Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Review: Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all had a wonderful weekend.  It has been wedding central around here, but I'm ready to put planning on the back burner and let the (very) capable wedding planners take over from here!

Recently I read Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich, AKA Sean of the South.  This book reminds me so much of John Steinbeck's work, only with a Southern accent.

According to Goodreads:

With a voice both humorous and heartfelt, Sean Dietrich—also known as Sean of the South—weaves together a tale about the dignity of humanity and the value of enduring hope.

One child preacher traveling across the plains.

One young woman with a mysterious touch.

Two old friends, their baby, and their bloodhound.

And all the stars that shine above them.

When fifteen-year-old Marigold becomes pregnant amid the Great Depression, she is rejected by her family and forced to fend for herself. And when she loses her baby in the forest, her whole world turns upside down. She’s even more distraught upon discovering she has an inexplicable power that makes her both beautiful and terrifying—and something of a local legend.

Meanwhile, migrant workers Vern and Paul discover a violet-eyed baby and take it upon themselves to care for her. The men soon pair up with a widow and her two children, and the misfit family finds its way in fits and starts toward taking care of each other.

As survival brings one family together, a young boy finds himself with nary a friend to his name as the dust storms rage across Kansas. Fourteen-year-old Coot, a child preacher with a prodigy’s memory, is on the run with thousands of stolen dollars—and the only thing he’s sure of is that Mobile, Alabama, is his destination.

As the years pass and a world war looms, these stories intertwine in surprising ways, reminding us that when the dust clears, we can still see the stars.

My Review:

I don't normally enjoy Depression-era books for obvious reasons:  The Dust Bowl of the Midwest is suffocating and frightening; the demoralization of grown men is devastating; and the desperation of mothers for their children is heartbreaking.  This book has all three, yet I still enjoyed it.

As the Goodreads blurb says, there are three storylines interwoven throughout the book.  Only two of them are connected: Marigold, the miraculous healer who lives in an Alabama brothel, and her lost daughter, Ruth, who was found in a Mobile-area forest by two friends.  Ruth and her new "family" are joined by a young mother and her two children.  The third narrative is about Coot, the prodigious 14 year old evangelist who narrowly escapes the Midwest Dust Bowl.  Coot's storyline meshes with the other two at the end of the book in a very surprising way.

One interesting aspect of the story is that Marigold and Coot seem to get stuck in their situation for a very long time unlike Vern, Paul, Ruth, and the rest of their little family.  Vern and Paul's family migrate to where they can find work, and although they don't have much, they are not shy about picking up and moving on in order to better their lives.  Marigold, once she moves into the brothel and works basically as a laundress, never leaves.  The prostitutes are kind to her, and they sort of have a little family, but nothing like the bonds of Vern and Paul's makeshift family.  Coot makes a huge mistake in judgment and ends-up near death near a railroad car where an older man who seems to have Jake-leg saves him.  They roam around for a very long time.  Both Coot and Marigold seem lost compared to the third storyline, and maybe Sean of the South is making a point about the strength in numbers, especially when it comes to family.

Hope is an underlying theme in the book, but action is as well.  The narrative is sluggish at times, which is a direct reflection of the choices to remain static by a couple of the main characters.  But once they decide to boldly choose another path, their hope is rewarded.  Lesson learned...and I will carry these characters in my heart, especially Marigold and Coot, for a very long time.  If you enjoy Southern fiction, then you must add Stars of Alabama to your reading list.

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book.

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Disclosure:  I recieved this hardbound copy of Stars of Alabama from the publiser, Thomas Nelson, via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, August 23, 2019

Literary Friday: Midnight at the Blackbird Café

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope you have had a wonderful week.

Today I'm sharing with you one of the best reads of summer:  Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber.  Though she has been award-nominated for her mysteries, Webber now turns to something quite unique with her latest novel.   According to the media packet: "It's a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen."  And y'all, it is!  I love Webber's voice, and this is such a wonderful story with several, well-drawn and quirky characters.

According to Goodreads:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

My Review:

As many of my long-time readers know: I love magical realism.  I also love books with a strong sense of place, especially when they are set in the South.  Midnight at the Blackbird Café transports the reader to a sleepy Northeast Alabama town that has seen better days.  I felt the humidity; could see the valley with its loblolly pines; hear the loud slap of the screened door as it slammed; smell the honeysuckle; and taste the sweet homemade blackberry iced tea.  (I must confess that I was inspired by the book to make and sip the latter.)  

The magical realism is subtle as the Callow women are of Celtic ancestry, and they are keepers of magical mulberry trees and four and twenty blackbirds that are not indigenous to Northeast Alabama.  Slices of pie from the Blackbird Café provide patrons with messages from their deceased loved ones as they dream.  The messages are facilitated by the midnight songs of the blackbirds that sing in the branches of the trees behind the café.

Anna Kate, the sole Callow woman still living, has arrived in Wicklow, Alabama upon her grandmother's death.  She has inherited the café and her grandmother's estate just as long as she runs the café for a specific amount of time.  Anna Kate does not want to stay because she is enrolled to begin medical school in Boston in the autumn.  Plus her late mother hated the idea of her ever visiting Wicklow: Eden left Wicklow not only with a broken heart, but pregnant with Anna Kate.

The tragic circumstances of Eden and the young man she loved is heartbreaking.  Anna Kate was sheltered from his family by Eden, but upon arriving in town, she is suddenly thrown into the circle of her late father's family.  Determined not to make connections or get attached to the town, Anna Kate tries to keep everyone at arm's length.  Unfortunately for her, she has her mother's genes of caring for others and the need to heal others unconventionally.

There are so many elements that make this book great: sense of place; well-drawn characters; Southern (and Alabama) sense of place; familial secrets and drama; budding romances for Anna Kate and her young aunt, Natalie; and laugh-out-loud dialogue.  The story is told from both Natalie and Anna Kate's points of view, and as hard as "head hopping" is for some writers, Heather Webber pulls it off well.  If you enjoy Southern fiction that's a bit literary and a whole lot of magical realism, then you will absolutely LOVE Midnight at the Blackbird Café.


I received an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafè from the publisher (Tor-Forge Books) via Wunderkind PR in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Below is an IndieBound Affiliate link for purchasing the book.

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Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, August 5, 2019

Wild Horse Blog Tour *plus* an Amazon Giveaway!

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  If your children or grandchildren need to get some last minute summer reading in before school starts, I have a super, I mean superhero idea:  Kyle Richardson's novelette, Wild Horse.

I'm super excited to be a part of this Blog Tour!  Here's some information about this book:

WILD HORSE (a novelette) by Kyle Richardson


GENRE: Dystopian, Superhero, YA, Novelette


SUMMARY: Grady has found a crack in the wall—a crack to the outside world. But all he knows about life outside the compound comes from books, magazines, and a photograph of a creature that no longer exists. Things change when he meets a girl with raspberry-yellow hair, and a secret that could lead them to a world beyond the walls. A world where their abilities could change everything … or lead them both to ruin.

BUY LINKS: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kyle lives in the suburban wilds of Canada with his adorable wife, their rambunctious son, and their adventurous daughter. He writes about shapeshifters, superheroes, and the occasional clockwork beast, moonlights as an editor at Meerkat Press, and has a terrible habit of saying the wrong thing at the most inopportune moments. His short fiction has appeared in places such as Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology and Daily Science Fiction.

AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Twitter | Goodreads


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Grady finds it in the spring, when the leaves are sprouting from the trees in tiny pink-green buds. There are no trees in the courtyard, there's only dirt and rocks and other kids that look like Grady—their heads shaven, their clothes loose and gray, the skin under their eyes a creamy blue and red. But Grady has found a crack in the wall, a crack that wasn't there before—a crack that isn't supposed to be. Whenever the guards aren't looking, he leans his face against the wall and peers through the crack at the world outside. He does this with his left eye first. Always his left eye first. The gap is so tiny it's like squinting through a nostril. But in that nostril there's the sky, purple as a bruise, and beneath it there are scrawny trees with tiny pink-green buds. Today the trees bend and sway, like they know Grady's watching. Like they're dancing just for him. And his cracked lips spread until he's smiling, big and dumb.

This is when he hears the voice. "What're you looking at?" The voice comes from behind him, small and smooth and wild, like the picture of the horse taped to the ceiling above his cot. It knocks something loose in him, something that tumbles free, something that falls but doesn't seem to ever land. Whatever it is, it just keeps on falling, lost somewhere inside him. Grady frowns and squirms, but the stupid feeling doesn't quit. "Go away," he tells the voice. He doesn't bother to turn. "I'm looking at spring," he adds, "but you wouldn't know what that is."

The voice that's like a wild horse, it tells him, "I do too know what spring is. And I know that you're mean and I don't like you." Then the voice is gone, and a guard walks by, and Grady looks away from the wall as if the crack isn’t there at all. And stomping away from him straight across the courtyard, like she's trying to knock the world off orbit with the weight of her footsteps alone, is a skinny girl with loose gray clothes and raspberry-yellow hair.

Grady raises his eyebrows. Whatever that thing is inside him, it tumbles even faster.

So what do you think?  I know I'm intrigued.  Just from this excerpt I know I like Grady's voice.

Your kids can instantly download this book today.  Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Happy Friendship Day! {Literary Round-Up}

Happy Friendship Day!  I wanted to put together a Literary Round-Up Post in honor of the day.  All of the books below feature female friendships in the narratives, and they are among some of my very favorite books.

Each book is an IndieBound affiliate link.

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Have you read any of these?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, August 2, 2019

Literary Friday: The Lost Letters of William Woolf

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  As summer is coming to a close, I wanted to share with you my favorite book on my Summer Reading List:  The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen.  If you're taking a last minute trip, or are just looking for a book to read this weekend, this one would be an excellent choice.

According to Goodreads:

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names - they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to 'My Great Love' his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to a soul mate she hasn't met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn't know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter's letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

My Review:

(Although a little murky in the book, this story is set in the eighties before email when people actually sent snail mail and poured-out their hearts in letters.  If something happened to a letter or parcel, if it were lost, or if the address became illegible, then the loss of the mail could alter lives forever.)  The Dead Letters Depot in East London has a team of investigators who try to solve the mystery of the intended recipients of the lost mail, and William Woolf is one of the Depot's most dedicated detectives.  He is pouring his heart and soul into the job now that his writer's block has ended his literary career.  William lied to his wife about the writer's block for months, and she is disappointed in him.  In the meantime, her career at her law firm is on the fast track to partnership.

When William discovers a series of letters addressed to "My Great Love," he becomes obsessed with finding who penned them.  The letters are beautifully written, and the more he learns about the woman, the more intrigued he becomes; the closer he comes to discovering the woman who is writing the letters, the more his marriage is slipping away.  

The story arc is actually quite surprising.  There are several unexpected twists, and although the story maintained my attention, it also made me think about what truly matters in life, things like: How do I define success?  What do I truly cherish as important?  As a creative, how do I overcome a block?  I love books that are not only entertaining, but are also thought-provoking, and The Lost Letters of William Woolf perfectly fits the bill.

Have you read anything fantastic this summer?  If so, please either email me or share in the comments section below!

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Tales of the Traveling Tote: Fun in the Sun

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Can you believe that it's already July 31st?  I can't!  I want my summer back!

This edition of the Tales of the Traveling Tote is all about Fun in the Sun, and for me, that means fun on Lake Martin, Alabama.  La Countess de Monet has come in handy with all the back and forth from the lake to Birmingham.  I can't believe I forgot to take a photo of her, but she's not allowed on the boat because she can't swim!

 The Westies are proud Americans as they fly the Stars and Stripes over the Independence Day Holiday at our lake cabin.

We spend most weekends at Lake Martin during the summer, but this summer has been met with a few challenges, i.e. a lightning strike that blew up most of our electronics.  I'm happy to report that everything has been fixed, updated, and replaced with the exception of one TV which will be replaced next weekend.

Y'all I must confess that I lead the most BORING life in America.  But I do try to have fun everyday, and we've had our share of fun experiences so far this summer.  One thing we enjoy doing on Lake Martin is visiting Goat Island.  The goats are almost as entertaining as the children who visit and feed the goats.  Apparently the goats love Corn Flakes.  Who knew?

I carefully chose photos without children in them.

 The Ducks of Goat Island
I will probably paint one of these photos soon.

A couple of weeks before Independence Day, our friend David called and said: "I need y'all and your boat on July 6th.  I'm going to marry Suzette in the middle of the lake at sunset."


Y'all....that was THE MOST FUN wedding I've probably ever attended.  David has three children and four grandchildren, and Suzette has several children and grands: She adopted several orphans from the Ukraine.  They are both big-hearted, so their marriage will be successful.  Such a happy day!

I'm still trying the get the hang of my new camera, and I've been practicing around the lake and at home in Birmingham.

The Westies were getting upset because they wanted me to pay them some attention rather than the bees in our roses and on our chaste tree.

I've also spent some time working on our garden this summer until it got too hot a couple of weeks ago.  My plan is to spruce up our containers later this week.

Our gardenias are thriving this year for some unknown reason!  ;P

If you're still awake at this point, I commend you and the caffeine you drink!  I'd like to invite you to visit the other ladies sharing their much more interesting lives.  Click on the links below, and I hope you are having Fun in the Sun wherever you are!  Please share your summertime adventures in the comments section below!  

PS:  Patti is hosting a little giveaway. She's first on the list!

Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box
Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 
Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie and Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill and Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader
Cherry Kay and Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women  

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Wisdom of Bunches

"No Worries, Honey"
6" X 6" X 1 3/8"
Oil on Linen

This painting reminds me of a story...a story about a very wise grandmother named "Bunches" by her granddaughter.  She got her name because she used to say to her granddaughter: "I love you bunches!"

Bunches was the mother of one of my friends.  We'll call her "A."  A lived in our neighborhood, and her daughter was a friend of my oldest daughter, Shanley.  There were other little girls living in our neighborhood, and many of them were not very delightful.  They were unkind to Shanley, and did terribly mean things to her, like planning parties and deliberately leaving her out.  But it didn't stop there.  They would ask their limousine chauffeurs to drive into our cul de sac; then they would call Shanley on her cell phone and tell her to look outside.

One of these mean girls was the ring leader, the queen bee, the top hen in the pecking order. 

One day while at lunch my friend A was telling Bunches about the neighborhood drama and how horribly the mean girls treated Shanley.  Coincidentally, the Queen Bee herself entered the restaurant.  A says to Bunches: "Speak of the Devil...there she is!"  Bunches looks over in the general direction, and looks totally bewildered.  "Which girl are you talking about?  That one?"  When A confirmed that yes, indeed, that was the Queen Bee, Bunches responded, shocked: "Oh, Honey!  She isn't pretty enough to be that mean!"

Needless to say, when A shared this incident with Shanley, she felt so much better.

After all...Bunches was spot on correct!  Little Miss Queen Bee wasn't pretty enough to be that mean.

No one is.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, July 19, 2019

Literary Friday: Dear Mrs. Bird

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I must confess that I have not been reading many novels this summer.  I've been reading more about art, Etsy, and camera manuals!

But I did finish this delightful book a couple of weeks ago:  Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce.  This books is a good one set during the London Blitz.  It's the perfect vacation read, so pick up a copy for your last minute summer trips to the beach or lake.

According to Goodreads:

A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times. 

My Review:

This is the cutest story, and I love Emmy to pieces.  She is brave, fiesty, and sassy, and she has enough confidence to stop even Hitler in his tracks!  But she is so disappointed when she realizes the part time job at the London Evening Chronicle isn't for the paper itself, but rather for a ladies' magazine owned by the paper.  As Mrs. Bird's assistant, it's her job to sort through Mrs. Bird's letters from readers seeking her sage advice.  Ironically, Mrs. Bird abhors all Unpleasantness, and she won't abide the magazine's reuptation being sullied by inappropriate topics.  This leaves a scant few letters Mrs. Bird will consider for the column.  Emmy decides to take matters into her own hands unbeknownst to Mrs. Bird.

Emmy volunteers as a telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Services, and she works literally with a tin hat on her head as bombs explode all around the city.  She witnesses a brave rescue by one of the firefighters one night, but it angers her because she thinks that one of the men (her best friend Bunty's fiancé) is reckless during the rescue.  The confrontation cause a rift between Emmy and Bunty as a tragic event threatens to end their friendship forever.

Although there is plenty of humor in the story, it's also suspenseful with plenty of action. The setting during the height of the London Blitz, broken promises, conflict, remorse for words not spoken, and clandestine letter reading and writing kept me turning pages well into the early morning hours.  It's a fantastic historical, and if you enjoy World War II fiction, I highly recomend it.  I love discovering new authors, and AJ Pearce is a fantastic new voice in literature: It's hard to believe that this is her debut novel.

I purchased this book at my local Indie bookstore.

If you would like to order a copy from your local independent bookstore, please use my affiliate IndieBound link below.

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The above link is for the paperback edition.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Treleavens Have Gremlins

We may have gremlins inside but outside our planters are thriving this summer.

Good morning, My Lovelies!  I hope y'all having a fantastic summer full of baseball, grilling, travel, and fun.


Our summer has been interesting so far.  About a month ago, lightning struck our air conditioner in Birmingham.  Then about three weeks ago, lightning struck our lake cabin and took out all of our TV's, stereo, half our wall outlets, coffee pot, cable box, router, all surround sound speakers, wire under the house that led to the cable box, and a modem.  What a mess!  First world problems, I know, but we had to spend the first half of our Independence Day vacation fixing all the shiz.  

We weren't there when it happened (we were at the beach) but what is scary about the situation is we could see where flames shot out of the speakers and melted the felt and wiring.  We can't believe that the house didn't catch on fire.  We truly are none of the major appliances were affected.

But before we left for the Independence Day vacation, our freezer stopped working, and our fridge is running a little too hot.  We're having to eat mostly out these days, but the repairman will be here Thursday to fix it.  We had to order 16 parts.  Sixteen!  

I miss ice.  Yes, I know....another first world problem.  But then again....we do live in Central Alabama.  It's freaking HOT!


I finally settled on a camera: the Sony a6000 with a couple of lenses that I really like.  I want to thank all of you who gave me fantastic advice during this process.  It has been quite the learning curve, but I am enjoying it.

My New Blog and Instagram

I also want to invite you to follow my art blog and my Instagram feed for my art.  Here is the link for my blog, and you can follow me on Instagram @rickijilltreleaven.

Instagram @rickijilltreleaven

I feel badly asking y'all to follow me on different accounts, but my professional artist friends have all told me that I should ONLY feature my art on my blog, and that I should ONLY feature my art on my Instagram feed.  I don't know if I can maintain so many accounts.  I probably won't post as often on this blog, but I will still post over here a little, especially when I want to share a good book, recipe, or home decor.  

I've joined the Daily Painting movement in a big way.  Y'all, I am LOVING IT!  Basically, Daily Painters paint small paintings everyday (or in my case one per weekday).  I have joined the Dialy Paintworks website, and I have rebranded my Etsy store for my paintings.

If you know of anyone in the market for small paintings, send them my way!

The new name of my Etsy shop


Have you tried the Steller app yet?  I am loving it!  I've enjoyed looking at others' stories.  It has been a great tool for me to make Instragram stories.  It is very user friendly.  You can check out some of my stories by clicking on the Steller S below!

I appreciate y'all more than you'll ever know.  Thank-you for reading my blog!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing an intriguing cozy mystery:  Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan.  This is the second installment in the Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery Series; the first installment is Murder at the Flamingo.  Although it isn't necessary to read the first book, I think it would be helpful because a few of the references to Hamish's cousin Luca confused me.

According to Goodreads:

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Regina "Reggie" Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he's afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes that seem to link Boston to Hamish's hometown of Toronto.

When an act of violence hits too close to home, Hamish is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

My Review:

This series is unique because of the setting: Pre World War II/ early 1940s.  War is immenint, so we as readers know what's coming in Europe; the racism and antisemitism of the plot seem even more sinister in this context.  I love baseball, so I loved the Boston/Fenway Park setting.  

The mystery takes a backseat to Reggie and Hamish's relationship (the murder mystery doesn't even happen until halfway through the narrative).  There's tons of tension between the two: We see how Hamish cares for Reggie, and I like seeing her through Hamish's eyes.  Reggie is definitely brave to throw away her secure, pampered debutante lifestyle in favor of a business that might or might not make it.  I find her choices highly unlikely for the time, but she does want to be a modern, independent woman...yet she entertains a marriage proposal from a successful childhood friend.

Hamish is so endearing.  He has an anxiety disorder, and I feel for him when he's in the midst of one of his "episodes."  He is trying very hard to overcome his shady past, especially his familial ties to organized crime.  Plus, I love the fact that an Italian is named Hamish.  Although he is far from being perfect, his imperfections make him even more likable in my opinion.  

There are also a few secondary characters that make this book interesting, especially Nate.  Nate.  Is.  Great!  He needs his own book if not his own series.  :D

Usually cozy mysteries are all about the plot, but this one is definitely character-driven, and I like it!  I also love that it is a clean read, and it's published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson.  If you're looking for a new mystery series for summer, I highly recommend this one. 

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link:

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Disclosure:  I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a paperback copy of Murder in the City of Liberty via the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, June 21, 2019

Literary Friday: A Palm Beach Wife

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I have a fun, PERFECT beach (or lake) read to share with you:  A Palm Beach Wife by Susannah Marren.  I was intrigued from the first few pages, and it maintained my interest throughout.  Add this to your summer readling list ASAP!

According to Goodreads:

For readers of Elin Hilderbrand, Susannah Marren's A Palm Beach Wife is a delicious and irresistible commercial novel set among the high society galas and gossip of Palm Beach. 

Amid the glamour and galas and parties of Palm Beach, Faith knows that image often counts as much if not more than reality. She glides effortlessly among the highest of the high society so perfectly that you would never suspect she wasn’t born to this. But it wasn’t always so; though she hides it well, Faith has fought hard for the wonderful life she has, for her loving, successful husband, for her daughter’s future.

In this town of secrets and gossip and rumors, Faith has kept a desperate grip on everything she holds so dear, built from so little. And yet even she—the only one who knows just how far she has to fall—never suspects from which direction, or how many directions all at once, betrayal will come.

My Review:

Faith Harrison has it all: A faithful, loving husband, a smart, accomplished daughter, a successful business, and social status in Palm Beach, Florida.  She has harbored a secret for most of her life that could bring her social life and standing in the community to a crashig halt.

But this pales in comparison to the secrets her seemingly perfect husband Edward has been keeping from her for at least a year.  And this is where the narrative begins:  at one of the most prestigious balls of "the season;" Faith and Edward both intended to come clean with each other this special night, but circumstances prevented one from following through.

Faith's business is called Vintage Tales; it's a high-end consignment shop that specializes in jewelry and purses.  A huge part of the book is all about designer clothes, purses, jewelry watches, and even housewares.  At times the digression into all things haute couture gets monotonous, but it does add to the storyline because of Vintage Tales.  What I loved most about the store is Faith's daughter Katherine's quirky contribution to the store's items: each one comes with a story, the "tales" aspect of Vintage Tales.  For example, a mid-nineteenth-century rose-gold earrings and necklace set is tagged with Anne Brontë's feminist novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  This is probably what I love most about the book: the consigned items and their literary pairings.

The story itself is interesting, and I find that although Faith is the main character in the book, I still have questions about her past.  It's also shcoking that Edward married her in the first place; maybe it's because he had no family left to object.  Faith maintains her support of Edward even when she finds out what he's been up to, and she does not make the typical Palm Beach decisions in how she handles her situation.  Mrs. A, Palm Beach matriarch extraordinaire, admires Faith's tenacity even though she disagrees with her.  Everyone needs a Mrs. A in her life!

If you strictly want a feel-good book, then this is not the book for you.  However, if you're looking for a unique story set in one of the wealthiest American enclaves that will raise lots of questions (especially from a feninist perspective) then you will love A Palm Beach Wife.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of A Palm Beach Wife from the publisher via the author.  Normally I only accept books from TLC Book Tours, but I made an exception this time because the author is a professor in the field our youngest is studying right now.  Thank-you, St. Martin's Press!

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What's on your summer readling list?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I'm Getting a Son! *plus* a Winner

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  I have great news!!!!!  Our oldest DD is engaged to be married!  We are so happy for Shanley Belle and Christopher.  And I'm happy for myself because I'm gaining a son to spoil rotten!  ;P

Shanley Belle and Christopher are two of the hardest working young people you'd ever hope to meet.  While Shanley is defending her generals for her PhD program this summer, Christopher is graduating (this weekend) top in his class from his residency program and will begin working at a pediatric clinic in Baton Rouge.

They've only been engaged a week, and they're busy this week celebrating Christopher's graduation with several parties and a commencement at the Country Club of Louisiana.  They are getting close to setting a date, and I am so excited to help them plan their wedding.  I think they're the cutest, but obviously I'm a wee bit prejudiced!

In the meantime...

I'm trying to learn new photography skills especially during weekends at Lake Martin, Alabama.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

We've been looking for and discussing possible venues for the wedding in case the couple decides not to get married at St. Stephen's (Shanley wants a smaller wedding), and they've even talked about the possibility of a destination wedding because their closest friends are scattered all over the country.

I promise that Goat Island IS NOT one of the possible venues, although it is fun to see and feed the goats snacks.  :D

On to the winner of the June 1st Giveaway...

I don't know what happened with my Rafflecopter.  I've only used that widget MANY times on my blog, and this one did not work.  Also, no one said that it wasn't working in comments!  So odd....

Anyway, Google number generator picked number 17 out of 20, so Carla is the winner of the wine carrier!  Congratulations, Carla!!!

Please check back on Friday for a couple of reviews that just might be the beach or lake read you're looking for!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill