Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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Have you ever started reading a book that initially excited you, but then you read a little bit more of it and then you weren’t sure if you liked it enough to continue reading it? That’s how it was for me at first with Dark Matter. But before I go much further here, let me share this blurb of the book from the publisher, so you know a little bit about the story:

Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Okay, that seriously sounds like a fantastic read, doesn’t it? I was very excited to dive into the book and get totally wrapped up in it. And I did – for a little while. The first couple of chapters had me totally hooked. But then, it started to lose me.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out why I began to lose interest in it. The writing was certainly good enough. This is the first Blake Crouch book I’ve read, but I was immediately impressed with his skills as a writer.

I think, though, that the problem was more with me than with the book itself.

I don’t read a lot of sci fi thrillers, so it probably took me a little longer to totally get into the story than it probably would for regular readers of books like this. Some of the more “scientific” parts of the story slowed it down for me towards the beginning and I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to keep reading.

But I did. And I’m very glad that I did. Like I said before, Crouch is a talented writer and storyteller. He made the book very compelling and I eventually grew to care a lot about the characters. Also, the story itself kept getting better and better as it moved forward. In particular, the last hundred or so pages were especially interesting, clever, and exciting.

So, my recommendation is to read this book. Chances are very good that you’ll love it all the way through. However, if you do struggle at all with it, well, don’t give up on it too soon. Stick with it and I bet you’ll like it.

As for me, I ended up liking it a lot. I’ll be reading another Blake Crouch book very, very soon.

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Some Fun Things About Young Sheldon

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First of all, I’ve got to say what a great series Young Sheldon is. Like a lot of fans of The Big Bang Theory, I was a little skeptical when this spinoff was first announced. However, it didn’t take long for me to love it. I was hooked after just a few episodes.

In addition to it being very funny, it’s also very touching at times. I’m sitting here hesitating about using the word “sweet” to describe the show, but darn it, yes – it’s a sweet show.

Whenever I become a fan of something, I tend to geek out and read A LOT about whatever it is that I’m geeking out over. This often leads me to fun little nuggets of information and trivia.

I wish I hadn’t just used the word “nuggets” up there, because now I want Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s. That doesn’t quite go along with the diet I’m currently on, so I’m going to fight that urge.

Anyway…here are some fun (non-chicken nuggetish) things I’ve learned about Young Sheldon:

Actress Zoe Perry (on the right) plays Sheldon’s mother, Mary Cooper, on Young Sheldon. Zoe is the real life daughter of Laurie Metcalf (on the left) who has the recurring role of Mary Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. So, Zoe plays a younger version of a character played by her own mother! That’s very cool casting, if you ask me!

(It’s also very cool even if you didn’t ask me.)

As for which version of Mary Cooper I prefer, I’m going to go with Young Mary. Laurie Metcalf is fantastic playing the Older Mary, but since she’s just an occasional character on The Big Bang Theory, we don’t see her all that often on that show. However, on Young Sheldon, the character is a major part of every episode. She’s not just Sheldon’s mother, but also a mom to two other kids, the wife of George Cooper, and the daughter of Meemaw (played by the fantastic Annie Potts.)

Zoe Perry is fantastic as Mary. I think her performances on the show have helped make Mary Cooper become one of the best TV Moms ever.

I mentioned George Cooper, Sheldon’s father, above. The actor who plays him is Lance Barber. In a very cool coincidence, Lance appeared on an episode of The Big Bang Theory six years before he got the role on Young Sheldon.

In that episode, he played Jimmy Speckerman, who was Leonard’s bully back in high school. I recently watched that episode and it was fun to see the actor on there playing scenes with Leonard and Adult Sheldon.

And this here is perhaps my favorite cool thing that I’ve learned regarding Young Sheldon. The theme song, “Mighty Little Man,” is written and performed by Steve Burns. If you don’t know that name, there’s a good chance you might know his face:

Steve is the one on the right. He was the original star of the popular children’s series, Blue’s Clues. Not long after he left Blue’s Clues, he released an album called Songs For Dustmites. The original version of “Mighty Little Man” was on that album…AND IT ROCKS!!! Here it is:

Did you watch it? Well, there’s no actual video there to watch, but if you click on the little “play” arrow, you can at least hear the song. I don’t want to be a blossy blogger, but hey, go and listen to it if you haven’t already heard it. It’s pretty awesome.

Speaking of awesome…

YOU’RE AWESOME for stopping by.

Probably for lots of other reasons too.

Thanks for your time. Go and do fun things now. Have a great day!

Buddy

 

 

The Ballad of Mr. Carrot Man

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I was just an innocent carrot walking down the street. My day was about to get crazy, but at that moment I was just a happy little vegetable enjoying an afternoon stroll while sipping on a nice, hot pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. I was so happy that I wanted to whistle, but I’m horrible at whistling. Instead, I decided to sing a song that I’d begun writing earlier in the day.

Not so far away…there is a magic land of carrots…”

Then I stopped singing because I was struggling to come up with a good rhyme for ‘carrots.’ You’d think one would come easily to me since I am a carrot, but I guess I just wasn’t in the songwriting zone at that particular moment.

I silently walked on and was keeping my eyes out for trouble. I’m just a tiny carrot living in a city full of humans and other creatures, so I try to be extra-careful.

It’s a dangerous city and there are street gangs on nearly every corner. However, I got very lucky when I moved here because the local gang on my block is called The Bloody Vegetarians. They look up to me like I’m sort of a god, which I really enjoy. After all, not every walking and talking carrot is worshiped that way. It made me feel very special.

I made my way to the end of the street and saw three members of The Bloody Vegetarians standing on the corner. Horatio, their leader, waved to me. I silently wondered how he got to be the leader of his gang. Was he the bloodiest of them or did he cause the most bloodshed in others? Either way, it was probably best that I didn’t know.

“Yo, Mr. Carrot Man! How’s it hanging, boss?”

“Top of the morning to you, Horatio. How is all in our fair city today?” I asked.

“Dude, it’s not good for you. Someone is looking for you. Someone very scary.”

“Where is he? Or is it a she?”

Einstein, another of The Bloody Vegetarians, chimed in. “It’s a man. Well, it’s a male. A male bunny. He looks crazy, Mr. Carrot Man!”

I took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. “Do you know where he went?”

Horatio scratched his long and scruffy beard like he was in much deeper thought than my question required. “I don’t know, man, but I bet he’s not so far away.”

“Not so far away?” I asked. “I was just writing a song with those lyrics in it. Hey, by any chance, can you think of good rhyme for ‘carrots?'”

Vito, the usually silent member of the gang, yelled out, “‘Merits’, man! ‘Carrots’ and ‘merits’, you see?”

“Merits?” I asked.

“Yeah, man,” Vito proudly said. “It’s the plural of merit. It means good qualities.”

I nodded and gave it some thought. Merits. Yes, I liked it! Now that I had this great new word to use, I wanted to immediately get back to work on my song. However, fate had other things in store for me. Fate and one rapidly approaching, very ugly animal.

There he was – the most demented looking bunny I’d ever seen. All three of the Bloody Vegetarians screamed and ran away, leaving me alone with this horrible monster. He was looking at me like he wanted to eat me for dinner.

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I ran away as fast as I could, but the bunny was much faster than I was. He got ahead of me and quickly stopped and blocked my path. He turned and we stared at each other. I suddenly realized that I had seen him once before.

He was the same demented bunny who had killed my cousin Fred earlier in the year. But he hadn’t just killed Fred. He’d also done unspeakable things to Fred’s corpse.

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The freaky bunny charged towards me. I didn’t want to end up like Fred, so I decided to fight. I quickly removed the lid from my still very hot pumpkin latte drink and I hurled the cup at the bunny’s face.  The still-steaming liquid splattered all over his head, from his ridiculous looking ears, down to his obnoxiously long whiskers.

He screamed in agony for several seconds and then he started to calm down. The bunny bent over and licked some of the drink that had landed on his little paws. He looked back up at me.

“This is absolutely delicious,” he said. “Is this a pumpkin spice latte?”

“Yes. From the Starbucks on 8th Street.”

“This is the tastiest thing I’ve every had in my life. Even tastier than your cousin Fred,” the bunny said. “I must go to Starbucks immediately and get one of these.”

I was going to say something to him about Fred, but I decided to let it go. I’d never even liked Fred very much. “You’d better hurry. The store is going to close soon.”

The freaky bunny nodded at me and then he ran off. I sat there for several minutes and thought how lucky I was to still be alive.

I got up and started walking again. My new gratitude for life caused energy to flow through me and I was overcome with joy. It made me want to sing. And this time I got even further with my song.

Not so far away…there is a magic land of carrots. Don’t judge us by our orange skin…but judge us by our merits!”

I was thrilled with my new lyrics and I finished writing the song later that day. I’ve  even recently began work on another new song, this one all about pumpkin spice lattes.

But that is a song for another day…

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The above story was inspired by a writing challenge that I’m participating in. The name of the challenge is the #WingWritingChallenge and it was created by writer J.C. Wing.

The prompt for this particular challenge was the words “far away.”

I had a lot of fun writing this one. I hope you had fun reading it. Have a great day!

P.S. – Go get a pumpkin latte. They’re delicious.

 

Today is my ONE YEAR Anniversary of Not Smoking!

I’m very, very happy to announce that today marks one full year since I quit smoking. I smoked for a VERY long time – over 30 years.

During those decades, I tried to quit smoking dozens of times by using various techniques. You name it and I probably tried: pills, nicotine gum, the patch, hypnosis, etc.

I think none of it worked for me because I didn’t really want it to. Like most people who smoke for a long time, I absolutely loved smoking. I had no real desire to quit. Part of me always knew that I’d quit someday, but I just wasn’t there yet.

But then things changed for me after I met and married my wonderful Lisa. I just love her so incredibly much!  I knew that I wanted as many healthy years with her as I possible, so the smoking just had to go.

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Several days before I quit, I had set August 8, 2015 to be my last day smoking. I told myself that I was going to do it cold turkey. I didn’t want to cut down first and slowly ease my way off of the cigarettes. I also didn’t want to use any sorts of products, such as a patch, that contained nicotine. Those can be very effective quitting methods for a lot of people, but they take a little bit longer than I wanted to take. I wanted to get all nicotine out of my system as quickly as possible so that my body could start healing as quickly as possible.

And you know what’s very cool? In the days leading up to my last day of smoking, I had no doubts at all as to whether or not I’d be able to quit. I absolutely knew I was going to do it this time. My mind was made up and my heart was totally in it.

After my last cigarette, my body definitely went through withdrawals and I did physically crave cigarettes. My mind didn’t crave them, but my body still did. That part of it wasn’t easy. But I knew it was just a temporary situation and I just had to wait it out. Sure enough, in a very short time, the nicotine was totally out of my system and the physical cravings were completely gone.

With each passing day, I felt better and better. Over the past year, my body has healed a lot from not smoking. I’m now more physically active than I’ve ever been before. Lisa and I take longs walks together almost every day and I feel fantastic. Also, I’ve grown to appreciate nature in ways that I never had in the past. If you had told Smoker Buddy a couple of years ago that going on Nature Hikes was going to be something that he loved doing, he’d have said you were crazy!

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Ex-Smoker Buddy thinks much, much differently.

I am a very proud ex-smoker and I am never going back again.

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My, my, my, it’s a Beautiful World

I like to keep things light and fun here on the site, but man, the world sure has been filled with a lot of hatred lately, hasn’t it? Here in America…in other parts of the world…everywhere. It seems like more and more people hate each other every day. Yes, it can be argued that there’s always been a lot of hate in the world and unfortunately, that would be be a very valid argument.

But the thing that drives me crazy is…why does it have to be this way? People hate each other because of having different skin colors, different religions, different politics, different opinions, etc. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Why can’t we all just be friends? Yeah, I know, probably too much to ask for there, huh? Okay, then why can’t we all just try to respect each other? That shouldn’t be too much to ask for, right? Would it really be that difficult for everyone to try to do?

What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding? More importantly, why are those things so hard to achieve?

It’s all actually very simple…or at least it should be. We may never all totally get along and I understand that. But we should not hate each other just because we’re different from each other. If you really hate someone else just because they’re a different religion or color than you or have different politics than you, then you really need to WAKE UP and look at the real big picture.

Beneath all of the hatred out there, it really is a beautiful world. And it’s not even that far beneath the hatred. It’s right there…for all of us. There’s so much out there for all of us to enjoy, for all of us to love.

So, let’s not waste it all because of stupid things like hatred. All we have to do is be nice to each other and try to respect each others’ differences. It really is that simple.

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