music

Book Review: Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron

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Fatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country MysteryFatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fatal Cajun Festival is the fifth book in the ‘Cajun Country Mystery’ cozy series written by Ellen Byron. I was lucky enough to get an early copy through NetGalley and happened to be current in the series so I could begin reading it this week. It will be published in early fall but you can pre-order it now via Amazon. Byron has another success on her hands, and I truly enjoyed the latest edition in this adorable and engaging series about crimes occurring on a Louisiana plantation.

Maggie’s grandmother helped organize a music festival in Pelican. A rising country singer who used to live in Pelican returns to sing for her hometown. In the days before her performance, we meet all the people in her band or running her team, then learn one of them is a former rival of Maggie’s good friend, Gay. Unfortunately, someone in the band causes trouble for a few people and winds up dead. Another person is attacked, and everything points to Gay. Maggie knows it’s not true, and even fakes a break-up with her fiance police detective, Bo, so she can unearth the scoop. Will she be successful, or will someone feed her to the alligators and snakes first?

Music and a southern Louisiana plantation go hand-in-hand. The drama that unfolds is clever and messy (in a good way) — there are a variety of strong suspects with believable alibis and motives. One of them is clearly being faked, but it’s not obvious at first. There are complex layers afoot in this mystery, and we only learn how everyone is connected, by accident, near the end. What an interesting way to assemble a band! Byron has created a compelling story with memorable characters, all the while dazzling us with subplots and side-stories about Maggie’s friends and families who aren’t involved directly in the murder mystery. For instance, Gran learns something about her late husband, and it changes her future. Maggie makes a decision about her own relationship’s future. And a few other characters get some unexpected surprises. Great way to keep viewers entertained while solving an investigation.

Byron’s books are easy to read. She wraps up her subplots. We see lots of characters who move the story along. And we never feel overwhelmed or confused. It’s a strong balance of all the things that belong in a cozy. It’s one of the series I’ve stayed super-current on so I can read the books when they first become available, rather than wait months or years to catch up. I look forward to the next one! Hurry up, please. 🙂

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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 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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Book Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

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The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole (A Taste of Texas Mystery #2)The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve completed reading all three cozy mysteries in the ‘A Taste of Texas Mystery’ series by Rebecca Adler with this one: The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole. Josie Callahan is a part-time reporter at the local small-town paper and a part-time waitress at her family’s TexMex restaurant. In between, she solves murders despite trying to ignore them.

In this caper, her bestie, Patti, has been accused of killing her ex-boyfriend, mega musician who’s come back to town to play in a local concert hall. Did Patti do it? Doubtful, but the police have arrested her. What jerks, right? So… Josie and her Chihuahua, Lenny, along with the rest of the Martinez family, try to find the real killer. A band-mate? A jealous girlfriend? An agent? Someone from the outside? Who did it?

I’m giving this one 3.5 stars. Of the three in the series, it’s the one I like the most. I have the same concern with this book as I do the whole series. There’s something slightly off in the interaction and dialogue between all the characters. I feel like the author knows what she’s saying in her head, but a line or two is left out. Sometimes I’m not sure who’s speaking; other times, a random narrative appears that I can’t quite figure out the connection to the rest of the happenings. All-in-all, it’s not enough to stop me from reading the series, but I find myself puzzled enough to pause and re-read. When that happens, I know there could be a stronger focus on the overall flow and tone in the book.

That said… there are major positives. It’s full of clear suspects with definite motives. I like the setting and backdrop. Josie is a good sleuth. I like the budding relationship with Lightfoot or maybe Ryan. I enjoy the family restaurant dynamics. And the mysteries are always complex. I look forward to reading the next one.

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: A Mersey Killing by Brian L. Porter

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to download the fourth book in the Mersey Murder Mysteries by Brian L. Porter. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and so, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning of the series and read them in order, starting with A Mersey Killing: When Liverpool Rocked, And The Music Died. Porter has kicked off a fantastic collection of novels involving the various detectives and police beginning with Detective Inspector Andy Ross and Sergeant Izzie Drake. If you’re a fan of British crime fiction and methodical investigation, you’re sure to love these books.

In this series debut, a body is found in the Mersey River. It’s often difficult to obtain clues when the water can wash away evidence, but what about if the body has been there for over 35 years? Izzie and Ross have their work cut out for them, but as readers, we’re privileged to know a little bit more. Porter’s weaved alternating time periods in this story by showing us what happened in the past to a group of Liverpool musicians in the 1960s. As we get to know about 6 to 8 talents, we wonder… which one falls prey to a killer? As the story unfolds, we learn who it is, but there’s also someone else missing, too. Did they escape to America to form a band? Are they hiding out from someone dangerous? Izzie and Ross solve the case but not before tearing apart a family who’s been devastated one too many times in the past.

Porter’s a definite talent. While his books are mysteries with a touch of suspense, love and thrills, they often wisely focus on the relationships between characters as the catalyst to drive the story. Whether it’s getting to know the current day investigators, the past musicians, or who they’ve all become today, the plot and writing forces readers to care about what’s happening to everyone. We see them going thru their days on all levels — sometimes focused on the investigation, sometimes dealing with a personal issue. As the stories all begin to intersect, we begin to develop our own instincts as to who’s guilty of murder and who’s guilty of leading us astray.

Porter’s style is very strong, clear and direct. His main investigator team works with different departments to determine the murder weapon, to check passports from 35 years ago, and to learn how to interpret clues that no longer make sense. We see the leads meet with their colleagues and form their own opinions, but hold back a bit of reserve knowing they haven’t unearthed everything they still need to know. And when it all comes to a crashing finale, we worry whether the punishment fits the crime. That’s the sign of a good storyteller — to make us think critically.

Kudos to Porter for proving why building the right characters and setting can lead to a very promising and worthy book series. I’m looking forward to picking up the next one this fall… and getting invested in a series with 5 books already in the author’s pocket. I’m sure there will be more just as sure as I am that I’ll love them all!

 

mersey

 

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: Playing with Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St. James

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Why This Book 
I belong to a cozy mystery group that offers a few giveaways to read ARCS each month. I won Playing With Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St. James and picked it up in between my Agatha Christie Readathon books this week. I adore cozy mysteries, have a sweet spot for chocolate, and am growing more interested in living in the southern part of the US. Good combo, eh?
onbon

Approach & Style 
It took me 3 hours to read a hard copy of this ~335 page novel, the second in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. It is told in 1st person point-of-view with the perspective focused solely on the main character, Charity Penn (see more on her later). It has a typical cozy feel with easy flow from chapter to chapter, dialog, and descriptions. I usually read books in order, but this had a rush due date to deliver a review, so I couldn’t go back to the first one. I think it’s important to read this series in order, as there are details about the character in the first book that would have been helpful, but still, it was a quick and fun read.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Charity Penn, known simply as Penn because she dislikes her first name, inherited the chocolate shop from her maternal grandmother. She was abandoned my her mother at birth, delivered to her rich but seemingly difficult or abrasive father and his family. She grew up feeling alone and isolated, but is starting to develop a better relationship with her half-sister, Tina. Penn hasn’t quite adapted to cooking and running the bonbon shop, but she has support from her late grandmother’s friends and wants to make the woman proud. In this caper, Tina sends ex-boyfriend, Bixby, to help sing with his band at the town’s festival, as it will help cement Penn in a more admired role. The town hasn’t quite warmed up to her yet, and her grandmother’s other children don’t believe she’s really one of them or should have inherited the shop. All she wants is to find her mother who disappeared years ago. Bixby suddenly fights with another band at the festival over rights to a song, and then the current song owner winds up dead. Penn’s mother’s history is tied up in this mystery and it all comes to a head in a big scene at the end of the book. She now knows who her mother is!

Key Thoughts 
It’s a good example of a typical cozy mystery with a few standout moments, including the connections and mysteries surrounding Penn’s family (both her mother’s and her father’s sides), the bonds she has with a few of her late grandmother’s friends helping to transition the store, and the romances she could potentially have with some of the men in the town. I like Penn’s personality and style and she seems to have a fair balance of when to push and when to back away in terms of investigating any crimes. I like that there’s only one or two recipes so we don’t lose too much page space to non-story items. I also enjoyed the descriptions of how she works in the bakery preparing food and securing the chocolate beans from a remote South American jungle.

The mystery was medium-complex with a few red herrings and several paths to trace before landing at the true culprit. It kept me guessing most of the way through and even had me traveling down a wrong path. One of the issues I had was not knowing a few people’s ages, so I could never be sure if they were a candidate to be Penn’s mother and/or date someone else. Of course people can date someone a generation older or younger, but it’s not that common in a cozy mystery so I was trying to line it all up. That said, when the details came out, it was believable, but a tad rushed. We stumble upon the criminal and learn some secrets, yet we don’t quite get all the details surrounding the why/how from ~35 years ago when a song was created… but it mostly all fits together. I think it just needed a bit more detail and explanation, but that could be coming in the next book in the series. I’m open-minded!

Summary 
I’d give the book 3.5 stars and would recommend it as a solid read. I see a lot of potential in the series with the family drama and the chocolate shop, but the ending came a bit too quickly, so there is some room for growth. All in all, I’m glad I read this one and will definitely read more in the series and 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 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 283 – Hole

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Hole: (a)  small or unpleasant place, or (b) where Jay goes when searching for music

hole

Ryder and I had the apartment to ourselves last night, as W had to be out of town for the day. I thought I’d spend a few hours reading and get to bed early, but that didn’t happen. Pitch Perfect 2 was on the television, and I succumbed to the music for two hours, only to drag myself into bed completely focused on recalling various songs from the 1980s. Reading was no longer an option, so I decided to look up a few of my faves on the YouTube app on my phone while in bed. Ryder slept at my feet until I apparently pushed him too far. I was prepared to spend 15 minutes searching, then turn it all off. That never happened… the proverbial rat hole we’ve all gotten stuck in took over! One song led to another, which led to more memories. Ryder abandoned the bed within fifteen minutes and curled up under his own blanket in his own bed. I guess he wasn’t in the mood to listen to my jamming. Though I had gotten in bed at 11pm with a 100% charge on the phone, next thing I knew, it was 1:30am and I had a 13% charge on my phone. I don’t recall anything that happened during those 150 minutes!

I have this occasional habit when I’m home alone of listening to sad songs and power ballads. You name it, I probably listened to it last night… starting with three different versions of Hallelujah. Air Supply certainly figured prominently, as did a few Heart songs. It stayed mostly in the 1980s, but I did jump around a little bit. Adele was the last song before I finally told myself to go to sleep, as I had to be up at 7am to do laundry. Our building is changing over the laundry room provider tomorrow, and we won’t have services for 5 days. Since we leave on the weekend for Christmas, I had to get it done today. All the maids (seems like everyone has one in this building) arrive by 8am to start cleaning, so I had to get to the laundry room first, especially on the last day it was available. I’m my own maid!

Anyway… I realized two things last night: (1) I am easily distracted by music and therefore do not listen to it while I write; however, there were some amazing French songs that I could probably have in the background, as the words wouldn’t mean anything to me nor disrupt me, and (2) I woke up this morning with tons of lines I want to add into Father Figure. I wrote many of them down, but now I need to verify none are from the songs I listened to! I doubt they are, as I basically crafted them as I was pulling clothes from the washer and putting them into the dryer. The words feel original. The point being… both laundry and music led me down a hole in the last 24 hours, but in the end, I came out the other side with some really fantastic improvements to the book.

I call that a hole in one!

{Worst line of cheese I’ve ever used… good thing I’m not a writer! Oh, wait…}

 

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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365 Challenge: Day 195 – Smoky

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Smoky: The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina where I spent my entire day — at the Dolly Parton Dream More resort and amusement park.

Below are about twenty pictures I took today with a few captions all about the trip! More to come in separate posts, i.e. the smoke from the train that stalled due to a passenger’s medical alert, the various names I kept calling Pigeon Forge, the town where this resides and the humor from seeing Dolly Parton memorabilia all day!

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Entrance to the resort where we stayed

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Sadly, this doesn’t start until 9/28, but they were beginning to set up for it

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Random singers all over the park

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A replica of Dolly’s childhood home (2 room wooden house)

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Walking around the booths and shops

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Eagles in the trees in the top middle of the picture

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Random pictures of the park

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Entrance to the mine

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Pumpkin Fun

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No clue, but it was hilarious

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Me sun burnt playing my own music in the park

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Old cars on the property

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1960s set to show what it looked like while she was growing up

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Cool cop car

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Her wedding dress

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Various clothing outfits

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More outfits

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Clothes she wore in ‘9 to 5’

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Clothes she wore in ‘Steel Magnolias’

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Her bedroom in the bus she travels around in

 

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.

365 Challenge: Day 187 – Riff

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Riff: (a) short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song, (b) random discussion or “going off” about something in Jay’s blog (might be a commandeered definition again)

riff.png

In Thursday’s post, I mentioned the next word would be ‘riff,’ but for some reason, I had a slightly different definition in my head. I knew it was related to music, but I also thought it meant to just randomly talk about something in a negative way / complaining. When I went to my trusty online dictionary, I had a moment of “wow, you’re not very bright anymore, are you Jay?” It seems I might have re-purposed this word in the past for my own usage. Rather than make up something today, I will accept my foolish mind’s mistake and try to build a halfway decent post around the word ‘riff.’ And maybe someone can understand the logic that lurks deep within my recesses.  {Aside: Did I use the word ‘recesses’ properly or have I made another Jay-ism? As I write this, I used the word ‘rents in a sentence to a friend I adore. She didn’t know what I meant. I suddenly realized… Does no one else call their parents the ” ‘rents ” sometimes? … My friend claimed it might be a Jay-ism. Perhaps that’s the real issue here… is there such a word as ‘Jay-ism’ ?}

I have no musical talent whatsoever, so the word ‘riff’ is going to be a difficult one for me to get around. But I have a cute story. A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post about visiting some friends and their new apartment on the West Side, where they had a music room in their building with a karaoke machine. About ten of us hung out for close to two hours, trying to pretend we had talent. A few people did. A few did not. I was in the ‘did not’ group. I sang two karaoke songs and I’m fairly certain the mirror cracked on the wall. I could not, would not, should not (pick your qualifier) ever riff or jam or try to be musical. But I wish I could be! When I waited in Penn Station today before hopping the train out to Long Island to visit my ‘rents, there were a few riffers (is that a word or am I making up sh*t again?) hanging out near the subway. One guy played the cello, and he was quite talented in my opinion. If I could play any music, it would be the piano, violin or cello. The reverberation in any of those instruments has a way of manipulating my core by blending together everything which I hold sentimental and emotional.

So the cute story part… as I’m listening to him play the cello and sing, I’m standing a few feet away where I don’t think anyone notices me. Somehow, my legs started moving a little and I must have said a few words aloud. The singer called me out and waved at me to come join him. OMG, I turned red and ran down the stairs to wait where the train would eventually pull in. Sometimes I don’t know how I actually keep myself functional in NYC. But I do envy those who can just riff on a whim’s notice, whether it’s rap or reggae, slow or fast, it’s a talent to understand music and words to the point you can combine them in a way that truly entertains people. I can do that with my writing (sometimes… I hear a few of you laughing out there… it’s okay, I have my moments)… find the words to mesmerize someone. I’ve made myself cry a few times with some passages. I’ve even developed a crush on a character I’d created. {Aside: Is that weird?} I also riff in my head a lot, but it probably sounds like a cat in heat. I’m definitely not ever going to do that in real-life in front of anyone ever again.

Then we come to my own made up definition, which is basically what I sometimes do in these 365 Daily Challenge posts. Exactly what I’ve just done today, you are all thinking… I just type away at my computer, with what I thought was an alternative definition of the word ‘riff,’ by spewing anything and everything that comes from mind without stopping. Some days, it’s actually amusing and educational. Other days, I’m sure folks wonder what I was either smoking or drinking that day. Though, if I’m being honest, I’ve never actually smoked anything, neither a cigarette or pot. I grew up around smokers and it just never appealed to me, so I avoided that whole thing. No comment on anything else, as this post is about riffing, so keep your mind from straying, please.

I rather like the Pitch Perfect movies, too, as they riff a bunch in them. But then there’s another image that comes to mind when I think of the word riff… or at least the word ‘riff-raff.’ I remember my grandparents making comments during TV shows from either the 1970s or the 1980s, where they always showed some kids in the hood or hanging out on a street corner, called ’em riff-raff. I think they said it about Sister Act 2, when they were working on the cars and singing aloud outside the church. It’s kinda funny how all these words evolve into different meanings and have peculiar interpretations, depending on where you are from or where you have lived.

What’s your thoughts on the word riff? Are you capable of it? What instruments can you play? Do you think my made-up riff words and posts are just going downhill? With the quality in today’s post, I’m sure you’re laughing about me right now.  And I’m with you in spirit. And as I’m about to start working on the final day of editing the novel, Father Figure, before I send it to beta readers this weekend, all I can think is:

Please don’t tell me this is what the writing in my novels sounds like!

 

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.