December Goals: 2019

Hello, hello!  It’s the last month of 2019 and I haven’t really accomplished much the last few months.  I’m not really looking to do much this month either.  Shame on me, I know.  But it’s true.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to be able to shake the writing blahs any time soon.  But I still have some goals that I intend to work on.  And I haven’t shared a goal post in a while, so that’s what I’m doing now.  Sorry that I have nothing better to ramble about.

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So, here are those goals in no particular order:

1. Keep submitting to two places each week.  I fell behind on this when I was sick earlier this year, but I caught up and have no plans to give up now.  I’ve gathered a lot of rejections, mostly form, but with some really nice personal ones sprinkled throughout.  You know about the acceptances if you stalk me at all.  It’s been a really good year submission-wise.

2. Read 2 more books.  I know I originally wanted to read 30 books this year, but I think I’m going to top out around 27.  I just finished number 25.  If I hadn’t gotten sick, I probably could’ve squeezed in a few extra.  But honestly, I’ll be happy if I only get through 26.

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Zombies need sweaters too.

3. Crocheting.  I was stupid and chose a big ambitious project as a newbie.  There’s no way I’m finishing it this year, but I want to get a big chunk of it done, so in January I can switch my main focus back to writing like I should’ve done a long time ago.  I have to remind myself that crocheting is just supposed to be a hobby.

4. Being more social.  I went to SMU’s Celebration of Lights with Dad and some friends.  We even have another holiday thing planned with them.  But I also really need to text and Facebook message some people because I have been hermitting really bad.  Like worse than usual.  I blame the crochet because it doesn’t involve the computer, so I can’t multitask when I’m doing it.  But really, I’m just enjoying my own company.

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5. Get in a festive mood.  It’s hard.  I can’t get into Christmas music.  I’m not in the mood to look at lights.  I thought going to SMU’s thing would help, but it didn’t do much for me.  Maybe the holiday party will help.  Or maybe I’m just a Grinch.  But I have eggnog, so I’m a happy Grinch.

What about you?  Do you have any December goals?  Are you already filled with the holiday spirit or are you struggling too?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE WICKERLIGHT

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of November, so that means it’s book review time.  But first, happy (early) Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it!  I hope your day tomorrow is filled with great food and even better company.  Now, back to what this post is about.  I was in the mood for fantasy, so I requested The Wickerlight by Mary Watson.  What I didn’t realize was that it was the second book in a series (NetGalley isn’t great at letting you know if a book is part of a series) and by the time I noticed, it was too late for me to go back and read The Wren Hunt first.  Luckily, this one stands pretty well on its own.  Anyway, The Wickerlight was released November 26th by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books.  I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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A nice, simple cover.

The Wickerlight follows David and Zara as they navigate life, mystery, parental expectations, and even love.  Despite the lack of leads and evidence in her sister’s strange death, Zara is determined to find out what happened.  Despite being part of a secret magical war and under immense pressure from his father, David is determined to keep the peace between the Judges and Augurs as best as he can.  What happens when outsiders find out about the magic going on under their noses?  What happens when things come to a boil between the Judges and Augurs?  What happens when Zara and David cross paths?

It sounds like an interesting story and it really is.  There’s a lot of Irish mythology in it, which I need to get better acquainted with.  One thing I learned about myself from this book is that I have zero grasp on Irish pronunciations.  Luckily, there’s a glossary in the back to help out, so if you don’t know how to say Badb either, start there.

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Me trying to figure out how to pronounce things.

The pacing of the book was interesting.  It moved super fast and a lot of the time it didn’t feel like much was happening until I stopped and thought about what I read.  I think this was because there’s a lot of telling and very little showing in this book.  Yeah, I wished some parts had been slowed down and explained in more detail, but for the most part I enjoyed the speed.  I got through a 400+ pages book in about 10 days.  That’s quick  for me.  And the fact that I kept thinking about what I read even after I put it down for the night says a lot.  I haven’t found myself that invested in a book and it’s characters in a long time.

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Me as I read this book.

The writing was crisp and clear and fun.  The characters were diverse and entertaining.  I actually found myself wanting to know more about Adam and his life.  I don’t know if there’re going to be more books (it could go either way as some stuff seemed to be left open, but the important stuff was wrapped up), but I hope to see more of him if there are.

Ultimately, The Wickerlight surprised me and surpassed my expectations for fantasy nowadays.  I’ll definitely pick up book one and see how it is.  I will also keep an eye out for more books by Mary Watson.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars because it really could have benefited from slowing down at times.  Beyond that, if you like well rounded characters, fast pace, and an intriguing plot, I definitely encourage you to pick this one up.

Thanksgiving: 2019

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone doing this week?  November is speeding along, much like the rest of this year.  I have no idea where the time went.  I’m still stuck in April or May.  Is it just me?  Yeah?  Okay then.  But Thanksgiving is only eight days away, so I thought it would be a good time to make a list of things I’m thankful for this year.  I know I should probably do this closer to Thanksgiving, but next week is my book review post.  Anyway, in no particular order, here are five things I’m thankful for this year.

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We’ll get a new picture of us eventually.

1. Dad.  I know it’s sappy, but I am thankful for him.  He does everything for me.  Even the gross stuff no one wants to know about.  And I don’t say thanks enough.  Mostly because I don’t really know how to express myself well (my social skills suck, even with family).  But I know he’s reading this.  So, you are appreciated.  Even if you’re a dick sometimes.  That’s as sappy as I get.

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Replace cleaning the house with writing and it’s me!

2. Tunisian/Afghan crochet hooks.  They’re super long and designed for a special type of crochet, but I just use them for regular crochet so far.  My discovery of these earlier this year has allowed me to be creative in a whole new way.  And they prove my hands can still do cool things if I set my mind to it.  I’m not entirely useless after all!

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Unless the title has nothing to do with the book and you’re just disappointed.

3. NetGalley.  I’m not usually thankful for specific websites, but I admit that this one is pretty cool.  I’ve been able to read a bunch of books that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  I even found a couple of authors that I’m still following.  Plus, it gives me something to blog about each month, which is super helpful.

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Or maybe because I already know too much.  My friends are crazy.  Don’t deny it.

4. Friends.  Again, sappy.  But it’s true.  Especially the ones who randomly check in on me even when I’m in full hermit mode and being a shit friend myself.  You know who you are.  You’re all appreciated.  And sorry I am such a hermit.  I try not to be, but it never works out.

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5.  The Interwebz.  It’s where all my friends live.  But really, because it simultaneously lets me stalk people and keep up with their lives while helping limit my need to use the phone or leave the house.  Need to activate that card? Do it online!  Want to buy something?  There’s a website for that.  It’s basically an introvert’s dream.  But never read the comments.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  It can be small or large.  Serious or funny.  Or anything in between.  Feel free to share your lists and thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Shameless Self-Promotion: CNF Edition

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Hello, hello!  I didn’t really plan on putting this out there, mainly because Creative Non-Fiction (CNF) isn’t my forte.  But then, I wondered why not?  Yes, my life is boring.  No, I don’t particularly enjoy writing about it.  But, a while back, I wrote a short essay about my feelings toward doctors (one doctor in particular, actually).  I’ve been submitting it places with little hope of it finding a home.  Anyway, I recently found out that it’s a finalist in the Pen 2 Paper writing competition.  It’s called “Wrap Me up and Tie it with a Bow” and you can find it under Non-Fiction in the link above.  Names have been changed and I’m sure some of the details are off (who can clearly remember that far back?), but the gist is true.  Feel free to take a look.  And keep all appropriate appendages crossed for me when they announce the winners.

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Pen 2 Paper is the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ annual creative writing competition.  It has been around for at least nine years now and currently has four categories in which people can enter: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and comics.  You don’t have to be a Texan to submit.  You don’t even have to be cripple according to the guidelines.  But disability does have to be a main theme of the story/poem.  The goals of the competition are to give writers with disabilities a forum where they can share their work; bring awareness to disability issues through the arts; and challenge all people of all ages to think, rethink, and express their stories, perspectives, fears, and discoveries about disability.

I think what they’re trying to accomplish is interesting and I’m proud to be a small part of it.  With more than 400 submissions this go around, it’s obvious they’ve built a strong competition over the years.  Plus, it’s one of very few writing venues where I don’t have to worry about being the token cripple.

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Happy dance!

Anyway, I think I’ll leave it at that.  Please do check out my essay, “Wrap Me up and Tie it with a Bow.”  Feel free to let me know what you think of it here or on my social media pages.  Also, check my publication page on my website to look at any of my stuff you may have missed.  I’ll be back next week with my usual randomness!  See you then!

Updates About Restaurants I’ve Reviewed

Howdy, howdy!  Happy November!  Is everyone getting ready for the holidays?  They’ll be here before you know it.  I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and the month where everything is peppermint flavored.  Are you looking forward to anything?  Anyway, Dad and I recently went to a restaurant I reviewed a long time ago and it was kind of blah.  So, I thought I would take the day to look back on past reviews and see if there is anything I need to update about them.  Let’s just go in chronological order from the beginning.

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1. The Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro.  I honestly have no idea how this one is holding up since I haven’t been back to Maine recently.  It’s still open according to Google, so if you’re in the area, check it out and let me know how it is.

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2. Half Shells Oyster Bar & Grill.  This place is still one of our favorites.  We don’t get out that way as often as we’d like, but we still recommend it to anyone in the area who loves seafood.

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3. Big Shucks Oyster Bar.  This place is still the best when it comes to scallops.  We haven’t gone recently (we’d rather go to Half Shells most of the time), but we still love it.

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4. St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin.  We haven’t been to any of the Deep Ellum restaurants in a long time because of all of the stuff that’s been going on (violence and the scooters of doom mostly), but we always enjoy St. Pete’s when we do go.

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5. The Free Man Cajun Cafe.  Same as St. Pete’s.

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6. Real Mexican Tacos.  It’s still our go-to taco place.  We usually end up here once or twice a month since it’s so close.  Say hi if you drop in and we’re there!

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7. The Mansion Restaurant.  We haven’t been back and have no plans to go back.  It’s a wonderful experience, but not something that needs to be done every year.  Splurge if you’re celebrating something big.  Otherwise, there are less expensive places where you get more food.

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8. Zenna.  Everything has gone downhill here.  The food is always disappointing and the service, while friendly, is always a little messed up.  It’s not really a place I’d recommend anymore.

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9. On the Lamb.  They shut down a long time ago.  I kind of miss them, but didn’t really expect them to make it.

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10. Texas de Brazil.  Still awesome.  And it’s our new Thanksgiving tradition!  Dad, our neighbor, and I already have our reservation for turkey day.  So much yum.

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11. Seafood Shack Mariscos.  We’ve only been back a couple of times, but we enjoy it.

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12. The Schooner Restaurant.  Haven’t been back and don’t want to.  Even if we were in the area, we wouldn’t go back.

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13. Crispy ‘N’ Puffy Taquito.  They are closed.  It’s no surprise.  But they blamed the city of Mesquite and its strict regulations regarding signs.  It had nothing to do with awful food.

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14. Trinity Hall Irish Pub.  We’ve been back a couple of times and it’s still great.  Go and enjoy!

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15. Yoshi Shabu Shabu.  We haven’t been back, so I don’t know how it holds up.

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16. Fritzl’s Euro Grill.  Still recommend it.  Maybe we’ll make it back some time before Christmas.

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17. Burger Style Cafe.  Still go here every couple of weeks or so.  It’s delicious and nearby, so what’s not to love?

There’s my update.  Most of them are still good, a couple are closed, and one is meh.  Life goes on and things change.  What are some of your favorite places to eat?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on BLACK ROCK BAY

Hello, hello!  Tomorrow is Halloween, so guess what that makes this post!  Yup.  Welcome to October’s book review.  This month, I decided to try something a little darker, set on an island off of Maine.  It’s called Black Rock Bay and it’s by Brianna Labuskes.  It was released yesterday (October 29th), so of course I got an ARC.  Therefore, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Thomas and Mercer (an imprint of Amazon Publishing), for giving me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get onto the fun part.

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A simple cover that actually has something to do with the story.

Black Rock Bay follows Mia and her newest detective partner, Izzy, as they get sent to Mia’s old home in order to investigate a suspicious death.  It’s an unusual assignment since they handle cold cases, but the islanders are secretive and only warm up to their own.  Granted, Mia hasn’t been back in fifteen years due to a mysterious suicide attempt gone wrong, but her boss hopes being born and raised there will earn her some good will.  As Mia and Izzy dig into the suspicious death, they uncover something far more sinister than the average murder and it takes Mia right back to the time of her life she most wants to forget.

Sounds cool, right?  And it is, to a point.  I think I’m just going to jump right into my issues with the story.  The plot is interesting and plausible, but at the end there are a few loose ends that are never adequately explained.  Normally, this wouldn’t be so bad, but it affects the believability of key parts of the story.  For instance, why is Ellen so easily manipulated?  Yes, people in trouble do weird things, but we never really get to know her motivation which makes her flat and seem like she was added specifically as a tool for the baddie.  But my biggest issue was what Sammy did.  He had absolutely no legitimate reason for that.  And the excuse we get was a vague mention that the baddie might have had something on him.  It was a really weak spot that made the whole story less believable.  And it was a twist that was completely unnecessary.  Even the author couldn’t come up with a better explanation than “psychopaths do things for shits and giggles.”  Like, yeah, but this is fiction.  There needs to be a reason for all the major plot points or things start to fall apart.

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Something all writers should ask themselves.

That being said, I really liked the core characters.  Mia was strong and a good lead.  She had her own issues to face, but fought against them until she absolutely had to deal with them.  Izzy was a nice foil, but she could have been more.  Lacey was a fun character that was a little hard to read.  And Cash was a bit neurotic.  I’m not entirely convinced he was supposed to be, but it made him more interesting.  The whole reclusive islander thing worked really well.  Izzy’s ostracization was entirely believable.  No one was overtly rude to her, but they effectively shut her out.  That dynamic was probably my favorite part of this book.  And Izzy breaking down barriers with some of the islanders was artfully done.

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Me as I was trying to figure out who I was supposed to be in the mind of: Mia or Izzy?

The writing itself flowed nicely and made for an easy read.  It was interesting how the point of view swapped back and forth between Mia and Izzy; however, the narrative voice never really changed enough to differentiate the two, so if I didn’t note who each chapter was focused on (it tells you at the beginning of each chapter), I admit I got confused.

Ultimately, I found Black Rock Bay to be so-so.  It’s not bad.  In fact, the beginning is pretty good.  But it doesn’t hold up.  It’s not something I’ll read again and it doesn’t make me want to hunt down other books by the author.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.  Probably closer to 2.5 if I’m being completely honest.  It just didn’t work for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

Halloween Movies

Howdy, howdy!  Since Halloween is only a week and a day away (wow!), I thought I would take the chance to share some of my favorite Halloween-ish movies with you.  I’m not really a movie person, so you’ll notice that they’re all super old (like 1995 or older) and none of them are scary.  Don’t get me wrong.  Scary movies are fine, but I’d rather be laughing at something meant to be stupid/funny than rolling my eyes at people who keep making stupid choices and dying.  If I’m going to spend time watching something, I want to be entertained.  Anyway, here are five movies/specials I enjoy around this time of year.  In no particular order.

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1. Hocus Pocus.  It’s funny and a good waste of an hour and a half.  Granted, I haven’t watched it in about ten years, but my tastes haven’t changed that much.  I’m just too lazy to record it when it’s on.  If it were on Netflix or Hulu, I’d rewatch it in a heartbeat.  Alas, if I want it commercial-free, I’d have to pay and I’m too cheap to do that for something I’ve already seen.  But it’s cute and a little creepy if you have your mind in the gutter.  If you haven’t seen it, find it.

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2. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I know it’s only a TV special, but I’m still counting it.  Dad and I watch it every year and probably will until they decide to stop airing it or until we die.  Whichever comes first.  I mean, who doesn’t love Peanuts?  I don’t care what anyone says, the “I got a rock” bit is never not funny.  It’s a half hour out of your life.  Sit down and watch it.

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3. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.  I haven’t seen this one since I was a kid because they decided to stop airing it.  I don’t know why.  It’s one of the few TV specials that I still think about every year, but I haven’t been able to find it (crap quality bootleg versions don’t count).  Although, Google says Amazon Prime has it.  I don’t have have that particular service, nor do I want it, but if you do, go check it out.  It’s a half hour of giggles.

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4. Casper.  I know, I know.  It’s a dorky choice, but I enjoy it.  Yes, I realize it’s a childhood nostalgia trap where the movie might actually suck, but I don’t care.  I’d still watch it again if I could find it.  It’s been a while (10+ years) since I’ve seen it all the way through.  And since it appears Starz currently has it, I won’t be catching it any time soon.  But it’s a fun waste of two hours.  Especially if you’re into ’90s teen dramedies.

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5. The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Or pretty much any Tim Burton film.  Beetlejuice, The Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands.  The list goes on and on.  But if you grew up in the ’90s, The Nightmare Before Christmas is probably the one you have a soft spot for.  After all, we liked it before it was cool.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite Halloween movies?  Do you prefer old or new?  Funny or scary?  Feel free to share your list here or on my social media pages!

Things I’d Rather Be Doing Than Blogging

Howdy, howdy! As I’m writing this on Tuesday, it’s a warm (mid-80s), dreary day in October.  Not unusual for north Texas around this time of year.  But it has me feeling blah and lazy.  It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling to come up with topics for my blog each week, so I thought I would take the chance to let you know what I would rather be doing.  Some of which I will probably indulge in after I finish this post.  Please forgive me if it’s a little shorter than usual, but I’m really lacking motivation.  Without further ado, here are three things I’d rather be doing at this exact moment.

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I mean, Christmas is coming up.  Or my birthday.  Size XL.  Just saying.

1. Binge watching anime that I’ve fallen behind on.  I was watching a new episode of Fruits Basket as it came out each week and now I’m suddenly nine episodes behind.  I don’t even remember what initially interrupted my watching streak.  It wasn’t that I got bored with the show, I know that much.  Plus I have at least ten shows in my queue that I either want to watch or rewatch.  No idea why I haven’t made time for anime, but on days like this, watching it is all I really feel like doing.

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2. Crocheting.  Yeah.  That hobby I talked about trying months ago is still a thing I’m working on.  I don’t have any finished products yet, but I’m really enjoying doing something with my hands.  And seeing the progress I’m making is really cool.  It’s a creative outlet that’s so different from writing.  I’ve always been a super harsh judge of my writing.  Mistakes and shitty storylines that I have to keep reworking are annoying as all get out.  But with crochet, I see errors and loose stitches and I’m still at a point where I can overlook them and see my improvement.  It’s still fun.  And if I ever finish anything, I’ll be sure to share it (warts and all) here.

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3. Reading.  I’m currently trying to finish up a book to review.  I have one more chapter left.  But I also have a bunch of books I want to start when I’m done, including one to review next month.  So many choices, so little time.  If I’m honest, I should read the next review book and get ahead a little, but I’ll probably pick something fun that I’ve been wanting to read for a while.  Maybe a cozy.  Maybe not.  If you follow me on GoodReads, you’ll find out when I decide.

That’s enough blogging today.  I think I’m going to go finish reading that book real quick, then get in some crocheting before other things distract me.  What about you?  What would you rather be doing on gloomy work days?  Would you like to snuggle up with a good book and a glass of something yummy?  Or maybe you’d rather go for a jog?  Whatever you decide, tell me about it.  Feel free to share your lists or thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Candy Nopes

Howdy, howdy!  Since it’s October, the great Candy Corn debate has started up again.  If you’ve been on any social media platforms, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The passive aggressive memes about there being two types of people in the world (Candy Corn lovers vs. Candy Corn haters).  The more aggressive memes that claim the best way to eat Candy Corn is to throw it in the trash.  You see similar memes around most holidays with various foodstuffs.  Well, since I have nothing else to ramble about and I’ve pretty much exhausted favorite candies/chocolates in past posts, I thought I’d share my top five candy nopes.  Also known as candies I’m just not a fan of.

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Or just don’t buy it in the first place.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Candy Corn.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not a fan.  Would I throw them away?  Probably not.  But I wouldn’t buy them for myself.  I’ll eat them if they’re there, but they’re always disappointing.  They just taste like sugar and they have a weird waxy texture that ends  with an unappetizing grittiness.  They’re not bad, but they aren’t good either.  There are other things I’d rather put in my mouth.

2. Peeps.  These are typically debated around Easter, but Halloween versions exist, so I’ll say it now: I don’t like Peeps.  To be fair, I don’t really like marshmallows, so they didn’t stand much of a chance in the first place.  Sure, s’mores are okay.  And I wouldn’t turn down hot chocolate with marshmallows.  But if I’m eating a marshmallow, there needs to be chocolate with it.  Or something to make them taste interesting.  Peeps don’t meet that requirement.

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Halloween Peeps on parfaits?  Maybe.

3. Mounds and Almond Joys.  I like the flavor of coconut and small amounts of toasted, shredded coconut is fine.  But a mouthful of shredded coconut makes me feel like I’m chewing on a clod of moist hair.  I don’t know why it brings that image to mind.  I know it’s completely different, but I can’t do it.  It’s my one texture thing.  I can do slimy and pretty much anything else, but not hairy type stuff.  Make fun of me all you want.  I’ll just be over here not having to pick moist coconut flesh from between my teeth.

4. SweeTarts and Smarties.  Actually, pretty much any sugar flavored chalk is a no from me.  This includes the heart candy you see around Valentine’s day.  It’s not bad, but it’s not my cup of tea.  I do like the chewy version of SweeTarts, though.

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M&M.  But it still applies.

5. Peanut M&Ms.  Sorry, not sorry.  I love peanut butter in my chocolate, but not peanuts.  I’m iffy on almonds too.  Nuts in my chocolate are great if there’s a good chocolate to nut ratio, but companies rarely get it right.  And yes, I heard it as I was typing it.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

So, what are your candy nopes?  Feel free to share your lists and comments here or on my social media pages!

Year-End Reading List

Hello, hello!  It’s the beginning of October and I have nothing useful to ramble about.  Confession: this year has been far less productive than I had hoped.  But I have been continually submitting despite not writing as regularly as I should.  I’ve written a few short pieces, am slowly revising one of my novels so I can start the agent hunt again, and have read pretty much every day that I wasn’t sick this year.  It’s nowhere near what I should have accomplished, but that’s life.  It’s my own fault.  I’ve decided that over the next three months, I will stop procrastinating and hit the revision as hard as I can, so that I can submit to agents again starting in January.  I will keep submitting my short pieces every Monday.  And I’ll keep reading, which brings me to the point of this post.  Here’s my planned year-end reading list in no particular order.

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As usual, I plan to read at least two books each month, one for my book reviews and one for fun.  I currently only have one of the book review choices picked out, so here is that one and my three “for fun” books.  I might try to squeeze a couple of others in if I have time.

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1. Black Rock Bay by Brianna Labuskes.  This will be October’s book review.  I was missing Maine and looking for something a little darker than a cozy, so I picked this one up from NetGalley.  Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads (where you can also find links to preorder it):

Detective Mia Hart never planned to return home. One terrifying summer night, Mia lost two of her closest friends to suicide. Scarred and broken, she fled St. Lucy’s, a small island off the coast of Maine.

Now fifteen years later, when the body of a journalist is fished out of the bay near St. Lucy’s cliffs, Mia is forced to help with the case—and face all she’s been running from. As she approaches the island, the wintery winds of Black Rock Bay usher Mia home again.

When Mia digs into the reporter’s death, she finds he left behind a written clue: It wasn’t suicide. Mia soon discovers it’s her own tragic past he was referring to. Now, as she tries to untangle a web of lies, Mia realizes that solving this case means becoming the next pawn in someone’s blood-chilling game of truth or die.

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2. The Missing Ones by Edwin Hill.  This is the second in his Hester Thursby mystery series.  I reviewed the first one here, and enjoyed it enough that I’m looking forward to this one.  It’s another one that seems to be on the darker side, but it actually falls in the cozy realm.  Also, I had no idea it was going to be set in Maine, so that’s just a bonus.  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

Hester Thursby has given up using her research skills to trace people who don’t want to be found. A traumatic case a few months ago unearthed a string of violent crimes, and left Hester riddled with self-doubt and guilt. Caring for a four-year-old is responsibility enough in a world filled with terrors Hester never could have imagined before.

Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, is ruggedly beautiful and remote—the kind of place tourists love to visit, though rarely for long. But not everyone who comes to the island is welcome. A dilapidated Victorian house has become home to a group of squatters and junkies, and strangers have a habit of bringing trouble with them. A young boy disappeared during the summer, and though he was found safely, the incident stirred suspicion among locals. Now another child is missing. Summoned to the island by a cryptic text, Hester discovers a community cleaning up from a devastating storm—and uncovers a murder.

Soon Hester begins to connect the crime and the missing children. And as she untangles the secrets at the center of the small community, she finds grudges and loyalties that run deep, poised to converge with a force that will once again shake her convictions about the very nature of right and wrong…

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3. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss.  The third and final tale of the women in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.  I fell in love with them from book one.  What’s not to love about the daughters of a bunch of villains and madmen running around saving the day?  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club… especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucinda van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

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4. Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien.  It’s the fourth in her Noodle Shop Mystery series.  A true cozy series.  It’s just a fun bunch of books and I enjoy them.  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

The Asian community is kicking off summer with the return of its popular Cleveland Night Market festivities, and Lana Lee is excited to represent the Ho-Lee Noodle House booth with her favorite chef, Peter Huang. Lana is confident that the evening marks the beginning of a great season to come. Not only is she looking forward to the warm temperatures, but her birthday is only weeks away, her handsome boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, is planning a romantic get-away. Life couldn’t be better.

But before she can get too accustomed to the idea of a carefree summer, an explosion involving a nearby food truck, Wonton on Wheels, kills one of the proprietors and injures several others in the nearby vicinity.

When the authorities discover that this was no accident, the family members of the dead man become the number-one suspects in a front-page murder story. Lana and her best friend, Megan Riley, fall back into detective mode. But as they uncover family secrets of abuse and angry costumers, Lana’s own family drama raises its head. Will Lana be able to juggle everything the universe is throwing at her, or has she jumped from the frying pan to the fire? 

What about you?  What’s on your year-end reading list?  Feel free to share your list here or on my social media pages!