The Imagineering Story

Author: Leslie Iwerks

Publisher: Disney Editions

Release Date: November 8, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you have ever wondered how they do the magic at the Disney theme parks, this book is for you!

Imagineering is a common term heard around the Disney Parks, but most people really don’t know that all goes into making the parks so magical.  Originally established as WED Enterprises by Walt Disney himself, Imagineers are a group of creative geniuses that have learned how to blend storytelling, theming, and engineering to give theme park guests experiences that they will never forget.  Leslie Iwerks’ father and grandfather were both Imagineers, so it is no surprise the stories that she has experienced firsthand that made her the perfect author to compile this book.

This book is about half history of the parks, rides, and attractions and the other half is the engineering behind it all.  I’m not sure which part of the book that I enjoyed more.  When I first picked it up, it looked daunting at over 700 pages, but once I was immersed within the content, I couldn’t read it fast enough.  I love history and having experienced multiple Disney rides, I couldn’t wait to learn the story and engineering behind my favorites.  This book has it all.  And it’s not just about the rides either, it’s about Imagineering involvement in the Winter Olympics, 1964 World’s Fair, cruise lines, and starting up new theme parks in Europe and Asia.  But if it is the rides your after, you get the real story behind some of the classics including Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Small World, and Tower of Terror, as well as some of the newest hit rides including Rise of the Resistance, Tron, and the Radiator Springs Raceway.  Iwerks does a great job of telling both why and how the rides were designed.

It’s also interesting that some of the failures were documented.  I had no idea of some of the attractions that were scraped or abandoned.  And then how they were able to transform that failure into something loved far and wide is just astonishing.  If you love to learn the history and inner workings behind some of your favorite theme parks, you need to get this book.  Great Christmas gift idea too!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Inventions of the Heart

Author: Mary Connealy

Series: The Lumber Baron’s Daughters #2

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 5, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Another fun cowboy romance from Mary Connealy! Fans of hers will not want to miss this one!

Michelle Stiles is still trying to stay ahead of her stepfather who wants nothing but the worst for her. She has taken refuge at Two Harts Ranch and finds herself alone with Zane Hart. Zane found a gold mine on his land but doesn’t want others to come try and take off with the gold. Just as luck would have it, Michelle is good with business aspects of mining and Zane wants her help but also wants to keep her safe. Trying to stay safe turns out to be harder than expected when Michelle is attacked and they realize things are only going to get worse from here.

If you have ever picked up a book by Mary Connealy you know what you are going to get: a fun romantic cowboy tale that will be enjoyable and entertaining. Any of the western romance I have read seem to read the same but Mary Connealy has a way of making these characters come to life and pull readers across the pages and into the wild west. Both of the main characters in this story are beautifully written and there is just enough adventure and wit to make the perfect mix. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy historical romance and characters they can see come to life on the page.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Hidden Palace

Author: Dinah Jefferies

Series: Daughters of War #2

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: November 22, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next installment of the Daughters of War series brings new romances and twists that will keep readers intrigued to the end!

After discovering that her true father was German, Florence Baudin manages to escape newly liberated France in 1944 before she can be accused as a collaborator.  Travelling with Jack, an allied war specialist who Florence and her sisters help remain hidden from the Germans, she reaches his small village of Devon in England.  She soon travels to visit her mother, where she learns that she has an unusual request.  Her mother had a younger sister that ran away from Paris when she was young to the island of Malta.  Her mother’s health is failing, and she wants to make amends with her sister before it is too late.  Florence and Jack set off to Malta for a project of Jack’s and to see if they can find her aunt before its too late for her mother.

Twenty years earlier, Rosalie Delacroix left Paris to escape her father’s gambling addiction and parents’ overbearingness on her life.  After many days of travel, she arrives in Malta with experience as a cabaret dancer to earn her living.  While there, she stumbles upon a human trafficking ring that she attempts to break up.  She also meets the love of her life, who also ends up being a Baron.  Years later, the Germans and Italians bomb Malta relentlessly to break up the Allies stronghold in the Mediterranean. Rosalie lives in danger constantly and worries she may never see her family again!

Such an interesting read regarding the island of Malta during the World War II campaigns, but not focused too much on that.  It really depicts life more between 1925 and the start of the second world war.  Most of the books is split between Rosalie and Florence’s viewpoint until they finally collide at the end.  If you were a fan of Florence in the first book, then you’ll love this one as it is really focused on her story leaving France.

I really enjoyed the first book with viewpoints of the three sisters as well as their efforts to aid against the occupied powers to turn the war.  My favorite character was probably Elise, but she is not very present in this book, mostly in letters and then at the end.  However, it was interesting to continue to she how their stories play out with their mother and now her sister Rosalie and all that she did while in Malta. 

There is some occasional foul language throughout, but not much for the size of the book.  There is also a couple of sex scenes, but nothing graphic.

I recommend this book to lovers of the first but also to those who like learning about something new during World War II.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Stargazer’s Atlas

Author: National Geographic Society

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: October 25, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

With amazing pictures and guides, this is a night sky fans dream!

I have always loved looking up at the night sky, especially when I’m somewhere that doesn’t have artificial light to interfere with my viewing.  I’ve had some past night sky guides to use to find constellations and others, but nothing I’ve had compares to this amazing book.  With tons of pictures of constellations, stars, planets, nebula, and galaxies in stunning quality, I sat for hours looking through the pages.  Not only does this book give you seasonal guides for constellation viewing based on where you are at, but it even maps it out for you! 

I love the history that the book goes through in each chapter on how people started with sky viewing to get to where we are today with different telescopes.  It is so rich in history that I felt like I was back in astronomy class!  I love how easy it is to guide yourself to the specific area you are interested in, or you can just sit and flip through the pages to pass the time. 

This works great as a personal coffee table book, business waiting room book, or enthusiast’s guide for exploration.  Highly recommended if you love books about the wonders of our night sky!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Feeling of Home

Author: Susan Anne Mason

Series: Redemption’s Light #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: July 5, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you are looking for a WWII romance that will transport you back in time and make you feel as if you are there with the characters, this is the book for you.

Isabelle Wardrop has lost everything: her wealth, her family and now her home. Now, she and her sister are forced to move to the lowest part of the city and live with former servants. When nothing else works to find work, she turns to her final option, working for the man she blames for the death of her mother, Dr. Mark Henshaw. Dr. Henshaw wants to make up for what happened to Isabelle’s mother and works to make amends before anything more happens to make it where Isabelle will never forgive him.

Historical romance novels always have a way of pulling at my emotions. Isabelle is just the kind of strong character to pull at readers and make them root for her success. After all she has suffered it is not hard to want her to pull through the other side and find happiness for herself and her sister. At first, I wanted to hate Dr. Henshaw, but he became the kind of character that I also wanted to root for to find happiness as well as Isabelle. Overall, this was a quick read that took me back to the past and kept me there with these characters on their journey. I would recommend this to fans of historical romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All My Rage

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A contemporary story that will pull at your heartstrings and climb deep into your soul long after you have finished the very last page.

Starting out in Pakistan, Misbah has just married Toufiq in a pre-arranged marriage and they quickly leave the country they have always been in to move to America and open a motel. Jump ahead many years to the present with Sslahudin, the son of Misbah and Toufiq, is trying to navigate the world he is growing up in and the ever-changing relationship with his best friend Noor. They are both outcasts at school and try to restore their relationship after a huge fight. When Misbah falls ill, Sal tries to run the family business as his father drinks away his grief. Noor works for her uncle who owns a liquor store and wants nothing more than to get away, so she applies to college to hopefully leave him and the town that means so little to her. Sal and Noor must figure out what they mean to each other and if what they have is worth fighting for.

This is not the normal novel written by Tahir as this is very different but in a very good way. In All My Rage, readers get to see characters that grow in such a drastic way you can’t help but feel for them and all they go through. I thought it was very helpful that the front of the book contained trigger warnings for those reading it to be aware of some of the content. Even though this book is in the Young Adult category, I think that label can be misleading at times. I wouldn’t consider this great for young teens but older teens and those in their early twenty’s would probably really enjoy this one.

I enjoyed the way the story played out and the characters; I loved many of them and the ones I couldn’t stand were okay because I wasn’t supposed to like them. Being able to write characters in this way shows just how amazing Sabaa Tahir is as an author. Her first series is nothing like this and goes in a completely different direction, which shows she has great range.

I would recommend this book to those that enjoy seeing characters go through very difficult circumstances but work hard to overcome them and grow with the story.

Fairy Tale

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner

Release Date: September 6, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A book that is full of magic, fairy tale creatures, adventure, and a full escape from the crazy world we live in.

Charlie Reade has had his share of ups and downs growing up. His mom died when he was young causing his dad to drink too much, which left Charlie to grow up on his own. Later, after Charlie’s Dad has stopped drinking and their relationship is on the upswing, Charlie meets a dog named Radar who leads him to her owner, Howard Bowditch. Howard hurt himself and needs help. After years of being a recluse, Howard lets Charlie into his life and ends up sharing a secret with him on a tape minutes before dying. He tells him that inside his shed is a stairway leading down to another world, a world Charlie must see to believe and once he does, nothing will ever be the same.

This book is like a book within a book in certain ways. I read the first few hundred pages, which could have been a book on its own, and then the story took off in another direction that was creative and had a way of bringing fantasy into reality in way I haven’t read in a really long time. It has been an incredibly long time since I have read anything by Stephen King, and I had this one recommended to me by a friend. I’m glad he did because it was so different from anything I have read this year that it made it that much more enjoyable. I do feel like 50-100 pages could have been slimmed down in the middle and made it a more enjoyable read. At times I got lost in the other world and all that was happening, along with the massive number of characters throughout, some with only appeared for a few moments. Charlie and Radar were a great pair and a great way to show love in a different way. To me, this was a great Stephen King book, it wasn’t gory or crazy scary, just a fun escape into the world of fiction and fantasy.

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

Author: Julia Brewer Daily

Publisher: Admission Press, Inc.

Release Date: November 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unique story set amongst scenic South Texas.

Emma Rosales is the heir to her family’s ranch, The Thorn.  As owners of the largest ranch in Texas, each generation of Rosales produce only one child, a daughter who inherits and runs the ranch.  For five generations this pattern has continued, and Emma is next in line, but not sure she wants the life set out for her.  While obtaining her veterinarian’s degree at Texas A&M University, Emma begins to wonder what it would be like to settle down in a small town with her own vet practice, but she still returns home after graduation.  One day while riding out on the ranch, her favorite horse breaks his leg, and she must put him down and walk back to the ranch house.  But what she discovers along the way will not only prevent her return home but change everything she knew about the ranch she has spent her life on.

This book turned into nothing that I expected.  I was intrigued by the setting of Southwest Texas, which is near the area I live and have traveled through much of it, so I always enjoy books set close to home.  I’m not sure what I thought I would get into, but this was very different than what I thought it would be.  That said, I still enjoyed the story of Emma and how she went from heir apparent to captive amongst an almost primitive tribe.  The story was written very well and believable given the different story lines between Emma and her mother Josie.  I also enjoyed the switchover to Kai when Emma become sick and turned into a shell of herself.  The ending, while partly sad due to what is implied by Kai working on the ranch, was still an overly happy ending with two people that seemed destined to be together.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime

Author: Marcy Carriker Smothers

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: October 25, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The essential guide for the hard-core Disney Park fanatic!

National Geographic has published an amazing and colorful guide to adventures in Disney Parks for the most seasoned Disney Park traveler as well as the first timer.  This book provides adventurers with different options at all parks, not just those in the United States.  The book is separated into five categories: 1) Fun for All Ages, 2) Activities for the Tame and Daring, 3) Vacations and Excursions Around the Globe, 4) From Counter Service to White Tablecloth Dining, and 5) Once-in-a-Lifetime Splurges. 

For me, I know the Florida parks pretty well and the California parks decently, but there are whole other experiences I had no idea existed in Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai.  If Disney Parks are your thing, you need to get this book so that you can plan out those once or twice in a lifetime trips to the other Parks.  Whether for a ride, show, or dining experience, this book has you covered!

The pictures throughout this book are incredible and make readers want to get on a plane today to try out several of these adventurers.  Remember, you’re never too young or old to being an adventure today!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Where the Road Bends

Author: Rachel Fordham

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 7, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Where the Road Bends is a perfect blend of romance, twists, and a journey of hope.

Norah King has one goal, to save her family’s land. It’s 1880 in Iowa and the land is all she has left. To save the land, she might have to marry a man she doesn’t love or know very well. Right before she is to be married, she finds a man injured on her property and tries to help him. This one act is enough to endanger the life she has worked for and change her future, maybe for the better.

Have you ever read a book where the characters win your heart from the very first chapter? This book did that for me, Norah was able to pull at my heartstrings and had me rooting for her to find the love her heart wanted. Noah and Quincy had the perfect witty banter to keep a smile on my face while turning the pages. This was a straightforward historical romance with not much mystery or anything else to it. Fans of this genre will not want to pass this one up.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.