review

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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3 out of 5 stars to The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, the first in a fantasy and historical fiction series about Russian fairy tales.

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Why This Book
I ordered this online many months ago based on the description I’d read in Goodreads. Then a friend of mine, Valerie, was planning to read it. We decided to do a buddy read together earlier this month.

Plot, Characters & Setting
A Russian girl loses her mother and her place in a family. She meets strange creatures who no one else can see. Her father remarries to provide her with a mother figure, then has more children. Something happens in the background where there is a war between religions, people and culture. It’s a battle to maintain your village and your family, but also to connect the past with the future.

Approach & Style
I read the paperback version over a two-week period. It’s 312 pages or 28 chapters long. Chapters are about 10 to 12 pages, told in third person.

Strengths
It had absolutely beautiful imagery and lyrical prose. You truly feel transported to a new world full of complex characters, interesting plots and high imagination.

There is a lot of great history and views on religion, politics and royalty. You believe you are in Russia dealing with true occurrences and fantastic situations.

Concerns
The language was too confusing for me, often leaving me wonder what was real and what was fantasy. I’m not normally a fantasy reader, so it might have been partially my fault.

Names on the characters change a bit too often, which made it slightly difficult for me to recall who each person was.

Final Thoughts
I had been in a reading slump and was working on the final chapters of my own book. I might have been distracted while reading this one. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I think it’s a strong book, and for that, I settled on a 3 rating. It is good, just not the right match for me.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

What’s a Spoiler??

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My friend Mischenko has started an amazing conversation about spoilers in book reviews. You should definitely check it out… so many comments already from all her followers. Great perspectives in this post. Nice job! #spoilers #bookreview #awesomepost #reading

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Spoiler is typically defined as a person or thing that spoils something, but it’s not that easy is it? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spoilers when it comes to book reviews. On Goodreads, there are people that will straight up lash out on others for including spoilers in their reviews, but just what exactly is considered a spoiler?

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I recently reviewed a book and compared my review to somebody else’s review on the same book and they had many labels for spoilers that I really didn’t consider spoilers at all. It made me reflect on my review writing and I’m questioning if I’m giving out too much information about the content.

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Book Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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3.5 out of 5 stars to Girl in Snow, a new mystery and suspense novel written by Danya Kukafka and set to be released on August 1st, 2017.

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Many thanks to Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to review an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this novel. I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading more by this author.

Why This Book
This is slightly embarrassing, but I’m not one hundred percent certain how I came to read this book. I was awarded the novel on NetGalley in May, but I believe someone recommended it to me, or maybe the publisher reached out to me to take a look at it. I can’t find any emails, which I normally save, or any comments that might refresh my memory… so bottom-line, it was part of a NetGalley list of books I wanted to read.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Lucinda is a teenager in a small Colorado town who is found dead in the snow on a school playground by a custodian. She was hit in the head with a blunt object and left to die. The story follows several people in the town who either knew the girl or knew of her, each having different opinions about whether Lucinda was a good person or a bad girl.

Cameron is the boy who loved her from afar, except someone knows he was stalking the girl and watching through her windows. He’s had mini-breakdowns after his father left town years ago under very bad circumstances. He doesn’t remember doing anything, but people close to him know he was missing, saw him talking to her and believe he’s guilty.

Jade is a fellow schoolmate who did not like Lucinda. Lucinda stole the boy Jade loved, but the boy never really loved Jade. Jade is not upset that Lucinda is dead, but her younger sister is angry. Jade’s mother treats her daughter poorly and seems to be hiding some sort of a secret.

Russ is the cop assigned to investigate Lucinda’s death. He’s harboring a secret about his friendship with Cameron’s father, as well as the reasons Cameron’s father disappeared. He’s also certain the school custodian, who happens to be Russ’s wife’s brother, is guilty. He tries to navigate the situation, but finds himself stuck on the past.

A few other characters intersect, e.g. a couple with a young child that both Lucinda and Jade babysat for. A young school teacher accused of flirting inappropriately with his female students. And the friends and family members of all 3 main characters.

One of these people is guilty. But the question is who… and you’ll need to read the book to find out.

Approach & Style
I read the novel on my iPad through Kindle Reader. It was about 4500 lines, which is about a 300 page hardcover — not that long. Chapters are relatively short and alternate perspective from the 3 main characters: Cameron, Jade and Russ. The language and writing are absolutely beautiful. So much background and description are revealed in the narration and prose. There are limited amounts of dialogue.

Jade tells 2 sides of every conversation — what she wishes she said (through a play she is writing) and what she actually said. For a young and new writer, the author has a firm grip on flourishing language. On occasion, it fell a little too simple, but it balanced out from the lengthy details of everything else going on in the background.

Strengths
The best part of the story is the absolutely beautiful descriptions of the characters and the scenery. Everything feels authentic. The plot is complex in that there are different levels of relationships happening behind the scenes, which readers only see when certain characters happen to stumble on the supporting cast. It’s a good approach to hold interest in the story. The plot has many interesting sub-components, which help reveal who people really are on the inside versus who they appear to be on the outside.

Concerns
I didn’t know enough about nor care much for Lucinda. A lot of details were revealed about her, but she’s dead when the story starts. As a result, I felt like she could have been anyone as opposed to having a real strong desire inside me to want to know who killed her. I felt less of an attachment to her, but if it were written a little differently, I think it would have been an easy 4 rating for me. Also, once the killer is revealed, there is no scene explaining how/why it happened. You have a hint at the reason for the murder, but you never actually watch or hear the scene played out from either the narrator or a confession from the killer. It felt like a bit of a letdown.

Author & Other Similar Books
This is a very typical story about 3 seemingly disconnected characters where you have to figure out how everyone knew each other. There are a lot of similar type stories on the market right now, as it’s a popular genre and sub-genre. In a way, it was similar to “Beartown” in the structure, focus on teenagers and the mystery portion. But it was also like “I Found You” where the 3 stories will intersect somehow, but you just don’t know until the end, but also that this this was about teenagers and “I Found You” was not only about teenagers.

This is the author’s first book. She definitely has writing talent and storytelling abilities. I think with more experience, she’ll flush out some of the areas that felt a bit weak to me and become a fantastic and creative author in this genre. I’m glad I read it and will chance her next book.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

Blog: To Write — Choose What Novel is Next For Me!

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As many of you already know, I tend to write and post a lot on this blog — sometimes too much from I’ve heard. Between the older book reviews and the 365 Daily Challenge, I’m constantly in your mail box! Part of this journey has been a self-induced push to get me into a habit of writing every day. Last fall, I wrote a book and am currently working with and searching for the best agent to represent me to publishers. If you’re interested in reading a few chapters, you can find out more here.

While I’m on that path with an agent, I need to get started on the next book. And as I’m nearly done with updating all my older book reviews, I’ll probably get more seriously started in July or August with writing the next novel. I’ve created several outlines over the last few months and a couple of chapters here and there, but I haven’t quite latched on to what story to tell. Since I’ll have more time on my hands once the older book reviews are completed, I should directly replace that time with writing the next book. And I think I’ve got the perfect idea.

I’m going to spend a week writing each chapter, a few days editing it, and then post it online on my blog. This is both good and bad… it means if I have edits or changes from previous chapters, it might be a bit disjointed at times, and it also would make it harder to publish in the future. I’m also locking myself into several hours of work every week for the next 52 weeks — a whole year! But… I’ve completed 25% of the 365 Daily Challenge, so I obviously have the stamina. I can and will do this. Maybe we’ll decide instead of 1 full novel it will be several shorter novels, or a few major sections of several I get started on. The goal being to get myself back on track. And that’s where you come in….

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Once the older book reviews are completed and I have a few weeks to outline my next book, I will post a chapter every 7 to 10 days (depending on editing time) on this site. Anyone who wants to read it can read it. Anyone who wants to reply can reply through comments, polls or privately email me. But… to make this even more interesting, I’m going to summarize the eight (8) options I’m currently considering. And based on all votes received between today and June 30th, I will begin drafting the next book based on the summary that receives the highest count. So you get to choose!

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Some may say I’m throwing away content that a publisher will never want if it’s already so public. Others may say I could confuse readers if things change with the plot along the way. But you know… where else can you take a chance if not among your blogging friends? Is anyone else doing this? What if this helps me become a better writer and the next book I write is the best seller? It’s not about finding the secret formula to getting published. It’s not about how to make the most money. It’s how to tell the best story. And that’s my goal. Without further ado, below are the 8 options to choose from with the poll at the bottom of this post.

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  1. Memory of Time
    • Historical Fiction (1860s to Present)
    • Over the course of a two hundred year period, five (5) people’s lives are connected. Readers will learn bits and pieces in each chapter, as each section will focus on one of the five characters. You won’t see how or why they are connected at first, but it will become more clear as the story unfolds. And when it finally comes together, through tragedy and happiness, a single thread connecting them all, will culminate in a choice one person has to make: revenge or forgiveness.
  2. Father Figure
    • Mystery (Present)
    • A young girl’s quest to find her father, unaware of all the circumstances she’s placed herself in due to the choices both her mother made 18 years ago and she made on her own. Two Time Periods:
      • 1999 – Amalia Graeme (17) attending college. She has a boyfriend. But she’s secretly attracted to her professor, Dr. Jonah West (40). She begins an affair with him but one night, a stranger attacks Molly and her life is never the same again.
      • 2018 – Amalia, goes by Molly, sends her daughter, Brianna, away to college. Brianna begins dating her professor, Charles Villing. Brianna has always accepted her mother’s story that her father was a military man she only met one night and never saw again, but found herself pregnant months later. But Brianna uncovers her mother’s old journal where she confesses to finding out she was pregnant and not knowing who the father was. And then she reads an entry about who her mother’s boyfriend really was back then. Could that be her father… and if so, what does she do now?
  3. Amulet of Hope
    • Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery
    • Two spinster sisters fell in love with a man in 1700s Germany when they were 39. Ruthless Ottilia tricked Nikolai into sleeping with her and became pregnant. Innocent Eva pined and when she learned of the trickery, she confronted her sister after she gave birth… the two sisters fought and Ottilia went over a cliff. As she fell, she cursed her sister with the amulet that each of her children would suffer by having to make the choice to save one child while letting the other die. If no choice made by the time the mother was 40, all her kids would die immediate and tragic deaths.
    • Fast-forward to present time.  17 year old Vera finds the amulet among her mother’s belongings. Her mother is about to turn 40 but had a car accident and is in a coma. She meets her grandmother who’s been estranged for years. She’s faced with a choice… to use the amulet to save her mother and kill one of her siblings, or let her own mother die. What’s happened over the last few hundred years that drives everyone’s choices?
  4. College Campus Mysteries
    1. Mystery (Present) 
    2. Kellan Brunswick is a 32-year old writer who has recently moved back home to Wellington, Pennsylvania, a small historic town on the central PA border with New York tucked away between the Wharton Mountain range and Crilly Lake.  Kellan’s come home to Wellington to see family for a little when Braxton College, the school Kellan’s father recently retired from (as President), has a murder. Kellan needs a break from his Hollywood writing life and sticks around to help clear his dad of the murder, only to find out way more secrets about his family than he expected.
  5. Hillcrest Hunting
    • Cozy mystery series (Present)
    • While the series focuses on Brody and his cousin Evelyn, the extended family will play a large role in each book.  Brody Hillcrest disappeared years ago to escape a tragic accident only to find himself hiding in Italy away from his entire family.  When his clever cousin Evelyn finds a way to hunt him down, Brody’s forced to face his family and explain his absence. Evelyn throws a party in honor of her first book being published where family and friends celebrate her success.  But a murder happens while Evelyn is revealing that she brought a surprise guest — cousin Brody is home after a 5 year disappearance. Brody and Evelyn learn that many of their cousins have some connection to the deceased welcome-home party guest, but neither wants to believe their own family could commit murder. The duo investigate the murder victim and their family, even though they have no professional cop or PI experience, as they want to protect one another but also find themselves intrigued with the challenge of detective work.
  6. All the Gifts I Have Received
    • Thriller and Suspense (Present)
    • A woman receives gifts from a secret admirer. At first, they are sweet. They soon turn dark and dangerous. As she turns to the people closest to her, they all begin to look suspicious to her. She involves another friend she’s just met who’s a detective. As he closes in on finding her stalker, he realizes there’s a lot more to the puzzle than anyone knew. The woman’s family is not who she thought they were. And when the woman disappears, he fears he’ll never find her again. But he does. And when he does, he’s shocked to learn who has her.
  7. Graveyard Mistakes
    • Thriller / Mystery / Suspense (Present)
    • In the opening chapter, a man is at a grave saying goodbye to someone he loves. As the chapter ends, he asks how it all happened… how they ended up with him sitting by her grave and her being dead.
    • Reverse the story back to the beginning… and you’ll learn what happened to them, how much love can cost you and what lengths someone will go to in order to get what they want. The goal is to be chilling and suspenseful, each chapter dropping a few clues as to how the person died. But when you get to the final chapters, and the truth comes out, it may be a good thing it turned out this way.
  8. The Power of a Pact 
    • Family Drama (Present)
    • A family has the perfect life. But one by one, things turn for the worse. It sends them all spiraling into disaster. The father hits a point where he can no longer go on. One night while up late, he stumbles upon a chat room where people make a pact to meet up one night and kill one another, as they are afraid to take their own life. He spends weeks discussing the ways and places with the friend he meets online. They finally settle on the details. But as one of them is on the way to the meeting site, someone they know learns of the plan. It’s a race to see if the disaster can be prevented.

Note: These are working titles, which may change as the book unfolds. Also, the plot is general so that I have some room to work within the lines.

Thank you so much for participating in the vote, spreading the word and reading any content you choose to read in the future. I’ve enabled it so you can choose your top 3 choices, as there may be a few you can like. Ask any questions you have!

About Me

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” 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… see how you compare! Each month, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think.

Review: Green Eggs and Ham

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Green Eggs and Ham Book Review
4 of 5 stars to Green Eggs and Ham, a picture book written by Dr. Seuss in 1960. Another delightful children’s book full of wonderful images and fantastic rhymes. These are amazing books to use as tools that engages young kids in reading at a very early age. The topic in this one… Sam-I-Am and all the places to eat green eggs and ham! On some levels, the things they eat and the places they go are not appropriate for kids, but it’s meant as humor and fun… so I let those things go. Another book to read with a child… not hand off and hope (s)he figures it out. And Dr. Seuss has a world of characters children love and want to hear and see all the time. I’d definitely recommend this one as a starter book for your kids… even with some of the items to be careful over, when it comes to being funny versus truthful… and not giving off incorrect perceptions:

I loved it as a child
And I simply love it now
But don’t get too crazy or wild
Nor caught up in the how

Enjoy our famous friend
The wonderful Dr. Seuss
He likes to our ears just bend
A fun and dandy ruse

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

View all my reviews

Review: The Merchant of Venice

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The Merchant of Venice Book Review
3 of 5 stars to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. My review is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on appearance versus reality in Shakespeare’s plays. In many of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, reality was not quite what it appeared to be. Instead, it was a rather warped appearance that someone molded in a specific way for a particular reason. Reality has been altered in Shakespeare’s plays often by characters who have been known to lie, scheme, and create facades, just so that they could be with the ones they love. When fate intervened in this type of a situation and created an obstacle between the true loves, Portia, the main character in Merchant of Venice, disguised herself as a lawyer to free her love, Bassanio, from the evil Shylock’s clutches. She also altered reality by disguising herself to her husband so that she could see what their wedding rings meant to him. However, this deception, although intended for good purposes, usually ended in disaster. It just goes to show that honesty is always the best policy. Never deceive fate by changing reality, and interpreting [from it] a new appearance that you want other to see.

Portia had already been through an appearance vs. reality problem when it came to her potential suitor’s choosing of the caskets. They could choose from gold, silver, and lead. The first two appeared to be wonderful gifts from God, but in reality, the most worthless one, the lead, turned out to be the best coffin to pick. If you did, like one person did, you would win Portia’s hand in marriage. Luckily, the first two gentleman chose the wrong casket, and then when it came time for Bassanio to choose a casket, he chose the correct one. Thus, it lead to the marriage between Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio’s best friend Antonio, however, was in need of dire help. Portia decided to help her husband’s friend Antonio. Antonio had borrowed money from a man named Shylock to back Bassanio’s ships in the waters nearby. However, the ships never came back to port, and so Shylock wanted his money back from Antonio. The agreement that was made was that Shylock was due one pound’s flesh if he didn’t receive any money. Bassanio didn’t want to let his friend Antonio die from his debt, either. Eventually, Portia and her lady-in-waiting came up with a plan to disguise themselves and become a doctor and his clerk. This plan again alters reality to suit her own purpose. She needed to help her friend Antonio, so she put on a new appearance. She played the doctor who told Shylock he had permission to take his flesh from Antonio, but he best be careful not to shed any of Antonio’s blood during it, because that is illegal. Also, they revealed the Venetian law that states if any foreigner kills a Venetian, all of his money is to be taken from him. Shylock gives in and decides not to take his flesh from Antonio. In the end, Portia’s trickery and deceit works, but still, she had to disfigure the state of reality that Venice was in because she wanted to help her husband Bassanio.

Similarly, Portia decides to put on another disguise to test her husband’s loyalty. She again plays with the appearance of things and creates a false appearance like Juliet did in Romeo and Juliet. Portia, as the doctor talks to Bassanio about being paid for having saved Antonio’s life. Bassanio tires to give her money, but she refuses saying that all she wants is the ring on his hand. Bassanio thinks back to when it was given to him. Portia had said “I gave them with his ring, which when you part from, lose, or give away, let it presage the ruin of your love, and be my vantage to exclaim on you” (3.2.171-174). Bassanio had given her his word that he would never take it off. Well, after Portia, as the disguised man, chides Bassanio for keeping it because his woman told him to, Bassanio hands over the ring. When he later returns to Portia, she notices that his ring is gone and yells at him for it. She thinks he doesn’t love her and is reckless. All the while, Portia has set this whole game up to test her husband. Portia’s plays with reality for the fun of it really. She wants to be sure of her husband’s love for her, but she has no right to alter her appearance and trick him. He is a man of equal measure to her and everyone else.

Portia and Bassanio end up fighting about the loss, but Bassanio ends up vowing never to get rid of the ring again after she tells him what she did. She is constantly switching back and forth from reality, to her perception of it, to the perception she gives to others of reality that she eventually almost messes up the entire situation. Portia wasn’t altogether truthful with her husband with what she did. If she had been though, he would not have given the ring away. Therefore, by playing with the views others see of reality, particularly her husband’s, she tempts fate. If she had never done anything, her husband Bassanio and her wouldn’t have fought and they would have lived happily ever after. However, she doesn’t. They end up talking about it and forgiving each other, but surely there will always be doubt in the back of their minds about what the other is up to. Bassanio may wonder if she is just playing games with him, and Portia may wonder if he will really hold onto the ring for next time. Leave well enough alone and let fate and reality take their course rather than warp the appearance of things for your own purpose.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

View all my reviews

Review: Annabel Lee

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Anabel LeeBook Review
Edgar Allan Poe is one of my three favorite poets and short story writers. In this poem, Annabel Lee, Poe pontificates on the love between two people, which suffers upon the death of one. Love is powerful. Love can also be dark. All that you’d expect from the mysterious suspense is firmly planted in this poem, but under a romantic guise; it’s different than his other works, but you can still tell it was written by him. Published in the 1849, it may be his most haunting poem; it was also released just around his death. He passed away at 40 years old, young even for 175 years ago. Many think the poem is about his relationship with his own young wife. I couldn’t say. All I know is that rhyme and the staccato temperament in both the words and the timing is top notch. Roll the words off your lips, feel the energy, and absorb the pain. It’s how to best understand Mr. Poe. My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

View all my reviews