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.


 

Sunday Bookends: Reading mysteries with cats, watching artistic movies, and selling a house

What a week last week was, or at least the beginning of it.

We knew we had at least one house showing in the middle of the week but then we were asked if we could accommodate a second house showing. Since our house had only been on the market for less than a week at that point, we said “sure why not,” but I also freaked out because I knew we had repairs and cleaning to do before then. Saturday through Tuesday was a blur of cleaning out, throwing out, scrubbing, scraping and desperate attempts to keep my youngest from making any huge messes before the showings.

Then the day of the first showing we had to figure out how to carry our cat to the van, since pets aren’t allowed during showings, and since she hates her cat carrier (not that I can blame her). My biggest fear is that she would get loose while we drove around town to waste time. Luckily that didn’t happen either day, even though she wasn’t very happy with being stuck in the van with two kids and a dog that likes to lick her all over.

The first day she was fairly anxious but the next day she spent a good part of the hour we were out yowling and for one brief moment, I thought she was going to throw up on me. As we drove she cuddled up against the dog, who really is like a buddy to her, even though they smack each other around half the time.

 

In the middle of the cleaning, we had our first snowstorm (Ezekiel) of the season and the kids enjoyed playing in the snow it left behind (which was much less than forecasters were calling for).

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On the reading front, I haven’t been reading a lot, partially because I didn’t have time and partially because my mom is using my Kindle after hers tragically passed away a couple of weeks ago and I usually read at night after the kids are in bed. I downloaded the app on my phone but I don’t enjoy reading in on the phone (even though I have a larger sized one) as much as on the Kindle.

I had a couple of hard copy books and read some of A Light from Heaven by Jan Mitford, but had to lay that one down because it dragged more than most of her books and I just couldn’t get into it. I did finally started a new “The Cat Who” book in the Kindle app after abandoning one she wrote in the first person.

I didn’t enjoy reading about a character who was usually written in the third person but was now in the first person.  The one I’m reading currently is The Cat Who Lived High (Book 11) by Lilian Jackson Braun and it is written in the third person. The Cat Who books are about former reporter James Qwilleran and his two cats, Koko and Yum-Yum. Koko seems to have a six sense, which Qwilleran uses in his amateur sleuthing. And like many mystery series, Qwill is the harbinger of death because everywhere he goes someone seems to die or has died already. Yes, he is another Jessica Fletcher.

At bedtime my daughter has been asking me to read stories from the Paddington books by Michael Bond. We are currently on the book “More About Paddington.” We love the stories about the crazy situations that bear gets into. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, my daughter often passes out before the story is finished and I try not to read ahead so she and I can enjoy it together. She won’t let anyone else in the house read to her, mainly because I do all the voices for the characters. I also do all the voices for her toys when we play (I do a mean Hallie and Stuffy from Doc McStuffins). I really need to stop doing that. Ha!

On the movie front, I finally crossed a movie off my movie bucket list: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  I’m amazed I never watched it since I’m a huge Paul Newman fan. Who wouldn’t be with those blue eyes and that sexy mouth? It’s okay to speak about him this way since he’s been dead for years. *wink* Seriously, though, I’m a fan of his acting and this movie didn’t change my mind. It was definitely action-packed and worth finally watching.

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I also watched a movie called The Beautiful Fantastic, which wasn’t as good, though it was clean and the cinematography was beautiful. It got a bit too cliche in parts but I enjoyed and I enjoyed watching Andrew Scott, who I first saw in Sherlock as Moriarty. I probably won’t watch him as the “Hot Priest” in Fleabag because that show really doesn’t sound like it would be my cup of tea. The Beautiful Fantastic also starred Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Wilkinson.

It’s imagery and unique angles helped to spark my feelings of creativity, so there was that at least.

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So, how about you? How was your week? What are you reading? Watching? Listening to even? Let me know in the comments or link to a blog post where you shared what you’re up to this week!


Lisa R. Howeler is a wife, mom, writer and photographer. She resides in Pennsylvania and is a former journalist. She currently provides photographs for bloggers and for stock agencies, Alamy, and Lightstock.


 

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!

 

Looking back at October ahead to November, reading and otherwise

I actually managed to finish a couple of books in October and start a couple more.

I don’t read as fast as others who share and link up on Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon and Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post and The Book Date’s, What Are You Reading post, but I enjoy the books I do read so I figure it’s all good. I read them in between working on my own stories, homeschooling a 12-year old and 5-year old, cooking dinner, editing photos for stock photography, and occasionally cleaning the house (being a housewife is not necessarily my calling).

I won’t have as much time for reading this month since I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month and hopefully finish the sequel to A Story to Tell and maybe even make progress on Fully Alive.

I’m ahead of the game for NaNoWriMo since I already have 27,000 words for A New Beginning and about 14,000 for A Fully Alive but both books need a lot of work, plot and character development.

But I do plan to read some books this month and on the list to either start or finish include:

  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (to finish)
  • Light from Heaven by Jan Karon (to finish because I just started it)
  • The Misadventures of Tumbleweed Thompson by Glen McCarty (starting. It’s a middle school book for my son’s homeschool group book discussion).
  • The Hobbit (I know! I’m still reading it! I’m pathetic!)
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot (to finish)
  • The Dog That Whispered by Jim Kraus (to start)
  • Just Me On This by Donald Westlake (to start)
  • Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers (to finish)

Books I finished in October:

  • In this Mountain by Jan Karon
  • Memphis & Me by Diane Moody
  • The Runaway Pastor’s Wife by Diane Moody

I’m also reading Paddington Marches On by Michael Bond and Stuart Little by EB White with my 5-year old daughter at night. I love when she asks me to read to her to help her fall asleep, though it is frustrating when she falls asleep in the middle of the story and I want to know what happened. I can never figure out if I should wait to finish the story with her the next night or finish it. (Both books are broke into individual stories.) Sometimes I just go ahead and finish it and read it again the next night.

Our autumn leaves were pretty much completely annihilated by heavy wind and rain this week but we found these cool leaves I have never seen in my life in Pennsylvania at a playground near us.

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I have no idea what tree they are from but they were awesome. My daughter wasn’t really into throwing the leaves up in the air for me to take photographs but my son helped a couple of times.

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We had stopped at the playground after a funeral for my husband’s great aunt, who passed away at the age of 90 last Sunday. I was ready to go home since when I drove to the funeral I realized I had forgotten some photo albums my husband’s cousin had wanted and had to drive 15 miles back to my house and 15 miles back down to give her the albums. But my children don’t play at playgrounds as often as they used to so I took some photographs of them and then sat in the van reading Jan Karon while they played with a couple of little girls who had come to the playground as well.

Coming up this month my son and husband both have birthdays (my son will be 13 on Thursday and my husband will be … a certain age .. later in the month) and my brother and his wife celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary (on the same day as my husband’s birthday). We don’t have anything super exciting planned for November beyond recognizing those milestones. We will be plowing forward on homeschooling for both children and hunting for a house closer to my husband’s job and my parents during the month as well. I am planning a post later about house hunting. The post will be entitled “The soul-sucking process of house hunting.”

As for what I was watching in October, I watched a lot of a British sitcom called One Foot in the Grave (but Amazon only offers up to season three thorough Britbox so I may look for a DVD collection that can be played on American DVD players) and also watched Paul: Apostle of Christ, which I rambled about here.

On my blog in October, some of the subjects I rambled about were: autumn, a little about books and movies, and a bit about writing fiction.

I also blogged about:

For Fiction Friday in October I shared:

On my blog this month I’ll be continuing to share A New Beginning, the sequel to A Story To Tell, for Fiction Friday every week, or at least every other week. I’m sure I’ll ramble some more about my children and I’m sure I’ll share more photographs of whatever I see throughout the month. I’ll probably blog about what I’m reading or lessons learned during NaNoWriMo and maybe even some insights on God (because, you know, I’m someone people turn to for thoughts on God. Har. Har.).

So, how about you? What are you reading, watching, or up to?

 

More ‘Autumn in Pennsylvania’, photos, the Apostle Paul, and a little about books

Winter is coming in a bit like a lion this year as the North was lashed with wind and rain part of this week. We spent part of our week inside, under covers, watching movies and sometimes reading books.

Early in the week I rolled my ankle and thought I was on the way to the ER like Marcia at The Write Stuff (who visited the ER for the first time in her life twice in a week!) but luckily that didn’t happen. I wish I had an exciting story to go along with that ankle story but I was literally only pushing my son’s bike in the driveway to take it to the van so he could take it to his grandparents and my ankle just turned. That was all. Very boring story. The ankle was sore off and on all week but nowhere near a crisis. One day I thought it was swollen and then remembered I just have fat, Hobbit-like feet and ankles and it wasn’t actually swollen.

At the end of the week, I also feel in a hole at my parents, with the foot of the ankle I had twisted going straight down and sending me to the ground. My son thought it was hilarious because he said one moment I was standing and the next moment I screamed and disappeared. Luckily, I didn’t damage it worse and was still able to go to a community event with my husband later that evening.

Speaking of Hobbits, I have stalled on reading the book and I have no idea why because it’s a good book. Here is a goal for this week: finish the book, like my son who is finishing it up for schoolwork.

Speaking of books, I haven’t made a ton of progress on that front but did manage to progress in Diane Moody’s Memphis & Me and have made a list of other books I plan to break into this week, including:

  •  Village School by Miss Read
  • Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers
  • Rhythm and Renewal by Rebekah Lyons
  • The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson by Glen McCarty (middle school book for book discussion for our homeschooling group)

As for what I’m watching, I watched Paul, Apostle of Christ with Jim Cavaziel this week and wow, it was powerful. Jim is playing Luke this time, instead of Jesus. Paul is played by James Faulkner who gives a powerful performance of a man at the end of his 30-year journey as a missionary for Jesus. Paul is in a Roman prison, charged by Nero with burning half of Rome, which of course he denies doing. The movie shows that the fire was more than likely started by Nero himself, who then used the Christians as a scapegoat to take the blame off himself. The Christians are currently living in hiding, with many being murdered because of their faith, trying to decide if and when to leave Rome to seek a more hospitable situation in Ephesus. Luke sneaks into the prison to visit Paul and record his message to his fellow persecuted Christians.

There is some fiction thrown into the story to add some drama, but that doesn’t take away from the crux of the Bible-based portions of the movie.

The movie was very moving, thought-provoking, deep, and should be watched with tissues close by. I honestly had a hard time watching it and not thinking of our world today and how persecution against people because of their faith is not something of the past, but something of the present that is continually getting worse. I tried not to envision that one day Christians (or people of other faiths) will be marched to the coliseum to be eaten by lions like we and others were in the day of the Romans.

To lighten the mood a little (ha!) I’m also watching a British sitcom called “One Foot in the Grave” (it doesn’t sound lighter, does it?) about a cranky man who has been forced into retirement. The series has both humorous and heart breaking moments so it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally, but the humor is up my alley – a little dark and odd.

 

I snapped only a few more fall related photos this week, partly because we had rain and wind two days in a row and it was miserable weather to photograph in and partly because I didn’t go many places to take photos featuring the fall foliage.

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I’m fairly certain this after I fell in the hole because my son was laughing pretty hard after I disappeared. Little “jerk.” 😉

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

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This post is part of Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon 

and Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post. 

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Fry bread, Smoke Signals and cat mysteries. Or what I’m reading this week

Here we are to Sunday Salon, where bloggers share mainly what they’ve been reading and sometimes what they’ve been watching and doing. Want to get involved? Feel free to link up to Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon post (which is usually up by Saturday).

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We made Navajo fry bread for homeschool a couple of weeks ago which made me think immediately of this scene from Smoke Signals:

That meant looking up the movie and finding it for free on Hulu, so we watched it as the family movie for my birthday. In case you’re interested in the movie, I’ll leave a link to the trailer. It is based on a short story called This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from Sherman Alexie’s book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993).

In my son’s textbook, they called it flatbread, but I’d always heard it called frybread. My first attempt at making it with the kids wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t the worst either. We hope to try it again soon, even though I personally can’t eat gluten (I won’t lie, I did try some of the fry bread and I paid for it with some achy muscles the next day, but not as bad as it could have been.)

As for what I have read or am reading right now:

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I started The Runaway Pastor’s Wife by Diane Moody, a self-published author I discovered, that my mom and I are really enjoying and who was sweet enough to answer me by email when I had some questions for her this week. I’m really enjoying the book. It’s fast-paced but also weaves a lot of thoughtful sections about the struggles both pastors and their wives face while serving in ministry.

I first discovered her husband, McMillian Moody, on Kindle Unlimited with his Elmo Jenkins series. I’m in the first book of that series and I’m not catching on to his book as quickly as I did The Runaway Pastor’s Wife. Diane’s one book series about World War II is based on her father’s time during the war, when he dropped from planes for people in Holland. I’m looking forward to delving into those books soon, especially since she will be releasing the fourth book in that series in 2020.  I need to hurry and read the books, though, because my mom rips through books at high speed and she keeps returning the books in Kindle Unlimited before I get to them (we are on a joint account). Seriously, I can get them back later, but come on, Mooom! Slow down.

51xr-HD6D7L._SY346_I’m in the middle of another book, Murder in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth (real name Marla Bradeen), who is another self-published author. So far the book is carrying me along quickly. It is about a woman (Katherine Harper) whose neighbor is murdered and she starts to investigate it, even though the police, including a childhood friend who has turned all hunky, are already investigating it. Katherine is a former foster child and that aspect is woven into the story as well.

I just need to find some time to read it and finish it since I’ve also been writing my own book (the follow up to A Story to Tell, which is out on Amazon Kindle now), homeschooling my children, cooking dinner, and pretending I’m an actual housewife.

Also on the reading list, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. Fantasy isn’t always my thing, but I am reading it with my son for his English for homeschool.

On the watch list lately has been Lark Rise to Candleford on Britbox (through Amazon). I’ve already watched Season 1 and am on to Season 2. I understand the series is based on a series of books, which I plan to look up at some point. I don’t watch a ton of television so I usually watch one series with a couple episodes a day and then go on to another series.

I also rarely go to the movies but a friend invited me to see Brittany Runs a Marathon at our local theater (which was a shock, because our smalltown theater rarely shows movies that are more independent). It was pretty good. Language and sexually suggestive moments warning for anyone who is bothered by those types of aspects in a movie. I could have done without some of the language and the sexually suggestive portions, because I don’t know that they added anything to the movie, but it was still a good (and inspiring) movie (and, forgive me if I offend you with not being impressed with the F-word being used so much. I’m a bit of a prude at times 😉 ) I’ll leave you with a trailer for the movie, in case you want to check it out. I would imagine it will be up on Amazon before long, since it was produced by Amazon.

As for what I’ve been doing, I rambled a little bit about that on the blog on the following posts:

Grumpy posts and a busy weekend

I found some old photos and it was the most exciting thing that happened to me all week

Our Homeschooling Journey So Far This School Year

I also rambled a little about self-publishing on THIS POST.

How about all of you? What are you reading, watching, writing, doing? Let me know in the comments or add a link to a recent blog post that covers those subjects.

What I’ve been reading (suspense and meandering southern tales), and watching (vets in the English country side), and doing (not much)

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I usually read something light before bed but I’ve been having a hard time putting down Taken by Dee Henderson. It’s listed as a Christian suspense novel but the faith conversations are not too overt or cheesy. The story is captivating, yet also hard to read because of the subject. It surrounds the story of a 27-year old woman who was held captive for 11 years after being kidnapped at the age of 16 near her home in Chicago. She enlists the help of a retired Boston police officer, now private investigator, Matthew Danes, whose own daughter was kidnapped at one point and returned to him eight years later.

Together the two try to bring down the people who kidnapped her and also ran a child abduction and burglary ring. The story definitely isn’t light as Shannon, the woman, deals with her abduction but also some surprises in her family since she’s been missing. I found myself both disturbed and intrigued by the story but learned I needed to put it down before bed or I would have unpleasant dreams. Or more unpleasant than other nights. However, one night this week I didn’t read it before bed and I dreamt I was hanging out with Paris Hilton, so maybe I shouldn’t read lighter things at night.

As a writer myself, I don’t like to be critical of books, knowing a lot of hard work put into them but honestly there were entire chapters I would have completely dropped from Taken. There were definitely unnecessary parts written that did not move the story forward. One of those was a huge, unrealistic section about how much money a person could make from photographs of landscapes. Take it from this photographer, very few photographers are raking in millions for landscape images. The author probably should have done a little more research there. Or she did do some research and there is an untapped market out there that I’m completely missing out on because I don’t have an art agent. That’s always a possibility.

All in all it was a good book, but I’ll be cleaning my pallet with some different types of books this week – mainly The Hobbit, which my son and I are reading for his homeschool. I’m very behind on that but he’s cheating by listening to a reading of it I found on YouTube while reading along.

68251I’m also still in book two of the James Herriott books and watching the BBC show All Creatures Great and Small, which Amazon just included with our Britbox subscription. I haven’t watched the show since I was a teen so it’s fun for me to watch now that I’m older, though the makers of the show definitely made the show very realistic and graphic when it came to caring for the animals. I’m going to have to Google and see if those actors actually had to stick their hands up the rear ends of cows and pigs and horses for some of those scenes. While looking for a photo to go with this post, I saw that they are rebooting the series for PBS. I don’t plan to watch it as I think the original was so true to the books, especially the actor who played Siegfried.

I finished Book 6 of the Mitford Series, In This Mountain, and still have two books in the series that I haven’t read – Light From Heaven and Home to Holly Springs. Like I’ve said before I enjoy the Mitford books because they really are a meandering walk through the lives of the people of Mitford. Jan Karon really takes her time building up her characters through little snippets of their lives. There are a lot of characters too; so many that sometimes it is a little hard to keep up with them. I like having so many characters to get to know, though. My mom once said you can pick up a Mitford book and feel almost like you are coming home because of how endearing the characters are. You can also pick up any of the books and read them again and again and see something new every time because they are so dense.

In between reading books and watching shows based off books, I’m in the midst of rewriting and tightening my novel ‘A Story to Tell‘ which I have been featuring on the blog on Fridays and plan to publish for fun on Kindle next week. I’m also working on the follow-up to the story which I’ve tentatively entitled “Waking Up.” Soon someone will come across my writing and do to it what I just did to Dee Henderson’s. Ouch. I probably won’t enjoy that but I also recognize we have different tastes and just because we don’t like one aspect of a person’s writing style, doesn’t mean we don’t like their work overall. I should remind myself that I didn’t say I didn’t like Dee’s writing – I do like it. I just felt part of the descriptions and long pieces of dialogue were unnecessary but others may have found it was needed.

In between writing and reading (and watching) I’ve also been homeschooling my children (as mentioned above) and editing photos for my stock photography accounts (of which I make a little money with so I keep plugging away at it).

On my reading list for the next couple of weeks (a bit eclectic):

  • Fear is A Liar by Dr. Daniel B. Lancaster
  • Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody
  • Lead Me, Holy Spirit: Longing to Hear the Voice of God by Stormie Omartian
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

Some of the posts I’ve featured since I last posted an update for Sunday Salon include:

So how about all of you? What are you reading, watching, or up to these days? Let me know in the comments and if you are participating in the Sunday Salon on Readerbuzz’s blog (which this post is part of) leave me your link.

 

 

Weekly Review in books and life or the week I actually read a book in a day.

Here we are to our weekly update, which is actually a bi-weekly update for me. Other bloggers who participate in the Sunday Salon usually write a weekly post, but honestly, there are some weeks I haven’t done or read or watched anything worth writing about. Some weeks? Ha! Most weeks. Anyhow, the Sunday Salon is a blog link up on Readerbuzz’s site that mainly focuses on what the bloggers have been reading in the last week, but also what they have been watching or just doing.

Last week I actually managed to finish a couple of books- one of them in one day. I can’t remember ever reading an entire book in one day, unless it was a child’s book, but this one was only 163 pages.

The book, Bleachers by John Grisham, isn’t a book I would normally read. It was about a former All-American football player who returns to his hometown when he hears his high school football coach is dying. The story revolves around a dark history between the player and the coach, but also between the coach and other players on his past teams. The coach was undefeated for hundreds of games, won many state championships and was treated like the king of the town for the most part. 9780385511612_p0_v2_s550x406

Waiting for the coach to die creates a type of vigil among the former football players as they relive their histories together and with the coach. And yes, I did cry a little, but not too much because I’m really not a sports person with my opinion closely in line with one of the side characters who says how ridiculous she found it that an entire town worshiped a bunch of adolescent boys and their coach simply because they could run a ball down a field. Still, all in all, I enjoyed the book and I’m glad I took the time to read it.

I read it after my husband and I watched John Grisham and Stephen King on Youtube talk about writing and their books and their books that were made into movies. My husband like John Grisham’s earlier books and pulled this one off his shelf and handed it to me. I’m sure he figured I’d do what I do with other books he recommends and ignore it, but this time I didn’t, maybe because I enjoyed listening to John Grisham talk about life and writing and felt like he’d someone I would get along with.

I fell into a Youtube spiral from the one interview with Grisham and stumbled on to his writing regimen, which intrigued me since I’ve been working on my own novels. He said he starts a novel on January 1 of each year and blocks out six months to write it. He wakes up early, starts writing at 7 a.m. and strives to write 2,000 words a day on a good day and 1,000 on a bad day, but as he said, “most days are a good day.” I thought that setting 2,000 words a day as a goal was a bit high, but Grisham is fairly prolific, even if he isn’t selling as many books as he used to (his own words).

As for other books I’m reading, I finished A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers and am quickly clipping through In This Mountain by Jan Karon, but I never want to finish Jan’s books quickly. I enjoy meandering through them, much like she meanders through them. I’m not against a meandering book if it is still entertaining. I’m also dragging myself through the book slowly because I know Jan’s going to kill off one of my favorite characters in this book and I know I’m not going to handle it well at all. I’ve been following the character for 7 books now and he feels like a close relative. I’m fairly certain I’ll be mourning him for a few days after I read it.

I’m contemplating a Jack Reacher book since my husband is a huge Lee Childs fan. The book is sitting there in my Kindle to read so I’m sure I’ll get to it this week.

I’m also considering starting The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien since it is the book our homeschooling group is reading for the first book discussion of the year in September. I’m forcing my poor, put upon, 12, almost 13-year old, to read from it a half an hour a day so we can at least discuss it some at the meeting. I’m waiting for my son to ask, “Why can’t I just watch the movie?” I think we tried that already and barely made it through (why are those movies sooooo looooong?!). I can’t believe I’ve never read the book, which I’m sure my husband and brother are horrified about. But, actually, I haven’t read a lot of classic books, so this shouldn’t surprise them in the least.

Books I am still reading include: “All Things Bright and Beautiful” by James Herriot; “The Cat Who Played Post Office” by Lillian Jackson Brain; “In This Mountain” by Jan Karon; and at night I’m reading my daughter “Paddington Takes the Test” by Michael Bond.

Besides reading, we’ve had a couple outings these past couple weeks, with the main one being a trip to my old college town – Mansfield, Pa. – for a picnic with my brother and his wife and my parents and then a concert with my parents. The concert was with The Isaacs, a popular Southern gospel group. One of the singers is known for writing Martina McBride’s song “I’m Going to Love You Through It”, based on The Isaac’s founding member Lily Isaac’s battle with breast cancer, and other well-known hits.

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I don’t have many photos from the evening because we were pretty far back from the stage. I do have a couple photos of my dad with Becky, one of the sisters who sings in the group, but she looks annoyed. We found out later, when my dad talked to Lily, that Becky wasn’t annoyed – she was sick and on an antibiotic and their travel schedule, which is on a tour bus, had been taking its toll.

This was my first time hearing The Isaac’s and I was very impressed. Their harmonies are amazing and their talent playing instruments, especially Sonya on the mandolin, was very impressive. I thought I’d link to a couple of their live performances in case any of you are interested in learning more about them. They are widely known among anyone who is familiar with Bill and Gloria Gaither’s Southern Gospel tours and live shows.

And my favorite hymn (though the story behind it is heartbreaking) that was sung when I was baptized.

Our other outing over the last couple of weeks was pretty tame – a trip to the local blueberry patch. The sun was blistering hot and the gnats were out to eat us alive so the children didn’t last long at first, but once the sun went behind some clouds we were able to get some more picking done.

DSC_0604DSC_0608DSC_0647That day was the most relaxed I’d been all week and I was able to push through my normal aching muscles and exhaustion and almost forget about it as I picked. We ended up with 7 lbs of blueberries and I think I ate most of them myself. I’m not really a baker so my daughter didn’t get the muffins I had planned on making her, but hopefully, I’ll make that up to her if we make it to the farm for another trip soon.

as-time-goes-byAs for what I’m watching: I’m on a British kick again and have pulled my husband into it. We’re now watching ‘As Time Goes By‘ to escape the depressing news these days. The show is a fairly light Britcom with Judi Dench and Geoffry Palmer. My husband, who doesn’t usually watch shows like this one, enjoys the chemistry between Judi and Geoffry and I do as well. I first watched in when it was on PBS years ago and I was living alone in my old house. It was a nice distraction from my day job at a small-town newspaper where I often covered some fairly depressing news (car accidents, fires, child abuse, murders). I’d never be able to do that job now. I compartmentalized back then. Now it all spills over and I cry over the news. Not that I didn’t cry back then. I did, but I waited until I got home.

So what have you been reading, watching, doing? Let me know in the comments or leave a link to your post at Readerbuzz.

 

Sappy romances and dramatic stories are what I’ve been reading and watching lately

Sometimes I don’t like to write about what I am reading or have read because I figure other people are reading deeper, more meaningful books, but then I decided that while some people are reading deeper, more meaningful books, the majority of us are all probably just reading garbage literature.

If you don’t know me yet then you don’t know I joke a lot and that the previous sentence is a joke, for the most part. Though, seriously, most of what we read is crap, right? Don’t lie. You know it is. And the rest of what we read is actually very, very good. What matters is that we like what we read even if someone else thinks it is crap. That’s what I tell myself anyhow.

So in the last couple of months, I’ve been a bit slow on reading, but I have managed to finish a couple of books and by a couple, I mean exactly two.

516Z4BFJYjLFirst to be finished was a book by the woman called the queen of Christian fiction, Karen Kingsbury, who is a new author for me. I wish I had had some warning on what a gut-wrencher Where Yesterday Lives was going to be. It was the first book in a collection of three books that Amazon offered as a deal a couple of months ago. I have a children’s book by Kingsbury and had seen a presentation by her on Youtube so I thought, “why not? Let’s give it a try.”

Good grief – talk about drama, drama, and more drama through the whole book. It was a poignant and emotional story and very well written, don’t get me wrong, but my diaphragm got a good work out throughout it. I wept through half the book and flat out ugly cried at least three times. It doesn’t give away too much to say the story is about a broken family who must come together for the funeral of their patriarch resulting in a great deal of dysfunctional drama unfolds.

I would definitely recommend it, but prepare yourself with a box of tissues. From what I understand, most of Kingsbury’s books are heartwrenching and dramatic. I sampled another one and was immediately pulled into it and hope it comes on sale before I buy it (yes, I’m cheap like that). Kingsbury’s books are definitely Christian, but not simple or cheesy or even super preachy. I would have to say, actually, they are a bit twisted and depressing at times.

I did manage to finish another book in between the Kingsbury book and working on my own: The fifth book in The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous books but I’m still carrying along with my plan to read through the series in order. I think she wrote some 37 books in this series so we will see how far I get, but for now, I enjoy the light mysteries before bed.

51dCT+7VgOL._SY346_Another series I enjoy before bed is the James Herriot books. They are usually light and don’t cause me to lay awake thinking too much after I turn off the Kindle. I’m currently reading the second of Herriot’s books (at least in the American version of the series), All Things Bright and Beautiful, and I like how each chapter is essentially broke into individual short stories, though the stories still tie together the whole book. I read a chapter or two at a time and it’s like having bit size treats and when I finish the entire book I feel a tinge of sadness. Luckily he wrote a series of them. Most people probably know that Herriot’s books are primarily about his adventures as a rural vet in England before, during and after World War II. Herriot’s real name, as I have mentioned here before was Alfred Wight.

Other books I’ve started since the beginning of June include:

In This Mountain, Book Six in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

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Hayom Haba: The Next Day by James Sutton (independently published, it tells the story of the disciples the day after Jesus is crucified.)41r7Opff8uL

A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

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And one book I started that I can’t seem to finish: “A Cottage By the Sea”  by Debbie Macomber

I tried to like Debbie Macomber I really did, but no matter what I could not seem to get into her books. It could just be the current mood I’m in. I’ll probably try her again someday because I absolutely love her as a person. My mom said the book I put in our Kindle account for us was “okay”, so at least she got some enjoyment out of it.

As for what I’ve been up to, other than reading, I’ve been writing a couple of stories. You can follow the one-story HERE and I haven’t finished the other one yet, but I have published a sample on my blog this week.

On the blog for the past few weeks I’ve been rambling about writing and how I, and I’m sure others, are sick of trying to make everyone happyhow I, and I’m sure others, are sick of trying to make everyone happy and how the anxiety I deal with isn’t only mental,but also caused by physical reasons.

As for what I’ve been watching, I seem to be on a Miss Marple binge. It’s the original BBC Miss Marple with Joan Haskins, who I love as Miss Marple, though I haven’t read any of the books about her or seen other Miss Marple.  Her attitude and the subtle way she tells people they are full of “tosh”, so to speak, is hilarious. I also love how her eyes light up when she walks in on a crime or she thinks she can wiggle her way into an investigation. During the first episode of the second season, she walks in on a man who’s head has been beat in and literally claps her hand together like “Oh, yeah, I’m getting in on this one, baby.” Of course, she is a bit like Jessica Fletcher – you know – the angel of death. Everywhere the woman goes at least one person, and usually at least three, die. If I were her relatives, I would stop inviting her over.

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All of the episodes are at least two episodes, some of them are three. British mysteries are so much different than American ones. They really take their time to develop characters and pull you into the story. I would think a lot of Americans would be too impatient to wait for the story and mystery to develop and would instead turn it off for something more fast-paced, like one of the 5,000 spin-offs of CSI. The only downside to watching so much British television is that I’m beginning to talk to my children and even write in a British accent. For example, in the above sentence I almost wrote “I would imagine a lot of Americans. . .” and when I typed it I said it in Miss Marple’s voice. Yes, actually, I do think I need a wee bit of a British mystery break.

So what have you been reading or watching lately? Let me know in the comments or link your post about what you’ve been reading, or yours for this week’s Sunday Salon in the comments for me. If you want to read what more people are reading and have been up to, check out Readerbuzz’s Sunday Salon.