competition

Book Review: One Step Closer – #1 by Lisa Reynolds

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One Step CloserOne Step Closer by Lisa Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Reynolds is an Irish blogger I follow. I read one of her books last year and was entertained by the wit and character relationships she created. Before continuing with that series, I wanted to try another one of her series to see which I preferred. While on vacation last week, I read the first book in the One Step Closer collection. Although the same tone and style were present in both books, this is a vastly different type of story but also one I enjoyed very much. I think I like this one slightly more…

One Step Closer is a televised music competition along the lines of American Idol and The Voice. It takes place in the UK and puts the contestants and the judges much closer together than I thought ever happened (could just be my ignorance of reality). When that happens, the plot becomes ripe with conflict and tension — both emotional and sexual. Wow, what a crazy dynamic went on behind the scenes and during the competition’s live performances.

We get to know all 5 judges and about 10 of the contestants, some more than others, as we get glimpses of those who fall out of the competition early and details of those who make it to the top 5. A few of the judges were monsters, of course, and Reynolds does a wonderful job making us dislike them. Near the end, a few have minor redemption points, but overall, the characterizations are strong and keep you interested in the action.

Relationships were key. Judges slept with contestants. Contestants slept with each other. Fights broke out. Contracts were signed. Blackmail happened. Secrets were unearthed. So much drama in such a short time period — I wouldn’t have survived, as if the producers asked me to spice it up for TV, I would’ve said ‘No thanks, this is me. Take it or leave it.’ Luckily, one contestant did just that, and so, Gavin was my favorite. That said, he made far too many snap judgments about the people around him, as did some of the others. Oddly enough, that’s probably a very accurate depiction of people despite my inclination to think it was too much to handle.

What it did was make for fantastic drama! Reynolds draws you in with the smoldering tensions and silly crushes until you can’t help but start to pair off characters. There are a lot to keep track of (each one has a voice and tells their story in alternating chapters), all with different personalities, but it’s a great start to the series. In the first 1/3, I struggled to keep everyone clear / straight, but Reynolds manages them well as the chapters unfold and we see which are the important ones to truly pay attention to. I’m very curious to see if the next book in the series focuses on a different group of contestants or the same group of people post contest. I could see it going in both directions, or even a combo.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a fun and indulgent read where you can get all angst-ridden about whether things like this really happen or not. I’m confident they do, but being removed from the industry, it feels shocking. Good drama – exactly what I like to read among my mysteries. Kudos to the author for showing such range in her writing style and genres.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where 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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365 Challenge: Day 32 – Defensive

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Defensive: (1) very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism, or (2) used or intended to defend or protect

The best explanation I could give for how I have been known to be defensive is a work-related situation. One of my mentors, who knew me quite well, once pulled me out of a meeting, to highlight an example of how I was being defensive. This is where it gets funny… when you hear the word defensive, you likely think argumentative, disruptive and generally annoying. For me, it was quite the opposite. Apparently, and I don’t like admitting this, if a decision was made in a meeting that I didn’t like or support, my body language gave me away. I might have thrown out my opinion, and sometimes I didn’t weigh in if I knew I hadn’t a snowball’s chance in… never mind… point being… I apparently shut down. My expression went sour. My arms folded themselves across my chest. I sat back in the chair at the conference table. And I didn’t speak for the rest of the meeting. It was a silent defense system, more commonly known as pouting!

For the record, I respect Annalise Keating!

You’re thinking… that’s silly. Nothing you’ve said in the last 31 posts seems like you could have done that. Oh, but I did. And I fully admit it. I am a very defensive person, but I work on it regularly to try and let it dissipate. When my mentor (and boss) pulled me out the meeting, (s)he explained what (s)he saw, told me I’d never move up if I couldn’t learn to interact more professionally, and that it was immature.

I wonder which one I am in this little video…

My immediate reaction: “You’re wrong!” No, I didn’t say that… I accepted the feedback, returned to the room… (s)he told everyone there was a confidential production emergency and that’s why (s)he called me out to ask me to get someone to fix it, as (s)he was a very caring boss… From that moment on, I’ve been super conscious of my external behavior and how I’m being seen.

For that matter, I can also admit I was a defensive child, too. I never liked to be told I was wrong. Being wrong and me in the same sentence didn’t make much sense. I’d run off and hide if that ever happened. As I get older, I find myself seeing lots of situations where my facts or opinion are wrong or insufficient. I deal with it in a healthy way these days. I grab a drink and then go hide. Then everyone just thinks I’m thirsty. 😛

But it’s still lingering there on the surface. I don’t like being this way, but I know that I am. I attribute it to my father. He’s very defensive too. So I know I inherited the behavior, through either DNA or learned actions. Never in a horrible or mean way… just enough that it made me a bit more human. I’ve often been called robotic, so I suppose, this is a sign that I, too, have faults. Yuck. I hate saying that aloud.

But being defensive means you have passion. And passion can be healthy. It’s all a matter of perspective and control. If you’re defensive, you care about something strongly. Perhaps you want to protect it. It’s not always a bad thing.

Though I’m not a big sports guy, there’s always the offense and the defense within a game. Defense is there for a reason: to protect something and help ensure it is either given the path it needs or able to contain something long enough for the win.

I wonder what that guy was trying to defend?

Being defensive as a person should be a sign that you have something worth protecting. Then it’s just a matter of how to handle it professionally, with a courteous and considerate approach. At this point in my life and career, it’s really a very minimal issue… in fact, I’m more concerned about people seeing it, so I almost never let it show or happen. And that’s progress!

Any other defensive folks out there? How do you help keep it in check?

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.

365 Challenge: Day 25 – Obsessed

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Obsessed: preoccupied with or constantly worrying about something

There are varying degrees to which someone can be obsessed with something or someone, ranging from healthy to serial killer. [No, I’m not one]

I’m in that range somewhere. After 24 days, I suppose you think you know me well enough to pinpoint roughly whereabouts I’d fall in that scale. I’ll make it easy for you… it all depends on what I’m obsessing over. I have been known on occasion to be so obsessive, it is scary. Not scary in “he’s gonna go pyscho,” but scary in “did he seriously just do/say/eat that AGAIN?”

Since this post could go on forever about different types of obsession, I’ll share a few things where I find myself obsessed, but ultimately, I’m going to blog about my obsession with food and drink. Things I’ve noticed obsessions over:

  • Test Results: whether it was in school waiting for a grade, getting blood work or updates from a doctor, or DNA results from Ancestry.com, I would check every hour to see if something was new (if it was online, that is… I’d never actually call and ask someone the same question every hour — I do have some level of self-control).

  • Updates: Checking to see if the dial has changed on something (anything… temperature, stocks, points, votes, etc.), I check way too frequently to see if the number has increased or decreased since the last time I saw it. And if the WiFi or screen freezes for any moment, hell hath no fury like an obsessed Jay!

  • Email: At my last job, I looked at my mobile phone every few seconds to see if a new email came in as I was freakishly paranoid about missing it and not getting back to someone timely. I carried it in my hand (not in my pocket) — with the volume off of course (see post on quiet) — just so I could feel the vibration and know I was needed. It rested under my pillow while I slept too.

But… today I am choosing to focus on foods and drinks. So here is the problem… I’m very self-conscious about looking good and being healthy, so I am often balancing my diet, working out and generally trying to maintain a stress-free life. (Note, for another day I’ll cover stress: my opinion is stress causes all the disease and physical pain to manifest in our bodies. You may already have the gene markers in your DNA for it to happen, but cutting out the stress could help prevent it from developing or getting worse) — not a doctor — just my opinion from research and observation!

What foods and drinks am I obsessed with? And by obsessed, I don’t mean I eat them all the time and can’t stop thinking about them. What I mean is… if it’s on the counter or in the closet, I will eat it ALL. I therefore try really hard not to buy these things… and when my mother brings them over on Sundays, I just hate myself. 😛

  • Desserts (cakes, cookies, anything sweet)
  • Chocolate
  • Champagne
  • Cheese
  • Bread

If I open the bag of cookies, I will eat the entire box in one sitting. But I won’t go to the store to buy it every day. If I open a bottle of champagne for dinner, I have to buy at least two: one for me, and one for the other person. And I hope that (s)he does not finish all of theirs so that I can have more. And if I buy cheese and crackers as a pre-dinner snack, I do not believe in wrapping up the remaining cheese for another day. If it’s been opened, it is meant to be consumed. I’ll shove 3 or 4 pieces in my mouth at once. I’m a freakin’ monster when it comes to foods that I love.

And while it’s happening, I’ll reason with myself while sitting on said couch. Typical conversation with myself:

ME: “You had ten, that’s enough.”

ME AGAIN: “One more won’t hurt.”

ME: “OK, just one.”

… [scramble from the couch… into the kitchen… gone longer than should be… back on the couch]…

ME AGAIN: “You had just one, right?”

ME: [can’t speak because mouth is full]

ME AGAIN: “You didn’t, you pig!”

ME: [head hangs in pseudo fake-shame]

ME AGAIN: “How many did you eat?”

ME: “The better question is how many are left!”

That is obsessed. And it leads to a few moments of “got to go work out NOW” and “I feel sick,” but I still do it every time in the future when the opportunity presents itself. Gluttonous is most appropriate word to use. That said, a few interesting  sidebars I’ve noticed:

  1. It doesn’t show because I am probably almost as obsessed with working out, taking vitamins and eating healthy otherwise. I need to balance it out somewhere.
  2. Alcoholism and diabetes run in my family, which means I’m keenly aware of the effects over indulgent behaviors. As a result, I have always been cautious and aware of the risks… and I’d like to say I would never become dependent on these things. Yes, I obsess over some of them, but I also know enough to stop when I need to. (I only do that crazy cookie eating thing once a month!!!!!!)
  3. It makes me human. Perhaps I’m not so peculiar after all… though we all have some crazy in us.

I’m curious why I do these things… why I allow myself to become obsessed? Since it happens beyond just eating and drinking, it’s not some missing vitamin or mineral or chemical in my internal biology! 😛

Am I needy? Am I bored? Am I wanton of things I don’t have? Nah… I think everyone does things like this from time to time. We let our minds control us for so long on certain topics until we decide to just accept or forget the supposed importance. Obsessions just show how much you love something, right? Assuming you keep it healthy and non-impacting to anyone else, then it’s all cool, right? The other people are wrong.

365 Challenge: Day 23 – Short

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Short: measuring a small distance from end to end, lasting or taking a small amount of time

Today’s characteristic has many meanings, all of which can be negative or positive, depending on, of course, what action or noun it is being applied to… to help keep this post short (oh, I am funny!), I’m only going to consider it when discussing my height. And since you really can’t tell from any pictures you’ve seen of me, the answer is… drum roll…

I’m 5’7″ tall, which by most means places me in the short category. Per Wikipedia, the average male height in the U.S. is 5’9″ tall. So short it is… but when you take a step backwards and consider the whole spectrum, I’m really not too far off the middle average. And depending on the crowd of people I’m with, I can still be one of the taller ones. Generally, I feel a little shorter than most people around me, so this isn’t a surprise.

Why is it good?

  • I easily fit into smaller spaces.
  • I just miss hitting my head on the airplane and train upper storage bins.
  • I can hide more easily.

Why is it bad?

  • I can’t see the main stage at concerts, theatre shows, movies, etc. Someone’s head is always bobbing in my way.
  • Clothes never fit right. Smalls are too small and mediums are too big. Shirts always fall too far below my waist. And then I need to go custom for some things or just accept it will always look a little too tight or baggy.
  • People assume you’re weaker or less intimidating. (I’ll ignore this for today as I’ll be posting another day about my strength — I spend lots of time in the gym, so I’m a solidly-packed little powerhouse).
  • I can’t reach the top shelf in the kitchen and refuse to take the extra 30 seconds to get a step stool. So I hop up on to the counter, bang my knees, and then grab whatever I need. And putting it back on the shelf is a whole lotta craziness. If it’s not glass, I’ll throw it in the hopes it makes it safely. I tend to have good aim from years of baseball as a kid.

I’m sure there are more reasons why it is good and why it is bad, but I wanted it to be the first things that come to mind. I’m trying to keep these posts down to less than 30 minutes per day so that I’m using my time wisely. And finding clips, images and formatting is not always easy!

If I had a option to change, I’d want to be a few inches taller, perhaps 6′ feet tall.

  • It’s a round number which I like.
  • It easily rolls off the tongue.
  • I’d rather have my clothes fit more accurately, as it helps with shopping and appearance.
  • I’d be able to reach most things with less impacts.

While appearance isn’t always the primary driver for me, it absolutely is in this case. Even though being taller would help with some things, my preference comes from vanity and less from practicality.

What would you choose?  Taller, Shorter or Exactly the way you are?  Come on, Goldilocks… start sharing!

365 Challenge: Day 19 – Competitive

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Competitive: as good as or better than others of a comparable nature

When I searched for the definition to add to the post, I was surprised. Yes, I agree with it, but I’ve always had a much darker meaning in mind when I thought of the word competitive, or at least how I interpreted it. Then I saw the synonyms listed were ruthless, aggressive or fierce. NOW WE’RE TALKING!!!

Well, I’m not that bad! But I am very competitive about certain things. And when I compete, I want to win with such passion. You’re probably thinking this sounds like the opposite of what I was saying yesterday about being cool with being average. But, competition is healthy when kept under control and infrequent. That said, I’m not even considering talking about sporting events where that’s entirely what the game’s about – who will win. I suppose it’s partially about who plays well and what new feats of strength are pulled off, but then again, who watches the sport to see their favorite team lose???

When I was younger, I was a little bit snarky when I’d lose. (Mom, if you’re ever reading this, I know you are laughing right now, thinking… “a little bit… you can’t stand to lose when you set your mind to winning.”

She could always tell when I wasn’t happy because I had a hard time containing it. I’d hint at why I didn’t win and what may have been unfair (embarrassing now that I think of it).

I never got that angry, but I was displeased. As I’ve gotten older, I’m much better about losing, but there are a few things that I expect myself to be top of game at — and never lose!

Playing cards is one of them. I grew up in a card-playing family; as a child, I would ask to watch my grandparents and great aunts and uncles playing various card games such as Follow the Queen, Criss Cross, Poker, Sevens, Rummy, Black Jack and others. I didn’t want to play with my cousins, go outside or even sit on the couch and watch TV or read a book — that is, when cards were being played! Of course I read all the time, but when those 52 pieces of perfection slid across the table, matched or had a wild card, it was as if I’d won the lottery.

But I kept it cool unlike my friend Christina… no one could know — and trust me when I tell you I have a poker face. I know how to look sullen and disinterested. I knew when to fake “I’ve got good cards and can’t hold it in look,” forcing my competition to fold and then I’d win the pot even tho I had a horrible hand.  Ooh, getting excited just thinking about it! :0

But it’s finally become fun competition for me – not frustrated competition. When it’s done, I let it go and move on. But during the game, it’s part of the environment, the ambiance, the action. It helps you get excited or hopeful — all healthy feelings when kept within the right parameters of friendly competition.

Luckily, I’ve never really crossed the line and gotten competitive to the point where you hurt someone else’s feelings or look like a complete and utter jerk. I may have come up close to it when I was younger, but it was always in trying to be humorous. Never any intention to be mean.

Sometimes there’s competition in the weirdest of places for me. When I would go out drinking with friends, in my mind, it was a competition who could drink the most and not get sick. Not that I ever really drank that much, but on a few occasions, it would be amusing. I’d think to myself, “oh, I had a few of this, half of that, 3 or 4 of those…” and I’d round up so it sounded like I drank more. What was wrong with me??? I needed to be the one who drank more and would exaggerate a little bit to win that competition? And the prize was, you guessed it,

That was the nicest way of showing you “vomiting” when you drink too much! I could have showed you a far worse picture I found on the GIF site, but that would make me a horrible person!

Another weird competition… who could finish painting a room the quickest. Two equal size rooms, same color paint, same start time. Who would finish first?  Now think about it… if there’s something you don’t want to rush to win, it’s painting a room. Because you’ll get sloppy. And then you have to live with it. Or paint it all over again. And you can’t just fix the places you messed up because the paint dries differently and you see shine in some areas. And then you live in an ugly room, all so you could say “I finished painting first.”

Maybe I did have a problem when I was younger. I suppose that’s what these 365 challenges are about. Discovering something I didn’t know. Woah!!! I bet I discovered something before you!  Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah!!!!  Ha. I win!

What’s my prize!??????