Day: April 22, 2017

Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Posted on Updated on

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I love mystery fiction, and in particular, the classics. Agatha Christie died in 1976, and I was born the following year. Two things come to mind… (1) It’s a good thing I wasn’t alive when she died because I would have been so miserable to be around. (2) Since I was born just about a year later, I’m wondering if maybe a small part of her lives on… as I love her genius and her works of literature… and I can re-read her books over and over again without ever getting bored.

There are tons of reviews of all her major works, and I don’t need to be repetitive in my review. What I’d really try to get across is why you need to read ANY of her works, and then why I’d suggest this one:

1. This was one of her first books, and I believe the first published one, in 1920, which means she was probably writing it exactly 100 years ago. And though some of the language is a little different, and it takes place with a different cultural atmosphere, the crux of the story — its plot, is appropriate at any point in time. People don’t love Christie for her beautiful language or her great ideas… yeah, she had some of those… but it’s her plots and characters that stand out. And those transcend time.

2. Who else can create such a puzzle that you are constantly trying to guess what’s going on? True, tons of writers today, but not 100 years ago. And even with modern writers, it’s often in a suspense and thriller type of novel, where it’s all about the chase. Christie was all about the calm approach to solving a murder. She didn’t try to end each chapter with a big WOW and heart-wrenching scare tactic. It’s simple evolution of a timeline, collections of clues, conversations with people… and then you start to see the puzzle come together. But at the last minute, you get the unexpected twist.

3. With this first book, you meet Hercule Poirot, one of her two popular detectives. Poirot is annoying. He’s painful. He will make you angry while you are laughing. And that’s the cool part. Columbo is the best comparison I can come up with. And I’m certain Columbo was based on large part by Christie’s Poirot.

So why this book???????

It’s the first in the series. It’s a prime example of why her stories work. It’s the ultimate tale – a family with secrets. It takes place in the UK… the best place to visit and perhaps live. I don’t live there, only visited it. :}

But it’s really the slow build-up of the clues that will have your mind working overtime. So… if you need a Christie stand-alone book, go to “And Then There Were None.” If you like female investigators, choose a Miss Marple. If you like a Belgian male detective, flip a coin and pick between Murder on the Orient Express or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Both will be a great read. But if you need to start at the beginning, go with this one to see what an author’s first book looks like. Because if I didn’t have my Christie… I’d be like…

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

Advertisements

Review: The Raven

Posted on Updated on

The Raven
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First… you must read the introductory stanza from Edgar Allan Poe‘s famous poem, The Raven. And then I’ll provide a short review:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

And this is what will happen to you once you read it:

Yeah, I probably should have told you that part first, huh? But that’s the thing about Mr. Poe. He enjoyed the fact that his writing drove him crazy. And all of us. That tapping… non-stop… reminds you of his other work, The Tell-Tale Heart.

This raven and its real or imaginary appearance is such a powerful image. And here’s the thing about this poem… you need to have a professional read this poem aloud, perhaps with a little music in the background. Just a little bit, as the words in the poem… the rhymes, the images… it’s ghastly. And if the speaker is as brilliant as Poe, (s)he will alter their voice as each line erupts, enticing the rhythm and the beat. And when it happens, the fear will surround you. The words will penetrate you as your eyes ears lay still, absorbing the melody and the lyrics.

It may sound funny, but find a recording of it. Listen to it in a semi-dark room. And just let the poem attack your mind and body. I believe it’s what inspired the boat ride in the Willy Wonka movie… only much darker. You will love it!

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

Review: The Witches

Posted on Updated on

The Witches
The Witches by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roald Dahl is in my top 3 of favorite children’s authors. I had read a few of his books as a child, but most of my exposure occurred as a young adult and while in college.

The Witches was actually a book I read after the movie with Anjelica Huston was produced. I am a huge fan of her work, and when she appeared in this movie, I was fascinated with the story. I’d definitely recommend reading the book first as the movie takes the story so much further.

For one thing, the book has an unnamed narrator and grandmother, whereas the movie is very detailed on the history of the characters, the various types of relationships, etc. But both were still very good.

It combines so many wonderful things for kids to love — and to be scared of. Witches who can turn little boys into… well, I won’t ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say, this can be a bit of a scary theme.

Dahl’s style is so embracing and captivating. His characters are intense. The creativity and imagination from the works he’s produced over the years is quite astonishing.

The Grand High Witch runs the show here, and she won’t let you forget it. But it’s the grandmother and the boy who may hold all the power. A classic battle of good and evil with some fun thrown in between.

A definite read for kids. And adults. When I was taking a course in college on “Reading in the Elementary School,” I had to read 150 children’s books and produce a portfolio showing a lesson plan for each book. Dahl featured in many of the lessons and books I had chosen, as I tried to incorporate some Newbery and Caldecott winners, but not all. What a joy to re-read these classics as a 21 year old thinking about becoming a teacher. Though I didn’t stay in the teaching field (and possibly regret it to some degree), I will always go back to these books and this time period as one of the favorite parts of life.

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 41 – Rich

Posted on Updated on

Rich: having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy

It seems I now wake up with the 365 Daily Challenge as the first thing on my mind. How interesting in both a good and a bad way. Today, I waffled between “rich” and another characteristic, which I will save for another time. I could be rich with love, or rich with friends. Rich with health, or rich with intelligence. But today I want to talk about being rich with money. And before you start thinking I’m bragging… I am not talking about being rich right now. When I first started this challenge, I planned to cover traits or things I had, as well as ones I want. And today is going to be all about wanting to be rich.

I’ve probably stirred up one of two, possibly both, thoughts in you right now. And trust me, I’m feeling the same. “Money is the root of all evil” versus “I need and want all the money in the world.”  Today will be about why I’d want to be rich. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on why it’s bad and how it could lead to problems. Perhaps another day it will be an appropriate blog post. For the next few minutes, it’s all about the good things and not about the consequences or issues that go hand-in-hand with having lots of money.

One of the motivating factors in my life has been to earn as much money as possible, without completely stressing out or killing myself. And for a number of years in my corporate position, I climbed that ladder trying to move higher and higher to get each promotion and add a salary boost. It was great and I often am right in my element in those conditions. But “why” was always on my mind… and as I reflect, I think it’s a fairly simple answer: If I were rich, I wouldn’t worry so much about money and I’d be able to just do the things I want to do without fear of it running out some day.

If I were rich, I’d like to think I’d be the kinda guy who would use it wisely. I wouldn’t throw money around on flashy things. Of course I’d buy that mansion, improve my wardrobe, vacation in amazing locations and eat at really expensive places. But that would be a very small piece of my life. I won’t deny I want those things. And I won’t sit back and say I’d help the rest of the world and give a lot away. Of course that would be part of what I’d do. But how… why… where… that’s why I’d dream of being rich.

As shy of a person as I am, I thrive on helping and connecting with other people in settings where I feel comfortable and safe. If I were rich, I’d pick something every day/week/month (whatever is the right frequency) and execute it myself. I wouldn’t open a foundation to help certain groups of people… well, maybe I would as something someone else runs because it’s a good thing to do… but what I mean to say is that I’d drive the use of the money in ways that allow me to use the time with clear focus and care.

I’d buy a collection of books, set up a travel schedule and bring them to key places across the country/world where I could read and interact with children in need, sick folks in hospitals or even those who simply can’t afford to buy books. I’d want it to be an intimate experience where I know I’m helping and can see the benefits for someone else. Of course I could do this now, every so often, thru a volunteer experience, but to be able to do this every week in different parts of the world would mean I couldn’t be working, hence I’d need to be rich to not have to worry about all that other stuff (bills, expenses, etc.) Being able to use money for a good reason without just giving it away or paying someone’s medical bills (all good things to do) has a separate value that feels exceptional to me. Imagine knowing a group of children have never read Peter Pan or Charlotte’s Web… and you bring together 3 or 4 people who put together a little play, dress up, read to the kids, talk about the author, explain the lessons, apply them to each of lives… show them what a farm is, connect it to how farms produce food for us, bring in a sample of vegetables they’ve never had or seen…

I’d setup a small learning center where every month we’d have a new topic and invite people in free of charge to learn about key things in our lives. Everything from history to languages to survival guides. With real life people who know all about the topic, lived it or had connections to it. Things people need to see and do, that you can’t get from a museum or reading online on your own. Create the connection between speaker and listener in an educational and fun way. Do something more than just volunteer for an hour or give the basics and walk away. Mentor. Teach. Coach. Bond.

I’m sounding a bit like Pollyanna… but I often look around me and think… we’re doing this in small increments, but it’s not enough. And yes, I do volunteer now on occasion and practice this in much smaller ways. It needs to be bigger and more robust. But I’m not rich and can’t just take a chance on a new career like that… I’m not that big of a risk-taker. But if money were no object, I believe I’d be able to live in a way that would help so many people directly… not by handing out money or loans that often never go to the right places… but by doing things with my time to change the world.

And that’s why I’d want to be rich. Yes, I’d enjoy the frills that come with it, but I promise it wouldn’t be my focus. There is a career in here somewhere. Perhaps I need to become more entrepreneurial. Or take a risk somewhere with a security blanket. Any rich people out there wanna help out? 😛

Would you want to be rich? Tell me why or why not…

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.