Old Buildings in North Texas – My Review

Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 213
Scroll down for the giveaway! 
After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her hometown in North Texas. 
Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend – to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on “urbexing.” Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.
Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure — the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.
“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.” — The Skinny
Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book” — Trip Fiction
“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.” — Shiny New Books

Old Buildings in North Texas – My Review

“….and so the grand plantation home stands alone with no chlorophyll to frame it, no festooned branches to enhance its lines.”

First – This is not a typical Arcadia book.

Second – The title does not do this book justice.

Third – Curiosity is always good.

When I saw this was an Arcadia book, I first thought it was literally about old buildings in North Texas. Based on past Arcadia books I’ve read, I thought the author would be taking me on a pictorial journey of some cool old buildings with some history thrown in.

It does deal with old buildings, but not in the way I thought. This book is so much more. As the story began in the first chapter I started getting confused because I was literally trying to geographically place the Texas town the author references with the name of the newspaper, Caprock Courier, mentioned in the book. You see there is a newspaper by that name in Silverton, Texas.

Chapter two starting making sense and it eventually became an enchanting Saturday morning read. This story predominantly revolves around Olivia, her mom, and her sister. It’s a story that shows how life can throw some balls at you and this story had plenty of balls being thrown in different directions. It almost became a comedy of errors at points involving these characters.

It’s a dynamo pint-size story about a young woman named Olivia who drifted into taking cocaine and almost died from it. As part of her recovery, she is nagged to take up a hobby and that hobby becomes going into old buildings and salvaging items to sell from them.

“She’s not a moralist, but she is adamant about being smart.”

Bible references have a tendency to put me off in books, but I appreciate how the author incorporated them and allowing Olivia to make very believable interpretations of passages mentioned in the book.

The author carries the story and voice purely throughout the book. That’s what kept me reading this well-written book because the voice of Olivia carried me along perfectly at every stage in this story. This is not a time waster. It is a perfect getaway read.

As a side note, there are always right ways to cross a barbed wire fence. If the author has crossed them like it is mentioned in the book – then dang I hope she never gets caught by a t-post or barbed wire.

“once again I find myself crossing the line between doing what’s right and doing what I want.”


Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 

1st Prize:
Signed Copy of OBiNT + $10 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize: Signed Copy + $5 Amazon Gift Card
3rd Prize: eBook Copy of OBiNT
October 2-11, 2018


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Monarchs of 2018

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Monarch butterflies on a hackberry tree.


Monarch butterflies are nature’s most gentle beauties. Since 2015 I’ve biologically monitored the main 3RF campus in Foard County, Texas for all kinds of wildlife. I’ve seen monarchs pass through, but only a handful at a time.

This year was quite different. I was checking my camera traps when I came up under a hackberry tree. Immediately, I was swarmed by hundreds of monarchs. This was a first on the campus. Everywhere, I went they were all over the hackberry trees near the water, as well as the bloomed liatris (blazing star), which is a tall purple flower. There were some Queen butterflies mixed in with the monarchs as well.

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Monarchs alighting on liatris.

Hackberry trees seem to be the favorite for the monarchs and other butterflies on the campus. They never alighted on any mesquite trees and hardly on the red-berry juniper trees.

The annual migration of North America’s monarchs is a unique occurrence. They are the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration like birds do. Monarchs are having a harder time at making their yearly migration from the north to Mexico. These little beauties can travel between fifty to a hundred miles a day using air currents and thermals.

Monarch butterflies are a keystone species that once fluttered throughout the United States by the billions. They alighted from Mexico to Canada each spring on a trek that required six generations of the insect to complete. A keystone species is one which other species in an ecosystem largely depend. They maintain the structure of an ecological community and if it were removed that particular ecosystem would change drastically.

Driving this past week, I’d slow down or swerve when I could to avoid hitting the monarchs flying. I probably hurt or killed more than I would like to admit.

It is not often I love sitting in one spot on the campus because there is so much to do, see, and still explore. But I literally could’ve sat under the hackberry trees all day long watching these monarchs’ silent beauty.

To help the monarchs on their back and forth journey here are some helpful tips: always plant native milkweeds; liatris on the campus is a favorite of the monarchs and if it will survive in your climate then plant it; plant a hackberry tree or even a pecan tree; if you see monarchs flying in front of your car slow down to avoid hitting them; try to avoid using pesticides during their migration times of early spring and early fall.

Lastly, just enjoy the beauty of these magnificent butterflies.