Beyond the Wand

Author: Tom Felton

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Release Date: October 18, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Best known for his portrayal as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, Tom Felton shares his life’s lessons so far!

You might think that Tom Felton is your typical childhood actor that enjoyed fame and fortune after the Harry Potter films, but it’s not all that you might imagine.  Tom is the youngest of four boys who kept him extremely grounded throughout this early acting journey.  His upbringing was a bit different being in England than of America and he found out at an early age that just because you’ve done film or commercials, literally no one cares.  Fortunately for Tom, out of the four main actors for Harry Potter, he was the one that was able to lead a somewhat normal life.  But that can take different forms when you want to fit in versus being unable to fit in.  There is a lot of wisdom this young man has had to learn the hard way and it is worth sharing.

I love reading memoirs and autobiographies in general because it gives me a look inside of what people have done in their lives.  Sure, I know Tom Felton from his on screen films, but I have no idea what he is like as a person.  His personal trajectory shows a lot of “character growth” as he first meets the other actors/actresses for Harry Potter and his initial behavior compared to his behavior after having been around some distinguished actors who share their wisdoms.  I think the most interesting part was discovering that he is almost opposite the Draco Malfoy character and how in tune with Emma Watson he is.  You think you know a guy, but until you learn about them, you have no idea!

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.

A Man of the World

Author: Gilbert M. Grosvenor

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: September 13, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very interesting and informative!  Fun read overall!

At some point, you’ve likely interacted with the Grosvenor family legacy.  Through a book, network series, or just by picking up a yellow bordered magazine, you’ve probably had some experience with National Geographic.  But what about the editor of the magazine?  You likely have no idea about him or the adventures that he has been on with the magazine.  From artic diving to mountain climbing, he’s not only published about it, but he has also experienced it.  With generations of experience before him, he truly is a man of the world.

I love reading memoirs and this was no different.  Learning about the man and the family that has been at the helm of National Geographic for generations was eye opening and entertaining.  From learning about family experiences to seeing what goes on behind the camera and the printing press.  I think my favorite parts may have been the decisions behind the cover photos that have built legacies for the magazine.  If you have been a fan of National Geographic, I highly recommend this book for you!

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

Never Give Up

Author: Bear Grylls

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fans of Man vs Wild will not want to miss this book!

Bear Grylls is known by many for his adventures in the hit television show Man vs. Wild.  His grit, tenacity, and ability to get out of a sticky situation resonated with many while others were just shocked at what he was willing to put his body through.  In his previous book, Bear told his life story and mostly omitted the many adventures he had on the small screen because he wanted people to know who he was as a person.  After popular demand, he has documented the best of the best (and worst) of these adventures into another book to share with the world.  Focused largely on the television series, viewers and readers alike will continue to be awestruck and shocked at what all he went through to bring his world into your living room.

I’ll admit, I never really got caught up in the hype of the show Man vs. Wild, but I have watched a few episodes and heard Bear Grylls talk about some of his adventures, so I had some background before diving into this book. But even if I hadn’t, this would have been such a fun read!  It goes through many of the most extreme things that he had to do and it’s amazing that he lived through all of it.  It is also interesting to read about how the show was filmed and what they had to do to make it work, especially when the crew were dropping like flies.  He sprinkles in a lot of great life lessons through this and breaks it up with several chapters so that it is not a daunting read.  Probably going to be one of my favorite biographies for the year.  There is some language as well as some pretty gross things, so take caution before you jump in!

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

As Fast As Her

Author: Kendall Coyne

Publisher: Zonderkids

Release Date: January 18, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast story with an inspirational and powerful message for young readers. Even those not into hockey will get a lot out of this one!

US Olympian Kendall Coyne brings a message about never giving up on your dreams no matter what obstacles you might encounter, and she encountered many of them. When she was young, her brother was into hockey and as she got old enough to put on skates her parents put her in figure skating. It didn’t take for her to figure out hockey was where she needed to be even though there weren’t many girls playing. This would be a problem all throughout her time playing hockey, the inequality between the men playing and the women. One thing that set Kendall apart from the others was her speed, she was even able to keep up with the men in a national competition she almost won. Even though she was always told, “you’re not enough,” she started to believe it but not long enough to let it pull her in the wrong direction.

Throughout the pages of this book, readers will find inspiration and encouragement to stay the course and follow their dreams no matter how many people tell them they should give up or that they aren’t good enough. It is something that we all hear from time to time, and it can be easy to buy into the lies and let them hold us back from our full potential.

I started this book even though I am not a hockey fan and had honestly never heard of Kendall Coyne. This was an inspirational story from start to finish with great moments from her family and harsh moments with teammates and rivals. Throughout every moment and difficulty encountered, Kendall showed that it would have been easy to give up, but it wasn’t what she was meant to do. Not once did she give up and she finally made it to achieve her dreams and if we will believe in ourselves the way Kendall did over the years anything is possible.

Beyond Possible

Author: Nimsdai Purja

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A great biography for overcoming obstacles in your path set at the highest of altitudes!

Nimsdai Purja has set goals all his life to achieve.  Growing up in Nepal, he wanted to be a Gurkha soldier, just like his father.  Through perseverance, he was able to achieve this goal.  Then he wanted to be more than just a soldier, but an elite warrior, so he set his sights on becoming a member of the Secret Boat Service (SBS) for the British military during the war on terror.  During his years of service, he was given the chance to climb Mount Everest and he was bit by the climbing bug, to say the least.  Wanting to do what everyone thought impossible, Nims developed Project Possible, a mission to climb the fourteen highest mountains in the world in only seven months, which is seven years faster than the world record.  What Nims learned about himself and fellow climbers throughout this mission is shared for readers to discover that they too can conquer the impossible.

Young readers who love action and adventure will love this autobiography of Nimsdai Purja with his pursuit to climb all fourteen death zone mountains.  The first half of the book is geared towards his life up to the point he decides to make the lifestyle transition necessary to climb all fourteen peaks.  The second half is dedicated to a chapter-by-chapter description of each mountain and what occurred while he and his team were climbing.  They had to overcome several obstacles on the way up and the way down.  Just because you have achieved something doesn’t mean you won’t face something on you journey back!  There is quite a bit of climbing lingo, but with enough context clues, readers will be able to understand what is going on.  Very exciting book for young readers!

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

Conquer Your Deliverance

Author: John Rameriz

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Conquer Your Deliverance, evangelist John Rameriz shares his personal story of being ensnared by the devil and how he was shown the truth and freed!  This is written in a very plain manner that readers can use the information to apply to their personal lives.  If someone is struggling with their belief system or understanding what is happening in today’s world, this book is a key resource to help them either get their life on track or back on track. 

While it does read as a manual, it is also probably the closet thing to an autobiography for Rameriz to understand his past and why he is so passionate about what he does!

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


Author: Matthew McConaughey

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Matthew McConaughey’s biography is “Allright, Allright, Allright!”

Matthew McConaughey is well known for several romantic comedies as well as a leading actor in multiple dramatic films.  He even won best actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club.  But who is he?  How did he get his start?  What makes him tick and how did he get from here he was to where he is now?  In other words, how did he find his Greenlights to show him when to hit the gas and not the brake?

I’ll admit that I really didn’t know much about Matthew McConaughey before I read this book.  I had some preconceived notions of who he is, but I really had no idea.  I didn’t know he was a writer, straight A student, foreign exchange student, etc. etc.  I knew he hailed from Texas, but not where he got his start.  Needless to say, it was interesting to learn more about him.  I enjoyed getting to find out his version of himself.  I’ve seen several of his films and it is easy to put him in a certain category, but when it comes down to it, he’s not really that different from any of us.  That’s what is so great about memoirs, you really find out their true character. 

This is quite a bit of harsh language throughout the book as well as some implied sexual activity, nothing overly graphic.  I recommend this book for mature audiences that have an interest in McConaughey or enjoy personal biographies/memoirs.

Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in Anxious World

Author: Jamie Grace

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Our world is loud and crazy right now which makes finding a quiet moment very difficult. Jamie Grace delivers a wonderful addition to anyone’s library of little ways to find quiet when it seems impossible.

The world we live in today is loud. There is no getting around it, there is noise all around us, external and internal. How do we find quiet when we are constantly being bombarded with noise? Not only do we have outside noise but there is also so much anxiety we live with today. Jamie Grace is a singer, songwriter and storyteller with hits on the radio and breaks down what it’s like to conquer her own anxiety in this loud crazy world, all while living with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. With these struggles, it has been even harder for Jamie Grace to find the quiet she needs to reset and recharge in order to survive and thrive in the world. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of her diagnoses and spiraling down a “woe is me” mentality, she remembers that God is leading her on this journey and uses each moment as a lesson to grow and work on herself and help others through her music and other platforms.

So many of the things written in this book resonated with me. It can be really hard to take the time to just sit and be quiet. With so many avenues of entertainment and connectivity around us, we are rarely able to find that quiet. Smart phones and technology are a great thing, when used right. However, we can find ourselves going down a rabbit hole on social media and instead of enjoying ourselves we become depressed by what we see and hear and compare ourselves to these images. It can be a very detrimental thing to our mental health. At one point, Grace talks about taking an intentional break from social media and how good that can be for all of us. I loved the way she pours so much of her life experiences onto the pages and helps readers see that no matter your struggles it is okay to step back, take a minute for yourself and make sure you are okay before moving on. That moment of quiet, inner reflection can do better than almost anything else, and it is seldom taken advantage of like it should. Whether you are an introvert, or an extrovert, quiet time is essential to enjoy all other moments of your life. Readers that have enjoyed Jamie Grace’s music and even those that have never heard of her but are looking for thoughts on helping deal with an anxious heart would benefit from reading this. I recommend readers to take the time to work through this book and let it work for them as it is meant to. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Brothers of Auschwitz

Author: Malka Adler

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story that cannot help but bring about emotion from anyone who reads it!

Dov and Yitzhak are brothers in a Jewish family that live high in the Hungarian mountains.  They are isolated from society outside of their small village, but one day in 1944 changes everything.  They knew that a war was going on in Europe, but they weren’t really affected by it.  When the Axis troops show up, they entire family suddenly finds themselves on a train bound for Auschwitz.  Shortly after arriving, all members of the family find themselves separated, some never to be seen again.  Dov and Yitzhak are sent to different work groups and experience the horrors of multiple concentration camps.  After reuniting, they have kept quiet about their experiences until now.  Told to a family friend, the stories and horrors experienced both during the concentration camps as well as after their liberation are told. 

The stories will cause readers to experience a sea of emotions while reading the text.  These are stories that should not be forgotten to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.  Several of these experiences are generalized in historical fiction, but when it’s truly biographical, it touches the readers soul!  This time period has always been of interest to me, but I haven’t felt this way when reading about the concentration camps since I read Schindler’s List over 20 years ago.  Just knowing that its true brings about a different level of comprehension.  I read this in just a few hours over a couple of flights and found myself talking to random passengers about it after I finished. 

There was only one item that I really disliked throughout the book and that was how it was presented.  There is no differentiation between verbal dialogue and general description.  However, it wasn’t enough to take away from the book itself.  There is some language throughout the book, which is expected of the nature of the book.  I recommend this to mature audiences and those they have an interest in the time period.

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