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?


“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 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.

Book Rec: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes

There are very few people who do not have fond memories of reading the morning paper with a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal, and the first thing they flipped to was the funny pages. Not for Peanuts or Garfield, but to read more adventures of a boy and his stuffed tiger.

77122In these strips, you were almost guaranteed a laugh to start your day off. Sometimes you’d be forced to ponder a philosophical topic. Sometimes your heart would break. Sometimes you’d nod your head in agreement or shake your head at Calvin’s silly antics and oddball disputes with his tiger Hobbes.

But who was the man who made millions of people laugh on a daily basis? Every Calvin and Hobbes strip was signed by “Bill Watterson,” and we all owed a debt of gratitude to him, but who was he, and where could he be found?


That’s what Nevin Martell asks, and he takes it upon himself to travel wo0Kzthe country in search of the greatest cartoonist our generation (and quite possibly the world) has ever seen.

But don’t worry. Martell is not out to exploit our dear friend, Mr. Watterson. He’s not simply after a juicy topic. His goal, as he states early on in his book, is to show Mr. Watterson how much he’s appreciated and missed, and to reveal the man behind the strip so his readers can have a tangible person to thank for his brilliancy.

In essence, Martell’s book, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, is a love letter written on our behalf. There’s not a single illustration of the boy and his tiger except for the Calvin’s shoe walking in one direction and Hobbes’ tail cutting off on the other side of the cover. Illustrations in this book would not have been needed because the author captures those strips so perfectly that you can recall those original scenes as clear as day.

Martell does a supberb job at anazlyzing the strip as though he were a serious seminary student bent on dissecting a New King James Bible commentary. On the outset, some might think it kind of embarrassing how much he pored into this strip, viewing it from all angles, analyzing themes and recurring situations, and hypothosizing Watterson’s inspiration for the strip.

Calvin-Hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-23762778-1280-800But really, it’s not embarrassing at all, because given the chance, we’d all do the same thing. So as fans of the strip, we’re indebted to Martell for doing the hard and tedius work for us.

I’m not going to lie. Some parts of this book made me tear up quite a Looking-for-Calvin-and-Hobbes-PB-Cover_fullbit. Not because the author was unsuccessful in tracking down his subject, or because it turned out that Mr. Watterson never took his seat in the limelight for all to admire and lavish praise upon, but because the author handled to topic with such care and attention that I felt like he truly did understand my own personal love of Calvin and Hobbes. And there were instances where I truly felt like I was back in my wooden fort in my backyard with copies of Calvin and Hobbes collections splayed all around me.

On a more personal note, Calvin and Hobbes had such an impact on me that it, in many ways, inspired my debut novel The Man in the Box. Calvin had such a vivd and wild imagination that my protagonist could have had the same childhood experience as Calvin. (The imagination, as you know, catches up with my protagonist, Robbie Lake, and he’s thrusted back into a more cynical, darker version of his childhood dreamlands. Not to mention all the countless ways Calvin reinvented the box.)

So lovers and fans of Calvin and Hobbes will adore their own personal walks down memory lane as Martell gives us permission, as adults, to have one last playtime with Calvin and his stuffed tiger.

You can read more about Nevin and his work here.

Read my review of the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson here.


Another Post From My Daughter


Looks like my foster daughter hijacked my computer again. I attest that I did not put her up to writing any of the following…


Hi, it’s me, Baby A. I’m the one in the pink-striped outfit above. My daddy is the one holding me (I’m bound and determined to get those glasses one day).

In the picture, we’re about to go into Mammoth Cave together with Mommy for his birthday, but I don’t remember it at all because I fell asleep just a few feet inside it. And good thing, too, because apparently there were giant crickets matting the walls of the cave that the tour guide didn’t reveal until we left the cave. That probably would have traumatized me.

Things have been good. My foster parents are in the process of adopting me, which means I’ll get to change my last name to theirs and then they’re lucky enough to keep me forever, which works out, because everyone says I look just like my foster parents anyway.

My daddy is still working hard to be a bestselling author so he can quit his day job and stay at home with me and Mommy all day and keep writing books for his fans. He just released his second book called I Am the Lion yesterday on Kindle. He hasn’t read it to me, because apparently it’s a little  “too emotional” for me to handle, whatever that means. But I’ve been watching him follow the reviews on some other people’s blogs who’ve read it and people really seem to like it so far.

Here’s a couple of them:

… it was wonderful…I Am the Lion truly left me with lessons in my heart that I didn’t expect to learn. So personal. So honest. It 100% captivated me, and I couldn’t put it down! (And it was a big football weekend too!)

Click here to read more of this review by Told By Ginger

I am the Lion is a heart-warming, heart-wrenching roller coaster ride that will have you smiling, crying and sighing in frustration but it’s all worth it. Such a rare treat to read. Perfect Holiday read and socking stuffer.

Click here to read the whole review by Creatyvebooks

What  I thought would be [a] small diversion turned out to be a delightful experience…The only downside, i don’t have more of this to read!

Click here to read the review by WaltzingWithWhims

So anyway, you can make this baby (me!) very happy by purchasing my daddy’s book on Kindle. From what I gather by sneaking a peek at the computer while he’s writing is that it’s a story about a father and his little girl trying to get along. I wonder if it has anything to do with us. Other than rapidly kicking my feet while he’s trying to put my pants on (it’s funny to watch him unsuccessfully hold back his temper), I think we get along pretty well.

Get his book here!


Little Fault in This Book

tfiosWhen you close a book after reading the final page the characters and their story sort of just… end. But in the really good books these characters become immortal and they take on a life of their own in our imaginations that egg on their continued existence.

In the hot teen book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green the characters do tend to take on a life of their own. And in the end, well, yes they linger. They linger in your mind and in your heart because you feel something strong for them. You feel like you have gotten to know them and become their friend. You feel like you travelled halfway across the world with them and laughed with them and cried with them and even offered your two-cents worth at their pre-funerals.

As an author, I was struck dumb with Green’s lavishly crisp writing and sharp dialogue. He is one of those authors who make other authors like me say, “Crap. This guy just raised the bar even higher.”

Must. Reach. Farther.

And to the stars we must reach in order to achieve perfection in our craft. Or, if we at least want to be as good a writer as this guy.

Don’t think for a minute that you can get away with reading this book in public – if you don’t want to humiliate yourself by all the crying you’re bound to do. It’s a lot harder for a book to make people cry than for a movie. A movie has many mediums vying to tug at the heartstrings at just the right moment, with just the right notes from the orchestra, with just the right look from the actor, or the right word from the screenwriter, or the right scenic view by the cinematographer.

But a book? The author is carrying the load all on his own to evoke such powerful emotions from the reader. His choice words, verbs, adjectives, timing, scenario, etc. And Mr. Green demonstrates not only that it can be done, but it can be done well. (I only hope my upcoming book I Am the Lion (Nov. 11, 2014) can be half as touching as this book.)

I will miss you, Augustus Waters. And Hazel Grace, wherever you are, keep dreaming of that sequel. Okay?

I will be visiting the rest of John Greens books very soon.

What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…


I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.


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