365 Challenge: Day 200 – South

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South: a part of the country where I am currently visiting (and think I’m from)


Howdy. Today we spent a few hours driving around different neighborhoods in Charlotte to get a good feel for the city. It’s quite beautiful and has a definite southern appeal and nostalgia to it. I like to claim I am from the south, but W refuses to accept me being born and living in Florida for the first 2+ years of my life as qualifying me to ‘be from the south.’ I disagree, especially when the map above clearly shows I am from the south. I suppose him being from Louisiana means he would know better, but I refuse to accept this one! We also spent a few hours today touring the Levine Museum of the New South. It chronicled the shape of the south’s culture and identity after the American Civil War through current times, covering freedom from slavery, industrialization, Great Depression, New Deal Impacts, Civil Rights and re-building Charlotte into a financial center. Quite informative and amazing photos, videos and stories, but I couldn’t take any pictures. Sorry!


As I finish up my trip in the south, since apparently Florida for the next 4+ days doesn’t count, I am more appreciative of this part of the country than I was in the past. I would enjoy living here, but I will say temperatures in the 90s in September was more than I could handle. I much prefer the 60s, but that’s not too common in the south as I had suspected. It’ll be interesting to see where we go next in this journey to check out options for the future. For now, you are probably reading this message as we are arriving at or are in flight to Orlando for a wedding and Disney weekend. I also get to see another good friend for lunch who moved here several years ago. Exciting! I’ll be back again tomorrow, but have no idea what the post will be about yet… hopefully it will contain pictures for you this time.


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.


Review: The Help

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The Help
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book at least 4 years ago, before I began to more consistently use Goodreads… and now I’m going back to ensure I have some level of a review for everything I read. It’s only fair… if the author took the time to write it, and I found a few hours to read it… I should share my views so others can decide if it’s a good book for them.

That said… did anyone not love or like this book? I’ll have to check out some other people’s reviews… And I wonder how many people just watched the movie… Oh well… I’ll keep this review short and not in my usual format, as probably everyone I’m friends with on here has already read it! 🙂

The only reason I’m not giving it a 5 is because I felt like some of the stories needed a better or stronger ending. I truly think it is a fantastic book, and it makes you really think about what happened in the not-so-distant past… and probably still happening in some parts of the country today. Scary thoughts, but in the end, at least the right people got something back they deserved, even if it wasn’t as much as it should have been.

The characters are very clear and strong. And when there are upwards of 10 to 12 supporting or lead female characters, an author has to spend a tremendous amount of time creating distinct pictures in a readers mind. Stockett did a great job with this task. Each and every one shows you a different personality: leaders and followers, movers and shakers, smart and silly, strong and weak, tolerant and intolerant, thirsty for all the world has to offer and content to stay the same for an entire lifetime.

When a writer can shuffle this many people throughout a story, they have invested themselves into the book, the characters, the setting, the theme, the future.

I haven’t read anything else by this author, but just thinking about this book, and realizing I haven’t looked at her other works makes me want to run to her profile now and pick one. Perhaps that’s what I’ll go do!

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, 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.

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Review: Sunset in Old Savannah

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Sunset in Old Savannah3 of 5 stars to Mary Ellis‘s Sunset in Old Savannah, the fourth in her “Secrets of the South” mystery series. In this book, the Price Investigation team heads to Savannah to investigate a new case and enjoy this lovely view:

This was my introduction to the series, as I received a free ARC from NetGalley and Harvest House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I will go back to read the first few books, and I suggest reading this series in order to ensure you understand all the history. This was a good ole’ cozy, leaving me interested in reading more, but didn’t spark a major love-fest with the series quite yet. Let’s hit the slopes…


As I didn’t read Books 1 thru 3, I’m not sure I have the full background, but here’s the gist: Michael Preston and Beth Kirby have been working together for a short time as PIs in the Price Investigation Firm. Beth’s a former cop who left the force after a bad experience with a former partner. Michael resigned from his accounting position to take up more investigative work. Their boss sends them from their hometown in Natchez, Mississippi to Savannah, Georgia to help a wealthy woman, Evelyn Doyle, determine if her husband is cheating. Seems a few fights and sparks have happened between Michael and Beth in previous books, but that’s all so far.

After a few days in Savannah, they prove Evelyn’s husband was having an affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter. Evelyn thanks them and mentions she will forgive him and ask him to stop, after all, she is a good, Christian woman. Beth thinks the woman’s a little crazy, but later finds kinship with her, almost looking at her as a mother-figure. The boss encourages the pair to take a few paid days off and relax after finishing the case early. But when they do, they start getting a little romantic and wondering whether there could be more between them. Suddenly, Evelyn calls from jail, needing help to get a lawyer and release — hubby’s dead!

Along the path, Beth and Michael discover some shenanigans in the husband’s insurance business, a brother with a grudge, a confused and bitter jilted lover and some secrets about where the wealth came from. Michael and Beth split the work, track down clues and try not to piss off the local police who want them out of town ASAP. Beth comes closest to tracking down the ultimate culprit and finds herself in need of a rescue at the end.

But the boss, who has too much work in Savannah, asks them to recruit another PI to work out of Savannah for future cases… while solving the murder and helping their client Evelyn, the pair interview potential candidates and take-on a new case at a sushi restaurant where the owner suspects someone’s stealing.

Key Thoughts

1. The setting is beautiful. Love hearing about the old town squares, the weather, the big homes, the views of the ocean. Helps bring a clear picture into focus for the story.

2. The banter between the two leads can be amusing part of the time. But on the whole, their dialogue felt a bit stiff and planned. Too much unnecessary drama for a couple starting to date. They fell into all the traps of the boring get to know you details.

3. Beth Kirby can be very annoying. In the first few chapters, she’s a complete and utter train wreck to her partner and the client. She seems to think she’s better than everyone else, has a snotty reply that can only be taken one way, and she has trust issues. I’d have dropped her right away… but she gets better throughout the book. Only issue is, there were times where I thought she wasn’t likable enough to read another book. Part of her attitude becomes a little bit of charm along the way, even though she cries several times, which makes me think she’s not well-balanced to handle a job as a PI. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometime’s it’s not.

4. The POV alternates between Michael and Beth, or the focus of their activities does — one or the other. Doesn’t feel 100% consistent. Then when the third detective is added, and a different case being discussed, it feels a little off. While it was a fun short diversion, it won’t work for all readers.

Final Thoughts

So while parts of the book fell a bit flat, the overall story arch, the characters, the setting, etc. had some good points and I’d be curious to see another book by this author. It’s a decent read, the normal cozy you can handle over a few days and drift off into someone else’s world without getting too caught up. Take it for a spin and get comfy in the historic charm of Old Savannah.

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Review: Bless Her Dead Little Heart

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Bless Her Dead Little Heart
4 of 5 stars to Miranda James‘s Bless Her Dead Little Heart, the first in a new “Southern Ladies” mystery series. I chose this book because I enjoy the author’s (Dean James) other series, “Cat in the Stacks,” which also takes place in Athena, Mississippi and includes Diesel, the Maine Coon cat. It was a little shaky at first, but then the characters took off and I ultimately enjoyed this book. On to the review…


Charlie Harris of the “Cat in the Stack” series drops his Maine Coon cat off with his friends/neighbors, Dickce and An’gel Ducote, while he takes off on a trip. Dickce and An’gel are 79 and 84 years old, from old money, and have a strong connection to the antebellum south. When a former sorority sister, Rosebelle Sultan, shows up claiming her family is trying to kill her, the Ducote sisters know they will have a problem to deal with, especially given all the troubles Rosebelle has caused over the 60 years they’ve known her. And this time, it’s the truth. Her two daughters, son and a boatload of in-laws and grandchildren show up after Rosebelle and the Ducote sisters feel their southern hospitality calling on them. Soon after, Sultan family members start dying under mysterious circumstances and the Ducote sisters need to call Deputy Kanesha Berry (also of the Cat in the Stacks series) for help. Both sisters survive the ordeal, but their life is about to change given the impacts of who is killed and the mess that is left behind.


1. You’ve got this fantastically crazy Sultan family full of characters you want to love and hate all at the same time. There is a reason for it to be any of them, and each stand to inherit money depending on who kicks the bucket first. A great mystery for the mind.

2. A true southern appeal… without overdoing it. Lots of antebellum charm, language and setting without getting caught up in accents and unknown cultural themes. A perfect balance of fun.

3. The author knows how to drag you into the mystery, laughing and smiling the whole time. It’s not a typical suspense page-turner, but you often find yourself wanting to read it all in one sitting just to figure out whodunit.


1. It may be too early to say this, but I’m not sure you need both sisters. I sort of grouped them together and assumed they were the same person, except when they were separated and in different scenes. It’s hard to keep them separate when both are unmarried and have no children and we know little about their former lives. I think we need stronger personalities to be able to see enough of a difference.

2. They are spry for 80, but how long will they be able to keep this up! And who really lets nearly 10 uninvited guests just stay at the house to help a friend. LOL I laughed it off but I hope the rest of the series has a little less “on the nose” humor and more “accidental” humor! Still was fun, just mentioning some potential concerns with a longer series.

Final Thoughts

A good read, worth taking a chance on if you like cozy mysteries, older protagonists, less crime detection and more subtle relationship building and conversational stories.

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Review: Death on the Family Tree

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Death on the Family Tree
Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle

2 of 5 stars to Patricia Sprinkle‘s Death on the Family Tree, the first in the “Family Tree” mystery series. A warning before you read my review… it may contain a small amount of anger, and the book might be anti-gay. I’m still trying to decide…


Katherine receives some old boxes of her pseudo-aunt’s after the woman dies. Katherine’s husband works out of town and their grown children have moved away, so she’s quite bored and decided to dive into the mystery of what’s in the boxes: an old piece of jewelry and a German diary. As she researches the family tree, she learns about a long-lost branch with a cousin who was murdered. By the end, several secrets surface while she gets to know another family in town known for being basically white supremacists. It all collides and she stumbles upon a wealth of history that changes all their futures.


1. It’s simple drama. Lots of clues. Nothing adds up. No true murder mystery as there’s no real dead body until 2/3 of the way thru. The mystery is about the items found in the old boxes and who was the missing relative. I liked this approach.


1. Besides fixing what felt like some strong anti-gay themes…

2. It’s disjointed. Great mystery but poorly executed. Not even her own family. Too many weird characters that she should mistrust. Certain people disappear and we never know why there were included to begin with. I had such high hopes for a genealogical mystery.

Final Thoughts

I’m not generally one to jump to conclusions, but 3 characters either make disparaging remarks about gay men, or fail to even try to defend them when someone says something that could be taken in an off-color manner. It was written in 2006, not long enough for this to be something of the norm. It takes place in the South, so I’ll cut it some slack, but… the author could have been a little more considerate if she was not trying to promote a message about the “depravity of homosexuals.” I can tolerate characters being that way, but when there’s not a single sense of balance in the book, and it’s a cozy mystery meant to be fun and light-hearted, I think I arrive at the conclusion I won’t choose to read anymore by a careless author. Now, if I mistook anything, I apologize for being judgmental, but for anyone else who has read it, I’d love to know your opinion on whether this author failed to provide fair justice in her writing of opinions on gay people.

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