contemporary

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

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What If It's UsWhat If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

With all the hype in the last few years about these authors, I knew I needed to read one of each of their books. I requested a few from the library and got placed in the queue to wait my turn. This was the first novel that showed up, so I get to sample them both at the same time. It was a fantastic read, and I ended up just shy of 4.5 stars hence rounding down to 4 on the ratings charts. Let’s dive into my thoughts…

While the first few chapters drew me in on many levels, I squirmed a lot over the dialog and viability of the scenarios. I live in New York City. I’ve been to this post office many times. I couldn’t visualize it based on how things were laid out. It definitely could happen; however, between the dialog of the characters and this meet-cute scenario, I thought they were mid-20s at first. On the flip side, I’m not in my 20s now, so it’s possible I’m a tad removed from how things currently work in the dating world! What this book ultimately made me do / think after finishing 90% of it was… how in the world do people date in today’s times? These two guys are ~17 in NYC riding subways on their own and going all over the place. In my day (wow, that makes me sound way older than I am) I was a scared little boy who wouldn’t have (a) been allowed to nor (b) felt comfortable doing it. Perhaps that’s more of a comment on me and not the book, but I couldn’t imagine having a conversation with my parents about ‘dick-picks’ from people online. However, in 2018, it’s probably warranted with so much technology and social media in our hands.

My only other concern with the book was the ending. If you prefer not to know, skip this paragraph. If you are okay with small spoilers, keep reading. So… I’m reading along wondering if the book will be a happily-ever-after story or a heart-crushing painful one. I’m definitely more like Arthur minus the Jewish background and desire to attend Yale. I have a free spirit like Ben but I would never show up late nor be friends with an ex the way he was. At 95% in, the book ends with Arthur going back to Georgia for his senior year (was in NYC with parents just for a summer). We don’t know how it ends… but in the epilogue, we do. They go off to college / career separately and have different lives that still intersect. I don’t want to give it all away, but it made me stop and think… isn’t letting go of love hard? I’ve had two prior long-term relationships (5+ years each) end before I met my current partner. Going thru that at 17 (a precocious 17) must be worse.

Yikes, this is a review about a book. Why am I being so personal? I suppose it means the writing, characters, and story were that strong… I connected on many levels. To see how two young guys in high school learn how to date, how not to get mauled on a subway by a bigot, to deal with parents meeting one another, to be out at such a young age… it’s all a challenging and eye-opening experience. I see it with younger friends and family, but to read about it with two kids you just want to hug is a different sort of emotional heart-string tug. I admit I teared up in the end, and Ben’s grand gesture was adorable.

So… I’ll definitely read more from both authors. I recommend this book. Some will find it trite / overdone / simple… but honestly, they just like to complain and have no heart (no offense intended, I respect our differences)… I always look for the wonderful sentiments in a book and enjoy when my boundaries are pushed to think about things differently. Kudos for making it happen here.

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. There are three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip (March 2019). 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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Book Review: The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

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The Mother-in-LawThe Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I read one of Sally Hepworth’s earlier novels last year and immediately connected with her writing style and storytelling approach. I marked the rest of her books as TBR, then saw The Mother-in-Law available via NetGalley. I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC earlier this week and began reading it right away. What an emotional and angst-ridden tale about the relationship between several family members who can feel all too real and all too fake at the exact same time. I truly enjoyed this book and give it 4.5 stars. Let’s get into some specifics…

Lucy lost her mother when she was young. Although her father was wonderful, she never felt that connection with an older female who could guide her through becoming a mother, caring for a family, or securing your own position in the world as a strong, intelligent woman. When she meets Ollie, and he wants to introduce her to his family, Lucy is nervous but hopeful it fills a hole that’s been growing for far too long. Unfortunately, when Lucy meets his mother, Diana, it becomes quite clear that won’t happen.

Diana had a difficult childhood and was essentially almost forced to give Ollie up as a baby. When she was kicked out, Diana learned how to build something from nothing and to care for her family when she didn’t even have a place to live. She used that savvy experience to become a major player in an organization that helps young women trying to escape from difficult circumstances in their own country and move to America for a better life. Diana also developed a thick skin and an attitude that no one should be given a handout without working for it in return.

Although the story alternates chapters from Lucy’s and Diana’s viewpoints throughout the decade they know one another, there are other characters who help show what each woman is truly made of. Diana’s husband, Tom, is the complete opposite of her; he’s a lovable, genuine, and thoughtful husband and father who gets sick. Ollie’s sister and her husband are desperate for a baby and go to the extremes to make it happen with or without their family’s support and money. Ollie’s best friend becomes his business partner and wreaks havoc on a complex family relationship. Then there’s the 3 young children Ollie and Lucy have during that first decade. Throw in Diana’s untimely death, mysterious circumstances that make it look like a suicide but also a murder… and you’ve got quite a psychological exploration of what it means to be a parent and an in-law.

This book explores that fine line of how you say things without coming across as insensitive or rude, how you determine when to let a mistake happen so a new parent learns on her own how to care for the child, and how you deal with making a decision when you and your spouse are on opposite sides of how to best support your children. At times, Diana was truly a horrific witch of a human being. You come to realize she kinda knows the way she’s behaving is wrong, but it’s been ingrained in her. When she softens, you want to root for her. You want to believe she will turn that corner and do the right thing. Then she goes in the opposite direction, unlike Lucy, who is nearly consistent almost the entire time. She sucks it up when Diana is rude or distant. She does all the things she doesn’t want to do just so she doesn’t look like she’s being difficult. Until something bad happens, then Lucy blows up.

While 90% of me sides with Lucy, I do understand Diana’s approach. And it works in many circumstances; however, there comes a time when you let someone try to help themselves for only so long before it becomes too late. If you have an excess of money, and your children need it, don’t hold on to it forever if they have put years into helping themselves only to fail for reasons out of their control. Eventually, Diana begins to see the light, but it’s too late. Too much has been set in action, and her death is imminent. Was she murdered by one of these people who felt she went too far? Did she commit suicide because she felt guilty? Was it a freak and unexpected accident? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I believe it’s worth it.

I couldn’t put the novel down. If I did, within 15 minutes, I kept telling myself ‘just one more chapter.’ Hepworth is brilliant at displaying angst, love, pain, and despair in a family who needs a little therapy to heal and forgive. It’s down-to-earth, regular actions and words that remind you of your own world (not the drama necessarily, but the way people relate to one another) feel comfortable yet push you just enough to question how you think about a situation. I adored this book and would love to give it a full 5-stars, but there were a few items I thought could have been a bit more tidy to be absolutely perfect. The ending is ‘ten years’ in the future which is great, but I would love to have seen some of the immediate drama after Diana’s death. We get a lot, but once the true reason she died is discovered, there’s a bit of a windy wrap-up without a clear enough focus on everyone’s reactions to the truth. I don’t want to spoil this surprise, but ultimately, if you’re gonna throw a curveball at us, give us a few reactions from the rest of the people involved so we sense a complete and thorough emotional see-saw when learning what happened to your family member.

That said, it’s a high recommendation from me… can’t wait to see what others think when it comes out in early 2019.

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. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. 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.

Book Review: Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo

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In the history of titles, has there ever been something more appealing than Bacon Pie? I can only imagine the hilarity and the food consumption that must have occurred when Candace Robinson and Gerardo Delgadillo focused on proposing potential titles. For me, bacon and pie are delicious thoughts… but putting them together? Wow, I’m not sure how that would taste, but it certainly captured my attention. Both the title and the book… now let’s get into the real review.

Let’s start with the basics of how I chose this young adult contemporary fiction novel published just a few short months ago. I’d seen it advertised on many social media platforms and I followed one of the authors blogs, but I didn’t jump on the initial bandwagon only because my backlog of TBRs, ARCs and other book OCDs had to be sorted and cleaned. I finished that grandiose task right before vacation and took this delight with me to Italy. I devoured it in less than 4 hours between a train ride from Amalfi to Tuscany and an afternoon sitting near the Arno river banks in Siena. What a perfect way to enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ while reading a touching, comical, and thoroughly engaging book.

The story is told through the multiple perspectives of a mid-to-late teenage groups of friends in a typical high school setting; however, it’s not your standard ‘jocks versus nerds’ or ‘life is hard as a teenager’ coming-of-age story. It’s much stronger… there’s a ton of family dynamics, old rivalries, crushes, and emotion built into a backdrop full of diversity and wit. Between Spanish translations and conversations with armadillos, I can’t decide which character I love the most… or which love story is the most endearing and reflective. All of the characters are charming, even when they’re misbehaving or doing something foolish. Their relationships with their parents echo beautiful sentiments, but also show a tougher side of why we all ‘loathe our parents’ from time to time in that age range. Kudos to the authors for bringing out both sides of the puzzle it is to be a hormonal teenager with a chip on our shoulder but also a need to be loved.

And let’s talk about that concept: authors… plural. Yes, it’s a co-written book. I know from first-hand experience how difficult it can be to write one on your own, and while the thought of someone taking on half the work seems easier, I know it’s probably harder than to do it on your own. Merging styles, voices, and patterns. Keeping facts straight. Disagreeing on direction or tone. But never did I see anything in the novel where I thought… ‘hmm, this feels different.’ What a great way to produce a truly a solid book that will entertain all types of readers and bring tons of smiles to their faces.

What I love most about this book is how it’s a finely balanced tale showcasing a few weeks to months in a mixed group of teens without trying to teach huge moral lessons or be more than it needs to be. It’s a beautiful story, leaves you with a lasting impression, shows you the different sides of life with alternative families, and gives you plenty to think about in a subtle manner. I’m really glad I took this book on and can’t wait to read anything else they collaborate on together, or they publish on their own. What’s even more fantastic is that the authors have placed the Kindle version of this book on sale for a limited time… download today via this link on Amazon for only .99 cents! You won’t be disappointed and will probably want to pick it up again soon for another read.

bacon

For those who like to get to know their authors better, be sure to check out their profiles on Goodreads via the links above. You can also find them on Instagram and Twitter via @literarydust and @Gero_Delgadillo. They both have great blogs which you can find thru their profiles on these sites. I’ve given them each a dedicated page on my blog, too, so stay tunes for more as I read future books they’ve written independently or together. I highly recommend taking a chance on this one!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. 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: Mackenzie’s Distraction by Angie Dokos

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Reading new genres has become part of my routine to find fantastic new authors, understand different writing styles, and explore great stories and content. I found all three with the latest book I read, Mackenzie’s Distraction, written by Angie Dokos in 2016. The book is considered new adult contemporary fiction, but it’s stocked full of romance, emotions, attitude, and possibilities. I bought the book a few weeks before a recent vacation and read it poolside on the Amalfi Coast while in Italy. What a perfect combination of beauty in a book just like the many splendors of my surroundings.

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Mackenzie’s been hurt in the past and steers clear of relationships especially when the man seems too good to be real or true. But in this case, before she even meets him, her life is traumatized when her mother is a car accident and struggles to survive. Though Mackenzie has friends and other family to help her handle the huge blow, it’s not quite as simple as all that. Her mother’s hospitalization leads Mackenzie to learn a few deep-rooted family secrets, meet friends from a parent’s former life, and discover things about herself she never knew existed. That’s when the potential man of her dreams walks into her life, but is she too crushed and shocked to accept it? Let’s not forget the sudden onset of several available and potentially great catches who are very interested in getting to know her. Who will she choose, if any? Now that’s where the plot of this book takes off… weaving readers on a very emotional and manic ride with the unfortunately impacted young woman just looking to heal.

I’m normally a plot, then character guy. In this book, though the plot is important, it’s less about what the secrets and actions are and more about how Mackenzie deals with all the repercussions. It was a great change of pace for me as you had to settle in, listen, and understand why Mackenzie reacted the way she did in each instance. I didn’t always agree, and I sometimes got angry with her for what seemed like an unnecessary or spoiled adolescent attitude; however, I also haven’t suffered through the craziness that hits her in the span of a few days. In that sense, she certainly tries to find a balance, and readers can easily connect with her on the journey. I vividly recall thinking, if she didn’t accept Trevor’s love and attention, I’d certainly volunteer to stand in. (I won’t tell you if she does or doesn’t, but it’s complex!) He was practically perfect in every way, what exactly was stopping her? Well… that’s where psychology and personality truly come into play and drive her responses. It takes a truly analytical, sensitive, and courageous mind to deliver this kind of story. Kudos to Dokos.

Writing style and caliber were strong. Characters were vivid and relatable. Actions and dialog were balanced well, even if at times I was feeling a little frustrated with some of the things people did or said. But that’s the beauty of a good book: sometimes it takes the writer to challenge the reader to engage outside their normal comfort zone, and readers should keep an open mind to fully understand the vision of the author. Then you see why it works… and you have a thrilling escape in someone else’s complicated life. Being a teenager or even in your early 20’s is ridiculously tough in a modern world. Dealing with siblings who have different attitudes, step families with bigger concerns and questions, friends who just want you to be happy but get in your face all too often… wanting to open your heart to love but not knowing how any more… trusting someone who is virtually a stranger despite spending days with him in the first week… people are often secretive and misleading, so I understand Mackenzie’s concerns. But from one particular scene, the girl can take care of herself! Awesome scene, Ms. Dokos. 😊

I really enjoyed the book and will definitely look for more from the author this year, as she has another book published and is hopefully working on a few more already! She’s got a new fan and I’m confident many more as they take a chance on reading her work. I recommend giving it a chance for all readers, but most definitely if you enjoy balanced romance and emotions, journeys, analytical decision-making and learning how to let go and accept change.

I am also a big fan of Angie’s blog. She covers so much beyond just books on her blog, and it’s a welcome distraction every week to see what’s going on in her life. A wonderful writer, blogger and person to know… stop by for yourself!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. 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 322 – Compassion (Author Alert: Mary Deal)

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Compassion: (a) sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, or (b) 365 Daily Challenge word for today’s author alert — Mary Deal

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If you are new to the ThisIsMyTruthNow blog, the 365 Daily Challenge, or the Author Alert segment, check out the About Site section from the main menu. Below are some key things to know about this author, but at the end of this post, you’ll see the permanent page I’ve added to my blog. You can return to check out more on who she is, what she’s writing and how to buy her future work.

I am pleased to present the very talented Mary Deal. Mary and I met about 3 months through our publisher. I had wanted to read a few of her books, but couldn’t decide where to start. Down to the Needle, a mystery and thriller novel, seemed like the best intro to her work, so I took it on last week. You can check out my review here and read all about her in this week’s spotlight.

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Hello everyone! I’m Mary Deal, dropping an Author Alert here on Jay’s blog, This is My Truth Now, and am grateful for the opportunity. This is a lot coming from a person whose nickname used to be Greta because I can easily be a writing recluse. Yet, I must get out and experience things in order to write my stories, and I do love to clandestinely people watch!

How many times have you seen an event or an occurrence that touched your heart and left you wanting to help, but you couldn’t? That feeling you had is called compassion. We don’t always have ways to express those feelings, can’t always help others in certain situations. Mostly, we just recognize our feelings and then go on with our lives. In those instances, when we can help another person or do something to set a situation right, we have acted out of compassion. Admittedly, most of the time we feel this emotion, we can do nothing but silently wish the other person or persons well, or that the situation right itself.

Writers in particular have the ability to address nearly every situation of unexpressed compassion simply by attributing their feelings and emotions to their characters in different stories.

In a mystery, the hero or heroine will do something to right a wrong. They do this out of compassion for a situation or to help others.

In a romance novel, what brings two would-be lovers together is compassion, albeit it with a serving of compromise, but even that is compassion.

In a SciFi or fantasy story, there is always someone to save the planet and its people or save the day.

One exception is that in a thriller or crime story, the killer or perpetrator may kill believing that they are saving their victim for one reason or another. It is a form of compassion through a perverted mentality.

All good things are done out of compassion. It doesn’t matter in which genre we create our stories. Compassion is what will endear readers to our characters and bring the readers to our next book.

In my suspense novel, Down to the Needle, compassion is shown throughout the story. There was no other way the characters could carry on. Compassion was the motivating factor. This is the logline that tells what the story is about:

Abi’s heart condition could claim her life before she finds her abducted daughter who just may be the innocent young woman facing lethal injection.

Now tell me, did you feel an emotion for Abi’s plight? For the innocent inmate’s plight? Did you wish to see that everything would come out right? What you felt was compassion.

The seed for this story came about when I read a newspaper article about a man who was put to death by lethal injection though he was not proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, as normally required by law. I read about Sister Prejean, a nun who counseled inmates on Death Row, and who saw a few of them to their end. I experienced a whole load of feelings for these people. Specifically, I wondered how the family of the not-totally-proven-guilty man was affected? I felt their heartache. What I felt was compassion.

From this information, I was able to create my story about a woman who has searched for more than two decades for her abducted child. She finds a young woman who would be her grown daughter’s age, languishing on death row mere months from lethal injection. Vague connections between Abi and the young woman cause Abi to investigate. Abi’s compassion for her daughter forces her to investigate even the skimpiest of clues.

Abi also feels great compassion for the young woman who just may be innocent of the crime she’s accused of committing. The inmate might be her daughter. Even if not, Abi believes she is innocent and feels the need to help get her cleared. Abi’s character is full of compassion. Her love interest, Joe, feels great compassion for Abi’s plight and sticks by her side, through he happens upon a former love interest, gets side tracked in his own feelings of compassion, needing to help her get off the street.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The feelings writers give their characters comes mostly out of compassion. It’s an emotion readers must feel from the story, differently from each character, but it must be there in each character, depending on their importance in the story. Goodness abounds, and we writers have a way of sharing it with the world. We do not have to keep it inside ourselves. We cannot help everyone, but our stories will shed light into others’ lives.

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Buy Down to the Needle

VIDEO TRAILER FOR DOWN TO THE NEEDLE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mafyzcSjObs

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This is a 100 word flash fiction story I wrote that is a perfect example of compassion.

Homeless, Not Heartless

A homeless man, acting like a wounded lion expelled from the pride, foraged in a dumpster behind a restaurant. He looked like he hadn’t eaten in a year.

“Gotta eat, gotta eat,” he kept muttering.

He piled up remnants of discarded burgers on a piece of cardboard. He sampled one patty then laid it down.

“Good, that’s fresh,” he said.

He found some chicken bones and other leavings.

The man seemed excited and sat down and neatly arranged all the food, as if preparing to feast. Instead, he whistled, short and shrill, and his dog came running for its meal.

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AUTHOR BIO

Mary Deal is an Amazon best-selling and award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, a writers’ reference manual, and psychological self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor. She is currently writing the third story in her Sara Mason Mystery Series, as well as a long romance novel, which is a new genre for her. Other books coming soon will include her first poetry book and a second collection of more of her short stories.

She has traveled a great deal and has a lifetime of diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California’s Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is also an oil painter and photographer. Her art is used to create gorgeous personal and household products from her online galleries.

Find Her Online

Her Website

Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble

FaceBook

Twitter

Linked In

Google+

Goodreads

Cold Coffee Cafe

BookTown

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{Author Alert: Not only is she an author, but she’s an artist; visit all the links!}

Mary Deal Fine Art

Island Image Gallery

Mary Deal Fine Art & Photography (Facebook)

Local Me

 

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My short stories show people dealing with emotion and compassion in diverse situations. Humor, nonsense, fright, disgust, disappointment, silliness, wonderment, reality, heartache. It’s all here in 30 stories that may leave you a little Off Center in the Attic from a mind that may be a little Off Center in the Attic.

{Author Alert: You must take a chance on this FREE offer below!}

Off Center in the Attic will be free on Amazon from February 3, 2018 through February 7, 2018. http://mybook.to/OffCenter

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To see more about Mary Deal on ThisIsMyTruthNow, check out her dedicated author page where future content and books will added as she publishes them and I review them. Thanks for stopping by this edition of the Author Alert.

To see more about Mary Deal on ThisIsMyTruthNow, check out her dedicated author page where future content and books will added as she publishes them and I review them. Thanks for stopping by this edition of the Author Alert.


 

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.

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Book Review: Lovesick by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan

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Why This Book 
Someone suggested the book to me after I completed reading something else, noting the two had similar tone and style. I really enjoyed the first novel, which made me keen to read Lovesick by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan. It was one of the remaining books I have in my queue that I committed to read in early 2018 (I’m on a role — this was the seventeenth book I read in January), so I dove right in; I’m glad, too. It gets a very high 4+ star rating from me… probably a 5 on Amazon given the definition there and a 4 on Goodreads.

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
The YA novel takes place in 1950s in a small US town focusing on Jeanmarie Dowd, a 16-year-old girl trying to get through high school without falling apart or getting in trouble. She’s had a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, Chuck, for years. Jeanmarie’s older sister, Iris, has somehow gotten herself involved with a few people suspected of being Communists. Her mother and step-father are at a loss over what to do with both girls. Throw in a few crazy friends, escalating health issues and a situation with the police, Jeanmarie is caught between every possible teenage issue in a time when forgiveness wasn’t very easy.

Approach & Style 
I read this 170 page young adult novel on my iPad through Kindle Reader in about 90 minutes — it’s short and easy to digest, but very full of emotion and complexity. It is broken into 29 chapters, each relatively short between 4 and 8 pages, focusing on specific scenes or events that happen to the main character, her family and friends. It is told in first person POV with a perspective focus on the main character, Jeanmarie Dowd.

Key Thoughts 
If there were ever a book to transport you into the feel of the 1950s, this was it. I may not have been been born until a few decades afterward, but I still know what it was like… and Sullivan found a perfect balance of fear, loyalty, rigidity, change and intimacy. Between the words and the setting, you are transported to a different world and understand why things happen the way they do for each of the characters.

Jeanmarie is a beautifully written character. Although she does something wrong/bad, you know she never intended to hurt anyone, and you easily recognize she probably should have had it all along. That said, the punishment she (and others) suffer, is quite a tearjerker. I love the balance of rivalry and connection with her sister. I adore the relationship she has with her parents. It’s amazing to see how she and Chuck remain friends, including her connection to his parents. The end will hurt a bit, but in a way, you almost know from the very first page, it’s gonna happen.

There’s a fine balance of detail regarding the Communist plot, the health scares and the way life actually happened in the 1950s. It’s never too little or too much, just the right amount. You want more, and maybe the book could have had another 40 to 50 pages to draw out even more emotion, but it’s quite good as it stands. The pages turn themselves as you excitedly fall into their magic.

Sullivan creates strong characters within a charismatic setting. She excels at defining relationships not only in words and dialog, but also in distance and what is never actually said between people who should have had a conversation. Less is more sometimes, and this might be a perfect example of that old adage.

Summary 
I recommend this book highly, especially to those who can handle a few tears and a couple of punches to the gut. It won’t make you cry the whole time, but in just the right places, you’ll get a tad weepy… then find your happiness. It evokes a 1950s ambiance which isn’t always easy to do. I look forward to reading more from this 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.

Book Review: Outside In by Doug Cooper

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Why This Book 
In early 2017, I had drinks with a former colleague when we discussed my goal to publish a novel that year. She had grown up with someone who published a book and offered to introduce us. I said ‘sure’ and never actually contacted the guy. Months later, I signed a contract to publish my book, then realized I never followed through, so I sent a message, we chatted a bit, and I thought… I should read Doug Cooper‘s book: Outside In. I got hold of a copy, it sat on the shelves for a bit, but I decided I wasn’t allowed to buy/download another book in 2018 until I finished everything I already owned… hence how this one got picked for January!

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Brad Shepherd is a middle school teacher whose student overdoses in class. As part of the Administration’s way to handle the student’s death, Brad’s out of a job. He heads to Put-in-Bay, Ohio to meet a friend and have a summer off, where he can party for a little bit and find his new life path. When he arrives, a life he never knew, or perhaps had forgotten, begins to surround him: he’s quick to fool around with a bunch of women, drink himself silly and experiment with a range of drugs. Over the course of the summer, he makes several mistakes and finds himself going off into a darker oblivion. His family re-surfaces, and a friend has an accident, which helps re-structure his course, but life is definitely going to be different in his future.

Key Thoughts 
For starters, I’ll say the book is a very realistic portrayal of what could happen in this environment. It’s not something I’m familiar with, but based on tons of movies, other books and conversations that touch on these subjects, I’d comfortable stating it is accurately written. That said, it is not an environment I would ever want to be in, nor did I like ANY of the characters in the book. They were a mess, indulgent, immature and frustrating. BUT — that’s the point and they belonged being that way for the story. Cooper brought out my inner ‘angry man’ attitude over people who behave like this, so major kudos to him for a brilliant portrayal of his character set.

The writing has quality and brings to life both the background and the tone you need to be successful in a book like this one. While there are some plot points, e.g. the death of the student, the move to the island for the summer and the results of some of the drug overdoses, it’s essentially a story about a group of experiences people have while drinking and taking various drugs. It’s of course larger than just that simple observation, but you have to be comfortable reading about this side of life to enjoy the book. It’s not going to be ideal for everyone, but it definitely has a large audience to work with. Once you get beyond drugs/drinking, you start questioning how we make choices, our fears, what makes us fall for another person, how does someone guilt you into doing things…

The dialogue and narration provide all the details readers need to know what’s going on in the main character’s head; you will hear his voice, see his actions, know the reasons (most of the time) and follow along on his journey. Sometimes you’ll think he’s stupid and full of fault, others you’ll know he’s suffering from a tragedy and just floating around without any anchor. For those reasons, it is pretty obvious that this has happened and continues to happen to people going through this stage of life. The sum of the parts equal the whole for me with this book. It’s a solid read, full of a wide range of situations and thought-provoking ideas. I think if I had gone through something like Brad did, I’d probably like the book even more. I ended up around 3.75 stars.

Summary 
I’m curious to read his other novel, The Investment Club, about a group of people in Las Vegas going through some life experiences at the Blackjack table. It seems this is the realm the author writes in… that space where the group of people interact in ways we can all relate to, but not nearly as far into the depths… and I’m confident when he hits on topics that are more pertinent to me, I’ll be really invested in the novel and have an entirely deeper connection to the author and his work. For now, I’m glad I read this one and look forward to reading more.

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.
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