Day: April 25, 2017

Review: Neverwhere

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NeverwhereMy rating: 3 of 5 stars to Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere, a fantasy full of quirky characters and commentary on society, published in 1996. This was another book group selection (not mine), but by someone who has very good taste in books.

I’d never read Gaiman before, but he seems to be immensely popular. We read it in 2009, many years after it first hit print, but still at the cusp of my interest in fantasy books. I think it was too much of a fantasy for me, as I tend to need some rules or boundaries, and I couldn’t tell what was real here. Seems it’s all real, but for a newbie at the time, I was lost.

Essentially, a man wandering around London, falls through a hole of sorts… into fantasy world… and when he returns, everyone has basically forgotten who he was. Right from that point… I’m not sure what’s real anymore. But I stuck with it… and he meets tons of people after him, including a mouse (yes a mouse)… Door (yes, that’s her name) is his new friend, and she’s helping him thru this new world, but then she disappears. Very complex. Door must stand for something. I might consider re-reading this one again to see if I’m more open-minded about it.

And this refers to my understanding of the book and the graphic above about “I’m lost and returning…” Never happened.

Key Take-a-Ways
1. The characters are wonderful. Imaginative. Vivid. Very likable, but also a tad confusing. Was this Peter Pan in Neverland??????? Alice in the Wonderland?

2. London is very dark. Scary dark.

3. Life is not what it seems. Don’t ever try to be a Good Samaritan and rescue someone. NOT WORTH IT!!!!

4. Gaiman is a master at intense visuals.

5. I’m not as creative as I think I am.

So… read this if you love fantasy. If you don’t, I wouldn’t chance it. This was a very “out there” type book for me… though it had many funny and wonderful parts.

Good Luck if you cross that one…

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. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

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Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

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The Time Traveler's WifeMy rating: 3 of 5 stars to Audrey Niffenegger‘s novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, published in 2003 and later made into a movie. This one is a hard book for me to rate. There was so many great things in it, but there was also a lot that made me step away and think about how it all happened…

Overview
A young couple are constantly ravaged by the husband’s ability to move between time periods, but rarely in a controlled way. They are stuck in a haphazard relationship, never knowing when he may just disappear for months at a time. As a result, readers put the pieces of their love story together chapter by chapter… knowing the conclusion to some things before you find out how it happened.

What I Liked
1. The entire concept of moving around throughout someone’s life, not knowing what time period it is until a few things happen. This created a lot of suspense and drama, which for the most part worked significantly well; however, on a few occasions, it pushed me over the limit of confusion.

2. It’s a heart-breaking tale of what happens to a young couple who very much want to be together, in love and share a lifetime of orderly memories. Note, I said, orderly memories.

3. The images created are quite wonderful. With words being the tool to convey the emotion of something none of us have ever been through, it’s especially important to have strong visuals. This was successful on most occasions. And when it wasn’t, I didn’t dislike it; just wasn’t anything special.

4. It was unique… hardly ever, if ever, done before, in such a way or manner. The author should be praised for it.

What I Didn’t Like
1. The concept was too complicated. I kept stopping to think if the author built the scene correctly. I naturally doubted it, assumed there was a mistake in the time sequence. Maybe that says more about me being a Doubter than it does about the book… OK, maybe I should stop here on this item.

2. Some of the passages were included purely for humor, and the effects on other people of his time travel were a bit too much. I’m good with someone getting beat up, or some silly naked embarrassment… but it felt too contrived and one-sided.

3. I wasn’t happy with the ending… and that’s all I say.

Final Thoughts

You really should read it and then watch the movie. It’s a different way of handling the story, so that’s why I suggest both. Ultimately, it’s the kind of book where you think you love it, but then things start falling apart in your mind about the gaps and the confusion… and you feel like you had part of a story, not the whole thing. But this is one you need to check out for yourself. Just go in knowing it’s not a brilliant and perfect piece of literature. Still a good story, and possibly a bit higher than a 3 on my scale, but I’m sticking with the rating.

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. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: U Is for Undertow

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U Is for Undertow
U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

3.499999 of 5 stars (rounded to 3 since that’s my only option due entirely to the laws of fractions and decimals) for the twenty-first book, U Is for Undertow, a mystery published in 2009 by author Sue Grafton.

When I first stumbled upon this series, I was super excited that there would be 26 books by the same author, all about the same character. But as I started reading the series, as much as I loved it, you could tell it gets a bit harder and harder to keep up with the creativity. Grafton does a good job at this, and I suspect since she knew there would be 26, it was planned out fairly well in advanced — at least enough to know it could sustain the plethora of content to come. Sometimes the antics remind me a bit of Scooby Doo.

U is for Undertow is nearing the end of the series, but it is still a good book. It starts off with quite an intro to the mystery. A man begs Kinsey to investigate… and she slowly realizes who he is, a bit famous for some things going on around a few years prior… and she has to investigate a rather interesting family. What’s great about this series is the character of Kinsey doesn’t age much throughout the books. Even though it’s about 30 years from start to finish for the author to draft the books, they all take place in the 1980s… so you often have to remember that you’re reading a book set 20 years prior, as the story doesn’t always tell you that. It’s clear in this one because there are flashbacks and actions to the 1960s…

A good entry in the series. Stick with the series if you start it. Kinsey’s a combination of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich‘s “One for the Money / Stephanie Plum) series and “VI Warshawski from Sara Paretsky‘s PI series. All 3 are similar, but where Stephanie is new to detective work and VI is an ole’ pro, Kinsey’s in the middle. She’s had training. She’s savvy in many areas. But she gets hurt too much for reasons a real PI would probably know better.

Best part of these books… Kinsey’s relationship with Henry, her friend and landlord. They have a wonderful father / daughter connection and I enjoy those parts of the books just as much as the investigation parts. Whenever Henry’s in a scene, I know it will be a good one.

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. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” 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… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

 

Review: Body Work

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Body WorkMy rating: 4 of 5 stars to Sara Paretsky‘s novel Body Work, the 14th book in her “VI Warshawski” mystery series published in 2010. I read this book when it first came out, as I was already caught up in the series. I need to get back to them as I think there are a few more, as she tends to release one every 2 to 3 years.

Warshawski is a private investigator working in Chicago. She’s in her late 40s/early 50s throughout a big part of the series, very tough and one of the original female detectives written about in a full on series. I suspect she is the incarnation of the author, as I’ve read a bit about her, too. She’s quite fascinating and very open about her life and what she’s doing.

In this book, Paretsky takes us into the underground club scene, scattering around with VI Warshawski’s cousin Petra, a group of artists, tattoo junkies and soldiers back from Iraq with PTSD. It’s the kind of book where you think you know what’s going to happen, but you’ll be surprised a few times. I remember it made me want a tattoo even more than I already did at the time. 7 years later, I still don’t have one… but not because I am worried / scared. I can’t decide what to get!!!

Paretsky’s books are also somewhat educational. She takes care to provide a lot of details (without going overboard) about the social issue and topics she’s handling in each one. It makes for a great mystery, but also a solid learning experience.

The main character, Warshawski, is very amusing in an offbeat way. She’s got a chip on her shoulder and often borders on “I want to knock her down a peg or two,” simply because she sometimes lets her attitude get in the way of her success, both in her personal life and her professional life. However, she’s also a very dedicated and solid friend, so you know you can always count on her.

Lots of great scenes in this book, particularly about the art of tattoo work and the impact of war on soldiers. Also a few highly descriptive scenes including some violence. Not too bad, but enough that it may turn off a few folks who prefer the cozy mystery. I don’t know how that woman gets back up again after being knocked down so many times. I’d stay on the floor and say “I’m done.”

If you’re not up for a whole series, you can read this one stand-alone. Not a big connection between all the books other than the timeline of her aging and some friends that shift in and our of her 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. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 44 – Ornery

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Ornery: stubborn, crotchety, bad-tempered and combative

Ornery is the type of word where you guess what it means from how it sounds, as in a bit of onomatopoeia showing itself around the edges. I really don’t think of myself as ornery, but I have been known on occasion to act as though I am. I chose the word because I felt a bit “off” today when I began my morning. To truly be ornery, I’d need a bit of anger or ill-temper as the definition points out to us; however, my brand of ornery is slightly different.

I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to blog. I didn’t want to exercise. I didn’t want to do any job searching or researching. I wasn’t in a bad mood, just that nothing appealed to me. Sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing felt appropriate. But that’s just silly and wasteful. It’s likely just boredom creeping in a little too much this week, but I’ll need to be careful to keep the ornery parts at bay.

Ornery usually applies to older men, at least in my experience. Think of the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” and you know exactly what I’m talking about in Walter Mathau’s character. I find myself on occasion showing those tendencies even though he was at least twice my age.

A few examples:

  • I’ll see people holding hands walking down the street blocking my ability to pass them and think “Ugh, stop being so silly and romantic. Get out of my way.”
    • But I am often a romantic guy, so it was just a fleeting moment.
  • I’ll be forced to go to a bar (I prefer my drinking at home or in restaurants) and watch the “young-ins” making fools of themselves, thinking “You have no sense of boundaries or self-respect.”
    • I’ve been quite immature a few times in the last decade. I’m no one to talk.
  • Friends want to do something new and I’ll just think it’s silly. “Huh? You want to go sit in a park and talk to people while listening to what music? That sounds stupid.”
    • But I will get upset when other people say or do the same thing to me.

Yes, I have had those thoughts. And consider parts of my personality truly still have me feeling as though I am 20 years old, there is this odd balance where I also feel 80 years old. And when I feel 80, I’m already reflecting on how much the generation coming up after me is just not as good as mine. Of course, that’s completely false and ignorant of me. Yes, certain things indicate there is a potential they are not as mature as I thought I was, but certain things show a lot more intelligence and open-mindedness as each new generation comes of age. It’s just perception playing games, depending on where you are in life and how old you are during which time period.

This post has nothing to do with people’s maturity. Not sure how it went in that direction, but since it’s important in these 365 posts that I just write what I am thinking and not spend time crafting it to perfection, it remains in print.

What I’m essentially saying here, is that for someone of 40, I certainly exhibit early onset ornery behaviors that I’d like to go away! I don’t want to turn into that elderly guy in the corner house who complains all the time about someone standing on their lawn.

True, I am never that guy in public, only in my own head and in my own home or when near close family / friends, so maybe 6 or 7 people actually see this trait in me… but enough that I need to be careful about it.

On the flip side, I have those moments where I’m pushing people to stay out longer, do more things, be more fun… so there is a fair balance. But when I am ornery, I am ornery. What contributes to this behavior? It almost feels like once you let one or two ornery thoughts creep in, the flood opens and it’s a massive takeover. And generally only time will force it to go away.

I’m grateful my orneriness has a bit of humor about it. As I will talk to myself, fidget with things, make things seem so much worse than they actually are. And those closest to me kinda get a kick out of it, as they see me with limited self-control, not the usual robot, and enjoy my little dilemma. I’m often locked in my own room to sort it out myself once I get too far off the deep end. Even Ryder, my dog, runs in the other direction when I’m ornery. He doesn’t like the word “no” and that often is the first word out of my mouth in these situations.

“No, I do not want to go there for dinner.”

“No, I am not up for leaving the apartment.”

“No, I’m not taking you for a walk.”

“No, stop begging for treats.”

Maybe confessing it will limit the appearance in the future. It seems to be almost gone today, but I’m still a little grouchy and unsure what today will hold. Ever feel that way? How do you handle it…

For your amusement… as I am doing a quick re-read and spell check before hitting “publish,” Ryder is huffing at a noise outside the door. My response: “Oh shut up and stop being so ornery. Other people live in this building. Where did you learn this ridiculous behavior from?”

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. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.