Book Reviews

365 Challenge: Day 92 – 5W?-25% (Milestone?)

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5W?-25% (Huh Milestone?): a code meant to symbolize a few topics grouped together under a daily post using the basic information gathering or problem-solving technique of the five (5) “W” questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

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For more on this technique, you can see it at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws

For the explanation of 5W?-25%, here goes… As I sat on the couch this morning to draft today’s post, two things occurred: (1) I realized I officially hit the 25% complete mark with the 365 Daily Challenge, as it’s day 92. I am very proud of my commitment to this effort and have enjoyed getting to know myself and all of you through these posts.  (2) I had a number of topics that I wanted to post on this week, but didn’t want to spam everyone with multiple short posts plus all the book reviews, so I combined it all together with the five (5) “W” questions. And without further ado, here we go?

 

WHO?

When I looked at my statistics today, I realized I hit a key milestone overnight: I have 555 followers on my blog. Seems like a nice round, well not-so-round, funny kind of number. But given I’m complete today with 25% of the 365 Daily Challenge, it sort of fits. I’m surprised but very happy with this progress. It means a lot to have some great e-friends and conversations here on WordPress. And between connecting with everyone over book reviews or the 365 challenge, it’s been an amazing journey.

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WHERE?

As pointed out to me last week, some of my followers may not be as familiar with English, but they would still enjoy reading my blog. Marcelo reminded me that there is a widget for translating your blog into other languages. If you haven’t seen his site, please click his name to go check it out. But also, I’ve added the Language Converter widget to the right menu on my blog so that non-English readers or speakers can convert posts to their native language to make it easier. It’s only fair, and so now, almost anyone can read the blog from wherever they live and whatever language they speak. You can add it to in the Customize section of your blog; if you need help, message me.

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WHEN?

A few weeks ago, I started the “What Book Do You Read By Genre and By Age?” series of posts.  I’ve published a few for mysteries and historical fiction, and then partnered with Nel for urban fantasies. Well… I need your help! I don’t read in all genres, and I am not familiar with every book. I’d love to partner with more people to add to the series for every genre and age group, e.g. romance or science-fiction or non-fiction. Any takers? Who wants to work on one with me, or write one up on your own blog and I’ll re-post to connect us? I think this is a great way to share books and determine when to read them! I want to post a new one every 7 to 10 days, so let’s get this scheduled! You’ll meet new bloggers, find more followers and share great book info.

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WHY?

I’ve seen a few people post a useful tip on how to link and connect fellow WordPress follower’s blogs. When you link to the person’s home page, it is helpful because other people can visit someone else’s site. But if you are tagging someone, nominating them for an award or even just showing off someone else’s blog, unless they regularly read your site and see your post, they wouldn’t know you were tagging them. So, there’s an alternative method to ensure that person gets an email or notification, which means they’ll know you tagged them and will be able to participate or check it out. If you want to link someone, don’t just link their home page. Link to a post as that generates a notification or email, depending on what that person sets up. For example, to link me:

Isn’t that helpful? Now you know why it’s important to link to a post instead of a main page. Let me know if you need any help.

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WHAT?

And the last question represents what am I am about to accomplish:  all of my book reviews are 90% complete… and I expect to finish the remaining 50 within the next 2 weeks. By June 30th, I will have 500 book reviews available on my blog and site, in addition to all the other content: film and TV reviews, 365 Daily post, author spotlights, tags, awards, book bucket lists, age / genre series, etc. I’m so excited! Come check them all out.

 

Thank you very much to everyone. Hope you enjoyed today’s milestone 365 Daily Challenge post!

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.

Review: The Well of Lost Plots

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The Well of Lost PlotsBook Review
3 of 5 stars to The Well of Lost Plots, the third thriller and mystery book in the “Thursday Next” series written in 2003 by Jasper Fforde. For those new to the series, it’s a detective story where crimes occur inside books, and real-life people can jump inside the book to fix the problem or solve the crime. In book 3, things take a bit of a turn… Thursday, the main investigator, needs some down time, and goes to the “Well of Lost Plots,” where unpublished books go to die. But crimes and murders start happening there too… and it’s confusing poor Thursday because she doesn’t understand who would care about a book that hasn’t been published yet having its story changed! (Not sure how I feel about that as a writer myself…) But then she’s trapped inside a story she doesn’t know much about. That can be scary. The series is complex, full of fantasy and drama you never quite understand. The concept of the well of lost plots is delicious, but it made things even more complicated. It was here that I decided to stop reading the series as it started going over my head a little bit. I felt silly and inept! I may go back soon to pick it up again, as I’ve never read another series of books like it… and this one takes the cake of all 3 I’ve read to date.

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: Dying for Chocolate

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Dying for Chocolate Book Review
3 of 5 stars to Dying for Chocolate, the second installment in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series, by Diane Mott Davidson, published in 1992. I stumbled on to this series after college and quickly purchased the first five or six books to read as quickly as possible. It’s one of those series you should read the first few in a row, so you are immersed in the cozy world of fun. And with a title all about chocolate, how could you resist? The recipes in the book look fun and simple. But they tend to be a little non-diet friendly, and although I am not usually on a diet, I do watch what I eat. And when it comes to desserts, I can’t make them too often unless I’m giving them away — or I’ll eat the whole thing.

This book continues the intro to Goldy and her pre-teen/teen son, a good example of a parent/child relationship post-divorce. It helps that Arch is a good kid, but Goldy can sometimes be too motherly over some things. Her friendship with Marla is a hoot. And her interesting flirtation (if you can call it that) with the doctor and the policeman are heating up. But when 1 of them is killed, you know we won’t suffer too long with the infamous cozy triangle.

The mystery is a bit of a whodunit and keeps you guessing but it needs to be stronger in future books (and it does get there). Goldy settles into town just outside of Denver. I’ve always wanted to see Denver, and these books give you a little taste of it.

The other thing about this book is that it’s different than the first one in a way where you can tell the writer was reacting to fan feedback; setting changes, characters change… it’s almost like she’s testing out the best combination for readers. And I’m OK with that in the first few… then I like consistency with growth. Not just a complete turnabout.

Fun cozy times… relaxing series. I go back and forth between this one and Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series. Very similar styles.

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: Cream Puff Murder

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Cream Puff Murder 3 of 5 stars to the eleventh book, Cream Puff Murder, in the “Hannah Swensen” cozy mystery series by Joanne Fluke. And yes, it was hard to read without wanting a cream puff the entire time!

Why This Book
I’ve been reading the Joanne Fluke series for several years and had asked for a few of her books for my birthday last month. One was Cream Puff Murder, and once I finished a rather difficult book just before this one, I needed something light and fluffy to shock me back to normalcy. Lake Eden’s Hannah Swensen fit the bill, and I started it two days ago, reading through a third each night up ’til now – review time.

Overview of Story
Hannah’s mother is throwing a book launch party for her new regency novel, and Hannah needs to fit into a dress despite having put on a few pounds. Her sister Andrea steps in to help, and even though Hannah despises exercising, she agrees to spend an hour every morning before work at the gym, focusing on her body. Shortly afterwards, Ronni Ward, fitness instructor extraordinaire, is found murdered in the jacuzzi. Since she’d been dating several men, and annoyed several women, Hannah suspects it’s someone at the gym or in one Ronni’s fitness classes. But Mike and Bill are put on temporary leave, as they may be too close to the crime, since Ronni was working part-time at the police station to make some extra money, and possibly dating Mike on the side. Hannah steps up her work-out time to a few hours a day to attend all Ronni’s classes with with the new instructor to see if she can find out more details, especially when her family and some-time boyfriend aren’t able to work the case. As she begins to narrow down the clues, and her own waistline, Hannah finds herself smack in the middle of disaster again when she steps right into trouble with the culprit. But along the path, she’s determined that she can no longer keep bouncing back and forth between Mike and Norman, appearing ready to finally make a choice for her suitor and potential future husband.

Approach & Style
The book is told in third-person from an omniscient narrator, but the point of view is consistently with Hannah as the main protagonist. Every few chapters, the author throws in some sweet recipes based on whatever Hannah’s cooking up in The Cookie Jar that day. Cream Puffs are this books’ flavor of the month.

It’s a very lighthearted cozy, casual and simple in both setting, dialogue and tone. An easy breezy read in under 4 hours, given the paperback book’s about 350 pages, inclusive of at least 100 focused on recipes.

Strengths
1. Hannah is consistent. Her sisters, mother, friends and boyfriends are all good people and I really enjoy reading about them. It’s comfortable and makes you feel warm and cozy.

2. The town is quite lovely, as is the history you learn with each successive book. It feels like a place you’d love to call home — when you’re done livin’ on the edge in your younger days.

3. Fluke’s got a solid formula that works time and time again, assuming the story is interesting and the cast of characters rotates just enough.

Open Questions & Concerns
1. I probably didn’t need 20% of the book dedicated to figuring what Moishe (the cat) was doing with his new automatic food dispensing unit. Seriously… we kept reading about “where is Moishe putting all that food? He’s not gaining any weight, so he can’t be eating it.” It actually got a little bit annoying. I love the antics and banter with the cat and Hannah, but this was a little too much!

2. Normally, a cozy reveals the murder about 15% into the book; however, it didn’t happen until almost 30% this time. It was a little too much, and I felt at times like I was reading someone’s journal about daily goings-on. I already do that for myself… don’t need this one, too!

3. Mike takes a darker turn and we get a much-needed push in the “Choose Mike or Norman” story line. He does something unexpected, tho, in my opinion… and while I welcomed the direction change, it didn’t feel natural.

4. The mystery was not very strong. It was pretty clear from about 50% in, it was 1 of 2 people; and I knew very little about them, so it didn’t matter which one it was to me. I think it needed a few extra plot points to make this a stronger book.

Author & Other Similar Books
Diane Mott Davidson’s “Goldy Bear Shultz Culinary” mystery series is a good comparison.

Final Thoughts
This was Book 11 out of a series with about 20 so far. I’ve a little over half-way done, still enjoying Hannah and her family, but if she doesn’t make a choice for sure in the next book… I will probably take a break for a while. I won’t give it up, as I love the townspeople and the background setting; but I’d like a little less of the romance and a tad more of the mystery. Still an enjoyable read tho!

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: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the “Great American Novels” by Mark Twain published in 1884. I’ve actually read this book twice: once as a 14-year-old and again in college as part of my many American English courses. My interpretations have expanded with the second read, but it’s still at the core, a very profound book worth reading at least once in a lifetime.

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer appear in a few of Twain’s novels, but it is in this one where Huck truly becomes a character, especially through his relationship with Jim. It’s the type of book to openly challenge the norms and ideals of the mid-19th century, relationships between various races, treatment towards fellow humankind. Over 135 years later, this book is still pertinent to society today. So much needs to evolve and change, and perhaps with literature, it will move a little more each day — at least as one of the necessary driving forces.

At times, I tried to forget that the book was calling out differences between treatment of ethnicity and race in America at the time. I wanted to think about it also from the perspective of two human beings who needed each other for survival, growth, life experience and comfort. Being color-blind and able to connect with someone, even if you don’t see them or no much about them, is an important lesson in life. And one so few of us have an opportunity to experience.

One book can’t change it. One book can’t truly explain it. But knowing what was happening 135 years ago versus what is happening now is important. As is what people thought back then… not just what they did. If you haven’t read this, as an American, it’s your responsibility. Understand the past and history. Know what it was like. Read it from 135-year-old words. And decide what you can do to keep things moving forward at a quicker pace… to help us all figure out how to ditch the differences and embrace the fact that we’re all humans who need the same things to survive.

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: Black Beauty

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Black Beauty Review
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is a beautiful story meant for older children or very young adults. It was written in the 19th century by a woman who passed away shortly after its publication. I enjoyed the story and have given it a 3 of 5 stars, which is still very good in my book. A few interesting things:

1. The point of view in the book is from Black Beauty, the horse.
2. It takes place in London nearly 150 years ago.
3. It’s still a cherished story for both pleasure reading and education purposes.

I received it as a gift when I was about 8 or 9, as I had asked for several “classics” for Christmas. When I saw the cover, I thought it looked pretty. But not enough to read it. It sat on my shelf for probably two years until one day, I said “let’s just give it a chance.” I was afraid it would be too boring… I’ve always preferred complex plots and strong characters. I wasn’t sure this would really work for me. I was wrong!

Seeing how people mistreated and misunderstood animals was a big benefit of the book. It opens your eyes to things from another perspective, and if it helps just a little to develop a bond between younger adults / children and animals, then it’s served its purpose.

It’s one of those books everyone should read… but not as a forced school assignment. It should be something parents want to share with their kids around 7 or 8… teaching them about how to be respectful and kind to all creatures. And then take them horseback riding to see what it’s actually like. That’s what I did when I finished it… went with a small group of friends to a riding academy / farm a few towns over and learned about horses for one summer. I kinda miss riding… maybe I should try it again. Off topic again… what is up with me today on these reviews! 🙂

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: Cruel & Unusual

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Cruel & UnusualMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review
Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell, the fourth in the “Kay Scarpetta” series was a solid book with a little more edge than some of the others, hence the 4 rating. Two key parts of this one that appealed to me:

1. Scarpetta learns more about the prison system, in particular how a newly killed inmate’s finger prints could show up on a dead body several days after the inmate died. The “gimmick” has been used before, but Cornwell keeps it tightly wound until the end of the book. It’s a page turner, for sure. You think you’ve figured it out, but more details come out. And it gets very scientific, which really helps push you closer to the edge of not wanting to stop reading it. That said, the technology is almost 25+ years old compared to today’s standards, so it’s nothing earth-shattering at this point. It was something to read in the 90s to truly get the best impact. Still a good read today, I’m sure.

2. Kay and her niece, Lucy, continue to play the game of mouse and cat, so to speak. I’m not sure who is the mouse and who is the cat anymore. But what’s fun here is that Lucy ends up helping on the case, despite the risks. And it call comes down to computers, which again, are much more advanced in the last ~30 years. Reading how people thought back then, how they interpreted and stored files, is amusing for someone in the technology field. I read this shortly after it came out but I was still very close to technology way back then.

The series is still solid at this point. And I’d recommend this read for someone who isn’t too particular about tools and techniques in the fields of investigation, criminology, computers and DNA changing significantly over the years. Enjoy this for the puzzle it was at the time, not the slightly slower path it would be today. All in all, as much as she annoys you, Scarpetta is one of those people I wish I knew in real life. A bit too brilliant in some ways tho!

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