It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review. More than a few years. I agreed to read two books pre-publication and review them. Life happens, and you forget things until they pop back up in the form of a calendar notification or an email. I realized I would be getting both books about the same time. I knew I would be excited about reading one of the author’s book. I’ve read, blogged, tweeted, and given out his books on a regular basis. I didn’t really know what to expect with the other author. So I made a deal with myself: read them in the order you receive them. Problem solved.
I got the other one first, by less than a day.
A deal is a deal. Now I have both books. One I know is going to be what I want; what I need to hear. That’s always been my experience reading works by this author. As the universe would have it, I got the other one first. I didn’t know what it was about, what kind of “messages” would be inside, or have any expectations. It’s written by a local pastor.
Why did I agree to do this anyway?
I didn’t – I asked to read it. Why? The name, well the subtitle really. Hi-Cat: What Can’t Happen At Camp David Just Did. And the cover: there are two men on the cover, one a Marine and one in the Navy. I have a military and presidential family history. I have heard story after story from my grandfather about President Eisenhower and family. He was their personal photographer. I know the old cliche, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I did. I saw the cover on Facebook and just knew I had to read it.
So what did I think?
I told you, I started it with the feeling of… drudgery? I wanted to read the other one first. Right off the bat, in the section “ONE WORD OF STRONG CAUTION” in the first line I actually breathed a sigh as he says “Most of my previous books have been devotional or self-help in nature. This is neither.” Wait, why a sigh? I’m a Christian, and I don’t mind a good devotional or self-help book? I guess I just wasn’t feeling like being preached at. If I am being honest, I think that’s the truth behind my dread. So first sentence – we’re good. In that section he also explains that this book isn’t unicorns and roses. My words, not his. It’s a graphic book. There’s murder, suicide, talk of rape, and some other messiness that is life. He offers that if this offends or upsets you to stop reading. Nice. I’ve more than once been knee-deep in a book or show and had some really unexpected “plot twist” made me more than uncomfortable.
“A Personal Note”
As you begin the book, it actually starts off with “A Personal Note.” He explains what this book is and is not. He doesn’t try to hide or surprise you with his message. He tells you straight up front. Then he does this: “But before you check out, I’m throwing down the gauntlet:
Try me. Let me take you on this one-of-a-kind ride. Atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, skeptic – whatever. Even if you dislike my Best Friend, it doesn’t matter. I’ll make it worth your while.”
I was torn between “this guys got a big ego” and “hell yeah! Preach it brother!”
The book starts off with an equally disturbing and beautiful prologue. It’s set in Indiana in the spring. The way Stephen describes the scenes it’s like I’m right there, like in my front yard. “The intoxicating perfume of a nearby planting of pink peonies wafts in…” Then in my backyard “…he stumbles as the footing changes from Bluegrass to a thick, springy Zoysia.” The prologue ends, and you are left feeling like “uhh wow, next chapter please.”
The rest of the book
I really liked how it was laid out. (I know this is pre-publication, so it might change some.) The super short sections made this an overall great read for people who “don’t have time to read.” It gives you quick little sections that make it easy to read in between life. Except there is one problem – you just don’t want to put it down.
The book dives into what seems to be a completely different book than the prologue. I read the first few sections, then flipped back to the prologue to try to make it fit. I finally let it go because I was so wrapped up in the humor, dialogue, and predicaments of the new characters. I found it interesting how much I was drawn into each one; they could easily be a main character in their own book, right down to the waiter, Zee.
Stephen was right: he definitely made the read worth while. I giggled when I read Zee talking about another book “killed me to put it down, but I had to catch some shuteye so I could show up for work this mornin’,” because that was exactly how I felt. After the first few pages, I quickly forgot that deal I’d made with myself. I wanted to read this book, and I’m sure you will too!
*I didn’t get paid to write this blog. I was given a copy of the book. After publication I will update this blog with a link to buy the book. You can thank me for it after you read it.