Thoughts on LAST PEN STANDING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s already the last Wednesday of September.  Where did the month go?  For that matter, where did all the months since March go?  My internal clock is kind of lagging.  Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday and that means it’s book review time!  I decided to go back to a cozy mystery this time, because I wanted something with a guaranteed happy ending.  So, I requested Last Pen Standing, the first in a brand new series by Vivian Conroy.  It was released yesterday (Sept. 24th).  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for allowing me access to an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get to it!

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Cute cover and pretty fitting.

Last Pen Standing follows Delta Douglas as she embarks on a new chapter in her life.  Delta’s grandmother gifts her a large sum of money because she wants to see what Delta will achieve with it instead of waiting and passing it on as an inheritance.  So, Delta quits her big city job and becomes co-owners of a stationery store in a small town with her college bestie, Hazel.  During their first workshop event at the town’s fanciest hotel, one of the hotel guests is murdered.  Hazel’s brother, Finn, is accused and everything kind of spirals from there.  Delta didn’t expect to be using her creative skills to help solve a murder, but things don’t always go the way you want.  With the help of her new friend, Jonas (an ex-cop), his dog, Spud, and the Paper Posse (the local gossips and crafters), Delta tries her best to figure out what’s going on.

I have to admit that I didn’t pinpoint the correct suspect right away.  I had the person in my list of probable suspects, but I wasn’t positive until I got closer to the end.  That made the story all the more fun, because I was able to eliminate suspects right alongside Delta and the others.  The plot was full of twists and turns.  I really liked the slow build of tension and the subtle clues sprinkled throughout.  It was just paced really nicely.  I wasn’t absorbed enough that I had trouble putting it down in order to eat and sleep and work, but I also looked forward to picking it back up again.  That’s the kind of balance I enjoy with cozies.

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Works with writing.

As far as the characters go, I loved them.  Delta was an interesting and likeable lead.  She rarely came across as pushy or bratty like some cozy leads can.  She left a lot of the snooping to the town gossips and only pried into things when she was relatively sure there was something useful to be discovered.  The love interest, Jonas, was a nice foil.  He helped Delta proceed with her investigation and made sure everything she did was above board.  Being an ex-cop gave him access to more information than usual, so I suppose that’s why Delta didn’t have to pry as much as some cozy leads.  Even the rich people came across as mostly human.  It was nice.

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Because people talk weird.

The writing was done well for the most part.  My only complaint would be that a lot of the dialogue was stilted.  “People don’t talk like that” was my mantra as I went through this book.  It was like the author wanted to give the reader a bunch of information and couldn’t find a better way of doing it than having people say it.  But people don’t say things like that, especially if they think their listener knows what they’re talking about.  Like, the stationery shop is across the street from the diner.  She works at the shop, so she knows where the diner is.  Don’t have the woman she’s talking to say to meet her at *insert name of diner*, the diner across the street from where you’ve been every day this week.  It’s not realistic.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Last Pen Standing.  I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future books and maybe even try something else by Vivian Conroy.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The dialogue is annoying enough that I took a star off, but if you like cozies and stationery and western type stuff, you should pick this book up.

5 Assumptions People Make About Me That Aren’t True

Hello, hello!  How is everyone this bright and beautiful (or dark and gloomy depending on where you are) Wednesday?  So, August and September are usually time for my yearly check ups with my specialists (pulmonologist and neurologist) and whatever doctors they randomly decide I need to see.  I dread these appointments for various reasons, but mostly because hospital staff are the worst when it comes to making assumptions about me.  And it got me thinking about the most common assumptions people in general make (even my friends to some extent, at least in the beginning).  Anyway, I thought I’d share the first five that popped into my mind.

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Pretty much.

1. That I have to be on some kind of prescription medication.  This is the one that gets doctors and nurses the most.  They ask if I take any meds and poise themselves to take notes, then when I say no, their faces always do this weird cross between awed and unbelieving.  Like, chill.  I take Aspirin if my pain levels go above my normal pain threshold for too long.  I take Benadryl and Zyrtec for seasonal allergies as needed.  But no, I don’t have any prescription drugs I take on a regular basis.  And they always act like that’s an impossible answer.  People can be cripple and still be relatively healthy.  It’s a thing.

2. That I’m mentally disabled (or whatever the current term is).  The majority of people I meet make this assumption.  Even doctors.  Hell, even some of my professors over the years obviously thought I was mentally disabled until the results of our first test or essay of the semester came in.  It’s weird and sometimes annoying.

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Pick one or the other.

3. That I’m a democrat.  This is mostly assumed by my friends.  I’m a disabled woman with a questionable sexuality, so I must be a democrat.  But I’m not.  Nor am I a republican.  I don’t believe all the issues can fit neatly in either box, so I take each issue separately and find my own opinion on it regardless of a political label.  Some of my thoughts lean left and some lean right.  Then, I keep my opinions to myself.

4. That I’m a devout believer in some kind of god.  And then people have the audacity to look upset when I tell them I’m not.  If I’m being honest, I’m agnostic leaning atheist.  I don’t deny the possibility of a higher being, but it’s really low on my list of “how everything came into being.”

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5. That it’s perfectly acceptable to touch me without asking first.  This is mostly limited to doctors, nurses, and strangers.  I mean, I get it’s your job to take my blood pressure or check my range of motion or whatever, but I break easily.  Communication is key.  And it has gotten to the point where I repeatedly tell doctors and nurses that Dad has to do everything just to avoid grabby hands.  Strangers mostly just like touching my arm or shoulder or stuff like that, which is fine, but still a little weird when they do it with that “poor thing” look in their eyes.  I never realized this was awkward until I met a guy at an anime convention who asked if he could love on me for a minute (just rubbing my arm and hugging me).  It was one of the strangest questions I’ve ever been asked, but the consent part made the whole experience much less awkward than someone randomly hugging me.

What about you?  What kind of assumptions do people make about you?  Feel free to share your lists or stories here or on my social media pages!

A Reverse Bucket List

Howdy, howdy!  We’ve all heard of bucket lists, those lists of must-dos before we die.  Some of you probably even have a list hidden away somewhere (or out in full view for everyone to see).  I don’t.  It’s not really my thing.  But did you know that reverse bucket lists exist?  Apparently, people also make lists of things they’ll never do before they die.  These lists seem to be mostly for people who have no idea what to blog about that day, week, month, whatever.  People like me!  So, even though I don’t like saying I’ll never do something (because who knows what the future will bring), I thought I’d share a list of ten things I can confidently say I’ll probably never do.

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1. Bungee jumping.  Why, you ask?  Aside from the fact that I physically can’t, I don’t think I would even if I could.  Something about falling toward the ground only to snap back up again and continue the up and down bit until gravity wins just isn’t appealing to me.

2. Going vegan.  I could probably do vegetarian for a day or two, but I like cheese too much to go full vegan.  And no, nut cheese is not cheese, it’s just someone’s attempt at making veganism fun with bad innuendo.

3. Skydiving.  Mostly because I can’t, but also because I have this thing about being suspended in the air without a firm foundation underneath me, so I wouldn’t even want to get on the plane.  If I could get past that, I might try this one.  But cripple privilege means I don’t even have to worry about being asked to try.

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4. Mountain/rock climbing.  I’d honestly try this if I could, but I don’t know of any wheelchair friendly mountains or cliffs.  So, yeah.  I’m fairly confident in saying I won’t be doing this.

5. Giving up coffee.  I don’t drink it often (once a week maybe), but I wouldn’t give it up.  Especially if it has booze in it.

6. Off-roading.  The roads have enough bumps around here.  Why would I intentionally go looking for worse ones?  No, thank you.  You can keep your whiplash for yourself.

7. Getting super hungover drunk… again.  Once was enough for me to learn my lesson.  I don’t remember much of that night.  It was just before my mother died and Dad and I got loaded with some of her family.  Dad’s a bad influence.  I’ll blame him.

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8. Finishing all of the books o my to-be-read list.  It’s just not possible, especially since I keep adding new ones.  Unless all the writers in the world stop writing, my list will keep growing.  There’s no way to stop it.  It’s a dilemma every reader must face and accept.  You will never catch up.

9. Seeing all the places I want to see.  I can’t fly and cruises are expensive, so I won’t be seeing a lot of places.  Add to that the fact that much of the world isn’t wheelchair friendly (stupid stairs), and there’s even more I won’t see.  But that’s what books and TV are for!

10. Giving up dessert. Just nope.

What about you?  Do you have a list of things you’ll never do?  Is it as ridiculous as some of mine?  Is it full of profound introspection?  Feel free to share it here or on my social media pages!

Dos Equis Pavilion: Worth It Or Not?

Hello, hello!  A couple of Fridays ago, Dad and I went out like normal people.  It’s rare for us to leave the house on Fridays and Saturdays, let alone venture into Dallas, but we did it.  We went to a concert at the Dos Equis Pavilion in Fair Park.  Heart was playing along with Joan Jett and Elle King.  I haven’t been to this venue in years (since Edgefest stopped being held there), so I was hoping it had improved some.  It hasn’t.  So, I thought I’d share our experience with you all.

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First and foremost, the concert itself was wonderful.  I didn’t know Elle King and didn’t really care one way or the other for her set, which is normal for me and opening bands.  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were pretty good.  Not my favorite kind of music, but I knew more songs than I expected to know.  Heart was impressive.  I knew four of their songs and most of the covers they did.  It’s incredible to realize that Ann is 69 and Nancy is 65 and they’re still putting on such wonderful shows.  Not to mention they can still do a mean Led Zeppelin cover.

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View from the lawn borrowed from the Dos Equis Pavilion Facebook page.

Now, onto the venue itself.  It’s nice enough if you’re not a wheelchair user.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.  First, I want to point out that the website is mostly useless.  They take forever to post the gate times, then refuse to give you an actual time for when the parking lots open.  Sure, they give an estimate, but I don’t want to show up early only to discover the lots aren’t opened yet.  I even Facebook messaged them and couldn’t get a straight answer.  So, your best guess is as good as theirs if you have questions.

Then, there’s the fiasco that is the parking lots.  They make out like they have plenty of handicap parking (and they do), but they block the spots off with cones so you have to have someone move the cone, plus they actually tell people to park in the loading zones.  What good is a handicap parking space if I have no loading zone to unload in?  What the actual hell, people?  Use your brains.  And that’s not even the worst.  The parking lot attendants don’t know their asses from their elbows.  We went in Gate 11 (like the Facebook messenger person said to) and asked the attendants for help (again, like we were told to do).  Instead of getting out of their chairs and actually helping us, they pointed vaguely toward a row without handicap spaces that turned out to be a dead end, so turning around was a joke.  Thank god for the T-Mobile booth guy.  He’s the only one who actually helped us in the parking lot by finding us a space and telling us how to get there, then moving the cone for us.  Everyone but him were useless as teats on a bull.

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Wheelchair seating in red.

Inside, it was much easier to navigate and the staff was much more friendly and helpful.  My only real complaint is that there is a noticeable lack of wheelchair friendly seating.  We get one row each at the back of sections 100 and 102, plus a couple of small areas in the lawn seats.  Nothing with a straight on view of the stage, which is ridiculous.  We never get seating any closer than this (an issue at every large venue I’ve been to), but to be pushed off to the sides with no direct line of sight options?  It’s kind of insulting.  Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t want good seats.  Either stop charging ridiculous prices for less than optimal seats or start offering wheelchair users better seating options.  Easy peasy.

Like I said, Dos Equis Pavilion is a decent venue if you’re not confined to a wheelchair, but unless one of my favorite bands come through, I’m not planning a trip back any time soon.  Better training for the parking lot staff would go a long way towards making this a decent venue for everyone.  And better seating options for cripples in wheelchairs would make it a great venue.  As it is, I’d rather go back to the Toyota Music Factory than here.

Thoughts on THE BONE CUTTERS

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of August, which means it’s book review time!  This month, I received an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum Renee S. DeCamillis’s new book.  It’s called The Bone Cutters and it’s due out on September 1st from Eraserhead Press.  I must thank Renee and the press for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Anyway, I stepped slightly outside of my comfort zone with this one since I haven’t read much bizarro horror.  I’m more into traditional horror, but I do love me some psychological horror, which this book definitely falls under.  Now, onto the review.

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Lovely cover, though I’m not entirely sure why she’s naked.

The Bone Cutters follows Dory (our unreliable narrator) as she wakes up to find herself confined in a psychiatric hospital.  When she’s put in a counseling group for a very specific brand of junkie (one who snorts bone dust to get a “free” high), it has her literally pulling her hair out (something she has issues with anyway).  As if that’s not bad enough, the nurse who put her in the group refuses to believe that Dory belongs elsewhere.  Luckily, there’s a janitor who seems to believe Dory and even wants to help.  From there, things just keep getting weirder.

The story is nicely paced and keeps the tension up fairly well throughout the whole thing.  It’s a novella, so you could easily finish it in one go.  I broke it up into multiple reading sessions, but I really think it would benefit from reading it beginning to end.  I admit that I lost a lot of forward momentum each time I put it down, which was my own fault (stupid life getting in the way).  But every time I picked it back up, I enjoyed the ride.  In fact, I’ll probably pick a day in the next couple of months to sit down and read it all the way through just to see how the experience differs.

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The characters are interesting, but I wanted a little more flesh on some of them.  While we’re in Dory’s head, we don’t get to learn much about her.  Sure, she isn’t a Duster, and she’s super protective of the people she trusts, but she doesn’t really seem to grow much over the course of the story.  Her relationship with Tommy grows, but while she becomes more coherent, she still feels basically the same at the end.  Tommy, the janitor, is the most fleshed out.  We get to know his past and his motives.  The villains, on the other hand, are basically just junkies looking for a fix who are being manipulated by the big bad in the shadows.  I had no feelings about them one way or the other.  That being said, I like that the big bad in the shadows remains a distant mystery.  It really worked for the story.

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I like it when characters level up.

As far as the writing goes, it is lovely and poetic and musical.  The way Renee breaks up her paragraphs pulls the reader forward and aids in creating tension in all the right spots.  It’s a story worth reading to study the writing alone.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Bone Cutters.  I can’t wait to see more from Renee in the future.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you enjoy psychological horror with some bizarro thrown in, pick it up.  If you like beautiful writing that combines both poetry and prose, pick it up.

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:
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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.

Fritzls
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!