Cindy Lou’s Last Minute Gift Guide

The stockings are hung, the tree is trimmed, and I’m totally freaking out!  Christmas is almost here and I still have a ton of shopping to do! If you, like me, need some help finding the perfect gift for that “hard to buy for” person on your list, check out Cindy Lou’s handy-dandy gift guide. Books make fabulous gifts. They’re cheap, easy to wrap, and offer hours of entertainment!  E-books are great, but you can’t wrap them up in a pretty little bow. Be sure to search for these titles and more at your local independent bookstore. BookPeople here I come!

Isn’t Cindy Lou the cutest? You should pay her a visit at the former Town Lake Animal Shelter. She’s sweet, adorable and looking for a good home! For more info, go to the Austin Pets Alive website. [UPDATE: This sweet pup just got adopted! But if you’re in the market for a new four-legged friend, check out the available doggies and kitties on the APA! website.]

Hot Guys and Baby Animals by Audrey Khuner and Carolyn Newman

Hot guys and baby animals!!!! Need I say more? Whoever thought of this concept is a freaking genius. My only complaint is that not all of the men are shirtless. But other than that, this book is a win-win for hot guy appreciators and nonprofit animal rescues. That’s right – proceeds from this book go to nonprofits like SPCA. I think it is my civic duty to go out and buy this book for each of my gal pals!


Killer Hair by Ellen Byerrum

This fun little mystery series is chick lit at its finest! I picked up Killer Hair after watching the movie adaptation on Lifetime. As a journalist and wannabe sleuth, I can’t resist mysteries involving snoopy reporters who solve crimes with their hot detective boyfriends. In this series, our fearless protagonist, Lacey Smithsonian (no relation to the museum) reluctantly writes a fashion column for a small daily in Washington D.C. Apparently our nation’s Capital is the home of the helmet hairdo, shoulder pads and boxy power-suits – yikes! In this book (the first installment in the series) she teams up with her two quirky gal pals to find the killer of an up-and-coming celebrity hair stylist. Filled with fashion tips, snappy dialogue, twists and turns, this is a really fun little whodunit!

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

If you’re looking for a book that will give you A LOT to talk about – this one’s for you! Wow – this is one powerful book about abandonment, domestic violence and personal transformation. Rose Mae Lolley is one character I will never forget. Abandoned by her mother and forced to live with an abusive father, she lost her innocence and love for life at a very young age. Caught in a vicious cycle of abuse, Rose marries a psychotic man who beats her to a pulp on a regular basis. When she finally snaps, she grabs a pistol and her dog and makes a run for it. When her survival instinct kicks into gear, she ditches her identity as the subservient wife and develops an ass-kicking, gun-toting alternate personality. I never really understood why women stay with their violent husbands until I read this book, which really delves into the psyche of abused women.

The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life by Kathy L. Patrick

This book makes a great gift for anyone who loves to read. While shopping at a super-cute old-timey drug store/soda fountain in Jefferson, I found this book sandwiched between racks of feather boas and floppy hats. The book cover depicting a gaggle of fun-loving women decked out in tiaras and leopard-print ensembles seemed to be calling my name. Filled with inspiring quotes, recommended reading lists and stories of family and friendship, this book has a little something for everyone. A lot of the essays  really struck a chord with me, especially the chapter about how Kathy (who actually avoided reading as a kid) found her passion for all things literary after her teacher recommended that she read “Honestly, Katie John.” Just that little bit of encouragement spurred her love of reading and gave her the confidence to write. On a personal note, this really reminded me of when a 9th grade teacher wrote a footnote in one of my essays that said, “You’re a talented writer. You should pursue this.” Mr. Demaro, wherever you are, THANK YOU!

Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

This book makes a great gift for anyone on your list who likes to laugh! You don’t even have to be a dog lover (though I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be!) to get hours of entertainment out of this collection of funny and inspiring essays.  From dealing with a terrible tween and aging parents to finding inspiration at an American Idol concert, this talented author expertly combines humor with some pretty weighty issues. Reading this book is like visiting with your best gal pal. I actually had to force myself to slow down and savor it because I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new dog-loving friend. The fact that she’s a Murder She Wrote Fan is just the icing on the cake!

The Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series by Carolyn Haines

This mystery series is sure to please any gal – Southern or not – who enjoys a good atmospheric mystery set in the Deep South. The leading lady, Sarah Booth Delaney is one of my favorite protagonists, which says a lot because I’m hooked on several mystery series. She’s smart, sassy and not afraid to risk life and limb to save her friends from fiendish murderers. How I wish I could hang out with Sarah Booth and her bestie, Tinkie, on a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking mint juleps on the porch of her beloved plantation home. Oh and did I mention that in between writing and teaching, this wonderful author rescues animals? She’s truly fabulous and anyone who reads her books will agree!

Paranormal State by Ryan Buell

Okay, okay I know this is not chick lit, but I have to include it! I’m a total sucker for ghost-hunting shows – even the ones that I know are fake! Although I have to admit that I mainly watch Ghost Adventures because Zach Bagans is a hottie. But out of all of them, Paranormal State is the spookiest. Ryan Buell genuinely wants to help people rid their houses of malevolent spirits – and he’s not afraid to confront even the most demonic entities. I’ve always wondered what happens behind the scenes, and this book really fills in the blanks. You learn more about the clients (the good and the bad) and the eerie encounters that were edited out of the 30-minute episodes. I made the mistake of reading this book while my hubby was out of town and had to sleep with all the lights on! If you’re looking for a good scare, check this one out.

Gizzy’s Pick: Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

At first, Gizzy wasn’t too thrilled about me reading a bad-dog book, but when I told him the author’s adorable bat-eared Chihuahua only makes a couple of appearances in the book, he decided to let this one slide. So why is this book titled “Another Bad Dog Book,” you ask? Well, although the collection of personal essays is not centered around a mischievous mutt, it was inspired by the author’s love for her scruffy little rescue dog, Eli.

It all began one fateful day at the bookstore when Joni stumbled upon a slew of bestselling memoirs about bad dogs. She realized she, too, could land on the bestseller list by publishing her own “bad dog” story.

As I sat in the bookstore’s café thinking about my dog and how much more fascinating he was than most celebrities, an idea started to take shape. I pushed aside the gossip magazines I had been skimming, retrieved a notepad from my purse and began to write.”

And so begins “Another Bad Dog Book,” a title that hits home with me –and judging from my fellow bloggers’ websites – a lot of other bookworms who share a passion for four-legged cuddle mongers and good writing.

From the pains of raising a surly tween, to coping with the realities of midlife, to dealing with eccentric parents, this book is filled with an array of funny and outrageously honest stories about life, love and neurotic behavior.

Here’s a taste of just a few of my favorite chapters:

The Boy of Summer In this essay, Joni journeys back in time to the summer of her high school junior year when she spent her days at the pool waiting for a sighting of her big-time crush, Dale Zug.  Lean and easy-going in his 501 jeans, he had the swagger of a cowboy and the brooding good looks of James Dean. Decades later, she finds him on Facebook and discovers that he’s more Jeff Foxworthy than James Dean.  A word to the wise, if you don’t want to shatter the illusions of your high school crush,  don’t “friend” him on Facebook!

Rest Home: As a daddy’s girl – and a big-time Murder She Wrote fan – this chapter really struck a cord with me.  While hanging out with her father in his private room at Garden Spot,  Joni observes all of the cheerful aspects of rest home life, like watching uninterrupted episodes of Murder She Wrote, taking a stroll down the cheerful halls adorned with colorful artwork, and letting others worry about cooking and cleaning. Although this chapter offers a humorous look at nursing homes,  Joni also writes about her love for her father, who after a massive stroke, drifts in and out of lucidity. She closes the chapter with a touching father-daughter moment when her father drifted back into his old self and reminded her of the father he used to be. Life is pretty fragile, and this chapter helped me realize that things cannot be left unsaid.

But Enough About Me:  In my line of work, I sometimes have to endure networking mixers. Aside from public speaking, there’s nothing I dread more than struggling to make small talk with complete strangers while awkwardly eating rubbery banquet food. My palms get sweaty just thinking about it! In this chapter, Joni struggles to strike up a conversation with two disinterested old bitties at a luncheon for women of the arts. Desperate to capture their attention, Joni launches into a long monologue about her work as an author and educator. While droning on and on about her book projects, writing workshops, and – eek! –sexual dysfunction,  she realizes that she can’t stop talking.  Since I have had a similar inner discussion with myself while inadvertently cornering a helpless victim at an obligatory social mixer, this part really had me in stitches.

“I have been in the position Marion finds herself in now, held hostage by the nonstop talker. First, you are transfixed by the torrent of words, the cluelessness, the solipsism of the speaker. Then you begin to attend to small, previously overlooked details: the number of times she blinks per minute, the pull of her earrings on her earlobes…You continue to feign attention, but your mind wanders: Do my bottom teeth show when I talk?

While reading this chapter, I laughed so hard, I began snorting in an unladylike fashion, which was rather awkward while sitting between two strangers on a plane.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every chapter in this book.  Joni has a knack for turning random situations  – like sitting in the nosebleeds at an American Idol concert – into hilarious and meaningful life lessons. After reading this book, I felt like I just spent a relaxing evening drinking margaritas with a best girlfriend.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Get it, read it, share it!

This book is scheduled  to be released on Oct. 11.  If you want to know more about this talented writer, check out her super cute website.

In My Mailbox

I don’t mean to brag, but my blog is pretty awesome. If you need more proof of my awesomeness, check out the award below. That’s right, I’m a shameless self-promoter and proud! Now that authors are taking notice of the wonderous glory that is Chick Lit Cafe, they are sending me review copies of their books. Impressed? You should be!

Now that I have sufficiently tooted my horn in the most obnoxious way possible, I would like to shine the spotlight on two books that recently arrived in my mailbox. Check ’em out!

Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

From Goodreads: In this collection of twenty-eight essays, Joni B. Cole reveals a mastery at mingling low moments with high comedy; and social awkwardness with social observation. At once insecure and narcissistic, loving and wanting to be loved, Cole reveals (and revels in) what it means to be human, in a way that will make readers laugh and think at the same time. The title essay in this collection was inspired when the writer went to the bookstore and noticed all the bestselling books about adorably naughty dogs. At first resentful of these other authors’ success, she eventually realized she had her own “bad dog” story to exploit, in the form of her adorable, nine-pound dog, Eli, who won’t be contained by invisible fencing, and won’t let anyone pet the family cat in peace. Yet, from this huffish beginning evolved a sincerely heartwarming and hilarious story about love, longing, and the adventure of midlife. The collection includes “Strangers on a Train,” nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize

Under Attack by Hannah Jayne

From Goodreads: Sophie Lawson is a human immune to magic, which comes in handy for helping paranormal beings transition into everyday life. But fallen angel Alex Grace and his search for the Vessel of Souls is one curse she never saw coming. Suddenly an unexplainable string of killings and destruction has even San Francisco’s demons fearing for their immortal lives. And Sophie isn’t about to trust Alex’s all-too-vulnerable charm or his secret agenda. Now their hunt is revealing dangerous secrets about Sophie’s past, and a malevolent power hellishly close to turning one irreverent human into the ultimate supernatural weapon. . .