Fangirling Across State Lines

We all have at least one book that we turn to, when we’re having a really bad time. The one that always makes the crinkles around our eyes show up in a genuine smile, that despite being infinitely familiar, is still a genuine pleasure to read no matter how many times we re-read it. For me, when I am in a reading slump, or having a personal bad time, there are two authors I turn to, again and again: Jane Austen and Sarah Dessen.

These authors are very different, but I think that draws me to them, again and again, are the realistic portrait each author wrote of her world and time period, as well as the sparks of wit and humanity that illuminate their books. Austen is a bit more cheeky, Dessen is a bit more romantic, but both authors remind me of the good that makes life worthwhile. Of course, Mrs. Dessen has an advantage over Austen, which is that she is still living, and her novels are still being written and published. Austen’s novels will forever be capped at 6 (7, if you include Lady Susan), whereas Dessen’s oeuvre is currently at 14, and, I believe, will likely continue.

Readers who are not Dessen fangirls or YA reading fiends may not be aware that on June 4, 2019, her latest novel The Rest of the Story was released. Of course, I added it to my TBR list as soon as I became aware of it, and looked up her book tour, which surprisingly included Ann Arbor (now that Borders is gone, the tours almost never include Ann Arbor).

It was fate, right?

Kismet.

I was obviously fated to see the author, to get my copy of her latest novel signed.

I pre-ordered her novel on Amazon (which is kind of evil, I know, but I had a gift card, and am not rich, so this was a cost-effective way for me to obtain the novel while still allowing my family to, you know, eat).

Is there any feeling quite as nice as seeing a package on your doorstep that you know contains a book?

#nerd

Possibly opening that package, smelling the paper and possibility of a new novel. And then reading it, if the novel lives up to its’ possibility. Which, in my opinion, The Rest of the Story did.

#ILikedIt

I arranged to leave work early, and to pick my very imaginative older son up so that he could hear from someone who makes a living doing creative work. And I allowed myself to get excited.

… a toned-down version of how I was feeling

And then, day of, it was a particularly horrible day at work, and I got caught up just a few extra minutes. There was more traffic than usual on the freeway, including some catastrophe that caused the Ann Arbor-Saline exit to close entirely and severely slowed down I-94, in general. What would ordinarily be minor inconveniences aggregated to the degree that by the time I picked my son up, drove to the library, and snuck into one of the very few spaces still left in the underground parking lot adjacent to that building, it was shortly after 7, when the event was supposed to start.

I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, but pressed on, to discover, much to my disappointment (but not surprise) that the room in which the author was speaking was full (according to arbitrary fire-code regulation).

Disappointed, like Anna Cuspinian

It was the cherry on top of a particularly bad time period.

And then, I realized that my family’s vacation in the last week of June to Virginia would put us fairly close to North Carolina… and Dessen was going to be speaking at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on the 26th.

I did not allow myself to get excited. I allowed myself a glimmer of hope, stuck my book in with my things as I packed, and brought it up when we got onto the freeway.

My husband may have rolled his eyes; I wouldn’t know, since I was driving, and had to keep my eyes on the road.

But…

Yes, dear reader, I both met Sarah Dessen (for the second time, actually, although I doubt she recognized me) and she signed my book. Which may make me slightly (or very) ridiculous, but also made me very, very happy.

What have you done over your summer and/or vacation?

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Le Bon, Not Bad, and the Coffee

In my very first blog post, I mentioned that I drink a considerable amount of coffee. The prodigious amounts of the liquid ambrosia consumed results in my opinionated person being potentially persnickety – particularly when the standard cost of a fancy coffee these days is $5. (Because if I’m not drinking fancy coffee, why wouldn’t I just make the coffee myself at home? Isn’t that what travel mugs are for?)

For those persnickety coffee dipsomaniacs in, around, or visiting the city of Ann Arbor, let me introduce Le Bon Macaron.

This coffee shop, located on Fourth Street (right next to where Aunt Agatha’s used to be, before it closed down in August of this year) is actually a chain, and has locations in Grand Rapids and East Lansing. I can only speak to the Ann Arbor location, since that is the only location I have personally visited, but the chain seems to be a mom-and-pop sort of thing, which may mean that all locations have the same standards of quality.

Le Bon Macaron has coffee, tea, and, much as its’ name implies, macarons. Now, if you don’t like a well-made macaron, I will never understand you as a person. And this place has well-made macarons. At $2 apiece, these small delicacies are not cheap, but honestly, you probably only want to eat one or two, anyway (#pretendtobehealthy), and they are well made enough that I consider them worth the price point. Seriously, just thinking about the texture of the biscuits enveloping the creamy insides of these delicious morsels is making my mouth water. I know that I sound ridiculous – but I am actually 100% telling the truth.

Moving on to the coffee. There’s none of this large, larger, largest, bullshit. Each drink comes in one size, so the ratios of coffee to milk to syrup, etc., are made as intended and these proportions don’t get altered based on decisions of magnitude. I am personally a fan of the latte, which can be flavored with various, hand-made syrups that will make you want to abstain from the Celestial Dollar coffee forever more (although, of course, you won’t, because it’s ubiquitous and can be obtained in any location, regardless of where your travels take you). My husband likes the cappucino here, and did not make fun of me for driving a bit out of the way while running errands the other day to grab coffee at LBM, so, you know, it must be pretty good.

If you are not just grabbing coffee while running errands, you can sit down on a bar stool overlooking the street, or grab a small table in the elegant shoppe. I have no idea whether or not the decor feels Parisian, having not yet been to Paris, but it does feel simple, clean, and elegant, and I feel a small thrill when I walk through the door.

#sopretty

Each week, the shoppe offers a “drink of the week,” a recommended coffee drink that, if purchased, includes a macaron. So if the drink sounds like one you would enjoy, I certainly recommend taking advantage of that offer (although if it sounds like one you really do not think you will enjoy, I think you should listen to your instincts, because there’s definitely a difference between expanding your horizons and torturing yourself).

Seriously – look at how cute this cup is. How could you NOT want to go here, if you’re in AA?

If you go, or have gone, to Le Bon Macaron, let me know what drink and/or macaron you had, and if your visit was as enjoyable as mine have been. Bon Appetit!

I completely respect any decision(s) to purchase from local, independent stores instead of Amazon. If, however, you were planning to make purchases through Amazon already anyway, please consider using one of the affiliate links below (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases):