Month: January 2018

2018: January (Read) & February (To Be Read – TBR)

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In the hopes I can control my all-too-frequent impulse purchases and agreements to read new books, I started a new monthly segment on my blog where I list all the books I will read in the upcoming month. I hope that having something written, where I can be held accountable, helps me keep from increasing the TBR until I clear off many books I already want to read. I am going to plan 8 or 9 books each month, which is in-line with my 2018 Goodreads challenge to read in total 104 books (two per week). I’ve left some room to add anything in case I win an ARC or have a due date for an unplanned read.

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That said, let’s dive into next month’s planned reads…

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In case you’re curious what I read in January, the list is below. Seventeen (17) books… don’t ask me how that happened, but I exceeded my planned TBR and am on schedule, if not ahead, to clear out my queue of books I already own/downloaded. Here’s what I read:

James’s 9-read-2018-01-january book montage

Lovesick
Lethally Green
Into the Water
Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts
The Shadow Girl
Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins
No One Can Know
Outside In
Down To The Needle
Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet
Alicia and the Light Bulb People in Star Factory 13
Prayer for the Dead
Plum Pudding Murder
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
Funeral Platter: Stories
Erin Bailey is a Time Lord
Sir Alex Sleighs a Dragon



James’s favorite books »

Share book reviews and ratings with James, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”
I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. 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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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365 Challenge: Day 320 – Boredom

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Boredom: the state of feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity

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When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

I sat for 15 minute this morning staring at my computer screen attempting to choose today’s 365 Daily Challenge word. I have posts for tomorrow through Sunday already drafted (still need to proofread and format), but today I couldn’t summon anything valuable. I thought about how I’m feeling right now, and the best way I could explain it would be to say I’m bored. Before anyone starts to pass activities and tasks to me, it’s not that I don’t have anything I should do. It’s that I’m really not mentally in a place where I can or want to do anything that I should be doing. It’s rather indulgent of me, and I admit it. My only saving grace is that nearly every other day of the year, I work extremely hard, am very focused and dedicated, and push myself to do as much as possible. So… a breather every so often seems acceptable.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I felt like I’d lost my purpose after Ryder died. Everyone’s comments and advice have been quite helpful; I’m appreciative. As I settle back into a routine, I find myself doing things a bit more haphazardly than in the past. I applied to several corporate / technology positions and went on an interview this week. I’m not sure I know if it’s because I want to go back to work, I need to keep busy, I am just testing the waters or I’m experiencing a bit of boredom. I love writing and I am very close to finishing Father Figure, which will be a great accomplishment. I have the outline completed for the Ethan Glass short story. I’m pondering the detailed plot and scope of the Watching Glass Shatter sequel. I also have a few other stories floating in my head, which are beginning to form and gel into something I find quite interesting. But in truth… I think I need a bit of a challenge somewhere else right now. I need to learn or focus on how to improve something so that I feel a momentum in knowledge.

I typed ‘boredom’ into a Google search. A few quotes were returned. I found the one I included above quite apropos. Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American professor of medicine, but that’s all I really know about him. Paying attention to the boredom is important. I think that’s what I should be doing this week — to see how often I find myself unsettled or uncertain. Although I’m sure everyone understands, I’m just thinking aloud right now. I’m not truly bored, as there is plenty to accomplish between now and March 17th; my target goals to complete Father Figure, Ethan’s short story and the 365 Daily Challenge. I’ll be on a birthday trip that week, then finalizing my two-week May trip to London and Italy. There will be time in between that I perhaps should be something to shake up the state of boredom I’m describing. We’ve all been there, whether it’s a ten-minute mental relaxation technique or weeks of doing nothing to re-set our mindsets. Sometimes it even just helps to say it aloud — and recognize the interesting things you can learn in and among it. That’s all today’s post is… a random release of fleeting thoughts!

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. 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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Book Review: Funeral Platter Stories by Greg Ames

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When the publisher of Funeral Platter: Stories, written in 2017 by Greg Ames, reached out to me to offer an opportunity to read his collection of short stories, I was honored. I love when that happens, but I had so many in my queue to read, what’s a guy to do? I also am not a typical short story reader, but I agreed to read it in early 2018. I just finished it last night on a train ride from NYC to Long Island and gave it 3.5 stars.

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At ~250 pages, it’s a relatively short read I completed in about 2 1/2 hours. There are twenty short stories, ranging from 5 to 20 pages. Some of the content is more adult-oriented, but many are good for young adults, too. As is usual in a collection like this, many shined; a few fell flat. My favorites happen to be the first three: Chemistry, Discipline and The Life She’s Been Missing. In these, the narrator tells the story of couples or families interacting with one another — both the good and bad sides of life and relationships. He’s got a knack for diving right into the bizarre yet totally understandable moments we all face in life. And there are a few where we actually see ourselves as the main character, experiencing the absurdities life sometimes offers.

Quite humorous, very succinct in capturing character profiles. Although I wanted to hit, smack or kick some of the characters, they always made me react with a hearty laugh or a smirk and wink of at least one eye (two would be just weird). In Discipline, a teenager tries to convince his father that they should physically abuse a younger sister to teach her a lesson, but when that doesn’t work, he asks the sister if they should attack their father to teach him a lesson! It all ends with the son telling the family dog that he drew the unlucky straw and must be punished. Of course it’s humorous, so no need to be alarmed, as it was purely drawing on a minor detail of what the son was really trying to say about life. Same goes for the couple dating in Chemistry. At first, I thought… we’ve got a nasty mean girl and a cantankerous douche of a guy on a blind date. Slowly, I realized, they have been dating for a while and enjoy bashing one another as part of their foreplay. When it ends with them happily in love, you know I’m like “whaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt??????????????” but in the end, it really makes you laugh!

A few of the stories completely flew over my head. Perhaps I’m not that smart. Maybe you just need a certain kinda understanding about life. Nonetheless, I flipped the pages and ignored the ones I didn’t like. That’s how it should be… you can’t love everything, so enjoy what you can. The author’s style is good; it’s a fine balance of realistic humor coupled with extreme circumstances of situations. For instance… ‘Playing Ping Pong with Pontius Pilate’ — seriously, who would think of something like that? But if you read the story, you’ll get a good flavor of Ames’ tone. And when you get to the final one, trying to decide whether people did or did not die, you’ll find yourself confused and tantalized. But when they climb into the coffin together, your head will do a few new moves!

I look forward to reading more from him. He’s got that funky offbeat charm with a bit of old-school approach that reminded me a bit of the flavor you see in Kafka’s slice of life. Oh and by the way, there may or may not be a character named Kafka in one of the stories, too.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also 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. 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

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Why This Book 
The publisher of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, written in 2017 by Cherise Wolas, emailed me late last year to see if I’d be interested in reading the novel. I accepted the challenge and put it on my TBR, agreeing to read within the next few months. As I was cleaning out my TBR, I noticed this was still sitting in my queue, hence it became one of my first reads in 2018.

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Joan Ashby as a young girl wanted to be a writer. She wrote all the time, publishing her first book by 23 to rave reviews. She even had a list of things to do, which included never to fall in love or have a family. Writing was all she ever wanted until she met a man, fell in love, married and had a child. Then a second. Even though she and her husband had agreed – no children! The book chronicles her life from about 23 to 53, covering the growth and maturity of herself and her two children, including the ups and downs of her relationship with the husband. Set in various cities between the US and India, Joan raises her family, writes and travels, all trying to find herself and be the best woman she can be. She meets many influential women who help organize her life and path, deals with devastating actions from each of her family members, and learns how to deal with something always stepping in the way of her success. It’s literary fiction — a true novel that will make you think about personal choices, giving up things for others and understanding when it’s okay to be selfish.

Approach & Style 
I read a physical copy of this ~550 page book over the course of 4 days, a majority of it on two 2-hour train rides near NYC where I live. There are ~50 chapters, each between 10 and 15 pages long, telling the story in third person POV. This is not your typical novel in that it only follows around the main characters; instead, it is two different books within one novel. Approximately 2/3 of the novel, ~ 350 pages, are the story of Joan Ashby’s life, but the other ~200 pages are short stories or sections of various novels that the author Joan Ashby has written throughout her career; these stories provide deeper layers into her thoughts and relationships, as she often tells the story of her own life through other characters. To be honest, while some of the stories were helpful, having ~200 pages of this book dedicated to that style was way too much. I found myself skimming those sections all too often, understanding I might have missed a few key points of the overall novel, but happier to focus on one drama at a time!

Strengths 
The story is simple, yet full of complexity and intensity. Joan’s approach to life, her internal thoughts and what she actually says and does, vary distinctly and vastly. This is the greatest strength of the novel — a woman readers will identify with, but also get angry with. Choices are presented in a light and casual manner, yet all the ramifications are immense.

Her sons are painted with a beautiful set of images and words. They are real, but they feel so far away. You want to hug them one moment, then cover their heads with a pillow case and smother them the next. BTW… it’s an expression — I’m not advocating this as a method to handle people you don’t particularly like at any given moment. And for the sake of irony, I’m writing this as if I were thinking exactly like Joan. It is my life/review to do what I will. LOL

On a more serious note, it’s spectacular when it’s spectacular, which is at least 50% of the book. The story pulls you in. The characters are diverse and basic, yet charming and frustrating. It’s a fine balance, and Wolas impeccably draws a wide array of issues and reactions that keep you thinking and page-turning to guess what Joan may say or do next. Just reading about Joan’s daily routine was vivid and exciting, even when it was merely running errands around town.

Concerns 
As mentioned earlier, the stories within the story were just too plentiful. A few were touching and provided some much needed balance to the overall narrative of Joan’s life story. Some went on for twenty pages and truly felt like a roadblock to a successful read of the book. Perhaps as a separate collection of shorts, I might have enjoyed them more. Instead, I found myself eager to get back to the main plot, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and in need of a red pen to edit!

I struggled a bit in the beginning with Joan’s attitude towards a few things in her life. She eagerly tells us how and why she treats her two sons differently, but everything else about her is balanced and fair. She chose to keep the pregnancies, despite not wanting children. She never seemed like someone who would treat them differently, but it was a key aspect of the novel, so I suspended a bit of disbelief and kept on moving… in the end, it’s important to the overall perspective of her behavior, but I think it needed another round of analysis on why Joan behaved the way she did in certain circumstances. Too little left out in some areas, too much included in others.

Summary & Next Steps 
Undoubtedly, Wolas is an amazing writer. Some of the passages were lyrical, intense and magnificent. I could never write like she does, I vividly recall thinking at a few moments. If Wolas can produce a novel like that, without all the additional superfluous or extraneous, I’ll be the first in line to buy it. But if it’s another like this, I would TBR it, but not rush for it. I would like to meet her — she seems quite brilliant, but in need of a push in more defined direction. I’m not saying I’d be the one to push her… just curious to see how she thinks in person on the fly, as opposed to a cultivated piece of writing. All-in-all, I’m glad I read this book and I really enjoyed large portions of it. If you can accept the things I noted as concerns, you’ll find some wonderful beauty in her writing style and choice of focus and perspective.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also 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. 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

365 Challenge: Day 319 – Immensity

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Immensity: the extremely large size, scale, or extent of something

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After a month of taking a break from writing while beta readers reviewed the last draft of Father Figure, my second novel, and processing through a few emotional weeks, I plan to get back to work this afternoon on my revisions and edits. It’s important to take a break when your mind needs to recover. Although not an immense revelation, it is an eye-opening one when you know you need to allow time for rest among creativity.

While I was searching for the journals last weekend, I stumbled upon a collection of poems I wrote in college (twenty years ago). I may have posted a few on my site in the past, but this one was always the starting point for me; it’s also the one poem I’ve written that I usually can recite verbatim without reading it off a screen or printed paper. When I read the actual words from the journal this morning, I smiled at my own revelation… part of the title of my first book came from this poem — and I hadn’t even realized it.

Since my creativity today needs to focus on starting the edits so that I can finish Father Figure in the next two weeks, I choose to post an old poem as part of today’s 365 Daily Challenge. Some may see this as a painful poem, but for me, it was always about recognizing a reality and finding a way to accept a path. I hope you enjoy it…

***

The Immensity of a Revelation

There’s something I just realized

That I never knew before.

I can’t explain the reasons,

But I know that I want more.

Have you ever wanted something,

But were too afraid to ask?

So you wrestle within yourself,

Finding it quite an abstract task.

With every hour that Maneuvers on,

Truth shows me what I want.

I search for what it finds,

Looking in the wrong places.

I don’t ever want to be alone.

Do I have to dream forever?

Like glass shattering into pieces,

Will I then begin to vanish?

I need to taste the Passion

Of having what is mine.

Even though it’s so easy to hold,

I settle for things unkind.

Thus I question “Was I wrong?”

I decide no longer to move on.

Life has given me this sentence

I must follow – despite the pain.

Why won’t I let myself go after it?

Why am I stuck with such a curse?

Why can others make things happen?

Why do I sit back and to my wounds just nurse?

I don’t pretend to know the answers.

I’ve learned I am only here to suffer.

And to realize that Truth

Will never be mine.

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. 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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

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I read The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom several year ago and just realized I never wrote a review… so it gets a mini one from memory. I enjoyed this book. It had a great voice, interesting characters and good messages. I liked how each of the 5 people were connected in different ways, some surprise. The style grabs you. I thought it was a good intro to learn more about how this author writes. Spiritual without getting too religious. Witty and charismatic on some levels. Endearing to see how you watch other people live, as well as guess what happens when you die. I will definitely read more from the author.

oks

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also 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. 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

365 Challenge: Day 318 – Petlandia

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Petlandia: a world where Ryder lives and you can find more pets, too

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Last night, W and I returned from a short weekend getaway in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York where we stayed with friends. It was a wonderful trip, but it was even better a few minutes after we walked through our apartment door. We were both quiet and concerned, as we would normally be greeted by tons of kisses and barks. There were none, but we carried with us a small package that was delivered via mail while we were away. After we unpacked and settled in about twenty minutes later, we opened the brown cardboard box addressed to ‘Winston and Jay’ uncertain what it was or who sent it. When pulled the object from its holder, a picture book titled ‘Ryder’s Adventures in Petlandia’ stared back at us. We initially only knew who sent it because we found an email address on the shipping papers. We later found out when reading the story!

It’s a customized story where the purchaser selects the type of pet, names, locations and events. The company creates your unique picture book with images and words that connect you to your pet. In our book, Ryder leaves us a note and disappears one evening from Mew York in search of becoming a famous Hollywoof actor — adorable names for dog towns. Ryder is not picked for the latest movie; meanwhile W and Jay are very sad to miss Ryder. Ryder finds a saxophone and becomes an overnight YouChew sensation, but he misses home. He has an unusual flight, but arrives safely and into Jay and W’s waiting arms. Even the cartoon graphic image looks just like Ryder.

Today would have been a Ryder Rant. In lieu of, and as a final goodbye to this segment on Mondays on the 365 Daily Challenge, this amazing, thoughtful and touching present will stand in place. I am grateful to this special family member who took the time with her kids to search out, assemble, design and draft such a beautiful memento. In case she prefers not to be named, I’ll keep it secret in this post. But it was one of those moments where I really feel blessed to know such a person who has been incredibly kind and generous over the years. Thank you to her. Thank you to the writer (Steve Cleverley) and illustrator (Katja Hammond) of these books. Thank you to the publisher and creator of such a concept. Brilliant.

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We always cuddled on the sofa!

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. 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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin