Five Legendary Creatures I Want To Write About

Hello, hello!  I’ve been reading through my paranormal cozy mystery in preparation of revising it and it has me thinking about future stories in that world.  I already have the gist of two more books brewing, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what kind of monsters or creatures I want to include in other sequels.  So, I thought I would share some of the legendary creatures that I’m currently fixated on.

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1. Werewolves.  Humans who transform during the full moon, not that I really need to explain what they are.  Anyway, I don’t particularly want to go the stereotypical route with werewolves, and I know the trope is kind of played out, but I still like them.  Same with vampires.  I just have to find a way to make them my own.  Luckily, I have some time since the next two books are basically planned, though one of those might get pushed back in the order of the sequels.

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Selkie by Selina Fenech.

2. Sirens or Selkies.  I know they’re completely different, but I’m lumping them together anyway.  Sirens lure sailors to their death with song.  They would definitely work in a cozy series.  But!  I really love the myth of Selkies, seal folk who shed their skin to become humans.  They aren’t typically murderous, so I’d have to figure out exactly how to use them in a cozy.  I could do it.  And yes, I know both of these tropes are currently in their death throes as well.  I don’t really care.

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3. The Yuki-onna, or snow woman.  There are a lot of variations on this myth, but they all include a woman who appears from the snow and disappears back into it.  A lot of times, it’s just weirdness that happens.  Sometimes, a child is involved.  And many times there is death.  My only problem is that these books are based in Dallas where snow is rare.  But I suppose my characters could take a vacation.

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A kelpie.

4. Kelpie or Capaill Uisce.  Both are water horses, so yes I’m putting them together.  Kelpie have the ability to shapeshift and tend toward the more playful end of things, though there’s still a lot of death around them.  Capaill Uisce, on the other hand, can’t transform and just like to kill stuff.  Capaill Uisce also come from the sea, whereas kelpie tend to be river-dwellers.  I could make either one work and they’re still pretty rare as far as current fiction goes (at least in my experience).

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5. Inugami, or dog spirits.  These are the vengeful spirits of dogs that go around possessing people and making life hell.  They’re super interesting and tend to possess members of the same family.  But the creation of one is really brutal and I’m not entirely sure I could write that kind of animal abuse.  Granted, the dog would get its revenge, but I love puppers too much.

There are a lot of other creatures I could list, but I think I’ll stop there.  What are some of your favorite monsters or mythological beings?  Are there any you would love to write about?  Or read about?  Feel free to share your own lists or comments here or on my social media pages!

Five Things I Didn’t Know August Was The Month Of…

Howdy, howdy!  It’s mid-August and I have no idea what to write about, so I decided to look up and see if August had any interesting “month of” or “day of” things to celebrate.  You know the ones.  Like when your friends post on social media that they’re eating waffles because it’s “national waffle day” or whatever and you just want to know who decided that and why you never knew about it.  Those things.  And apparently August is much more than the month of stifling heat and increased mosquito attacks.  So, I decided to make a list of five things that I didn’t know August was the month of.

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And it’s almost half over.

1. August is “happiness happens” month.  According to its description, the Secret Society of Happy People (which is a real thing, surprisingly) wanted to dedicate a day to the concept of choosing to be happy despite whatever problems may be making that difficult.  Since its inception, it has grown into a month-long thing.  It’s not about ignoring the bad stuff and negative feelings, but about trying to find the good things in life even when you’re overwhelmed.  Life sucks, but I didn’t die!  Or work was horrible, but I saw a butterfly at lunch.  Or whatever.  Positive thinking.  That kind of stuff.  It also encourages you to share your happy moments, to talk about them.

2. August is “romance awareness” month.  This one is about taking a hard look at your romantic relationship(s) and acknowledging whether or not you’re putting in the energy to maintain it(them) correctly.  It’s not about grand gestures and all that crap you read in romance novels, but it is about the small things.  Encouraging notes on hard days.  Holding hands.  Just the little things.  It all depends on how you and your partner(s) express your love.  Don’t forget the little gestures.

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3. August is “national brownies at brunch” month.  Why?  Because someone wanted an excuse to eat more brownies.  But I don’t eat brunch, so I’ll have to eat brownies at some other point during the day.  I’ll also need someone to bring me brownies.  They aren’t something we keep around.

4. August is “national sandwich” month.  It’s also “national panini” month, which is just a toasted sandwich, so it’s kind of redundant.  But I’ve already had at least three sandwiches this month, so I guess it’s kind of fitting.  Four if you count hamburgers as sandwiches.  And now that I’ve been thinking about food, I’m hungry.  I wish I had a brownie.  Or an ice cream sandwich.

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Bacon, tomato, grilled cheese from Panera with a cup of tomato soup for dipping. Mmm…

5. August is “Spinal Muscular Atrophy awareness” month.  Despite being diagnosed with SMA type 2 for years (my diagnosis changed to UCMD a while ago), I had no idea it had its own awareness month.  SMA is one of the more well-known Muscular Dystrophies and they’ve been making a good effort to stop its progression.  I haven’t looked into it lately, though, so I don’t know how well the treatments are working.  But SMA is a thing and you should be aware of it.

So, yeah.  I didn’t know these things existed.  What about you?  What are some weird “month of” or “day of” things that you’ve discovered?  Which ones do you celebrate?  As usual, feel free to share of them here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside Burger Style Cafe

Hello, hello!  I know I’ve been doing a lot of food reviews lately, but food is good, so enjoy it while you can.  I’ll get back to writerly stuff sooner or later.  This week, I thought I’d share the best burger place in Mesquite with you.  It’s a little mom-and-pop place in a strip mall right down the street from us on the corner of Pioneer and E. Davis.  Burger Style Cafe has been around for a while, but Dad and I never really got into it until recently when we decided to give it another shot after years of searching for a good burger.  Every time we’d find a decent place, the food would either go downhill or the owners would turn out to be unfriendly.  But Burger Style Cafe has consistently good food and wonderful people.

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As usual, pictures are stolen from Facebook or Google.

Accessibility: good.  It’s a little awkward getting in the door because there’s a step, so I can’t go straight in.  There are ramps on each side, so I have to go up the ramp and make a turn to get in.  It’s not difficult, just awkward.  Inside is great.  There is plenty of room to maneuver and lots of easily reached tables and booths.  The booths are even wide enough for me to sit at the end if Dad prefers a softer seat.  The tables are on the high side, which I prefer.  They’re just easier to get under.

Service: excellent.  Oscar (the owner) always talks to us and when he takes my order, he comes out from behind the tall counter to talk directly to me.  And Felix (the cook) always comes out to greet us.  They both treat me like a person, so you know that earns them a lot of points.  Plus, they’re really nice people.

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The menu!

Food: delicious.  If you like juicy burgers that you bite into and all the juices immediately start running down your face, this is the place to go.  Plus, the buns are yummy.  My go-to is the guacamole burger (cheddar, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, sauteed onions) with a side of fried mushrooms.  The chili cheeseburger is good too.  Dad’s burger changes a little each time, but he usually gets a side of sweet potato fries.  I’m not a big sweet potato fan, but Dad loves them, especially when they’re crispy.  He’s never had a soggy sweet potato fry from Felix.

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Not my flavor of choice, but milkshakes!

Dessert: Blue Bell Ice Cream.  They have milkshakes and cones with Texas’s own Blue Bell ice cream.  If that’s not your thing, Burger Style Cafe is right next door to a brand new fruteria (a review for another time) which is next door to a new Mexican bakery (haven’t tried it yet).  So, there are plenty of options nearby even if you don’t want ice cream.

Entertainment: no idea, but people seem to enjoy it.  We haven’t been ourselves, but they have Elvis every third Friday of the month.  If that’s your thing, check it out.

Price: fair.  You get fresh food and generous portions, so you’re going to pay more than you would at a fast food joint.  But it’s a good price for the quality you get.

My rating:
MMMMM

Another 5 Ms!  Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe it’s just that good.  Go check it out and judge for yourself.  Their Facebook with the address and hours is linked above.

Thoughts on SHATTER THE SKY

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of July, so you should all know what that means.  It’s time for another book review!  This month, I felt like getting into something fantastical, maybe with dragons or something, so that’s what I looked for on NetGalley.  They recommended the young adult novel Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells, which was released yesterday (July 30th).  It sounded interesting, so I went ahead and requested it.  I must thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me access to an ARC (advanced reader copy) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get to the review.

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A pretty generic YA cover.  No idea what the glowy thing she’s holding is, but I’m guessing a vial which is never described as glowing in the book.

Shatter the Sky follows Maren who leaves her secluded home in the hopes of rescuing her girlfriend, Kaia, who is taken by the Aurati seers.  Maren never actually wanted to leave her home and always believed she was average, especially next to Kaia who was obviously meant for greater things than the mountains could provide.  But when Kaia is stolen, Maren decides she needs to reclaim a dragon from the Flame of the West (the warlord who loves nothing more than conquering lands) and rain down fire and destruction upon the Aurati.  But how is an average girl like her supposed to do that?  With a little help from friends, apparently.  But is Sev, a guy she meets along the way, really a friend?  And can his allies really help her rescue Kaia?  Maren doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing or who to trust, but she does all she can to keep moving forward.

The plot is pretty standard fantasy fare.  An underdog rises above her challenges in order to achieve her goals, discovering along the way that she’s actually super special.  Not only must she face physical obstacles, but there’s also a budding romance with the new friend despite her devotion to her heartmate, which brings up shame and all that good stuff.  And there’s an adorable little dragon that gets sucked into the adventures.  It’s a little predictable at points, but still enjoyable.

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But not so ashamed she’ll ditch him.

It’s not the plot that pulled me in, but the characters.  Of course, in the beginning, Kaia is the obvious choice for a heroine, but then she’s abducted and we only get to see snippets of her in Maren’s visions.  By the end, she’s so completely changed that it makes me want to read the next book to find out what she really becomes.  Maren is headstrong and a little flighty.  She rarely has more than a vague notion of a plan, but that never stops her.  However, her insistence that Kaia is somehow better than her does become annoying.  Sev is an ambiguous character that could either be really good or he could go really bad, which is fun.  He’s adamant that his cause is the only way to a better future, which most villains feel the same way.  But if he keeps with Maren, and lets her influence shape him, he could become a hero in his own right.  This book is leaning toward the latter for him, but it doesn’t mean he won’t veer off in the next book.  Otherwise, I love the dragons and want more of them.

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A Dragon Witch by Nene Thomas.  Just because dragons.

The writing itself was smooth and a made for nice read.  A lot of the description was beautiful and the pacing pulled me along at a good clip.  The dialogue occasionally felt stilted, but not enough to really distract from the story.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Shatter the Sky so much that I’m looking forward to book two and am a little sad that I have to wait for it.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  Like I said, it’s standard fantasy fare, but the characters made it worth reading for me.  If you enjoy character development and can get past some predictableness, this is definitely worth reading.

A Look Inside Fritzl’s Euro Grill

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing?  Is it hot enough for you?  Because it’s actually been relatively mild here in north Texas.  Anyway, for Dad’s birthday last week, he wanted some Austrian food, so we decided to go to Fritzl’s over in Rowlett in a little strip mall on the corner of Rowlett Road and 66.  It’s a small place owned and ran by Klaus Fritz, a fifth generation pastry chef from Austria.  I’ve linked to his restaurant Facebook page above for the most up-to-date information and pictures of pastries.  Full transparency: we used to go here pretty often (for us) before Mom died, but we haven’t been in at least 6 years (pre-Stonecoast, thus pre-blog), so I thought I would go ahead and do a review.  So, here we go.

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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As usual, I forgot to take pictures, so I borrowed them from Google and Facebook.

Accessibility: much improved.  Back when when we first started going, there were various decorations blocking the sidewalk by the door, but over the years, everything has been cleared away to make the path easier to traverse.  There are a couple of different types of tables, one with the knee banger (the low hanging thing) and one without, so that’s not an issue.  The place is small, so it can be difficult to maneuver when crowded, but Klaus is super helpful about finding a place to sit.  So yeah, the accessibility is up to the usual Texas standards.

Service: great.  It was just Klaus when we went this time and the restaurant was really slow (like only one other couple just finishing up when we arrived kind of slow), so we didn’t have long to wait for anything and he never rushed us.  He was super helpful about placing things where I could get them and making sure I was okay.  I admit it was a little disconcerting because people around here aren’t that helpful, but it was much appreciated.

Appetizers: betting they’re still yummy, but we didn’t get any this time because Dad only had eyes for the schnitzel (meaning he missed them as he scanned the menu).

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A picture of the woodcutter schnitzel and a brat that I found on Google.

Entrees: delicious as always.  Dad had the wienerschnitzel with a brat, spaetzle, and sauerkraut.  I had the woodcutter schnitzel with potatoes and sauerkraut.  It was lovely and the meat was wonderfully tender, so I had zero problems chewing it.  I look forward to going back just to get the paprika schnitzel (my other favorite from when we used to go).  Sometimes, there’s nothing as comforting as meat and potatoes.  I even enjoyed the kraut, which I’m just now starting to get a taste for (never liked the stuff until a few months ago).

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The pastry shelves change a little each day.

Dessert: no words, just drool.  Dad had a napoleon that was flaky and creamy and delicious.  I had the Black Forest cake that had a lovely balance of chocolate vs. cream vs. cherry.  But!  My personal favorite from this trip was the rum ball that I decided to take home for dessert the next day.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but a ball of chocolate that actually had a rum taste wasn’t it.  It was awesome and I hope he has them next time we go.

Alcohol: nice selection of beer.  It’s one of the few places around here that we can get a dunkel (dark German lager).

Price: fair.  You get huge portions of freshly prepared food.  That’s what you pay for, so it’s definitely worth it.

My rating:
MMMMM

I could take an M away because of the potential for not fitting in the place if it’s crowded, but that’s true of basically anywhere.  So, my first five M rating!

Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe July is already more than halfway over?  Neither can I.  But I must admit it’s a good month.  First and foremost, Dad’s birthday is tomorrow (happy early birthday, old man!), so drop him some birthday love here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it along to him.  Secondly, I recently found out that a piece of mine called “Cracked and Broken” will be appearing in Harbinger Press‘s Flash Fiction Fridays.  So, I thought I would take this week’s post as a chance for some shameless self-promotion.

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For Dad.

Harbinger Press is a brand new venue that opened in March of this year and was founded by Marie Robinson and B.C. Palmer.  It will be running its first round of Flash Fiction Fridays from July 19th through November 29th. My story will appear during this time.  I will announce via social media the exact Friday it comes out, plus I will share links to the story in those posts and on my website.  In other words, if you haven’t done so already, please stalk my pages all of which can be found off to the side here or at the top of my website.  And if you want to see all of the flash fiction pieces in this series (and participate future events like the “best of 2019” contest they’ll be having for their flash fiction selections), subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter, which can be found on their website linked above.

If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction pieces to them, their winter call opens on August 1st and runs until November 1st.  They’re open to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror according to the submission page.  I know I have some friends whose writing could fit in those categories!  Harbinger Press pays a flat rate of $25 for stories with a maximum of 1,000 words (so, basically semi-pro pay).  You can find their guidelines and the basic rights they purchase on the website I linked above.

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Borrowed from their website.

I’m extremely happy to be included in this debut batch of flash fiction.  “Cracked and Broken” is one of the few pieces I’ve written that I liked even before my writing group  gave their approval of it.  They helped me improve it a lot, so I have to thank them for the suggestions and critiques.  They know who they are.  It was also one of the first pieces I wrote after Stonecoast, without the guidance of my mentors, so it was a little scary to send it out into the world.  But I’m glad it has found a home!

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Will o’ the Wisp by Rob Powell.  Not what the story is technically about, but close enough visually.

As I mentioned above, I’ll announce when the story is released on my social media pages, so stalk me or subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter to catch it when it comes out.  Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of trying to figure out this writing life.  Or maybe something cripple-focused.  I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll see you then.

My Writing Space: 5 Things That Aren’t Writing Related

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this bright and beautiful July day?  I’m still finding motivation and focus hard to achieve, which means most of my writing goals have failed miserably.  Slumps suck, but I’ll get out of it.  Anyway, I don’t really have anything writerly or exciting to post about, so I thought I would reintroduce you to my writing area.  I know I posted about it before, but writing areas aren’t entirely about writing.  They’re also about the writer (in this instance, me), so I wanted to introduce you to some of the non-writerly things that I keep nearby.

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An old picture.  Things have changed, like a new stereo and different pictures, but still a good representation of my work space.

1. Yarn.  I decided to teach myself how to crochet, so I have a slowly disappearing skein of yarn and an 85% finished project sitting on my computer.  I just have to make a few more rows, then figure out how to sew it into a hat.  As usual with my creative endeavors, I’m finding it difficult to work up the motivation to finish.  Mostly because the next project I want to undertake scares me.  It’s supposedly fairly easy, but it looks so complicated!  And kind of big, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it physically.  But I’m enjoying the new hobby even though it scares me.  That’s about all it has in common with writing.  Well, that and shitty first attempts being acceptable.

2. Tequila.  I actually have two bottles of tequila on my desk.  One is an anejo from Republic Tequila in a bottle shaped like Texas.  It hasn’t been opened yet, even though I’ve had it for years.  I also have a Kah reposado in a sugar skull bottle.  I’ve only had a couple of shots of it, so it’s mostly full.  I’m not a lush.  I swear.

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This one is similar to my bottle, but the designs are always a little different because each one is hand painted.

3. Assorted treats.  I keep a jar of chocolates on my desk, plus various candies and Pocky that I pick up or that people give me.  I still have chocolate from Christmas and Easter, plus candy and Pocky that are at least a couple of years old.  I keep forgetting they exist.  It’s weird, I know.  But my sweet tooth only activates at random times and I usually go for the chocolate instead of the rest.

4. Random creepy creatures.  Well, they aren’t really creepy.  I have a little rubber rat finger puppet that a neighbor gave me one Halloween.  His name is Yuki (it means snow) even though he’s black.  I just really like Fruits Basket.  And he cheers me on from my computer or right next to it.  I also have a tiny glass octopus named Tako that a friend sent me during one of her visits to Italy.  He watches me from one of my shelves.  And I have a bunch of other random figurines I’ve collected over the years.

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Sohma Yuki, year of the rat.

5. A pile of CDs.  My new stereo doesn’t have a multi-CD function, so I have 60+ CDs sitting around in plain sight (many more hidden in my cabinets), waiting to be ripped to my computer.  But I’m lazy and keep forgetting about them.

So, that’s some of the non-writerly things I have in my writing space.  If it tells you something about the kind of person I am, feel free to share.  What are some of the things you keep in your work space that have nothing to do with your work?  Feel free to leave your comments, thoughts, or questions here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside Yoshi Shabu Shabu

Hello, hello!  Happy July!  Since I haven’t done a food review since November (we haven’t really been anywhere new), I thought I would take the chance to do one now.  A couple of weeks ago, Dad and I made the trip to Richardson to pick out some stained glass for a project he’s working on.  Richardson has a decent selection of restaurants, so I looked around and found a shabu shabu (Japanese hotpot) place.  We’ve never had it, so we decided to give Yoshi Shabu Shabu a shot.  They’re located in the Shops at Eastside, right off 75 at the corner of Greenville and Campbell.  You can visit their website (linked above) for the address.  There’s also one in Plano.  Now for the review!

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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Forgot to take pics, so all images are borrowed from Google.

Accessibility: not bad, but not the best.  There seems to be one handicap parking spot at each building (maybe more on the other sides), so there’s only one near the restaurant.  Luckily, it was empty.  There’s also a parking garage we didn’t look at.  Getting into the restaurant is fairly easy, but the tables are tightly packed, so maneuvering can definitely be tricky if the place gets busy.  The tables themselves have the little knee bangers (the part that hangs down a couple of inches), so I couldn’t get close.  It’s probably there to protect people from the heating device under the table, though.  All in all, the accessibility is the usual standard for Texas (I say Texas because other states I’ve been to vary from great to shitty when it comes to wheelchair friendliness and Texas tends to lean mostly toward the really good end of things).

Service: great!  Our server was nice and attentive and showed us how to do everything.  She also acknowledged my existence and treated me like a normal human being from the very beginning.  You know that earned her some bonus points.  There were a couple of mistakes along the way, like a plate of edamame we didn’t order and everything coming out at once, but overall she provided a great experience.

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Karaage.

Appetizers: tasty, but they came out after the food.  We got the karaage and the garlic noodles with shrimp.  And for some reason, edamame ended up on our table, but Dad and I aren’t fans of it in general.  Karaage is fried chicken and it was nice and crunchy.  The garlic noodles were pretty good too.  BUT!  If you’re going to order apps, make sure they’re on the table before you order the shabu shabu stuff, otherwise it all comes out at once and no one wants that.  It crowds an already small table and it’s just plain inconvenient.  Things get cold before you can eat them.

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One of many possible combinations.

Shabu shabu: delicious and fun.  Shabu shabu is a Japanese hotpot.  When you sit down, there’s a pot of water on the table which has a burner under it.  You pick a base (we went with tonkotsu) to create a broth, then you pick meats (they have different combo options and we went with the five meat combo with Wagyu ribeye, pork belly, Berkshire pork, scallops, and mussels), then they have a bunch of veggies and you can pick and choose what you want or just let them bring a little of everything, then you choose your noodle (udon, ramen, or their gluten free option).  There are also a few dipping sauces for the meats.  Basically, you cook the veggies and swish pieces of the meat in the broth until it’s cooked to your preference and eat as you go, then cook the noodles in the leftover liquid and veggies to make a nice soup.  In all honesty, the whole cook-it-yourself thing isn’t really a great option for cripples with limited motion in their arms (like me), but it’s still a really fun experience if you have someone to do it for you (like Dad).  A word of advice: add the veggies in small increments as you go along, otherwise they get super mushy.

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Coconut pandan waffles.

Dessert: weird, but the good kind of weird.  Of course they have mochi, but they also have ice cream popsicle things (which we didn’t get) and waffles.  Yup, I said waffles.  Dad got mochi and I got coconut pandan waffles.  It’s a matcha and coconut waffle and it’s the weirdest thing ever.  There was also caramel drizzled on it.  I want to go back just to try this again.

Price: fair.  It’s expensive because meat is expensive, but it was actually cheaper than we were expecting.  They tell you right on the menu which meats cost extra, so if you keep an eye on that and order combos, you can fill up for a decent price.

My rating:
MMMM

They lost an M mostly because of the appetizer thing and a little because the accessibility could be better.  Otherwise, I totally recommend going at least once for the experience.

Thoughts on BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday of the month?  You know what that means!  It’s time for another book review.  Since my mind has been drifting to my own cozy mystery, I decided to see if any new series in that genre were releasing this month.  Yup!  I went with the Exotic Pet-Sitter series because who can resist animals and a good murder or two?  Not me.  It’s by Heather Day Gilbert and the first book is called Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (kind of a mouthful, I know).  Since it was only released yesterday (June 25th), you would be correct in assuming that I got an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) through NetGalley.  So, I must thank them and Kensington Books for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, which I’ll be getting to presently.

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A cute cover that has nothing to do with the story.

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass follows (you guessed it!) Belinda Blake as she embarks on a new phase of her life.  Moving from a studio apartment in Manhattan to a carriage house on some rich family’s property in Greenwich, Connecticut, Belinda works hard to keep her exotic pet-sitting business going strong.  She’s currently taking care of a ball python for a client in Manhattan who insists she carts the animal back and forth from his place to hers (because snakes need vacations too) as well as taking it for walks and even bathing it.  As if that plus an embarrassing run in with the homeowners’ handsome son, Stone Carrington the fifth, isn’t bad enough, she finds a dead woman in her garden.  From there, things just get stranger.

The plot of this one is pretty standard.  A young woman (26) finds a dead body and gets dragged into investigating it with the hot new guy in her life, who she falls in love with, of course.  But could he possibly be the murderer?!  Dun dun dun…  It’s a cozy, so what do you think?  He’s still shady, though.  And I admit that I picked out the murderer as soon as they showed up, but it took me a little while to piece together the why part, so it’s still a fun journey.

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My main problem with this story is the pacing and the odd scenes that feel tossed in for no particular reason.  It’s super jumpy.  Things would be going along nicely, then something completely random would pop up.  Like the kiss.  It doesn’t feel like it belongs there to me and it’s out of character for Belinda, so it seems really forced.  Then, she goes home (upstate New York) for Thanksgiving and randomly gets sent to a neighbor’s house to pick up honey.  I’m guessing he’s supposed to be the rival love interest, but his part in this particular book seems unnecessary and rushed.  His introduction could’ve waited for a book or two until he’s needed.  There’s also this thing with escaped cows that makes no real sense and does nothing for the actual plot of the story.  There are some other instances, but these stand out the most.

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Me wondering how things fit together in this book.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a little stilted in spots.  The book is in first person, so we’re in Belinda’s head when we’re not dealing with dialogue.  I spent a lot of time telling myself that people don’t talk that way.  It’s distracting, but I was still able to enjoy the story.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass enough that I’ll check out the next book to see if it’s better.  Also, I kind of want to see just how much randomness makes it into the next one.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars.  While many, my complaints are actually pretty minor.  If you like cute cozies and animals, go ahead and check this one out.  If you have too many books on your TBR lists, you’re not missing much if you skip this one.

To Re-Read Or Not To Re-Read…

Howdy, howdy!  First and foremost, I want to thank Lew Andrada one last time for his awesome post last week.  If you haven’t read it, you should go do that after you read and comment on this one!  As for this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff I read as a teenager or in my early 20s.  And there are a lot of books that I would love to read again for various reasons, but I’m afraid it’ll ruin the love I hold for them.  Like, what if they’re actually really bad and I’m just in love with the notion of them?  I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from friends to go ahead and make 2020 (and probably 2021 because I’m a slow reader and would still have to read new books to review) the year(s) of book nostalgia and re-read all the things, but the fear is real.  So, I thought I’d list the 35 books I want to read again and ask everyone for opinions on whether it’s a bad idea in general or which ones would best be left in the past, etc.

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Probably stupid.

1. The Harry Potter series (7 books).  I’ve only read the series all the way through once.  Yeah, I’m a bad fan.  Whatever.  But I’ve been getting the itch to go through it all again.  I’m not too worried about ruining this one, though.  It’s the series I remember the best.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia (7 books).  I blew through this series in my mid-teens and can only vaguely remember it, which is why I want to read it again.  Granted, the memories are fond ones, but I still worry that maybe it wasn’t that good.  It has a decent sized fan base, but I often dislike books everyone else seems to love.  It’s worrisome.

3. The Anne of Green Gables series (9 books).  Normally, I hate slice-of-life (not sure if that’s an actual genre, but it’s what I’ve always called things like this series) books.  It makes me curious as to why I enjoyed this series as a teenager.  It’s one of the few that I’m most afraid of ruining for myself.

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Will it, though?

4. His Dark Materials (3 books).  This was a series I read in my early 20s.  I remember a bit of it, but not enough to read the Book of Dust series or any of the stories connected to His Dark Materials.  This is the usual predicament that forces me to re-read things.

5. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (4 books).  I’ve actually read these twice already, but I wouldn’t mind going back to them.  Just because.  There are some books that call to you.  It happens.

6. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and The Talisman (2 books).  It’s not often that I feel the desire to re-read Stephen King stuff, but these are two I’m feeling drawn back to.  Will they stand up against the test of time?  I don’t know.  Am I willing to risk it?  Don’t know that either.

7. Neverwhere (1 book).  So, I have a love/hate relationship with Gaiman.  I absolutely love his work, but there’s always something I hate about his stories.  Neverwhere started my love of his work.  The problem is that I can’t remember hating anything about it.  That worries me, because what if it’s truly horrible and I’ve blocked it out?

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So many worries…

8. Ransom (1 book).  This one I actually read back in 4th or 5th grade.  I’ve never read anything else by Lois Duncan, but this one stuck with me.  It’s the first book I read that had someone with a disability who played a major role.  Granted, he wasn’t disabled like I am, but it was cool.  I’m afraid that connection was the only actual good thing about the book.

9. The Wild Iris (1 book).  I fully admit that I re-read poetry more than anything else.  This is a collection I’ve been meaning to read again for years.

So, what are your thoughts on reading things more than once?  Is it a worthwhile endeavor or would you stick with new books?  Anything on this list that isn’t worth a second look?  What’s on your list?  Feel free to share your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!