The Value of Building Memories

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I don’t know about you, but when the daily routine gets to be too routine, I grow quite tired of it. In order for me not to grow cantankerous, I need to do things a little out of the ordinary. Fun things. Like take my family to the fair.

We went to the Kentucky State Fair last week. There, I watched my daughter’s eyes light up when she saw the goats and pigs and cows. She loved petting the lambs and just running around the farm animals in general.

Even our son, strapped in his stroller, was interested in his surroundings and took an interest in the dog shows and the flying motorcycles.

The food was way overpriced and tasted like crap, but it broke up the daily grind. It afforded the family quality time together outside of the house.

Something I’m learning is to always go out and do things with the family as much as you can. That way, when we look back on it all, we’ll know we really experienced life together with every opportunity offered.

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My Review of the Disney Short Films Collection

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As for many Disney fans, it was a delight to see that Disney was finally putting their short films together in one collection. We initially bought it to play in the car for the kids during our sixteen-hour drive to Florida we were supposed to take next week. But that trip got postponed because one of our dachshunds hurt her back and might need surgery. So she’s on bedrest for two weeks and we’ll stay home with her.

Lorenzo_(film)_posterAnyway, Sarabeth and I watched the short films collection and we have mixed feelings. Mostly because of the one entitled Lorenzo, where the self-indulgent cat with the demon-possessed tail tries to kill him.

Okay, honestly, I loved it, because it was totally morbid and the charcoal artwork was astounding to look at.

There’s one called The Little Matchstick Girl, which I loved because it made me blubber a little bit. (No one, anywhere, said that animation had to be for kids!)

The only thing I have to complain about with this collection is that it does not includeMV5BMTY1NTI2OTA2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTQ4Mjg5._V1_SX214_AL_ Runaway Brain – remember that Mickey Mouse short that was featured before Tall Tale back in the mid-90’s?

But my ultimate favorite animated short of all time is Paperman. Every time I watch that one, it gives me chills. I can only hope they make a full-length feature doing what that movie does by combining 2d animation and computer generated imaging. Feast is a very close second to being just as amazing.

Have you purchased your copy of this awesome collection of Disney shorts? Which ones are your favorites?

My Favorite CD’s Part 1

You know how it is. You get a CD and it turns out only half the songs are worth keeping. That’s how it usually is for me, no matter how good the band or singer is. I’ve been going through my music and compiled a list of albums that didn’t need to be cut down because at least 90% of it was just pure awesome.

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Robbie Williams, Swing When You’re WInning

This is a jazzy set of the best of Robbie Williams’ songs. They’re fun to listen to because it feels like they could be sung in some classy old-time musical. You’ve certainly got a mood-lifter in this album. And if you can’t relate to the first song, then I’d consider you a liar.

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Sister Hazel, Fortress

As far as bands go, Sister Hazel is one of my favorites. Hailing from Gainesville, Florida, they have consistently risen up in the charts over the years. In my opinion, they hit their peak with their third album, Fortress. This CD, like their others, is bluesy and folksy, but this one is the most contemporary in terms of rock. It’ll definitely give you a “champagne high” even without the champagne.

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Elvis Presley: Elvis 75

My readers may not know this, but I’m an Elvis fan. If I had thick black hair (or more hair, for that matter) I’d either be in Nashville or Vegas making a living doing impersonations of him.

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Caedmon’s Call, 40 Acres

It’s a Christian CD, but a fun one to listen to as you drive through the countryside with the windows down. Great traveling music, this one.

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That Thing You Do! soundtrack

Remember the Oneders? Remember that little-known Tom Hanks film about that fifties band? The soundtrack is still rockin’ and it’s here to stay!

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Blessid Union of Souls, Walking Off the Buzz

If The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was the one TV show that got me through high school, then this third Blessid Union of Souls CD got me through those years musically. I’m surprised my disc hasn’t worn out after probably at least a couple thousand repeat listens.

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The Very Best of Rod Stewart

Judge me all you want, but yeah, this guy made the cut. Easily.

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Mr. Holland’s Opus soundtrack

This was actually the very first CD I ever owned. I got it for Christmas 1996, along with my first CD player, after my sister convinced me that CD’s were way cooler than cassette tapes.

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Tim McGraw, Set This Circus Down (and Greatest Hits)

I’m gonna go country on you here for a minute, and if I’m gonna do that, it might as well be because of Tim McGraw. This is my favorite album of his, besides his greatest hits CD from 2000.

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Wicked, broadway musical soundtrack

If you haven’t seen the play, at least get the soundtrack. It’s wicked awesome!

Keep a lookout for Part 2 of this list and join my Facebook Author Page for more fun stuff in the meantime.

Catch This Book as Soon as You Can

Catch-Me-If-You-CanOne of my favorite movies of all time is Catch Me If You CanIt doesn’t really fit in a genre – it’s action-packed, funny, emotional, intense… the genre I put it in is called Fun. Just plain old fun.

And… it was a book first, written by our very own Frank Abagnale, Jr. Or Frank Connors, or Frank Williams, or Robert Conrad, or Robert Monjo. Take your pick, it’s all the same crook-turned-FBI specialist.

And though the book is vastly different than the movie, I like them both just the same.

I recently read the book for the second time and was just as captivated and held to the edge of my seat as before. And honestly, the whole thing is hard to believe.

One of the major differences from the movie is that there is no Carl Hanratty hot on Abagnale’s trail – how could there be? It’s an autobiography. But even without him, the book is just as fun, because you know the FBI is never really that far behind.

Pick up the book as soon as you can. It reads as fast as the main character runs. I’ll be rereading it again and again down the line.

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What in the World is Wrong?

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“Let’s give this a try – it’s got a great premise,” I said, as I pulled up our DVR recording.

“And this is the movie American Sniper lost to?” Sarabeth asked.

“Yeah. It better be one heck of a movie.”

Needless to say, our expectations were set high for Birdman since it won best picture at the last Academy Awards.

We had watched American Sniper last week and were both extremely moved (I think that word is a gross understatement). I have never had so much respect for our troops before watching it. I want Chris Kyle’s book for Christmas and I’ll be getting his wife’s book for Sarabeth.

And then we watched Birdman. It had all the ingredients going for it – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, bm_spanish_online_1sht1fantasy/reality, award-winning… but in all honesty, it just plain stunk. It stunk so bad we agreed to turn it off twenty-five minutes into it. I felt like the whole thing was just a pity party we were forced into because this has-been actor was no longer in the spotlight.

Honestly, I kept tuning out. The dialogue was bland and middle-school-esk. The plot was hard to get involved with, and I just can’t connect with/feel sympathy for a character who had it all. He’s lived his high life and reached his pinnacle. I don’t want to watch him wallow in his self-pity when I’m still trying to reach my own pinnacle in life.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy ended up either a) getting a second big break but not finding fulfillment in it or b) killing himself because he felt unappreciated out of his prime.

But I’ll never know, nor do I really care to.

In this house, American Sniper was the worthy movie of the year. I may love the genre Birdman falls under, but the deliverance was lame and petty. I typically do not like modern war movies (don’t get me started on Hurt Locker), but this one, American Sniper, is the Saving Private Ryan of the war in the Middle East.

I think it’s our patriotic duty to watch it and pay homage to a true American hero.

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The Things That Make Me Happiest

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It’s only Tuesday. And for most of us who hate our jobs, that’s like saying, “You’ve got a thousand more years before you get to sit down and relax.”

Well, I find that if you take a moment to jot down the things that make you happiest, and then every day until the weekend you do a couple of those things, it makes your work week much more bearable. A dark tunnel isn’t so scary if you see the light at the end of it.

So here’s a list of things that make me happiest.

  1. My wife and kids: My wife’s loving words, my daughters contagious laugh, and our son (still a foster) not crying if he falls down as he’s learning to walk.
  2. Ruffles’ Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream potato chips
  3. Pixar/Disney movies – especially the ones that make me cry.
  4. Finishing a new book every week, because that means I’m actually enjoying the art of reading a lot.
  5. Boneless buffalo wings so hot your nose runs and your eyes water, making your plate a soppy mess.
  6. Pizza where the mozzarella is so discernible you’d think you were eating a block of warm, melted cheese.
  7. Ice cream that’s so creamy you’d swear the cow stirred the milk herself.
  8. Random trips to Starbucks with the family and getting a big honkin’ frappuccino with whipped cream.
  9. Good ideas for new books to write. Because those are mine alone and I get excited about the prospect of writing a new book.
  10. When my dogs go potty on the grass right away.
  11. Those limited edition Oreo’s they have out now (especially cotton candy flavored).
  12. Reading your comments below my blog posts.
  13. My new website (andrewtoybooks) which is still in development.

Share some of the things that make you happiest below and have a great rest of the week!

The Grisham Challenge, Book 2: The Firm

403coverI read John Grisham’s The Firm back in high school for class. For an assigned book, I remember being pretty impressed. But as a high schooler, I didn’t allow myself to fully accept how awesome an assigned book could be.

Having just read it again as an adult as part of the Grisham Challenge, I’ve got to say that this book is now considered one of my desert island books. Couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It.

No wonder John Grisham gained such a heavy and substantial following with the release of this book. Even if all the circumstances in the book aren’t completely believable, it’s sure one heck of a fun read!

Imagine getting your dream job, and not only that, but they pay you out the nose, with virtually unlimited vacation time – paid in full – money for a down payment on a house, a company car, the works. That’s the sort of job our protagonist signs up for. But unfortunately he comes to realize that it really was all too good to be true and nothing – absolutely nothing – is as good as it seems.

There’s very little violence in this book – maybe a page worth, but the drama and suspense runs at virtually a 10 from page one. Grab ahold of this Grisham thriller and dazzle yourself.

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