Sunday Bookends: Smelly books, broken laptop keyboards, and summer is fading

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing and listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

You might recall that last week I had a list of books from which to choose from for my reading pleasure but hadn’t decided on which one.

After I posted that post, I chose The Boomerang Clue by Agatha Christie, which I had picked up at a book sale at the local library. It was an old copy, maybe from the 70s and after reading it for a bit I realized it smelled like an old book and that wasn’t a good thing. I started getting a weird headache and coughing so I had to place the book aside. I looked online to see if I could download an ebook copy of it, but lo and behold, much like some of Christie’s other books, this book had been renamed. I’m not sure what was offensive about this one’s name and why it was changed, but I do know why And Then There Was None was changed from its original name. You can look that up if you are curious.

The book was the basis for a mini-series on Britbox which we recently watched so I decided I’d see if the book had been renamed to that and, indeed, it had been renamed at some point in the past, even before the series. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? was the new name for the book but it was $9.99 on kindle and I’m pretty cheap (aka broke) so I decided I’d see if I could get it at the local library instead since I was already invested and wanted to see if the book was different than the mini-series. I mentioned all this to my husband who said, “Well, good thing I bought that book on a super great Kindle deal a couple of months ago then…”

Needless to say, I am reading the book on the Kindle instead of breathing in all the spores and who knows what else in that old book. I should be done with it today or tomorrow.

I am continuing to read the 80s Rom-Com Club, which is a series of novellas in the evenings, and also hope to start a book by Sean Dietrich who writes Southern stories, both fiction and non-fiction this week.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week I got way too wrapped up in trying to figure out Instagram and how to promote myself not because I want to be rich and famous but because even an extra $50 bucks a month would be such a help right now. In the end, none of it mattered because one day I had 5,000 views on a video and the following day I had three and when I Googled it said my drop in views was probably because I had somehow pissed off the Instagram lords and they were hiding my account.

I don’t have time for those games. School starts in a couple of week, I have a house to try to keep up and clean (though my husband moves faster and does a better job so I am always behind), photos to edit for stock, and just reality to live in. Social media is a putrid toilet right now and I don’t want to be caught up in the downward spiral, especially if it means I have to sell my soul to the Devil just to get a few new followers and maybe a few sales.

Little Miss and I visited my parents Thursday and tried to go swimming but the water was simply too cold, a sign that fall will be upon us too soon. As if the changing leaves weren’t enough to let us know that. Luckily, we were able to get a swim in yesterday instead since the temperature was warmer then and might get one in today.

On Thursday the kids also helped my dad pick some of the collard greens in his garden and we cooked some of them down for freezing and I brought some home to do the same.

On Friday the kids and I drove 45 minutes one way to the town where we used to live to get Zooma The Wonder Dog’s nails trimmed at the vets and also made a stop at a small market across the NY State border for some meats. It is a market we shopped at often when we lived there. We did drive by our old house and it’s always weird to see it and know we don’t live there anymore.

I am having a horrible time with the keys on my laptop. I took them off to clean them because the keys were sticking and now they won’t go back on and I sort of want to cry. This is how my life seems to go lately – something is always failing or falling apart. Because of the broken keys it took me a little longer to write this, but I can at least still hit the keys. Replacing them is apparently not possible and replacing the laptop is definitely not an option, since we can’t even pay our heating oil bill.

This week I will be getting ready for school as well, by cleaning out and straightening my homeschool closet, as well as double checking what we do and don’t have for the upcoming year. I originally wanted to start back on August 31, but we may end up waiting until after Labor Day. We aren’t sure yet.

What We watched/are Watching

I finished Cool Hand Luke yesterday. Man, that is a terribly depressing movie. I have a couple more Paul movies to watch in August as part of my Summer of Paul and hope to find a couple of happier ones before the summer is complete.

The Husband and I watched Torn Curtain last night with Paul and Julie Andrews. It is an Alfred Hitchcock film about a professor who infiltrates East Germany looking for information for a defense weapon which won’t require the use of nuclear weapons. His plans are almost foiled thanks to his poor communication skills, which results in his fiancé (Andrews) following him. This leaves both of them in great danger. I’ll write more about it in a separate post later this week, but it wasn’t one of Hitchcock’s best, probably because he was not happy with Paul and Julie being in the film and hated the script. I don’t blame him for hating the script. The movie was pretty awful really.

We hope to cleanse our pallets with The Sting later in the week. I also plan to watch The Prize, which is supposed to be a comedy.

Earlier in the week, we watched Brokenwood Mysteries.

What I’m Writing

Last week on the blog I shared:

I am also working on Mercy’s Shore and hope to continue this week if my keyboard will continue to work.

What I’m Listening To

This week I plan to listen to TobyMac’s latest album Life After Death which just came out.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Fiction Friday: No new chapter

Hey to the two people who sometimes read the new chapters on here: There is no new chapter this week. Chapter 16 simply isn’t ready yet, but hopefully it will be by next week. I wasted time on some unimportant things this week instead of writing and I hope to remedy that this next week.

In the meantime, I have caught up on the list of chapters under the Mercy’s Shore tab at the top of the page if you need to catch up on the story.

I look forward to sharing more of the story with you next week.

Classic Movie Impressions: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I, have been exchanging classic movie suggestions this summer. This week I am talking about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which she and her mom suggested for me, and she is talking about His Girl Friday, which I suggested for her.

I am so glad that Erin suggested this one. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would when I first heard about it.

The premise of this 1947 classic is rather simple. A widow, Mrs. Lucy Muir, wants to get away from her in-laws (a sister-in-law and mother-in-law) so she looks for a home to live in with her young daughter, Anna Muir, who is played by Natalie Wood. She finds a house that no one else seems to rent and later finds out it is because people believe that the home is haunted by a sea captain who owned the place and killed himself during a break from the sea.

The sea captain is played by Rex Harrison and the widow is played by Gene Tierney.

Not to give away too much but Lucy meets the ghost, and they form a friendship aimed at allowing Lucy to keep the home and not have to go back to live with her controlling in-laws. It will also allow the ghost, Captain Daniel Gregg (no, not Daniel Craig so no shirtless scenes here), to remain as a spirit around his home and keep it like it was when he was alive.

There are times during the movie that Lucy believes she has imagined the Captain and other times she is sure he is real. Sometimes even we as the viewer wonder if she is imagining him or not.

There is a terrible amount of sexual tension between the two, even though the captain is a ghost and there is no chance for a relationship between them.

I can’t deny that young Rex’s sex appeal just oozes from him as he starts to fall in love with Lucy, who he nicknames Lucia. I’ve always had the older Rex from My Fair Lady and Dr. Doolittle in my mind when I hear his name so to see him so young helps me understand why he became such a sought-after leading man in the 40s and 50s and beyond. I read in one article that he believed his character needed a beard in the movie but the studio fought it because they felt many women would want to see his handsome face. In the end, Rex won the fight.

The lighting and cinematography in the movie are very dramatic and set a romantic and rich mood.

An article on the Turner Classic Movies website describes Lucy and Daniel’s first meeting well:

The pools of lamplight and the soft, deep shadows create a rich atmosphere that evokes ghost story imagery but not menace. Rather, it is oddly welcoming and comforting and Bernard Herrmann’s score (one of his finest) is uneasy but curious rather than spooky. Harrison’s booming voice rises as she challenges him and then drops to a civil, at times admiring tone as they talk. Her courage impresses him and rather than scare her off, he comes to terms with his permanent houseguest: a co-existence that turns into a partnership and even something of an unspoken romance.

The movie does have quite a bit of humor in it but there is also an underlying sadness at times, especially since the Captain is a ghost and can’t truly be close to anyone.

The movie is based on a book by R.A. Dick.

“How unfortunate of a name,” I thought when I read this and after further research saw it was a pseudonym by an author named Josephine Leslie. She was an Irish writer who also wrote a book called The Devil and Mrs. Devine. I guess she had a theme going there with the titles. She did not write a third book in this vein, with her only other book being Light and Shade.

It was published in 1945 and made into a movie that was released in 1947, which is a pretty good turnaround to me.

The book and movie were also the basis for a sitcom, which ran for two years.

I won’t tell you what I thought of the ending, in case you haven’t seen it, but if you have seen it, let me know and maybe I can tell you in private. *wink*

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It was such a great pic from Erin and her mom. She and I haven’t discussed the next movies we recommend for each other or even if we will, so I’ll keep you posted there. It has been a fun experience either way!

This was a fun behind-the-scenes photo I found online.

Book review and giveaway with Just Read Publicity: Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Title: Dead Sea Conspiracy

Series: Dead Sea Chronicles #2

Author: Jerry B. Jenkins

Publisher: Worthy Books

Release Date: August 23, 2022

Genre: Christian Suspense, Dual Timeline (Biblical & Contemporary)

In Book 2 of the Dead Sea Chronicles, archaeologist Nicole Berman is about to discover the key to unifying three major religions, if a dangerous and evil enemy doesn’t stop her first.

She is the first woman to be awarded a permit to lead a dig in Saudi Arabia and believes what she hopes to discover has the power to rewrite history. She assembles a team that will ultimately surprise – and in some cases – betray her. In a parallel storyline, readers are launched back to ancient Ur where young Abram is sent to learn from his forebears, who tell him firsthand stories of being on the ark during the Great Flood.


This was my first book by Jerry B. Jenkins and this is probably not the book I should have started with, since I didn’t realize when I signed up to read it that it was the second in the series. Oops! Luckily it didn’t matter too much, and I was able to quickly catch up with what had happened in the first book, Dead Sea Rising.

Part of this book was mainly dialogue with little scene or location description, which I didn’t like at first, but then, as I got into it, I started to get used to Jenkins’ style of writing and had trouble putting the book down. It was full of mystery, ancient history, and a lot of what-ifs related to archaeology.

Jenkins definitely knows how to weave a story and how to do so in a creative manner. This book jumped between two timelines — one set in a Biblical setting and one in modern times. I am not necessarily a fan of dual timeline novels, but I gave this one a chance and it grew on me.

I did like the main characters for the most part, but felt that Nicole, the archaeologist could have been better developed with some more introspection moments with her. This, however, is not Jenkins’ style of writing so that’s completely fine. His focus is on the story more than the characters and the story was engaging.

If you usually read a different genre, but you want something full of mystery and some heart stopping action, then this book is for you. It will give you a sample of mystery, Biblical fiction, and speculation all rolled into one.

I was provided with a complimentary advanced copy of this book but was not required to provide a positive review in exchange for it.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound | Christianbook | BookBub


Dead Sea Rising


Jerry Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins‘ books have sold more than 73 million copies. Twenty-one of his titles have reached the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. The phenomenally best-selling Left Behind series inspired several movies, one starring Nicolas Cage and another starring Kevin Sorbo. Jenkins has been featured on the cover of Newsweek and his writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Guideposts, and dozens of other periodicals. Jenkins owns the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, through which he trains thousands of aspiring writers. He is a member of the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame and chairs the Creative Writing major at Colorado Christian University. He and his wife, Dianna, have three grown sons, including Dallas, creator and director of The Chosen TV series.

Connect with Jerry by visiting to follow him on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


(1) winner will receive signed & personalized copies of Dead Sea Rising (paperback), Dead Sea Conspiracy (hardcover), and a $50 Visa gift card.

(9) additional winners will receive signed & personalized copies of Dead Sea Rising (paperback) and Dead Sea Conspiracy (hardcover).

Dead Sea Conspiracy JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight August 16, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on August 23, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday Bookends: Trying to choose what to read next, outhouse races, and a trip to the lake

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing, and listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins Friday and enjoyed it a lot more as I got into it. I’m still not a fan of dual timeline books but I like how this one tied the two timelines together.

I do recommend it, especially if you like speculative fiction.

I also finished the first novella in a set of novellas called The 80s Rom Com Club by a few different authors. The novellas are all light and fluffy romances about a group of women who have a club that watches old 80s movies together.  I’ll probably stretch them out and read one or two a week and read them in the evenings because they are light.

I want to start a mystery or suspense book this week so for my choices I have:

  •  What’s The Worst That Can Happen? by Donald Westlake,
  • The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz,
  • the next book in the Joe Pickett series that I don’t know the name of and am too lazy to look up,
  • or The Boomerang Clue by Agatha Christie, which I picked up at a book sale at the library in town.

Of course, by the time I post this, I could change my mind on all of my choices and choose something completely different. I’m really not sure at this point.

The Husband just finished The Identical by Scott Turrow and is reading The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, which I found at the aforementioned book sale the morning Rushdie was stabbed. I saw the books by him, commented to the librarian about the stabbing (she then in turn asked me if I knew David McCullough had died) and then The Husband texted and asked if I found any books by him there. Weird timing.

Little Miss and I are reading Ramona, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.

The Boy is reading War of the Worlds whenever he isn’t playing video games so he should finish that book by 2025 at this point.

What’s Been Occurring

On Monday I was prepared for a relaxed day where I would do some housework, but otherwise hide inside from what promised to be a humid, muggy day.

Then a friend sent a message and asked if the kids and I would like to go with her family to the local lake and state park we had visited at the end of June. I wanted to say ‘no’, in some ways, because the Weather Service had issued a heat advisory, but I knew it would be good for us all to get out, so I agreed.

In the end, the weather turned out not to be very hot and the predicted afternoon storms never came, even though the clouds kept threatening it.’

The kids had a blast.

My anti-social teenager even jumped into the lake with all his clothes on right before we left.

On Wednesday, Little Miss developed a sore throat and later in the day a fever. By Friday it was almost gone and on Saturday it was all the way gone. I’m not really sure what that was about. Every three or four months she seems to get a couple of days where she gets a brief sore throat, a low-grade fever and the sniffles for about three days and then moves on. Usually, it happens with weather changes so spring and fall are the worst times for it. The weather did get cooler this week, but not until after her brief illness.

The weather got so cool this week, I started thinking about fall, which I thought I was looking forward to until I thought about the lovely green leaves all falling off and it getting cold and dreary. I do like weather where I can curl up under a blanket but I also like temperatures that are just right so we can do outside activities without sweating through our clothes.

While I was outside thinking about fall I also thought about how our backyard could be a filming sight for National Geographic. Not only do we have a big woodchuck living under our shed, but she’s apparently had babies because I saw a mini-version of her run across our yard the other day. Now, in addition to trapping her, we have to trap her babies. Fun times.

The boy found a half-eaten rabbit in our yard last weekend – as in something bit it in a half and left the head. Our dog loves to chase those rabbits but she only gets as far as her lead and never catches one. She hadn’t been out there long enough to do that kind of damage so we knew it wasn’t her.

Long story short, I asked our neighbors if they had had their game camera up this year and if they had seen what was in our yard that could do that. From a quick search on the ole’ interwebs, I learned that fox, coyote, and racoon will all rip a rabbit in half and sometimes not eat all of it. It’s possible we interrupted their supper when I let the dog out that night. The neighbor had not had their camera out but they put it out this week and it appears our culprit is a fox, which doesn’t surprise us since we heard one screaming outside our house in the spring.

Luckily this summer we have not seen the skunks we saw last year. The deer have been out some, but not as much, and I finally saw a couple squirrels, which is weird because we were commenting one day recently how we don’t see squirrels here in the more rural setting when we saw them all the time when we lived in a bigger town. So far we have not heard of the bear returning since it visited our neighbor at the end of the street. Yes, we consider the houses up and down the street our neighbors. *wink*

Last night (Saturday) was the annual Outhouse Races, which we attended as a family.

I wrote about the outhouse races last year.

They are held as a charity event for the local Lions Club.

What We watched/are Watching

Continuing the Summer of Paul this week I watched half of Cool Hand Luke yesterday. I hope to finish it later today or tomorrow.

I didn’t take the time to watch any of his other movies during the week since Little Miss was so clingy and in between her clinging I had to cook dinner and work some on my book and try to figure out reels on Instagram, which I finally gave up on.

I’ll have more thoughts about Cool Hand Luke and Rachel Rachel later in the week, but I will say that I didn’t like to see John Walton being treated so poorly in Cool Hand Luke. One of the men was portrayed by the same actor who played John Walton, the patriarch on The Waltons.

Wayne Rogers, who played McIntyre on Mash, was also in the movie, but of course I was watching it to see Mr. Blue Eyes himself.

The Boy and I watched Raising Arizona with Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunt Friday night. I had seen it years ago, but he had never seen it and really enjoyed it. Here is a trailer for those of you who haven’t seen it.

The Husband and I also watched another episode of Harry Wild with Jane Seymour. I didn’t enjoy that on as much as the first episode. Then we watched another Brokenwood Mysteries.

What I’m Writing

I have been adding quite a bit to Mercy’s Shore as more ideas for it are starting to flow.

This week on the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To

I wish I could say I am listening to a lot of music, but I really haven’t been, other than Matthew West. I also listened to Matthew’s podcast last week.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 15

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Chapter 15

“So, the dude with Angie is her boyfriend.” Judi pushed a bite of cake into her mouth. “He’s a doctor.”

The cake was amazing. Judi hadn’t eaten cake in — well, she didn’t know how long. She’d always stayed away from cake to try to keep her figure. She couldn’t believe what she’d been missing. This had been her third piece since they’d gotten there.

She stared at the half-eaten piece for a few seconds, then laid the fork back down. Whoa. She was about trade one addiction for another. The sugar addiction wouldn’t kill her as fast as the alcohol might, but still. She pushed the plate away.

“Anyhow, that’s what Mark says. He’s a nice guy when you get to know him.” She wiped frosting off her upper lip with a napkin. “He hates you, though. We should probably duck out before Angie and the kid gets back before they give you another concussion.”

Ben pushed a hand back through his hair and sipped from the cup of coffee Leona had brought him earlier. A handful of guests were still lingering, helping Leona and Adam clean up. Judi had heard them agree they’d stay around until Amelia came back and opened her gifts. The mention of gifts reminded her of the stuffed bear Ben had shoved in the trunk a few miles back. They’d stopped at a toy store in town. He’d had no idea what to buy but Judi had grabbed the bear, shoved it at is his chest and declared bluntly, “Kids like stuffed things. Let’s go.”

“Should I go get that bear out of the trunk?”

Ben stared into the coffee cup for several moments then jerked his head up suddenly. “Huh? Oh. Yeah. That would be a good idea, I guess.” He sat back in the lounge chair he was sitting in and rubbed the back of his neck. “You know what? Let’s go get that and then let’s head out.” He looked at his watch. “It’s getting late and we’ve got a long drive back.”

Judi wanted to go back. Evan’s suggestion they get together when she got back to Spencer was at the forefront of her mind. Still, something tugged at her conscience and she decided not to agree as quickly as she usually would have.

“Shouldn’t we stay?” She shrugged a shoulder. “Just to see how Amelia is?”

Ben shook his head and sipped the coffee again. “No. I think we should go. I shouldn’t be here.”

“Sure you should. You’re her dad.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t know that, and I’ve never acted like a dad, so, no I shouldn’t be here. Plus, it looks like she’s got someone to be her dad anyhow.”

He had a point. Should she tell him he had a point? She pulled her lower lip between her teeth and watched him drinking the coffee and staring blankly at the back of the house.

Actually, both Jesus and Ellie would probably not point out to Ben that he was right about Amelia having a replacement dad. That definitely wouldn’t help his mood.

“Well, still, it would look bad if you just left and didn’t see how she was.”

Ben finished off the coffee. “I’m sure she’s going to be fine. It was just a bloody nose. I got them a ton when I was a kid.”

He said the words but his dipped brow, far-off stare, and hunched shoulders told Judi he didn’t believe it.

“Well, this party has been a bit of a bust, huh?” Adam laughed as he walked over to the table and sat next to Ben. “Angie just called, though, and Amelia seems to be doing fine. No broken bones. They’re heading home soon.”

Ben’s muscles visibly tensed at the word “they’re.”

Ben placed the cup on the table and rubbed a hand across his eyes. “We should be heading out too. We’ve got a long drive back.”

 “You’re welcome to stay the night,” Adam said, folding his hands in front of him as he leaned on the tabletop.  “We’ve got a pullout couch in the den and Angie can sleep in Amelia’s room tonight.”

Ben shook his head quickly. “No. Thank you, but I need to get back and rest up. I’ve got court Monday morning.”

Judi cleared her throat. “Actually, I could use a rest before we head out.”

Adam’s expression brightened as if he was glad he could help somehow. “Sure. You can crash in Angie’s room. It will be a little more private than the den and I’m sure she won’t mind.”

Ben’s expression darkened and he shot Judi a glance she knew meant he was not happy with her. It was true, though. She could use a nap before the drive back.

Manipulating situations was a talent of her’s and she was glad to be able to use it for good this time instead of bad. Stalling their departure would give Ben another chance to see Amelia and say goodbye and maybe give her the gift they’d brought. Leaving now would only leave him on a lower note than he’d been on when he’d arrived. Maybe they could redeem the trip if he and Amelia had another chance to bond. It might make him less grumpy at work on Monday too. Judi wasn’t completely without an ulterior — and self-serving — motive.

She followed Adam into the house. He paused in the kitchen to let Leona know Judi be laying down in Angie’s room and then led Judi up a flight of stairs leading from the dining room and down a narrow hallway with a large window at the end of it.

Adam pushed the door open to a room on the right and as Judi looked to her left, across the hall, she noticed a closed door with a unicorn picture taped to the outside. Turning her attention to Angie’s room, she took in the sunlight pouring in streams across a queen-sized bed with a cherry wood headboard and a comforter featuring pink roses against a white background spread across it. The room even smelled of roses. Clean, tidy, and picturesque. The whole scene made Judi want to roll her eyes. She might have if Adam hadn’t been there and also hadn’t interrupted her thoughts by letting her know where the upstairs bathroom was if she needed it and asking if she’d like an extra blanket from the hall closet.

She thanked him, declining the blanket, and when he’d left and shut the door, she tossed her purse on a chair next to an armoire, stretched her arms over her head while yawning, and looked around the room before flopping back onto the pile of pillows at the top of the bed.

“My-my, Angie Phillipi, you sure know how to live in style.”

She yawned again and rolled onto her side, intending to take the nap she’d said she needed. An open drawer in a desk across from the bed caught her attention briefly but she closed her eyes so she wouldn’t get up and go to look in it. She was turning over a new leaf, changing her ways. She wasn’t about to snoop in the drawers of a desk owned by a woman she barely knew.

When she reached over and laid her phone on a book by the bed the book and the phone fell. The book must have been closer to the edge than she realized. She leaned over and picked the book up and when she did a photograph fluttered to the floor.

“Great. Just trash Angie’s stuff, Judi,” she said to herself as she flipped the photograph over to slide it bask into the book.

Ben and Angie’s smiling faces looked up at her from the photograph and she paused, studying it. Ben’s arm was around Angie who had her body pressed into his side. They were definitely a couple whenever the photo was taken, not only because of Angie’s intimate posture but because of Ben’s hand resting on her thigh. Judi studied the photo for a moment then opened the book to lay the photo inside. Handwritten dates and journal entries made her realize the book was actually a journal. As much as she wanted to know what, if anything, Angie had written about Ben. She was going to stick to her personal promise to not pry into the private lives of others.

She pulled herself back into a comfortable position and closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep quicker than she normally did.

The sound of her phone ringing woke her. She answered it without thinking and without looking at the caller ID, her eyes still closed.

“Hey, gorgeous. I didn’t expect you to pick up when you saw my name.”

The voice sliced a chill through her and she sat up, her eyes popping open. She swallowed hard, wanting to slide her finger over the end call button but feeling as if she were in a daze. Her arms wouldn’t move, her mouth had gone dry, and an odd roar filled her ears.

“Speechless huh?” A sardonic laugh filtered loudly through the phone, causing her to flinch as she realized she’d bumped the speaker button.  “Yeah, well too bad you weren’t speechless when you lied to Seline about that night in my apartment.” Jeff’s cheerful timbre slid into a more mocking tone. “Funny how you didn’t mention to her how you were all over me all night in the bar and all those highballs you kicked back before you asked me to take you back to my place.”

Judi pulled the phone back and started to hit the end call button, noticing the tremor in her hand.

“You wanted it, Judi. You know it. I was only giving you what you wanted before you decided you weren’t going to let me have it. That’s how girls like you are. You beg for it all night long and when we finally give in, then you cry rape. That’s what sluts do, Judi. You know that right? You don’t want your family to know what a slut you are, do you?”

She gasped as the phone was snatched from her hand. She looked up to see Ben standing above her with her phone in his hand, anger flashing in his eyes. She couldn’t figure out where he’d come from or how she hadn’t heard the bedroom door open.

“Who is this?” he hissed at the phone.

“Who is this?” Jeff shot back. “Judi’s new boyfriend?”

“No. This is Judi’s lawyer, and it sounds to me like you’re trying to blackmail my client and I don’t appreciate that and neither will a judge when we — “

Jeff spat a curse word and the line went dead.

Judi hugged her arms around herself, suddenly aware her entire body had grown cold and she was trembling.

“You okay?”

She started to shake her head but changed her mind and nodded.

He lowered his voice and she noticed out of the corner of her eye that the bedroom door was open and she could see into the room across the hall. Amelia was sitting on a pink canopy bed with a doll, brushing its hair.

“Amelia is showing me her room but when I’m done, we need to talk about what just happened. Don’t tell me it was nothing. I don’t know who that guy was but he was threatening you. Is this related to that text you got from some Seline earlier?”

Judi’s head jerked up and her mouth dropped open. “Wha —”

Ben held his hand up and turned toward the doorway. “No. Don’t tell me now. Take a deep breath, calm down and we’ll talk when we get in the car.”

“How much did you hear?”

“Enough to know whoever that guy is he’s a piece of garbage.” He paused, his hand on the doorknob. His tone had softened. “Are you going to be okay for a few minutes?”

Judi nodded but didn’t speak. Ben studied her for a few moments, eyes narrowing, then stepped into the hallway and closed the door. She’d been afraid to speak. If she had, the wall might have fallen, the emotion might have spilled over, and she wouldn’t have been able to put the lid back on again.

The Summer of Paul: The Rack, The Hustler, and A New Kind of Love

Last week I watched three Paul Newman movies as part of my Summer of Paul — The Rack, The Hustler, and  A New Kind of Love. The Summer of Paul is what I am calling my plan to watch as many Paul Newman movies as I can this summer.

The Rack:

Ooh boy. This one was a tough one to watch. This is a very early Paul Newman movie, (his third only in fact) and it was loosely based on a play by Rod Serling (Twilight Zone fame). His acting skills aren’t sharpened just yet, but that is not why it was difficult to watch. It was difficult because it splayed open PTSD from war in a way most movies of the time never did. It showcased what really happened to prisoners of war and stripped away the idea that war creates only unmarked heroes who fought and died for their country and suffered only from being away from their family.

This movie was a very raw depiction of patriotism run amok, how military brass thought they would punish men who collapsed under the heaviness of months and months, if not years of brutal mental and emotional torture and call them traitors, all the while not admitting their own culpability in the mental, emotional, and physical ruin of these men (and later women as well). I support and absolutely stand by our military but our country’s politicians and military leaders are often blind to the hollowed-out husks they abandon when they deny the impact war has on those who fight it on the ground level.

As much as this is a commentary on the effects of war it is also about the stoic relationship between many military leaders and their families and how they can emotionally shut themselves off because of their training.

A lot of the movie features the court room drama of Newman being court marshalled for supposedly collaborating with the enemy, which were the North Koreans at that time. There was one point I wanted to climb right through my computer and absolutely thrash the prosecuting attorney. It is such a brutal scene and I’m guessing many a modern military courtroom drama scene was crafted after it. It certainly stirred up emotion in me. Enough I could have screamed and my heart rate increased at the cruelty of what was being done to Newman’s characters but also what is done to our own soldiers.

The topic of PTSD from our veterans is close to my heart because not only were there two suicides by Vietnam vets within a very tiny area around my house when I was young, in a little grouping of houses of less than 100 people, but after a local soldier was killed in Iraq, many of the soldiers who returned after his death either killed themselves or suffered horrible PTSD. It infuriates me to hear the prosecutor in this film mocking Newman’s obvious mental trauma after being tortured.

Sadly, this film ended in an off way for me. This is a little bit of a spoiler but Newman pretty much says he missed being a magnificent person because he was too mentally week. Ick.

I felt like soldiers with PTSD were made to feel like they are wrong for their actions under duress, but then again, maybe that was the point of the writing of the film (since the film actually changed Serling’s television play quite a bit) — to show that many soldiers will apologize for their weakness under mental stress, instead of admitting it is an actual issue.

The movie is still a good one that makes you think, so I definitely recommend it. It’s also fun to watch Newman start to become the great actor he later became (though he definitely is not there in this one).

If you want to know more about the movie, how it was made, and Paul’s part in it, you can read this story on Roger Ebert’s Blog (

The Hustler:

This movie did not have as much action in it as I had hoped. I wanted more pool playing and less melodrama between Paul and the woman in the movie. I think the only reason I felt like I didn’t like this movie is because I was expecting something completely different.

Paul plays a professional hustling pool player who travels the country pretending he doesn’t know how to play pool and then swindles people out of their money. The 1986 film, The Color of Money, which stars Paul and Tom Cruise, was the sequel to this film. Yes, it is also on my list of Paul movies to watch this summer.

In the middle of the movie the woman Eddie (Paul’s character) is living with yells, “What else are we going to do?”

And I said I hoped Eddie would go back and play pool because we needed some more action in this movie already. I seriously thought the movie was more about playing pool than Eddie just being a huge jerk.

At one point Paul asks his girlfriend after they’ve spent most of the movie drinking away their days, “So, do you think I’m a loser?”

The Husband, The Boy, and I all said, “yes” at the same time.

I sort of feel like if a movie director needed someone to play a mopey, depressed and moody guy in the 1960s he said, “Call Newman. This role is for him.”

But then I see a movie like A New Kind of Love and realize that Paul could play light characters as well.

The Hustler is a good film, don’t get me wrong. It is well written and well-acted. It was just quite a bit darker than I realized and I would have liked more scenes with Jackie Gleason, who was nominated for an Oscar for the 15 minutes he was on screen out of the 2-hour and 16 minute movie.

A New Kind of Love:

A New Kind of Love was much lighter, but as a self-proclaimed prude, I was bothered by how flippantly sex was regarded by Paul’s character. I wondered when all the STDs would catch up with him if he’d been a real person and not a character in a movie.

Despite my prudish views, I did enjoy the movie overall.

Paul plays a reporter who is also a womanizer, which is always getting him in trouble. His latest fling causes him to be sent into exile in Paris where he meets Joan who is a fashion consultant visiting Paris from New York. Joan has no interest in love. She acts more like a man than a woman and when she first meets Paul, she hates him, of course. The movie takes some unexpected turns when Joan decides that love might be interesting after all when she gives herself a French makeover.

The movie was a nice distraction from the depression in the world.

Sadly, I think I might be sinking into more depression at some point when I watched From the Terrace and Rachel Rachel this weekend. But I get to stare at Paul’s blue eyes, so I guess it is worth it.

Have you seen any of these movies? If so, did you enjoy them?

Faithfully Thinking: When your soul feels dry

The earth has been parched, craving the rain for weeks now. The grass in our backyard is yellow and dead and hard under our bare feet.

The weather service says we’re not in a drought. I find it hard to believe, even though I know the designation has to do with water table levels and other such things. Our rivers and creeks are almost like rock beds.

Our farmers’ fields are dry and not growing.

Sometimes my soul feels the same way. Like there are days when I feel so dry, my insides being strangled by the vines withering in the hot rays of the sun.

Everything I try fails, falling on the dry, dead earth.

Each effort I make to improve our finances sputters to a start then runs out of air, out of gas, out of water, or success, or whatever you want to say.

It’s on days like that that I look for water to quench my thirst. Yes, only Jesus can really quench our deep, soul-level thirst but on the more surface level, I look for things like good books, good food, good people and they help me on a physical and mental level at least.

God never promised our lives would be easy but he promised He’d be there when they weren’t easy.

He never promised we wouldn’t go thirsty or our souls wouldn’t dry up in the heat of it all. What he did promise is that the well that provides his living water will never go dry.

How do you refill the well of your soul?

With things? With social media?

Or with better things like good books, good food, good people and ….?

Sunday Bookends: A variety of books, Paul Newman movies, and still busy weeks

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing and listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Into the Flood by Milla Holt last week and hope to finish Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins this week. I am not enjoying Jenkins’ book as much as I hoped I would, but I think part of it is because of his writing style, which I’m not used to.’

I’m taking little breaks from Jenkins’ book and in the evening, I am reading A Breath of French Air by H.E. Bates. This is part of the Pop Larkins series, which is a very weird series. It’s completely off the wall and quirky and must have been even more so when it was written in the 50s.

I’ve also decided to start The Screw Tape Letters by C.S. Lewis and read a couple of the letters a day to digest them.

I hope to start Mere Christianity before the end of August as well.

I hope to start The Terminal List by Jack Carr by the end of the week, but I’ll be honest that I am fairly certain this is not going to be my type of book. The Husband already read it and said it’s violent but good. He’s looking forward to watching the show on Amazon .

What’s Been Occurring

I thought this past week wasn’t going to be busy and it wasn’t too bad but I only had one day where I didn’t have somewhere to go or something to do.

On Monday we had gymnastics. On Tuesday Little Miss had a friend over and then we drove her friend to the little girl’s first soccer practice. The girls played in the sprinkler and on the slip n slide during the day and after practice, they played on the playground.

Wednesday was my mom’s birthday so we went to their house for lunch with her and my dad and my brother, who drove 90 minutes from his house to see her. We swam some but not as long as we wanted to because of some crazy wasps that I couldn’t even drown in the pool. I tried to drown one and it climbed the handle of the skimmer underwater. I think it was from hell.

My dad made a cake out of watermelon for my mom since she doesn’t eat cake anymore and we did our best to sing Happy Birthday but we were all out of tune which kept cracking my mom and dad up. We started again and it got worse and then fell apart at the end too because we all said a different name – either “Mom,” “Grandma” or my dad, who said “sweetheart.”

That’s okay, though, she still had fun and said it was a wonderful day.

On Friday the whole family went grocery shopping together since The Husband took the day off and surprisingly grocery shopping was not easier with him there because he wants to get there and get it done and I like to take my time and check out what I want to buy before I buy it. We’ve decided we might grocery shop separately in the future.

My dad has been giving us the surplus from his garden, especially squash, zucchini, and kale. We have been enjoying that with meals, usually stir-fried, but last night I finally fried some.

What We watched/are Watching

I am continuing my Summer of Paul, which is what I am calling my summer since I am watching a bunch of Paul Newman movies for fun. I will write more about the movies I watched last week in a post later this week, but will share in this post that I watched The Rack, The Hustler, and A New Kind of Love (which was another movie with him and his wife Joan) this past week.

Previously this summer I watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Paris Blues, and Sweet Bird of Youth.

Other Paul Newman movies I watched in the past were Exodus and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I told my mom we were watching The Hustler last night and suggested she and I watch it today when I go over for lunch. She said, “Oh that’s the one in black and white, isn’t it? We can’t see Paul’s eyes in that one.”

And she’s right…I did miss the blue of Paul’s eyes in the movie but you can still tell they are blue and they are beautiful.

She and I might have to watch a different Paul Newman movie together today instead, not just because we can’t see his blue eyes but because it was the most depressing movie of his I watched so far and my least favorite.

This week I hope to watch Rachel Rachel, with Paul’s wife Joan (I don’t believe this will be a happy one either. It’s about a woman battling depression. She won a Golden Globe for it.), which he directed, Hud, and maybe Cool Hand Luke. I also have From the Terrace lined up. So far I am not able to find a lot of these latest movies for free so I am renting them all on Amazon.

This week I also watched a few episodes of The Manor Born, a British sitcom from the 70s.The Husband also made me suffer through an episode of the old show Hardcastle and McCormick.

What I’m Writing

I will be working on Mercy’s Shore this week and hope to set aside time each day so I can write about 1,000 words a day.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.