You

365 Challenge: Day 172 – Me

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Me: used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition

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Some people are born without any selfish bones in their body or thoughts in their mind. Many are absolutely incapable of thinking about other people, reserving every moment of the day for themselves and themselves alone. I’m willing to bet that a majority of people out there fall somewhere in between on this scale of extremes. I know I certainly do, hopefully somewhere right in the middle, but definitely aware of the times when I am too focused on myself, feeling like ‘it’s all about me.’ Having a healthy ego or confidence in focusing thought or action on yourself is a good thing when managed properly. But there needs to be a fair balance, which is why today’s 365 Daily Challenge word is ‘me’ and comes, of course, with suggestions for a change in our approach to each day. I’m sure you ask: “Will this guy ever shut up about himself, always with advice?”

I’ve decided to institute a NON ‘me’ day each month, rotating it into my schedule so that I purposely focus on other people and not myself. I think it will do wonders for my outlook and humility to see and understand things from other people’s perspectives — and not just my own. It certainly won’t be easy, at least not the way I have this planned in my mind, but I believe it’s important.

I’ll share a few examples but am ultimately curious what others think of this exercise, as well as how they handle things in their own life. The most obvious illustration I can share is my WordPress blog: ThisIsMyTruthNow and the 365 Daily Challenge. It was created as a way to help me identify what I wanted to do in the future and as a method to connect with people from around the world. When I choose the word each day, I relate it something specific about me and my life. Many wonderful people comment on it each day, and we have an interactive dialogue regarding how the word fits in both of our lives. It’s a great tool to get to know someone, but there is a downside. Shocker, I know!

The discussion and online friendship is being kicked off because I started talking about myself. Not because we randomly met and began a conversation about something other than either one of us. On the flip side, I try to read everyone’s blog that I follow to learn more about them; sometimes I have little time to comment, and there’s just a “like” after I’ve read the post. While that’s fine for most days, given how busy we all are, I think it’s important to learn more about other people and build on relationships by clearly focusing on other people and their blogs. What I’m planning to do is pick 1 day a month where I have a very tiny post to cover the 365 Daily Challenge, which will reduce the time I would have used for both writing my post and responding to comments. In its place, I plan to respond to as many other blogger’s posts from that day that I can fit in.

The comments will be all about them and their post. Not me or how I felt about it, but something to let the blogger know the value they’ve brought to the table. It might be hard, for instance, if it’s a book review we both read. How do I comment without indicating how I felt about the book? But isn’t that the point sometimes? Your feedback, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, should be about the person who wrote the post sometimes too, not just your own opinion. {Aside: I am not referring to when someone comments on my post — it’s ALWAYS been an equal balance about both of us, so please don’t change how you interact with me — this is just about how I want to change my interaction on other people’s blogs!}

It’s only fair to spend time focused on that person and their words without introducing your own experience as the primary response. I’m not saying this is how it should always be, but it’s a healthy exercise to train ourselves to stop being so “I” and “me” in our responses. Sharing experiences often leads to a strong relationship, I fully agree, which is why I wouldn’t do this all the time. But picking 1 day a month where I focus only on the other people in my life seems like a fair thing to do. And it’s not only online in my blog or my social media connections. It should be everywhere. For instance…

Phone conversations. I want to pickup the phone to ask others how they are doing. Focus on what’s good or new, or sad, in his/her life. See if I can do something to help them or brighten their day. Hopefully no one interprets this as me saying I’ve not done this before, as I definitely do think and focus on other people. But as we get busy, we often forget a bit of our manners, falling into traps of relating everything back to ourselves and our own experiences. I think it will be a great way to re-energize and engage with someone who maybe felt a little distant lately, or in need of a pick-me-up in the form of a good conversation about their life with a friend they hadn’t chatted with in a while.

I’d apply the same to letting someone else choose where we went for dinner or what TV show we picked to watch that evening. It’s often the little things in life that go a long way, especially as we all get busier and use technology to do the work for us, rather than good old-fashioned intimacy between real-life people. I’m generally aware of balancing the conversation equally among both parties, but not always. This is simply a way to ensure I’m being less selfish, more open and bringing about a little positive change across other people’s life. You never know when someone needs a bit of extra attention, but even more important, when they deserve it. The world is too small (sounds kinda funny, huh?) and life is too short (really, it is) to not put in the effort that might make it a better place for someone else.

How about you? Do you find that you talk about yourself more than you should? Do you have tools and tips and tricks to balance out your interactions? Share with ME please!

 

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.

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Book Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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3 out of 5 stars to Hidden Bodies, the second book in a thriller and suspense series by Caroline Kepnes.

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Last month, my buddy Medhat suggested a read of You, the first novel in the series. It was such a fantastic book, probably in my top 2 of 2017 to date, that I had to continue reading the series. I’ve heard rumors there will be a third book, but I’ve yet to see it confirmed. I need to check on that! I am also completely excited as Lifetime is turning the books into a television series. I can’t wait… but until then, let’s get on with the review of this second book. While I enjoyed several parts of it, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first book and I’ll explain why below.

Plot, Characters & Setting
When we left off at the end of [book:You|20821614], our protagonist/villain, Joe, completed his vicious cycle of crossing many lines and breaking tons of laws in NYC all in the name of love, also known to most people as stalking your prey. Yet he escaped without anyone knowing of his crimes and found himself falling in love with a new potential victim, Amy Adam. Joe begins trusting Amy, realizing she’s a much-improved version of his last girlfriend, Beck. Amy begins pushing him for a key to his bookstore, which we all know from reading the first book contains a few secrets Joe would prefer stay buried, like some bodies. He hides everything as much as he possibly can, caving in to his girlfriend in order to hold on to her. When he arrives for work a few days later, the place has been robbed and Amy is missing. Did she do it? Was she kidnapped as payback for his prior crimes? What does she know? You’ll find out… he finds a lead that shows she may be in Los Angeles. Joe quits his job and moves cross-country, where he meets an interesting cast of characters in his typical LA apartment. He negotiates/manipulates his way into working closely with a few Hollywood type agents and producers, finding himself falling in love with a new woman, coincidentally named Love.

Love is perfect for Joe. She adores him. And he soon forgets about Amy. All seems well for a short period of time. But he keeps worrying about the one piece of evidence of his former crimes back in Rhode Island… and it drives him nearly insane, especially when the case is re-opened. He knows he has to find a way to retrieve it without anyone seeing him in the victim’s house. Unfortunately, he’s distracted by Delilah, one of the women in his apartment complex who has the hots for him. And then there’s a cop who has taken a dislike to Joe, tailing him at different parts of the day while Joe is trying to tie up loose ends. But it’s when Love’s ex-boyfriend and her brother monopolize all of Love’s time, Joe goes off the rails. As he begins to unwind, adding more and more crimes to his list in order to cover up the past and protect himself from losing Love, Joe finds himself getting careless. It all comes crashing down in the last few chapters of the book, ending at a place where it’s very clear, a third book is necessary. Readers will not be OK with this ending, as it opens more holes than the one’s Joe’s already had to dig for each of his hidden bodies.

Approach & Style
Whereas in the first book, Joe talks to the readers almost as if they are Beck, it’s quite different in this second book. It’s still told in first person with the perspective only on Joe throughout the whole story; however, there’s no concept of “you” this time around. It works just as well, given the title is no longer “You,” which means alternative progression is an expected path.

I read a large-sized soft-cover book with ~430 pages. There are 56 chapters, so each one is less than 8 pages long on average. It took me 4 days over the course of a week, as I couldn’t read each day; in total, probably about 6 hours. Some sections are a bit slow-paced while others are ultimate page-turners where you probably skip every fifth word just to see more quickly what’s happening.

Strengths
Kepnes can certainly dream up extremely aggravating and realistic characters. Everyone she incorporates feels like someone I’ve met before, and at times, I wish I could be Joe and punish them for the things they say and do. But I’m a good guy and I don’t commit many crimes. I mean any crimes.

When she’s on point with a dramatic scene, the plot and action is amazing. A few scenes were just as good as the initial book, especially when Joe is dealing with Delilah and the cop. It’s almost like we never left the first book.

Love is a really multi-dimensional woman; she has moments of brilliance followed by sheer silliness. I want her to be with Joe, but sometimes, she seems too good for him.

The settings are crystal clear for the most part. I can always tell where we are and whether it’s gonna be a safe zone or all hands to the battle field.

Concerns
It was such a let-down from the first book. Joe became weak. I didn’t buy his drama. He seemed to cause problems for the sake of causing problems. He had the girl. But he let himself get caught up in other areas, ones that made him a true criminal and not a man in love. That’s where he becomes a bad stalker. In the first book, he loved the girl so much, you could see why he did the things he did. This time, I struggled connecting with his motivation. He became every other evil antagonist, rather than the guy you wanted to root for.

The ending gets closer to the original strength, but not all the way. I was pleasantly surprised when the last 100 or so pages took the story in quite a different and unexpected direction, but it wasn’t enough to turn the book around for me. If this were the only book I read, and I didn’t know much about the original plot, it wouldn’t have been a book I’d recommend to friends. And that’s sad because Joe is an amazing villain. I toyed with giving this less than 3 stars but I know that is mostly the disappointment in ruining a good character. It’s redeemable in a third book, so I will have faith things get better.

Final Thoughts
The story is still good. It’s got major problems with his constant quest for sex, which is just an overused plot component in this book. Pull that out. Take out the section where he turns into a whiny mess. And maybe give him a few more close calls, and we’re back in the game.

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.

TAG: Romance Fails in Fiction Choice

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Thank you very much to Kate at MeltingPotsandOtherCalamities for tagging me on this fun new tag she’s created. Here’s what she’s told us:

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Overview:

Let me explain the tag to clarify the confusing title. Basically, I saw a comment on the Webtoon A Budgie’s Life about…romance fails in Webtoons. They cracked me up, even the serious ones! I may not be a romantic, but I found it funny and decided to do this tag. And that’s how this tag came to be. Who knows? I may make a more serious Webtoon list about this later.

The Rules:

  • Please PINGBACK to her at Kate @ Melting Pots and Other Calamities. Or just Kate. And PINGBACK TO A SPECIFIC POST.  She won’t see the post otherwise, and she’d like to see it.
  • At the very top of this post is the post I did the pingback for – other can copy that to make it easier if you’d like!
  • You can choose ten romance fails from ANY media you like: books, movies, anime, manga, T.V shows, or Webtoons. You can even mix them up if you want.
  • You can choose funny fails or serious ones; for the serious ones, phrase it humorously. Remember, this is a fun tag! It’s not meant to be serious.
  • Mention who’s who in the fails. (I.E, who fails and who is the recipient of the failure). If there isn’t  recipient, per se, just state the couple (or non-couple).
  • Optional: Rank the failures from least extreme to most extreme.
  • 5 failures at LEAST.
  • Tag as many people as you want, but at least one person.

 

The Tag:

Oh, I hope I did this one correctly!!! I’ve decided to pick from 5 different genres: (5) former bestseller & movie, (4) Netflix Show, (3) TV sitcom, (2) classic play and (1) current thriller. And I am not huge on the romance stuff, so I couldn’t easily come up with more than the 5, but I think they are all funny!

 

5. Henry and Clare in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

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Love is hard enough without your husband randomly jumping time periods. Sometimes he’s 5 and sometimes he’s 85. That’s just sick! I don’t want to worry what’s going on when I’m with my other half… they could randomly disappear or change their age. And then I’m learning sh*t about you before I even get to that age. Or you’re watching me as a little girl, knowing you’ll be my husband and what happens in our life… Woah. My head’s gonna explode. Seriously? Yes… we love each other… but how do I buy you presents when you already know what’s gonna happen? Something’s just nuts here… and while the book and movie were OK… ayayayayaya… this kinda romance is not for me! And so you’re on the list, buddy… don’t be disappearing from it either, please.

 

4. “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix

Ah, life is good in Southern California. Grace is married to Robert for 40 years with 2 kids. Frankie is married to Sol for 40 years with 2 kids. Both are “happy” couples. But one day, Robert and Sol decide they must confess a little secret they’ve been keeping. At 70 years old, they can no longer hide the affair they’ve been having for 30+ years. Yes, my friends, both men are gay and have been in a secret relationship at the office where they run a law firm and at home behind closed doors when the girls are out. Frankie and Grace are shocked… and they hate each other… so now what? Both couples divorce. Sol and Robert get married. Grace and Frankie move in together and try to become friends. Ha! I don’t think it works this way in real life, but kudos to them. They make me laugh whenever I watch this show. But seriously… an epic fail on romance not to have discovered their gay husbands sooner in life.

3. “Rachel and Ross” from Friends

Love is hard. But when you’ve secretly been in love with your sister’s best friend for years, you might just do anything to make it happen. Except… you marry two other women first, knowing you really don’t love them. And then you say the wrong name at the wedding. Oh Ross… how on earth do you expect to win us over… oh, that’s right… you finally get the girl! Yay… Ross and Rachel are together. Except there are a few issues. And you break up. And then one of you sleeps with someone else while you are not together. But then you get back together. And OMG…. the secret’s out. And someone shouts “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”  Well… if you loved her Ross, you shouldn’t have done that.  Yeah Yeah Yeah… you eventually get back together, but so much drama here. And for that, you are on my list of epic failures for what should have been a fairly straightforward romance. I still love you guys together tho!

2. “Romeo & Juliet” by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet fall in love, but their families hate one another. What’s a teenage couple to do when this happens? Kill yourself, of course. Or at least make it look like you’ve killed yourself. But then when one of you wakes up and thinks the other person is really dead, you actually kill yourself. And then the other person wakes up and freaks out. So what do they do… kill themselves… Whaaaat????? Love the story, but yikes… so much confusion over love. Why didn’t you run away together and live happily ever after like all the fairy tales say? And for that, you”re on my list of epic fails (in a good way, of course).

1. Joe and  Beck from “You” by Caroline Kepnes

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Joe falls in love with Beck when she wanders into his bookstore. He tries to convince her to go out with him, but she puts him off for a few months. Eventually, she gives it a chance; however, she doesn’t realize that he’s engineering everything happening in her life, behind the scenes, of course. She eventually falls in love with him and everything appears like it might actually work out. And even though he’s a bit of a psycho, as readers, you will root for him to win her heart. But it seems all may not be as it appears. Beck’s got some issues, too. And as this tale slowly unravels, it becomes clear there will be blood, as the cover shows. And for that reason, this is a major fail in the sense of romance! P.S. I love Joe and would not have been upset with him for stalking me. :O (not an excuse for anyone to stalk me… I’m fine, thanks!)

 

I Tag:

 

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: You

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You4 out of 5 stars to You, the first of a two-book thriller and suspense series, written in 2014 by Caroline Kepnes. All I can start out with is wow – I loved it! I’ve tried to pull out all spoilers, but I do give a little bit of the high-level plot and antics away, as I think it will make you want to read it more.

 



Why This Book


My friend Medhat asked if I’d be interested in a buddy read with him and proposed 5 different books. I’d read 1 already, didn’t have an interest in 1 of them, and 2 were a re-read for him, which left this one as something new for both of us. So we went with it… I knew nothing about the author or the novel prior to him bringing it up, and I’m grateful he did. I had been in a slight reading slump and this book was extremely refreshing and strong, directly in my sweet spot as far as genres and styles go. Please go check out Medhat’s profile and look at his review of this book.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Joe runs a bookstore on the Lower East Side of NYC, sort of inheriting it from the man who basically adopted him as a boy from parents who weren’t doing a very good job at raising him. Joe’s witty, sarcastic and on the edge of being a little psychotic for his 25-30ish years. Guinivere Beck, known simply as Beck, stops in his store to make a purchase, and Joe immediately falls in love…. No that’s not the right word… obsession, yeah… falls into an obsession…that’s the right word… with her. He stalks her social media profiles, learns everything he can about her, then engineers the downfall of her on again / off again jerk of a boyfriend. He tries to isolate Beck from her friends and create situations where they keep running into another until she finally decides to pursue him. They begin dating for a few weeks and have a very peculiar relationship where they take steps to get closer, then she pulls away and looks for her ex-boyfriend. After a few weeks of the back-and-forth, some major event take place that show Joe’s true colors… and eventually we learn just how broken Beck also is. When one of them attempts to break off the relationship, the other goes berserk and takes the situation to an entirely new level of crazy. As the book comes to an end, a dramatic conclusion forces a major plot change and probably begins the focus for the second book in the series, which as a nice little teaser for you… is called Hidden Bodies. {Phew… this is a hard one to describe without giving any spoilers}

Beyond Joe and Beck, you’ve got an ex-girlfriend of Joe’s and an ex-boyfriend of Beck’s. Beck’s psychiatrist enters the picture for a good chunk of the book, as well as her friend, Peach. Peach is an annoying and pompous witch (I have another word in mind but I’ll be nice today) who is almost more psychotic than Joe. Joe’s got a few workers at the book store who interact from time to time, as well as a cop intervening for a few chapters.

The action mostly takes place in NYC, but there are a few short trips to Rhode Island and other parts of the immediate vicinity. It all takes place in current times, where social media and technology are very important to the plot and character actions.



Approach & Style


The book is told from Joe’s point of view, as he is the narrator which means it’s told in a first-person perspective. However, the big difference in this book is that Joe is telling the story as if the reader is Beck, constantly referring to her as “You” throughout the book. As a reader, you start feeling like everything he’s doing, he’s doing to you. And when your character, Beck, makes decisions or reacts in an unexpected way, it’s a roller-coaster of fun trying to balance your amusement and your frustration with your anger and your confusion. All in a good approach. I haven’t really read much else using this perspective, and it was done in a very strong way.
The book is about 400 pages and broken into about 50 chapters, so each one is relatively short but consistent in its narration, style and language. The language is a bit convoluted at times, as they are both avid readers and writers, work in a book store and get quite philosophical. It’s definitely a 17+ book in the sense that there are many 4-letter word bombs and extensive sexual content. Some will find it on the vulgar side, and while it certainly had a few moments where it was on the edge, I thought the author only included such content when it felt appropriate.



Strengths


Due to the style, you are immediately drawn into Joe’s psychotic attraction and dangerous personality. However… there is something so wonderful and charming about him, you want to look past the stalker he becomes, as he has a heart of hold. And when Beck begins to show signs of being venomous, you almost don’t mind some of the things he does to or against her, in spite of their growing attraction and relationship. It’s truly like watching a train wreck, knowing you can’t really stop it, but kinda wanting to see every little gory detail as it unfolds.

Joe is so crystal clear, you would think he’s standing right next you. Beck is almost as real as he is, but given Joe narrates the story, you tend to feel closer to him. For an author to make you almost root for the bad guy, it’s a good book. The interaction, the imagination, the internal thoughts, the passive-aggressive behavior… it’s all so spot-on, I can’t even begin to explain how real this situation seems to play out, with the exception of he’s a stalker and basically invaded her life. If they had just met and gotten into a relationship, everything from that point on felt 100% real – from their fights to their make-up sessions, as well as from the games they played and the way in which their friends took sides. Amazing slice of life to watch play out.



Concerns


The last few chapters felt a bit rushed. It was quite suspenseful and you could see the whole sequence of events unfolding in real-time before your eyes; however, because it’s all from Joe’s point of view, I’m unsure exactly how much Beck knows in those last few chapters. She clearly articulates that she was aware of what he had done before she told him she knew about it. But you don’t know how much of a preview she had into his psychotic mind, or if she was happy or scared with it. {Again, sorry, don’t want to give away any spoilers} For me, I would have loved to read a journal entry she’d written saying exactly what she knew and when she knew it. Otherwise, we’re left guessing a little bit, and having that information may help us decide whether or not she’s a good person or a bad person.

Joe gets away with a lot. He’s sneaky. He’s smart. He’s vengeful. He’s manipulative. But it seems no one picks up on it until too late. I can pretty much buy off on it; however, in the scenes where he is caught, I can’t tell if it’s remorse or anger. I would love to know if he wanted to be caught, if he accepts the consequences or if he is just growing more volatile. It’s a pretty clear ending to the book, so you know when it’s done what is going on in his head, but it would have been fantastic to watch him spiral a bit more out of control in the last 20% of the novel.



Author & Other Similar Books


As far as the way the story is told, I can’t think of anything. As far as the type of story, perhaps Fatal Attraction? Joe also feels like a diabolical version of a narcissistic Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. Loveable and annoying, but be careful as you never know what he’s truly capable of until after it’s already happened.



Questions & Final Thoughts


I need to read the second book ASAP. This is such a different kind of story… one where you may side with the criminal in this story. You see both perspectives. You want him to get everything he deserves – both the good and the bad. And in some strange way, I think I was even attracted to parts of his personality (and that’s scary, given how the book ends up). If you need something to pull you out of a slump, this is the book. It’s still sitting on my brain, as vivid as though I were reading the words on the page. It’s that kind of book… one where you will want to keep thinking about it and talking about it for a long time after you are done.



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