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 Great Age Reboot

Authors: Michael F. Roizen, M.D., Peter Linneman, Ph.D., & Albert Ratner

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: September 13, 2022

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Interesting ideas and concepts for how aging will look in the near future.

Imagine if you will, in the not-so-distant future, genetic engineering will make breakthroughs that will allow people to live to near 150 years of age.  Dr. Roizen and his colleagues take readers though a history of the average life spans over the past few generations and makes some pretty bold predictions on how aging may look very different in the near future, say around 2030.  He provides guidance on lifestyle choices including food and nutrition, exercise, and finances to try to help people understand how this can be achievable, but also has the caveat that human beings don’t always make the best choices so it will end up being mostly personal on how you can achieve it.

Definitely an interesting concept to think about possibly not only living to 100 years of age but possibly to 150.  The biggest question is how would the average person be able to pay for this possibility?  The short answer is that medical care would essentially have to be socialized, be accepted (key concept), and then shift from reactive to proactive care to become affordable.  Additionally, people will need to work much longer (till 90) to have enough money saved up in retirement to make it to 150 if they start in their early twenties.  And since your life choices will make you a healthier, more productive human being, the overall productivity will increase across the county and the GDP will increase so that more tax can be collected, thereby increasing social security measures.

It was an interesting read that I will be watching over the next seven years to see how this might play out.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Birnbaum’s 2023 Walt Disney World Vacation Guide

If you need help to plan your trip to Walt Disney World, Birnbaum’s Guides has your back!

Author: Birnbaum Guides

Publisher: Disney Editions

Release Date: October 25, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you need help to plan your trip to Walt Disney World, Birnbaum’s Guides has your back!

For many, Walt Disney World promises to be a magical place.  Located just outside of Orlando, Florida, the team park boasts four large theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, themed resorts, and shopping galore!  Even if your family visits the parks regularly, it can be overwhelming trying to fit all or most of the attractions in during your stay.  How would the average first timer even know where to begin?

Birnbaum’s Guides has put together a fantastic vacation guide for visitors to Walt Disney World Resort.  For such a compact guide, it is a wealth of information that will benefit both first time guests and seasoned families that make the trek every year.  The guide is separated into helpful sections including Getting Ready to Go, Transportation & Accommodations, Good Meals, Great Times, and a section dedicated to each of the four major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.  There is also a section to catch pretty much everything else as well as a bonus section for the cruise line. 

This is a really helpful, detailed guide.  From advice on different accommodations and the best way to get around to suggestions on how to fit the most rides in at a theme park, it really has it all.  It also gives some great information on other things around the Disney area including dinner shows and little-known areas of fun.  I’ve been to Disney World multiple times and there is still a lot that I don’t know about.  You could go for a week, not visit any of the four major theme parks, and still have a ton of activities to fit into your schedule.  If you are planning to go in 2023, this little guide is well worth it!

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

Love, Pray, Listen

Author: Mary DeMuth

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 6, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A great book looking at the parent/child relationship in a different light as we age and dynamics change.

Mary DeMuth takes readers on a journey of learning how things can become drastically different as children get older. I only have young children now, but picked up this book wanting to see what it held for me as an adult daughter for my parents and to better prepare myself for when my children do grow up. I found many of the chapters eye opening with how to cope with dealing with the hard times of when communication becomes harder, and realizing this is the stage I am in with my own mother. Trying to prepare for when I want to overstep in my grown kids’ lives and when it is best to just sit back, pray, love and listen to them.

As a parent we never wan to our kids to make mistakes or go through hard times that could have been avoided if they just listen to us, but we are here to love them no matter what. Mary DeMuth does a fabulous job of putting together a book that has so many tools to help us in dealing with these hard times and making them a little less difficult and trying. I would recommend this book to parents as their kids are getting older to keep from struggling as they age and want to live their own lives.

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

The Clutter Fix

Author: Shannon Acheson

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 13, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A super quick and easy guide to getting rid of excess and living by the mindset of “less is more.”

We live in a world of stuff; everywhere we look there is more and better stuff to have in our lives and in our homes. But does that stuff really make us happy? The short answer is no; we think it will make us happy but if we have too much we end up with chaos and disorganized clutter all around that can leave us feeling anxious and depressed.

Shannon Acheson uses the tools throughout this book to help readers learn to get rid of what they don’t need and how to organize what they do keep. Step by step instructions along with helpful checklists will give readers the tools they need to start down the path of having less so they can enjoy what they do have more. One of the nicest things about the book is it doesn’t just deal with the physical stuff, it also talks about emotional clutter and cleaning out email inboxes and such that can get over run and overlooked. I always enjoy a good cleanout and purge and using the checklists throughout this book will make for a great tool to make it so much easier. I recommend this book to everyone, even if you feel like you don’t have much to get rid of this list will show you there is more to declutter than you would think.

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

Brain Washed

Author: Manny Arango

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: September 13, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A great book that will help readers take back control of their mind in a world where our minds are constantly being attacked.

Our world bombards us with so many distractions and things that can take our minds and thoughts captive, and we have a choice, let it take us captive or take the thoughts captive. Throughout the pages of this book, readers see how important it is to look to scripture in order to transform our minds and overcome what the world wants and expects of us. Many times throughout my life, I have heard that the Bible is the instructional manual for our lives. That can be hard to believe but it really is true. The Bible gives us instructions to deal with whatever may come our way, and I’ve had several hard things come my way lately. Learning to truly rely on God and his word is a hard thing but when we do find that faith it will change lives.

Dealing with trauma and pain can make relationships and our journey through life very difficult but using the words throughout Brain Washed will help make things easier. As I read through the pages of this book, I found myself nodding my head and smiling at many of the lessons it taught. With social media and all the outlets available to escape into, it is easier than ever for evil thoughts to get into our head and take us down a path we don’t want to be on. Readers will go throughout these pages and find helpful advice for everyday life and so much more.

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