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.

Walt’s Apprentice

Author: Dick Nunis

Publisher: Disney Editions

Release Date: October 11, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Equal parts memoir, history, and business leadership!  A terrific read!

Dick Nunis has led a very interesting life.  He was a high-level football player in high school with some great coaching mentors and was able to obtain a scholarship to play at USC in college with dreams of making a professional career out of the sport.  But an unexpected injury sidelined his dreams and coming out of college took a job working as a supervisor trainer for the release of a new amusement park called Disneyland.  This first job would change his life and eventually become his career.  As one of the original workers for Disneyland, he had the opportunity to work alongside Walt Disney the man for a decade.  Dick rose through the ranks of leadership and eventually become the chief of Disney World Resort parks.  His experience included opening Disneyland, the 1964 Worlds Fair, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, EuroDisney, and Disney Tokyo.  In his memoir, Dick shares his memories and life lessons for others to enjoy.

I’m typically a little skeptical about picking up a memoir of someone that I haven’t really heard much about, but sometimes those are the best stories out there.  That proved true in Walt’s Apprentice.  I love how this book was equal parts memoir, Disney history, and business leadership!  The chapters are short and read fast but contain lots of information held within.  My favorite part concerned the history of the Disney Parks and how they were developed and the process that took place.  There was so much that I didn’t know about and loved getting to discover it.  It was like the magic behind the magic.  Plus understanding the challenges and obstacles that they had to overcome to make it what it is today was very inspiring. 

If you’re a fan of Disney or just like discovering new things, give this book a try!  Or maybe give it as a gift!

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.

The Best Gift

Author: Walt Larimore, MD

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 16, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

More stories from Kissimmee make you fall more in love with this doctor and his family!

Walt Larimore brings more stories in his third installment of the tales from a small-town doctor learning life’s greatest lessons.  Readers who enjoyed getting to learn more about Walt and his family during his previous book The Best Medicine will yearn to learn more about them.  This book dives deeper into his time in private practice in Kissimmee and how he became a staple in the area.  From rodeos to storms to death of close friends, this book offers some guidance and insight for every reader.  Be sure to pull up a chair and a blanket because it’s going to be like you’re having a fireside chat with a long lost friend.

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.

The Best Medicine

Author: Walt Larimore, MD

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An enjoyable look back at the life of a country doctor in suburban Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Walt Larimore was a content family doctor practicing medicine in a small town of the Smoky Mountains, but an event one day changed the course of his and his family’s life.  A gentleman was brought into the clinic after having suffered multiple yellow jacket stings.  Dr. Larimore recognized what was happening and was able to quickly treat the allergic reaction and save the man’s life.  The man and his wife just happened to be on the board for a hospital in Kissimmee, Florida and encouraged Walt to relocate to Florida and serve at their hospital.  Walt and his wife became friends with the couple but were resigned to stay in the smoky mountains.  Fast forward a few years later, and they are now in Kissimmee.  In The Best Medicine, Walt reflects on his early years of practicing medicine in Kissimmee and the impact his friends and family have had on both his practice and his life.

Memoirs are always fun to read, and this was no exception.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting a depiction of Walt’s life and how he managed his practice as well as sought out spiritual mentorship.  It was very inspiring to meet these characters and also humbling to see how many mishaps and mess-ups Walt had during his life and how he overcame these challenges with God’s help.   This would be a great gift for people going through a tough time during the holidays this year to cheer them up. 

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

The Last Girl

The Last GirlAuthor: Nadia Murad

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

You sure you want to know the truth about ISIS? Read this and find out about inhumane trafficking.

Nadia Murad is a Yazidi who spent her entire life in the village of Kocho in Iraq. She was from a large family who worked as farmers.  The families had to be large to have enough children to help work the farms.  The more kids you had, the larger of farm you could handle.  Still, she went to school and learned the material placed into Iraq’s educational systems, which also wasn’t fully truthful.  Yazidis have been persecuted for several years by several different groups.  They are different in that they have no holy book such as the koran or a bible, but keep their religion alive by passing stories down between priests for centuries.  However, they have also survived alongside Sunni Arabs and Kurds without any problems, until ISIS came.  The day they came into town, everything changed.  The routes out of town were cut and nobody was allowed to leave.  Fear drove people to stay inside their homes, but nothing happened to them until the day they told the people to either convert to Islam or be taken to their holy mountain.  Hopeful, everybody came to the schoolhouse to be taken to their holy mountain only to have all of the men and older women slaughtered.  Young boys were sent to an ISIS training compound and the young women were forced to become sex slaves for ISIS militants.  Nadia was bought, sold, raped, and abused in a sickening cycle that is condoned by the caliphate.  Miraculously, She was able to finally escape to safety and tell her story.  Nadia has been featured in Time magazine and told her story in front of thousands including the United Nations Security Council.

These are the stories that never make it to the news in the United States. Stories that you can’t believe are true, but know they must be.  Stories that make you sick when reading them.  Stories that make you cry for the women that have gone through this and are going through this right now.  Stories that make you believe in human rights activism because someone told her story.  Someone wants it to stop.  That someone is Nadia Murad and her story is sad, yet incredible.  How this can happen in today/s society is truly bewildering.  Living in the United States can be easily taken for granted.  News stories are centered around rating points rather than what is going on in the world.  Nadia’s story inspires me to make a difference.  To help others.  To put an end to the violence and sex trafficking.

I hope if Nadia reads this review, she will know she has an ally a world away to fight for her.

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

Code Name: Papa

code-name-papaAuthor: John Murray

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Release Date: September 30, 2015

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Ever wonder about who keeps evil out of everyday life? Just know that Papa’s taking care of it.

Just when you think you are living a mediocre life, everything gets turned upside down. That’s what happened to John Murray.  He joined up to serve in the Vietnam War and made two close friends named Jake and Bill.  After a disaster where everyone believed John to be dead, he was picked up by a Japanese freighter and delivered back to the United States where he was reunited with Jake and Bill.  Soon, Jake’s father says that he wants to have a meeting with all three where he briefs them into the intelligence world, should they choose to accept.  Jake’s father is code named Papa.  After their first few missions, Papa calls them back in and explains that he has stage four cancer and only has weeks to live.  From now on, John will be Papa.  The adventures that ensue include several missions throughout the world for several different governments and agencies.  Kill missions, cleanups, arms deals, you name it, this team did it.  But at what cost to keep people safe?  Marriages, health, families, and sanity all suffer.  But in the end, they know they can’t turn their back.

This is an eye opening read. The amount of conspiracy throughout the world is staggering.  The amount within the United States own borders and even military is even more alarming.  I was shocked to learn of how this team was used to clean up high ranking officers that had gone rogue because the Uniform Code of Military Justice wouldn’t be effective or cause too much bad PR for the US.  Not to mention that a US sanctioned team would be used by Russia in the 1970s and 1980s to handle their dirty work.  I guess it just goes to show that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Overall, this was a really interesting book that was very fast paced. There is a lot of emotion throughout the book based on what happened to several of the different team members.  From suicide to murder, it is all in there.  And no one outside the direct team knew what was going on.  It was well written and kept my attention throughout the book.  If you like real life espionage, then this one is for you.  However, there is a considerable amount of foul language, so only mature audiences should read this book.

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

The Missing Matisse

the-missing-matisseAuthor: Pierre H. Matisse

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A breath-taking memoir that accounts many hair raising escapades during World War II in France.

Pierre Matisse was born into an artistic family. Many people know of his grandfather, Henri Matisse, who was a famous artist.  Pierre loved his parents and his younger brother, but once the war started, his family began to be torn apart. He was forced to take another name to become Pierre Leroy and was no longer part of his family, at least on paper.  This began a personal vendetta against Adolf Hitler and the Germans so that he could one day finally be reunited with his family and no longer be missing.

Pierre’s memoir recounts his time as a young boy in France as well as Spain including the Spanish civil war led by General Franco. He then returned to France with his family as the German Nazis started to occupy France. He was part of the evacuation of Paris and even helped his father in some of the French underground’s activities.  He was transferred between boarding schools in his mother’s attempt to keep him safe and was eventually sent to Normandy to live with his “grandparents on paper” just days before D-Day and the Allied forces arrived.  Needless to say, trouble finds Pierre without a problem.

This book was a really interested look at World War II history from the French side. The majority of the book is based around the WWII time frame, but does have some time before and after.  Needless to say, Pierre was a very interesting person.  The history that is presented really takes you to the time and place.  There is a lot of raw emotion of tragic events that befall Pierre and his family, so beware before reading.

I felt like the end of the book was a little rushed. There was a lot of time spend from 1939 to 1946 and then very little devoted from then until present day.  I bet he had a lot of grand adventures, but just had trouble figuring out which ones to share with everyone.

I recommend this book for anyone who loves history or memoirs!

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