series

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?
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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.

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Book Review: Gingerbread Cookies & Gunshots by Leslie Meier

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This novella was included in a three-story book focused on gingerbread that I received as a holiday present. I read Joanne Fluke’s books, which was the reason I got this one, but I’m getting interested in Leslie Meier‘s Lucy Stone series as a result of this book, Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots. I read the ~100 page story in a paperback before bed last night in about 45 minutes. It’s a very quick read, a teaser to get fans interested in the larger series. Lucy Stone is a fun character and this was a nice break away from a cozy about murder. Instead, it focused on a kidnapping that ended with a murder. What a twist! Apart from the mystery, the really fun aspect is the interaction between Lucy and her family. She has a few older kids, middle/high school age kids and at least one grandchild from what I can tell so far. It takes place in Maine, but they spent time in Louisiana, too, I believe. I’ve so much to learn… It hits the spot as a fun read when you just need to escape from reality.

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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 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

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I received Gingerbread Cookie Murder, a short novella in the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series by Joanne Fluke, as one of my Christmas presents last year. I’ve a big fan of the series and always look forward to the read. It took me 1 hour to read this story, part of a larger paperback focused on murders involving gingerbread cookies. It’s ~150 pages, but 1/3 is filled with recipes, so it’s just under a hundred pages of true text. In this issue, Hannah is having trouble with her new neighbor who plays loud Christmas music all the time. But she soon finds him dead in the refrigerator after trying to store her recent baked goods for a future dessert. Add in an $8M winning lottery ticket, someone’s divorce, a new dentist in town, and a suitor for Hannah’s mother, then you’ve got lots going on in this one. It was a fun afternoon read and I look forward to the next book in the series.

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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 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

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Why This Book 
I’ve built a good relationship with the publisher, Crooked Lane, who offered Lara Dearman‘s book, The Devil’s Claw, the first in her Jennifer Dorey mystery series, as a thank you for all the other books I’ve chosen, read, and reviewed from them. I’m closing out all my commitments this month to publishers before I tackle some open ARCs, hence why this book wound up as my first choice in February.

Devil

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Jennifer Dorey, a 30ish news reporter in contemporary times, returned from London to her hometown in Guernsey, a large island near France in the English Channel, after an attack over an article she had been writing on a scam over human trafficking services. When she arrives, she has memories of another attack when she was younger and the mysterious death of her father; however, that’s nothing compared to when she discovers a body on a beach near a cliff. Working with the local detective, Michael, they discover a series of murders that occurred throughout the last 50 years all with the markings of the Devil’s Claw. Jen and Michael investigate the past crimes, learning about improper police work, Nazi supporters, and a penchant for young blonde girls who hurt themselves. Everything collides when she stumbles upon the killer and is trapped in his/her menacing grip.

Approach & Style 
I read a hardback version of this ~325 page novel in five hours over three days. It is broken into 45 chapters, each relatively short around 8 pages, and told in third person POV. Chapters alternate perspective from the killer, Michael, Jen and a few other supporting characters. The characters revisit history multiple times, so you have to focus on what’s current and what’s historical, but it’s fairly easy to stay aware. It’s written from a UK style with some details specific to police procedures and news reporting local to the area. It read well, but at times felt a bit too formal and stiff. It wasn’t enough to cause any issues, but it could have been relaxed a tad more so build a better reader / story connection. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the personality of Jen; time will tell when we see book two.

Key Thoughts 
I enjoyed the debut book in this series. It has a slow build, keeps you guessing and offers multiple suspects. There are several side stories that eventually interweave in the plot, and it includes a few supporting characters who will likely continue into future books in the series. No one stood out other than the primary two, but with focus, I’m sure the depth will provide characters we crave reading about in the future. I love the connection between the private citizens and the owner of the newspaper. I was glad to see the partnership between the police and the news outlet. It felt real in both senses of what they did and they didn’t allow.

The plot was strong in terms of execution, red herrings, guesswork and inter-dependencies between all the characters and time periods. The ultimate reason for the murders isn’t as clear as I would have liked it to be; that said, it is good and keeps you turning the pages. You may just have some open questions in the end as I did, in terms of the Nazi connections, the reason the killer chose the victims (s)he chose, and how much the Devil’s Claw really had to do with it all. Nothing that threw me off, but I wanted it tied together more tightly.

Summary 
Dearman weaves an eerie story with a fantastic background setting. Guernsey was a new locale for me, but one that peaks a lot of interest. I’m curious to find out how much of what was in the book is truth versus fiction. Kudos to her for creating a new series with lots of possibilities.

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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald

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Why This Book 
About 6 months ago, I won a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher, Crooked Lane. They accidentally shipped this book instead of the one I had won. Rather than pull it back, they let me keep the book, but I hadn’t gotten to read it. On my quest to close out all ARCs, giveaways and books on my shelves before I download or buy anything new, Prayer for the Dead, the fifth book in the Inspector McLean thriller and mystery series, published in 2015, and written by James Oswald, was the oldest in my queue, as I work why way through the TBR I actually have copies of. I rarely read in the middle of a book series, but with 4 books prior to this one, it was too much to go back to the beginning, so I’ll start here…

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Set in current times in Edinburgh, UK, Inspector Tony McLean battles politics within his local police precinct and journalists with whom he has a very unsteady relationship. He’s also protecting a few local neighbors who are being vandalized and trying to re-build his former tenement after some accident that occurred in the previous novels. One of the journalists approaches McLean to ask for help with a missing colleague. Readers already know the colleague was sadistically killed in the opening chapter by someone with pseudo-religious or Masonic beliefs. A few bodies build up, and the cases all begin to collide. McLean learns he may actually be connected with the killer from many years earlier, and sets off to stop the serial murders with very little information. Includes some graphic violence, medical lingo, and police procedural language. No romance or side-stories, other than what he’s doing with his old tenement. A few minor things that might be good to know from prior books, but it can be read stand-alone.

Approach & Style 
I read the 340-page hardcover over 2 days in about 5 hours. Through ~75 chapters, the novel includes both 1st person and 3rd person POV. The killer appears in several chapters, disguised and talking to readers in 1st person POV, but the rest is mostly from McLean’s 3rd person POV. Perspective follows both around as crimes are committed and investigated.

Given it’s a police procedural, about some very religious and historical beliefs, and set partially in a medical environment, it’s not a run-of-the-mill thriller — there are many levels of technical details to weed through, particularly when it comes to UK police departments. I had no idea which type of investigator was more senior than the others, and they often refer to each other as Sir or Ma’am, so I was a tad lost. Not enough to stop me from reading, but enough that I wouldn’t say it was totally easy to adapt to for an American. Put a little chart in the back, please!

Strengths 
It’s complex, full of mystery and has lots of page-turning moments. There are enough characters to keep you guessing. The interweaving POV and perspective is handled adeptly. I liked the story and the way in which the murders occurred and how the investigations took place. Very detailed-oriented, and this makes me a happy reader! I also like the author’s writing style and feel connected to the development of the chapters and overall way things were described.

Concerns 
For one, the ending was way too quick. You don’t discover who the killer is or what his/her connection is to McLean until the last 15 pages. If that were the only concern, I’d probably have given this 4-stars; however, it was confusing and didn’t wrap up all the plot lines. I still don’t truly understand who was murdered years ago, whether the killer came back from the dead, or why one of the victims even died. Or even how the religious components truly fit in with all the other characters. I unfortunately must say this did not get fleshed out as well as it needed to be. Even if it’s a mystery thriller series, and more will be revealed later, as a whole book, it lacked a cohesive story that clearly set out the who/what/when/where/why of the crime.

Final Thoughts 
If this were the first book in the series, I’d have definitely passed on any future reads. Knowing it’s made it’s way to 5 books, through a traditional publisher, I’m certain I must be missing something, or that perhaps the earlier books were better. I probably won’t pick up another one, given my long TBR list, but I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has read the author before… what did I miss?

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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr

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Why This Book 
Crooked Lane has become one of my favorite publishers. They email me from time to time to suggest books I might want to read and send me copies of upcoming releases. I will forgive them for declining me on the last three I requested on NetGalley (really???), but that’s another story! They asked if I would read this book, which is #2 in the series, so I had to ask for #1 first and read it. I finished that last month, so it was time to read Lucy Kerr‘s second in the series, No One Can Know. I’ve given it 3.5 stars, and I’d recommend the series to mystery readers looking for something between a cozy and a thriller/suspense novel.

noone

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Frankie has agreed to remain in her hometown, Stillwater, Illinois, to help her sister re-build the family business and care for her premature baby. Frankie left to work in Chicago after some family issues and a failed engagement, then rarely returned during the ten year absence. As an ER nurse, she sees it all, then feels compelled to solve whatever mystery has landed at her feet. In this second book, a male car accident victim seeks help, but Frankie knows he’s lying. When 8-month pregnant woman is also brought in after a car accident, she knows it’s connected, but can’t do anything until she’s saved the woman’s life. Unfortunately, only the baby makes it, and then the male victim disappears. Add in some trouble with the hospital administration, a political candidate and an old fiancee-turned-detective, Frankie’s smack in the middle of chaos. As she tries to solve the mystery, she steps in danger and opens her family up to potential risk. When the baby is kidnapped, Frankie pushes everyone to the brink, but ultimately, she leads them to the culprit.

Approach & Style 
I read an advanced physical copy of this 325 page book. It’s broken into 31 chapters, each about ten pages long, and told in first person POV. The perspective remains on Frankie the entire novel, showing her thoughts and opinions on each event she encounters. It took about 4 hours over the course of 2 days – a relatively quick read with minimal hospital & medical terminology, just enough to keep it feeling real.

Key Thoughts 
I really enjoyed the first book in the series. All those aspects carried into this second book, but the plot was a bit weaker than the first. When the crime centers around a car accident, politics and baby theft, you expect something quite complex. If you read a lot of these types of novels, you’ll know the culprit pretty early on, as well as guess why it happened. I would have liked a few more red herrings, a couple of other suspects and some additional side-stories that wove in and out of the main story, creating some interesting dilemmas and confusion. It was just too straightforward for me to give it a 4 or 5 star rating. It was a good book, just needed a bit more darkness, depth and puzzles to solve.

That said, I’m a big fan of the author for her writing style, character creation, and approach to balancing medical terminology and creating a truly realistic setting. She builds a world that is fast-paced, rough and keeps your attention. There’s a lot going on in the ER and you bounce back and forth between a few cases, giving readers time for suspense, questions and connections to the story. When Frankie’s out of the ER, you feel the draw with the former fiancee, the love with her family, and the concern about coming home forever. I look forward to each interaction she has because you learn more about who she is and what she’s made of. There’s no filler in these books — the substance is pretty strong, which is why I will continue to read them. I just want to push the author on a bit more complexity to help break the series out of ‘just another decent mystery series.’ I think there’s potential for this to be quite big if some focus is put on long-term development options.

Summary 
I will keep reading the series. I like the main character, the setting and the author’s writing style. The small concerns with the overall tone and citizens being too close to the police work are not enough to bother me. I mention them only because it is something you just need to accept. The characters and family dynamics are very strong, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next release.

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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

365 Challenge: Day 299 – Alphabet (Author Alert: Sue Grafton)

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Alphabet: (a) standard set of letters that is used to write one or more languages based upon the general principle that the letters represent phonemes (basic significant sounds) of the spoken language, or (b) 365 Daily Challenge word for today’s author alert — Sue Grafton

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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 (s)he is, what she’s writing and how to buy her work. 

I am pleased to present the very talented Sue Grafton chosen because she is one of my top 10 favorite authors, and the unfortunate news of her death last week. Let’s do her justice in today’s special edition author spotlight!

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Sue Grafton (1940 – 2017) wrote suspense, thriller and mystery fiction.

Sue Grafton

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Writing this post was difficult, as this wonderful author passed away last week — it felt eerie to change the date on her dedicated page on my blog from “Present” to “2017.” Rather than focus on the loss, I choose to celebrate the great talent and human being she was. I’d just graduated from college when I began reading cozy mystery novels, stumbling upon this series shortly after picking up Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski series. I was enamored with the idea of an author committing to writing 26 books in the Alphabet Series, but astounded when I learned she’d been writing already for over a decade… and that the first book took place in 1982. I was a tad concerned whether or not I could last in a series that would stay firmly put in the 1980s, as the character couldn’t possibly age 40 years as the author finished writing the series. But I almost never felt that way once I dived in to the books… it was a world I loved to be part of.

Santa Teresa, the small California town where it takes place reminded me of so many of the villages I visited when I lived in San Francisco. Grafton’s words and imagery bring you to the setting more than most other authors — it felt entirely too real, as did the heroine, Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey was an older sister to me, someone I could call up when I needed a few hours away from my life. She always delivered. She always made my day brighter. She always left me happier. I finished reading 22 of her books, and by 2005, I’d caught up where I was one of the first people at the bookstore to buy the new release. In time, I picked up too many other series and fell a bit behind, but I’ve purchased W, X and Y, the only 3 left I haven’t read. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Z will be published, but time will tell.

Grafton was at the head of the curve when it came to the development of the mystery series novels. Sure, there was the Golden Age in the early 20th century with Christie and the rest of the gang, but when it was re-invigorated in the 1980s with authors like Lilian Jackson Braun, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, the world of literature took a great leap forward again. Thousands of authors have used her style, pattern and themes over the years to find a cohesive book series, but few have found the truly intimate yet traditional approach that Grafton found. I will always appreciate her voice, not only in her books, but in the way she carried herself and interacted with the public. I admire her and would love to have met this fine writer.

If you’ve never read one of her books, and you’re willing to commit to read the whole series, start with A is for Alibi. If not, message me and we’ll figure out the best one for you to take on, if you just want a sample. In her honor, Fri 1/5’s Author Alert is dedicated to Sue Grafton.

To read any book reviews I’ve written on her work, click the link below. To learn more about this author, you can visit her website @ http://www.suegrafton.com/

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Book Series – Kinsey Millhone Mysteries

  1. A is for Alibi (1982)
  2. B is for Burglar (1985)
  3. C is for Corpse (1986)
  4. D is for Deadbeat (1987)
  5. E is for Evidence (1988)
  6. F is for Fugitive (1988)
  7. G is for Gumshoe (1990)
  8. H is for Homicide (1991)
  9. I is for Innocent (1992)
  10. J is for Judgment (1993)
  11. K is for Killer (1994)
  12. L is for Lawless (1994)
  13. M is for Malice (1996)
  14. N is for Noose (1998)
  15. O is for Outlaw (1999)
  16. P is for Peril (2000)
  17. Q is for Quarry (2002)
  18. R is for Ricochet (2004)
  19. S is for Silence (2005)
  20. T is for Trespass (2007)
  21. U is for Undertow (2009)
  22. V is for Vengeance (2011) — last one I read
  23. W is for Wasted (2013)
  24. X (2015)
  25. Y is for Yesterday (2017)
  26. Z is for Zero (May not be published posthumously)

Note: If there is an active link, I’ve completed a review.

 

To see more about Sue Grafton on ThisIsMyTruthNow, check out his/her dedicated author page where future content and book reviews will added.

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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