Day: August 29, 2017

My Very Own “Book Bucket List” – August 2017

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It’s been 2 months since I started my Book Bucket List and I’ve knocked the third novel off the list:  The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse. You can see the review here. In its place, I’ve added Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict to round out the 12 options for the next vote.

 

 

The book you chose for me to read in September is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Congratulations to everyone who voted last week for this book. Once I’ve completed reading it, I will post a book review and the September Book Bucket List update post. The target to be complete is 9/23.

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Now it’s time to select the book I will read for October 2017. Below is the poll with 12 options, which will be open until September 6th, 2017 for you to choose. Good Luck!

 

Below is the link to the on-going Book Bucket List and a background on what it’s all about. My Very Own “Book Bucket List”  —  Click the link to access everything since the beginning of this post series.

 

About Me
I am a writer and have signed a publishing contract to launch my first book, Watching Glass Shatter, in November of 2017. To see more, please check out the website for this novel where you will find the first 3 chapters, character bios and sample quotes.

I am writing my second novel, Father Figure, with plans to finish it in November, 2017. As part of the process to engage with my fans and followers, I am publishing a weekly status on the progress of this second book. For a description of this book, check out the post where my friends and followers voted for this book as my second novel.

Beyond these two books, I have a number of short stories, poems and other novels in various shapes and forms. I also read 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, Tags, Awards, Age/Genre/Book Reads and Author Spotlights, as well as the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge.

You can also access 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.

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Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

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4 out of 5 stars to The Art of Hiding, a family drama novel published in July 2017 and written by Amanda Prowse. I adored this book and am so glad I read it; let’s get right into the review.

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Why This Book
A few months ago, I’d finished reading ‘The Idea of You,’ by this author. I really enjoyed the book, and when ‘The Art of Hiding’ showed up on my NetGalley feed, I had to request it. I forgot that they approved my request until last week, when I went to select whatever was next to be published as my next book to start reading. I’d been so busy writing my own novel, I missed the publish date for this one. So I quickly read it in 2+ days to get caught up.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Nina McCarrick, a mid-30s mother of two boys, 10 and 14, lives a wonderful life on a beautiful Southampton, England estate. That is, until her husband unexpectedly dies and she learns all was not what he’d been telling her. Suddenly losing her life high up on the hill, she’s forced to turn to all her friends and family for assistance. One person takes her in, helping re-build a life for both Nina and the boys. Nina begins to learn the difference between losing your own identity and being part of a married couple. Sometimes, it isn’t a good idea to give up control of all aspects of your life, as when it comes crashing down, you’ll have no idea what to expect.

Approach & Style
I read this novel through Kindle Reader on my iPad over the course of two and a half days. It is about 300 pages long, divided into 15 chapters, all told from Nina’s perpsective in third person point of view. The language is simple but meaningful; it reads itself as you feel immersed in the world Prowse has created for her readers. You could probably read this all in one day over 4 to 5 hours if you kept focused, and it would definitely be an enjoyable read.

Strengths
Prowse tells intricate family stories full of complexity and drama; not so much with everyone around the main characters, but within their small family unit. I felt the same way about one of her other books, and I’ve now come to realize this is her style; this is who the author is and what she excels at.

Nina is easy to relate with, given she is a new widow and has young boys to care for. She has no job, her skills are mostly outdated according to anyone she runs into. You immediately feel a strong connection with the woman, wanting to see her succeed. She’s a wonderful mother. She doesn’t sugarcoat the truth either. She dances around it a bit, hoping not to devastate her children, but she also knows hiding their situation will do more harm than good.

It’s not a suspense story, yet I only put it down because it was midnight and had to wake up early the next morning. You feel as though the events unfold right in your own living room as you are reading, and simply do not want to miss a moment of the beauty and pain inside this family.

Concerns
Very little with this book. It wasn’t a huge and amazing story that captures a tremendous amount of ground. It’s simple and thought-provoking. I felt it could have used a little more clarity around the death of the father and the days leading up to it. At the same time, it all came as a shock to Nina, so why shouldn’t it come as a shock to readers, too. But in the end, I would have connected a bit more strongly if I had some current history. Just a smidge.

On occasion, the relationship Nina had with others felt a bit fake. I thought it was necessary to the plot in some places, but it was a little too much in other places. Sometimes the balance between her being a lonely and hidden wife versus a lonely and hidden widow losing everything wasn’t as clear as I’d have liked it to be. A few extra paragraphs explaining how she interacted with her ‘friends’ before she became a widow might have helped give it more substance and a range between the two people she needed to be during the course of the book. I also think her ‘lows’ weren’t low enough, meaning she needed to struggle more in finding a job, not being able to pay bills. There was some of this impact, but a few things were a little too hunky dory for my taste.

Final Thoughts
Amanda Prowse is quickly becoming 1 of my top 10 favorite authors. I actually marked five more of her books as ‘to-read’ today since I’ve read two and given then both 4’s. I’m going to search NetGalley after I post this review to see if I can get my greedy little hands on more. This woman can really write stories that straddle that line between heartbreak and the promise of a better day.

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.

365 Challenge: Day 170 – Feedback

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Feedback: information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement

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Feedback is often hard to accept, especially when someone suggests that you change something you are doing. Not many people are open-minded enough to truly look at the advice in a way that removes their personal feelings or emotions. It’s a process and learned skill that takes many years to fine-tune in order to make the best of the situation.

When I was younger, I had a hard time accepting any sort of feedback — either good or bad. I had a habit of immediately feeling threatened, which often resulted in my opinion of the person who had been sharing his/her thoughts suddenly being knocked down a few pegs. I often thought I was always right and that other people didn’t understand me. It’s a common reaction to hearing any sort of potential negative response, even if it’s presented as constructive criticism. This carried over into my first few years as a manager of employees. When it came to review time, I tended to mark someone higher than they were in fear I’d hurt their feelings. After the second round of performance appraisals, it suddenly dawned on me: if you don’t tell the person what’s wrong, it will not get any better. And if it doesn’t get any better, then it will become an even larger problem that you try to cover up because you missed it the first time. Wrong Reaction!

Feedback is important, whether it’s positive or negative. There are tons of studies on the right way to present it, as well as the wrong way. Since I’m not going to include intelligent reports here, because I’m lazy, this is really only my opinion. But I’m certain it’s right. {Aside: Shh… I told you earlier, I no longer think I’m always right. I now know it! OK… just kidding, in case you’re new to my blog and don’t yet fully understand my brand of humor…} I try to balance the positive and the negative feedback when I critique other people’s efforts or share an opinion on what they have chosen to do. I do it for a few reasons, but mostly it’s because that’s how I like to receive feedback.

No one is perfect. Everything can always be a little bit better. Doesn’t mean it should be. But there’s room for improvement and it often takes another set of eyes to shed light on it. No matter how many times I taste a meal that I’ve made over and over again, there is something I can do to make it even better. As much as I re-work a paragraph in my novel to the point I feel like it’s brilliant, there is another way of saying the same thing that is just a little bit better than my draft. These are good things. Not bad things. Life is not about achieving perfection. It’s also not about achieving “good enough,” in case that’s where you thought I might be going. It’s about finding the middle ground where you, as the creator or the person doing the task, can feel pride and joy over your accomplishments.

As I matured and researched the ways to give and receive feedback, I found my own happy medium for the approach. I share all the things I like. I share a few things I see that could be received differently (either positively or negatively) by others with a different perspective. I share a couple of things I’d suggest doing in a better way. But I also explain why, how I could be wrong and how I could be right. It’s not my decision and I’m not the authority, but it’s my personal opinion and only something the receiver should “take into consideration.” It goes hand-in-hand with my own belief not to intrude in someone else’s life for any reason. I will tell them if I think they’re doing something that could hurt them or another person, but beyond that, it’s unfair to put my expectations on another person’s life, beliefs, choices, actions or opinions. Feedback is simply a way of sharing an alternative way of doing something.

When you ask for feedback, it’s imperative that you go into it knowing you might not like the responses you get back. If you can’t accept that, maybe you shouldn’t ask for feedback. I’ve chosen on occasion not to ask for feedback because I wasn’t ready to hear the constructive criticism. It was about me. Not about the person sharing his/her feelings. That’s the important part — you have to be in a place to both share and receive the feedback, as it’s not a one-way street. When someone says “I didn’t like this because of “x” reason, it needs to be explored. Perhaps through discussion, one of both parties involved will change their opinion by learning additional information. This is why I generally prefer interactive feedback, as it is a chance to give a full-circle review and discussion so that feelings may be less hurt, ideas may be more open and change might be better accepted.

Now that I don’t have a ‘boss’ looking over my shoulder every day, I have to ask for feedback, as opposed to receiving it through normal or natural means. It can be hard to ask someone to give you honest feedback, but if you don’t have the strength to ask for it, then you might not have the strength to receive it. As I move forward with getting my edits back from the publisher next week, I am realizing that is my next real round of feedback. It’ll be the last stop before the novel is completed and put in the hands of readers to decide how and when to review my work. And that will bring another whole round of feedback, which could be good and it could be bad. It took me a while to accept it, and I’m still not 100% comfortable, but I know if it goes poorly, there will be something to learn from it that needs to be considered before I move forward with another step.

When I get to the crux of it all, the secret to accepting feedback is learning how to give feedback. Once you find the words to tell someone how they are doing, you also learn how to interpret when someone is sharing feedback with you. The key is to listening, not just hearing what they say. Recognize the words. Understand the choices they made with how they told you. Figure out what it means from your perspective and their perspective. And in the middle somewhere, sometimes closer to them, sometimes closer to you, is an answer where you can feel pride and joy.

How are you at accepting feedback? Sharing your opinion with others? Do you balance the good and the bad? Or do you tend to shy away from anything negative?

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I 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.