Literary Friday: Six Mini Reviews

Friday, June 2, 2023


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing six books with you, but don't worry....I've challenged myself to write mini reviews with no more than five to six sentences per book!  I hope you appreciate the variety of these books as they are from several genres:  science fiction, cozy mystery, new adult fantasy, literary classic, literary fiction, and magical realism.  

So pour yourself another cup of coffee (you know you want one), sit back, and pick out a book for your summer reading list!

Imagine a world where everyone is obsessed with literature, writers are more popular than rockstars, time travel is a thing, and people can enter the world of books.  If this sounds like a fun alternative universe, then you will love The Eyre Affair where literary detective Thursday Next must save Jane Eyre, both the character and the classic novel.  Set in the 1980s, The Eyre Affair is the first in a series of seven.  This is the best book I've read in years, and one of my favorites of all time.

Book eight in The Scottish Bookshop Mystery Series, Fateful Words is my least favorite so far.  The other books in this series are chock-full of history and literature, but this one is lacking.  It does center around a literary tour of Edinburgh, but there's not enough descriptions of the sites with the exception of St. Giles' Cathedral.  The mystery is lacking as well.  The one positive is that we see more of the heroine Delaney's husband Tom in the plot.  In spite of my disappointment in this installment, this is my favorite cozy mystery series.

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Fairies is excellent:  What a nice surprise!  I thought it was going to be a strange New Adult fantasy, but it was much more character driven.  Set during the Victorian Era, Emily is a Cambridge professor and researcher compiling an encyclopaedia of all the fairies.  Her project takes her to Scandinavia during winter to research fairies in a remote village.  She's definitely awkward, possibly on the autism spectrum, so it's a good thing when her handsome fellow Cambridge professor Wendell Bambleby shows-up to help her in her research and navigate the politics of the village.  My question:  What exactly IS Wendell?

This is a re-read for me.  I first listened to this book on NPR about thirty-four years ago, and I loved it.  An American classic, Ride With Me, Mariah Montana is about Jick McCaskill, his photographer daughter, Mariah, and Mariah's journalist ex-husband Riley Wright.  Mariah and Riley con Jick in to taking them in his Winnebago all over Montana during the state's centennial summer while the pair cover events and celebrations for their newspaper.  Mariah and Riley are a handful, and Jick can barely stand being in the same state with Riley, so it goes without saying that the small confines of the Winnebago might not be the best idea for how Jick should spend his summer.  I love this book so much because seeing Montana through Jick's eyes is unforgettable. 

Phaedra Patrick is a favorite writer of mine, and I've had The Messy Lives of Book People on my To Be Read List for a little while.  Literature lover Liv Green is a mother of two older teenagers, and she cleans house for mega-bestselling author Essie Starling.  Essie dies suddenly, and it is her final wish for Liv to finish her last  book.  Essie was a difficult client, and as Liv begins work on the novel and digs a little deeper into Essie's life, she is stunned to discover a connection between them.  Liv is a character who stays with the reader for a very long time after finishing the book.

Weyward was recommended to me by my librarian.  It's the intertwined story of three Weyward women: one from the present, one from the seventeenth century, and one from circa WWII.  Set in Northern England, the plot has a wee bit of magical realism.  I normally like family dramas, but the men were mostly horrible, and there's a definite feminist bent to the book.  These women all had several reasons to not trust men!  What I like best is how the magic of nature features prominently in the narrative.  Emilia Hart is a creative talent I'm happy to know about, and I hope to read more of her books.

Which one sounds like the best read to you?  Will you be adding any of these to your TBR List?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tales of the Traveling Tote: Montana and Louisiana

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Happy June, My Lovelies!  

Welcome to another edition of the Tales of the Traveling Tote.  Today's post features two trips: a ski trip to Big Sky, Montana, and a family trip to Covington, Louisiana.

In March, Mr. Bookish and I went on a trip with the Birmingham Ski Club to Big Sky, Montana.  It was during Spring Break, and I saw so many people from Birmingham, even a family from our neighborhood!  

With all the sweaters and other winter clothing I had to pack, there was only room for Miss Candy Max.  She met a friend in the lobby of the Huntley Lodge, our home for the week.
We loved it, and it's always a plus when a hotel features the convenience of ski in/ ski out. 

The Huntley Lodge was built in the 1970s by the TV newscaster Chet Huntley.  He was proud of his state, and promoted it everywhere.  He was also a developer of Big Sky.

Scenes from the Huntley Lodge:

Starbucks in the lobby

The view from our room's window, above and below.

It was very difficult taking photos on this trip because it snowed  every.  single.  day we were there.  There were a few moments when there was a break in the clouds, and I took photos then.

Big Sky's Town Center is lovely!  I was happy to meet artists at a couple of galleries, and I was thrilled that they have a brand new Cowboy Coffee!  We have loved Cowboy Coffee for many years, having discovered it on another ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We had a lovely trip, and Mr. Bookish loved the skiing.  This is the first ski trip I've been on where I didn't ski.  I have yet to have the all clear (I'm having a bone density test soon), but once I have the all clear, I will ski again!  Mr. Bookish wants to return to Big Sky around Christmas so I can ski.  We already have a ski trip planned for the beginning of 2024.

I had plenty to occupy my time.  I read a couple of books beside the fire, took a few art supplies and did a little drawing, and met some very lovely people in town.  There is a group of artists in Big Sky who host workshops year round, and I'd like to return and do both: make art and ski!  

We also ate well: Big Sky has some amazing restaurants, and our three favorites were Buck's T-4 Lodge, The Cabin, and Peaks Chophouse.  A friend told me that Montana is big on huckleberries, and that Montanans would try to force them down my throat.  Well, the did, and I liked it!  I had huckleberries on all the things....and I brought home huckleberry jam and huckleberry honey.  Good stuff!

Scenes from the Summit Hotel after dinner, above and below.
Peaks Chophouse is located in the Summit, and it was a favorite with the ski club.

I brought home some Cowboy Coffee, and I'm happy to report I can now order it online!
My favorite blends are the Cowboy and Teton.

Quote from the Huntley-Brinkley Report

In April, we went to Covington, Louisiana, for a family party.

We loved staying at the Southern Hotel!  We want to take a long weekend and visit again soon.  Covington is a darling small town, and there are unique shops, restaurants, and activities to enjoy.

La Countess de Monet rode along with us, but she fell in with a questionable crowd...

Our suite in The Garden House was accessed through a pink garden gate.  The Southern Hotel's gardens are lovely! 

Scenes from The Garden House
We stayed in the Hibiscus Suite

The Southern Hotel is so beautiful, and my favorite part was a lovely restaurant called the Gloriette.  Gloriette means garden folly, and it truly looks like a whimsical garden folly.

The Gloriette serves chocolate biscuits, a Southern tradition.  During the depression, Southerners saved biscuits from breakfast, melted chocolate, and combined the two for dessert after supper.  (Dinner is the midday meal.)

My favorite meal of the trip was breakfast at The Gloriette.
We also enjoyed a lovely dinner at Gallagher's Grill.

The family party was fun, but I did not take a single photo.  The bride (my niece Molly) and groom (Brandon) are a sweet and happy couple, and since no one else seemed to be taking photos at the bridal shower, I didn't, either.  (Probably because it was a crawfish boil, and everyone's hands were messy most of the time.)  There are more parties in the future, and I will insist on taking photos of the bride and groom then!

I hope you enjoyed my post!  Please visit the other totes and see where in the world they've traveled.  Links are listed below!

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 
Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
 Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box
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 (You're here!)

Also, please visit Sarah's blog for a lovely giveaway!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Lake Cabin Main Bedroom Redo

Monday, May 29, 2023


Happy Memorial Day, My Lovelies!  I hope you've had a wonderful weekend.  We're still celebrating at Lake Martin with family and friends.

In today's post I wanted to share our recent redo of our main bedroom in our lake cabin.  We've wanted to redecorate for a long time, and we were inspired by our hotel room in Montana.  I wish I'd taken more photos of the room because it was brilliant in its decor and functionality.

What we loved about our room:  The rustic wood-clad walls; crisp white linens; leather headboards; industrial lighting; and floating bedside shelves.

Our cabin is small, so we painted the walls in Benjamin Moore's Super White.  There's a texture on the walls to reduce sound, and we opted not to change that.  Next we upgraded our ceiling fan, and we upgraded from a queen sized bed to a king.

Rather than clad the entire wall with barn wood, we instead bought a headboard.  We found floating shelving with drawers we liked a little bit better than open shelving, and Trip decided to hardwire the lights we found.

We didn't change the carpet because it's in very good condition.

I like that the headboard has random white and gray planks.

I love the little sconces with the retro shape, bulbs, and pulls.

We are enjoying the neutral bedding, and we've added white linen bedding for summer.

Our pine pieces are now sporting jaunty MacKenzie-Childs round and fish knobs.
The chests are opposite our bed, and between them are large sliding glass doors.  We also installed new (blackout) white linen curtains.  I forgot to take a photo of them! 

The only thing we kept in the room is the vintage Mardi Gras poster.  It looks even better with our new decor.

This is quite the departure from how I normally decorate because I'm a maximalist, and I love color.  But that's sort of the point, for the room to feel like a little boutique hotel.

Mr. Bookish was so helpful in helping with the decorating decisions; installing the sconces, bedside floating tables, and ceiling fan; and helping move the kingsize bed up a very steep flight of stairs.  

We also totally changed our porches at the lake, too.  I might share them later if I remember to take some photos.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill