Thoughts on A SPELL OF MURDER

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever it is you happen to celebrate)!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month (and year), so it’s time for another book review.  I looked for something festive, but ended up going with another cozy mystery.  For December, I got a hold of an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Spell of Murder by Clea Simon, which was released earlier this month.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Polis Books, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get to it!

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Cute cover.  And it actually refers to things in the story.

A Spell of Murder is the first in the new Witch Cats of Cambridge series.  It follows Clara, a calico cat, and her two sisters, Harriet and Laurel, all of whom happen to be witch cats (yes, they are cats who can do magic).  They do their best to keep their “owner,” Becca, out of trouble as she embarks on a new adventure in her life.  Recently single and newly unemployed, Becca is on a mission to find herself.  She researches her family history and even joins a local coven.  But when a covenmate is murdered, Becca is pulled down the rabbit hole of wanting to find out what happened.  Her cats must help keep her out of trouble.  Whether out of love or the desire for more food and treats depends on which cat you ask.

You might be wondering why I said it follows Clara instead of Becca.  That’s because the book is (mostly) told from Clara’s POV.  It’s part of the reason I wanted to check this book out.  A murder story from a cat’s POV?  Sounds neat.  And it was.  But it slips out of Clara’s POV at random moments, which is jarring and occasionally really confusing.  For the most part, Clara finds ways to be in each scene, but a couple of times the POV just flat out changes to Becca because Clara isn’t around.  If this was a braided narrative set up so we expected the POV shifts, that would be fine.  But it’s not, so the shifts feel lazy.  An easy out when putting a cat in the scene is too difficult.

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It’s random like this, except way less cute.

Other than that, the story is solid, if somewhat predictable.  I guessed at the murderer as soon as they showed up, but I also have a strong dislike of that type of person, so maybe it was just wishful thinking.  Correct wishful thinking, but still.  There’s a douchenozzle of a love interest, an actual love interest, an overzealous bestie, and a plethora of other characters you would expect in a story like this.  The most interesting characters are the cats.  Clara is all about loving and protecting Becca.  Harriet basically just wants food and treats and all the comforts she can get.  And Laurel simply likes drama, especially when it involves a man.  The humans are just kind of there.

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At least in this book.

The writing style is easy going and carries the reader along for the most part.  It tries to get you to follow it to awkward conclusions, instead of going with your gut.  That’s what cozy mysteries do.  The descriptions of the people in the book are pretty vague, which makes it a little difficult to separate them, but that’s how the cats see people.  It was interesting to see the world as a cat.  And it makes for a light, quick read.

Ultimately, it was an okay read.  I probably won’t go looking for future books in the series, but if I randomly run across them, I’ll flip through and see if anything has improved.

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Overall, I gave A Spell of Murder three stars.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  If you like magical cats and Hallmark channel murder mysteries, you might like it.  If not, you’re not missing much.

2018: It Was A Year

Hello, hello!  First and foremost, I want to once again thank J. R. Dawson for her awesome guest post last week.  If you haven’t read it yet, go and do the thing.  Now, on to this week’s post!  Since December is speeding toward its end, I thought I would take a moment to look back on the year.  Don’t worry.  I don’t plan on getting all insightful and nostalgic.  But I do plan on sharing five memorable things that have occurred this year in no particular order.

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Before the year washes away completely…

1.  The great wheelchair debacle of 2018.  As many of you know, I recently got my new wheelchair after months (about 7 months) of fighting for it.  Technically, Dad did most of the fighting, I was just stubborn about what I wanted.  Instead of telling us up front that they didn’t normally deal with Quickie chairs, the company we were getting the chair through assured us they could get one, then proceeded to try pushing an Invacare chair on me.  They talked me into trying a molded seat despite the fact that I’ve always hated that type of seat.  All along they said it would work with a Quickie, but when they went to send it out, chair and all, they told us it was an Invacare chair.  They tried to convince us that’s what we agreed to, which went over like a lead balloon.  After much arguing and being punished by not getting a seat I didn’t want in the first place, I have my Quickie and it even has the motors I wanted (though we had to pay the extra for them out of pocket, which is fine).  I just don’t have any pictures of it to share yet.

2.  Getting published (and getting paid for it).  I know you’re probably tired of hearing about it, but it was an exciting part of my year.  We even went down to Port Neches for the book launch, which was a nice little vacation for us even though the seafood was severely disappointing.  And, of course, I can’t write about it without dropping a link where you can purchase the book.  So, if you haven’t read it yet, you can find my story “Lying Eyes” in Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3.  You can find purchase info at the bottom of the linked page.

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It would look good on your bookshelf!

3.  A new Thanksgiving tradition?  I don’t know if it’ll become a tradition or not (we’ll see what happens next year), but we had a lovely meal at Texas de Brazil this year.  After 32+ years, Dad wasn’t up for cooking the usual feast, so we took our neighbor to the Brazilian steakhouse.  They had a few Thanksgiving staples alongside their normal menu.  It was delicious as ever.  The only sad thing was there were no leftovers.

4.  Saw the Moody Blues live.  I admit that 2018 wasn’t the best year for concerts, but with everything going down in Deep Ellum, it didn’t feel like a good idea to go down there too often.  Plus, there weren’t many bands I actually wanted to see.  But back in January, Dad surprised me with a trip to the Toyota Music Factory to see the Moody Blues play.  They are an amazing band with some awesome music.  Seeing them live was a real treat!

5.  Dad’s hernia surgery.  Most of you already know, but Dad had hernia surgery on the 11th.  His primary doctor finally confirmed he had one last month even though Dad had been vocal about pain and swelling for the last 6 months.  The doctor acted like the swelling was something new.  Then again, this is the same doctor who forgot he put Dad on a diet.  So, Dad found a place called NTTC Surgery Center, which provides routine surgical procedures for a flat (affordable) rate.  It’s basically a collaborative effort from local doctors to provide affordable options for people without insurance.  The facility is nice and the staff was wonderful.  Though, it was a bit of a surprise when the surgeon required his portion in cash, which we weren’t warned about.  But other than that, the whole experience was smooth and everyone was very reassuring.  Dad just had his post-op check up and is healing well.  He’s getting a bit antsy to get back to his normal routine, but he has to take it easy for three more weeks.

How was your year?  Feel free to share some memories (good, bad, scary, exciting, or otherwise) here or on my social media pages!

Guest Post: Marriage and Writing

Hello, hello!  Welcome to the year’s final guest post.  This month, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, J. R. Dawson.  In the following post, she discusses the importance of support and being believed in.  It’s pretty awesome.  Read on!

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The lovely J. R. Dawson!

Marriage and Writing

When Shawna asked me to do a blog on her site, I didn’t know what I was going to write about. And then I got sick. And then the deadline came and I was sick and didn’t know what I was going to write about. I assumed I’d end up doing some kind of intro or motivational piece about how to keep on keepin’ on. But then I realized there was something I’d heard discussed a lot, had experienced myself, and had never really seen a blog post about.

I think it’s been simmering since I spoke to a beginning writer a year ago and he mentioned that his wife doesn’t believe in him. She bemuses the fact that he wants to write, but she doesn’t support him. It doesn’t pay the bills, it’s so hard to break through, and she didn’t think he was very good.

“Can you give me something to tell my wife so she won’t think I’m hopeless?” he said. “What can I tell her?”

And I said, “Tell her to support you.”

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Spouses or partners don’t have to be writers, they don’t even have to like your writing, but if writing is your jam and it’s what you do, then what sort of partner isn’t going to back you up?

It seems like such a superficial fact, or maybe it’s giving too much power to this dude’s wife. But for real, if she’s not supporting him in this, what exactly is she supporting him in? It’s total disrespect to look at the person you’re supposed to love and say, “I don’t believe in you.”

Do you absolutely need a partner to succeed? Absolutely not. One of the most successful writers I’ve gotten to work with is a single mother. Some people purposefully do not want a partner, let alone a spouse. But for those of us who do enter into a pair, that other person has got to be behind us.

My past relationships are riddled with non-writers who thought I should give up, or writers who were in constant and violent competition with me.

Then eight years ago, I met my spouse.

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He isn’t a writer (although he’s very talented and I think of him as one, he’s off doing other things). He didn’t necessarily love books when we met. And sometimes we argue over my descriptive style when he wants more active (and grammatically correct) scenes. But he has supported me emotionally the entire way.

Actually, the short story “Marley and Marley” came from him literally jumping into my writing room every ten minutes going, “Keep going! You can do it! This story is important!” My latest publication, “When We Flew Together Through the Ice,” was resurrected from an early grave because he believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

If writing is my heart, and my partner is supposed to love the deepest parts of me, how would he not love my act of writing?

When he proposed, I literally said to him, “This is not going away. I will always have one foot in our life and one foot in whatever project I’m working on.”

And he wholeheartedly agreed. “And so will I,” he said.

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Could I still be a writer without him? Of course. But if I’m going to be with someone, that someone better damn well be with me. All of me.

And does that mean he has to be completely devoted to every move I make with pom poms ready at the go? No. But he can’t tell me, “I don’t believe you’re going to make it.”

My heart broke for the dude with the wife who said such a thing. I hope they figure out their business.

But I guess what I wanted to say, in this here blog, is that you as an artist need to surround yourself with people who will raise you up. And if someone is too close and is pulling you down, you deserve better.

We all deserve to be believed in.

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J.R. Dawson holds her MFA from Stonecoast. She is an Active Member of SFWA and Codex. Living in Omaha, NE, with her pupper and husband, she enjoys working as a freelance teaching artist, writing science fiction adventures, and traveling to Disney World. Her short story “Marley and Marley” was in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, and her new story, “When We Flew Together Through the Ice,” is in the November/December 2018 issue of F&SF.

December Goals

Howdy, howdy!  It’s December again (didn’t we just do this?).  Happy holidays and all that jazz!  I don’t really have anything to talk about this week and I’ve been super slacking on the writing front (and at life in general), so I thought I would take a minute to make my goals for the month known.  This way, you can heckle me until I succeed.  I know these posts are pretty boring, so I try not to do them a lot.  Apologies in advance.  But here are my goals in no particular order!

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Cute pictures are fun.

December Goals:

1. Submit stuff 10 times (2 every Monday).  I’ve consistently submitted two stories a week all year long.  Granted, it wasn’t always on Mondays, but it got done even when I really didn’t feel like it.  I’m super proud of that.  Now, I just have to keep it up the rest of this month and do it all over again next year.

2. Revise more of LR.  Revising has been beyond slow and I have no one and nothing to blame but myself.  I love the story and I’m excited about it, but I can’t get into a good rhythm with the revisions.  I get into it a few days then can’t bring myself to open the files for a while.  It’s weird.

3. Read 2 books.  Actually, I need to finish two books (at least) this month.  I started them both last month.  When I got the okay on The Razor, I stopped in the middle of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.  There was just no way for me to finish both last month.  And I decided to start this month’s review book before I finish European Travel.  I somehow clumped too many long books together and it’s thrown my whole reading schedule off, but I’m past my goal for the year, so it’s okay.

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The lazy voices in my head often enable me by telling the productive ones to shut up.

4. Make time for people.  It’s just really hard to talk to people when I like being a recluse so much.  Luckily, around the holidays, I randomly text people to wish them well and usually end up chatting with a few of them.  It’s the only time of year I’m not a completely shitty friend!

5. Decide on a couple of days to go through my files and tidy everything up.  I seriously need to do this.  I used to know exactly where every song, picture, and file was on my computer.  Now, I can’t find half the stuff I go looking for.  It’s a mess.

6. Start ripping old CDs to my computer.  A few months ago, I got a new radio because my 60 disc player stopped working.  Do you know how hard it is to find a new 60+ disc player that is it’s own stereo, not a component to a make-your-own stereo system?  Impossible.  In other words, I have a bunch of CDs that I need to transfer to my computer so I can play my old favorites and annoy the crap out of Dad.

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Okay, I have that one on my computer, but this made my smile.

7. Attack the slush pile.  I’ve been sporadic with my first reader duties over at Pseudopod.  I need to buckle down and help get through this period’s submissions.  It’s always a fun experience.

Those are my goals.  What about you?  Do you have any stuff you want to focus on this month?  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE RAZOR

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday of November (can you believe it?), which means it’s time for another book review.  This month, I requested something a little different from my usual genres: sci-fi.  I watch a lot of sci-fi, but I don’t read much of it, so I decided to give it a shot.  Today, I’ll be talking about The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell.  It was published on the 27th by Tor Books, which is an imprint of Macmillan.  I must thank them and NetGalley for allowing me access to an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).  Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

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I picked it because the cover caught my eye.

The Razor follows a group of prison inmates as they team up and learn to count on each other to survive after their jailers randomly up and leave the planet.  The main focus is on Flynn, a brilliant scientist who was framed for murder and subsequently sent to serve out the rest of his life on the Razor.  Along the way, he teams up with Key (a gang member who attempts to kill him), Maddox (a disgraced Ranger with nothing left to live for), Raelyn (a doctor who made a grave mistake), Zane (a government experiment gone rogue), and Gable (a mad scientist).  Sounds pretty routine for a sci-fi adventure, right?  It is.

The book is comprised of 3 parts totaling 78 relatively short chapters and clocks in at just under 400 pages.  I bring this up because the way the book is laid out makes it feel like a super fast read. Getting through 4 or 5 chapters a day may seem like a lot, but by the time I was done, it was 2 and a half weeks later.  I actually prefer a lot of shorter chapters when I’m reading because it makes that “just one more” urge more acceptable.  But don’t be fooled.  This isn’t a quick read.

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Okay, that’s a little dramatic.  But still.

As far as the story goes, it’s fast paced and has a lot going on.  The plot is interesting, but if you don’t pay attention it’s easy to get lost.  I had to reread some stuff a couple of times.  I’m no scientist, but some of the stuff going on seemed shaky at best.  If you’re willing to trust in the science as explained, it’s a fun story.  From a writing perspective, it’s well paced and engaging.  However, the POV shifts… a lot.  In earlier chapters, the POV shifts are pretty isolated with one character per chapter, but after everyone meets up, things shift back and forth within chapters and it gets a bit muddled.  Sometimes it took me a minute to realize “that thought was Key’s, not Flynn’s,” or whatever.

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It gets confusing.

My main problem with this book is the characters.  I feel nothing for them.  The plot moves so fast that there really isn’t time for character development, but if you watch any sci-fi, you get the gist of who they’re supposed to be.  It’s all pretty generic.  The only one I actually kind of liked is Zane, but even he feels like a cookie cutter character.  He just happens to be the type I gravitate toward.  Then, there is Gable.  I don’t particularly feel like she is necessary.  Everything she did could have been done by one of the others.  It mostly feels like she’s there to even out the number of females vs. males.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the story enough that I’ll check out book 2 when/if it comes out.  But if some major character development doesn’t take place, it’s the kind of story I’ll eventually get bored with.

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Overall, I’d rate it 3 out of 5 stars.  I like it, but it doesn’t impress me.  If you’re into sci-fi and enjoy a fast plot, pick it up.  If you like a better balance of characters and plot, this probably isn’t for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello, hello!  Can you believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving?  Where’d the time go?  Next thing you know, it’ll be Christmas, then a new year.  Time really needs to slow down.  Anyway, since my favorite holiday is just a day away, I thought I would take this opportunity to share five things I’m grateful for this year!

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1. Dad.  I know I don’t say it out loud to him, but I really am thankful to have someone like him in my life.  He has always shown me that just because life doesn’t go the way you expect doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable about it.  You don’t have to let toxic people bring you down.  Sometimes, you need to make changes if you want things to go a certain way.  It’s okay to be blah occasionally, but mostly you need to try to find the happy in things.  But most importantly, he taught me to look in the mirror and take responsibility for my actions, which I try to do.  He also gave me my twisted sense of humor and enables my darkness, so you can blame him for all of that (okay, sometimes I deny all responsibility and blame him, but that’s what dads are for).

2. The people who take the time to check up on me.  You know who you are.  I have been an increasingly crappy friend, especially lately.  I don’t text or message people as much as I should, if at all.  I know that and I’m struggling to break free from the contentedness I find in being a recluse.  But I really do appreciate the messages asking how I am and giving me updates on your lives.  I do stalk most of you on social media, though, which makes me the creepy crappy friend.

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Amateur mistake.  Lurk, don’t like.

3. Seeing my words in print and getting paid for them.  I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen, so I’m thankful to E.R. Bills and Hellbound Books for choosing me to be in their awesome collection alongside other talented Texas writers.  An occasional acceptance really does help to overcome the feels that a long list of rejections brings up.

4. Peppermint chocolates.  After waiting for all things pumpkin spice to start winding down for the year, I get the reward of all things peppermint for a month and a half!  Just had my first Ghirardelli peppermint bark square of the year.  It made me weirdly happy.  It always does.  Judge me all you want, but at least I have goodies to comfort me.

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I might have just gotten lost down the boozy peppermint coffee rabbit hole of Google for a minute there.

5. A dad who’s good with tools.  I didn’t intend to add him twice, but my armrest on my new wheelchair decided to come loose a little while ago and he got everything put securely back together.  If it breaks, he can usually fix it.  That’s something to always be grateful for!

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside Trinity Hall Irish Pub

Howdy, howdy!  As you can probably tell from the title, this is another food review.  Two food related posts in as many weeks???  Yeah, I was surprised too.  It came about as a combination of sadness over my last two food posts (they weren’t very nice and I felt bad about that) and the fact that Dad and I tried out a new place (new to us) on Sunday.  So, why not have two food posts in a row?  Anyway, we went to the Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas.  They’re located in Mockingbird Station across 75 from SMU.  Check out their website (linked above) for an exact address and hours and event calendar.  Now, on to 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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Once again, I didn’t think to take pictures, so I borrowed some from Google.

Accessibility: not bad at all.  Mockingbird station had both valet and parking garages, so that part was pretty easy.  The pub was on the second floor, right around the corner from the elevators, so that’s great.  Inside, it could potentially get cramped, but there were a number of easily reached tables as long as people were willing to scooch a little when needed.  They had two different types of tables that I noticed, square ones and round ones.  The square ones had one of those three or four inch hangy down parts that make for black and blue knees if you don’t notice them and try to pull in.  I noticed.  It’s annoying but not impossible for me to sit at that type of table.  BUT!  The round tables didn’t have that problem, so we moved to one of those.  They were the simple small round top on a central pedestal type.  It worked, so yay!

Service: awesome!  Our server, Jon, wasn’t too sure of me at first, but quickly warmed up once Dad pointed out I could talk for myself.  After that, he made sure to address me as well as Dad even when he was just asking how everything was, which is really rare.  Servers tend to address me when ordering then direct everything else toward Dad, so it was a little weird to glance up and find Jon waiting for an okay from me as well.  Good weird.  And he timed our orders so we had a little time between each course, which was perfect.  We never felt rushed or like we were waiting.  It was a great experience.

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A picture of the Dublin Bay Casserole that I stole from Google.

Appetizers: yummy.  We opted for the steamed mussels which were in a nice broth with carrots and potatoes and celery.  There was soda bread for dipping on the side.  It was delicious.  Though, one of the mussels didn’t open during cooking (which means don’t eat it), so we were sad about that.

Entrees: delicious.  Dad had the Irish stew, which was chunks of leg of lamb, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions in a lovely stock topped with some mashed potatoes.  Soda bread on the side.  It was great.  Dad commented on the amount of and variety of potatoes, then realized it was Irish.  Of course there’s a plethora of potatoes.  I can’t say much.  It took me a minute to understand the amount of seafood on the menu before I remembered Ireland is an island.  We’re not all that bright.  Stop judging us.  But speaking of seafood, I got the Dublin bay casserole.  It was cod, shrimp, scallops, peas, and carrots in a bechamel sauce, surrounded by mashed potatoes.  And, of course, there was soda bread on the side.  The perfect food for a chilly night.

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Stolen from Google.

Dessert: good.  We split the creme brulee.  It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was by no means bad.  It was a little loose, but I used the crackly top as a spoon so all was well.  I’m just happy we skipped the cheesecake after we noticed it was vegan (I’m sorry that I don’t believe in milkless cheese).  But hey!  They also have vegan and gluten free menus, so that was cool.

Booze: good selection.  Dad got a Guinness and I got a black and tan.  But they have a wide selection of beers, ciders, and meads.  They also have Irish coffee with brown sugar, whiskey, and whipped cream which I will have to try next time.

Price: not bad at all.  Even with two beers, our bill was only around $75.  Wonderful food, great service, a nice atmosphere.  It was definitely worth the money.

My rating:
MMMM

P.S. To be fair, I only knocked off that fifth M because the accessibility could be a little better, but that could be better just about anywhere.  If you’re an able-bodied person, this is an MMMMM place.

A Look Inside Crispy ‘N’ Puffy Taquito

Hello, hello!  Welcome to November!  Is everyone looking forward to the holiday season?  I’m looking forward to peppermint EVERYTHING.  Because yes, I’m one of those people.  If you can get excited about all things pumpkin spice, then I can do the same for peppermint.  But I digress.  On Monday, Dad and I tried out a new restaurant in Mesquite called Crispy ‘n’ Puffy Taquito.  It promises “authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist,” so we thought we’d give it a shot.

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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A colorful banner.

Accessibility: fairly standard.  There’s an oddly positioned ramp to get in, but that’s been that way since the building went up.  Spacing between the tables is super tight.  I barely maneuvered around them when they were empty.  If it had been busy, it would have been impossible to get beyond the ones right by the door.

Service: wonderful!  Our waitress was friendly and attentive.  She wasn’t sure about me at first, but once she realized I was capable of ordering for myself, she talked directly to me.  She even came out to hold the door open for us when we arrived.

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I didn’t take any pictures, so here’s one of the menu I found on Google.

Appetizers: not bad.  We ordered the stuffed jalapeños which contain both cheese and chicken.  They were pretty good.  We also had the fried mushrooms.  They were large with a nice crispy crust.  Also pretty good.

Entrees: just no.  I have to go back to the beginning here, which was ordering our drinks.  They advertise a lot of Mexican sodas (Coke, Fanta, etc.), but they were out of them ALL.  Then, when we ordered our appetizers, we found out they also didn’t have any of the avocado sour cream they tout as a must try on their website.  Needless to say, there was a lot of wondering if they even had tacos left.  But they did, so Dad got two beef and two chicken (the only options they have), and I got the nachos.  There was absolutely zero puffiness to Dad’s tacos.  It was just your standard hard shell.  All the reviews we read talked about a flavorful dusting on the shells, but Dad got none of that.  The chicken tasted like it was canned.  The beef was reminiscent of Taco Bueno, only not as… I won’t say good… edible, I suppose.  My nachos had some kind of cheese sauce and the beef and lettuce and tomatoes all topped with shredded cheese.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. The chips tasted fine but had a stale consistency.  Everything was super greasy as well.  It just wasn’t a good experience food-wise.  Also, their menu is super limited.

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The other side of the menu courtesy of Google.

Dessert: unknown.  Yes, you guessed right.  They were out!

Price: not worth it.  It wasn’t too expensive, but you might as well go to Taco Bell or something like that for the same quality at a better price.

My rating:
M

P.S. I thought long and hard about posting this, especially since they have so many good reviews.  I don’t like being a downer when it comes to a new local business struggling to make it.  But it was just that bad.  Maybe we went on a bad day.  Maybe all the reviews on Google and Yelp are right.  If they’re still around in a year or two, maybe we’ll try again.  All I know is that this go ’round sucked.  And first impressions are everything.

Thoughts On TWO GIRLS DOWN

Howdy, howdy!  Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful evening filled with lots of candy (whether you trick or treat or just hide from the doorbell and watch scary movies).  It’s time for another book review.  For this week, I decided to take a look at Louisa Luna’s Two Girls Down.  It’s a mystery/thriller that was released in January by Doubleday.  I read it as a recommendation from some of the ladies in the book club I’m part of.  So, let’s get down to it.

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Decent cover.

Two Girls Down revolves around the disappearance of two girls (surprised yet?), Kylie (10) and Bailey (8).  Alice Vega, a kind of professional child finder, comes all the way across the country at the family’s behest when the police begin to prove useless.  She teams up with ex-cop/current PI, Max “Cap” Caplan.  They both have issues of their own to work through while conducting a search with few leads.  Basically, it’s one of your average mystery scenarios.

Let’s start at the beginning.  We’re in Jamie Brandt’s (the mother’s) head during the first chapter, which was kind of neat.  I was looking forward to seeing her progress through the story and seeing how she dealt with everything.  But nope.  We jump from her to a story that flops back and forth between Vega and Cap.  That would have been fine, but it made the opening chapter feel more like a prologue.  Why did I even bother reading that part?  Yes, it set up the case.  But that was just as easily done throughout the rest of the story.  I just felt kind of robbed that we never got to go back in Jamie’s head.

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Me when I realized we weren’t going back to the initial POV at any point.

The characters were all pretty cool.  Cap was jaded yet optimistic, which was an odd combo, but it worked.  Vega had a lot of eccentricities and some emotional disconnect.  I kind of wondered if she was supposed to be on the autism spectrum, but it wasn’t addressed in the story, so who knows.  Nell (Cap’s daughter) was a little too good to be true.  And the bad people were pretty damn creepy.  Though I will say that a lot of Vega’s characterization made the story feel like the second or third book in a series.  Like I was supposed to understand references to her past cases.  But it’s the first (only?) book, so it was super disconcerting.

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Me throughout the book.

The plot was slow and repetitive, which isn’t as uncommon in mysteries as it should be.  I didn’t particularly understand the bad guy’s partner, but I know people like that exist.  It took a hard turn towards gritty when everything pointed towards pedophilia (not really a spoiler since the possibility is there all along).  My only issue was that the bad guy’s preferred age range seemed to vary a lot.  Pedophiles usually stick to a pretty limited age range, so it made me wonder if something else was going on.  Apparently not.

Ultimately, I had problems with Two Girls Down.  It left me unsatisfied.  I don’t need a happy ending, but the one I got was lukewarm and just kind of there.  Some people loved the book.  I wasn’t one of them.

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Overall, I gave it two stars.  It was okay, but not something I’ll go out of my way to get sequels of, should they come out.  If you like average mysteries, give it a shot.  If you’re more into fast-paced thrillers with something new on every other page, skip this one.

Going With The Flow

Howdy, howdy!  How is October almost over?  Next week is book review time and I have no idea what I’m going to review.  I thought I was more organized than that, but surprise!  I’m not.  I’m also super behind on a lot of my goals for the year.  It has just been really hard to find a balance between writing and life that doesn’t make me sick of either one.  When I hit those points of burnout, it throws off my schedule and everything gets stressful.  So, I thought I would ramble a bit about being organized vs. being flexible.

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Most of the time, I’m in mood number one.

I’m actually a super organized person, even though it doesn’t really look like it.  And by organized, I mean that I verge on the obsessive, especially when it comes to my routines.  I like plans.  I build my writing and slushing (I’m a first reader for PseudoPod) schedule around plans.  In fact, I keep goal lists for the week, month, and year.  Daily goal lists are something I make most days upon getting up.  Knowing what I’m supposed to get done each day eases my anxiety.  It also makes it easier for me to say yes or no to random errands (like when Dad asks if I want to go to the grocery store or Home Depot or out for dinner last minute).  Being organized is great because it even lets me build flexibility into my schedule.

On the other hand, shit happens.  People flake on you.  Allergies attack.  Computers randomly die or the Internet goes out.  Or a million other stupid little things that can’t be controlled happen.  Sometimes, I can foresee that my plans are going to be shot for the day (like when I have a doctor’s appointment that should only take 10 minutes, but I know I’ll be there at least an hour), so I make that a “do whatever” day.  Other times, I get burnt out by my routine and end up procrastinating for weeks.  But usually, life just gets in the way and I have to accept that.  Going with the flow isn’t my strong suit, but I’m trying to get better at it.

616498_1I’m trying to be more flexible, to just go with the flow.  I’ve come to the point where I can acknowledge that I won’t finish all my goals some of the time.  I even push less important things back a week (or month or year).  It’s not a huge step toward being flexible, but I’m making progress.  Building flexibility into my schedules is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being the type who rolls with whatever.  As long as I get my main goals done each day, I think I’ll be fine with the flow.

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Go with the Flow by Amanda Cass.

What about you?  Are you super organized?  Do things messing up your plans freak you out or tick you off?  Or are you the flexible kind who can shrug things off and follow the new path with ease?  Feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!