Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mother's Day; Cameras; Copyright, Watermarks, and Phishing; Beautiful Spring Days

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!

I hope all of you enjoyed Mother's Day, whether you are a mom or not.  I have many dynamic friends who aren't moms, but they are fantastic aunts, sisters, and mentors.  

I recently celebrated another birthday in early May, and because it's usually during exam week here in Alabama, many of my friends wanted to delay celebrating my birthday.  I lot of college students are moving out of dorms, etc, so I'm still celebrating this week!  :D

I want to thank many of my readers for your sweet emails, birthday cards, and prezzies, especially the Traveling Totes gals.  Y'all are all so kind and thoughtful!  I feel so loved....

I received the Five Days of Mom Mother's Day Advent Box from Once Upon a Book Club.  The hot pink booklet has adorable stories in it, one for each of the five days.  Each story corresponds to a gift for that day....Thanks, Shanley Belle!

I will write a review of the book and the box as a whole later!

I have been trying out cameras for my birthday.  So far I have not found what I really want.  The main reason I want it is for photographing my oil paintings.  I was reading an online forum for painters, and most of them no longer use their DSLR cameras: The mostly use iPhone 8X or better, mainly because the cameras are so accurate now, and the apps help editing them (like SnapSeed).  

Please: If you have any experience with cameras and would like to share your knowledge, leave a comment or email me.  I'm painting up a storm these days, and I'd like to sell my daily paintings, but I need good images or they won't sell.

As y'all know, I am not the best photographer, and I've never had good equipment.  I would like for the images on my blog to improve, but keep in mind that isn't my top priority.

While reading about cameras on an artists' forum, I also read about a few scams.  One in particular caught my attention:  Wallpart.  I will not provide a link here because I'm not quite sure what to think about it.  If you want to visit them, do so at your own risk.  Basically, Wallpart can steal any of your images from your blog or website and sell your copyrighted images via poster form.  They've been around for a long time, but I'm just now learning about them.  Their address is an incomplete Australian address, their posters are printed and shipped from China, and the IP address was registered by a Russian.  I have read that the site is actually a phishing site, and its main goal is to steal information from photographers and artists.  

Hmmmm.....I'm not quite sure I buy this.  If I were a Russian mobster and wanted to steal information from a group of people, I don't think I'd choose struggling artists or photographers.....or bloggers.  I do want to share that I did search the site.  Many of my photos from my blog are on there.  And so are yours.  Every single blog friend of mine has photos on this site.  

BTW I also learned from artists who've had their work stolen is this: Watermarks do not help, either.  Watermarks can be removed via photoshop and other photo editing apps.  Also, disabling right click doesn't help because predators can take screenshots of art and photography.  

I'll be the first to admit that I love many of the photos y'all have shared over the years, and I think prints of your photos would look beautiful in anyone's home (especially mine).  However, I think the whole set-up is weird.  

I do not make money from my blog.  I do not make money from my art.  I took art classes for ten years, and I have invested in thousands of dollars of art supplies.  I will have to sell a lot of art to make-up for what I've spend on this hobby.  But still, I didn't like it when the Bleacher Report used a photo without my consent, and didn't even credit my blog.  

What are your thoughts?  Have you heard of Wallpart?  Do you know of any other sites that steal from bloggers and other creatives?  I would love to read your thoughts on this topic below.

I have been enjoying this beautiful spring we're having here in Central Alabama, although we've had our share of rainy days, too.  We eat alfresco every chance we get!  I did see a lovely article in my inbox of an outdoor book club or literary tea party.  It's from Cottages and Bungalows Magazine (printed in the May/June edition), and I guess I'll start reading and supporting it it since Romantic Homes is no more.  I don't want this magazine to go away, too!

Here is the link for the article, and they even have a fun quiz and other adorable ideas for your tea party.  Better yet, pick-up the May-June edition at your local bookstore or newsagent!

I also wanted to let y'all know that I've given-up on The Sketchy Reader Book Club.  Clearly my readers don't want that.  I get it. 

If you would like to comment on what you'd like to read about on my blog, let me know!  But I must warn you that it must be stuff that I'm already doing in my life (reading, art, gardening, tablescapes, decor, cooking, baking, etc).  I blog about my family life, and I DO NOT plan my life around my blog anymore.  If anything, I do want to be authentic which is not easy for me because I tend to be more reserved and stoic compared to most bloggers I've met.  Any feedback will be appreciated!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, May 10, 2019

Literary Friday: The Late Bloomer's Club

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!
Today I'm sharing a fun novel by Louise Miller:  The Late Bloomer's Club.  You might recall that I reviewed her first novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living a couple of months ago.  Both novels are set in the rural Vermont town of Guthrie, and it was fun to get glimpses of some of my favorite characters from the first novel in the second one.

According to Goodreads

A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small-town's efforts to do right by their community, and the power of a lost dog to conjure up true love

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had. 

Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams.

My Review:

I'm beginning to get attached to this little Vermont hamlet and her residents: They're all quirky, passionate, complicated, and very, very interesting.  

This one begins with the untimely heart attack and car wreck of Guthrie's cake lady, Peggy Johnson.  Peggy's loyal border collie companion Freckles escapes the wreckage and runs away.  The search for and sightings of Freckles is a motif throughout the novel, and it's symbolic of the search for the main characters' true purpose.  As an example, Nora's heart doesn't really belong to the diner she inherited from her parents; she doesn't even cook!  Also, Nora's love interest Elliott seems way too grounded and generous to work as a location scout and negotiator for a "big box" store.  

One of the story's mysteries is why Peggy had intended to sell her property to a big box store chain.  Nora doesn't want to sell, and she's being pressured not to sell by most residents because the large super center would hurt most local mom and pop stores.  She's torn about what to do: As one of Peggy's heirs she wants to uphold her wishes (not to mention that her sister Kit wants to sell so she can finance her movie she's filming).  When a series of unfortunate events makes it certain that Nora and Kit MUST sell, all is not lost.  This book has one of the most unexpected and happy resolutions ever.  

One of my favorite characters is Max.  Max is Kit's boyfriend, and he's a veritable Jack of All Trades.  He did a stint as a baker, and his skills enable Kit and Nora to fulfill Peggy's outstanding cake orders.  Louise Miller shares Peggy's famous Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing in the back of the book.  This recipe alone is worth the book's price, but fortunately for her readers, Miller has written a charming, inspiring story reminding readers it's never too late to chase dreams.

NOTE: I purchased this book at my favorite Indie bookstore, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida.

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Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring wherever you are.  I've been MIA partly due to gorgeous weather and outdoor activities.  We have to enjoy it while we can in Central Alabama before the high summertime temperatures take over!

Today I'm sharing a new novel that's hit the shelves at just the right time, right before Mother's Day:  The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms.

According to Goodreads:

“A laugh-out-loud funny, pitch-perfect novel that will have readers rooting for this unlikely, relatable, and totally lovable heroine, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the ultimate escape—and will leave moms everywhere questioning whether it isn’t time for a #momspringa of their own.” —New York Journal of Books

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.

My Review:

First of all, I need to explain the term "momspringa."  Momspringa comes from the Amish word "rumspringa," which is a period when some Amish youth, boys more than girls, experience greater freedom. Without their parents' authority and not yet under the authority of the church as they haven't been baptized, the adolescents can leave their homes, buy cars, play with technology, and experience other things forbidden in their communities.  This is a time for reflection and deciding whether or not they want to become members of the church.  Amy is from Amish country in Pennsylvania, but she is not Amish.  Her best friend from college, New York fashion magazine editor Talia, decides to make a project out of Amy by treating her to her very own "momspringa."  Amy's mospringa will include a complete and total makeover, exciting New York City activities including dating,  a magazine feature article, and a whole lot of reflection.

Momspringa doesn't sound like a bad idea...especially for a single mom, does it?

Amy's children Cori (15) and Joe (12) have been Amy's sole focus for the past three years after their deadbeat father leaves them to run away to Hong Kong with a young honeypot.  Not only does he abandon his family, he abandons them with a mortgage (in Bucks County no less) and no money for them to live.  Amy had been a stay at home mom, but fortunately she finds employment at her children's private school as a librarian.  Her "escape to New York" is actually for a librarian conference at Columbia where she can earn professional development hours.  She's also a presenter, and her topic is genius: a "flexthology" where students can choose their own books uploaded to their e-readers based on theme/interest.  Eliminating reading groups, the theory is that lower readers will feel more inclined to read as they aren't labeled as being in the lower group, and of course it won't hurt the higher level readers because they can still be challenged by choosing books above grade level.  Sorry about my geek-fest here, but there's tons of nerd humor in the book, too, especially from very hot librarian Daniel.

Y'all must read this book.  It would make the perfect book club selection because everyone will finish it: Kelly Harms' witty dialogue, quirky, well-drawn characters (Lena-the-former-nun and Amy's best friend is a favorite), and honesty about the complicated feelings all mothers have will leave readers plenty to discuss at your next meeting.  This book is the perfect gift for mothers of all ages, and it's aptly dedicated to single mothers everywhere.

Disclosure:  I'd like to thank the publisher via TLC Book Tours for sending me a hardcover copy of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, April 12, 2019

Literary Friday: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read one of the most unusual books I've ever read: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak.  Zusak wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Book Thief.   You may read my review of The Book Thief HERE.

According to Goodreads:

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. 

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. 

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

My Review:

In all honesty, I don't now how to begin this review.  It's a very unique book, and it's very hard to describe.  I do want to warn that this is (mostly) a tragic story about Clay, the fourth Dunbar brother: It's a hard book to read.  His story is told by the oldest Dunbar brother Matthew, and I truly love Matthew's voice.  He doesn't reveal his tale chronologically: some of the family's history is interspersed throughout the narrative, and Matthew draws out the real reason their father abandoned them and what secret Clay has been harboring.  The secret and a few other plot points were surprising, and Matthew's story kept me reading late into the night.  

This is a long book (534 pages), but it is so worth the effort.  The style, pace, and voice are definitely an acquired taste, but if readers would keep reading and not give-up, they wouldn't be disappointed: They'd be richly rewarded.  The story is so endearing because Clay has such a tender spirit; but yet so does Matthew because he loves his brother so much he honors him through his words.  

I won't ever forget the Dunbar brothers.  Theirs is one of those rare stories that stay with you forever.  Markus Zusak is such an incredible storyteller and talent, and I hope that this book will be adapted into a movie like The Book Thief.  

If you enjoy reading stories about interesting families with unforgettable characters set in an unusual neighborhood, then you will love Bridge of Clay.  I think it will become a literary classic.

Have you read anything fantastic lately?  Please tell us about it in the Comments section below!

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Spring Break at the Tallapoosa School of Art

Demo at Lake Martin 2019 2
Oil on panel
This is Qiang Huang's demo from day 2 of the workshop.  He focused on metals in the lesson

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  During the last week of March, I spent Spring Break at the Tallapoosa School of Art on Lake Martin in Dadeville, Alabama.  Dorothy Littleton owns the school, and her studio is truly something special, as is her cottage home and the lakeside cabins for guests.  I stayed at our lake cabin because it's only 13 miles from Dorothy's lake property called the Blue Heron.  Click on the LINK and check out the Blue Heron and the summer workshops Dorothy has planned.

Y'all know how much I love the lake, and I also have admired the workshop's teacher, Qiang Huang (pronounced Chong Wong) and his art for a long time.  I jumped at the opportunity to attend the workshop, and I'm so happy I did.  Not only was Dorothy a wonderful hostess (plus amazing artist herself), but Qiang is the BEST workshop teacher I've ever had, and I've attended dozens of workshops over the years.

Qiang Huang and his demo from Day 3
You can learn more about Qiang, his workshops, and his art by linking to his website HERE.

Close-up of demo from Day 3: Glass Lesson
This was also a High Key Lesson, and I found it to be challenging. 

It is very difficult to talk and paint at the same time because both actions use different parts of the brain.  Qiang can do this well, but he's a genius, literally.  He's an engineer by trade, and his story is so interesting.  He actually fell into art when he wanted to furnish his new home and couldn't find anything he liked in his price range!  Qiang is very personable, and very, very patient.  

La Countess de Monet accompanied me on the trip, however I wouldn't let her attend class with me in the studio.  I'm way too messy!  See the door on top?  It's a loft for visiting artists or other guests.  There's a spiral staircase accessing it, but I cut it off in my photo!

Many of the materials for the art studio were sourced from a mid-1800s Iowa barn.  I wanted to show a few of the woods used in the studio in this photo.

Looking over the loft into the studio area
There's room for about ten artists in the studio.

Qiang teaches a process of oil painting called alla prima.  According to Wikipedia:

Wet-on-wet, or alla prima (Italian, meaning at first attempt), direct painting or au premier coup, is a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint.

Demo at lake Martin, Day 4: Floral Lesson

Lake Martin Day 1 Demo
I brought this one home with me!  :D

Now I'll share two of the paintings I completed at the workshop.  I learned so much painting them, and I can look at them and remember what I learned.  Plus I took copious notes to help me remember what Qiang taught.  

Painting from Day 1
I enjoyed learning a better way to paint grapes.

This is my painting from Day 2.  It was challenging painting both metal and glass in one painting!

Now that I'm home, I'm determined to try to paint everyday and join the Daily Painting Movement.  Below are two alla prima daily paintings that I painted here at home after the workshop.

Both paintings are 6" X 6".

I want to thank Qiang for traveling to Alabama to teach us; the other incredibly talented artists who attended; and Dorothy, the sweetest hostess *ever*  I had such a nice time sharing meals with these artists, too.  I can't wait to take a couple of the workshops this summer!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, April 5, 2019

Book Excerpt: Justice Mission by Lynette Eason

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Has the weather been beautiful in your area?  It's been lovely here all week, although yesterday was a wee bit cloudy.  I've been enjoying the weather and the blooming flowers.  What about you? 

Today I have a special treat via TLC Book Tours:  an excerpt from Justice Mission by Lynette Eason.  I love dogs, especially German shepherds.

Caught in a killer’s sights…

Introducing the True Blue K-9 Unit series

After K-9 unit administrative assistant Sophie Walters spots a suspicious stranger lurking at the K-9 graduation, the man kidnaps her—and she barely escapes. With Sophie’s boss missing and someone determined to silence her, NYPD officer Luke Hathaway vows he and his K-9 partner will guard her. But he must keep an emotional distance to ensure this mission ends in justice…not cold-blooded murder.

Intrigued yet?  

Below is the excerpt:


     Sophie Walters stood back to count the rows of chairs and relished the thought of the upcoming graduation ceremony that would take place shortly in the auditorium near the NYC K-9 Command Unit headquarters where she worked in Forest Hills, Queens. Today, several new four-legged recruits and their handlers would graduate and join the force in keeping New York City safe.

     The unit was made up of officers who handled dogs with a variety of specialties. While based out of their office in Queens, the officers were assigned to divisions of the NYPD throughout the five boroughs of New York City where needed.
     As the administrative assistant to Chief Jordan Jameson who headed up the NYC K-9 Command Unit, Sophie had a wide range of duties, but she’d be the first to admit, she loved the graduation ceremonies most.
     Hands down, she loved her job and took pride in the fact that she was very good at it. Something the chief often praised her for.
     “You have an eye for detail and organization, Sophie,” he’d said on more than one occasion. “I don’t know what this place would do without you.”

     If only he knew how hard she’d worked to develop that eye for detail. Sophie smiled, her heart grateful for the man who’d taken a chance on a young green college graduate three years ago.
A thud from the back of the auditorium drew her attention to the left-hand corner and she frowned.

     “Hello? Is someone there?”

     Stillness settled over the large room. When nothing more happened and no one announced their presence, she returned her attention to the ceremony preparations.
Something was wrong. Off. But what?

     A little prickle at the base of her neck sent shivers down her spine and she turned to assess the area once more. The auditorium chairs sat empty. She’d unlocked all of the doors in case she had some early arrivals, but the place was quiet for now. Quiet as a tomb. Now why would she think that? There’d been no more strange noises and nothing that should spark her unease. But she couldn’t help feeling like someone was watching.

     But why?

     And who?

     “No one,” she muttered. “Quit jumping at shadows.” But something still nagged at her.

     Sophie scanned the stage trying to put her finger on it. Six chairs aligned just right on the artificial turf. The podium with the chief’s notes for his presentation within easy reach, the mic was at exactly the right height, the graduation certificates were laid out in alphabetical order on the table…
The table.

     She huffed. She’d placed everything on it without putting the black cloth on. Where was her mind this morning?  Definitely on her brother and the attention-stealing phone call she’d received last night. He’d called to tell her he was quitting college to join the Marines.
Seriously? He was nineteen years old. “What does a nineteen-year-old know?” she muttered. Nothing. Which was probably why he wanted to join the Marines.

     But who was she to say it was a bad idea? He was right. They were different people with different lives, but she’d been ten years old when their mother had left and she’d taken on the role of mother figure for Trey. For the past fourteen years, he’d looked at her that way. And now he wanted her to just step aside while he made an important decision without discussing it? A small part of her reminded herself that he was technically an adult.

     “But I’m the one who attended the parent/teacher conferences when Dad couldn’t get off work,” she muttered. “I’m the one who fixed his snacks and washed his clothes and held him when he got his heart broken by the girl who dumped him his sophomore year of high school.”

     Stop it. Let it go for now and do your job.

     Sophie removed the black tablecloth from the supply closet in the hallway, then hurried back toward the auditorium, her mind tuned in to the graduation details now.  She pushed through the auditorium door to the right of the stage and stumbled to a halt. A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses stood next to the podium with Chief Jameson’s red remarks folder open.

     “Excuse me, what are you doing?” Sophie asked. He’d frozen for a slight second when she entered but closed the folder as she strode toward him. Her low heels clicked on the wooden steps and rang through the empty room. She approached him, intent on rescuing Jordan’s notes if need be. “The ceremony doesn’t start for another forty-five minutes. Did you need help with something?”

    “Ah. No.” He turned toward her. “Thanks, but—” He kept his head lowered and she couldn’t make out a thing about his features.

     A little niggle of fear curled in her belly and she remembered the loud noise, the feeling of someone watching her. She stopped so suddenly, she actually slid a couple of more inches on the wood floor. Had he been in the auditorium the whole time? Watching her? Waiting for her to leave so he could look through Jordan’s folder?

     No, of course not. She was being silly.

     “But?” She encouraged him to finish his statement even while she could feel his laser-like stare shooting at her from behind the dark glasses. “Were you looking for something in the folder? It’s just notes for a speech.”

     Once again unease shook her. Maybe she wasn’t being so silly after all. Something wasn’t right with this.

     Get away from him.

     Goosebumps pebbled her arms, and she turned to run. His left hand shot out and closed around her right bicep as his right hand came up, fingers wrapped around the grip of a gun. Sophie screamed when he placed the barrel of the weapon against her head. “Shut up,” he hissed. “Cooperate, and I might let you live.”

     A gun. He had a gun pointed at her temple.
     “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? I don’t have any money on me.” Her shaky voice tumbled from trembling lips. She clamped them down, fighting for control.

     His grip tightened. “Go.”

     Go? “Where?”

     “Out the side door and to the parking lot. Now.”

     “Why don’t you go, and I’ll forget this ever happened?”

     “Too late for that. You’re coming with me. Now move!”

     “You’re kidnapping me?” She squeezed the words out, trying to breathe through her terror.

     “I said shut up! I’m not going to prison because of you!”

     Still keeping his fingers tight around her upper arm, he gave her a hard shove and Sophie stumbled down the steps of the podium, his grip the only thing that kept her from landing on her face.
Her captor aimed her toward the door, and she had no choice but to follow. Heart thundering in her chest, her gaze jerked around the empty room. No help there. Maybe someone would be in the parking lot?

     He pushed the silver bar and the steel door swung out. The gun moved from her head to dig into the center of her back propelling her out onto the asphalt. His other hand snagged the loose bun at the nape of her neck, yanking her head sideways.  She cried out even while she squinted against the glare of the bright morning sun. Normally, her penchant for being early averted a lot of things that could go wrong and usurp her daily schedule. Today, it had placed her in the hands of a dangerous man—and an empty parking lot in Jackson Heights. Where was everyone?  Think, Sophie, think!

     A K-9 SUV turned in and she caught a glimpse of the driver. Officer Luke Hathaway sat behind the wheel of the SUV. “Luke!”

      “Shut up!” Her captor jerked her toward a brown sedan with a glance over his shoulder. His grip didn’t loosen until he got to the driver’s side of the vehicle. “Open the door!”

      No way. With a burst of strength, she jabbed back with her left elbow. A yell burst from him along with a string of curses. She slipped from his grip for a brief second until he slammed his weapon against the side of her head.  She screamed as pain raced through her and stars danced, threatening to send her into the approaching blackness. Her captor opened the door and shoved her inside before she could gather her wits. She landed halfway on the middle console and halfway in the passenger seat with the gearshift digging into her hip. Head pounding, heart thudding, the blackness faded and she cried out once again as he gave her another hard push, forcing her awkwardly into the passenger seat.

The door slammed.


     She heard Luke call her name and tried to ignore the nausea climbing into the back of her throat as she grabbed for the passenger door handle. Her captor shot out a hand and grasped her by the hair. “Stay still, or I’ll shoot you now.”

     The car roared to life and spun out of the lot.


     Luke stared in horror as he realized he’d just witnessed Sophie being kidnapped. He pressed the gas and the SUV shot after the fleeing sedan.  Bruno, his K-9 partner seated safely in his spot in the back, barked.

     “I know, boy,” Luke murmured to the German shepherd. “I’m going after her.”

     Luke grabbed his radio.

     “Officer needs backup. I have 207 in progress. Repeat, kidnapping in progress. Sophie Walters, Chief Jameson's assistant is the victim. In pursuit of a brown Buick sedan, license plate Eddie-Larry-Peter-four-seven-five-eight. Closing in on pursuit position.” He gave his location and kept a watch for other cars and innocent bystanders.

     Unfortunately, Sophie’s kidnapper didn’t have any such concern. The man swerved to the right and around a parked car, then up on the sidewalk. People scattered like ants. A trash can bounced off the windshield and Luke yanked the wheel to the left to avoid it. Two police cruisers fell in behind him.  Bruno barked again. Luke knew how the dog felt. “Going as fast as I can, buddy.” He lifted the radio once again. “Just hit Ninety-fourth, heading straight for Roosevelt Avenue. Need someone to head him off.” Luke wanted to gun the engine, but he didn’t dare. The streets weren’t packed, but enough innocent people were there to keep him careful.

     In and out of traffic, the man drove, even in the wrong lane several times. Luke stayed with him. Backup stayed behind Luke. “He just took a right on Broadway. I’m guessing he’s heading for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Repeat, he’s heading toward the BQE.”

     Luke received confirmation that officers were en route to that area. “Come on, come on. Slow down. Run out of gas. Anything.”

     But the man kept going. Fortunately, Luke’s siren caught people’s attention so that they moved out of the way. Sure enough, the man merged from Broadway onto the BQE. “Heading in the direction of the Triborough Bridge. Somebody stop this guy, but be careful, he’s got a kidnapping victim with him. Sophie Walters. Civilian employee of the NYPD.”

     “Copy that,” came the response.

     The driver continued his game of dodge and somehow managed to avoid crashing into anything.
Luke followed, staying far enough behind so as not to miss a sudden turn, but close enough not to lose the guy. With each turn, Luke gave the directions, knowing backup would try to cut the guy off. Unfortunately, with no clear destination, he couldn’t give them clear enough direction.  Where was this guy going? How much longer could he drive like this without killing someone? Tension threaded Luke’s shoulders with knots. The kidnapper took another left, heading for one of the more crowded areas of Astoria. The potential for someone to get hurt had just jumped astronomically. Luke requested the area be cleared immediately but knew it wouldn’t be in time.

     The fleeing suspect missed a city bus by a fraction of an inch and Luke barely squeaked past it himself. A young man on a delivery bike slammed into the side of a parked car in his desperate attempt to keep from barreling in front of the speeding sedan. Briefly, Luke hoped the poor cyclist hadn’t broken anything.  Luke braked hard when the sedan swerved. Tires squealing, it headed straight for a fruit stand on the corner. Screams echoed. People ran. The vehicle rammed into the stand, sending produce flying and the owner diving out of the way. Luke screeched to a stop and threw the car into park. He bolted from the driver’s seat and hit the remote button that opened Bruno's area. Bruno leaping out to follow as Luke raced toward the wrecked vehicle in time to see the driver grab Sophie by the arm and pull her from the car.

     “Stop! NYPD!” Luke dodged the fleeing crowd and fought his way toward Sophie. “Sophie!”

     “Luke!” Her terrified scream spurred him faster. Bruno stayed with him. Backup was right behind him, adding their commands to stop.

     Sophie struggled against her captor, and he yanked her hard. She stumbled. Luke closed in, reaching for her. And then the man shoved her away from him. Sophie let out another scream as she flew toward Luke, barreling into him, knocking him off balance.  He fell back, tripping over Bruno, who yelped and scrambled to move out of the way. Luke’s back hit the sidewalk with a breath-stealing thud. Sophie landed on top of him and the last of his air left his lungs. From the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the man disappearing into the nearest building. Officers pounded after him.
Gasping, Luke rolled.

     “You okay?” he wheezed to Sophie.

     She groaned and pressed a hand to her head.

     Luke staggered to his feet, then helped her up as other officers rushed past them, going after the kidnapper. Two more slowed as though to check on them and Luke waved them on. They took off and Sophie leaned heavily against him. Bystanders crowded around, asking if they were okay while he held her, trying to discern where she was hurt.  Her usually neat bun had fallen, and her long brown hair lay in disarray across her shoulders. He brushed the strands from her eyes and she blinked up at him.

     “Talk to me, Sophie. You’re okay, right?”

     “Yes. I… Yes,” she whispered. “I…I think so.”

     He caught sight of the blood on the side of her head. “Wait a minute. You’re not okay. We need to get you checked out.”

     “No, it’s all right. Just give me a minute to catch my breath and let my head stop spinning.”

     “You’re hurt. You need a hospital.”

     She touched her head with a wince. “No, what I need is to get back to the auditorium. We’ve got a graduation that needs to go on.”


     “I’m serious. That guy was only after me because I saw him messing with Chief Jameson’s folder on the podium. I want to know what he was doing and if he left something behind that would tell us who he is.” She grimaced. “Then you can go after him again.”

     For a moment Luke could only stare at her. She’d been kidnapped, knocked in the head, driven through the city at breakneck speed, and all she could think about was getting back to see what the guy had been up to?

     “You’re amazing.”

     She blinked. “No. I’m mad.”

     “All right. Let’s head back to the auditorium then. While we’re riding, you can fill me in on the details.”

     “Thank you.”

     Luke caught Bruno’s leash, and Sophie followed him—limping slightly—back to his Tahoe where she climbed into the front seat and fastened her seat belt. Luke settled behind the driver’s seat and held the radio to his mouth. “Any sign of the guy who kidnapped Sophie?”

     “That’s a negative,” the voice came back at him through the speaker. “He disappeared after officers chased him through the store. We’re still canvassing the area.”


     By the time Luke pulled into the parking lot at the auditorium, Sophie had filled him in on everything that had led to her kidnapping. And Luke was inclined to agree with her. This wasn’t just some random snatching. The man at the podium had had a goal—and Luke was itching to figure out what it was.  Another car pulled into the lot.

     “Everyone is arriving,” she said. “We need to make this fast so we can stay on schedule.”


     But she was already out of the car and hurrying—limping—toward the door she’d been forced from about thirty minutes ago.

     “The ceremony can start late, you know,” he murmured to her back. With a sigh, he let Bruno out and they followed after Sophie. Inside, he found her surrounded by other officers concerned with her safety. She repeated all of her “I’m shaken up, but fine” reassurances until they accepted the answer even if they didn’t fully believe it.

     “Is she really okay?” Officer Zach Jameson asked. A fellow officer with the NYC K-9 Command Unit, Zach was also the youngest brother to Jordan Jameson, the chief. The family resemblance was startling with his brown hair and blue eyes. Luke noted Carter and Noah, the other two Jameson brothers, standing nearby with their K-9s seated at their sides.

     “She says she is,” Luke said with a frown. “That’s all I have to go on.”

     The Jamesons had made law enforcement their family business and all had arrived to attend the ceremony, then get back to work. Officer Finn Gallagher, another K-9 Command Unit member, stood nearby, green eyes watching. Usually the jovial, outgoing jokester of the group, he now sported tight features and a tense jaw.  Luke nodded to Chief Jameson’s wife, sitting in the front row and glancing at her watch.

     “Is Katie all right? She looks a little pale.”

     Jordan’s wife had her blond hair in a French braid that fell over her right shoulder. Her blue eyes continued to bounce between her watch and the door her husband should have entered at least fifteen minutes ago.

     “I noticed that, too, but when I asked, she said she was fine, just feeling a little under the weather and that she and Jordan had an errand to run after the ceremony so she thought she’d just come watch.”

     “She’s always been crazy about the dogs,” Luke said. “And Jordan likes having her here.” He glanced around. “Speaking of Jordan, where is he?”

     Zach shrugged, blue eyes narrowed as he watched his sister-in-law. “Katie’s wondering that, too. He’s usually here by now, going over his notes or shaking hands—and paws—with the soon-to-be new graduates.”

     Sophie broke free of her concerned friends and headed for the stage. Luke and Bruno followed her up the steps and to the podium. “Where’s Jordan?” Luke asked. “Did he say anything about running late?”

     “No. At least not before I was snatched.” Her hand shook slightly as she reached for the red folder. “Let’s see what my kidnapper found so fascinating about Jordan’s notes.”

     She flipped the folder open and an envelope fell to the floor. Frowning, she retrieved it, slipped a finger under the flap and pulled out the paper inside. Her eyes scanned it and she gasped, the color leaching from her cheeks.

     “Sophie?” Luke hurried the last few steps to her side, thinking the knock on her head had finally caught up to her. “Are you okay? You need to sit down?”


     She stared at the letter, and Luke frowned. No, she wasn’t okay, or no, she didn’t need to sit down? He stepped behind her to read over her shoulder.

     I can’t go on anymore. Please make sure Katie is taken care of. Jordan Jameson.


What do you think?  Is this something you'd be interested in reading?

Justice Mission was released Tuesday.  Below is an IndieBound affiliate link for purchasing the book:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including my blog in the book and excerpt tour.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Saturday, March 30, 2019

March Book Club: Anne of Green Gables

Happy Weekend, My Lovelies!  Thanks for your patience with this post.  I had such a great time at the artists' workshop, and I'll post all about it next week.  

Today I want you to join me for this month's book club discussion:  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Come on in and grab a mug and fix either tea or coffee to your liking.  Then we'll tuck-in for raspberry tarts and discuss this lovely book!

"The little girls of Avonlea School always pooled their lunches, and to eat three raspberry tarts all alone or even to share them with only one's best chum would have forever and ever branded as "awful mean" the girl who did it.  And yet, when the tarts were divided among ten girls you just got enough to tantalize you."

First of all I want to share a few things before we begin with questions and discussion.  I went to the library and checked-out the annotated edition of Anne of Green Gables.  It took me forever to read the story as well as the notes, but it was so worth it.

One thing I found interesting is Montgomery's model for what Anne looked like in her mind:

Evelyn Nesbit is an artist's model and chorus girl who was the focus of a scandalous murder trial in 1906 that was the subject of intense media attention.  Nesbit's husband Harry K. Thaw shot and killed Stanford White, the well-known New York architect.  An unstable millionaire, Harry Kendall Thaw, who had become obsessed about White's previous relationship with Evelyn, shot him at close range at a New York City play.

Is this how you pictured Anne?

Another thing I wanted to share is about the traditional Canadian quilts mentioned in the book.  This month I noticed an article in the 2019 edition of Victoria Magazine's Victoria's Classics: English Cottage.  

This is an example of a traditional red and white Canadian quilt.  I love quilts, and I love the red with the white.

If you'd like to read more about the landscape of Prince Edward Island and try a few Anne of Green Gables inspired recipes, I'd like to recommend the books pictured below.

"People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?"
-Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables 

Discussion questions are posted in the Comments Section below.  If you have a question you'd like to ask, please feel free to post a question or two.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  I'm currently attending a week-long painting workshop, but today is my day to share with you The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick.  Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this book tour because Phaedra Patrick is one of my favorite writers.  Please note that I wrote this post last week, and I will post your comments and respond as I can.

According to Goodreads:

A librarian’s discovery of a mysterious book sparks the journey of a lifetime in the delightful new novel from the international bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper 

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people—though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend—her grandmother Zelda—who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heartwarming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending.

My Review:

This is a very unusual novel because it's a coming of age story for a fifty-something.  Because the lessons learned in this book are so important, it's a must-read for all ages.  Martha Storm is in her early fifties.  She is a people pleaser, and she gave up a chance for a family of her own when her fiancĂ© moved to New York City from England for his career, and she refused to move with him so she could care for her aging parents until they passed.  She thinks that it's her purpose in life to help others, and her good deeds consume her every waking hour.  Her home is a wreck with half-completed projects for other people.  She's running low on her inheritance money, and she needs a job.  An English major, she has volunteered at her local library for years and has applied to work within the library system several times.  Niles the Library Director never hires her, yet he gives her tons of responsibilities around the library because she "doesn't have personal commitments."  What a jerk!

Things begin to drastically change for Martha when she receives a copy of a mysterious fairytale book.  (One of the charming aspects of  The Library of Lost and Found are the original fairytales scattered throughout the narrative.)  Through it she discovers family secrets kept from her as well as the fate of her grandmother Zelda.  Although the mystery of the book is resolved fairly early, next comes more family secrets, a little romance, and a daring rescue.  The plot is surprising to say the least!  I wasn't expecting the plot twists and turns at all.  

Phaedra Patrick is the master of crafting endearing characters, and The Library of Lost and Found is no exception.  Although at times I wanted to shake Martha because she allows people to take advantage of her kindness, her transformation by the book's end made my aggravation with her worth it.  This is also a sweet book for readers who are nostalgic for their libraries, especially their childhood libraries.  So if you love character-driven novels with family drama, family secrets, sibling rivalry, fairytales, and action, then you should enjoy The Library of Lost and Found.  You may read my review of Patrick's other books The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and Wake-up, Benedict Stone HERE.  

Disclosure:  I received a hardcover copy of The Library of Lost and Found from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Attention:  Due to the week-long art workshop I'm attending in rural Alabama this week, we'll discuss Anne of Green Gables Saturday afternoon.  The internet has been very sporadic and I won't have good internet until Saturday.

Until next time...

Happy reading! 
Ricki Jill

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