Tag Archives: nonfiction books

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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20 Books that Changed My Life

As readers, we all have an ever-growing list of favorite books.  Books we’ve lived in, books we’ve cherished, and books we’ve read again and again…and tucked in that long list of favorite novels and stories is a much shorter list of books that have shaped and molded us as human beings…books that have altered our thinking and opened our eyes to new ways of looking at life.  These are the books that will forever hold a place in your heart (and on your shelf!) and may even be the books you find yourself coming back to again and again, if not just to smell their familiar smell or run your fingers up and down the worn cover page.

I was recently asked what this list would be for me…and let me tell you, it was a challenging task.  I feel like every book I read stays with me and becomes a part of me…and to fine-tune that list to a handful of books that have had such a profound impact on me that they CHANGED MY LIFE…well, that’s a tall order!

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But I love a good challenge!  After many, many hours of thought and a few cups of coffee to help get me through, here is my list of 20 books that have changed my life.  A few of these are also on my list of favorite books, but not all of them.  Books like Eating Animals and Being Mortal, though well-written and thought-provoking, were not what I would call ENJOYABLE reads…but they had such an impact on me that I had to add them to this list.

If you love reading and enjoy being swept up in literature, this is a fun exercise to try!  Take a moment and think back on your times spent snuggled in bed curled up with a book and see if you can’t recount the books that helped shape and mold you into the wonderful person you are today.

 

Books that Taught Me About Love and Loss:

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
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A marriage that looks perfect from the outside is anything but on the inside. A story that completely broke my heart and taught me that things aren’t always as they seem, Revolutionary Road is a raw and realistic portrayal of the “ideal American family”.

It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrehdt
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Filled with inspiring stories and quotes, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken was the book that got me through my first big break-up. Yes, it was super cheesy, but it told me the things I was unwilling to hear from my friends and family and it helped me get back up on my feet during a time I felt I had hit rock bottom.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
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No book, no person, no song has so perfectly described what it’s like to live with someone who is terminally ill. I read A Monster Calls a few years after my dad died and the wound was ripped right the F open. I related to this book on a deep and emotional level…and it so perfectly described feelings I never thought could be put into words.

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
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A book about dying with grace and dignity, Being Mortal tries to humanize the ultimate fate we all fear. Written by Dr. Gawande, this book takes readers into places like nursing homes and care centers to better understand how the elderly can age without losing their sense of humanity.

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
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A simple story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, Peter Pan meant so much more to me after my first experience with death. The story of Peter Pan is quite different from what Disney would have you believe, and after experiencing loss, I felt myself relating so much more to this little boy who just wanted to stay young and joyful forever.

Books that Led to Professional Development:

Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
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I cannot praise this book enough. Creativity, Inc. is written by one of the founders of Pixar, Ed Catmull. In this management how-to, he discusses what it takes to be a good manager and a good employee. He lays the groundwork for what makes a productive business run and shows readers that it actually is possible to really love what you do. This is the book that inspired me to quit the job that had me in a near constant state of depression and to find something that challenged me intellectually and professionally.

The Artist in the Office, Summer Pierre
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An interactive book about how to have fun at a 9-5 job, The Artist in the Office helps readers find creative outlets throughout the day…encouraging imagination, inspiring creativity, and overall making happier and healthier employees…all while still making time for those dang TPS reports.

Books that Changed the Way I Think:

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
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A brutally honest look at the cost of farming and eating meat, Eating Animals was a true eye-opener in the best possible way. Though Jonathan Safran Foer is a vegetarian, the point of his book is not to convert meat eaters, but to educate them. Foer pulls back the curtain on companies like Tyson to reveal what is really going on behind closed doors. This book made me sick to my stomach…and it forever changed how I eat and buy my food.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
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A truly inspirational story about listening to your heart and following your dreams, The Alchemist should be required reading for everyone. A story about a shepherd who yearns to travel the world, this book is equal parts fairy tale and spiritual enlightenment. Similar to The Little Prince in its message, The Alchemist – for me at least – was likened to a religious experience.

The Best of Cooking Light, Cooking Light Magazine
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The Best of Cooking Light was the first cookbook I ever owned. I don’t remember where I got it, it may have been a gift or something I picked up in a budget bin at my local bookstore, but when I was living on my own, this cookbook was my bible. I lived off these recipes and I still use it to this day. It’s filled with food stains and the pages are crinkled from spilled water, but I still love it and cherish the memories of learning to cook with this book by my side.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Jenni Ferrari-Adler
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Filled with hilarious and relatable essays about cooking for one and living alone, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant was the friend I needed during a time when I felt so secluded.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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With such simple prose and a simple plot, The Little Prince digs deep into the psyche, unearthing thoughts about love, loss, friendship, responsibility, imagination, and so much more. I’ve read it several times, often in one sitting, and find myself smiling and crying time after time.

Books that Shaped My Childhood:

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
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The Lorax was the first book I read about what it means to stand up for what you believe in. It was my dad’s favorite Dr. Seuss book and he would read it to me often when I was growing up. Filled with inspiring messages about believing in yourself, encouraging change, and giving a voice to those who don’t have one, The Lorax had a profound impact on my understanding of mindless progress.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
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I still can’t read The Polar Express without crying. A magical story about the true spirit of Christmas, The Polar Express reawakens my love for Christmas every time I read it. The magic of hearing the bell is something I hold personally near and dear to my heart, as my dad had jingle bells all over the house all year long. Needless to say, I still hear the bells ring, year after year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
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In all honesty, every one of the Harry Potter books could be on this list…but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my introduction into the Harry Potter universe. After powering through the first three novels, I went to the midnight release (in costume) of this book and stayed up reading it all night long. I took it with me to the Taste of Chicago the following day and walked all over the city with this 600+ book in hand. It was this book that swept me up into the magic of Hogwarts and was my first introduction into the Harry Potter fandom culture.

My Father’s Daughter, Tina Sinatra
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My Father’s Daughter was not the first Sinatra book I’ve ever read, nor will it be the last…but I found it to be the most truthful. Written by his daughter, Tina Sinatra, My Father’s Daughter is an intimate, honest, and loving tribute to a man the world rarely got to see. Parts of it broke my heart…and parts of it made me love Sinatra all the more. Told with genuine love and respect for her father and her family, Tina Sinatra’s memoir offers a peek into the private life of one of the world’s most popular entertainers.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
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This is one of the only books I finished, then immediately started again. I’ve read this book so many times that the spine is starting to fray. A story similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but much, much darker, The Book of Lost Things is a story filled with evil monsters, big heroes, and journeys into worlds unknown. This book took me away and completely immersed me another world, something that rarely happens when I read fiction. The message of this book is quite simple, but the characters are so imaginative and interesting and I have a new experience with this book every time I read it.

Books that Shaped My Educational Development:

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
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The ultimate coming-of-age story about a young boy exploring the New York underground, The Catcher in the Rye is the book that made me fall in love with literature. I remember reading it in high school and again in college…both times it opened my eyes to the amazing character development and plot that this story lays out for the reader. Confused and disillusioned, Holden Caulfield searches for truth and honesty among a world of “phoniness” and finds it near impossible to place himself in this unforgiving culture. A novel that speaks to anyone who has struggled through their adolescence, A Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Solar Storms, Linda Hogan
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It was this book that inspired me to follow a Native American educational path during my time in college. I read Solar Storms in one of my English lit classes and fell in love with the Native culture and views on life and death. I felt an instant connection with this novel and it opened my eyes to an educational outlet I never knew was there for me.

The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim
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A brilliant take on fairy tale criticism, The Uses of Enchantment was the book that inspired a life-long obsession with fairy tales. As if it couldn’t get any nerdier, I actually read this book the first time FOR FUN, then again for required reading in my Fairy Tale class in college. This book breaks down the classic tales we all know and love and digs deep into the deeper meanings behind the red cape, the wolf in the woods, the prick of the pin and so much more.

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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30 Books That Were Made into Oscar-Winning Films

From book to blockbuster, these 30 memoirs and novels were turned into huge award-winning and nominated films.  Why this is by no means a comprehensive list, take a look and see if your favorite book ever got the Hollywood treatment!

30 Books That Were Made into Oscar-Winning Films

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12 Years a Slave, based on the memoir, Twelve Years a Slave

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Argo, based on the book, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

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Slumdog Millionaire, based on the novel, Q&A

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No Country for Old Men, based on the novel, No Country for Old Men

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Million Dollar Baby, based on the collection of short stories, Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner

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The English Patient, based on the novel, The English Patient

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Forrest Gump, based on the novel, Forrest Gump

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Schindler’s List, based on the novel, Schindler’s Ark (later released as Schindler’s List)

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The Silence of the Lambs, based on the novel, The Silence of the Lambs

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Dances With Wolves, based on the novel, Dances with Wolves

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Rain Man, based on the book, The Real Rain Man: Kim Peek

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Out of Africa, based on the memoir, Out of Africa

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Ordinary People, based on the novel, Ordinary People

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Kramer vs. Kramer, based on the novel, Kramer vs. Kramer

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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The Sting, based on the novel, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man

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Oliver! based on the novel, Oliver Twist

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The Sound of Music, based on the memoir, The Story of the Trapp Singers

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Gone with the Wind, based on the novel, Gone with the Wind

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The Godfather, based on the novel, The Godfather

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The Blind Side, based on the memoir, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

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Mary Poppins, based on the book, Mary Poppins

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Misery, based on the novel, Misery

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Room, based on the novel, ROOM

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The Revenant, based on the novel, The Revenant

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Still Alice, based on the book, Still Alice

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Rebecca, based on the book, Rebecca

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Brokeback Mountain, based on the short story, Brokeback Mountain

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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The Help, based on the book, The Help

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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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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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