Sunday Bookends: Christmas displays, somewhat unrealsitic books, Maggie Cole

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments

What I’m Reading

I started one of those books that annoy me because part of the premise was stupid but the more I got into it, the more I was accepting of the dumb premise, probably because the characters were somewhat interesting and the writing well done. I don’t know that the premise itself was really stupid, but aspects of it were. I don’t want to say what I didn’t like about the story because it would be a spoiler for those who might read it in the future. Of course, now that I said I didn’t like part of the book, others will say they won’t want to read it, but I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it because even though aspects of it irritated me, I had a hard time putting it down. 

The storylines in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren were actually very engaging. There are four main characters. Two major main characters and two minor main characters. Their stories intersect at times, but the main story is of Kasey and Ben, young lovers who grew apart when Ben left to become a Country Music star. The book sets up future storylines or at least future characters, including the story of billionaire Ian Shaw who spends this book look for his niece who has gone missing. I do enjoy how Susan May Warren writes, but I don’t know if I will buy the other books in this series or not. I am reading this first book in the series because it is on Kindle Unlimited and I usually only pay $9 for an ebook if it is from an author I really enjoy, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy this author’s work. I’m just not sure I’m going to keep buying the ebooks for that price when I can get the paperbacks for about the same price. I’ll probably purchase paperbacks of hers in the future. 

I’ll probably finish that book in the next couple of days and then I plan to read a book by Ted Dekker, who I’ve heard a lot about recently, and one by James L. Rubart, who I’ve only just heard about. 

Dekker’s is called Water Walker, which is a book that combines four serial “episodes”. The description on Amazon is: “My name is Alice Ringwald, but the man who kidnapped me says that’s a lie.”

 Thirteen-year-old orphan Alice Ringwald has no memory beyond six months ago. The only life she knows is the new one she’s creating one day at a time with the loving couple that recently adopted her and gave her new hope. That hope, however, is shattered one night when she is abducted by a strange man. In a frantic FBI manhunt, the kidnapper vanished with Alice.”

Rubart’s book is Rooms. The Amazon description: What if you inherited a brand-new mansion on the Oregon coast—from a great uncle you never knew? Would you blow it off? Or head down there to check it out?

 Micah Taylor isn’t stupid. He’s made a fortune building a Seattle software empire. But he can’t figure out why he’s been given a 9,000 square foot home right on the beach.

 And not just any beach.  The one beach he loves more than any other.  The one beach he hates more than any other.  Both at the same time.  Micah drives down to check out the house. On the surface, everything seems legit. He instantly feels at home and then he meets a beautiful young woman at the local ice cream shop.  Now there’s two reasons to keep coming back to Cannon Beach. But the house still feels off. Things start happening that Micah can’t explain.  That Micah doesn’t want explained.  Because he’s slowly realizing the house isn’t just a house.  It’s a physical manifestation of his soul.

 He begins a journey into the most glorious rooms of his life, but also the darkest.  Rooms where terrible things happened.  Things that must not be remembered, but scream out to be heard.  Micah can’t run. Can’t hide.  Because the memories aren’t just memories.  They’re real.  Memories that can heal and set him free.  But that can also destroy him.  And there’s no way to know which side will win in the end.

What I’m Watching

My husband and I finished The Trouble with Maggie Cole this week, which we found on the PBS Masterpiece channel on Amazon. I mentioned this show in my post last week. It was six episodes and we really enjoyed it. We don’t see how they could have a season two but Dawn French, who stars in the show, says a second season is planned. I was so nervous that the show, which was fairly clean, was going to delve into this super dark place in the last couple of episodes, but it didn’t. Instead, it was a nice, but suspenseful story with redeeming characters. 

The show starts with Maggie Cole (French) being interviewed by a radio show host who gets her drunk so she will gossip about the people in town. She doesn’t remember or know the gossip part will be on the show when she sets up a party at her house for everyone in town to listen with her. She thinks the man is going to be doing a story on the 500-year celebration party she is organizing for the town, which is what they agreed on when they first met.

The show follows her efforts to make it up to the people she “outed” but also the stories of each person who she shared gossip about. Throughout the series, we learn what is true and what isn’t about the six victims of her drunken ramble.

As I said last week, I completely relate to Maggie, except that I don’t feel I am a pushy person who forces people to do what I want. Sadly, when I asked my husband if that part of her was like me, he paused much too long. He’s still taking care of that lump on his head from the book I threw at him. That last part, of course, is a joke. The part about him pausing too long is not. 

Christmas season is starting so I’m sure I’ll watch my share of stupid Hallmarkesque Christmas movies this week. 

What’s Been Occurring / What I’m Writing

I finished the first draft of The Farmer’s Daughter yesterday. The final version will be a bit different than what I shared here on the blog since I have removed both Franny and Jason’s storyline from this book. Their stories will be separate novels or novellas. It felt pretty good to finish the book since I’ve been working on Molly’s story for the last couple of years when I first wrote the kiss scene on a whim. I started her story before I started A New Beginning and in the middle of writing A Story to Tell. I’m so glad I won’t be saying goodbye to Alex and Molly, though. Their story will continue some in The Farmer’s Son, which will be Jason’s story, and in The Business Man’s Son, which will be Alex’s story.

I will be working on rewrites and edits this week if I can keep my brain from jumping to the other stories I am planning for the series. 

Last week’s posts included:

Last week we spent my husband’s birthday visiting a light display at a golf course about a half an hour away. The Christmas lights lined trees and displays across the course and it was a beautiful sight. The way they made lights look like a running river was amazing. I’m sure my photographs don’t do it justice. I’m sharing a few here and will share more in my Photos of the Week post tomorrow. The only issue we had during the tour were the odd comments from my kids, including when my daughter asked if that was Santa in an airplane in one of the displays and when my husband said “yes,” she said “That is so cringe.”

After the tour, they offered hot chocolate, cookies, and other snacks in a space near the main club room location. One of those snacks were smores kits., which were simply one marshmallow, a mini Hershey chocolate bar, and two graham crackers. The marshmallows were roasted over fire pits they had set up in the open courtyard.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents, enjoying three different types of pies they made, a turkey my husband made, and a variety of other food we all made together. 

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. How about you? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday bookends: Very little time for reading, building raised garden beds, and country living

Not only did our county in Pennsylvania open up this week but the weather warmed up and people in town seemed to pour from their homes to work in their yards, take walks and go to the stores. My family was outside more than inside most of the days of the week, which was nice, but then I forgot that I hadn’t purchased sunblock yet and ended up with a sunburned face and chest. I was so red I looked like I had painted my chest area bright maroon. I’m more sensitive to the sun thanks to the thyroid medicine I’m on.

My daughter wanted to be outside every day, which is a little different than how it was where we lived before. There is a lot more space in our backyard here. The yard there was fenced in and butted up against the neighbor’s and there was a lot more traffic. At the other house the children couldn’t go out when the school down the street let out because the kids who walked by our house were rude, obnoxious and cursed at my children. I don’t know what happened in the last year or so but the kids from the school had become more aggressive and rude. One day the members of the high school track team ran by and broke a limb off of our tree and just kept going. Another day a kid tried to pull our for sale sign out of the ground and I don’t think it was because they didn’t want us to leave. Then another day a teenager football punted one of the solar lights we had along our front sidewalk for decoration.

So far, this neighborhood is quieter, with less traffic and no obnoxious teenagers or children. Anytime our children go outside, the dog and cat think they have to go out too. That happened at both houses but it’s even more prominent here.

Our cat, Pixel, has become an escape artist, always slipping out the door to go explore. We worried about her getting hit by a car at the old house and sometimes I worry about that happening here too (cars fly off the one back road and up onto our street on their way to the local Agway), but I’m more concerned she’s going to be eaten by a bear. I don’t think she’ll be eaten by one in the middle of the day, really, and we keep her locked up inside at night. One day last week I went outside to bring the dog back in and I found Pixel on the roof of the garage. She climbed back down via the roof over the wood pile because I think she realized how high up she was. Luckily if she had gotten stuck my son could have climbed up to get her because the roof of the woodpile slopes up from the bank and leads to the garage roof.

I can’t lie and say having her slip out isn’t frustrating because I don’t like to have to keep going outside to check on her. She’s an extremely high maintenance cat some days. She constantly wants me to turn the water on in the bathroom sink for her so she can drink out of it (she’s done this everywhere we’ve stayed or lived in the last few months, including my parents.), she yowls all night if she can’t get to her food (which we have to keep up on the counter so the dog can’t get into it), she yowls all night if she wants water from the faucet or to go outside, and she claws at my feet in the middle of the night if she feels playful and I try to stretch out.

Every once in awhile I think it would be okay if she disappeared so I don’t have to deal with worrying about her, or her antics, but then she brushes up against me for attention. or talks to me when she comes back in the house,and I feel guilty for those thoughts.

Every cat we have had has had an interesting personality and she’s no different. My husband hung up a little decorative sign the other day that features the painting of a cat and says: “cats are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” That was once true for us since we had three cats at one time and then two, but this cat is like having two cats already so I let him know we won’t be getting another cat to try to prove the saying on the sign right.

On Thursday and Friday my dad and son built boxes for me to build raised garden beds. I had mentioned the possibility to my dad but didn’t know if it would really come together and before I knew it, dad was offering to go get the lumber, brought it back to our house, started to treat it (with linseed oil and then vegetable oil.) then a day later built them with my son’s help. I had planned to buy one of those ready to put together boxes from Lowe’s instead.

I’m not really sure what we are planting in them yet, but we have some time because we still have to haul some potting soil in. I’m sure we will have to buy already partially grown plants because it is getting so late in the season, but it’s been very cold here so we haven’t been able to plant anything even if I had wanted to.

Being outside so much this past week left little time for reading, except for some at night but I was so tired from the day’s activities I ended up not getting very far in my book (Sweet on You by Becky Wade) and kept falling asleep. I have a couple of other books I want to start this next week, including Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey.

This is a non-fiction book and I rarely read non-fiction but it intrigues me because I think it will help me understand the history of the Bible and Jesus more. I enjoy books, movies, and shows that help bring me into a more visceral understanding of my faith. I think this book, coupled with The Chosen show, and writing Fully Alive is helping me do that.

I did have a little time to watch a new show on Britbox (through Amazon) called The Mallorca Files. The show was produced exclusively for Britbox and the main character are an uptight British detective and a goofy German detective who are thrown together on a police force on an island in Spain. The story lines are fairly simple, the mysteries are easy to solve, and the subject matter is fairly clean so it isn’t a hard hitting mystery show by any means, but I think light, humorous and slightly quirky are exactly what I need right now. (And the lead actor is good looking, so, you know..that helps.)

We are still adjusting to the new house and new town, though it is made easier that I grew up ten minutes from here and visited this small town a lot as a child and teenager.

I plan to write a blog post later this week about how small town life differs from “bigger” town life (we went from a town of about 3,000, with a few thousand more in the adjoining towns, to a town of 600) but for now I’ll list a few things that I’m relearning about living in a more rural setting.

  1. Birds are loud. Very loud. Birds also like to talk at all hours of the day, including 4-stinking-a.m. What does a bird have to talk about at 4 a.m.? Seriously. The sun isn’t even up yet. Shut up, bird. (The same bird kept chirping away all day the next day too.). Birds existed in the town we lived in but they must have known to shut up at 4 a.m. because I don’t remember hearing them as often.
  2. Deer like to eat anything and everything, including the shrubs at the edge of our property that we only found out this week were ours. Oops. We probably should have looked at our deed a little closer when we bid on the place.
  3. A house in a more country setting means more encounters with Lyme carrying ticks. That means investing in a lot of bug spray and hosing the kids and myself down every time we go in the yard. It also increases my anxiety since my dad has suffered with Lyme for a few years now and I don’t want that to happen to my kids, husband or me.
  4. There will be regular sightings of a variety of animals – from rabbits to turkeys, Canadian geese and their babies, the six deer that visited the neighbors last week, the cats the neighbors just let roam the street (which is fitting since my cat is now doing the same thing, I guess.) and the neighbor says there have been bears in town, but I’m thankful we haven’t seen one yet.
  5. I have to be sure to take my allergy medicine, especially in spring, because there always seems to be more than one tree or plant blooming at this time here in the more rural small town we live in.

If you missed any posts on the blog last week I rambled about the challenges I have in describing characters in my fiction, shared Chapter 4 of Fully Alive and Chapter 8 of The Farmer’s Daughter and shared that A New Beginning is on Kindle and Barnes & Noble.

How about all of you? What have you been reading, watching or doing this past week? Let me know in the comments or share a post with me that lets me know!