Step Away from the Mall and Hit Up Your Local Bookstore!

Sheeba approves this message. This sweet girl is up for adoption! Visit her website at Austin Pets Alive.
Sheeba approves this message. This sweet girl is up for adoption! Visit her website at Austin Pets Alive.

Spoiler Alert! If you’re a member of my family, stop reading this! Lucky for me, none of my family members habitually frequent my blog, so I should be in the clear.

Here you will see how Christmas shopping can be painless, quick and – gasp! – even enjoyable! I didn’t even do it online. Nope, this year I decided to stop fueling the Amazon machine and made a beeline for the crown jewel of Austin, Texas: BookPeople.

Have I ever told you how much I love BookPeople? It is the largest – and coolest – independent bookstore in all of Texas. It’s a haven for writers, coffee fiends and author groupies. Needless to say, this is my happy place. So instead of pushing my way through gaggles of screaming kids and their scowling mothers at the dreaded mall, I decided to tackle my entire shopping list in one stop. Come to think of it, I actually did have to push my way through gobs of people. But this time, I was happy to see such a huge crowd of people buying books and keeping my favorite store in the black.

While I was weaving my way through the labyrinth of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, I found the perfect gift for my dad, a voracious reader who loves all things dark and spooky. Doesn’t’ this book look like the perfect Gothic thriller for a cold winter’s night?

He’s also a big time eater, so I couldn’t resist getting him this signed copy of Austin’s most historic restaurants. Yum…I’m craving a Huts Hamburger right about

For my crazy marathon man, I scored a signed copy of Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. I sure hope this doesn’t inspire him to run 100+ miles in Death Valley, but hopefully it will give him a kick in the pants to start training for the Austin Marathon. This author is pretty incredible!  I still can’t wrap my mind around eating a plant-only diet, let alone running a zillion miles through a desert inferno. unnamed

As for the little kiddos, I got my 7-year-old niece a little Texas doodle book because she’s obsessed with all things Texas. When she becomes a famous artist, I expect her to tell everyone that her crazy Texas aunt is her muse. Since she’s a fan of those obscenely expensive American Girl dolls, I couldn’t resist getting her an Agatha Christie inspired kiddie mystery.

My little bitty 3-year-old niece loves furry little critters, so I got her this picture book about a stealthy tuxedo kitty. I have to confess, I read the book the second I got home. Hey, someone has to make sure it’s kid-approved!


My fellow crazy cat lady friend is getting some sweet kitty swag. How can you go wrong with a Bad Cat calendar?


Of course, not everyone has time for reading, especially if you’re chasing around four kids! So my sister-in-law is getting an address book. She’s refreshingly old school about keeping records on paper instead of apps.


These are just a few gifts from my shopping binge, but I’ll stop right here before this blog post turns into a book all in itself. Books really are perfect gifts. They’re cheap, easy to wrap and ship! But most importantly, they’re thoughtful and personal gifts. Sometimes it’s a risk buying someone a book because reading takes time, and it seems like a lot of people have to schedule their bathroom breaks. But it’s a chance worth taking. Worst case scenario, it will get donated to Goodwill and eventually land in the right hands. Best case scenario, it will give your loved one hours upon hours of entertainment – and possibly inspire them to read more and more and more!

Happy reading, everyone! I hope you have many literary adventures waiting for you under the tree! 🙂


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.

Wine, Women & Murder! With Sophie Littlefield and Juliet Blackwell

From left: Juliet Blackwell, me, Sophie LIttlefield

Not too long ago, I bumped into Scott Montgomery – BookPeople’s most notable bookseller – while browsing the store’s expansive mystery section. When he saw me pick up Janet Evonovich’s latest book he told me that if I liked Stephanie Plum, I would LOVE Sophie Littlefield’s new series about a woman vigilante who bludgeoned her wife-beating husband with a monkey wrench. 

I snatched up the book and told him, “You had me at woman vigilante!”  Just as I expected I’m  -yet again – sucked into a new mystery series. How could I not be? Sophie is an amazing writer with a natural gift for creating characters that seem so real, they practically walk off the page! Read my review here.

So you could imagine my excitement when I found out she was stopping by  BookPeople with Juliet Blackwell, another chick lit  author who writes a fabulous witchcraft mystery series!  This time, I wasn’t able to harness the self-control to buy just one book. I may be broke for the rest of the month, but at least I’ll be thoroughly entertained with these two fabulous new novels:

A Bad Day for Scandal, by Sophie Littlefield

From Goodreads: When Prosper homegirl turned big-city businesswoman Priss Porter returns to town with a body in her trunk, she calls Stella Hardesty to dispose of it. Her uppity ways don’t convince Stella to take the job, and Priss attempts to blackmail her with a snapshot of Stella doing what she does best: curing woman-beaters by the use of force.      

Stella refuses to cooperate and goes home, only to hear later that Priss and her brother, Liman, have gone missing after calling in a disturbance. Stella is implicated when Sheriff “Goat” Jones discovers the scarf she left behind at the house. He warns her to stay local but Stella and her partner, Chrissy Shaw, go looking for Priss in Kansas City, where they discover that she runs an unusual business. When Priss herself—along with two other bodies—turns up in a pond belonging to one of Stella’s ex-clients, Stella must investigate a host of suspects, including a crooked but libidinous female judge, a coterie of jealous male escorts, and a Marxist ex-professor.

Hexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell

From Goodreads: Lily gets called away from her vintage clothing store to give police a witch’s take on how the leader of a rationalist society could be murdered, surrounded by superstitions he discredited.

Evidence points to dark witchcraft. Lily’s determined to use magic of her own to find the murderer, before everyone’s luck runs out.