Day: April 21, 2017

Review: The Lost Symbol

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The Lost Symbol
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dan Brown is one of my favorite authors. I know there are several of my online and in-person (sounds so weird!) friends who disagree, but ultimately… you have to acknowledge the amount of time and dedication he puts into his story, the vast eccentric cast of characters, the intrigue and suspense, the unexpected connections and the fast-paced thrill of turning the pages more quickly than you can actually read each one. People love books for different reasons. It’s not always the “beautiful and lyrical prose” or the “emotional gut punch you feel from its reality.”

These books are meant to keep your heart racing, your mind guessing and your eyes unable to blink for a few minutes at a time. At the time I’m writing this review, it’s been about five years since I read the book, and I still haven’t seen the movie… but I am excited to watch it, though I haven’t heard great things from those who have.

Of the four Robert Langdon books in the series, this was my least favorite. Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code had such complex and shocking story lines, I couldn’t help but be amazed. Inferno was so intense and ripe with “what if” scenarios, my mind was non-stop going. With this book, it’s still a huge and complex puzzle, but it felt a little weaker than the other ones. There was a different type of emotional connection given Langdon’s friendship with the kidnapped mentor.

I liked the puzzle, but were pictures necessary?

It was a little too easy to solve this time.

It felt a bit repetitive at times.

But you still flip the pages faster than a normal read.

I’d push you to read his other books. I’d be OK if you skipped this one.

But I am still super excited about Origin, the fifth in the series, which will debut later this year.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


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Review: Smokin’ Seventeen

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Smokin' Seventeen
Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephanie Plum certainly has a lot of people in her life who want to tell her what to do. I’m not sure I’d handle it as well as she does… and she doesn’t always handle it well. But that’s why we all love her. Two key things about this particular book:

1. Dead bodies keep popping up. A detective’s dream… I mean, yeah, it’s bad for the person who was killed, but at least Stephanie is making some money off it, right? (I’m totally joking… she doesn’t get paid enough to deal with it).

2. The relationship spin-o-wheel is on over-drive this time. Not only has everyone stuck their nose into whether she should have Ranger or Morelli, she’s being setup on blind dates now… and her friends are making bets on what will happen.

You know it’s bad when it gets to that degree. And if you’re on book 17, do you really want a regular review on this one? If you’ve never read the series before, go back and read 1 thru 3. They set everything up… and by then, you’ll know if you have the hutzpah to handle ’em all. And my bet is she will NEVER choose one man.

And oh yeah… when I’ve got 18 books in the series I’ve read, and only done 2 reviews, and it’s been 5 to 10 years since I’ve read them… it’s gonna be hard to remember everything to finish these reviews. Yikes, why do I feel so much pressure to have a review for every rating when I’ve read a book. I’m such a type A over-achiever who needs a good swift kick in the…

And I bet that’s how Stephanie feels too!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


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Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From what I can tell, I’m not in the majority when it comes to rating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I’m giving it a 3, which means I still liked it… but unfortunately, I wasn’t as fond of the humor as most people are.

This was a book club selection from about 6 or 7 years ago. We agreed to read just the first one in the series. And it was the first science-fiction novel we took on. I was excited. Several had already read it but wanted to again.

I’m generally a fan of crazy humor. I love Spaceballs, the movie. I kinda liken it to that, but for some reason, this wasn’t as funny as I felt everyone said it was. Tons of laughs. Many great lines. The characters were memorable. I’m pretty sure there are a few movie or cartoon adaptions of it.

And I honestly would recommend that everyone read it — even non SF fans. There are parts you will totally enjoy. But it’s hard to get into for a non-SF reader right from the beginning. My first reactions were “Oh that’s not possible…” But then I realized I wasn’t reading a typical novel, so I suspended the lil’ bit o’ grouch in me… and I was able to enjoy it.

Very imaginative. Lots of cool commentary on life as other people would see it. A fair approach for someone new to the universe, so to speak.

I may go back and read it now that I’m older and have read a few other SF and fantasy books. I’m curious… what’s the huge appeal for others about this book?

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


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Review: The Atlantis Code

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The Atlantis CodeMy rating: 3 of 5 stars to Charles Brokaw‘s novel, The Atlantis Code. I was flying to LA for a work trip, leaving from my office in NYC, and realized I forgot to bring a book before I left home. At the airport, I checked a few novels out at the bookshop and stumbled across this one.

I love treasure hunter stories. I am fascinated by the connections authors find between history, religion and missing things. This time, it’s the lost continent and treasures of Atlantis. I had read another book with a similar theme and wanted to see how they compared. Bought it and boarded the plane shortly afterwards.

I think I read about half on the flight out and finished it on the way home. Was a short 2 day trip and I couldn’t read for all 6 hours on the plane… had some work to do, too.

All in all, I liked the book. Lots of great connections. Strong character. Great suspense. Lots of suspicious behavior.

It was your typical novel of this genre. Nothing bad, nothing fantastic. Just a basic good read. And that’s a good thing… just cause it’s not a 5 or 4 doesn’t mean it’s not worth the read. You just need to be the right audience. There are a lot of books out there on this topic and in this genre. If you like Atlantis, read it. You’ll have a great time. If you don’t, maybe pick something else.

It’s very dark when it comes to the religious aspects. I liked it for that reason, but it does get overplayed a lot. Villains come in all shapes and sizes. I’d like to see something new in another book like this.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: The Marriage Plot

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The Marriage PlotMy rating: 3 of 5 stars to Jeffrey Eugenides‘s The Marriage Plot. My book club selected this a few years ago, given they had all previously read Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides before I joined. I’ve since moved and not with that book club anymore, but I keep in touch with many of them. I hadn’t read either book, but I did watch the movie “The Virgin Suicides” and I drove through a town called Middlesex in NJ, whenever I would go back and forth to college in Pennsylvania. I suppose that doesn’t count for much, nor do I know if it’s even about that town… but I dove in and read “The Marriage Plot.”

What a fun title… I had expectations of a funny romance, some secret side-action, a mystery or two over why someone wanted to get married. And some of those things were included in the book, but it’s not exactly what I thought it would be. That said, it wasn’t a disappointment… it just felt rather…

Part of the issue was the characters were just “so so” for me. I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t attach myself to them as much as I should have. The plot was good. And there are lots of lessons and thoughts you’ll get from reading this one. All stuff I enjoyed reading. But I just walked away from it thinking “Glad I read it… I think I like the author… very different from what I saw in the movie I had watched based on one of his other books… not sure where to go next.”

Some people loved it. Seems a lot were just OK with, like I was. I still want to read Middlesex. Sorry I’m not of much help on this one… but I wouldn’t tell you not to read it. It was clever enough to get into it and have some curiosities over how it would end up. And his language is always great. And his views on topics, or I mean the character’s views on topics… ooops… definitely prompt you to think a lot.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 40 – Spiritual

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Spiritual: relating to religious belief or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things

As I awoke this morning, my mind drifted to today’s topic, first focusing on the count of days. When I determined it was day 40, something about the 40 days of lent stuck in my head and I attempted to choose the best word to represent how I feel. I considered religious, but I am not prepared to go into all of those details, so I settled in with spiritual.

I was raised Catholic, as were most of my family members on my mother’s side. My father’s side doesn’t appear to have been all that religious. I attended church every weekend from about 8 until 21.

In college, I was a Eucharistic minister and worked in the religious center’s main office as one of my part-time jobs. When I graduated and moved back to Long Island, I stopped going to church except for the occasional holy days until I was about 25. I don’t believe I’ve been back since other than a few weddings and whenever I’ve been on tours or trips and make it a point to stop in. Nothing significant occurred to change my attendance, I simply stopped going. But I’m not planning to discuss church attendance. I am discussing spirituality.

I would consider myself your average “smart” person. I have some common sense, but also lack so in many areas. I’m book smart on a lot of things, but missing some key basics. I accept these things. It also means that I often, as I’ve noted before, have impartial feelings about situations and usually see both sides of the coin on all issues. Spirituality is one of those things. I do not know the history of all the major religions. I am not familiar with every major detail of evolutionary science. But there are a few things I believe I struggle with when it comes to “how did it all begin”?

I think of it like the chicken and the egg scenario. If there were no chickens, how did we ever produce the first egg? It’s a catch-22 for me… which came first cannot be answered in my mind, and I don’t have the energy or interest in devoting my entire life to solving that puzzle. I feel the same way about the creation of life. My mind has trouble fully accepting Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and natural selection. I understand it. I’ve seen it. I know things change over time. But have we truly existed in some form for billions of years, once as tiny little cells, now evolved into modern humans? What exactly caused each of those changes? I know there are tons of books and research to help explain the big categorical shifts and changes, but my brain is too tiny to really understand and accept how far we’ve come, or that so much time has even occurred.

I sort of feel like we all began somewhere around 3 or 4 thousand years ago, as I’ve read enough books and history to almost see those numbers are tangible and reachable. Then I think about the beliefs of Catholicism where God built the world in 7 days, Adam and Eve were the first people, Jesus died on the cross for his people and we worship everything in this realm. I have difficulty believing in something I cannot see or have never experienced. But the genealogist in me yearns to believe and accept that everything started with 1 man and 1 woman, and we all have a biological mother and father, generation after generation of human evolution.

Side Note: This is not meant as commentary on parents, necessity of a mother and a father, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, et al.)

For the record, I’ve always believed people can and should do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Therefore, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t hurt… but what two other people do with their lives has no impact on me… plus, if I was against it, I’d be a hypocrite, which I’ve noted before. And a child needs loving caretakers to grow up properly… whether it’s two men, two women, transgender, a single parent, a grandparent… I don’t care. Love the child, raise them well and prepare them to be a good person who continues that cycle. OK, now that I’ve gotten that out there… back to spirituality…

As I’ve noted before, I always seem to feel like two people. And in this case, I believe both in the theories of evolution and those in religion, and I also have doubts about both. But there are many religions, each with a different take on the origination of it all. As I’ve evolved, I believe where I’ve ended up is in something more spiritual. It’s less about the specifics and particulars of what you believe, but that you do believe. There is something out there higher or greater than me. Whether it’s a God who created the world or is a scientist from another dimension conducting experiments, I have some level of faith that there is a bit of control being exercised.

Though less now than in the past, I find myself looking toward the sky saying “Help me out here.” I will on occasion pray for the health or improvement of a friend or family member. I will wish and hope for someone or something to give me a chance. I believe in past lives. I feel connections to things I’ve never seen before, for some reason, and question if it’s deja vu. The thought of people being tied to the land around them is comforting. The concepts of earth, water, wind and fire feel like pillars of our lives. I would not be afraid if I saw a ghost. I strongly hope for an afterlife where all the problems and pain people have experienced are gone, and everyone is happy and healthy.

The best word I can use to describe how I feel about all of this is spiritual. All that functions in our bodies is a physical component of who we are. But how we think, feel and process, though partially physical, comes from somewhere else. Perhaps it is our soul, perhaps it isn’t. But it’s that part of who I am as a person that determines how I live my life today and in the future. And that’s the part of me that has felt various connections to a multitude of things across the expanse that’s been my life thus far. I have appreciation for other people’s beliefs, those who are committed to their religion and all that comes with it. I accept and want everyone to have their own personal calling, whether I agree with it or don’t understand it. And I’d never tell someone else they are wrong for what they believe, when it comes to spirituality.

It’s rare I discuss these types of things. Politics and religion are the two areas where I absolutely hate having discussions with other people. Partially because I do not like arguing or any discomfort when there are differences in opinion, but because I do not have the answer, nor will I ever have the answer until… and only possibly… until I pass from this world. But until then, I’m content with having my own beliefs, keeping myself open-minded to others and living the best life I can without hurting those around me.

To me, that is being spiritual. Whether I light a candle and dance around a fire, attend church every Sunday, pray every afternoon or practice some other form, having a connection to something you believe in, that is more than physical, is healthy. And for anyone reading this, hopefully I have not offended or upset you. Not everyone agrees with the things I’ve mentioned in this post, and that is each person’s prerogative. All I ask is that people never force what they believe on someone else. Focus on yourself when it comes to these things and let others do the same.

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.