined with a story that kept me up till the wee hours, Glory Road is a perfect read. Lauren Denton has done it again!” —Lisa Patton, bestselling author of Rush and Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter

“Once again Lauren Denton brings her lyrical writing and compelling characters to a story that will enthrall readers from page one.” —Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, author of Only Ever Her and co-founder of She Reads, for Glory Road







My Review:

As y'all know, I'm a fan of Denton's books.  Of course I love that her books are set here in Alabama the Beautiful, and she's from Homewood, one of my favorite areas of Birmingham.  You may read my review of Hurricane Season HERE.

I agree with Lisa Patton's assessment of the characters (above):  They're rich, colorful, and I'd like to add unforgettable!  To me one of the best elements of this book are how Jessie, her mother Gus, and her daughter Evan interact with one another.  I typically enjoy multigenerational stories, and I do like that the story is told from all three of the above characters' points of view.  Normally I don't like "head hopping" in books, but Denton pulls this off well, and I think that the POV's are important given that this book covers serious topics like infidelity and Alzheimer's disease. 

One of the plot points I was unsure about is the love triangle between Jessie, Summer, and Ben.  I'm skeptical about second chances at love when it involves a love interest from high school.  Sometimes I think these plot points can be either saccharinely sweet or wistfully maudlin.  However, Denton does an excellent job with both Jessie and Ben's backstories including their break-up from high school and their subsequent marriages.  The romance in this book is honest, and I couldn't put it down because I couldn't wait to see who wins Jessie's heart.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that is heart-warming, entertaining, and inspiring, then you will love Glory Road.  It is the perfect beach or lake read!



Disclosure:  Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours for including me in this wonderful tour.  I received a copy of Glory Road from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble



Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram





Sunday, February 24, 2019

Virtual Flowers for a Blog Friend...PLEASE READ!!!



I'm sending some virtual flowers to my sweet blog friend Diane @ Lavender Dreams.

Google deleted her blog.  She's lost everything: every post, comment, photo...

Diane emailed me yesterday.  Here's the story in a nutshell:

My original blog lavenderdreamstoo was unfairly removed by blogger and I need your help to get it back.

Please read my post and add what I've written to a post on your blog so that our voices can come together and be heard.

You can copy the entirety of my post or select a few sentences. Anything you can do would mean a lot to me and hopefully will make a difference to blogger! I want my blog back!!! And we all know if this could happen to me, it could happen to any of us!

Sweet hugs, Diane


Before I go on, please click on THIS LINK to her new blog.

This is a snippet of what happened to Diane's blog from her post:

It wasn't someone reporting us. It was Google's automated piece of software (a bot) that roams the Blogger world looking for pre-programmed words of woe. Once it detects something it kills the whole blog without warning. Without any notification about these supposed offending words. Without an opportunity to fix anything. Just ZAP ... your digital life is deleted. Everything is gone!

Ten years of blogging, thousands of posts, many thousands of photos, over ten thousand comments and a hundred thousand heart-felt words all gone in an instant. Devastating! Be warned all you innocents in blogland.

The blog was actually removed twice, for "phishing". Which, as you all know, is absurd. We have never asked for your personal, private information. The Appeals process reinstated the blog the first time then the Google Bot zapped us again the next day. But the second time we were locked out of the Appeals process. We tried sending Feedback. Never got an answer. Tried to post to the Blogger Help Community. They never published the post. Located twenty phone numbers for Google. The numbers are all automated and only a couple allowed you to leave a message. We left messages. Never got a callback.

Google/Blogger pronounces you guilty using an "automated system" (their words) and gives you little or no opportunity to prove otherwise. It's been a nightmare. 


Diane is in the process of putting together a timeline of what's happened with her blog and her correspondence with Google.  She should have it posted shortly.

This is frightening, but honestly I'm not surprised.  I love using Blogger as the platform for my blog.  I resisted moving my blog to Typepad or Wordpress not only for financial reasons, but also for aesthetic reasons.  (For instance, I love how mobile responsive my template is compared to other blogs including Wordpress blogs.)

However, I do own my own domain.  It's inexpensive (via Go Daddy) and I've never had any issues with them.  My blog only costs me around eight dollars per year, maybe ten dollars more if I purchase something like a blog graphic or something which is rare.  If you want to go this route, Linda the Blog Fairy can help you.





I wanted to give all of y'all a heads-up about what's going on with Diane, and more importantly a link where you can find her.  She could really use your support and encouragement right now.

I hope y'all are having a peaceful and blessed Sunday.  I will check in with Diane in a little while and post an update.

Also, if any of you have experienced a similar fate or know of anyone else who has, it would be helpful to Diane to know how it was resolved with Google.

Thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to read this post!  Y'all are the best!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





Saturday, February 23, 2019

February Book Club Selection: Their Eyes Were Watching God



“They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” 



Happy Saturday, My Lovelies!  I want to apologize for being a day late with our book club post, but it couldn't be helped.  

I've read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston three or four times, and I'm always surprised by the new things I learn from Janie Crawford.

I hope you're reading the corresponding chapters in The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore for each book because I think it will give you a fresh perspective about the heroines and their authors we're reading this year.  The chapter about Janie Crawford and Zora Neale Hurston is fascinating.  I could see several similarities between Janie and Zora, and I appreciate Blakemore's insights into when would be an optimum time to read these stories.  For example, she states that a good time to read this book is: "When you're not sure you're going to church or going through the motions."  Blakemore also recommends other reads, or "Janie's literary sisters."  I think it would be fun to go back through the book and read the literary sisters' books.  Maybe for next year's book club!

Janie's characteristic that Blakemore writes about in her book is faith.  Janie has it in spades: in God, although she questions Him, and herself.  This is a book about becoming who you are meant to be by exploring an uncharted horizon.  Janie is brave, and she is self-assured.  She has a voice, and she isn't scared of using it:

“Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves.” 

"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His insides business.  He told me how surprised He was 'bout y'all turning out so smart after Him makin' yuh different; and how surprised y'all is goin' tuh be if you ever find out you don't know half as much 'bout us as you think you do.  It's so easy to make yo'self out God Almighty when you ain't got nuthin' tuh strain against but women and chickens."




I'm changing how I'm posting questions for this book only. The main reason is because I am currently not home, and I thought this would be easier for me to moderate comments via my phone.  

I'm posting a few questions here in the post, and y'all can discuss in comments.  I'd appreciate it if you'd ask a few of your own, if you like.  

Their Eyes Were Watching God Discussion Questions

1.   Hurston wrote this book using AAE (African American English) dialect, and she was criticized for doing so.  What are your thoughts about reading stories using AAE?  

2.   There are many references to the horizon (especially that of a sea or ocean) in this book, which is apropos considering the setting is in Florida, and the book's climax is during a hurricane.  How does this symbol apply to Janie's life?

3.   Let's talk about the symbolism of Janie's beautiful hair.  Go!

4.   Death is not only personified in the book, he is a symbol for transition.  How does death provide transitions for Janie?

5.   Why does Hurston have Janie tell her story through flashback?

6.   Janie loved Tea Cake in spite of the fact that he hit her.  What do you make of this, and what do you think about the symbol of the sun as it relates to him?

7.   Blakemore states in her book that Janie represents the characteristic of faith.  If Blakemore decided to rewrite this chapter, what other trait could she attribute to Janie?  

8.  There are so many beautiful quote in this book.  One of my favorites is the first line: "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."  This is one of the best opening lines I've ever read because it sets a mood of dreaminess and wishes....and I like it!  Do you have a favorite quote from the book?  Please share it!


I hope you enjoyed reading Their Eyes Are Watching God.  I look forward to reading your comments!  I will close comments Tuesday evening.

Comments are now closed.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill









Friday, February 15, 2019

Literary Friday: The Golden Tresses of the Dead {and} An Enchantment of Ravens



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing two books with you that I read recently:  The first book is the latest in the Flavia de Luce Mystery Series: The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley, and a wonderful YA fantasy,  An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson.




According to Goodreads:

Although it is autumn in the small English town of Bishop’s Lacey, the chapel is decked with exotic flowers. Yes, Flavia de Luce’s sister Ophelia is at last getting hitched, like a mule to a wagon. “A church is a wonderful place for a wedding,” muses Flavia, “surrounded as it is by the legions of the dead, whose listening bones bear silent witness to every promise made at the altar.” 

Flavia is not your normal twelve-year-old girl. An expert in the chemical nature of poisons, she has solved many mysteries, sharpening her considerable detection skills to the point where she had little choice but to turn professional. So Flavia and dependable Dogger, estate gardener and sounding board extraordinaire, set up shop at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, eager to serve—not so simple an endeavor with her odious little moon-faced cousin, Undine, constantly underfoot. But Flavia and Dogger persevere. Little does she know that their first case will be extremely close to home, beginning with an unwelcome discovery in Ophelia’s wedding cake: a human finger.


My Review:

I'm an avid Flavia de Luce reader and fan: I've read all ten installments of the series including the one short story (eBook only) "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse."  I have enjoyed the series immensely, but unfortunately I was disappointed in this latest installment for several reasons.

The first reason for my disappointment is Flavia herself.  She's now twelve, on the cusp of puberty (which seemed evident by her mood swings), and definitely NOT HERSELF!  I understand that if the series continues (which I hope it does) Flavia will enter her teens and eventually grow-up.  However, Mr. Bradley needs to think about how he portrays her because girls do not necessarily lose their God-given talents, confidence, and abilities as they become pubescent.  Flavia definitely seems to second-guess herself which is so out of character for her.  Dogger's character, as lovely as he is, dominates this first official mystery of the "Arthur Dogger and Associates" Detective Firm.  He catches all the clues, and Flavia seems flummoxed by them all.  I'm not buying it.

The second reason for my disappointment is the mystery is never really solved.  I like mysteries to have all loose ends tied-up like a pretty bow on a well-wrapped birthday present.  This one has way too many loose ends for my liking.  I would like to see answers in the next book because I'm not ready to give-up on this series.  Yet.

The third reason for my disappointment is the lack of explanation for how Buckshaw financially can remain in Flavia's hands.  She is the heir to the estate, and she also has an inherited role as a spy for His Majesty's secret spy organization, and it was my understanding that she was to be in training for that role.  I also dislike Feely's being married and sent away, and Daffy was MIA for most of this story.  I miss the sisters' interactions.  

I'm giving this one three out of five stars because it does have a few interesting scenes in Flavia's chemistry lab, and I do love the series as a whole. The elements of the mystery are interesting (yet icky), and  I also enjoyed the history lesson of the Brookwood Cemetery funeral trains.




According to Goodreads:

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.


My Review:

I chose this book because YA fantasy author Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) recommended it in an interview.  I've read a couple of her series with my daughters when they were teens, and I do love how she writes, so I took a chance with this book.  She said in her interview that this book has one of the best Faerie Queens she's ever read, and she's right!  It's fantastic, one of the best YA books I've read in a very long time.

Of course I loved that the heroine Isobel is an artist.  She's so good at reading people: it's almost as if she can peer into her subject's' souls and capture them in oil paint.  Isobel is part of a world that serves fairies via craft because it's fatal for fairies to create anything.  I do appreciate the world that Margaret Rogerson has created in An Enchantment of Ravens.  The meaning of the title is brilliant on a couple of levels, and it illustrates how perceptive and witty Isobel is.

The plot is fast-paced, and it was difficult for me to put it down at night.  I love how Isobel and Rook's love story develops: it's well-written and creative.  A few of the villains are so creepy and scary, but they were not nightmare-inducing; and there are more than a few surprising twists in the plot.  I also love how a character is not at all what he or she seems....such a surprise!  

I highly recommend this book for older teens and above.  I checked this book out from my local library, but I'm purchasing a copy to give to one of my daughters.  I'm even thinking about buying a second copy for our library at home.


How many of y'all are reading Their Eyes Were Watching God?  It's this month's book club selection, and we'll discuss it next Friday, February 22nd.


Go to the library this weekend and check it out!  You have plenty of time to read it before next Friday!



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What to Bake for Valentine's Day Breakfast



Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I have the perfect thing for you to bake for breakfast:  SCONES!

I have been playing with scone recipes forever.  I've tried recipes with sour cream, heavy whipping cream, milk, buttermilk, eggs, no eggs...I think I've tried them all!  But I've finally figured out an easy recipe for scones that combines elements from several recipes I've tried.

Now the one thing that can totally ruin a batch of scones is over handling the dough.  Resist the urge to handle it!  Seriously, I barely touch mine!  ;P

Here in America, we tend to bake our scones in triangles.  We roll the dough into a round and score them or cut them into triangles and bake.  The English make theirs round, and I've found that they seem to be not as dry if they're round.

I love the way my recipe makes the scones rise higher than most recipes.  I learned the trick of using 4t of baking powder from the Fifteen Spatulas Blog.   You can see their English Style Scones Recipe HERE.  Our recipes are very similar, but I keep my butter cold, use heavy whipping cream, and I use caster sugar rather than regular sugar.  I've found that these little tweaks make a difference in the final product.  They are light and moist compared to most scones!



I should've taken a better photo from the side so you can see how they rise...but they almost triple in height.


Easy Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour 
4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
6 T unsalted butter (keep in fridge until ready to use)
1/3 cup whole milk (I use A2 milk)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg (use the largest egg you can find.  I used a jumbo sized egg.)


Procedures:

1.   Preheat over to 425 F.

2.   Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined.

3.   Take out butter and measure 6 tablespoons.  Dice butter and add to dry mix.  Pulse several times until you don't see any butter chunks.

4.   Combine the milk, cream, and egg.  Beat until smooth.  Reserve 2 T for egg wash.  Add wet mixture to food processor slowly while it's on low.  Once the dough looks solid, remove onto a floured work surface.

5.   Knead the dough with floured hands only a couple of times.  Lightly pat into a circle 1" high.  Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out four or five scones and place on a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat.  Make as many scones as you can with the scraps, but handle the dough as little as possible. (This recipe only makes about 6 or 7 scones with my biscuit cutter).

6.   Brush the egg wash on top of the scones.

7.   Bake for 13 - 16 minutes (check after 12 just in case) until they are golden brown on top.

Enjoy with butter, jam, honey, or lemon curd. Devonshire cream and whipped cream are delicious toppings, too.



This time I had a pat of butter and a tablespoon of strawberry jam on my scone.


I'm making a fresh batch for breakfast tomorrow morning.  

Do you cook anything special for breakfast on Valentine's Day?


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill