children

Book Review: His Name is Joe by Mimi Lou Martin and Chloe Mathis

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I was introduced to this adorable children’s book in early 2018 and liked the premise enough to add it to my TBR. A young boy befriends another kid who happens to be wheelchair-bound. Knowing how awkward life can be for a third grader, especially while playing dodge ball in gym class, I was curious to give this one a shot. His Name Is Joe by Mimi Lou Martin explores the impacts of a school children learning how to put themselves out there, find friends, develop confidence and teach others small life lessons. While the book is relatively short at 24 pages, it’s filled with wonderful drawings and a great moral lesson. To top it off, the book is co-written by the author’s young children… even including multiple sketches (really fantastic for their age and contribution to the book) and artwork by the whole family. It’s a very cute story, and I think it would be a great addition to all libraries and a family’s reading shelves. I’d recommend it for being fun, inspirational, rewarding and confidence-building. Kudos to this wonderful family and the adorable book they’ve built together. The world needs more people like this!

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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.

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Book Review: Sir Alex Sleighs a Dragon by Russ Towne

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Review: Five (5) stars — what a fantastic children’s book! Sir Alex Sleighs a Dragon, published in 2017, is my second read from Russ Towne. I’m not sure I can decide which of the two I like better, but both are at the top of their genre. When I first read this picture/chapter book, my immediate reaction was that it resembled at a very high level the story of Beowulf. I say this only because it’s about a village trying to protect itself from a powerful and scary monster, but in truth, it feels apropos on other levels given I could see this book being a bit of a classic in its own right.

The writing is clean, direct, funny, memorable and solid from all angles. The illustrations are captivating; I found myself looking at them twice — once before I read the page, then after I finished to see what I had missed the first time. Alex is an adorable kid whose bravery and modesty are a lesson we should all learn; however, it is the queen who proves to everyone what moral we should be taking away from the book. She helps school her own townspeople in how to best work together to accomplish a goal. And as readers, we will very quickly learn how not to judge a book by its cover. (By the way, the cover of this one is brilliant. It will make you laugh throughout the story as you see what unfolds in this little quest to save a village!)

There are tons of children’s books available these days, and many of them are good. But when you want to select the best ones for your kids or to give as gifts, you want to know it’s a perfect fit and a truly remarkable read before you buy it. I’ve no doubt in my mind that this book and author will do well. There’s a beauty and truth in the stories he tells without ever feeling formal or educational. The balance between a cozy read in a big comfy chair and an introductory discussion on how to be a good person is quite strong. That’s where this author strikes gold.

I encourage you to read this book, or even one of Towne’s others, as you will not be disappointed. I can’t wait to sample more this year. I also look forward to sharing this one with some family members soon, too.

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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.

Book Review: Wilbur the Duck Who Flew Upside Down by Russ Towne

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5 stars! Kudos to author Russ Towne, and illustrator Josh McGill, for drafting Wilbur the Duck Who Flew Upside Down, a 2017 children’s picture book I recently had the pleasure of reading. On the outskirts, this is a cute story with adorable drawings that will entertain and amuse kids of all ages. As you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a wonderful lesson about what it means to belong and to accept another’s differences. A dapper little duck unfortunately has a faulty thingamajig (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is… the only hint I’ll give you is it’s somewhere on his head!) which causes him to fly upside down. Poor Wilbur can’t land properly and feels ostracized from his friends, but when he begins to find other ducks, and a larger extended family, they learn to rely on one another. By the end of the book, an entire flock of birds, who are all slightly different than the rest of their species, come together to celebrate their friendship.

I won’t give away the major conflict they battle together, or the wonderful ending the author has dreamed up, but it’s a feel-good, warm, inviting and refreshing story that will help children learn to be more open and tolerant. They won’t even realize the lesson they are learning, as the book just feels like a movie as you watch the ducks, and their friends, fly through life. If you’re looking for a fun new children’s story about birds, friendship and bonding, this is the one for you. Read it to your children, grandchildren or nephews and nieces together in a group and talk about all that you can learn and love in this story. I’m bringing it with me to see mine this holiday in Louisiana. I can’t wait to share it and read more from this author.

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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: Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza by Maxine Sylvester

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Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza, the third in an adorable children’s picture book series, written in 2017 by Maxine Sylvester, is another winner.

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Book Review 
In this edition, Ronaldo’s best friend Rudi hurts his hoof, but won’t go to the doctor to heal it. Rudi’s mother enlists Ronaldo to help trick Rudi into the office visit, which leads to even more hilarity and conflict. Along the way, Ronaldo picks up a side job to help earn some money for a new flying class, but after Rudi’s dad runs into money issues, he’s unable to attend. When it comes time for his birthday party, it’s up to Ronaldo to find a way to cheer up a very sad Rudi. And boy does he find a way!

The creativity in this series is magnificent. Not only do you have a wonderful family and village full of reindeer, but you have tons of great locations, events and themes. Children easily learn how to interpret a range of feelings, from conquering fears of the doctor to not having enough money to go to a special class. It’s a realistic lesson built into a cute set of characters, full of charm and emotion. Adding to the great story are beautiful drawings filled with humor, detail and imagination. I enjoyed the bakery setting in this edition, almost wanting to taste some of the delicious looking and sounding carrot cakes. They can probably be enjoyed by humans, too… right? 🙂

I applaud Maxine Sylvester for creating such a lovable series — a perfect gift for someone’s birthday or the holidays. If you love animals and fun in the snow, this is a must read!

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: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

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Book Review: 4 out of 5 stars to Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak.

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Why This Book
I was surfing NetGalley when this one appeared on my screen. Given it’s a family drama, one of my favorite sub-genres, I had to read it. I’m on a kick to finish reading all my NetGalley books by 12/31 before I can request anything else, so this moved to the top of the list. I added it as a book on my ‘Book Bucket List’ on my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com/my-very-own-book-bucket-list/, where my followers choose one book for me to read each month. This was the winner for December, so I moved it up the queue.

Plot, Characters & Setting
The Birch family, parents Emma and Andrew, have two daughters, Olivia and Phoebe, in a small lovely English town. Olivia is visiting for the first time in a very long time, taking a week’s vacation from her work in Africa. Due to working with a particular type of disease, she and her family must live in quarantine for 1 week to ensure the disease doesn’t spread. Each family member has their own secret, which are all starting to come undone during this week long exercise in re-connection. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a very warm-story about how everyone relates with each other, or fails to connect, over the course of this 7-day period. A few visitors stop by the house, not realizing they must stay once they’ve been exposed, which makes the drama level heightened.

Approach & Style
I read the Kindle version on my iPad of this 350 page book over the course of a week. It’s a contemporary fiction family drama novel told from the perspective of each of the major characters in the main family. The novel is in third person POV with relatively short chapters.

Strengths & Concerns
Hornak excels at creating distinct family members with believable characteristics and stories. I liked them all for different reasons, but even better as a family unit. The English setting is quite charming and helps shine a light on the type of ‘off-balance’ relationships going on in the Birch family. The story doesn’t get nicely wrapped up in a bow at the end, which is always a good thing — it’s nice to leave a bit of drama still circulating around the edges. The writing is crisp and clean. I find myself thinking about the family days after I’ve finished reading it.

While I enjoyed the construct of the seven day period, it felt a bit rushed as there is a bit of history to get caught up on with each character. It’s minor, and there’s really no other way around it (I’ve written a novel in a similar structure, so I totally get it!). I would have liked some additional content in the Epilogue to know where the characters went eventually; the current version was way too short. Both are minor and nothing to even distract or worry. I always try to leave a small suggestion.

Author, Other Similar Books, & Final Thoughts
I believe this is her debut, and it’s outstanding under that context. I truly look forward to reading more from her. Thank you to NetGalley for granting me the ability to read this book, as well as the publisher and author.

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 162 – Watchdog (RYDER RANT)

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Watchdog: a dog kept to guard private property; to maintain surveillance over (a person, activity, or situation)

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It’s Ryder and I’m back to bring you more Monday fun. Well, it would normally be fun. But not today. I’ve got some news to share about my very bad dads who did the most awful thing this weekend. I’m sure you read all about their lovely little weekend getaway to the beach. One they just returned from. Without me. Where was I, you ask? Not there. No, they left me behind. No consideration. Just abandoned me. And I hear they’re about to do it again over Labor Day when they make a trip to visit family down south. If that happens, you will have a one unhappy Ryder post again. And that’s why I’m a watchdog today. Okay, maybe a few other reasons, too.

I probably shouldn’t complain. They do take good care of me when they leave. I just don’t know why I can’t go. They used to take me all the time with them to the beach house. Not anymore. Claim it’s because it’s not their rental, and it would be an imposition to ask friends if I can come along. Me, an imposition? Ugh. I never. So they signed up with this adorable company called Celebrity Pets. Ella runs it. She comes and picks me up at the apartment, brings me home to her lovely house with a whole backyard. I see other dogs. More on that nuisance later. I get walks. And lots of treats. But I miss the dads very much. In honor of being angry with them for the first 24 hours when I return, I thought I’d share a few things that also make me a very angry dog. But first, a pic where I am not angry — snow on the terrace from a few years ago. I love snow!!! But I hate water.

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Children. I do not like them. If they are under 10, they annoy me. First of all, they want to pick me up. I don’t like being picked up. I barely tolerate it when the dads do it. I will come snuggle with you when I want to snuggle. Otherwise, pets are allowed. Scratches are great. And sometimes I enjoy belly rubs. Children don’t understand this. I bark at them. I hear the toddlers out in the hallways and I run to the door and get very huffy. I also growl at them. It’s a low growl, not too scary. But I hope it sends them away. It usually does. Sometimes it takes a while, but then they disappear. Thankfully. Does anyone really like these children? When they become adults, I love them. But until then, please stay away from me. I would never do anything to hurt you. But you will not catch me. I will hide. I will run. I will do whatever it takes to get away.

Halloween is the worst. Dads buy candy and all the little children dress up. Monsters show up. I always go to the door to answer it. I try to be friendly. But then they run into the apartment after me. I look at the dads who do nothing of course. They laugh and say “aren’t you cute” to the little monster chasing me into the dining room. Seriously, that’s wrong. But what’s worse is when one of the dads puts me in a costume. The other dad knows better. It’s only on Halloween. And just for the 2 hours when those children show up. Last year, I had a little King outfit. The hat was itchy and it had to be eaten. The children might be next.

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The other thing I really dislike is water. I like to drink it. But that’s all. I hate getting baths. When I was younger, they put me in a pool. I do not like swimming. I kept trying to get out, but for 20 minutes they tortured me and forced me to swim across to the other side. I didn’t understand it. You get nowhere. You earn no treats. You just get wet. I like the sun. I like laying in the heat sometimes. Water is not good. They claim they just wanted me to know how to swim in case I ever fell into water. I think they are just trying to torture me. Especially with the outdoor watering system they installed. Sprinklers go off all times of the day. Shooting water at the plants. But they always miss. And it hits me. I hate getting wet like that. So I try to bite the water where it’s coming out of the sprinkler or the faucet. I bark at it to go away. It eventually listens. Takes about 20 minutes, but it recedes back into its little hole. If it really annoys me, I screech. Like a really loud abrasive noisy one. Neighbors once thought my dads were killing a cat. Oops.

They even took me into the ocean on a leash one day. Only where the waves came up on the sand, trying to get me wet. They laughed. Found it amusing. One dad loves the beach. The other does not. You would think he might try to protect me. No. He was in on it. Water torture, I tell ya. Not a pretty sight. So in return, I chase birds. When they land on my Enchanted Garden AKA NYC Terrace, I jump in the air to catch them. I run down the patio and nip at them. I’ve caught 6 so far. Actually 7, but the dads haven’t found that one yet. They will. Some day soon. During fall clean-up while I’m laying in the sun. One of them will scream. The other will have to clean it up. They are very different sometimes. I once brought a dead bird into the house and gave it to them as a lovely housewarming gift. They did not seem to like it very much. Dad two wrapped it in paper towels. Threw it off the side of the apartment. I don’t think that’s allowed, but he was screeching almost like I do when the water hits me.

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This joint’s loony sometimes. I don’t feel bad that I kill the birds. They invade my territory, they pay the price. I’m just protecting the dads. One summer, a series of birds kept attacking him anytime he went on to the terrace. But not the other dad. The dads don’t know why it was just one of them. But I do. Sometimes I am friends with the birds. This was a long time ago. So when I was angry with one dad for not giving me some of his dinner, I had a little conversation with the birds and asked them to do me a solid. I thought it was a one-time attack, but it happened every day for a month. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Poor dad two. He would spray the hose at them. Throw things at them. But they always attacked him. Then it just stopped. I suspect the other dad talks to the birds too. He might have had his own vendetta against dad two for a few days. Something about breaking too many wine glasses. I try to not pay attention to them when they get like that.

So I’m a bit tired. It takes a lot to write these posts. With no pay. I’m generous like that. How about you? Any angry dogs out there? Keep them away from me. I am not angry, I just play one on TV to amuse everybody. And I’m the watchdog around here. I have to ensure I keep things in order. Woof!

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RECOMMENDED BLOGGER

  • Ryder has gotten to know so many bloggers over the last year, he’s decided to recommend one to each of you during his Monday posts. This week, he’d like you to meet Decluttering My Life. We met about two months ago and have been chatting a few times a week about over nearly ever possible topic, given the variety of content on both our sites. Categories you’ll find on this blogger’s site include the environment, expats, feminism, human nature, literature, minimalism, science, society, sport and the third world. The topics and posts are incredibly thought-provoking, connecting ideas and beliefs across hundreds of centuries in a way that really gives you new perspective. Sometimes it’s a reminder of things you knew but forgot, yet at others, it’s a good wake-up call. Never preachy. Never too lengthy. Just enough to give you some alternative paths to look at complex topics. She’s friendly and quite intelligent, which you’ll easily see from the words she chooses and the messages she conveys. At times, I believe I might be missing a few of the hidden meanings in her words, as it’s so incredibly responsive and interactive on many levels, you have to let it soak in and then respond yourself. If you’d like an intellectual blogger to add to your daily inspiration and review, check her out. If you don’t believe me, you can see a blurb from the site’s About Me section below:
    • “While striving to close a chapter in my female life at the age of 34, I have started to clean out the remnants of my past. This is neither another manual how to declutter overpacked make-up bags nor a don’t-worry-be-happy site. What is then? During this process I have run across some rather weird ideas about possession and self-justification. I have chosen this way of reflection to discuss my concerns about the opportunity costs of donation or the arrogance of humankind. My overall disappointment is leading me towards minimalism. May it be the remedy?”

 

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.