Friday, October 5, 2018

Old Buildings in North Texas by Jen Waldo

Genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Pages: 213

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 home town 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.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 

Old Buildings in North Texas is a comedic drama (aka dramedy) set in the fictional town of Caprock, Texas written by native Texan, Jen Waldo, and centers around Olivia who is recovering from a cocaine addiction and heart attack. This results in the 32-year old moving back home with her mother who has legal custody of Olivia as she attempts to put her broken life back together. Adding to this court-appointed relationship and living arrangement, is Olivia's 20-year old sister, who is in a predicament of her own, Olivia's former high school friend who is now her therapist, and Zachary, who is her new boss and close family friend. 

In an effort to find a new hobby (you know, besides getting high on illegal drugs), Olivia turns to urban exploration (aka urbexing) where one gains entry into abandon buildings and snoops around. As she embarks on this hobby, she toes the line of legal versus illegal and learns more about herself and her loved ones in the process. The reader is treated to a fast-paced story that doesn't necessarily provide a detailed conclusion but does result in a satisfying ending. 

The book is just over 200 pages with short chapters that are titled in such a way that help push the plot forward. (As an aside, I think a lot of authors miss opportunities to further connect with their readers when they simply number their chapters. I really appreciated the descriptors in this book.) Due to personal obligations, I had to read this book in four days, but I quickly finished it in a day and half. The story flowed well, and the content kept me interested until the very end. 

Jen Waldo is an excellent writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appreciated her vivid prose. This small blurb on page 17 where Olivia describes her first urban exploration experience grabbed me right from the beginning: 
The first thing I notice is the silence. And the stillness. I don't know that I've ever been in a place so suspended. For several seconds I remain unmoving as I inhale the passage of time. 
In reading the synopsis, one might believe the book is about urbexing, but it's more a story about family, relationships, and identity. This might cause some readers to feel misled, but I found it refreshing. I do wish there would have been a little more diversity among the cast of characters. And as a Christian, I didn't mind the Biblical scripture that was included in Olivia's meditation time; however, it seemed to be a little incongruent with her personality. Olivia wasn't a very likable character, and I don't think someone who was unsure about her belief in God would have been so vigorous about her study and meditation of Him. Having said that, I also found Olivia to be an equally relatable, yet flawed character. 

Recommendation: This book is laugh-out-loud funny with touching moments interspersed. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to read a fast, funny book set in the heart of north Texas. So, if you're looking for some good fiction to curl up with this fall, check out Ms. Waldo's excellent book ... or enter the 
giveaway below to win a copy! 

I received a complimentary signed paperback copy of Old Buildings in North Texas from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. 
Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Until next time ... Read on!

“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

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.

Connect with Jen
: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads Author Page | Amazon Author Page

Three Fabulous Prizes!!
First Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $10 Amazon Gift Card
Second Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $5 Amazon Gift Card
Third Prize: eBook Copy of OBiNT 
Oct. 2-11, 2018

02-Oct Excerpt Texas Book Lover   
02-Oct Guest Post That's What She's Reading
03-Oct Review Tangled in Text
04-Oct Author Interview Chapter Break Book Blog  
05-Oct Review A Page Before Bedtime (You are here)  
05-Oct Excerpt Max Knight
06-Oct Guest Post Story Schmoozing Book Reviews  
07-Oct Review Momma on the Rocks   
07-Oct Notable Quotable Books and Broomsticks   
08-Oct Notable Quotable StoreyBook Reviews 
09-Oct Review Reading by Moonlight
09-Oct Guest Post The Page Unbound
10-Oct Sequel Spotlight All the Ups and Downs 
11-Oct Review The Clueless Gent
11-Oct Review Forgotten Winds


  1. Great review! I am reading this now. My thinking on the daily scripture reading is that Olivia is doing it because it's part of what she's been assigned to do, not because she feels pulled as a Christian. Yet, you see that some of the verses get her attention. I dunno...She's a rule follower, but she isn't! Complex character.

    1. Complex is a great word for her, Kristine!

  2. Loved the review, a lot of what I was thinking as I finished it up last night...that one more chapter which put me to bed at nearly midnight!