Friday, December 8, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: "Norbert's Little Lessons for a Big Life" by Julie Steines

At a mere three pounds, Norbert the dog may be little, but he has a BIG heart!

Hi! I'm Norbert!

Norbert, a Chihuahua/Cairn Terrier/Lhasa Apso mix, is a certified therapy dog and social media sensation! He makes kids and grown ups all over the United States smile when he visits children's hospitals and nursing homes. The most fun (according to Norbert himself) commands he knows are High-Five, Zen (lie down), Tourner (turn), Namaste (stay), and Love (paw).

This year, with help from his human parents Mark and Julie Steines (you may recognize Mark from Entertainment Tonight and The Home and Family Show on the Hallmark Channel), Norbert published a book called Norbert's Little Lessons for a Big Life. I follow Norbert on Instagram and when I heard about this book I couldn't wait to read it!

At a little over 100 pages, Norbert's Little Lessons for a Big Life is indeed filled with many wonderful little nuggets of wisdom on how one can lead a happier, more fulfilling life. I absolutely ADORED this book - the 8x8" square hardcover book is beautifully put together, with some of the cutest photos of Norbert (as well as his big brother, a yellow lab named Fred, and their newborn little human sister, Parker Rose) that you will ever see!

Norbert's life lessons are perfect for all ages; they're great for kids and grown ups alike who are looking to spread a little sunshine and make life happier for themselves and others.

Here are some of my favorites...

"Attitude is everything. Be positive, even when it's a stretch."

"Always count your blessings, big and small."

"Find someone to look up to.
And I don't just mean someone tall."

"Think before wagging your tongue. Your bark can be badder than your bite."

"When your enthusiasm gets dampened, just shake it out."

"Always remember, it's cool to be kind. 'Nuff said."

"Take time to reflect.
You just might see things more clearly."

Want to learn more about Norbert? Visit his website and become a part of the Norberthood!

You can purchase Norbert's book for yourself or a loved one direct from his website or at any of these online retailers:


Barnes and Noble


Sunday, November 26, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: "I Want It Now!" by Julie Dawn Cole

The first time I saw "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" I was 11 years old; I can still see myself in my grandparents' finished basement watching the movie on their TV set with my aunt.

The movie has always been a favorite of mine; I've watched it over and over and find it more and more magical every time. Recently I stumbled upon a video on YouTube from 2003 where the now grown-up "Wonka kids" reunite at the original locations in Germany where the film was shot, to share their memories and see how thongs had changed in the decades since. It was in a roundabout way though seeing that video that I learned that Julie Dawn Cole, who played the spoiled little rich girl Veruca Salt, had written a book. Being the book nerd and nostalgic that I am, I knew I wanted to read this book. And so I did...

In a sentence, I loved this book. LOVED it.

Published in 2011 by Bear Manor Media, the book is 226 pages of, as Willy Wonka would say, "pure imagination."

Cole, the youngest of two daughters raised by a single mother in the suburb of Guildford, takes the reader back to her childhood, discussing her love of movies and theater, and how that love influenced her to eventually enroll in stage school. It was during her time as a student at the Barbara Speake Stage School that she auditioned for the role of Veruca Salt in what would become "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

After "Wonka," Cole finished school but stayed involved in acting. And while she did enjoy success as an adult actress with many roles in UK television, films, and theater, it was "Wonka" that eventually came calling years later when nostalgia hit, allowing Cole to reconnect with her original kid cast mates and enjoy sharing the magic with further generations of fans at comic cons and fan conventions all over the world.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Filled with tons of personal memories and personal and professional photographs from the production and marketing of the film, Julie Dawn Cole and her co-writer Michael Esslinger really made this book a must-read - and a must-have - for any fan of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

You can buy "I Want It Now!" by Julie Dawn Cole on Amazon and you can find Julie Dawn Cole on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: "Puddle" by A. Renee Hunt


I really enjoyed this book. It's a super quick read at a mere 40 pages, and the story gave me a good scare - but it's also got a light-hearted feel to it in the beginning. 13-year-old rain enthusiast and puddle jumper Quinn Beasley and her "bestest friend" Max are headed home from school one afternoon when it starts to rain. Max gets scared as the puddles start to form, and she tells Quinn the story (which, at first, Quinn sees as nothing more than an urban legend) of what happens during autumn rains in their town of Desoto - that monsters reach up from inside the puddles to snatch away anyone who steps into them.

At first Quinn doesn't believe Max - but then something happens to the girls that makes Quinn reevaluate just how much she really enjoys puddles...

I loved the way Ms. Hunt captured the voice of narrator Quinn, who is telling her story as a now octogenarian, looking back on that autumn when she and Max were thirteen and in eighth grade. Ms. Hunt's use of language and pace of the narration kept me at the edge of my seat, eagerly turning each page to see what would happen next.

"Puddle" is a little story that packs a big punch!

Learn more about author A. Renee Hunt and her other writings at her website, and get your own copy of "Puddle" on Amazon by clicking here!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: "In Such Good Company" by Carol Burnett

Once again, working in a library worked to my advantage, because one day while I was shelving returned books, I took notice of a brand-new tome on the shelf: In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett. And while it's been said not to judge a book by it's cover, I found it impossible to resist the adorable image of Carol standing next to the Charwoman, a character she created that became the mascot of her successful television variety show, The Carol Burnett Show.

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox is Carol Burnett's latest memoir, a fond look back on her successful musical variety show The Carol Burnett Show that ran from 1967-1978. Full of memories, stories, and even some bits of juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, to say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement! 

I feel the Carol did a great job putting this book together, compiling a wonderful insider's look into the musical variety show she created that went on to garner 25 Emmy awards and recognition by both TV Guide and Time magazine as one of the greatest shows of all time. There are a lot of chapters to this book, but everything - and everyone - gets recognized, including the individual members of the cast and crew, Carol's favorite Q & As, and the best movie parodies and recurring sketches through the years; Carol also shares embarrassing moments, memories from some of Carol's favorite guest stars, and even the story of filming an episode of The Carol Burnett Show in London.

It was so incredibly fun for me to read about how Carol came to meet Vicki Lawrence, who was a mere seventeen years old when she first came on board; to learn backstories of familiar characters like the Charwoman, Eunice, and Mrs. Wiggins and Mr. Tudball; to go behind-the-scenes with famous sketches like "Went With the Wind" (and learn how Carol's famous curtain rod costume came about!); and to discover that Carol once actually had to FIRE Harvey Korman!

In addition to Carol's narrative, the book also includes other great "extras" that made the book even more special for me, and that I think fans will really enjoy. There are many black-and-white photo stills from various episodes, showing Carol onstage with legends such as Rock Hudson, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Lucille Ball. Carol also divulges what a typical week was for the cast and crew, explaining each day's schedule was and why it worked so well (and why that would never work on television today). 

What was, for me, the piece de resistance: In the name of "research" for her book, Carol went back and re-watched all 276 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, and then compiled a list detailing each show's individual broadcast date as well as the regular cast members and guest stars who appeared on that show. I thought that was not only awesome of Carol to do, but it is a great resource for fans both new and old who might be looking for more information about specific episodes, sketches, or stars they enjoyed, or to find out which episodes featured their favorite entertainers.

Once again, to say that I enjoyed In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett would be an understatement. I loved, after having closed the cover of this book, going back and watching episodes of The Carol Burnett Show and seeing sketches, stars, and stories that Carol talks about within its pages. It's the perfect companion for any fan of Carol Burnett and her esteemed musical variety show.

You can get your own copy of In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Few Questions with Timothy Compton, Comic Book Writer/Filmmaker

Timothy Compton loves to tell a good story! Whether it is comic books or filmmakers, Timothy is busy writing away and sharing a good story. 

"Runnin' Down a Dream" caught up Timothy to talk about his comic book Monster City and he talks about his influences! 

QUESTION: You are a creator, what is it you have created?
TIMOTHY COMPTON: Beyond comics, I have been able to work in film and create a number of shorts among other things.
[However as] far as comic books go, I’ve had the pleasure of creating a series called Monster City with the help of the illustrator Aaron Nicholson, over the last couple of years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

INTERVIEW: Lisa Dascoli, actor - Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate"

Lisa Dascoli Interview from Don Smith on Vimeo.

In recent weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting an amazing actor by the name of Lisa Dascoli. She is with the TNT Theater Company and currently starring as Mrs. Robinson in a production of "The Graduate."

I talked with Lisa about playing the roll of the immortal older woman!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: “Trying To Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel” By Nicolaia Rips

From the inside book jacket:

Part Eloise, part The Grand Budapest Hotel, part early David Sedaris, a seventeen-year-old's darkly funny, bighearted memoir about growing up in a legendary New York City hotel.

New York's Chelsea Hotel may no longer be home to its most famous denizens...but the eccentric spirit of the Chelsea is alive and well. Meet the family Rips: father Michael, a lawyer turned writer with a penchant for fine tailoring; mother Sheila, a former model and renowned artist who matches her welding outfits with couture; and daughter Nicolaia, a precocious high school senior working on a record of her peculiar seventeen years.

Nicolaia is a perpetual outsider who has struggled to find her place in schools populated by cliquish girls and loudmouthed boys. But at the Chelsea, Nicolaia need not look far to find her tribe. The kids at school might never understand her, but as Nicolaia endeavors to fit in, she begins to understand that the Chelsea's motley crew could hold the key to surviving the perils of a Manhattan childhood.

I work in a library, and when I saw Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips on the shelf with the rest of our new releases, its cover adorned with adorable young photos of the author, I couldn't help but pick it up. Then I read the synopsis on the inside of the book jacket and it was so bizarre – and yet so terribly interesting – that I just knew I had to read this book! Believe me when I say that I am so glad I did.

Nicolaia Rips is the only child of two very unconventional, creatively-minded parents; father Michael is a lawyer-turned-writer, and mother, Sheila, is a former model and celebrated artist. Her first real friends are the equally unconventional fellow residents of the Hotel Chelsea, which includes Artie, proprietor of New York's most famous nightclubs, and the androgynous Storme', who keeps a pink handgun strapped to her ankle. As early as preschool Nicolaia struggles to fit in and make friends; a near-tragedy involving Nicolaia during a birthday party in kindergarten earns her a reputation that follows her straight through junior high school and doesn't make it any easier for her classmates understand her. Her entire student career is a myriad of misunderstanding and struggle until that last day of junior high when, at last, it all starts to make sense.

What makes this book a triumph for me is a combination of things. First off, the author – despite being just seventeen – has a writing style that hooks the reader's interest from the first sentence until the very last one. Her witty tone and self-depreciation, combined with the particular selection of anecdotes that she chose to share (one can't help but wonder what ended up being left out) makes this one memoir that no reader should miss out on! What's more, the essential theme of this book is acceptance – a child looking for acceptance from her parents, her teachers, her peers – and that is something that anyone is able to relate to, no matter where you grew up.

Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel by Nicolaia Rips is available on Amazon.