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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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.

Ranking the Dystopian Teen Novels

First off, thank you all so much for the warm congratulations for adopting our daughter. Sarabeth and I were very warmed by your support and enthusiasm.

Part of Katherine’s name is based off of Katniss from The Hunger Games (just look at her initials). Some people might mock us for our obsessiveness over a teen book (pun intended), but Katniss is the kind of girl we want Katherine to be inspired by as she grows older. She’s strong, compassionate, uncompromising in her beliefs, and fiercely loyal. Plus, Katherine already has a dog named Prim, so it works out.

Yeah, I admit, I read teen novels. But I’m also in the book business, so it’s part of my job to be well-versed in what the hottest thing out there is (I’ll still pass on 50 Shades of Grey, thank you very much). While biographies, history, sports, and some mainstream fiction are part of my circulation, I get a sense of thrill when I’m about to start a new teen book, mainly because the competition out there is so fierce and only the best survive. Believe it or not, the odds are not in every book’s favor, especially in the future day setting.

Here’s four dystopian teen novels that I’ve read and ranked them from best to worst with explanations.


1. The Hunger Games

Full of depth, originality, and deep characters, The Hunger Games presents a believable future where upper-class citizens revel in the annual deaths of teenagers broadcasted on TV. These books challenge readers to stand up and challenge what’s wrong in this world and to fight for what is good and pure. They are read on a regular basis in our home.


2. The Last Survivors

Despite the political agenda behind Susan Beth Pfeffer’s series, it’s an extremely different take on the post-American world. The world has not shifted due to evil empires or wars, but by natural causes. An astroid knocks the moon closer to the earth, causing volcanoes to erupt, countries to flood, and the earth to shake, among other major disasters. Written from the diary of a young girl who is just an observer, the books are very believable and a fresh breath away from the tired action/thrillers populating the bookshelves.


3. Divergent 

Firs off, way too much romance. Way too much kissing and oohing and awing. Nothing can slow a book down faster than the old “we stole glances from each other, then it lead to kisses” garbage (in my opinion, anyway). The concept is good, but a bit confusing as I could never remember what each faction’s purpose was. To be honest, I didn’t even bother to read the next two books, because by the end of the first one, I just didn’t really care.


4. The Testing

I’m sorry, but shame on HMH Books for publishing this series. Is it Divergent? Is it Hunger Games? To be fair, the reviews on Amazon are exceptional and the first book received 4.5 stars out of 5. That’s impressive. But personally, I can’t remember being so bored with a book. It’s a total hybrid of its dystopian counterparts. And completely predictable. I also don’t plan on bothering with the next two in the series.

True, the competition among teen books is fierce. I just hope that other, better books, aren’t being buried in the commotion of the dystopian hoopla which are just riding on the coattails of greater, braver books.

Have you read these? Which ones are your favorites?

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The Grisham Challenge Book 1: A Time to Kill


Wow! John Grisham starts his writing career off with a wallop, and a hard act to follow. Racism, threats, juicy courtroom drama, murder, revenge, and controversy.

As solid and enthralling as this work of fiction is, it wasn’t the book that launched Grisham into his superstar status, believe it or not. That doesn’t happen until the release of his next book, The Firm (which I’ll start reading shortly).

But let’s talk about the controversy in A Time to Kill.

A little girl gets raped. No… your little girl gets raped. You have a weapon and a clear shot of  the rapists. What do you do?

Now you’re in the jury box. The man being convicted was just exacting revenge on behalf of his battered and bruised daughter.

Do you convict him?

I know the law states that we are not to seek vigilante justice on our own, that we must leave it to the court to execute justice. It seems plain and simple, really. The man killed. The conviction of a guilty verdict should be implemented.

But Grisham’s brilliancy is that he blurs the lines between black and white (and I mean that both morally and ethnically).

This would be one of those very few scenarios where the movie had just a tiny edge up on the book. It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but from what I remember, Mathew McConaughey’s portrayal of our defense attorney Jake Brigance, in his closing argument, describes the heinous rape to an all-white, Southern jury. And then at the very end he says something like, “Now, imagine that the victim is white.”

That sort of happens in the book, except it’s a jury member who pulls that gut-wrenching punch.

If I were in the jury box, I might have very well given the verdict to the vindictive father and let him walk free. What about you? How did A Time to Kill affect you?

I know a few of you have expressed joining me in The Grisham Challenge. Join the fun and let’s read the works of America’s favorite storyteller together!

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The John Grisham Challenge


If you were to ask me who my favorite fiction writer is, by default I would have to say John Grisham, probably because I’ve read more of his books than any other fiction author. That’s not to say others don’t live up.

Suzanne Collins hasn’t written as many books, even though I’ve read all eight (actually, nine) of her works.

Jeff Smith is a graphic novelist, so he can’t count as a fiction author.

And Stephen King just wasn’t the right fit for me.

Plus, I love courtroom action, and I think Grisham does it best.

But somewhere in the middle of his writing career, he kind of lost his touch. Sure, most of us can agree that his books set outside the courthouse are left wanting a little more substance (or plot), but the most recent trial books I’ve read by him haven’t necessarily lived up to par, either. I remember loving one of them immensely (The Broker, maybe?), but the ending was so sudden and unsatisfying that I ended up hating it.

So I want to find out what went wrong. At what point did America’s favorite storyteller lose his knack for captivating his john-grishamreaders? (Or hasn’t he?) You see, I want to avoid whatever mistakes he made, and capitalize on his strengths (and there are many), because I may or may not be writing my own courtroom book currently. And in order to do it well, I want to learn from the best.

I’ll be reading them in order of release from A Time to Kill, which I’m almost done with, to Rogue Lawyer. 

Some of them I’m very excited about revisiting, like The Firm, The Client, The Testament, and others not so much, like A Painted House and Playing for Pizza.

But we can’t expect a perfect 100 from someone’s who’s given us almost forty titles. So, Mr. Grisham, here’s to the next couple of years spent together in thrilling courtroom (and sometimes sports, rural, and Christmas) bliss.

Share your favorite John Grisham novel below!

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Why Books Are (Almost) Always Better Than the Movie

bored-audienceIt’s not uncommon to go watch a movie and be completely disappointed by the outcome, especially when it’s a movie based off of a book that you love. Only once in a blue moon will the movie be better than the movie (Forest Gump) or the movie will not completely change key points in the story (Unbroken). Here are a few reasons why I think the book is often better than the movie.

1. It’s All About the Details

We are a people that need detail in order to color in the context of any given situation. I mentioned Unbroken above, and while the movie gets and A+ for not changing anything from the book, it still cannot hold a candle to the book because it cannot describe the details of the anguish the hero felt or the true expanse of struggles he endured, both internally and externally.

2. Unlimited Runtime

We all know someone who will talk and talk and talk even though everyone around them has completely lost interest. Well, movies don’t have that luxury. They’re given strict time limits to tell their stories (usually between 90 and 120 minutes). But books, thank goodness, do not have a limit of page numbers (or volumes) to tell their story. Therefore, they are able to really stretch the story out and let it linger longer where it needs for impact, whereas movies need to hit the point and move on. I think The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy would have been a lot less successful if Peter Jackson were forced to cut back the runtime.

3. Wrong Place, Wrong People

Most people have vivid ideas of who the main characters look like when they’re reading books (except me – everyone sort of just have blank faces). But if a movie is cast wrong (like so many complain about Prim and Peta in The Hunger Games movies), then it’s game over for many people. But then again, sometimes those miscast people can really grow into their roles (again, like Prim and Peta).

4. True Love

When a producer is picking a director to adapt a book into film, it’s extremely important that the director chosen is a die-hard fanboy of the book and has a true appreciation of fellow fans. The director must appreciate the original work so much so that he or she feels compelled to match it as closely as possible so as to the do the book and author justice. I know it’s not technically based off of Crichton’s work, but what the director did for Jurassic World was beyond everyone’s hopes and expectations. Why is it so popular? Because he is a true, die-hard, Jurassic Park fan. And it shows.

Do you agree with my list? Disagree? Add some more thoughts below as to why books are usually so much better than the movies. 

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These Great Affects (Teen Book), Chapter 2 Continued

Most love stories are about two people who are completely different from one another. How different can you get than one being alive and the other being…well, not?…

Click here for Chapter 1

Click here for Chapter 2.1

Selected pieces from Chapter 2 continued…

I couldn’t stop myself. I swiped at the phone he was still holding up and knocked it onto the wet grass, now lost in the falling current. I began to storm off a second time but stopped when he threw another punch my way. “So first you ruin my car, then you try to break my phone. What are you, determined to completely destroy me?”

“ I’m not the one who tried to run you over with my car!” I yelled, my temper getting the better of me now. “In fact, speaking of phones…”—I dug into my wet jeans pocket for my own—“I’m calling the cops. You should never be allowed to drive again.”

I began swiping at the screen on my phone so I could dial 9-1-1, but it wasn’t coming on. It was drenched, so obviously broken. When I looked up in frustration, the guy was already digging around the flooded grass for his phone. It only took him a moment to find it and pull it out of the water.

“Here. Use mine,” he said, handing the sopping devise to me. “It’s waterproofed. Password is Elle Fanning, one word, no spaces.”

I glared hard at him before snatching it out of his hand, which I think almost made him laugh. “Elle Fanning, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. Big crush. It’s hopeless. But if you’re going to call the cops, you might want to step out of the water. I doubt they’ll be able to hear you if you’re standing right in it.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the torrential downpour.

At that moment I was struck by two simultaneous thoughts pulling me in two different directions. One was, What a hopeless jerk. And the other was, This guy is kind of cute. I was appalled at my own shallowness, but I gave in anyway. I stretched my arm out, offering his phone back.

“Why don’t you hold on to that for me for a while,” he insisted. “Your phone’s dead, so I’ll let you borrow mine.”

“I’ll get mine fixed, eventually,” I said, hating that the edge was dulling in my voice. “Besides, you need to call your parents so they can pick you up.”

“You think I’m in a hurry to tell them about this?” he waved his hand in the air as if shooing a fly. “I’ll be taking my time walking home so I can put together a well-rehearsed confession.”

“You’d rather tell them in person?” I asked, surprised.

“Why not? If I tell them over the phone, it’ll take away from the Affect.”

“The affect?” I asked, a little intrigued.

“Yeah. The Affect. That’s what I call the moments that you can capitalize on for future use to affect certain emotions. Sure, it’s gonna suck when I tell my parents that I crashed my car, but years from now, when I tell my kids about today, which I inevitably will because, let’s face it, this day will be pretty hard to forget. So when I tell about today, I want to be able to describe the looks on my parent’s faces. That’s the effect you can’t get over the phone; that’s the Affect that will make the story worth telling.”

“Wow.” I literally did not know how to follow up with that. “That’s gutsy.”

“Gotta do it for the kids,” he said with a smile that kind of affected my breathing.

“I do think your kids’ll be pretty impressed about the totaled car and the flooded street.”

“That’s certainly a good aside, but I was thinking the big Affect could be meeting their mother and talking to her in the falling sewer water.” I think by that point the mascara had leaked down far enough to reach my mouth because I think I choked on some. Thankfully the guy saved me from having to respond. “Anyway, I better get home so I can keep my story going to tell our kids. You’ve got my number. Gimme a call sometime.”

“Wait,” I managed, as he began to walk away, my voice more hoarse than it had ever been. “I have your phone, how would I call you?”

He held out my phone. He must have somehow gotten it from me while he was wooing me and I was being too taken to notice. “I’m gonna get this fixed for you. I expect to get a text or something from you. You know your number.”

He walked away toward his house and I didn’t bother to stop him this time except to say, “Mock bird 60. No spaces.” He raised my phone as though in salute and smiled, then continued on his way.

And that’s how I met my first love who would not live long enough to tell our story to anyone.

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