Charlton Heston: Hollywood's Last IconThe New York Times bestselling author, Marc Eliot, has presented another iconic biography in his series. Charlton Heston, who lived a larger than life existence, had a major presence in the history of American film, television, stage, and theater. Heston’s career lasted more than beyond the second half of the 20th Century, with his films being popular worldwide. Other icons in author Eliot’s books include: Cary Grant, Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, and others. Eliot has stated that he received unprecented access to Heston’s family, friends, private papers, diaries, journals, and writings. The book describes a tale of someone who lived an extraordinary life.

Like all human beings, Heston had great achievements, but also had personal failures. Sometimes we only see what Hollywood wants us to see in such a cultural great as was Heston. Eliot tells a very complex story of how a small boy from Michigan grew up to become one of Hollywood’s most legendary stars. Heston was also one of the Greatest Generation true-life war heroes, having seen action in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After the war, he moved to New York City to try to find success in theater. It was his performance on live television where he was “discovered” by Hollywood. The book explains the unparalleled saga of Heston’s three movies for Cecil B. DeMille, and two films for William Wyle which included film greats, The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. It was Ben Hur for which Heston won his Best-Actor Oscar.

In his later years, Heston became affiliated with political issues, the NRA, and being at one time asked to run for President by both Republican and Democrat parties. The novel covers Heston’s amazing life with great detail, that will please longtime fans, Hollywood movie lovers, and the new generation just discovering the work of Charlton Heston for the first time.

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Big Little LiesIt seems like any other school fundraiser, but P&C Trivia Night at the local public school in Pirriwee ends with disaster. Author Moriarty is known for her knack for creating main characters who are so believable that any one of us could know them as a next door neighbor, or a friend at PTO.

Big Little Lies is a complicated, yet also simple, story of ordinary people who end up in an extraordinary situation. The reader knows that one character will not be living at the book’s end, but they have no clue as to which character, until the very end of the book. Will it be gregarious, passionate Madeline, who does not use her “filter” if confronting a foe, especially her ex-husband or his new, younger wife. Will it be Celeste, the town beauty who can stop small town traffic with her looks, and the sight of her two energetic twin boys. Or, will it be the young newcomer, Jane, who is a very young single mom, who the others have decided to mentor. The reader finds out after reading through the “brilliant take on ex-husbands, second wives, mothers and daughters, school booard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive”.

Moriarty writes books that keep the reader page turning into the wee hours of the morning, just too good to put down. The film adaptation, by David E. Kelley, tells the tale of three mothers of first graders, whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to show the truth…… even to the point of murder. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley.

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Portraits of CouragePresident George W. Bush has published a new book (Feb. 2017) that is a beautifully done tribute to some soldiers that he had to send in harm’s way after 9/11. It has been described as a vibrant collection of oil paintings depicting 66 of the soldiers, and a four-panel mural. President Bush painted the portraits, then gave the story of each soldier written in his own words.

It is a very daunting job, as President of the United States, to have to ask our military to travel into harm’s way for months, sometimes years at a time. President George W. Bush has made it his mission to create an initiative, The Military Service Initiative, to help post 9/11 veterans and their families in making a successful transition to civilian life. They also address issues such as veteran wellness, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury. Readers can see the faces of those who answered America’s call to service, and learn life lessons from their bravery on the battlefield, but also from their journey to recovery and the contributions they are making as civilians.

Net profits from all books will be donated to the Bush Institute Military Initiative, through the George Bush Presidential Center on the Dallas campus of SMU. The exhibit is open from March 2 to October 1, 2017.

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A Million Little ThingsAs life can sometimes be, the main character in author, Susan Mallery’s newest book, A Million Little Things, finds herself inundated with relationship complications. Mallery is a very gifted story teller, with her previous books being best sellers and extremely popular with women. Those most popular are “The Girls of Mischief Bay” and “The Friends We Keep“. Her latest offering delves into the dynamics of the complications when family and friendship connections blur.

Main character Zoe Saldivar is not happy being alone. It is one thing to be single, but single and lonely is another matter altogether. She has a best friend who has been that for years, but that friend, Jen, just had a baby who now consumes all her time and energy. Zoe has decided that she must be responsible for finding new friends, and new activities.

Before she knows it, her life is filled with complicated relationships, and she wonders if being alone wasn’t that bad after all. Zoe befriends Jen’s mother, Pam, who is a widow, then the guy she seems drawn to is Jen’s brother, and were that not enough, Pam is being seduced by Zoe’s father, Miguel. “Pam’s flustered, Jen’s annoyed,” and that is when Zoe longed for her “lonely” lifestyle back.

A Million Little Things has romance, friendship, and love, but it also touched other themes such as loss, second chances, responsibility, trust, coping skills, and acceptance. The reactions of the characters have been described as feeling real and human. It has also been said that the characters seem relatable or those who you would enjoy knowing.

“Friendship isn’t just one thing…… it’s A Million Little Things, and no one writes them with more heart and humor than book club sensation Susan Mallery.

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This Life I LiveWe have all heard the song sung by Tim McGraw…….Live Like You Were Dying……but for Joey and Rory Feek, the country song became their reality.
Rory and Joey met one day at Stan’s Truck Stop in Nashville, when Joey came in bringing a loaf of homemade banana – nut bread that she began to share with Rory, as she filled him in on her past life and how she ended up in Nashville, not knowing anyone, to take a chance on a career in music. Before they knew it, they had finished the banana – bread and knew pretty much everything about each other. As Rory told his sister later, he thought Joey was in his future, but he was not sure how it could possibly work out. And, at the same time, Joey was thinking that God had introduced her to Rory for a reason, but she was doubting the reasons why.

Rory was meant to write this story. After he and Joey married, Rory kept a blog going about their life in country music and their life as a family. Little did he know the sharp turn things would take when Joey received the diagnosis that everyone dreads to hear……an especially aggressive form of cancer. It became their love story as they invited so many into the journey of her illness. In the final months, the Feeks captured the hearts of millions around the world. They were very transparent in allowing those fans to see their love, their vulnerability, and how they chose to live their life in those final days. He had gone into their relationship looking for meaning and security in a world that seem to offer neither. After he gave his life to a higher power, he soon met Joey who would change his heart forever.

In This Life I Live, Rory not only helps the reader to connect with his and Joey’s story, but how to apply what he has learned to our own journeys when we allow ourselves to be open to those special moments in life, how to recognize them, and how we are all actually at the point of knowing that life will end. He gives an inspirational lesson of how to live your life “as if you were dying”.

“A gifted man from nowhere and everywhere in search of something to believe in. A young woman from the Midwest with an angelic voice and deep roots that just needed a place to be planted. This is their story. Two hearts that found each other and touched millions of other hearts along the way.”

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A Dog's PurposeOnly when she was grown and married, did author Margot Lee Shetterly discover the amazing people with whom she shared a neighborhood as she was growing up. Margot grew up in the Hampton, Virginia area, with Langley Air Force Base just miles away. Langley was the headquarters of the Aeronautical Research and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NACA had the mission to transform flying gadgets into war machines. They were dissolved as an agency in 1958, and was replaced by the agency we all know today, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA). At that point the race for space superiority gained speed. In this fertile environment is where author Shetterly found a most miraculous story.

On the cusp of the beginning of World War II, with no computers or technology to speak of, the government needed help with their aeronautical advancement and number crunching. The solution was to hire women to shoulder the burden ……… they acted as computers, freeing the engineers to focus on their trained profession. The women were extremely successful and sharp, carrying out the task with excellence.

The author described the chosen women as both ordinary and extraordinary, as she shines a light on the women’s lives and accomplishments. The African-American women were called the West Computers, after the area to which they were assigned. Author Shetterly decided that books have been written about the astronauts, the engineers, and now it was the women’s turn to have their story told. They were at the heart of all achievements accomplished by the Center. They crunched numbers for every function of a plane, contributing to the constantly changing designs, making the flying machines of war, faster, safer, and more aerodynamic. Katherine Johnson worked on computations for Mercury and Apollo missions, and Christine Darden’s work advanced supersonic flight. In the 1970’s new technology advances made the job of the Western Computers obsolete. It is not known exactly how many women participated in the Western Computers project, since social customs of the era dictated that women could only work until they were married and had children. After that occurred, their careers were over, and they became full time homemakers and mothers.

The book has been adapted for screen, starring Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson, and is now in theaters. “Langley was not just a laboratory of science and engineering…….in many ways it was a racial relations laboratory, and a gender relations laboratory, says author Shetterly.

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Hillbilly ElegyIt is an interesting thought that a young man from a very poor background in the Kentucky area of Appalachia can join the Marines, attend The Ohio State University, then be accepted into the prestigious Yale Law School. How does this happen? Can you even imagine how intimidated such a young man would be as he enters the stately buildings in New Haven, and Yale. And the readers must keep in mind that Vance was only 31 when writing this book.

As the two coasts call the area where Vance grew up, the “fly over” part of the country, those who have never left their area on each coast can never really understand the personal struggle of someone like J D Vance because they have not had the benefit of living in a quietly poor community, where jobs may be scarce so that a Dad might have to travel to find a job, leaving his family to handle their many struggles. The inner city struggles are much different…….more violence, drug dependency, although the “fly over country” has certainly developed its share of the drug problem. The main struggle for areas like Appalachia in Ohio is their struggle to have their problems and concerns heard by those in government. Vance’s description of his childhood and the sting of being called “redneck”, and yet the desire to lash out at anyone who utters this as an insult, is a partial explanation of why someone like Donald Trump was elected. The Appalachian people are sick of hearing empty promises from their leaders, so when a non-politician gives these people hope that actual economic help may be actually given, they showed as in Vance’s book, how conservatism gives more opportunities for advancement, not just more liberal band-aids.

Vance focuses mostly on his own personal story to try to convey that ordinary “simple” social welfare solutions are not enough. It seems that those solutions are not only inadequate for the people of Vance’s Ohio Appalachia, but for all other economically repressed areas. Vance understands this, and accuses most political leaders of over simplifying the problems, therefore, they do not solve the complicated problems. Vance attempts to give a native Appalachians view of their life and culture. “Hillbilly Elegy” is a story that demonstrates the full measure of the brokenness that wracks Appalachia, but it is also a story that exemplifies the depths of familial love and opportunity.” Perhaps through someone like Vance, bridges can be built between the perceived different cultural barriers.

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A Dog's PurposeThe delightful novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, is a must read for anyone who enjoys animals, especially dogs. It is an interesting concept to think that one dog (Bailey) has a much shorter than expected life, but gets several more chances to answer the question many of us ask ourselves……..why am I here at this moment in time? The reader travels the journey with Bailey, as you see his world through his eyes, as he serves as a motivator and teacher for a wide spectrum of owners.

A Dog’s Purpose is currently due to premier as a soulful family film. Bailey, in his search for the meaning of his own existence, finds himself dying then coming back as a different breed of canine puppy. One of his owners is eight year old Ethan, where he has a loving relationship with the little boy, as they have countless adventures together. The story gives a dog’s eye view of the importance of human-animal bonding, which is a very popular subject in human mental and physical health. Bailey, in his various lives, teaches his human owners the importance of believing that love never dies, that our most important friends never leave us, and that “every creature on earth has a purpose”.

The screen adaptation of A Dog’s Purpose is directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, etc), and produced by Gavin Polone (TV’s Gilmore Girls). Josh Gad is the voice of Bailey with actors Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Peggy Lipton, and Dennis Quaid. The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures.

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Talking As Fast As I CanMany have written reviews of The Princess Diarist by author and actor, Carrie Fisher. Some were dated before her very untimely, sad death, followed closely by the death of her Mother, Debbie Reynolds. They were so very close, that many have surmised that Debbie passed from a broken heart when she lost her beloved daughter. It is with respect and sadness that this review is written.

Upon discovering the journals which had been left under floor boards for forty years, author Carrie Fisher decided to write a memoir of sorts that commemorated her iconic first film, Star Wars that was shown in 1977. Back then, Carrie was just a teenager who made the usual awkward mistakes that many experience, except that hers were recorded and published for all to see, given her new celebrity status, and the Hollywood Royalty that were her Mother and Father (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher). It is difficult enough for the average child to go through the breakup of their parents, but one can only imagine how bizarre it must have been to have been a child involved in the Liz Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds triangle. The press had a field day, which caused great sorrow for Debbie and her daughter.

The Princess Diarist has been described as extremely honest, humorous, and sad all at the same time. The torture it must have been on the Hollywood “roller coaster”, when one minute you are the latest darling in your metal bikini, and the next minute those same people treat you with such cruelty.
Carrie Fisher speaks about herself…….about her addictions, her bad choices in love, her sarcasm, and her love for Princess Leia. “It is a look inside the head of a young, inexperienced woman, who loved the wrong man, and fell into sudden fame……..funny, wise and insightful…….a great read for women, who are Star Wars fans, and have loved Han Solo for as long as they could remember”.

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Talking As Fast As I CanFor all those fans of the Gilmore Girls series, the new book, Talking As Fast As I Can, by lead character, Lauren Graham, is a very special addition to their addiction to the show. Lauren writes about humorous and personal experiences with her career, and with the interaction she has had with co-stars.

Fans will be delighted to read about personal anecdotes such as…….the fact that Graham did not enjoy the fact that her character, Lorelai, married Christopher in season seven, or……..that her sister was in a cameo appearance once. What about souvenir stealers, Graham and Bledel taking a pink flamingo and Rory’s Yale banner? Ellen DeGeneres will be pleased to know that Graham at least tried to go vegan in a tribute to her, but failed. Graham and Bledel never had a chance to meet before working together on the set.

As of the book writing time frame, Graham described how she was encouraged to go out with Peter Krause by Kelly Bishop (Emily Gilmore). Graham eventually did just that, when they met on the set of Parenthood. Bishop had said she needed someone more her equal…….apparently, Krause fits that description, because they were still dating. It is the hope of all Gilmore Girls fans that they will be getting a new round of their favorite show!

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