Sunday Bookends: Amazing roses, new authors, and a little too much binge watching

What I’m Reading

I found a new author this week. Someone I “met” on Instagram world where self-published and traditional authors intermingle and share their latest publications.

Bethany Turner has authored a selection of books and I’m trying out Wooing Cadie McCaffery on Kindle Unlimited. I hope to grab up her latest, Hadley Becket’s Next Dish, at another time (I have to limit my book budget or I’ll go crazy.)

Here is the Amazon description for Wooing Cadie McCaffery:


After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Bethany Turner is back with more of the heart and humor readers love. Anyone who enjoys a good romance or binges romantic comedies on Netflix will devour this delightful story.


I’m on Chapter 2 and so far I’m really enjoying it. Bethany really pulls the reader into the story right from the beginning. Her writing is fully relatable and full of humor and romance. Definitely a winning combination. (Bethany did not pay me for these comments, don’t worry. She doesn’t even know me or that I’m writing this.)

Another new author to me that I hope to read this next week is Robin W. Pearson who I also just discovered on Instagram. Her first book is A Long Time Comin’ and so far I am absolutely in love with her writing and with her main character Granny B. I can’t wait to really get into t his one. I don’t often buy books at full price on Kindle but I did this one.Her second book is coming out in February and also sounds great. It can be pre-ordered at this time.

A Long Time Comin’:

To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks.

Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide.

(Just a FYI, I know some authors plug other authors to get attention to themselves, but that is not my intent here. I actually only thought of that after I started writing this. I don’t know these women, but I’m really enjoying their writing and wanted to pass them along because many of us need some good distractions right now.)

Looking for intense escapism to hide from the absolutely insanity of the world, I plan to head back to a familiar cozy mystery series with another Lady Hardcastle book at some point, if not this week, then next. Death Beside the Seaside sounds very interesting. T.E. Kinsley’s stories are fairly light and even if the mysteries are easily solved, it’s not always clear how Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo will reach their conclusion.

Death Beside the Seaside:

July 1910. Lady Hardcastle and her tireless sidekick Flo have finally embarked on a long-overdue seaside break. But just as they’re wavering between ice creams and donkey rides, their fellow guests start to go missing—and the duo find themselves with a hysterical hotel manager and a case to solve.

The first to disappear is Dr Goddard, a scientist doing something terribly top-secret for the government. Gone too are his strongbox and its mysterious contents. By the time Lady Hardcastle has questioned the horde of international guests, her number-one suspect has been dispatched in grisly circumstances—and then the others start vanishing too.

As the case begins to look like a matter of national security, Lady Hardcastle takes advice from her brother in the secret service. But could there be an even more personal connection at play? To solve the case, Lady Hardcastle may face a shocking discovery of her own.



Still in my reading que:

The Knife Slipped by Earle Stanley Gardner (I hope to finish it this week. I like it so far. It’s very different from what I’ve read before. I shared a little about it a couple of weeks ago.)

By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates. This author was recommended by Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and last week I said I wasn’t sure it was my type of book, which sounded sort of rude. Well, guess what, my finger must have bumped the wrong book in my Kindle because this week I reopened it and that is not the book I started and said I didn’t think I’d like. I actually started reading the book this week and I do think I’m going to like it! I don’t know which book on my Kindle I looked at last week but this wasn’t it. So thank you, Erin! This particular book is the first in the series.


What I’m Watching

I finished Virgin River this week and totally predicted the last episode but I want more. Luckily Netflix just announced they will be having a second season.

To fill the void of missing Virgin River I’m alternating between Hart of Dixie (I’m in the first season and it’s growing on me), When Calls the Heart, and my husband and I started watching Longmire, which is different for me, but I’m really enjoying.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been sharing chapters from The Farmer’s Daughter each Friday and I’m also writing the second part of Quarantined and I’ve decided to combine it with the first Quarantined and make it a novella on Kindle Unlimited at some point. I have to fix all the typos and errors on Quarantined first, of course. (Oh my gosh, I wish I had caught those errors before sharing it on here but, well, the blog is for fun and doo-doo happens!) I’ll most likely share another part of the second part , which I am currently calling Rekindle; on Thursday. Chapter 13 for The Farmer’s Daughter was published Friday.

A New Beginning is for sale on Amazon in ebook or paperback form and it can be read through Kindle Unlimited. You can find an excerpt from it HERE.

What’s Going on Otherwise:

Our roses bloomed even more this week and I also learned from the neighbor, who once lived in the house, that the rose bush is over 100 years old. So, the bush has been growing for 100 years or more and the flowers have bloomed year after year for the families that have lived here. I love that thought.

I seem to have a slightly sad life since I check on the status of the roses every day and have possibly taken a couple hundred photos of them. I don’t know what I’ll do with a couple hundred photos of roses, but I have a feeling I may need to look back on them in these next several months and especially in the Fall and Winter when I struggle with Seasonal Depression that I have a feeling will be even worse this year with the state our world is in.

We also had another peonies bush bloom and this one produced lighter pink flowers that were gorgeous.

We, unfortunately, weren’t able to walk out and enjoy the flowers as much this week because there are a bunch of gnats swarming us in the backyard near the bushes. We aren’t sure what is up with that but our neighbor thinks maybe they just hatched and will hopefully go away. I’ve never seen them this bad and I guess the neighbors haven’t either.

This is my daughter trying to wave the gnats away.

The roses that bloomed late last week are starting to fall and I have a feeling by next week they will be gone. It’s sad how fast the flowers bloom and then fade, but I’m enjoying them while they are here.

So, how about all of you? What have you been reading, watching, or doing? Let me know in the comments.





Bookish questions: short chapters or long chapters?

As I started getting back into reading in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed there are all kinds of opinions among book readers. Everyone has different tastes, everyone has different interests and what one person likes in a book another one doesn’t. Of course we all have our own preferences. It’s part of being human.

One varying perspective among book readers is chapter lengths. Some like longer chapters, some like shorter. Personally I’m in between. I don’t enjoy super short chapters but I also don’t want chapters so long that I feel like the story is dragging on.

I know I mention Jan Karon a lot but when I was thinking about longer chapters in books, she came to mind because her chapters are quite long. Even though her chapters are long they are interesting enough to not make it feel like I am pushing through and dying to get to the end of the chapter. She makes the chapters easier to read by breaking them down into sections or scenes throughout the chapters.

The only issue is that sometimes these sections are too short so it feels like I am reading clips from a movie and not a fully cohesive narrative. At times, but not always, it feels almost as if I am jumping in and out of scenes and I lose track a bit, but I still love the stories Jan weaves.

As a writer it is hard to know how long to make a chapter and it’s even harder when a writer is sharing their book or chapters on a blog. When I share the chapters of my stories on my blog I tend to make them shorter because I know most people don’t want to read a long blog post, but when I rewrite them for the final book, I tend to add sections together and make the chapters a little longer.

There are tons of opinions online about how long a chapter should be too. Wordcounter.com says that 5,000 is too long and 1,000 is too short, in the opinions of many. However, Writer’s Digest says that as a writer, you should make your chapter as long as you need in order to propel your story forward. The article’s author, Brian A. Klems says that he thinks of a chapter as an act in a television show.

He writes: “When a TV show finishes Act 1 (which almost always happens just after something significant is revealed or an important question is raised), it goes to commercial break. Ditto for Act 2, 3, 4 and so forth. Look for your chapters to have those similar elements. When you find those “commercial breaks,” end your chapter and start a new one. In other words, let your content dictate your chapter length, not the other way around.”

So, how about you? As a reader, when you read a book do you like short chapters or long chapters? Do you like chapters with lots of scene breaks in them or one big, long scene? If you are a writer, how do you decide how long to make your chapter? Let me know in the comments.



Sunday Bookends: Peggy Rowe, The Chosen, rocking out the stress and country living

It has definitely been a crazy week with moving in, trying to get settled in to our new house and having the sudden realization we now live in the country. Sure, we have other houses around us and technically live ‘in town’ but our backyard (beyond the neighbor’s garden that is) is a forest. Not only that but the other day our neighbor suggested we move our trash cans inside the garage until pick up day because one time the previous owner didn’t and a bear got into it.

Yes, a bear.

Into the garbage.

That may be the moment I actually realized we live in the country. That and when he told me about the six or seven deer who visit their yard from time to time. I have this bad feeling we might put a crimp in that with the arrival of our dog. I’ve noticed neither of the neighbors on either side have pets, or at least dogs. How sad for them. (*wink*)

I’m still waiting for the weather to warm up so we can start getting our garden ready. We had more cold and rainy days this week but hopefully we will finally have spring in the next couple of weeks. The previous owners were nice enough to leave garden supplies in the small shed out back, including fencing to keep the deer out.

They also left several rakes, hoes and shovels. We’re not a drinking family but they left us wine glasses and a bottle of wine as well, which was nice. I might need that when I start trying to plant a garden since I’ve only done it once before and it didn’t go so well. I have a tendency to kill plants, which I think I’ve mentioned before.

My daughter and I cleaned out some old leaves from the flower beds Saturday using rakes we found in the garage, including a small one for my daughter. Even though I kill plants I’m going to try to plant some around the house when the local greenhouse opens up in the beginning of May. I also discovered several perennials that I am hoping will come up soon. After that we tried a bike ride on the street in front of our house, hoping the cars that zoom by when they use it for a short cut didn’t run us down at any point. We took the dog with us and she found a cat to bark at and watch closesly.

I’ve been able to get back into some reading this week. I am really enjoying Peggy Rowe’s new book, as I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks. It’s made up of short stories about her life with her husband and son’s so it’s easy to read one or two stories a night before bed. This week her son, Mike Rowe (from Dirty Jobs, The Way I Heard it podcast, MikeRoweWORKS Foundation, and Return the Favor on Facebook.), shared a video telling her that for the second time in a couple of years she has a book on the New York Times Bestseller list. For those who are Christians on my page, don’t let the screenshot below dissuade you from watching this clip or reading the book. It’s less offensive than it looks!


I’m also finishing up True to You by Becky Wade this week (as I’ve been saying I would do for awhile now).

As for what I’ve been watching I’ve started The Chosen, an online dramatic series based on the life of Christ. It weaves a lot of Biblical fiction within the story of Jesus, so don’t look for this to be a word for word interpretation of the Bible, but it still keeps very inline with the message of the Bible and of Christ. The acting is excellent and the imagery is compelling. I’ve only watched the first episode and part of the second and I’ve already cried twice (in a good way.) I ordered a DVD set of the show to help support the production costs for Season 2. You can learn more about this project and how to watch it on their site.

I thought I would share a little about what I am listening to this week, as well. I started my Friday morning with a playlist of Skillet on Youtube and I highly recommend it since it woke me up and got my day started off right. (I know. I don’t seem the Skillet type, but I am, just without the leather jackets and dyed hair and nose ring.)

My day would have been better if I had done what I had originally planned to do and turn the phone off and never looked at social media, but live and learn.

I’ve also been listening to this new song by Elevation Worship since I loved watching them perform it live on Easter morning. That service was such a breath of fresh air and a move of the Holy Spirit I couldn’t stop watching it and am thrilled I can listen to the song on my phone or anywhere else now.

So how about all of you? What have you been reading, watching, listening to or up to this week? I’d love to read about it in the comments. Let me know!

Sunday Bookends: Free ebooks, moving and some fresh air

What a week, huh?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to interject politics, worries, or virus numbers from around the world in this post, so you’re safe.

The only thing I will say about it all is that I have discovered a couple new things from not being able to get the groceries I usually do. One, I had no idea that Bob Evans potatoes came in individual servings. I rarely eat them but picked them up when potatoes were running low in our area. We’ve eaten these at my parents and they aren’t the best, but they also aren’t the worst. Two, a local pizzeria near us makes amazing pizza and I wish we had ordered pizza from them in the past. We know this because we ordered two of their pizza making kits and the ingredients were fresh and resulted in incredibly tasting pizza.  Once the restrictions in our state are lifted, we will be sure to order from them again.

As many of you know, if you’ve been a long time, or even short time reader of this blog, I don’t handle stressful situations well. I especially don’t handle the unknown well. Not knowing what might happen from day to day or if someone I love will come down with this virus and become very ill is very draining on me.

BUT —  and yes, this is a good BUT — only by the literal grace of God,  I have been able to stay calm and surprisingly positive throughout this situation affecting our world.

It isn’t that a couple of nights haven’t been ruined by me laying awake and scrolling through a mental list of “what-ifs” but I’m able to push those thoughts aside a lot faster than I used to be. I’m handing so much more over to God than I did in the past. I am remembering (for once!) the words “the battle belongs to the Lord!” When a reader told me she remembered my post and wrote those words on a piece of paper and hung it up on her house to help her get through all of this craziness, I was not only touched, but it encouraged me to do the same.

I have not been doing as much reading as I would have liked to this past week, even though my brother encouraged me to do a 24in48 readathon. The idea is to read 24 hours out of 48 hours. Um… yeah. Not really going to happen. Probably ever. For me anyhow. (Edited this to add this comment of clarification from my brother: “Just to clarify that is the idea. That is not the rule, especially this time around. I think what’s happening this time is that a lot of people are gathering together and talking about books, even the little that they are able to read. One participant suggested a goal of reading 10 minutes each hour or listening to an audiobook for 20 minutes, which I think is doable. Today, for myself, I am going to post once or twice on Instagram and stay away from Instagram Stories, read Sunday Salon posts like I normally do, and read as I can while avoiding all news altogether.” (You can read the rest of his comment in the comments section and check out his blog for what he’s doing to keep his mind off of things.)

Anyhow, I probably read a total of an hour on Saturday and may read an hour Sunday so two hours total.  I’ve been having trouble focusing on reading (much like my brother) between current events and packing up our house to move, plus homeschooling (which we do all the time, as I mentioned in my post yesterday) playing with my 5-year old (who thinks she needs constant entertainment at this age), writing a short story for my Facebook pageant Instagram author account, and finishing up A New Beginning.

Isn’t it cool how I made myself sound really important and busy in the above paragraph? Looks good on paper/screen, right? In reality, it looks like a Picasso painting that’s been puked on.

While I am thinking or writing about books, in case others are not yet aware of this, Scribd, which I had never heard of before, is offering their subscriptions for free for the next 30 days. That includes almost all of their ebooks, audiobooks and even sheet music. My brother told me about this and it has been nice to have because all of the Romana books by Beverly Cleary are currently available for free there and my daughter loves Romana so I am reading the books to her before bed.

For myself, I am reading the second book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon, A Light in the Window and also Falling for You by Becky Wade (continuing the nice light romances I mentioned last week.)

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We were able to get outside in between blasts of heavy rain on Friday, which was very much needed after a damp, cold week. It was 71 on Friday and dropped to 37 by Saturday. Talk about messing up sinuses. I’ll share a few photos from our day here and then probably do a separate post later in the week when we all need a break (another break) from the bleak news cycle.

We usually visit my parents on Sundays but with everything going on we decided to skip this weekend even though we think we’ve most likely exposed each other already. My dad is 76 and pretty matter-of-fact about things so last week he told us “We’re in our 70s. We could get a cold and die at this point so I’m not really worried.”

My dad is a young 76. He is still very active so keeping him in one place hasn’t been easy.  Earlier this week he said “Well, I guess we should try to not travel much during all this,” and we decided together our family would stay home for this weekend and maybe next, but after that, we are moving and may need to stay a couple nights with them.

We are praying none of us catch this before then so we don’t have to sleep in our van or car until we get the keys to the new house (apparently we have to be moved out prior to signing our closing papers to sell this house and can’t have keys to the new place until the sale of this house is final. Yeah. Fun times.).

We enjoyed a visit with them last week and while the trees are still bare, we did some signs of spring starting to show up.

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DSC_8772DSC_8788So how about all of you? What are you reading, writing, watching or simply doing right now? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: house selling drama, Sweet Land and small town libraries

The house selling process plods forward and as it does I seem to be having more breakdowns than normal. The roller-coaster of emotions as we worry about something falling through with either the sale of this house or the purchase of the other is getting to me I guess. I find myself sitting down and having a good cry a couple times a week.

After an unexpected removal from the house when the inspector came and wanted to bring the buyers, I cried as we toured our small town, not so much because I will miss the place, but because of all the bad memories made while here.

“That,” I said as I pointed at the hospital, the largest in our region, tears rolling down my face. “is the last place I saw my grandmother alive.”

This was after we drove past the house where some family members live but who no longer speak to us, though they never spoke to us much before either. That situation has broken my heart for a long time and resulted in a lot of confusion and hurt feelings on all sides. In some ways, it’s as if we think if we pack up the house and get out of this place we can leave all the emotional baggage behind, but of course, we really can’t.

We can drive away but we will still carry the scars we’ve gotten here. From the broken family relationships to the loss of my husband’s grandparents to driving by the last place I saw Grandma alive so many times in the last 16 years to the knives in our backs from former places of employment and former friends, living in this town hasn’t always been easy. I know only God can heal those scars so I have to lean on him now more than ever.

In happier news, I watched a movie called Sweet Land this week, which was actually pretty “sweet”, so it lived up to its name. It starred Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Alan Cumming, and Alex Kingston.  I kept writing in circles when I tried to explain the plot (that’s how muddled my brain is this week), so I pulled it off Wikipedia:

In the aftermath of World War I, Inge Altenberg (Elizabeth Reaser), an orphan from Snåsa, Norway, arrives in America to a very cold reception. The parents of immigrant farmer Olaf Torvik (Tim Guinee) remain in Norway, where they met her. Dialogue reveals that the four of them have worked out an agreement that allowed her to emigrate to America for the purpose of marrying Olaf. The Minnesota farming village of Audubon, in which her intended husband lives, is horrified to learn that she is a German immigrant with no papers. To make matters worse, she has accidentally obtained membership papers for the American Socialist Party. Scandalized, both the town’s Lutheran minister and the county clerk refuse to marry them.

When events lead them to openly cohabit with each other, they find themselves ostracized by the entire town. They are then forced to harvest their crop completely by hand and alone. This particular harvest season brings not only work, but love as well.

I streamed the movie on Amazon, but I’m sure it is available on other services as well.

On the book front, I am still reading Love Begins at Willow Tree Hill and still enjoying it. I haven’t had as much time for reading with all the “drama” (so to speak) in our life, but this week I hope to escape that drama a bit with reading and working on my two novels. (If you haven’t been following my novel, you can find a link to the chapters at the top of the page or HERE. I post new chapters on Thursdays and Fridays and will post it to Kindle when I’m finished, possibly with changes, but definitely edited and revised.)

I visited what was once my local library and will hopefully be our new local library when we move. My son and I had headed to the new house to pick up a radon test we’d ordered ahead of the inspection. After we left the house we mailed the test and then I asked my son if he wanted to see the little library in town. It was the library my mom and I always went to when I was a kid.

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“You don’t understand,” I told my son. “I didn’t have video games and social media when I was growing up so books were my only way to escape and experience life.”

When I walked into the library, the smell of books overwhelmed me just like it did when I was a kid. That smell was a sign to me that entire worlds were opening up to me and my mom and I would spend probably an hour choosing the books we wanted. We’d drag them home in a big bag and my dad would say “More books?” Sometimes we would bring home books we bought from the book sale and Dad would say, again, “More books? We don’t even have room for the books we have!”

But he let us have them anyhow and Mom and I would delve into them and float away from our small house in the country to worlds far away that were much more exciting than cleaning houses and cooking dinners and washing clothes and doing homework.  And we met new people, learned new ideas, developed new vocabulary, and for me, dreamt dreams of sharing stories as compelling as the ones I was reading.

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Before we left town, I decided to let the little old library ladies sitting at the front desk know how important the library was to me when I was growing up. They appreciated me letting them know, they said, and hope it works out for the library to be our home library by spring.

As for what I’m writing this week:

A flash fiction piece about a “sugar report” (letter to a soldier from a romantic interest);

Did you drink your water?

Faithfully Thinking: God’s Kingdom is in Your Own Backyard

Fiction Thursday, A New Beginning Chapter 22

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 23
I’ve also joined *eyeroll* Wattpad…the place that teens apparently share all their bizarre pubescent sex fantasies. My story, however, is nothing like that so it will not, most likely, get traction on Wattpad. But, why not try? Life is short and we need to go for it, right? If you want to follow The Farmer’s Daughteron there (though this version probably won’t be what I finally publish on Kindle), you can find it HERE.

As for what I’m listening to this week (something new I’m adding):

Oldies to get me in the mood for revisions on A New Beginning (which takes place in the mid 60s):

Marc Martel:

and sermons like this one:

So, how about you? What are you up to this week? Reading? Watching? Learning? Listening to? Share with me in the comments!

Sunday Bookends: Books finished and started; the never-ending house showings; and Ancestry.com’s rabbit holes

This past week was fairly tame, for the most part, with things speeding up toward the end of it while we prepared for yet another house showing. I think we are on number 14, if you count the one buyer who came to look at the house three times but still didn’t buy it. We are all suffering from a bit of battle fatigue with this house selling thing, as I’ve mentioned several times before (have I whined about this enough yet? Yes, I think so too.). However, we recognize many houses are on the market for months of years before they sell so it could be much worse.

What’s difficult about house showings, as anyone who has sold a house while still living in it knows, is trying to keep the house clean and then leaving it for an hour or so to allow perfect strangers to walk through it and judge you. I’m sure most people truly aren’t judging, but as the homeowner, it can feel that way and that’s the man stress-inducing part of it all.

I actually welcome the requests for the showings, even if we have had a lot in only a couple months, hoping someone makes an offer and buys it, allowing us to move closer to my husband’s job and my parents. I do like our neighbors but we don’t have friends or family up here, making it a rather lonely existence.

I distracted myself from all the weird news this week by going down several rabbit holes on Ancestry.com. I seem to discover something new about my family every time I go on and this past week I found out even more about the people I loosely (very loosely) basedA Story to Tell’ and ‘A New Beginning‘ on.

I’ll ramble about that in a blog post later this week when I tell a little bit more about the real story of Blanche and “Hank” (whose actual name was Howard.). What I will say is that Howard, my biological great-grandfather, isn’t looking too good at the moment, but, hey, it was all almost a century ago and I wasn’t there so who knows what really happened. He did seem to be a bit of a cad, however.

The problem with me and Ancestry.com is once I get on there, I can’t stop looking up information, I guess because I’m a storyteller and I want to know the stories of my ancestors. I get way too wrapped up in the digging and I’m sure at some point I’ll get myself in trouble with asking questions like “What was this person or that person really like?” from anyone who might still be alive and knew one of my relatives.  It might be better to simply read about them on Ancestry instead.

On the book front: I finally finished a book this week! Okay, so I’ve finished books before but lately, I’ve been reading very slow. This past week I finished the book I talked about last weekBorders of the Heart by Chris Fabry and started a new one by him, Under a Cloudless Sky.

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For anyone interested in Borders of the Heart, here is the description on Goodreads:

Desperate to escape haunting memories, J. D. Jessup travels from Nashville to Tucson and volunteers on an organic farm. The hardened landowner has one prevailing rule: If J. D. sees an “illegal,” call the border patrol. But when an early morning ride along the fence line leads him to a beautiful young woman named Maria, near death in the desert, his heart pulls him in another direction. Longing to atone for the choices that drove him to Tucson, J. D. hides her and unleashes a chain of deadly events he could never have imagined. Soon they are running from a killer and fighting for their lives. As secrets of their pasts emerge, J. D. realizes that saving Maria may be the only way to save himself.

The book was definitely fast-paced. I thought a couple of the last chapters were unnecessary in some ways, but it still added to the suspense and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book.

The description for Under a Cloudless Sky:

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A charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction and the recent hit memoir Hillbilly Elegy about a lush and storied coal-mining town–and the good people who live there–in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit. Will the truth about the town’s past be its final undoing or its saving grace?

1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers–one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner –Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past–even the massacre of 1933–while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

I’m not sure if some of my blog readers are familiar with the movie War Room, or not, but if you are, Fabry also wrote the book version of that movie. The screenplay was originally written by the Kendrick Brothers, of course. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you’re a Bible-believing Christian, I highly recommend the movie and the book and I also recommend Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer, who is also in the movie.

I’m also reading (and hoping to finish this week) The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson by Glenn McCarty, a middle school level book my son read for English, and starting In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar.

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My son finished Tumbleweed this week and said: “My life feels so empty now that it’s done.” I love to hear that because it means it was a good book and he was completely engrossed in it. I plan to write a separate post about the book later in the week.

My daughter and I are switching between the first Paddington Bear book (rereading it) and

The Cat Who Went Up the Creek because she found out The Cat Who books are about . . . cats. I think she quickly realized most of the books are about the newspaper reporter Jim Qwellerin after the first night because the next night she asked for Paddington again. She’s five and there are more accents I have to do in Paddington, plus Paddington is about a cute bear and his crazy adventures. If I was five, I’d choose Paddington too.

So how about all of you? What have you been doing this past week and what is on your reading list? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Sunday Bookends: The Biggest Little Farm, Comfort reading, and apparently it’s spring in winter

This is part of Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon.


I tried to distract myself from the stress of life this week by choosing a documentary to watch, but I’m not sure my stress was relieved watching a farming couple almost crumble under stress. Truthfully, the documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, which I found on Hulu this time (see, it’s not always Amazon), has both bitter and sweet moments and was nicely put together.

MV5BMjQ1MjM0OTE2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgwMDY4NzM@._V1_The documentary follows the journey of a couple who starts a diverse farm in a fairly deserted area of California. Under the guidance of a consultant, they not only plant diverse crops but also begin raising various livestock, including sheep and chickens and one fat, pregnant pig. The couple started the farm to give their rescue dog a place to roam and soon learn their family dream will cost them a lot of pain, emotionally, physically and financially. There is a lot of bad (coyotes come to visit; there are other unexpected challenges) but there is also a lot of good (a booming egg business for one).

The documentary is also beautifully photographed, probably because one of the subjects of it started out as a wildlife videographer. After wiping my tears over that one (both from a little sadness and a lot of sweetness), I turned to comfort reading via one of The Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun. I load one of Braun’s books into my Kindle anytime the outside world or my world gets too overwhelming (which seems to be often lately, honestly).

Right now I am reading The Cat Who Lived High. According to the description on Good Reads: “The colorful Casablanca apartment building is in danger of demolition–but not if Jim Qwilleran can help it. He’s determined to restore the building to its original grandeur. So he moves in with Koko and Yum Yum–and discovers that the Casablanca is steeped in history…and mystery. In Qwill’s very apartment, a glamorous art dealer met an untimely fate, and the veteran journalist and his crime-solving cats are about to reach new heights in detection as the evidence builds up…and the Casablanca threatens to crumble down around them!”

51B5fG9dybL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_I like the predictability of the Cat Who books. I don’t always know who committed the crime but I know what the pattern will be to solve it. Qwill’s mustache is going to quiver and hum, alerting him to something that has gone amiss, but he’s still going to walk himself right into something questionable and his cat KoKo is going to help solve the crime with his uncanny ability to feel (and signal Qwill) when something is off. Also, a few women will fall all over the retired crime reporter and he will return some of that affection but he’s going to back away from the woman, choosing instead the comfort of the reserved librarian Polly Duncan from the small town of Pickax.

Some readers may find this routine stale after a few books, but in a world where the news and life is unpredictable, I welcome that familiar routine. There are two things that don’t change in my world: God and the plot devices of Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who books and I like it that way.

Other news in the book world is that my mom, who I share a Kindle account with, has recommended I read a new-to-is author, Chris Fabry, so I plan to start one of his this week. I’ll probably start with Looking Into You, which Mom said is a good one and is available through Kindle Unlimited. Fabry, according to his site, has written 81 books, mainly in the Christian fiction drama. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer in capturing my attention.

In other news, it is no secret that we are way beyond ready to sell our current house and get out of Dodge, so to speak. This week house showings slowed down, which was a welcome respite, partially because I’m burned out on holding showings and getting no one to buy and partially because our son came down with a cold this week and was fairly miserable.

On top of his cold, he choked on steak this weekend and almost died. My husband says I’m being dramatic but when one hears “oh my, God,” and runs into the dining room to see their husband giving their son the Heimlich maneuver, and then their son throws up the steak caught in his throat, one feels they can say their husband saved their son’s life.

My husband was cool as a cucumber and I was a blubbering mess after it was all over, which was actually in less than a minute but felt like forever. I guess it just hit me what could have happened and it shook me up pretty bad. I didn’t bug my son to eat his veggies for dinner like I usually do that night.

We are enjoying some warmer weather this weekend and expect to have it through part of this week before the temps crash again. The cold temperatures really wreak havoc on my muscles, dry skin, and ears/sinuses so this respite has been very welcome. We were so excited to have temperatures in the 50s we flung our windows open and simply put on a sweater if we felt chilly.

The warmer weather also helped my son’s sinuses issues from the cold, another reason we were happy to have it.

So how about you? How is the weather where you are? What are you reading or watching or up to? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Dick VanDyke, Noelle, sappy, predictable Christmas movies, and light reading

Bah-humbug to the crummy week this past week was.

And bah-humbug to:

  • the people who thought they could pay us almost $35,000 less for our house than we were asking so they could flip it (not very Christian but I wanted to flip something else at them);
  • the people who verbally trash houses so they can try to talk sellers down in price;
  •  photo sessions with drunk adults and parents, aunts and uncles all yelling at the kids to “look here” (at their cellphones!) while the photographer (me) tries to take their photos;
  • my husband to swerving to miss a deer and hitting a rock and popping a tire.

I’m not a drinker, but if I was, I’d be pretty sloshed by now trying to deal with all the stress from last week. Instead, I’m just gaining weight from chocolate consumption.

I already mentioned yesterday I’ve been binge-watching Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas romance movies to distract from the stress (help me!), but I’ve also been binge-watching the old Dick VanDyke Show from the 60s (yes, also on Amazon, but no! I’m not being paid by them to say this.) I’m watching these movies and shows while cleaning, cooking, or — uh, crying — by the way, so I’m not just sitting and watching movies and doing nothing else.

The Dick VanDyke Show is one of those shows that really holds up. One of my favorites is when Laura tells the world that Rob’s boss, Alan Brady, is bald. It’s in Season 5, episode 1, if I remember right.

I love the chemistry among the characters in The Dick VanDyke Show, especially Mary Tyler Moore and Dick VanDyke. The storylines are always so inventive and hilarious as well. It was definitely a forerunner for todays sitcom, although most of them can’t hold a candle to the superb acting by VanDyke and the rest of the cast.

In addition to Dick VanDyke and the cheesy Christmas romance movies, I also watched a movie that featured some pretty bad acting, but was worth pushing through to get to the message. The movie, called Noelle, (but first released as Mrs. Worthington’s Party), is an independent film with some beautiful imagery and symbolism.

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It was written, produced and directed in 2007 by David Wall, who also stars in it, and who I can find very little information about other than he released another independent film last year called Gold Dust. Wall was pretty much the only competent actor in the movie, but again, it was completely worth pushing through it to reach the message behind it.

In the book world, I had very little time this week for reading thanks to the house showings, the cleaning, the rainy weather that wreaked havoc on my sinuses and the watching of cheesy Christmas romance movies.

I am still reading The Cat Who Lived High by Lillian Jackson Braun and The Hobbit (I will finish this book!), a book called Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrell, and with my kids, I’m reading The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson by Glenn McCarty and More About Paddington by Michael Bond. I read Paddington to my daughter each night, at her request, complete with all the voices, which makes it hard for my husband ever to read it to her because he can’t do a British accent.

I also run into trouble with this by playing Doc McStuffins with her, imitating the voices of all the characters as we play. Sometimes when I need a break from playtime with a 5-year old, my husband says “Can’t Daddy play with you?” She always says “No. Because you can’t do the voices.” I’m not sure who to feel more sorry for – me or my husband.

So how about all of you? What are you reading, watching, or up to? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to know!


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.


 

The Cuckoo’s Calling almost made me Cuckoo and the week in review

(This post is part of Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon).

I promised a couple of weeks ago I would finish The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) and I finally did it. I was determined to finish the book because it was a different type of book for me and one my husband suggested.

For anyone who is a fan of clean fiction, with positive and cheerful stories of loving people — this is not the book for you. I didn’t count them but I would say there are about 300 uses of the “F” word and about 1,000 semicolons and 100 parentheses.  This isn’t my usual type of read, as I said above, but it was well-written (even if I don’t think the excessive curse words were necessary).

I guess J.K. Rowling was making sure she shook off any Potter fans with this crime novel debut, using the Galbraith pseudonym and the fictitious author bio in the back of the book.  I wouldn’t call the book a fast read by any means. At 466 (or more) pages, the book is definitely dense and full of detail I often found unnecessary. However, the extra information was entertainingly written so I didn’t mind that J.K. rambled on a bit in places. It’s not like I’m the queen of being succinct, as anyone who has read my blog knows.

51VB32EnfTLI’m not sure if I’ll continue with books 2-4 of the Cormoran Strike series, though my husband said he especially enjoyed book four (and strongly disliked book three). I enjoy crime fiction but sometimes the gritty stories filled with ridiculous uses of swear words (especially the f-word), are not my cup of tea (pun totally intended since this book was based in London).

As for finishing The Hobbit, another goal I have for November, I’m not there yet, but I did advance further in the book this past week. My son, for his part, is almost done with the book and will be writing a book report for it this week.

I’m still reading through two Mitford books – re-reading A Light in the Window (because it’s been so long and I love the love story of Father Tim and Cynthia) and reading A Light from Heaven, which I somehow never read when I was going through the series. I also never read “Home to Holly Springs” which was a Father Tim novel. It was supposed to be the first of others but I don’t think Jan Karon ever wrote any other Father Tim novels and now in her 80s, she has ended the series. I plan to tackle Home to Holly Springs after I finish these two Mitford books and The Hobbit.

I’ve been watching Shakespeare and Hathaway, a light crime series that takes place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England to keep my mind off the stress of house hunting and house selling. The main characters are a man and woman private detective team. The man, Frank Hathaway, was the private detective to start with, after being kicked off the police force and the woman, Luella Shakespeare, sort of fell into the profession when she hired Frank to investigate her fiance and then stayed on to help him at his office.

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The episodes feature some humor with drama mixed in but they are fairly light and void of any topics that are too dark, which was a nice reprieve after reading through The Cuckoo’s Calling.

As for my writing quest, I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to A Story to Tell, and I’m sharing the chapters here on the blog each Friday for Fiction Friday. I’m also offering others a chance to link any fiction they have written on their blogs every Friday. If you share fiction on your blog, please feel free to join me this Friday and share your links.

Speaking of fiction, if you haven’t checked out Lunch Break Fiction, I highly suggest you do. It’s one of my favorite blogs out there these days.

So what are you up to this week? What are you reading or watching? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to know!