The Risk of Recommendation

I am not the avid reader I used to be, but I still try my best to keep up. I have an audio book in my car at all times, I have a bath book (which will probably be ignored until autumn at this point), and a bedside table book. Since I no longer race through many a novel, and I’ve recently decided to finish what I begin, I try to be very selective with where I invest my reading time. That’s why I truly value a personal recommendation.

A close friend mentioned how she was losing sleep because she was reading a book she couldn’t put down. She couldn’t wait to finish! She was really into this thriller, so I added it to my Amazon basket, sight unseen, blurb unread.

Another trusted reader LOVED a book so much, she let me borrow her Kindle to read it. She warned me of one particularly ludicrous event but said that other than that, it kept her riveted and she was genuinely satisfied and surprised by the ending.

Yes, these are the two books referenced in last week’s review. I value the sources of these opinions and I’m glad I read their selections. Would I urge others to read them? Sure, but not with the same intensity.

Of course, the worst is when I get a glowing report on what turns out to be a sensory-challenging piece of rubbish that wastes my time and makes me consider the credibility of the glowing reporter.

This is the associated risk of recommendations.

Luckily, it rarely happens. I’ve learned whose opinions to trust, and tend to benefit-of-the-doubt those who’ve recommended in error.

I appreciate when someone I know gives me a first-hand referral of something they have tried and loved. A book, a movie, a restaurant, etc. I prefer to read anonymous reviews after I have experienced a thing for myself. I want to know why someone liked it, why someone didn’t, and whether or not they would encourage others to try it. I find a lot of value in these after-the-fact comments. Sometimes I like the thing better after having read another’s opinion on it. Sometimes I like it less. Either way, I gain insight into my own interpretations and the value of the occurrence.

What are your thoughts on reviews and recommendations? What does it take for you to endorse a book, movie, restaurant, etc? Who do you listen to when trying new things?

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1 Review, 2 Books, 3 Sentences

Book 1: The Locked Door by Freida McFadden
Book 2: The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose

3 Sentence Review:
1. Both of these novels came as rave recommendations from readers I trust so I was really looking forward to reading them, but I must admit, the fact that BOTH are marketed with the inclusion of much longer and what I can only guess to be persuasive subheadings was very off-putting (see full titles below), I mean, who are they trying to convince?
2. Although completely different subjects, it was also interesting to me that both books utilize unreliable narrators, are told in alternating points of view, and despite the inclusion of questionable red herrings, unnecessary repetitions*, and throw-away details (the blood!), both provided satisfying endings with a “twist”.
3. If these are the kinds of books you are usually drawn to, then by all means, I recommend you read them, but please note that while I read The Perfect Marriage on Kindle, I listened to the audio of The Locked Door and I cannot stress enough how you should NOT listen to the audio of The Locked Door–the voice actor is not good.

Full Title : The Locked Door: A gripping psychological thriller with a jaw-dropping twist
Author: Freida McFadden
Book Blurb: “Some doors are locked for a reason.”
Genre: Action Thriller Fiction

Brief Synopsis: Alternating between adult Nora and 26 years earlier Nora, the grown Nora, a prestigious surgeon, and daughter of a serial killer, becomes the suspect when her patients are murdered in the same manner as her serial killer father.

*Did I mention her father is a serial killer? Because the author does. Every other chapter and sometimes twice.

Full Title : The Perfect Marriage: A Completely Gripping Psychological Suspense
Author: Jeneva Rose
Book Blurb: “His mistress is dead, his wife is his only hope.”
Genre: Suspense

Brief Synopsis: This is a literal he said/she said as the story of relationships, infidelity, and murder unfolds in the alternating voices of the lackadaisical husband and workaholic wife.

***

I hope you have enjoyed this edition of 3 Sentence Reviews. Have you read either of the books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these titles. What would you say in 3 sentences?

For additional quick-read book reviews, click on a title:
The Girl Beneath the Sea
Project Hail Mary
Later
The Line.

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Hermes said Hold My Beer

Hermes is the Greek god of Travel. After last Friday, I can’t help but believe that the cunning trickster and fleet-footed messenger read my previous post, Travel Days are THE WORST, snickered and said, “Hold my beer.”

To recap, last Sunday my friend and I booked a room at a hotel near the bus station in Rockford for “less stress” and “easy access” to our 4:45 am bus to O’Hare for the 7:32 am flight to Newark. Four in the morning is very early. We caught the bus, rode to the airport, checked in, passed security (easy-peasy, thank you O’Hare!), waited, flew, arrived, met our other friend, hopped in the rental car and headed out to Chatham, Massachusetts, for a quick week of sight-seeing and catching up. We meandered along, stopping to shop, stopping for gas, stopping for snacks or potty breaks. We arrived at the airbnb about 6:30 pm. For the detail oriented, that’s approximately 14 1/2 hours between starting the day and arriving at the destination. Long, but all considering, NOT the worst.

Fast Forward through tours of Provincetown, Harwick, Falmouth, Martha’s Vineyard, Brewster, and Chatham–three JAM PACKED days of adventure, sight-seeing, clam chowder, and great company to…Friday, aka, THE WORST TRAVEL DAY.

Packed, cleaned, and ready to go, we headed out of the quaint airbnb at an impressive 8 am for our 6:30 pm flights. Required exit time was 9 and we originally balked at that, even going so far as to request a (denied) late check-out. With battling GPSes, a Garmin in kilometers and Apple Maps in miles, we headed back to Newark. We needed to fill up the rental gas tank before returning the car, then get to the terminal to check in, go through security, etc in time for our 5:45 boarding.

Seven hours to make a five hour trek giving us two hours for airport demands. Three hundred miles and time to spare! Long, sure, but leisurely. Plenty of time, right?!

WRONG.
I wonder if it’s an ice cold can of beer with a godly coozie or an ambrosial draft sloshing in a red plastic Solo cup?

Despite a fantastic driver and passenger guide (neither me) our five hour trek took eight and a half hours. Thanks to lost satellite signals, differing map app routes, and a mess and tangle of crawling traffic. Eventually we found the gas station, were filled up, took the long way to the rental drop-off (nice signage NOT), hauled butt to the train, found our check-in, were harassed, er, delayed by security (not me this time!), and made it to our gate approximately fourteen minutes before boarding was to begin. Whew, right?

WRONG.
Hermes seems like a bottle kind of god, nothing light, probably an import. Maybe in Olympus they’re all imports?

Within moments of our pause at the schedule board, we realized that another plane was boarding at our gate. Shortly after that, we received the first delay text. Which was to be expected since San Jose destined passengers were in our seats. Our flight would now depart at 7:30. Too many planes, not enough gates.

Fine, whatever, gives us a chance to catch our breath after that harrowing commute. Walk around, stretch our legs, get a bite to eat, relax, right?

WRONG.
Is he a two-fister? Maybe one in hand and one in waiting? Does that require two servants to hold his beer?

Newark Liberty International airport has the most effed up shopping system. Not a McDonald’s to be found. Each of the small shops and kiosks are self-check. Except that someone has to be there to make sure you are self-checking properly. (Or, hey, you know, maybe they could just check us out?!) I stumbled into a large food court. Lots of options–pasta, sandwiches, sushi, etc. I wait in a line, I do what the person in front of me does, which is to select your order on the key pad and print out a QR code receipt. Standing, waiting, wondering why they have one guy behind the counter, no other staff, while the hungry crowd grows. Guy behind the counter calls out a name and number, somebody comes, takes the sandwich and leaves, guy behind the counter has a TOTAL PUBLIC MELTDOWN. He’s slamming and swearing–to himself and at us. Lecturing on how obvious the rules are and why can’t people #$%& read (the barely legible hand-drawn sign). Mind you, no sandwiches are being made during this tirade. In explanation, a kind stranger informed me that you need to take your receipt to the exit, scan it, swipe your payment, wait in line for someone else to scan it to prove you paid, then stamp it. Then you go back and wait in line and when your order comes up, you trade the stamped receipt for your food. I have many more details about that counter experience, but today we focus on the TRAVEL.

I finally and frantically make it back to the gate, hoping I am not late since the fast food order was hardly that, when my friend informs me that we have an additional 50 minute delay. Yay. As long as we can make it in time for the 9 pm bus from O’Hare to Rockford.

Another delay. We decide we might as well check our carry-ons since we will have plenty of time to grab them at baggage claim and make the 10 pm bus.

Another delay. Well, shoot, now we may NOT have time. And there is no 11 pm bus, only midnight remains.

Another delay. If we miss the midnight bus, we are there until the 7 am run.

Thirteen updates later, including a changed gate and plane cooling time (?), our 6:29 departure loads for a 9:35 departure.
Well, we loaded anyway. Departure was still a good twenty minutes away. Too many planes, not enough runway.
The Newark Airport is a hot mess. No stars, would not recommend.

Finally, we’re in the air. It’s a quick flight, only about two and half hours but with a glorious time change and gained hour. Great air staff, easy landing, disembark (slooooowly, per usual), make it to baggage claim, grab our luggage right away, and hustle to the bus stop (love the moving sidewalks!), arriving with minutes to spare.

On the midnight bus going from O’Hare (if you didn’t sing that, go back and read it again), we engaged in lively conversation with some very interesting people. I wish them the best of luck. An hour later, we eagerly pulled into the Van Galder lot. Not much left to do, the rest of our trip will be easy, right?

WRONG!
I could be mistaken, but I think maybe he said, “Hold my case of beer,” because Hermes is not done messing with us yet.

We just want to pay for our parking and get on the road. So why is there some guy freaking out in the parking lot at a quarter after one in the morning!? Swearing and stomping and pacing and screaming? Luckily a fellow passenger offered a barrier of protection while we paid at the uncomfortably close to crazy-man machine. I do not know what his deal was, but it was scary behavior and we were a bit distressed to see them let him back on the bus.

I was delivered to my car and drove the 40 minutes home.
I had begun my day with the assist of the overbed skylight (!) at 5:05 am. I arrived home at 2:30 am. A twenty-two hour day filled with hurry-up and waits, stress, anxiety, frustration, and freak-outs. Never so happy to be home.

So, there you go, further proof that travel days are the worst.
(expletive you, Hermes)

Playing games while waiting and waiting and waiting. If the Magic 8 Ball was a word game–ALL SIGNS POINT TO DEBACLE, lol.
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Travel Days are THE WORST!

Yes, I have blogged about this before, and even then I was sure I’d posted prior to that. I’ve also mentioned that I am a terrible packer. And this trek will be shoved into carry-on only!

I’m writing early so I don’t miss my blog post. It is NOT Monday morning yet, but I am suffering from anticipatory anxiety. I am NOT currently traveling as I type, but I am dreading the very long day of travel all the same. I will be en route when this posts, so please send kind vibes and timely ETAs my way.

The good news is that sometime Monday evening, after almost 14 hours, I will have successfully arrived at my destination and will experience three glorious days before I have to repeat the travel day trauma.

Pretty sure I’ll need three days after that to recuperate.

Recuperation days are the best.
(Now that’s a blog I look forward to researching!)

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Happy Holiday?

We heard the parade this morning as it marched by a couple of blocks from our house. I used to LOVE a parade. I haven’t been in many, many years. We decided to leash up the dogs and head over…unfortunately, by the time we got there, it had passed. We lamented about how close it was to us and how NEXT year we will surely attend.

I used to LOVE holidays! Hosting parties was my jam. I remember summers when my kids were growing up where we had people over all the time! Times where we literally only ate party foods–and leftovers–from week to week. I haven’t had a summer party in ages.

My kids are grown now, but they would come. WE HAVE A POOL. Why don’t we host summer parties? No time? Too expensive? Too much cleaning and prep? But–I did all that when we had less time, less money, and more mess! Just kidding about that last one, although my mess may be different, it’s still messy.

Maybe after two years of NOT socializing, of NOT being able to hang out casually with friends, of being forced to be isolated and alone, the party in me is ready to plan again?

In all honesty, I have to laugh at myself. I doubt my holidays will change. Once I get past the nostalgia of it, I find the concept overwhelming. A quiet lounge by the pool with zero prep sounds divine.

I did add the 2023 Memorial Day Parade to my calendar, though. It’s a start.

Hello summer vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

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3 Sentence Review: The Girl Beneath the Sea

  1. The Girl Beneath the Sea is an action/thriller, not one of the supernatural/sci-fi stories that I usually read, and it took me a while to stop waiting for something mystical to happen.
  2. This Sloan McPherson chick can hold her breath for a reaaaaaaaaally ridiculously long time and even though the character relays stories of competing with her brothers in underwater breath-holding contests, lists off the world records for oxygenated and non-oxygenated breath-holding, and also repeatedly describes her intense physical discomfort, I just wasn’t buying the timeline of her underwater antics and how much she was able to physically accomplish while wishing she had a tank in her pocket.
  3. Overall, it was a fun adventure with a great supporting cast and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Full Title: The Girl Beneath the Sea: A Thriller (Underwater Investigation Unit, 1)
Author: Andrew Mayne
Genre: Sea Adventures

Brief Synopsis: Sloan McPherson is trying to overcome a lifetime of shady family history and forge a new path for herself and her daughter. As a single mother, police officer who focuses on underwater recovery, and a PhD student doing dives on the side for her professor, Sloan finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery with dangerous and personal repercussions.

For more 3 Sentence Reviews, check out these titles:
The Line
Later
Hail Mary

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Next Level Basic

I was cool with being basic. Now I’m cooler being Next Level Basic.

Next Level Basic, #NLB, is a best seller by Stassi Schroeder, an author, reality TV star, and podcaster. Being Next Level Basic is about having fun and celebrating yourself. Stassi is totally L.A.–via New Orleans– beautiful, slender, semi-famous with gorgeous hair, a boob job and a spray tan. Basically speaking, she loves Ranch Dressing, could guide a hot dog themed travel tour, and believes you can tell a lot about a person based on their astrology. She embraces her basic and brings it next level.

I’m DeKalb basic, lol. Midwest, mid-fifties, a gray grandma, but you know what? It is what it is and I’m okay with it. The idea of NLB is to fully embrace what it is. Who YOU are. Be the best damn you you can be. And, most importantly, do not judge others for embracing whatever their basic may be.

So, yeah, no gorgeous hair, boob job, or spray tan for me. I wear band t’s and jeans and I like it.

When I was getting ready to attend Stassi’s new book release event in support of, Off With My Head, sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, it occurred to me that LOTS of people are basic band t’s and jeans, so how can I be next level?

Not with Cheap Trick, The Ramones, or AC/DC*.
Nope, I’m going true Mary NLB with Billy Squier. And not just jeans. Not even store bought pre-ripped holey jeans. I worked those trendy holes in my old jeans. Next Level Basic is about earning your style.**

This author event was very interesting…we were given pre-signed books upon arrival. (We were early and actually saw her signing the books in a side room! It was kind of a fangirl moment.) We took our seats and waited. Watched and waited. Very interesting crowd. Pretty sure there’s a blog in there somewhere! Stassi came out and spoke for about three minutes–long enough to tell us she doesn’t usually speak, but there was a stage and a photo opportunity, so she graced us with a few words. And an Instagramable selfie.

After that brief intro, she went to the staging area and we all lined up in order of reservation number. Considering the 500 person crowd, I was pleased we were #178. They hustled us in, posed us, took our photo and guided us out. Nothing about the book, the author, or the writing experience, but this is Stassi’s world. And true to her beliefs, she embraces it hardcore.

Stassi may not be your thing. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure she was my thing–but you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the silliness, honesty, and voice of her first book. And if you don’t share my opinion? We’re cool with that. You do you.

*I do have these shirts. I wear them often.
**It’s okay, I chuckled as I typed ‘style’, too.

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Pareidolia

Seeing familiar objects or patterns in otherwise random or unrelated objects is called Pareidolia. Etymologically speaking, the word derives from the Greek words pará, “beside, alongside, instead [of]” and eídōlon “image, form, shape”.

Pareidolia is something most of us experience but few of us know how to pronounce.

For the record, it’s:
pear-uh-dole-ee-uh
(This according to my phonetics, the real sites offer pronunciations like, pæɹ.aɪˈdəʊ.li.ə. You’re welcome.)

Familiar examples of Pareidolia include:
The Man in the Moon – a human face smiling down at us from the lunar surface. The fact that the “face” is an illusion created by the shallows and depths of the surface does not preclude us from seeing it. And I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen it.

Not THIS man, but none of the moon photos I found made the ‘man’ easy to identify.

Shapes in Clouds – different combinations of groups and types of clouds lead to the different formations our minds identify. A favorite lazy summer day pastime.

We saw the most beautiful cloud formation Sunday. It was a giant, detailed wing. Maybe belonging to the bird in the previous photo, maybe belonging to an angel in the skies. The photo does not do it justice, it was truly majestic.

Faces in inanimate objects – called Facial Pareidolia, not only do humans recognize faces in objects, but we tend to assign emotions to them, as well.

One of my favorite examples of Facial Pareidolia, lol.

I know there’s a lot going on, still, again, whatever, but I’m asking you to please take a moment to find familiarity, comfort, and joy in your surroundings. Up in the sky! In the face of a meter, the shape of a bud, or the back of a spider.

The signs* are there, you just need to see them.

*Every time I drive past this repaired fence line on Cherry Valley Road, I wave and return the greeting. Such a friendly fence. Really makes my day. 😀

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Forensics Camp

Some friends and I recently attended a four week Forensics Camp through the Rock Valley College Continuing Education program. They sucked me in by appealing to my authorial sense of wonder. As in, I wondered how I could work these scientific details into a story!

Every Tuesday for four weeks, my friends and I met for an early dinner before heading to RVC for fun and learning. At capacity with 20 students, this was the first time the class had been offered to adults. The teacher, Laura Constant, has taught this for kids as a STEM class. She said she had a lot of parents who were interested in learning about forensics, too, so she pitched the idea.

Not only was it a lot of fun, it was also an interesting and educational experience. Each two hour class was jam-packed with hands on activities. We did experiments with (fake) blood, (our own) fingerprints, (dye-representative) DNA, sample handwriting analysis, and tested a series of (legal) white powders. We were provided with our own supply filled toolkit and a binder for the many detailed hand-outs. The last class included a crime scene where we had to work through all of the things we had learned and apply the results to solving the mystery.

I took the class in hopes of informing my writing.
But I’m pretty sure I could get away with murder now.

Just kidding, I need more training.

I hope they offer a Forensics Camp 2.0.

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3 Sentence Review: Hail Mary

  1. This novel is hard on the science, heavy on the fiction, so don’t get too caught up in the specifics, okay, and if you choose to read it, do so on audio–you will be glad you did.
  2. It was not at all the story I assumed it would be.
  3. Like, like, like!

Full Title : Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Hard Science Fiction

Brief Synopsis: Ryland Grace is a high school science teacher tasked with saving his home planet from imminent destruction. Ill-prepared and unwilling, when he wakes on a spaceship to find his crewmates dead, he must adapt or die–affecting the future of Earth with his decision.

I truly hate to say any more. If you think you might like this book, just read (listen to!) it.

I hope you have enjoyed this edition of 3 Sentence Reviews.
Quick reviews of Later and The Line.

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