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Big Little Lies Book Review

It’s a song we’ve all heard before…the rich and privileged are never what they appear to be.  Though they may look happy and beautiful on the outside, behind closed doors they’re just as troubled and tortured as the rest of us.  Clearly, money can’t buy happiness…but it certainly can buy a whole butt-load of drama.

In Big Little Lies, three privileged women, each very different from the other, are thrown together in a series of crazy events that leads to someone getting killed.  A guilty-pleasure chick lit book involving husbands, ex-husbands, mothers and daughters, school drama and suburban scandal, Big Little Lies is a fun treat that shocks and surprises you with little twists and turns that lead to one heck of an ending.

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Our three protagonists are Madeline, Celeste, and Jane.  Madeline is a force to be reckoned with.  She’s funny, biting, and passionate…a driving force in her social circle.  Her friend, Celeste, is suburban royalty.  Beautiful beyond compare, Celeste strives to be the queen of the school parent body.  Jane, a new-to-town single mom, is sad and conflicted and has secret doubts about her past life.  All three women have children in the local school, which is the glue that begins to join these women together.  However, when Madeline and Celeste decide to take sad little Jane under their wing and help get her accustomed to the ‘politics’ of their social circle, it becomes clear that Jane and her son bring along more baggage than they thought…and things quickly begin to spin out of control…

In their own ways, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are all easy to love and easy to hate.  They all have their quarks, but it’s clear that their hearts are in the right place…and they’re all just trying to do what’s best for their families, in whatever way they can.  They each experience trouble at home and each deal with it in their own way.  Some fight back, some cower down, and some just ignore it completely.  But for as different as these three women are, they share one commonality:  they are all hiding something from each other.

Big Little Lies is a book that will have you guessing all the way until the end.  A classic who-dun-it murder mystery (with a touch of sparkly drama!), Big Little Lies is about the lies we tell our friends, the lies we tell our families, and – perhaps most hurtful of all – the lies we tell ourselves.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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The Circle Book Review

The digital age is both amazing and terrifying.  In today’s world, we can locate long-lost friends, instantly transfer money to different accounts, talk to people on the other side of the planet, buy and sell goods, and store precious media in the mysterious Cloud.  However, the digital age also sees countless occasions of identity theft, stalking, trolling, hacking, and viruses that can completely destroy everything on your hard drive.

The freedom we have to do whatever we want online, to see whatever we want and search for whatever we want, has people asking what privacy even is anymore.  What’s really ‘public domain’ in this age of digital media?  Is anything ever really deleted?  Is our privacy really protected?  How much information are we really giving away by shopping, banking, and playing online?  Are the measures we have in place safe enough to protect our most precious assets?  And, most importantly, what new developments are in store for a world that constantly begs for “the next best thing”?

In the fictional (but scarily true) novel, The Circle, it becomes clear that our digital profiles, no matter how secure we may think they are, offer an abundance of information to those running the Internet’s most powerful sites…and there’s little to nothing that can be done to stop it.

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When Mae Holland is hired to work for The Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, she cannot wait to jump in and get started.  Loosely and sort of obviously based on a Google-type company, The Circle is a powerhouse California start-up, featuring a sprawling campus, glass dining facilitates, cozy dorms, amazing after-work parties, and an abundance of clubs for practically every passion.

In a nutshell, The Circle aims to link users’ personal emails, social media, banking, purchasing history, and basically all online activity with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity that boasts about a “new age of civility and transparency”.  Want to buy new shoes?  Facebook message a friend?  Connect with a colleague’s professional network?  Pay a bill?  Schedule a party?  All that and more can be done within The Circle interface…and everyone who’s anyone has already joined.

Filled with young and impressionable minds, The Circle’s staff is made up of the best of the best from Silicon Valley…and Mae knows she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime to work there.  As she tours the campus, she becomes engrossed in the company’s activity and dedication to employee morale.  Famous musicians play on the lawn, an aquarium of rare fish offer a place of solitude, and employees seem almost happy and willing to go the extra mile for the good of the company.

Mae quickly learns the ropes of her job and impresses leadership with her skills and attention to detail.  As she starts to gain recognition at The Circle and her interface begins to grow, Mae learns how amazing this technology is…and how much it’s doing to improve the world at large…

Or is it?  Even as life outside of work grows distant…even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken…even as her role at The Circle becomes increasingly public…Mae still can’t believe her great fortune to be a part of this ground-breaking company.  But is this truly the opportunity of a lifetime…or is this the power of the digital age on young and influential minds?

What begins as a captivating story of one woman’s ambition to succeed soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense and terror, raising ethical and moral questions about privacy, democracy, and basic human rights.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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We Were Liars Book Review

We’ve all had that dream of owning our own private island…of spending our days swimming in the ocean and our nights curled up inside a large waterfront mansion filled with old books and older memories.  For several of us, this will remain nothing but a lucid fantasy, but for the Sinclair family, this is real life.

we-were-liars-coverBorn into a very wealthy family that owns a small island on the coast of Cape Cod, Cadence Sinclair is living the dream.  Every summer, Cadence and her extended family travel to their own island off the coast to vacation and relax.  The island harbors four amazing mansions, one for Cadence’s family, two others for Cadence’s aunts, and one for her grandfather.

For most of Cadence’s life, her summers on the island were magical, filled with rendezvous with her cousins and friends, adventures along the beach, but last summer…last summer was different.  Prejudice, greed, and family dynamics turned the family against each other and Cadence, along with her posy – The Liars – must figure out what happened…only one problem…Cadence, in a freak accident, seems to have lost all memory of the past summer.

As she works to pick up the pieces, Cadence begins to recollect the events that transpired the summer before.  Piece by piece, her past begins to unfold…and this wildly addicting novel quickly picks up pace.

Told from the perspective of Cadence, We Were Liars is a fast novel, filled with clever twists and beautiful imagery.  Seemingly meant to simulate Cadence’s confusion, the novel does jump around quite a bit, moving from past to present and telling stories out of order (but it all makes sense in the end, so don’t worry!).  And FYI– this is a novel with a surprise twist ending, so be weary of spoilers before jumping in!

For those who love a good YA novel that’s quick and easy to read, We Were Liars is perfect.  The characters are not really relatable, but are easy to love…much like the crew of Gossip Girl.  Once the book starts going, the plot moves quickly…so don’t be surprised if you’re up late finishing those last few chapters!

A perfect beach or vacation read, We Were Liars will keep you entertained with lovely scenery, romance and family drama, and an ending that will haunt you for long after you put the book down.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

It seems like books of all genres are getting the Hollywood treatment. Just last year we’ve seen several books come to live on the big screen, and 2017 will be no exception. The Circle, Captain Underpants, The Dark Tower series, and The Bell Jar are just SOME of the books that will be turned into screenplays in 2017…and honestly, I’m really looking forward to a few of these!

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But, like any true student of literature, I just must read the book first…so I’m powering through a few of these books before they are released as movies later this year (I’m on The Circle now – this one is gonna be intense).

So if you’re looking to kill some time between now and when Beauty and the Beast comes out – because let’s be serious, that’s happening – here are 13 books that are getting the movie treatment sometime in 2017!

13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

The Zookeeper’s Wife
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This true story follows the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who help save hundreds of people from the Nazis during World War II by smuggling them into empty zoo cages.
Movie Release:  March 2017

Wonder
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Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy who is born with a facial deformity, and his struggle to fit into his new school.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Lost City of Z
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This national best-seller tells the story of how a British explorer got lost searching for an ancient, fabled civilization in the Amazon in 1925.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Circle
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A young woman named Mae Holland gets a job at a tech-savvy company (most likely modeled after Google), and learns things both amazing and scary about her new job and the company she works for.
Movie Release:  April 2017

Before I Fall
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After Sam dies on February 12th, she’s forced to relive that day over and over again, eventually unraveling the mystery of her death.
Movie Release:  March 2017

The Dark Tower
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Stephen King’s magnum opus is a series that follows a gunslinger through a magical society, looking for the mysterious Dark Tower.
Movie Release:  July 2017

The Mountain Between Us
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Two strangers must rely on each other to survive after a plane crashes in the wilderness and leaves them stranded.
Movie Release:  October 2017*
*Just a PSA that this movie is set to star Idris Elba and Kate Winslet…so, you know, despite the content, it will be just beautiful to watch!

Murder on the Orient Express
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This classic mystery follows a detective as he pursues a murder on a famous train.
Movie Release:  November 2017

The Nightingale
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Two sisters in France end up in different positions during World War II; one fights with the resistance, the other becomes a prisoner.
Movie Release:  TBD

Thank You For Your Service
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A non-fiction account following the lives of soldiers who have come back from overseas, most still suffering from PTSD.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Glass Castle
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A memoir of Jeannette Walls, chronicling her bizarre upbringing and her strained relationship with her parents.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Bell Jar
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The story of author Sylvia Plath’s battle with mental illness.
Movie Release:  TBD

Big Little Lies
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Things take a turn for a group of moms whose perfect lives begin to unravel.
Movie Release:  TBD*
*This is actually slotted to be a mini-series on HBO.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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It’s a Long Story Book Review

In the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson live at Ravinia in Chicago.  Together with Alison Kraus and the Union Station band, Willie filled the night with amazing music and helped open my eyes (and ears!) to the beauty of classic country tunes.

After seeing Willie live, I ran to the store and bought two or three of his albums, including his recent duets album titled “To All the Girls” – which is fantastic, by the way.  I quickly fell in love with Willie’s unique way of singing and the wonderful stories he tells through his music.

Not surprisingly, Willie is a master of songwriting.  After all, he has 80+ years of experience to pull from!  And in his autobiography, It’s a Long Story: My Life, Willie tells the story behind the stories, diving into his own life in a series of memories told “as clear as a Texas sky and in the same rhythm that I lived it.”

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Filled with stories about growing up in Abbott, Texas, of selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias, of writing song after song and trying, despite all odds, to strike big in the music business, It’s a Long Story is an intimate and candid look into the life of the man who influenced the art of songwriting.

One of the most surprising things I learned in reading It’s a Long Story was the massive influence Willie Nelson has had on the music industry…not just in his style of singing or his love of musical storytelling, but in the lyrics he’s written, both for himself and other artists.  Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, and Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” are just SOME of the popular tunes that were actually written by Willie Nelson.

A funny and honest story about true love, wild adventures, friends and family, It’s a Long Story opens the door into the life of one man who entertained millions with his tales of adventures on the road, at home, and on the road again.

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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16 Books You Can Read in 2 Hours or Less

Let’s face it, we’re all busy people.  Some of us, though we would LOVE to, just don’t have the time to dive into huge novels like A Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter series…but that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from reading entirely!

Even the busiest people have a little time here and there to spare…and in those moments, if you want to get lost in a book, there are stories you can read that will take little to no time to finish…and I’m not just talking about children’s books.

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These are books with substance…books with a plot and moving storylines.  They may be short, but their messages pack a punch; and honestly, having read them all, a good chunk of these are on my list of books that have changed my life.

It’s a new year, people…you CAN make an effort to read more and you CAN make time in your schedule to get lost in literature…starting with this list of short and powerful quick-read books.

*Quick disclaimer…I know everyone reads at different speeds, so some may finish a book on this list quicker than someone else.  Personally, as someone with an average reading speed, I was able to finish all of these books in one sitting, so let’s say 2 to 4 hours, depending on how dedicated you are! 😉

16 Books You Can Read in 2 Hours or Less

The Little Prince
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The story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior and emotions along the way.

A Monster Calls
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A monster teaches a little boy about love, acceptance, and the things we can’t control or change.  This is a tear-jerker for sure.  Do yourself a favor and read the book before seeing the movie that just hit theaters.

Letters to a Young Poet
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A young poet writes to Rainer Maria Rilke asking his advice on some poems.  The ten letters that make up this collection are brilliantly crafted and contain some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time.

Night
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A candid and horrific account of his survival in the Nazi concentration camps, Elie Wiesel’s Night is a masterpiece in Holocaust literature.

The Old Man and the Sea
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A story of an old Cuban fisherman and his struggle with the giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.  A powerful book about personal triumph and courage.

Of Mice and Men
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A story about friendship, jealousy, and understanding, Of Mice and Men is a compelling story of two outsider striving to find their place in an unforgiving and cruel world.

Big Fish
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Big Fish is the story of a man’s life, told as a series of legends and myths.  Through these hilarious and tender tales, we begin to understand the great feats and failings of a man facing his own death.

Nine Stories
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This book is exactly what it says, nine short stories written by J.D. Salinger.  These stories will stick with you and remind you what an amazing writer Salinger was in his day.

The Phantom Tollbooth
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When a mysterious tollbooth shows up in Milo’s room, he embarks on a series of adventures that teach him just how exciting and amazing life really is.

Lady into Fox
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When newlywed Sylvia Tebrick suddenly turns into a fox, it’s up to her human husband Richard to protect her from the dangers of the outside world.  This is a little gem of a book with a sweet message about love and acceptance.

Love Letters of Great Men
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Inspired by Sex in the City, Love Letters of Great Men contains just that.  Read some of history’s most romantic letters from Beethoven, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and much more.

Half-Minute Horrors
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This little gem of a book holds more than 70 30-second ghost stories written by some of the biggest names in literature today, including Lemony Snicket, Margaret Atwood, Michael Connelly, Gregory Maguire, Joyce Carol Oates, James Patterson, R.L. Stine, and many more.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary
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Fans of Bill Bryson are sure to enjoy this little easy read.  This diary recounts Bryson’s trip to Africa at the invitation of CARE International.  In his own wry style, he comments on some of Africa’s greatest attractions and the struggles plaguing the country to this day.

The Prophet
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A collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and inspirational, this book covers such topics as love, marriage, children, work, friendship, beauty, religion, death and much more.  Though it’s technically a short read, you might want to take your time with this one…there’s a lot to take in.

The Last Lecture
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This is an account of Professor Randy Pausch’s last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University before leaving to take care of his health.  A brilliant education on achieving your childhood dreams, The Last Lecture is both inspiring and brilliantly sad.

The Alchemist
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This is a love story for the ages!  Evocative and deeply humane, The Alchemist is a testament to the power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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A Life in Parts Book Review

Before Lyndon B. Johnson…before Dalton Trumbo…before Walter White, Heisenberg, Hal Wilkerson, and Tim Whatley…before the Tony and the Emmy Awards, before the guest star spots, the commercials, the plays, and the soap operas, Bryan Cranston was just your average kid.

Well, sort of.

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An actor by age 7, Bryan Cranston has held many roles in his lifetime, the least of which being on the stage and screen.  Before receiving international fame with his portrayal as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad, Cranston played several odd parts that helped landed him in the spotlight.  These were not unusual roles, and actually are roles several of us play in our own lives:  paperboy, farmhand, lover, husband, and father being a few.

In his intimate, funny, and inspiring memoir, A Life in Parts, Cranston takes us through his repertoire of performances, starting with his role as a son and brother, and taking us through his larger parts as father, husband, and actor.  Broken down into small chapters, each section of the book discusses a different part of Cranston’s life.  Those who have followed Cranston from his days on Loving and Malcolm in the Middle are sure to enjoy his stories about life on and off the sets…and he also gives an inspiring account of how he mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the challenge of playing President Lyndon Johnson in All the Way, a role that won him a Tony Award.

However, nothing came close to what he had to endure to bring the character of Walter White to life.  Fans of Breaking Bad will enjoy what Cranston has to say about his beloved cast and crew…and you’re sure to gain a new perspective on the show (and his character) after learning about what Cranston had to do, had to search for, to mentally and emotionally prepare for the role that would launch him into stardom.

Besides being a dossier of Cranston’s personal and professional achievements, A Life in Parts is also a love letter of sorts to the craft of acting.  It’s a deep and personal look into the devotion it takes to bring a character to life…the courage it takes to stand up for yourself and what you believe in…and the amount of creativity needed to really dive into a character’s motives and values.

In the great play of life, we all play many parts.  We act in our own shows and in the shows of our loved ones.  We play the hero, the villain, the friend, the comic relief.  We don masks, we hide in the shadows, we bare it all and, hopefully, don’t live to regret it.  We, as they say, wear many hats, and while some are more important than others, it’s all the roles we play – all the hats we wear – that make up our great story.  In A Life in Parts, Cranston breaks apart his life into the core characters that have molded him into who he is…it’s an intimate and honest look at the roles that have shaped him both professionally and personally and it’s an honest and true dedication to the craft he loves so dearly.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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