Tag Archives: celebrity bios

My Story Book Review

At the tender age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knife point from her family home in Salt Lake City, Utah.  For 9 months she remained missing, being raped, abused, and threatened daily by her captures, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.  They hid in the western mountains, traveling through Utah, into California, and back to Utah again before Smart was eventually rescued by police in March 2003.

The story of her kidnapping and rescue efforts captured national attention.  Her face was on every news channel, in every newspaper, and you couldn’t eat or shop in public without hearing someone mention her name.

Nearly 10 years after her rescue, almost to the day, Smart released her memoir about her abduction and rescue.  Her book, titled My Story, chronicles the moments right before her abduction to the moments after the trial of her captures.  With great detail and amazing courage, Smart recounts the fear she felt upon seeing Mitchell in her room, the feeling of his knife at her back, and how scared she was during that long, dark walk up to Mitchell’s camp, where she would remain, just a mere 2 or so miles from her home,  for the majority of her capture.

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With heartbreaking tales of torture, abuse, greed, starvation, and sacrifice, Smart leads us on a journey back to her darkest days, doing her best to bring us into the moment, to feel the fear and pain she felt all those years ago.  In the 9 months she remained missing, Smart had no choice but to remain strong and fight, despite her situation, and her force, determination, and God-loving courage is so evident in this memoir that I had to keep reminding myself that this poor girl was only 14 when her life completely changed forever.

Unlike many child abduction stories, Smart’s story actually has a somewhat happy ending.  After her rescue, Smart became a strong activist and journalist, bringing the stories of other children into the public eye.  She founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to educate children about violent and sexual crimes and she currently works as a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons cases.  Now a happy wife and mother, Smart has made great and amazing strides to normalize her life after her abduction.

Told in her voice, in her way, (and read by her if you do the audiobook!), My Story is an empowering and emotional read that gives readers a glimpse into the personal life of one girl who was pushed unwillingly into the spotlight.

 

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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This Time Together Book Review

Back when my whole family lived under one roof, I remember spending many a sleepless nights watching The Carol Burnett Show on On Demand.  Always entertaining and filled with an amazing cast of guest stars (including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews, just to name a few!), The Carol Burnett Show was always a joy to watch.  I loved how much the cast loved each other…and how much they loved and respected Carol herself.  It was a beacon in the realm of TV comedy and won an impressive 25 Emmys during its long 11-year run.

One thing I really enjoyed about The Carol Burnett Show was Carol’s genuine love for what she did.  Just watch one show, one scene even, and it will be so clear to see that this woman lives to make people laugh.

Unlike several of her colleagues, Carol Burnett is one of the most authentic actresses on film and TV today…what you see is what you get.  That same funny, irreverent, and irresistible person you see on The Carol Burnett Show, Annie, Noises Off!, and Glee is the same funny lady off-screen, too…she’s just as sweet and warm as you’d imagine…and the proof lies in her most recent autobiography, This Time Together.

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A heartwarming memoir filled with hilarious and touching stories, This Time Together is a collection of Carol’s most cherished memories from her personal and professional life.  Filled with adorable photos of Carol and her posse, this book feels like sitting down with an old friend who has amazing stories and photos to share.

From her life-long friendships with some of the world’s most well-known entertainers to her heartbreaking story of losing her daughter to cancer, Carol’s poignant look back at her amazing legacy will leave you laughing and crying alongside her.  By the end of the book, she’ll feel like an old friend, a soul mate, a dear companion who, despite all odds, reminds us that laughter really is the best medicine of all.

 

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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Is You Okay? Book Review

The first Glozell video I saw was “The Cinnamon Challenge”.  Here was some crazy loud woman with one heck of an amazing weave downing a LADLE full of cinnamon and somehow not dying…I felt bad laughing hysterically but I couldn’t help it!  I instantly fell in love with her and her vibrant personality.

I plowed through a few more of her challenge videos, including “The Wasabi Challenge” and “The Hot Pepper Challenge”, and –of course— “A Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man”.  I couldn’t get enough.  She was just so lovable in her stupidity.

My sister and I share a mutual love of Glozell.  And when we found out she was writing a book, we made a mental note to attend her signing, no questions asked.  Well, I guess that note blew away in the wind…but when I opened my Christmas gifts from her and found Glozell’s book, Is You Okay?, smiling up at me between the ripped Christmas paper, I got instantly excited and jumped in that night.

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Filled with everything a “Glo-worm” or “Glo-bug” or Glozell fan could ever want, Is You Okay?, is a gem of a book, filled with surprising inspiration and motivation to follow your dreams.  Written as if Glozell was just chatting with you over lunch, Is You Okay? is an intimate look into Glozell’s personal life and how she got her start as an Internet-tainer.

A true and quite unusual success story, Glozell talks about her journey from filming “A Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man” to her special episode where she got to sit down and interview President Barak Obama.  Hers is a story that is not far-fetched or out of reach for others who are just as dedicated and resilient as she is…and it’s that message that makes this book pretty inspiring.

Of course, every success story has bumpy roads.  “The Cinnamon Challenge”, for example, was a life-changing video that put Glozell on the map as one of YouTube’s most successful hosts…but it also nearly killed her…like, for realz.  Easily her most popular video with 50,714,327 views and counting, “The Cinnamon Challenge” basically turned her into an overnight sensation…and helped guide her voice and message for the rest of her insanely crazy videos.

Also peppered with personal stories about Glozell’s family, love life (celebrity drama included!), and even a few family photos, Is You Okay? will make you laugh out loud with stories that are embarrassing, ridiculous, and relatable.  She’s a shining, albeit strange, example of success and she continues to pump out videos and collaborations to this day.  With 4.5 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, GloZell Green, Glozell has proven herself to be a true entertainer in every sense of the word…making millions smile and laugh one video at a time.

Over and out.

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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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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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Born Standing Up Book Review

This year I had the absolute joy of seeing three of my favorite standup comedians on stage.  The adventure started in Milwaukee to go see one of the best, Brian Regan.  From there, it was down to Chicago to catch Louie CK (a bucket list item crossed off!), then finally up to Madison to chill with Bill Burr.  It was a great lineup of amazing talent…and I loved each performance for different reasons.

Though I don’t have experience in standup comedy, I do have experience in writing…and I know how challenging comedy writing can be…ESPECIALLY standup.  It takes a special person to take on that task, and it’s become quite clear to me overtime that, while all standup entertainers may technically be “comedians”, not all comedians can do standup.  It’s a skill, a talent, that only few and far between can do and do well.

And before all the great comedians of today, there was a little twirpy dude who put on some bunny ears, hopped up on stage and hoped for the best.  Little did he know that he would soon become the biggest concert draw in the history of standup comedy.

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Filled with hilarious stories of failures and successes and told in the unique voice of the author himself, Born Standing Up is an eye-opening autobiography from famed entertainer, Steve Martin.  Though most people today may know him as a banjo player/movie star/author, Steve Martin actually got his start doing standup shows…and Born Standing Up is an intimate look at why he decided to do standup, then walk away forever.

Steve Martin has quite the resume.  His “professional” life started at age 10 when he worked selling guidebooks at the newly opened Disneyland theme park.  A decade later, he worked the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm where he got his taste for magic and comedy.

Throughout the rest of his years, Martin worked to fine-tune his skills, highlighting in his book the sacrifices, discipline and originality that helped make him an icon.  By the early 70’s, Martin was the biggest concert draw in the history of standup and enjoyed massive success during his run on Saturday Night Live.

But, as we all know, heavy is the head that wears the crown…and as most talented performers will tell you, it’s quite lonely at the top.  In 1981 Martin made the choice to quit standup forever…and as a true and gifted writer, explains his story and his reasonings with elegant prose and lovely language.

A superb testament to the sheer tenacity, concentration and focus it takes to be one of the greats, Born Standing Up helps peel back the layers to this multi-talented performer and shows the world, with great gusto, one wild and crazy guy.

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Creativity Inc. Book Review

In my 30 or so years of existence, I’ve spent a good 15 to 20 years in the work force.  I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses.  I’ve had co-workers I’ve loved and who I consider family…and I’ve had co-workers I probably will never see again.  I’ve worked as a minion, a trainer, a key holder, and a manager.  I’ve had jobs that have changed me as a person and jobs that are completely weird and unique.  But in every job, no matter what it is, I need to be inspired.  I need to feel like I can make a difference and challenge myself to do better.  This is a feeling that has forced me in and out of companies and has helped influence several decisions I’m both proud of and ashamed of…

During a particular difficult time in my professional career, I was given the book, Creativity Inc. by my dad.  It was a pre-run copy that he got from the library where he worked and he allowed me to read it in the hopes it would inspire me to get out of my funk.  What resulted after reading Creativity Inc. was a life-changing moment…a defining moment…in my career.  It completely changed the way I view management, work life, and the humanity (or lack thereof) of corporate America.

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Written by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Creativity Inc. sets out to explore how we can bring fun and creativity back into the workday.  Meant for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, this manual of sorts aims to train individuals to inspire originality and positivity in the workforce.  By using examples of how he manages at Pixar, as well as how day-to-day operations are led at the studio, Catmull teaches readers how to build a creative culture, no matter what your company aims to do or sell.

It’s no secret that Pixar is a behemoth in the animation industry.  With 30 or so Academy Awards and movies that almost guarantee a box-office hit, Pixar knows what they’re doing.  So what’s the secret?  Why is Pixar so widely admired…and so profitable?  The answer is simple…the employees.

People at Pixar are encouraged to brainstorm.  They are encouraged to take risks.  They are encouraged to fail and encouraged to dream.  THEY LIKE WORKING THERE.  They’re committed to doing their best and pushing themselves because their success is everyone’s success.  There are no scary labels there.  No “rules” about who you can and can’t talk to.  Do yourself a favor and Google “Pixar Offices”…you’ll see that nearly everyone surrounds themselves with things they love, people they love, objects they love.  It’s a company that knows it’s only as good as the people that work there…and the people that work there love and respect that.

That’s not to say the path has been easy.  Pixar wasn’t always the amazing company it is today, and it took a long time, and a lot of training, to get leadership to where it is today…but when a company has leaders that believe in the message and that work WITH the team instead of ABOVE the team, well, then you are on the way to greatness.

At its core, Creativity Inc. begs to answer the following question:  What does it mean to manage well?  Everyone has their own idea of what a GOOD manager is, but what qualities in a leader make a team successful?  How does one learn those qualities and use them in a way that will encourage the team to motivate each other and encourage each other to succeed?  Filled with all kinds of helpful quips and tips, this book attempts to offer some suggestions on how to manage, how to lead, how to inspire, and how to motivate.  If a leader doesn’t lead or isn’t trusted, the results can be detrimental.

After I read Creativity Inc., I quit my job.  I came to realize that I was not happy and was not being encouraged and motivated in the ways I knew I needed to be.  After checking Pixar’s employment page (because I mean, I’d wash floors just to work there!), I embarked on a job search to find something I could stand behind, a company I believed in and a job I could be proud of…and I found it.  And everything changed.  My stress levels plummeted.  My interest in work and success improved.  Hell, my desire to just do my daily job was fueled by the fact that I was HAPPY.  This is the secret, folks.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, that will help fuel your success no matter what it is you do.  Pixar knows it.  Google knows it.  More and more companies are FINALLY coming to realize that when their employees are happy, the company benefits…and if companies big and small make this a priority in how to improve their business, well, I think corporate America can make a huge change for the better…and as individuals, we can make changes that will help us for the better, too…both personally and professionally.

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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