Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hockey and FĂștbol turned into major bonding time.

I have twin girls who are now 7-years-old. They like to play dress-up and Barbie, but they're equally into LEGO building and playing school as well. It's usually not too long, or hard, for them to talk Daddy into spinning them around the living room for the big ball or sitting down to build a house or spaceship.

They like to watch their cartoons and movies. I'm a big fan of anything Disney so we can usually find something we'll all agree on when Mom and Dad are finally sick of Dora for the eighteenth time that day. However, sports in my house can produce a struggle, and it rarely comes from my wife. You see, Mommy and Daddy are both big time hockey fans in my house, but the two little ones have just never caught the fever. Well, that changed this week.

As I was getting ready to put my little ones to sleep on Friday night I flipped on the Stanley Cup Finals - Game 5. There were the New York Rangers trying to hang on for dear life as the Los Angeles Kings sought to send them to the golf courses of the world before 60 minutes of regulation finished. This is when it happened folks. I was sitting there watching when my daughter asked me "who are we cheering for Daddy?"

I explained that I was rooting for New York because if they lost then hockey would be over for the season. Now, don't get me wrong, they're probably not the fanatics Mom and Dad are, but they recognized that this would disappointed to their Old Man and jumped in cheering for New York right away.

I didn't find any of this odd until my other daughter got upset with me when I told them it was time to head to bed. "But Daddy, the game isn't over yet." I reluctantly agreed to let them finish the regulation, but under the regulation that they weren't going to be watching any overtime. They relented.

The next thing that happened was almost stranger that though. As they were starting up the stairs they asked me if I would make sure to write down the score for them, so they could find out what happened first thing in the morning.

Now, I forgot to write anything down, but I was up with them pretty early on Saturday. Could you guess the first thing out of both those little mouths when they saw me? "Daddy, who won last night."

And if that didn't get me going, they both seemed genuinely disappointed that the Kings had bested the Rangers on that previous night. I actually had to console them both a bit and even thought one might shed a few tears over the whole ordeal.

So this morning we sat down together and watched the World Cup. We cheered together for Colombia in the first match of the day. Even though they needed to take a break to go play and blow off steam, they sat there with their Daddy and watched as the best players in the world played the most popular game in the world. Together we celebrated each goal and the overall victory of that bout.

Today was great day.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tenacious by Jeremy and Jennifer Williams with Rob Scuggs

Tenacious is the story of how a football coach turned a team around. It's also about how that team turned a town around and left a lasting impression for generations to come. But more than anything, Tenacious is about having heart. It's about standing up and fighting hard even when the odds say you should be doing otherwise. This is a story of hope.

I enjoyed the book. It was an engaging read and a wonderful story. The story resonated with me because we all struggle, we all want to give up sometimes, and we need people like Jeremy and Jennifer  Williams to be there and say, "If I can bear my cross, you can bear yours."

I don't mean to say that the book is condescending in anyway, quite the opposite. And I found myself identifying with so many of the Willams' traits that, at times, it was a little beyond funny.

I think it's highly inspirational, and immeasurably valuable. Especially in this day and age when so many think they 'deserve' things, Tenacious is a bit of a wake-up call. And I dig it.

I received this book through Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program in exchange for my honest review of the work.

Tracy Groot Spins a Riveting Yarn About Enemies Becoming Compatriots

In The Sentinels of Andersonville Tracy Groot aims to show that things are not always what they seem, not even the South during the Civil War of the United States of America. Groot masterfully tells a tale of how 3 unlikely heroes hatch a plan to stop the atrocities happening behind the walls of Andersonville's prison.

Once Violet Stiles finds out about how cruelly the Union soldiers are treated in Andersonville she determines to put a stop to it somehow. Sentry Dance Pickett, as well as Corporal Emery Jones are none too pleased with the conditions they also see as coming up far too short of Southern Hospitality.

Together the three hatch a plan the likes of which is not so well received by their fellow Southerners and puts them on the wrong side of an awfully big conflict. Still they persist and, through unconventional methods, are able to open more than a few eyes, but their journey isn't over yet.

Groot's narrative is an easy read. While she admits in her acknowledgements that there may be some creative license taken in the book it doesn't dilute the story any, and in many cases seems to enhance it. However, being that Groot seems to have taken her research seriously, it could just be the by-product of old-fashioned hard work.

I'd recommend this to anyone who is interested in the US Civil War, injustice in general, or just wants to read a real good book.

I received this book through Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review of the work.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frame 232 aims to change historical views!



In Wil Mara's thriller Frame 232 we are asked to consider the implications the country might incur if the infamous "Babushka Lady" came forward with what is believed to possibly be one of the clearest recordings of those dark event on November 22, 1963 in Dealy Plaza.

Getting to the answers is the fun part of the book and Mara doesn't disappoint in the suspense department. He makes sure there are twists and turns all along the way and keeps you guessing where the main story will end.Mara does a nice job of stringing the reader along, but the conspiracy he chooses to chase down comes off as a little simplistic and might not do it for some folks by the end of the novel.

If you're a conspiracy buff, you might like the basic premise, if you're a mystery reader there's something here for you, if you just want a quiet and quaint little novel, you may as well look elsewhere.


Q & A with Wil Mara, author of Frame 232 

Coming July 2013 

1. What inspired you to write a novel around the assassination of President John F.
Kennedy?

I have always been fascinated by the assassination, which, obviously, was one of the most pivotal and
enigmatic events in American history. And when I heard about the ‘Babushka Lady’---one of the few
people in Dealey Plaza that day who remains unidentified---and the possibility that she may have filmed
the shooting, an idea came to mind that seemed too good to disregard.


2. How much research did you do for this project?

An unbelievable amount. I spoke with assassination experts, read literally hundreds and books and
articles, pored over countless photos...you name it. My goal was to write a fictional story around the
established facts rather than alter the facts to serve the story. Thus, I had to know pretty much
everything. I ended up loading my brain with more data than I really needed...but I didn’t mind.


3. How has your research informed your own theory of what happened during the JFK
assassination?

My personal theory, prosaic though it may be, is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. If you want to be
convinced, get your hands on a fairly rare book called Lee, which was written by his brother, Robert.
Once you understand the mind behind the eyes that looked through that rifle scope, you will be
convinced.


 4. What have you learned about the real Babushka Lady?

She was wearing an overcoat, glasses, and a head scarf (i.e., a babushka), and was standing about thirty
feet from the limousine when the president took the fatal shot. Most assassination experts believe she
was also holding a camera---very possibly a film camera. If so, and if she had a reasonably steady hand,
then she probably took the best moving images of the assassination; even better than the famed
Zapruder film. Plus, she was standing opposite Zapruder, which afforded her a unique angle. And yet, we
don’t know her name, and her film has never surfaced. And here’s the most important part about her in
relation to Frame 232---she was a real person. I didn’t invent her to serve the story. If you do a Google
search, you’ll find her.


5. What is the significance of the title?

Simple---once the Babushka film is analyzed, the key moment that helps our heroes move forward with
their investigation occurs on frame 232.


6. What role does your Christian faith play in your writing?

It is embedded throughout this story, in a fashion both subtle and direct. I was raised Christian and have
been a firm believer all my life, so my belief system is threaded into just about everything I do. Anyone
who carries even the most fundamental faith will recognize the important elements in this book. The
most obvious example belongs to the main character, who recurs throughout the series---he is suffering
a deep crisis of faith, and the core of that crisis should be familiar to even the most devout follower. We
are human, plain and simple, and as such we experience doubts about the Lord in our lifetime. So it
won’t be hard for anyone to connect with him.


7. Describe the role of faith plays in your main characters, Sheila Baker and Jason
Hammond. Does this change as the story progresses?

With Sheila, you’ve got a very goodhearted person who is experiencing a critical change in her
worldview---she is coming out of the ‘money is the most important thing in the world’ phase and
beginning to understand that there are much higher priorities. This isn’t to say she’s trumpeting the
virtues of poverty (she still understands that it’s important to live within a certain comfortable and
respectable standard). But she’s figuring out that money isn’t what a person should worship---it’s
something altogether different. And there is a traceable and, I think, very satisfying arc to her story in
this regard.

As for Jason, he suffered a tremendous loss years earlier, went through a protracted nightmare period,
and is starting to come out of during the events of Frame 232. An encounter with a very unlikely source
helps him to turn the corner and begin a path to renewed promise---but even so, the journey ahead is
going to present serious challenges for him. The good news, though, is that he has not abandoned the
Lord altogether. If he had done that, there wouldn’t be any conflict within him in the first place.


 8. What lessons do you hope readers will come away with after reading Frame 232?

I can’t interpret the story for anyone but myself, but there are a few themes at work that strike me as
particularly valuable. One is that God’s path is always the right one in the end, even if it seems
unimaginably rocky at times. Another is that tragedies occur in every life, that these misfortunes usually
happen for a reason, and that the reason may not be apparent for some time. A third is that we need to
treasure our loved ones for as long as we have them around, because they can disappear in a heartbeat.
Also, it’s important to keep getting out of bed and moving forward every day because life is a gift, and
God does not favor those who waste their time and talents. If you are blessed with ability and resources
(and Jason has plenty of both), you should use them.


9. What do you have planned for your future Jason Hammond books?

Jason will be tackling other high-profile (and, later on, some lesser-known) mysteries as the series
progresses. Readers will also get to follow his ongoing struggles as he rebuilds his faith and gradually
assembles his ‘new normal.’ Plus, we’ll further explore the lives of those around him (including a budding
love interest, who will appear in the second book). It’s also worth noting that not every book in the
series will follow a strictly linear chronology. The one I’m writing now, for example (The Nevada
Testament) begins about six weeks after Frame 232. The one I’ll write after that, however (Gardner
Island), occurs before the events of Frame 232 and will feature, among other things, some of Jason’s
darker and more harrowing moments.


10. What would you like to say to Christian retailers to help them promote Frame 232?

I have tried like mad to strike an ideal balance between solid, suspenseful storytelling and the delivery of
worthwhile Christian messages without being over-the-top preachy. All the books in the series, while
undeniable in their Christian content, are suitable for the mainstream market as well and thus should
find a broad audience. It is also important to note that they were designed not just in regard to what
they offer, but what they don’t offer---readers will not have to deal with inappropriate language,
gratuitous sexual content, brazen violence, or any of the similar nonsense that characterizes so many
other forms of contemporary storytelling. The subject matter might be somewhat advanced in places,
but it can be safely absorbed and enjoyed by people from all walks of life.


Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Fearless

I'd never heard of Eric Blehm when I picked this book up. I found him to be an exceptional storyteller and, from what I could tell, a thorough researcher.
I had also never heard of Adam Brown, though after reading this I'm stunned by that. This is a man who was thoroughly dedicated to God, Corps, and Country. A family man of fierce loyalty and worthy of admiration. If you don't know Adam's story, do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK.

Spoiler Alert: From Adam's humble beginings in a caravan family he carried himself to high school athletic fame, only to become a wreckage of a human being. With some very tough love from his family, and a whole lot of dedication on his part, Adam eventually found his way to the love of a good woman and the career of his dreams. A man who adored his children and fought fiercely with his Brothers-In-Arms, Adam became an example of the American Dream and the Story of Redemption at once. I am completely in awe of what this man was able to overcome and accomplish. We should all be so fortunate to put as much life in twice the years as Adam was able to do in his too short stead on Earth.  

I received a copy of Fearless through Waterbrook-Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review of the work.