Thoughts on TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS

Hello, hello! How is everyone holding up during this hectic time? I hope your isolation includes lots of good books and binge watching. Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday of March, so you know what that means. Book review time! This month, I opted for something a bit more slice of life meets magical realism meets ghost story than I normally go for. I just wanted something a little different and this fit in with that. It’s called Tigers, Not Daughters and is by Samantha Mabry. It was released on the 24th from Algonquin Young Readers. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.

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Lovely cover.

 

Tigers, Not Daughters follows the remaining Torres sisters (Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa) as they struggle to cope with life after their oldest sister’s (Ana) death. Jessica tries to become Ana. Iridian hides herself deep within books and writing. And Rosa attempts to make sense of everything through her connections with animals. Throw in a useless drunk of a father, nosy teenage boys who want to be heroes but only make things worse, an abusive boyfriend, and a ghost just to make the sisters’ lives more difficult. Teenage angst and sisterhood. What more does a story need?

I admit I was a little on the fence about this story plot-wise. There’s a slow build before the magic and ghost story kick in, so I wasn’t grabbed in the way I’m used to with YA fantasy type books. But I’m glad I kept with it. And it’s a short book (less than 300 pages), so the wait for weird wasn’t really that long. It gave the characters a chance to shine on their own before everything else could distract from them. I enjoyed how the weirdness kind of crept in around the edges before you even realized it was there.

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As far as the characters go, we get to see most of the story from Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa’s views with a few interjections from the boys across the street. Each viewpoint is distinctive and beautiful in its own way. I didn’t even have to check the chapter headings to know whose head I was in, which is rare. It’s really hard to find characters who are similar yet different enough to stand apart from each other. I especially love Rosa, the kind and loving youngest sister who doesn’t even know what jealousy feels like until she experiences it for the first time, but who also kicks ass when she needs to. She’s the best.

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The writing is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a lovely sense of poetry that flows through this book. I think that’s what kept me reading in the beginning. I’m glad it did. It makes for easy reading as well as interesting images.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Tigers, Not Daughters. It was a wonderful glimpse into grief and family dynamics and the bonds of sisters. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more stories by Samantha Mabry.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. Why did I take away one? Because I finished the book a few days ago and am already forgetting parts of it, which means I probably won’t remember it at all in six months. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it wasn’t memorable for me. But I still totally recommend it if you like magical realism and ghost stories about teenage girls.

The Dos and Don’ts of Avoiding the Plague

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I’m doing pretty well. I’ve basically trained for this my whole life. After all, I was homebound (different from homeschooling in that the school district sent a teacher to my house twice a week for lessons and to act as a go-between for me and the teachers at the schools I should’ve been attending/was enrolled in) from 4th through 12th grades because my mom was paranoid I’d get sick and die. With my lungs, I guess it was a legitimate fear. But basically, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding respiratory illnesses. Fingers crossed I can avoid this one too, but like pretty much everything else in this world, if I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it. There are some precautions you can take, not only to avoid it yourself, but to avoid spreading it to people who are more at-risk of hospitalization and death than you.

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Don’t: Touch people. No handshakes, no hugs, no kisses. If you know someone is at a higher risk level, even bumping of fists or elbows or anything else should only be done with permission. If you’re close enough to touch me, you’re close enough to get my germs and to give me yours.

Do: Bring back bowing and curtsying (whichever you prefer). Wave from afar. Jump up and down and squee. Dramatic blowing of kisses from an appropriate distance. All of these are wonderful greetings and farewells. Be creative. And if you need to talk to your soft-spoken friends, now is a good time to sit across the room from them and text back and forth instead of getting in close to them.

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Do: Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands more often. Decontaminate things like doorknobs and remote controls and keyboards and phones. Especially if other people live with you. And don’t give me that look about cleaning your phone. Do you even realize how many weird surfaces your phone touches and you never bother cleaning it? You put it on your desk at work, on restaurant tables, you drop it on the ground, etc. And it’s usually face down, then it rings and you put it on your face. That’s almost worse than not washing your hands.

Don’t: Assume people are practicing good hygiene. People are disgusting. I’m sorry, but it’s true. And it’s why you need to take extra care, especially if you’re a face toucher. It’s impossible not to touch your own face. I know. So just remember people are gross and you need to be cautious.

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Crochet and booze. That’s a worthy hobby.

This one’s more for your own mental health, but:

Don’t: Let self-isolation drive you nuts. Step away from the news with all its doom and gloom. Avoid the rabbit hole of researching statistics. No one really knows what’s going on. They won’t know until everything has calmed down. Don’t fall into that pit of panic and despair.

Do: Find a new hobby. If you’re comfortable getting deliveries and have some cash to spare, order some stuff to start knitting or build a model boat or buy some origami paper or whatever. If not, there are tutorials for everything on the Interwebz. Teach yourself yoga or how to do the rumba or something. Read a book. Write a book. Do something fun with your unexpected time alone. Got a spouse or roomie or whatever? Rope them into doing something with you. Want to act out that one-man play you wrote in high school? Now you have a captive audience. Do the thing!

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Pretty much.

Basically, this is a stressful time for everyone. The economy is going to hell. Forced shut-downs aren’t helping curb the panic and will probably ruin a lot of small businesses. People are hoarding toilet paper for some godforsaken reason. Others are acting like this is all some big conspiracy. It’s all pretty ridiculous no matter how you look at it. Is the general reaction to this thing overkill? Probably. But it’s what’s happening and we all have to deal with it in our own way. Mine is hermitting, skepticism, and sarcasm. What’s yours? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Life Update…

Howdy, howdy! How is your March going? Mine has been pretty quiet so far. I’ve looked back over my posts from the past few weeks and realized that they’ve been mostly food and book reviews. That’s great for me because it means I don’t have to think about what to write, but I’ve run out of those for now. So, I thought I would do a general life update. Here’s a list of five updates ranging from things I promised to expand on in previous posts to completely random new topics.

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At the DMA.

1. The friend visit! Enza came to visit from February 14th ’til the 18th. We went to the Dallas Museum of Art, Fountain Place (yes, there’s a building in Dallas surrounded by fountains), Meadows Museum, and a few different places to eat. Then, we had a relaxing day hanging out in the backyard reading and chatting before Enza had to go back. She left us some surprise chocolates when she left. They’re long gone, but they were yummy! I had a nice time and I’m sorry I hate Dallas’s shitty roads. If you’re reading this, thank you again for visiting!

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2. Cake! Dad bought a cake for Enza’s visit from Great Balls of Fudge n Stuff. Here’s the Instagram. We met Erika, the wonderful lady behind the goodies, at Panera. She made us a decadent chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache. It was absolutely delicious. There was brief talk about freezing some of it, but it didn’t last that long. Go ahead and be jealous.

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Life, writing, all of it.

3. Goals. I won’t make you suffer through a whole post about them, but they’re going well. I slacked off on my revisions, so instead of 1,500 words on my revising days, I have to do 1,700 words, but I’m still on track to finish them by March 20th. I’m also three books ahead of schedule for my reading goal for the year. Submissions go out every week. So yeah. Everything is going pretty well.

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My first little lost soul. She has lots of friends now, but still isn’t done.

4. Crochet! Since Enza saw the shawl-thus-far, I can talk about it on here. It’s called the Lost Souls shawl and I got the pattern for free on Ravelry. It was a big project to take on, but I’ve learned a lot from it so far. There are also some amazing tutorials for it on YouTube that I would be lost without. I’m currently halfway through with the eighth set of skulls and starting the ninth. I’ve been working on it on and off since October (I’m super slow). I actually haven’t worked on it since February 2nd, so I need to get back to it. I’ll make sure to post pictures when I’m done with it.

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5. Coronavirus. Dad’s a bit paranoid about the flu and the latest plague, so we’ve been hermitting more than usual. There’s not really much we can do about it since it’s spreading so much, but it gives me a legit excuse to avoid going grocery shopping or to Home Depot. I can only use revising as an excuse so much, but avoiding sickness gets me off the hook even on my days off. Yay for being a recluse!

That’s life. I’m stuck in a revise, read, eat, repeat loop. You’re all caught up now. Feel free to tell me how things are going for you on here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE SOUND OF STARS

Hello, hello! It’s only the first week of March, but I have another book review for you. It’s the last minute approval I got for February’s ARC requests. Don’t worry. The next one won’t be until the end of March because I have no more ARC requests out (except one for April’s review). Anyway, the book is called The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. It’s a sci-fi fantasy YA novel because I was looking for something different. Inkyard Press released the book on February 25th. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for access to the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.

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Gorgeous cover. You can probably guess why it caught my eye as I was browsing. So much purple.

The Sound of Stars follows Janelle “Ellie” Baker, a seventeen-year-old jaded human, as she struggles to cope during an alien invasion by lending out contraband (books) to others imprisoned in the same center. When she’s caught by one of her alien overlords (an attractive guy called M0Rr1s), she knows she’s dead, but in return for his silence, he just wants music (also forbidden). Little do they know that this give-and-take will lead to big adventures as they escape across the country together. And it might even lead to more than that if they can survive.

Sounds pretty standard and fun, right? It is! There’s romance and danger and misunderstandings and personal revelations and all that. Plus, there are some weird musicians sprinkled in for fun. It’s definitely a YA novel that pulls out all of the emotional stops. There’s teenage angst in all its glory threaded around a lot of deeper and more difficult topics. It makes for a nice rollercoaster ride if you open yourself up to it.

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That being said, I did feel like some of the diversity issues that the book deals with were far too heavy handed at times. Which is common and annoying in all forms of media these days. And before you get on your soapbox and give me a lecture about the importance of representation in the media, please remember that I’m a wheelchair-bound female with a questionable sexuality. I don’t get represented in media very often outside of inspiration porn. Cool your jets. I’m just saying that I don’t need to know the gender identity of every throw away character in the story. There are at least two characters who literally just open doors then disappear, but I know they’re nonbinary. Why? It feels trite. Especially when there are plenty of lovely fleshed out characters who are nonbinary or ace/demi or bi/pan, etc. And I love those characters. I hope to see more of them. I kind of understand it with the aliens because it’s how they are, it’s part of their social standards to announce their gender. With the humans it felt forced. Especially when a kid in Texas (who by all indications hasn’t had any contact with the aliens in order to learn this behavior) asks if M0Rr1S is a boy, a girl, or nonbinary. If the book was set in the future more than two years, I might be able to believe a kid here would ask that, but it doesn’t seem to be, so it came off as awkward.

Tl;Dr? I love learning about characters and seeing things from other perspectives, but when you tell me intimate details about characters I don’t get to see for more than a sentence or two, it’s weird and forced.

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There’s a spoiler in the next paragraph.

 

Moving along to character development. It’s fantastic. Ellie and M0Rr1S are superb. Even the backup characters are awesome. I love Avi and Alice and the Starry Eyed. Even Brixton gets his moment in the sun. We’re told he’s basically a bad guy, but when he finally shows up he has this really adorable backstory that turns super creepy by human standards the more you think about it. He wanted to be a part of his little brother (M0Rr1s) and have a connection with him, so when their mother created M0Rr1S (who is a labmade, which is exactly what it sounds like) with her genetic material, Brixton added some of his own when she wasn’t looking. It’s sweet until you start thinking about the daddy-bro implications. But they’re aliens, so it’s okay! And it’s those kinds of details that make the story interesting and fun.

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No more spoilers from here.

The writing was a little repetitive at times, but smooth enough to let me fly through the story. I read 430 pages in 12 days, which is super fast for me. Plus I love the inclusion of song lyrics and all of the references to music and books. I even discovered a couple of titles I can look into for fun reading.

Ultimately, I loved The Sound of Stars. It was left open-ended, so I have high hopes that future books will come out. If not, I’ll still pick up whatever Alechia Dow publishes next and hope it’s just as good.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. If you’re into YA sci-fi/fantasy, I definitely recommend picking it up. It’s definitely worth a read and it would be beautiful on any library shelf or nightstand.

Thoughts on The Last Smile in Sunder City

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last week of February which means that it’s review time. And guess what! I got approved at the very last minute for another February release, so you’ll get another review either next week or the week after, depending on how fast I can get through it. Are you tired of book reviews yet? Tough noogies, I guess. Anyway, today I’m taking a look at The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold. It was released by Orbit Books on February 25th. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

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An interesting cover.

The Last Smile in Sunder City follows Fetch Phillips, a human and a former jack-of-all-trades turned soldier turned PI, as he tries to do some good with his life. Six years ago, the source of magic was cut off from the world due to human greed. This left all the monsters to adapt to a miserable new life and sometimes, they need favors. That’s where Fetch comes in handy. This time, he’s hired to find a missing vampire, but nobody is prepared for what else he discovers along the way.

Sounds fun, right? It is to an extent. I mean, who wouldn’t love a gritty noir-esque mystery with real monsters? The problem is that that’s not what we get. Not really. There are a bunch of different stories all packed into one here and none of them are fleshed out into a story worth the time it takes to sift through them. And I don’t mean that various storylines are layered together like a book should have, I’m talking about a multitude of main stories being stuffed into one. In fact, the story that seems the most planned out is Fletch’s backstory which takes up half the book in flashbacks. That’s the story that wants to be told. It’s epic verging on dark fantasy. And I’d totally read that book. It would be awesome. But as a mystery, this story falls flat.

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Me as I was reading.

As far as the characters go, there are too many introduced to keep track of or develop feelings for. This is also due to the multiple stories vying for attention. It’s kind of annoying to have to go back to figure out who’s being talked about all the time. And there’s also the fact that Fetch doesn’t really do anything, at least not pertaining to the main story, so it’s hard to get into him. He gets lucky a couple of times and stumbles upon clues, but he very rarely actively does his job. And whenever he’s in trouble, someone else saves him. It became easy to hope Fetch failed. At least then I would’ve had a laugh. That being said, I did like his personality for the most part.

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It’s me.

The writing itself was nice. It flowed and would’ve made for a quick read if I didn’t have to keep going back to see who was who. There was some surprising imagery mixed in with some that was just awkward. But mostly it was just nice. Not great but not bad either. There’s a lot of good potential if the writer can stick to one main story and a few subplots next time.

Ultimately, The Last Smile in Sunder City sounds like a great idea, but the execution could have been better. I will check out the next book because I really want to like this series. If it’s not better, I’ll probably give it up.

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Overall, I gave it two out of five stars because the premise is really good. I’m not going to urge you to try it, unless I discover future books are much better, but if you’re bored it’s not entirely bad.

Thoughts On DARK SECRET

Hello, hello! I know it’s not the last Wednesday of February yet, but I got two ARCs from NetGalley this month, so here’s an extra review. This week, I’m looking at Dark Secret by Danielle Rose. It’s the first book in her Darkhaven Saga. Waterhouse Press released the book on the 18th. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s Blood Books trilogy, the characters might seem familiar, but the story is completely new. First and foremost, I must thank NetGalley and Waterhouse Press for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get to it! Also, fair warning: there are spoiler adjacent tidbits from here on out. If you’re familiar with the genre, you can guess at what some newbies might consider spoilers.

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Love the cover and I hear the paperback is even prettier.

Dark Secret follows Ava Lopez as she navigates being a witch and a hunter and harnessing her own powers. Despite being told not to go on her usual rounds, searching the small town she lives in for vampires to destroy, she does it anyway. Typical teenager behavior, right? And of course things go wrong, then they snowball from there. At one point, Ava has to make a choice between death and something that will get her kicked out of her coven and thrown in with the things she despises most. How will she cope? What will she learn? Will she be able to hold on to who she is? These are just some of the questions this book starts to tackle.

Sounds fun, right? It is. The plot isn’t exactly new, but it doesn’t feel overdone. Witches versus vampires, then a witch becomes a vampire and learns that there’s a difference between a real vampire and the rogues she was taught to hate. That’s cool. But I really liked hearing about the different covens more than the vampire thing. Her best friend’s coven is all about peace and coexisting with vampires. I hope to learn more about them and to see if they really feel that way or if it’s all talk. I’m also interested to see if Ava’s coven can accept her in her new form. Unfortunately, I have to wait for future books to see if my questions get answers.

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Or read another book.

The characters here are all pretty likeable. Yes, Ava is at that age where she knows she’s right until something proves her wrong. Sometimes, you just want to smack some sense into her. But she slowly learns and is evolving. It’s a short book, so she can only change so much, but she’s heading in the right direction. Jasik and the other vampires are interesting. They’re a little stereotypical at the moment, but some seeds have been planted for them to grow into their own in future books.

Speaking of future books, I wondered why this book was so short. Apparently, the first few books in this series are going to be released pretty close together, so they’re on the shorter end of the novel spectrum. Instead of having to wait a year or more for book two, we only have to wait about a month. And book three is due out about a month after that. It’s an interesting release schedule and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

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Yes, it is.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a fast-paced and fun read. Yes, there’s some repetition that gets a little distracting. We’re told multiple times that Ava is a spirit witch and what that means. But I figured out just to skim those paragraphs and move on pretty quickly.

Full disclosure: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know Danielle and I actually got our MFAs together. I’ve watched her writing grow and tighten and improve over the last five years. I’m really proud of her and what she’s accomplished.

Ultimately, I had fun with Dark Secret. I’m looking forward to the next few books in the series. Luckily, I don’t have long to wait!

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Overall, I gave the book four out of five stars. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is into YA fantasy and supernatural stuff. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s work, this is not a steamy romance, so don’t be disappointed if that’s what you were hoping for.

5 TV Series to Watch to Get to Know Me… Kind Of

Hello, hello! How is February going for everyone? Everything is pretty good here. It’s almost time for our visitor! Dad’s been cleaning and I’ve been staying out of the way. I’ve already written next week’s post and the following week will be another book review, so you’ll have to wait until March to read about this weekend’s exploits. For today, I have nothing writerly to ramble about, so I thought I would try this little challenge that’s been popping up in my Facebook feed. It asks you to name 5 TV series someone should watch in order to get a better grasp of who you are. A movie version was floating around a year or two ago, but I avoided it because I don’t watch enough movies. TV shows, on the other hand, I can do.

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The post that’s been popping up.

In no particular order, here are some shows that will help you figure me out a little. Maybe. Kind of. Probably not.

1. Firefly. Of course. I’m pretty sure everyone knows of my love for this show by now. I relate a little bit to all of the characters one way or another. And then there’s the weird sense of humor. It’s one of those shows where I can’t exactly put my finger on a specific reason I’m drawn to it, but as a whole it just works for me.

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Something like that. Mostly the last one.

2. Ouran High School Host Club. I wasn’t actually going to add this one because it seems so random, but I rewatched the first episode and there’s absolutely no denying it. This show explains so much about me. You’ve got Haruhi and her attitude towards gender and the fact that she just wants a quiet place to do her work. Then there’s Kyoya and his whole mother hen hidden behind apathy act. And the twins! They remind me every time I think about them that I am creepy and okay with it. I could go on about the whole series, but I won’t put you through that.

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It’s fine as long as you don’t wake him up too early.

3. Sailor Moon. I watched this as a kid, so it probably has a lot to do with the way I am. As far as the characters I relate to the most, Mercury and Saturn. Mercury because of her dedication to learning and all that. Saturn because she was a sickly girl with the power to destroy worlds. Who doesn’t want that as a kid? Just me? Okay, then. And then there are a bunch of questionable things that I embraced from that show that I really don’t need to bore you with.

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Mamoru is useless.

4. Dead Like Me. Does anyone else even remember this show? If not, you should go watch it whether you learn anything about me or not. The snark alone is worth it. There’s also the whole death thing. And no, I don’t just like it because I’m sarcastic and have a thing for weird takes on death. Maybe. Fine. That’s why.

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5. Midsomer Murders. There’s snark, death, and lots of creepy psychological crap going on, especially in earlier seasons. You’ll never know if it’s because I’m a creepy person or if it’s just because I have an interest in psychological crap. And murder mysteries are fun.

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So, there are 5 TV series you can watch and see if you gain any insight into me. What about you? What are some TV shows I could watch to get to know you better? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside the Maple Leaf Diner

Hello, hello! Can you believe it’s already February? Do you have any special plans this month? Any goals you’re hoping to achieve? Don’t worry. This isn’t another goals post or check in or anything like that. But I will say that I’m still on schedule with all my stuff and the date of my friend’s visit is closing in fast! Huzzah! Anyway, last week, Dad and I had to run an errand in Dallas over by the Galleria (corner of Alpha and Inwood), so I decided to look for something different to eat that would be on our way home. I found a Canadian diner on the corner of Preston and 635. Canadian food? Pretty much the only food I know of from Canada is poutine, so I figured why not try it. The place is called the Maple Leaf Diner and it’s tucked in a strip mall. Check the website linked above for the address and menu and all that.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Pictures are borrowed from the diner’s Facebook page and Google.

Accessibility: standard for Texas. There’s a little rise to the doors, but the ramp comes at it from all angles, so getting in is easy. The tables are a little close together, so I can see maneuvering around the place getting difficult if it’s super busy, but we went when it wasn’t crowded at all. The tables are on the tall side of normal, which I like. There aren’t any knee bangers on the tables and they even have some half booth places so Dad didn’t have to sit in an uncomfortable chair. So yeah, it’s pretty good.

Service: fabulous. Our waitress, May, was super friendly and treated me like a human from the get go, so you know that gets her automatic bonus points. She made sure nothing came out too fast and didn’t rush us. She was attentive but not overbearing. May made the whole experience a wonderful one.

Appetizers: yummy. We had the pierogies. They’re dumplings filled with potatoes and cheese then topped with bacon, onions, and sour cream. I don’t know who decided to stuff a dumpling with mashed potatoes, but they were a genius.

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Pot roast poutine.

Entrees: worth the drive. Let’s be honest, I hate that part of Dallas because the roads are crap and the drivers are worse. But I will go back just for this place. The menu is huge. They have lots of breakfast items (served all day) and a bunch of items that are more for lunch or dinner. Dad had the pot roast poutine (french fries smothered with pot roast, gravy, and cheese curds). I had the lox benedict (eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon) with latkes and fresh fruit. To my surprise, it was actually fruit I could eat. And even Dad liked the lox, which he isn’t usually into. I’m actually sad we don’t have a place like this near us.

Drinks: so much to choose from. They have all the standards, plus lattes (iced or hot), milkshakes (adult versions also available), and booze. I had a hazelnut latte (hot) and really enjoyed it. I also had a Hummer (vanilla milkshake with Kahlua and I believe rum, but don’t quote me, and chocolate sauce). Yum. And of course Dad and I had a lovely conversation with all the inappropriate jokes about hummers. Dad just had iced tea and tastes of my drinks.

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A little bakery and dessert area they have.

Dessert: yes, please. I stuck with my milkshake for dessert, but they have cookies and pies and cream puffs and some other stuff. Dad got a nanaimo bar (pastry topped with custard and chocolate). It was tiny which was good because it’s super sweet. There was also shredded coconut in it, but it still tasted good.

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Nanaimo bars.

Price: surprisingly not bad. It’s in an area of Dallas where everything is more expensive, but even with everything we got, it was less than $60 (not including the tip). So, it’s definitely worth the price.

My rating:
MMMMM

Five Ms! The only issue I really have with the Maple Leaf Diner is that it’s so far away and I can’t fairly take away points because of that.

Thoughts On THE NIGHT COUNTRY

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of January, so you all know what that means. It’s book review time! So, the place where I usually get ARCs for these reviews has been super slow about responding to requests, so somehow I ended up with no books for January and two for February. Yup. Next month you’ll get a review on both the 19th and 26th. Anyway, I decided to review a book I forgot I had pre-ordered for January. The Night Country by Melissa Albert is the second book in The Hazel Wood series. It was released on January 7th by Flatiron Books (an imprint of Macmillan Books). Since I don’t have to thank anyone, let’s get on with the review! Beware, there are potential spoilers ahead if you haven’t read The Hazel Wood (book one of the series).

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It really is a lovely cover.

The Night Country follows Alice now that she’s back in New York. She goes to meetings with other ex-stories to try to get her life on track, until a mysterious newcomer upsets the balance. Then, Alice finds out ex-stories are being murdered and having pieces stolen from them. As she tries to figure out what’s going on, she also starts receiving magical letters from someone in her past (yeah, it’s him). From there, in typical fairytale fashion, things keep getting weirder.

I’ll be honest… I don’t actually remember much about book one. I must’ve liked it, otherwise I wouldn’t have pre-ordered this one. But I basically went into this book blind and had to piece together my memories of the first book from the clues here. If you have time, I definitely suggest at least skimming the first book to catch up. That being said, I enjoyed this book. A lot. I probably would have caught on to some stuff sooner if I had read the first one again, but I caught on fast enough without it.

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Me as I was reading.

About the characters. Alice is still a whiny little so-and-so. She isn’t particularly likeable. But she’s at the age (18-ish) where being a self-absorbed bitch (sorry, there’s no polite word for it) is completely normal human behavior. Combine that with her violent tendencies (part of her story personality) and she becomes someone you just don’t like and have no desire to like. That’s okay. Because we also have Ella and Finch and Sophia and a whole cast of characters we can root for. Granted, some of them are also firmly in the unlikeable category until we see their stories. I know a lot of readers have to connect with the main character to get into a story. I don’t. As long as I enjoy the plot and have a regularly appearing character to look forward to, I’m okay.

The plot. It’s not original, but it’s creepy and fun. A serial killer thriller meets a bunch of fairy tales. That’s right up my alley. There are some weak spots. For instance, I was more interested in Iolanthe’s motivation than anything. We get bits and pieces of her story and have no idea if she’s lying or not. And all we get at the end is that she wanted to go home. I really hope that we get more of her story at some point. The ending of the overall story is a little weak as well, but that feels like it’s because the author wanted to leave it with the potential for more books while wrapping it up just enough that the readers are satisfied in case nothing else happens.

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Yup. Seems that way.

The writing is beautiful and poetic and makes for a quick read. The only observation (it’s not really a complaint) I have is that there are a lot of obscure pop culture references. It’s not a bad thing, but it will definitely date the book and make it more difficult for readers to get into. Especially five, ten, twenty years from now when the references are no longer relevant. I didn’t even understand some of them. And no, I’m not Googling every name I don’t know just to see who a character mentioned in passing kind of resembles or to find out what’s playing in the background or whatever. I’m lazy. That’s too much work.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Night Country. Despite its flaws, it’s an entertaining read. I will definitely keep an eye out for more from Melissa Albert.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. I can see why some people don’t like it, but if you’re into dark fantasy and thrillers, check it out. Even if you were on the fence about book one, pick it up. This one was better in my opinion.

Goal Check-In

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone doing?  Is 2020 treating you well?  It has been a quiet month for me.  I’ve been working hard.  And since I have nothing to really talk about right now, I thought I would let you know how my goals are going thus far.  I mean, it’s only been 22 days, but I’m a little impressed by how well I’m keeping up with things.  I’ve usually dropped the ball on at least one of my goals by now.  I can admit that.  But not this time.  Not yet.

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Dropping the ball and judgment all in one GIF.

Revision: I’m a little more than a quarter of the way through the major changes in DS1. I fell behind a little last week because some unforeseen errands popped up, but I managed to tack some extra words on my writing days to make up for the 1,000 words I missed.  I’m still on track to meet my March 20th deadline.  February might upset this rhythm a little bit (one of my favorite people is coming to visit one weekend! Yay!), but I can play around with word count to catch up on anything I miss if I really want to.  Or I can just be happy that I’ll still be ahead of my April 30th deadline because I’m lazy.

Reading: I’ve finished 2 books so far.  One of them, I will be reviewing either next week or the end of February (I haven’t decided).  The other book was my first re-read of the year: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It wasn’t as fun this time around.  I’m hoping the series gets better as I get further in because I don’t remember much about the other books at all.  I’m also currently reading two other books.  One will be my review book for next week or February depending on how fast I can finish it.  The other is a book of essays.  You can stalk me on GoodReads if you want to see exactly what I’m reading.

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Submitting and querying: I’m still submitting two pieces a week.  I’ve got a couple of pieces shortlisted (fingers crossed) and have already received a few rejections this year.  As far as querying goes, that has to wait until I’m done with revisions, so as long as they’re on track, I consider my querying goal on track.

Crocheting: It’s been slow since I’m focusing on revision, but I am still doing it.  Some days I don’t crochet at all, but even if I can only squeeze in a half hour’s worth, I try to do it.  I think once I’m done with revising and back on a writing schedule, I’ll have a little more free time.  Not much, but a little.

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Accurate.

Socializing: This wasn’t actually a goal, but I thought I’d mention it.  I’m doing better than usual.  As I said, someone is coming to visit in February.  And I’ve been texting people in a semi-timely fashion.  I still need to write a couple of letters.  One of which I will write as soon as I’m done with this post.

So yeah.  I think I’m doing pretty well.  Are you keeping up with your goals for the year or month or week?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!