March Self Portrait: Woodland Fairy

I’ve made a goal in 2023 to do a self-portrait each month to experiment with styles and settings, in addition to learning more about being on the flip side of the camera. For this month, I’d had an idea rattling around my head based on a location I frequently pass on the way to and from the animal shelter that I foster through. There’s a park nearby that expanded its walkways a couple years ago, and where it now ends, there are these tall, reedy stalks. I thought it would be awesome to stand behind some of those and shoot through them, to have my face bisected by reeds, as if I were hiding but not very well. It put me in mind of a childlike innocence, and coupled with my love of fantasy and the ethereal, this turned into a woodland fairy or sprite idea.

The outfit was simple: a ruffled dress that I’d gotten from target, a starry green tulle cloak with a long train, and shiny green leggings to match. I got my hair cut this last weekend and it lent itself to the childlike vibe, especially once I added freckles and bold colors in makeup. Green eyeshadows to match my outfit, bright red lips to contrast. Because I would be walking half a mile to the shoot location and back again, I decided to just wear walking shoes and not do full-body/feet-inclusive shots. I also took minimal gear, just my tripod and a single lens that I wanted to shoot all the photos with.

Ironically, the original idea – of shooting through those reeds – didn’t end up working out. The reeds were too stiff to get behind and kept breaking, and there were thorny vines going up between them that kept ripping at my cloak. I got a few pictures in that area that came out okay, but the light was mostly wrong, and the setting was too close, and there was either too much texture or not enough. I wasn’t particularly happy about how the photos were coming out, so after I finished in that area, I moved to an open field nearby.

The end of the newly-built walkway in that park is a lollipop loop, so that bikers can just circle back around without having to stop and maneuver their bikes manually. Most of the inner part of the loop was grass and wildflowers, so I took a few standing photos before deciding to get on the ground.

Y’all. I hate grass. Absolutely despise grass. Even seeing photos of someone standing barefoot in grass makes me cringe. I don’t want any part of my skin to touch grass or grass-like plants. However, I had this nice, big tulle cloak, and I decided to use that as a blanket of sorts. And that’s how I came to be taking closeup portrait shots on the ground, which frankly turned out far better than almost all the other photos in the shoot! I love the colors, the textures, the lighting. They captured that combination of childlike innocence with mischievous intent that I originally intended.

So that’s March in the books! Not sure yet what I’m doing in April but I do have some new costume pieces coming to me, so maybe I’ll get to have a bit of fun with those. I’m also in the process of creating a full online presence dedicated specifically to portrait photography, including Insta and TikTok accounts (both @gossamer.studios) and a website to come. Hopefully by next month, I can include some links out to that!

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Sunday Coffee – StoryGraph

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to get away from Amazon purchases whenever I can. But I also realize there are other places where Amazon has a big grip on the commercial market, namely in Audible and GoodReads. I have yet to figure out what to do about Audible – there isn’t a comparable market elsewhere yet (though I’m told Spotify is trying to get there). And this year, I began using StoryGraph alongside GoodReads to see if it was a viable option to switch.

Importing my books from GR to SG was a fairly easy process. I had to make a few tweaks afterwards, but for the most part, everything appeared correct. I wasn’t worried about stats for former years, as I never tracked my stats through GR – I mostly used it for shelving purposes, to track books read in which year, in which genre, etc. StoryGraph seems to be more focused on stats, and I’ve found that I’m actually quite excited by some of that functionality. SG (both online and in app) is also far quicker to use, without the enormous lag times and failure rate of the GR app and website. I find that I’m a little more accurate about which edition I have for SG, since that’s what it uses for stats, whereas on GR, I don’t care as long as the shelves and dates read are accurate.

I haven’t fully switched over to SG yet, though, because I’ve struggled with one specific thing. Y’all are going to laugh at me, because I came to draft this post with the intent to ask if I was just stupid and couldn’t find a certain function on SG, or if SG didn’t have it. Then while I was typing up the sentence about importing from GR, I realized I had a memory of functionality related to what I hadn’t been able to find for the last two months. So I went to look again…and I found it. So yeah. Apparently I am just stupid.

Not trying to be cryptic. The thing that’s most important to me in a book database is being able to look back at the books on particular shelves/tags. I want to be able to click on my “translation” label and see what I’ve read in translation. I want to click on my 2022 shelf and see everything I read in 2022. SG doesn’t have the ability to create exclusive shelves like GR, so my “tbr future” shelf and “to investigate” list all get lumped into the TBR pile, and I’ve just labeled them as “tbr future” or “to investigate.” I want to be able to see each of those lists as well. However, for months, all I’ve been able to find is my TBR pile. I couldn’t even see a list of books I’d read this year so far. That was driving me insane. But again, it turns out that I just hadn’t looked in the right place, and while drafting this post, I found it. I can look at all my Read books, or all my books under any particular label. I can search within those labels. All the functionality is there, it’s just in a place I hadn’t looked.

This makes me happy. I’ll be honest – when I suddenly had a couple dozen books to add to my investigate list after those visits to Nowhere Bookshop, I didn’t bother to add them to GR. GR takes forever to locate and add books. The code for their website and app desperately needs to be updated and streamlined, and I didn’t want to spend half an hour adding books there when it took all of 5 mins to do on SG. I’m still tracking books that I’m reading in both places atm – the goal was to do both for a year and then decide which to abandon – but I’m leaning toward giving up GR sooner than later. Especially now that I discovered (today…) the last piece of the puzzle I couldn’t figure out.

Is anyone else out on StoryGraph? I’m pookasluagh out there, just like everywhere else. At present, I haven’t added people and I don’t use any of the social aspects, but that was only because this was originally an experiment, and I’m pretty sure that I’m a convert at this point.

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Fosters: Expect the Unexpected

On Tuesday, we said goodbye to Huey, Dewey, and Louie. They’d been with us for exactly four weeks, since Valentine’s Day. In that time, they went from uncoordinated wrestlers with triangle tails to big “fierce” playful boys who loved to cuddle but remained essentially rough-housers. We never did learn to tell Dewey and Louie apart except by their collars, they looked so identical, and the foster office had to ask us which was which by collar-color when we brought them in. Ha!

(Huey, Dewey, Louie)

So that was on Tuesday. Wednesday, we finished cleaning out the foster room, but still needed to sanitize and rearrange. Kitten season is only beginning and there haven’t been a lot of kittens on the foster-needed list, so J and I figured we’d get to all the deep cleaning in that room over the weekend. But then I got a call yesterday morning.

One of the foster coordinators had been caring for a litter of bottle babies for about three weeks. They were now healthy and growing, and likely about four weeks old. They still needed the bottle, but it was 4-5 hours between feedings and they could go 7-8 hours overnight. She asked if we could take in this litter of four, and I agreed.

Meet (from left to right) Brussels Sprout, Okra, Broccoli, and Green Bean. As usual, I can take no credit/blame for the names, heh. Sprout and Broccoli (the brown tabbies) are both girls, while Okra and Bean are boys. Okra is a true runt, much smaller than his siblings and underweight for his age, and he has this weird peach-fuzz hair with wrinkly skin that makes him look part sphinx cat. We’re not sure if this is just how he is, or if it’s due to how sick he was a few weeks back when the litter arrived at the shelter.

In any case, these four babies are with us for at least the next four weeks, potentially longer if it takes longer for them to make the two-pound mark. Usually, they don’t split up litters if some make weight and the others don’t. Because these four have been bottle fed since early days, they’re extremely social, though they’re also pretty timid (likely because they’ve spent a lot of time at the shelter as their foster mom works). Over the next month or more, we plan to help them grow into the sweetest, cuddliest, most social babies ever!

Right now, they’re confined to a playpen because they’re so little. I did get a big chunk of the room sanitized before they came home, and after J got home from work Thursday night, he rearranged the furniture so we could sanitize the floor in those sections. Keeping a foster room clean and safe for multiple litters is a Process! But worth it, because by taking home this litter, we free up the shelter to accept more kitties for rescue, just as kitten season is starting to ramp up. Plus it means we get to snuggle a lot of kittens, and that’s some instant serotonin right there!

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WW – Bastrop Birthday Bash

This past Saturday, a group of friends and I drove up to Bastrop for a belated birthday trip. I’d never been to Bastrop State Park before, and I’d learned that there was an indie bookstore in Bastrop as well, so that’s what I wanted to do with friends for my birthday.

Things I did not anticipate: Bastrop was a much larger city than I expected. I thought I’d be going through some mostly rural podunk town of 2-3k people, with a single main street where we could get lunch and visit the bookshop. No. It’s a city of 10k folks that’s near enough to Austin that its part of Austin’s metro area. It has several major highways going through it, though the bookstore was indeed on the old main street. The other thing I didn’t anticipate was that it would be over 90 degrees with bright, intense sun on that Saturday. The cold front that was supposed to make the day beautiful got delayed by a few days. Despite sunscreen and parasols, there was a lot of sunburn going on! Didn’t help that there was almost no shade at the park. Bastrop State Park had a major fire about a decade ago, so much of its tree growth died out and is still regrowing.

My plan for the park was to hike (walk) one of the small loops for maybe 1-1.5 miles on mostly-flat paths. I also wanted to take a few photos, planned and impromptu, while along the route. That part all went to plan. Also, I worked up the courage to ask several strangers if I could get photos of them, which honestly turned out to be the most exciting part of the day. It was completely nerve-racking and I expected folks to be annoyed, but they all seemed surprised and delighted that someone wanted to take their photos. There were two women in ren-faire dresses with hiking boots, another another woman with close-shaved blue hair and almost full-body tattoos. All the shots came out gorgeous, especially one in particularly of the third woman.

After our walk and pics, we got to have FunDelivered excitement. If you haven’t heard of this, look it up, it’s amazing! You can buy unclaimed packages through FunDelivered, and have no idea what will be inside. The fun is in the experience of opening and seeing what you ended up with, and trading stuff around if you’d like. It’s a big trend on Tiktok right now and I thought it looked awesome, so Jason and I ordered a box a few weeks back. We opened a few packages, and I had the rest left for this day in Bastrop. Gifts ranged from a pair of (off-brand) running shoes to a spool of fishing line. My favorite – and so I’m really glad I’m the one who opened it – was a “Relaxolotl” pocket hoodie that was just my size!

The four of us had lunch at a bizarre (but delicious) Lebanese-Italian combo restaurant, and then Stephanie had to return home while the rest of us drove over to the bookstore. The Painted Porch Bookshop was a lot smaller than I expected with a limited selection – a lot more like I’ve seen in indie bookshops over the years. (I’ve grown spoiled with Nowhere in the last two weeks, heh.) But they also had some really fun items, and I did buy a few things, including a Furbi pin that says “Take me back to the 90’s” ha! Across the street from the bookshop was a bakery/cafe, so we decided to get some pie before making the two-hour drive back to San Antonio.

It was a lovely day. Did I end up burnt to a crisp? Yeah, pretty much. Was it worth it? Definitely.

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American Predator, by Maureen Callahan (audio)

Subtitle: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

Israel Keyes was a serial killer active all across the US during the 2000s, before he was caught in early 2012. He was meticulous and calculating, and so far under the radar that no one connected the crimes he committed to a single person, much less to him, until after his capture. The official description of this book goes much more into detail about Keyes’ methodology – his travels, his kill-kits, the way he stalked his randomized victims – but I’m just going to say this: This book is an incomplete look at a man about whom so much but so little is known, and some speculation of the damage he might have left in his wake.

I’m iffy about true crime. I love shows like Unsolved Mysteries, that focus on trying to find answers and get resolution for folks. True crime that showcases forensics, search methodology, and how law enforcement found and captured the perpetrator is far better in my mind than true crime that glorifies the crime or the criminal. I don’t get the romance of serial killers, but I am interested in the psychological aspects of crime, mostly because I’m interested in psychology/sociology generally. I’m also very turned off by exploitative true crime. Respect for victims and their families is of utmost importance, which is why I tend to gravitate toward either historical true crime or, again, shows like Unsolved Mysteries, where families are asking for help. Point is, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book when I picked it up. The subtitle indicated that it was more about the search than the crimes.

The first portion of this book is about Keyes’ last victim, who eventually led to his capture. At this point, it mostly highlighted the utter ineptitude of Anchorage law enforcement. Eventually, Keyes was caught in Texas and transported back to Alaska, where interrogations began. This continued to highlight both ineptitude and the beginnings of egotism and corruption throughout both the police and legal system. At this point, the book veered off in three directions: Keyes’ life history (especially childhood), a couple crimes that Keyes confessed to in interviews with police, and a bunch of suspected crimes that he didn’t confess to. Almost all of the latter 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the book were based on Keyes’ interviews over the months between his capture and suicide.

I will say this – the book didn’t glorify or romanticize Keyes. However, because so little information about his crimes has ever been confirmed, the book necessarily had to focus on Keyes himself. So we hear a lot about his horrible childhood, his early sociopathic tendencies, his struggles with religion and sexuality, etc etc etc. There was so much internal politicking in the law enforcement offices that the interviews with Keyes were largely bungled and incompetent after the early days, when Keyes readily confessed to another crime – the only other one that can be almost-definitively tied back to him. Everything else in the book is repetitive speculation combined with the posturing of inept cops/lawyers.

In the end, I’m not sure I really understood the point of the book. Yeah, it’s suspected that Keyes was this serial killer tied to about a dozen bodies, but literally only one was confirmed, with two others highly probable. The rest is speculation, some solid, some very farfetched. And in the absence of any concrete information, this is just a story about a fucked up guy who did a fucked up thing and then claimed that he did far more than he would actually admit. Mixed with a story about how law enforcement ranged from inept to corrupt. And all of that is just as easily, and more quickly, obtained through a read of Keyes’ Wikipedia page.

Performance: This book was narrated by Amy Landon, who did an excellent job. Honestly, I think her performance kept me more interested in the book than I would have been otherwise.

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Sunday Coffee – A Dangerous Place

When my family moved to Boston in 2014, we had no idea that it would only stick for a year and we’d be back in San Antonio the next summer. At the time, I removed myself from all of my San Antonio things, like library hold lists, in preparation to fully integrate in Boston. One of the things I removed was my Wowbrary feeds for the library system in SA, because I didn’t need to know what books they were acquiring in San Antonio if I lived in Boston. The library system up north didn’t have a Wowbrary feed system, so I couldn’t subscribe to it. It took until a visit to SA in December that year to realize the full impact of this combination of factors.

While browsing around a bookstore during my visit, I noticed so many books I’d never heard of before. Somehow in a few short months, I’d gone from being fairly up to date in the book market world (in genres I followed) to knowing just about nothing. Book blogging was already mostly dormant by late 2014, so I no longer heard about new-to-me books through that avenue, and I hadn’t realized just how much Wowbrary acquisitions were keeping me up to date with new releases. At that point, even though I didn’t live in SA, I re-subscribed to my Wowbrary feeds purely for the book knowledge. I’ve never since unsubscribed, even when I went to live in Wisconsin for a year (not knowing, again, that it would only been a year).

A few years back, either the Wowbrary feed, or the way my feedreader interprets the feed, changed. It used to be a photo of the book with title, author, and the first few sentences of the book blurb. Now, the photo is gone. You don’t realize just how much you rely on visual cues in marketing until they’re no longer available! I still subscribe to the Wowbrary feeds, but now I’m basically skimming title and author, and not learning anything about the book. You need some indicator of what to look at, because reading a wall of text about 200+ books every week is just too much. I miss those visual cues, and clearly I miss a lot of what’s coming out in the book world, if the last few weeks have been any indicator.

***Nowhere Bookshop has entered the chat.***

We’ve had one indie bookshop in SA for years, and honestly, it was the stuffiest, least-stocked, snobbiest shop I’d ever been to. They mostly stocked Texas-based nonfiction, with a single shelf or two dedicated to **cue sarcasm** more popular fiction for the lowbrow folks who might want something crass like that. I found out last fall that a new indie bookshop had opened (in 2021 – I only heard about it last fall), but it wasn’t until the last weekend in February that I finally made the trip to check it out. Unlike the other place, it was a booknerd’s dream. Or nightmare, perhaps, as it will add dozens if not hundreds of books to your TBR pile and possibly steal more than you have in your wallet. Ha! The shop is incredible, and the few times I’ve been down there now, I’ve come to realize the exact same thing I realized back in December 2014: I’m so very far out of it when it comes to knowing what’s new in the book world.

Y’all. I have lived by the creed of not buying books that I haven’t read for well over a decade now. That’s what the library is for! But Nowhere Bookshop is dangerous. The first time I went there, I ended up buying three books, including one chosen purely from descriptors, not even knowing the title or genre or market age. (Plus stickers, a pin, and a mug, but let’s not dwell on my dwindling monetary reserves, okay?) Additionally, I added three books to my investigate list, to check out from the library. A few days later, their Insta feed released the names and descriptions for the several dozen Blind Date books they had for February, and from that list, I added nine more books to my TBR/investigate pile. Then I went out there again, and ended up coming home with three more books, two that I bought and one that was a gift, plus two more virtual TBR/investigate books. (And a Golden Girls magnet for my dishwasher. No judgement, ha!)

In less than a week, Nowhere Bookshop added 20 books to my TBR pile. And that was me being very, very cautious and controlled about the virtual portion (taking pics of books to check out). It takes me back to my early years of book blogging, where I just started acquiring physical and virtual TBR piles until the total number was teetering near 400 and I started to panic. Literally, I’ve worked to keep my TBR pile under 30 since spring 2011, when I finally culled that 400 down to zero. Under 30, including future releases…and I added 20 more books to it in under a week. Oh boy. Like I said, this shop is DANGEROUS.

However, like in those early days of book blogging, I don’t feel pressured by these books or those lists. I’m looking at this pile of books to read and I feel excited like I haven’t felt in a long time. Eventually, I’m sure part of me will raise the white flag and say stop, please, I can’t take anymore. I’ll order dozens of books from the library and use that to cull the list to a more manageable level. At the same time, ever since Wowbrary eliminated the photo-portion, my TBR has been rather meagre, and other than future-releases, often kinda uninspiring. I think that’s why I’ve had such terrible reading slumps for the last few years. Now, I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but at least I have more selection in what I consume. Dangerous or not, I see myself spending a lot of time in the future at Nowhere.

(Though maybe I should space those visits out, for my wallet if nothing else. Heh.)

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The Spite House, by Johnny Compton

Eric and his two daughters are on the run. From what? We don’t know. All we know is that they need safety and off-the-books money, and they think they’ve found that by applying to become caretakers of a supposedly-haunted house in the Texas hill country. The eccentric old lady employing Eric for this task is holding back crucial information, though, and combined with the secrets Eric’s family are keeping, the house might be more dangerous than any of them realize.

On paper, this book seemed to be everything I could want in a book: a gothic supernatural thriller about a haunted house, laced with deeper thematic elements. Unfortunately, the description was a bit off the mark. I mean, yeah, it was a supernatural book about a haunted house with deeper themes, but the atmospheric tone that really makes a good gothic tale was completely missing, and the book was far more literary than thriller. The literary pace and writing kept it from creeping into true horror, despite horrific things happening.

There was just something off about the book. It seemed to be written out of order, because we would get names or (fictional) historical references casually mentioned before the person mentioning them had learned about them. Some of the past mysteries – like why the spite house was built, and what Eric’s family was running from – were dragged out way too long. There’s a fine line between teasing readers and annoying them, and for me at least, this crossed that line. Finally, about 150 pages in, the book started to pick up the pace. The story got really interesting, the supernatural bits started to really show how crazy they were, and the writing tightened and streamlined. Unfortunately, past the climax, the story just kind of dwindled into an ambiguous disappointment with no real answers or conclusions.

Looking back, it felt to me like the author had three sources of focus and couldn’t decide which was the most important – Eric’s narrative, Eunice’s family curse, and the spite house’s history. The book started with Eric, and even though it technically ended with him, it really ended with the house. I’m not sure if that was intentional – a literary metaphor for the house’s all-consuming hunger – but if it was, the metaphor was too subtle. Instead, the book felt like it veered off course and didn’t really have any answers, so it gave a half-hearted semi-explanation that let the reader fill in their own conclusions. With no building blocks on which to build those conclusions.

I appreciate ambiguity and metaphor in literature and classics, and I love when genre fiction brings in more literary elements to give depth to a story. What I’m less appreciative of is a book that waffles between literary and genre, or one that uses genre elements primarily as a marketing tool for a book that may get passed over otherwise. Others may feel differently, and enjoy the literary feel to this, a refreshing take on horror not so bogged down in genre tropes. Every reader has different viewpoints. I’m just sad this one didn’t work for me.

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A Bloggers’ Night Out

It’s been almost six years since I last got to meet up with a blogger friend. I mean, to be fair, I’ve hardly traveled at all since that meetup in autumn 2018. There was a trip to Wisconsin in the summer of 2020, but that was to to a rural area to stay with my in-laws and avoid the first big flare-up of the pandemic in San Antonio. Then there was Jason’s and my roadtrip through Texas and New Mexico in Sept/Oct 2021. But that’s it, that’s all the travel beyond day-trips to nearby cities and parks, that I’ve done in the last 5.5 years. The pandemic also prevented a lot of other folks from traveling for a few years. So it’s no wonder it’s been so long!

Obviously, I was delighted when Jeanne from Necromany Never Pays wrote to tell me she was heading to San Antonio for a vacation with a few friends. We planned an evening to have dinner and drinks, and just hang out for a bit. Jason and I took a Lyft downtown to the restaurant on the Riverwalk, and like it is with so many bloggers, it was as if we’d been IRL friends forever. No awkwardness, no stilted conversation, just a lot of laughter and storytelling and comfortable friendliness. This is one of my favorite things about the book blogging world!

(maybe one day I’ll get better at taking selfies…ha!)

I can’t remember exactly when Jeanne and I met. I’d guess sometime in 2009, if not late 2008, so very early in my blog days. We almost always have exact opposite tastes in books (and weather, for that matter, ha!), with just a small cross-section of books that hit us the same. And I mean opposite – we can practically use each other’s dislike-list as a TBR pile! It has made for some fun discussions over the years. It also highlights just how diverse the book world can range in terms of our preferences, and yet how often our temperaments complement each other.

The entire evening was delightful. Jeanne’s friends were as fab as she is, and just as easy to talk to. I got some really fun photos of the three of them outside the restaurant, but didn’t ask permission to post them online, so I won’t. I do wish we’d managed to get a picture of our whole table, but the restaurant was busy and our waiter had already given us so much attention, and the way things were set up, it would’ve been impossible to selfie all five of us. Oh well! [On another note, shout out to the restaurant, Boudro’s, for their care and attention, especially to food allergies!! It was not a restaurant I would have chosen on my own, but I would definitely go back. Top tier service and very delicious food and drinks.]

Once it was time for us to say goodnight, Jason and I walked up from downtown to the Pearl district, staying along the river. What I expected to be a mile, maybe 1.25 miles, was actually 2.5 miles, heh, but it was a nice walk. The weather was perfect, cooling as the sun died away, with far less humidity than I expected being next to slow-flowing water. It was dark by the time we reached the Pearl and got our next Lyft home.

We couldn’t have asked for a better night. I’m so happy Jeanne reached out!

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Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I don’t usually buy books that I haven’t already read except under very specific circumstances (like knowing the author and their books very well). I’ve made an exception to that rule a few times over the last three years for Book of the Month, but for the most part, buying unknown books is strictly a nope. That’s what libraries are for! That’s also what makes this particularly book unusual.

Not only was this an unknown-to-me novel, it was an unknown novel, period. This was a Blind Date With a Book selection at Nowhere Bookshop, and the only descriptors I had was in the following list: fish out of water; dangerous debutants; uncovered secrets; paternity search; southern charm. I haven’t included a description of the book in this review because that list of descriptors already sums the book up perfectly.

I’ll admit, I was surprised and a little concerned when I opened the wrapping on my Blind Date. Little White Lies is WAY outside my comfort zone. From the list, I knew it wouldn’t be exactly my typical book, but my impression from the cover and book jacket wasn’t the best. Of course, I knew when I chose it blindly that there was always the possibility that my money would be going to waste, that I would read a few pages and cull. But hey, you have to give it a chance, right?

And it turned out that this book is exactly what I needed! I was hooked immediately and sped through all almost-400 pages in two days. It was silly, and a bit unrealistic, and especially thick on the bless-your-heart stereotypes, and I loved every page of it. You can’t ask for a better experience than that. Someone at Nowhere has some good picking prowess!

While this book is mostly standalone, there are a few little hints and fallouts that need to be wrapped up. The sequel is called Deadly Little Scandals, and it looks to be the only follow-up. I will happily grab that one from the library and read it in the near future. Hopefully it lives up to the first!

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Sunday Coffee – Birthday Stuff

This year’s birthday had the potential to be a rough one. Not a particularly significant birthday; fell smack in the middle of the week during a week when Jason couldn’t take off because his team was up against a deadline; and my first birthday with none of my kids home. So I was feeling particularly vulnerable as the day approached, and Jason decided to spread my birthday throughout the week.

It started Saturday morning, with a trip to Nowhere Bookshop. Nowhere is a local indie bookshop founded by author Jenny Lawson. I’d been told I needed to go there for ages, but hadn’t managed to make it there yet. So that’s what we did Saturday morning, and I fell absolutely in love with this bookstore. We have one other indie bookstore in San Antonio, but it’s horrible. I’ve tried to go there a few times over the last couple decades and it never gets any better. Nowhere was brilliant. Of course, I overspent, coming home with 1) three books, including an unknown blind-date-with-a-book book; 2) a pin for my hiking bag; 3) more stickers than I should have brought home; 4) several book recommendations to check out from my library; and 5) the above-pictured coffee mug. I can already tell this is a place I want to hang out often. It will likely be detrimental to my wallet and my longstanding refusal to buy books that I haven’t yet read. Heh.

On Sunday, Jason and I went to the only place in town that has duckpin bowling. This is an activity that seems to be cursed for me. I tried to go with a group of friends in January, but right as we arrived, they were shutting down all the lanes for not properly responding. Last Sunday, the facility was super crowded and loud, and the line was very long. Also, it would have been almost $50 for us to play for an hour, whereas it would only be $10 if we played during certain hours M-Th. So we decided to come back on my birthday proper…only to have a large corporate group rent out the entire place not long before we arrived. Sigh. So still no duckpin bowling for me!

The plan on Wednesday, other than the bowling that didn’t happen, was very low key. In the morning, I wanted to go to Mildfire to get my favorite of their speciality drinks, a mocha java shake. I ended up going later during the morning than planned due to Stuff, and then when I got there, their blender was broken and I had to get a regular drink. Boo. At least I had a great book to sit with, and I treated myself to a scone as well. I’ll just have to go back next week and try for a belated birthday shake!

Not much else happened on the day-of. After bowling got taken off the table, Jason and I stopped by the Sanctuary because I had a gift card, but I didn’t find anything I loved enough to buy this time around. We ended up going out to eat at one of our local favorites, Salsalitos, because I wanted comfort food. Jason had spread out my gifts over several days, so I opened the last one, which was the 50mm portrait lens I’d been lusting after for the last six months! (Photo of Angus was my first photo with the new lens.) And one of my three kiddos remembered to say happy birthday. Ha!

Friday, I hung out with some friends for brunch and books, which was delightful. Yesterday, I got to open my final incoming gift. At lunch today, Jason and I will have my birthday meal (laban ummo) and dessert (chocolate & mocha bavarois), and tonight, we’re meeting up with an old friend. (That last part has nothing to do with birthdays, but it’s serendipitous all the same!) After that, the celebrations are over, at least until next weekend, when there’s going to be a belated birthday bash with a group of my girlfriends that involves many of my favorite things. Def looking forward to that adventure!

So it was a vulnerable week, but also one in which I had so many lovely folks around me to bolster and cheer me. It ended up being really great, even if nothing went to plan.

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