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Book Review: ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

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'Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, #2)‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

It’s Christmastime both in my current reality and in Mistletoe, Maine… but a whole year has passed since the debut book in the ‘A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery’ series by Jacqueline Frost. This second book, ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas, picks up with Holly’s eventual settlement back home, a new friendship with reporter Ray, adventures with best friend Caroline, and romance with sorta boyfriend Evan (the sheriff!). Life’s good until Derek, a guy who was too handsy with Caroline, ends up knifed in a candy display. Did Caroline kill him in revenge? Her high-powered father? A stalker crush who seems to want to protect her? Or some colleague of Derek’s who thought he was a threat? Holly is determined to protect her bestie but she starts getting threatening notes again just like last time. Are the crimes connected?

I won this book through a cozy giveaway, but I went back and ordered the first one on my own so I could be ready and current on the series. I’m thrilled to have stumbled upon it and would definitely recommend the series as a definite holiday read. Holly is a great protagonist who only has a few pushy moments while trying to solve the murder; they’re necessary and make her even more relatable. The town is visibly pictured as a result of Frost’s wonderful descriptions and writing style. The little fun factors (Theodore the goat, Cindy Lou Who the cat, Cookie the rich neighbor… the list goes on) make it even more enjoyable.

The murder is clever. The list of suspects is believable. The investigation is paced well — not too slow, not too fast. The way the criminal is captured is kinda cool. And the resolution to all the stories is a great end to the book. I am thrilled about the character of Libby. She seems like she could really be an asset in the town but also shake it up a little. Only 23 but quite smart and worldly already. I’m very excited about this new series but sad I’ll have to wait a full year to read the next one. I’m also curious if the series will skip a year again or pick up sometime mid-year. Kudos to the author and publisher for providing a copy thru the giveaway contest. 4.25 stars!

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.

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365 Challenge: Day 210 – Pastimes (Top 10)

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Pastimes: top 10 hobbies that keep Jay busy, and that he loves doing 

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Sunday posts, the end of each week, have become a theme on This-Is-My-Truth-Now, organized by groups of five (5) focused on interesting things about my life. I’m continuing the trend of the seventh day, ending the week on Sunday, as a list (we know I love them) that provides more in depth knowledge about me.

  • Weeks 1 – 5: Primary ethnicity groups and nationalities
  • Weeks 6 – 10: A to Z Favorites
  • Weeks 11 – 15: Colors with an important meaning
  • Weeks 16 – 20: Cities I’ve lived
  • Weeks 21 – 25: Jobs I’ve held

The next set of 5 Sundays covers the ‘Top 10’ of entertainment options that I spend my time thinking about or doing and this week is the “pastimes that keep me busy or that I absolutely love.” They are in no particular order, simply as I thought of them when typing. For anyone who’s read my blog before, these should be pretty obvious, but for someone new, this list will give you a sense of who I am! Then you can run the other direction if it’s not what you want to read about. Note: Writing is now a job, so I don’t consider it my pastime anymore!!!

  • Reading
    • Give me a mystery, thriller, suspense or historical book and I’m set for hours. If there’s a biography on someone I enjoy, or a non-fiction history about something, it will keep me happy all day long!
  • Genealogy
    • I’ve traced about 2000 relatives to date from all over North America and Europe. My early posts covered all my ethnicity groups and some interesting stories about my relatives. You can see one here.
  • Gardening
    • When I owned houses in the past, I spent many hours planting and weeding. It’s been hard in NYC, but with a 700 square foot terrace garden that includes 10′ trees, we’ve made it work!
  • Traveling
    • I have been all over the world, from Cambodia to Argentina, Canada to Spain. I have probably visited 35 of 50 states in America. I love exploring cultures.
  • Cooking
    • If you read last week’s post, enough said. If not, I listed the top 10 dishes which you can read here. I have less time to cook these days with my writing schedule, but weekends are usually more free.
  • TV Viewing
    • If you read the post from a few weeks ago, enough said. If not, I listed my top 10 TV shows which you can read here. I am slowing my TV viewing to only shows I really love, as my creative time needs to be focused on reading and writing, particularly when it comes to fiction.
  • Wine Tasting
    • When I lived in San Francisco, there was a monthly trip to Napa and Sonoma. I could spend all day at a few wineries. Too bad I need a designated driver to truly sample each one and enjoy myself! Champagne anyone? And while I hate to admit this aloud, my favorites were in Mendoza. The stunning architecture while drinking in a stone estate on cliffs overlooking the water…
  • Research
    • I’m an academic. I wish I could attend colleges and universities every year. I love to teach, mentor and learn. Give me a thrilling topic and I can spend an entire night researching it on the computer, never interested in going to sleep. I thrive on the challenge of learning as much as I can in as little time as possible.
  • Playing with animals
    • I’ve had so many pets over the course of my life: hamsters, ferrets, cats, dogs, fish, squirrels… went horseback riding, to the zoo… looking in an innocent animal’s eyes, knowing they love you no matter what, is unparalleled.
  • Gym
    • The gym and I were never acquainted for most of my early life. I played soccer and baseball in middle school, and I took a few required courses in college however, I was not an athlete. Sometime after college, I started working out, even buying all the equipment to create a home gym in my basement. Now I have one in my apartment building. 5 times a week. Swap off cardio and weights. Not looking to be huge, just fit and energetic. If I want to live to 120, I gotta keep everything in line! And at 120, I’ll really be only 60 cause of all the work I’ve put in. Maybe “making up stories” should have been the last pastime…

 

Which ones do you agree with? What have I missed? Make it a fun response…

 

 

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

 

365 Challenge: Day 50 – Self-Conscious

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Self-Conscious: feeling undue awareness of oneself, one’s appearance, or one’s actions

Some people are completely content with who they are, how they look and the way they act. I have never been one of those people. I envy those people. Those people make me frustrated. I dream of being one of those people. But I have definitely improved over the years when it comes to how self-conscious I’ve been.

OK… to put it all out there… the list of things I’m self-conscious over:

  • Being too pale and feeling like everyone can see every blemish, burn, fluster or discoloration in skin tone
  • Feeling too short
  • Needing to wear glasses
  • Body parts too small or too big (I find fault with everything!)
  • Inexperience over various things
  • How clothing fits
  • Being too young or too old in a situation
  • Dancing
  • Sports
  • … let’s stop for now or I’ll go on for ever

We all feel this way at some point in our lives. For some of us, it’s only a little bit and we outgrow it. For many of us, it’s powerful and consuming. And at times, it can feel like the entire world “has it in for you.” But that’s simply not true, and I only feel comfortable saying this many years into my adulthood, where part of me doesn’t “give a shit” (pardon my language) what others think.

As a child, teenager and younger adult, I was self-conscious over everything and it caused small panic attacks, retreat, and wasted time and energy. If I spent half as much time worrying as I did, I’d have so much less stress and a many more comforts today than I do (and I have little stress and a lot of comforts).

Ultimately, it came down to 2 primary things causing these tensions: (1) I didn’t trust in myself or in others and (2) I was immature or inexperienced. Let’s dive in a little deeper:

Trust

  • Trust is a two-way action; to be successful, both people in the relationship or situation must trust one another.

  • I have always had issues trusting others when I do not know them. As a result, strangers always represented the possibility of something bad or wrong (no, nothing ever happened to me… I just kept people at arm’s length). When you don’t trust someone, you assume the worst. For me, the worst meant they didn’t like me and would do, think or say negative things about me.
  • Although I am always a trustworthy person, if I don’t show this to others, they may not immediately trust me either. And if someone doesn’t trust me, then they may actually be doing, thinking or saying those negative things.
  • Without trust, you assume the worst and over-think a situation, helping breed more self-conscious behaviors within your own actions. The foundation for feeling good about yourself either fails to build, minimizes itself or disappears entirely.
  • Less trust therefore means you question more… and once you question things about yourself, the flood of self-conscious thoughts flows.
  • And whether people admit it or not… and I feel this is a strong fact out there that needs to be accepted:
    • Yes, there are people out there who are doing/saying/thinking negative things about you. They are judging you… They are laughing… And they might be better than you when it comes to certain things. It may be 1% or 10% of the people in your life, depending on where you are at any given moment. But here’s my point: You can’t change it… it’s them, not you. You only control you. So don’t let it hold you back. Just let yourself know it’s happening, but limit how/where/when it truly affects you. Don’t let it consume you.

Immature / Inexperience

  • When you are younger, you don’t know any better. You haven’t learned a lot key lessons, ones which help build your confidence, esteem and sense of worth.
  • If you know less, you feel inferior. That is, until you realize, learning is a life-long process. And not knowing something is an opportunity to improve and gain knowledge. It’s not about focusing on what you don’t know, but how you will amass or absorb it.
  • It takes many years to realize that people are so often caught up in their own insecurities and self-esteem, they are NOT thinking about you as much as you think they are. And when you realize people aren’t focused on you, you relax a little… allowing yourself to be less critical about the things you worry over.
  • At some point, you will reach the moment we all have at various points in our life: “Who really cares?”

  • So what if you are more good-looking, smarter, thinner, richer, etc.? Why is it always a comparison? There are several billion people on this planet… we will NEVER know who is the best at anything even when someone wins that title. Not everyone participates. Some people live under a rock (exaggeration… I know)… and therefore the rest of us will never know how good that person is.
    • Too many people to worry
    • Too much else to enjoy
    • It stops you from your own purpose
    • It’s never-ending
  • So… accept that it’s a continuous journey and not a race to get to a point of perfection. (Yes, the perfectionist, who isn’t perfect and knows it, just said that).

Given everything I’ve said, a few things on my mind:

  1. I will always be self-conscious about certain things, but each time it happens, I push myself to determine why it’s important… and then find a way to lessen the impact.
  2. If it’s something I can change, and it’s important to me to change it, then I work on a path to do so.
  3. If it’s not something I can change, then I let it go. Find your triggers. Make small in-roads to re-routing your thoughts. And if you can’t… move on. Other things need better focus.
  4. Find the thing you feel even better about, and tell yourself that’s the piece that matters… not what you don’t feel good about. Be positive.
  5. Don’t focus on what the other people are doing… only yourself in this situation: it is acceptable to do such a thing and not considered selfish.

That said… I’m gonna tell myself I have that sexy librarian nerd look when I wear my glasses today while working out at the gym. And anyone looking at me just wants to get lucky with me, even tho I’ll be a sweaty mess bouncing around all over the place. And it’s not because I’m using the exercise machine the wrong way — it’s because I’m awesome!  😛

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. 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.

365 Challenge: Day 33 – Strong

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Strong: having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks, or able to withstand great pressure

I wonder if we have mis-used the word ‘strong’ during everyday conversation, or perhaps it is just me. I often use the word strong to mean mentally capable of handling a lot. I suppose that would fall under “great pressure,” but it makes me wonder how words change their meaning over the years… but not to get too far off topic, I did intend today’s word to meet the definition I used above. And I plan to cover both the physical aspects and the “pressure” aspects of it, especially since I said I would several posts ago.

Why am I physically strong?

I am not a bodybuilder. I am not a sports guy. I do go to the gym, but I don’t always know what I’m doing. I’ve had a personal trainer. I am persistent. Somehow, through all these things, I have actually been able to stay in fairly good shape.

I debated whether to post of a recent photo of me at the gym or the beach, where there’d be some proof that I actually am in good shape. Then I thought about it… that might be a little too vain… a little too cocky… a little too over-selling it. 😛 If necessary, I believe there are a few pictures on my social media accounts where you’d be able to see for yourself. And that’s assuming you even care.

But my point here… is that I feel I am strong. No, I’m not counting how much I can bench press. No, I don’t know the names of each of the muscles and which ones are my best features. But I am proud of myself for working out as much as I have over the years. Someone needs to be! And since I do eat all those desserts and drink a bit more than I should from time to time, and I’m now 40, I gotta do something to at least balance it all out. I’ll never be the perfect prime conditioned body model (is that what they’re called?) but I look good.

I didn’t always workout.  I played some baseball and soccer in grammar and middle school. I bowled in high school. I started taking a few classes when I went off to Moravian College in 1995, where they required 1 physical activity course for each semester. This was a fantastic idea: required physical education courses. Not everyone would agree, but I think it makes for a more balanced lifestyle. Nonetheless, I didn’t play sports, so I went for the classes where I could do things on my own and still ask questions if I wanted to. I hated those group activities. 🙂

And ever since then, I’ve pushed myself to workout.  There have been a few years where I only went to the gym once or twice a month. When I lived in the suburbs, I bought all the equipment for a spare room and used it almost daily. For one year, I took all the extra supplements. (Legal and healthy ones… don’t get any bad ideas… I know how YOU think!) Now that I live in NYC, and I have a gym in my building, it’s a lot easier. I get there at least 4 times per week, alternating between weights and cardio.

And in the end, I feel strong. I feel great when I have a powerful workout. (Not that it gives me the energy to go do more, as in a previous post, I said it didn’t…) It makes me feel like I could defend myself if I needed to. I could keep up with the young ones. I might even get a second, third and fourth look at the beach. Woo Hoo! Goals in life have been met. Ha! I’m amusing this morning.

But the strength I am talking about is being in touch with my body, knowing my limits, understanding my capabilities. Being able to look at a set of weights and challenge myself to add 5 pounds extra the next time. Upping the level by one on the cardio machine or extending an extra three minutes to really push myself. I am strong and I know it… except for those two annoying spots called mini-love handles, which won’t go away. And all because I won’t cut the fat out of my diet. Grr…

Why am I mentally strong?

Life is hard. People hurt you. Things don’t go your way. But I’ve been blessed with the ability to control my thoughts and actions with enough strength that I can lead a healthy, happy and open life. Not everyone wakes up each day and feels good about themselves. Whether it’s an awful prior experience, a chemical or blood issue, or even just depression, a large part of the population struggles to get through life. I’ve certainly had some moments where I wasn’t too keen on myself or what was going on, but in general, I’m pretty blessed with a strong mind and the will to go on. And I’m thankful for it.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had days where I watched sappy movies and cried to a friend. Or that I didn’t sit in the dark for hours, wishing it all to go away. We all have moments like that, but it’s important to find your way out of it… and towards something better. Maybe that’s part of the goal of this 365 Daily Challenge: to help provide more strength for my future, and perhaps anyone reading it, too.

An unusual post for me today… but I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Demonstrate why I am strong, saving why I am weak for another day. 😛

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.