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 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.

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"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...

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...

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!


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

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