Book Review | Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

AUTHOR: Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

PUBLISHER: Random House

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2014

GENRE: Business, Nonfiction, Leadership

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Storytrilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:

• Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***)

I wanted to read this book for two reasons, 1) I really love Pixar and their films and 2) I’m reading lots of books to gain more knowledge on leadership.

I’ve always been fascinated with the success of Pixar, especially after the merge with Disney. So picking up a book written by one of the founders of Pixar was a no brainer. I wanted to know how Pixar got started, what its challenges were, and how they became successful. Ed Catmull’s stories of Pixar didn’t disappoint and I loved reading about the how they overcame challenges and successfully created some of my favorite films like Cars, Ratatouille, and Brave.

Obviously, the other goal of this book was to provide some insight into what it takes to lead a creative company, but I think many of the lessons Catmull discusses can be used in a company that isn’t necessarily a “creative” company. I think it can resonate with all companies in different ways.

There are common themes throughout the book that really resonated with me; change, challenges, and culture. As someone who’s been in a leadership role myself, I know that these three things are really important in a company. Then trying to create a culture that embraces change and challenges is even more difficult and I think it’s admirable that the Pixar leadership team was able to achieve that. They even made sure that when it seemed people weren’t speaking up and challenging the status quo they pressed the reset button and had, what they called, “Notes Day”.

Notes Day came about when the leadership team needed to decrease the budget by 10% without impacting creativity and quality. So they decided to ask everyone in the company, but would also achieve the issues they were facing where people might have been having a hard time expressing their concerns or ideas. Notes Day was a full day of all Pixar employees attending seminars on topics that could help decrease the budget, but also improve the company overall. Pixar’s employees were so engaged and got to meet so many different people from other departments. It was a huge success to the company.

I really liked that Pixar is so much about the people and culture that they would get all their employees involved to solve a problem that you usually see decided at the top of a company only. I can’t think of another company that got every single person, no matter their job title or level, to help solve a company wide problem. It’s impressive in my opinion and a testament to the culture Pixar’s founders created.

The idea of change and overcoming challenges was also something that was throughout the book. These two things are ALWAYS present in any company. I feel that I am like Catmull in the sense that I embrace change and challenges. Both are inevitable and I’d rather embrace it. I want to be a part of something that takes a company to the next level.

So reading this book just made me happy overall. I was happy to know more about Pixar, but also happy that a successful leader was talking about things I already believed in. It made me feel I was on the right track with my career and the way I see the world.

Favorite quotes:

  • “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
  • “No one-not Walt, not Steve, not the people of Pixar-even achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work.”
  • “Since change is inevitable, the question is: Do you act to stop it and try to protect yourself from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, is that working with change is what creativity is about.”

I highly recommend this book if you want to know more about the inner workings Pixar and you want to be in a leadership position one day. It’s also a good read even if you don’t have a leadership role, but want to act more like a leader within the company you work for.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE

Edwin Earl “Ed” Catmull, PhD is a computer scientist and current president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios. As a computer scientist, Catmull has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics. (Bio from Goodreads)

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Book Review | Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: Master & Apprentice

AUTHOR: Claudia Gray

PUBLISHER: Del Rey Publishing

RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2019

GENRE: Science Fiction

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council—knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind. As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested—just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***)

To continue my journey to reading all the Star Wars Canon books I read Master & Apprentice that takes place before The Phantom Menace. I wanted to see what Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship and adventures were like before they encountered Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine.

While on a mission to help discover the truth behind terrorist attacks on the planet of Pijal, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan must also navigate their strained relationship. Prior to the mission, it was revealed to Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon was asked to consider joining the Jedi Council which, if accepted, would mean that Obi-Wan would be assigned to a new Master. Qui-Gon had intended to tell Obi-Wan himself, but was having trouble doing so. This was added to what was already proving to be a difficult relationship to begin with. Qui-Gon at times needed to follow his path and heart, while Obi-Wan was set on following the Jedi rules to the T.

But they had a mission they needed to achieve. Uncover the terrorist group and protect the process of a treaty being signed with Pijal that would ultimately help the completion of a hyperspace corridor. The treaty would also abolish the monarch on the planet and open to an assembly process. However, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan soon discover that the treaty is severely flawed and would give permanent power to the private company, the Czerka Corporation, which was very corrupt. The treaty would essentially keep Pijal from being able to cancel any Czerka contracts in the future and give them power to determine punishments, which they regularly came with enslavement. All if this would be signed during the coronation ceremony of young Princess Fanry.

Qui-Gon had voiced his concerns about the coronation taking place after he had a vision of the future where the princess would be attacked during the ceremony. He pleaded with the Jedi Council and the people in the palace to delay it. Not just to protect the princess, but also do rectify the flaws within the treaty itself. To Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s surprise, they found the the terrorist group was actually being led by Princess Fanry herself, but turns out she wanted to keep her absolute monarch power and wasn’t really fighting for the people.

What I like most about this book is that you got to see where Obi-Wan began and why he was such a great Jedi Knight in the movies. I also liked that I didn’t see the Princess Fanry twist coming. I actually thought Rael Averross was behind it all along with the head of military Captain Deren.

Overall, I really liked this book, not as much as others, but its a great read for my Star Wars Reading Challenge. I would recommend this book if you really enjoy the characters Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. That way you can understand the characters more and what they’ve been through together that made them stronger as a Master and Padawan.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | TWITTER

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing. (Bio from Goodreads)

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Book Review | Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: Ahsoka

AUTHOR: E.K. Johnston

PUBLISHER: Disney Lucasfilm Press

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016

GENRE: Science Fiction; Young Adult

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***)

I started reading Ahsoka because she has become one of my favorite Star Wars characters. I watched The Clone Wars series with my husband (during quarantine) and was hooked. Ahsoka is a strong female character and I truly enjoyed watching her story unfold and was devastated when she left the Jedi Order.

To start my Star Wars Canon Reading Challenge I wanted to find out more about her story after Order 66. I wanted to know where she ended up, what she was doing, and was she still using the force. This book didn’t disappoint and I saw much of the Ahsoka I came to know watching The Clone Wars, but she had new struggles to deal with and unfortunately, was dealing with it on her own. There were no other Jedi she could lean on anymore.

Ahsoka was looking for a planet with a small population; somewhere where she wouldn’t be recognized and can lay low. Raada was exactly what she was looking for at first. Most of the book is centered around what happens on Raada, but also focuses on Ahsoka’s struggle with keeping her Jedi powers a secret. She wants to protect those around her, but she also wants to protect herself and any fellow Jedi that may have survived after Order 66. So she blocked herself from the force. 

At some point the Empire decides to take over the agricultural moon to use their soil and their labor for their own agriculture project. They forced the town to plant and harvest something that the Imperials could consume in low gravity environments. I think the food source was intended to be used for those working on the Death Star project, but that’s just my theory and what it made me think of.

Ahsoka teams up with several of the locals and comes up with a plan to sabotage the Imperial walkers, but they were doing it in a way that would make it seem like they got destroyed due to the elements of Raada. Their plan would have worked if it hadn’t been for a few other locals having their own plan to attack the Imperial base. Their plan went wrong and Ahsoka had to try and save those that were a part of this secret plan. Some ended up dying and Ahsoka finally had to reveal her powers to save as many others as she could.

She eventually had to leave Raada to protect everyone else because now that she revealed she was a Jedi the Empire would be looking for her again. She was right. This is when the inquisitors are introduced that we end up seeing in the Star Wars Rebels series. The inquisitor is tasked with finding this Jedi and destroying them.

Once Ahsoka is off Raada she goes back to the planet where the book started and she had to flee from. She gets her old job back with the Fardi family and continues fixing things for them. She ends up gaining their trust to make deliveries in their ships. While making these deliveries she takes on some of her own missions to help others. The missions aren’t planned, she just helps those when she comes across them so that she doesn’t get the attention of the Empire.

Her good deeds don’t go unnoticed by Bail Organa of Alderaan. He could tell these are the acts of a Jedi and he tasks a few of his pilots to find them. He doesn’t know who it is yet, but needs to see if this Jedi can be persuaded to join the rebellion he’s building in secret.

Eventually Ahsoka and Bail meet again and she’ll help his rebellion with one favor. She needs help saving the people of Raada. So Ahsoka ends up going back to Raada and fighting this inquisitor. She wins of course, but ends up getting her new kyber crystals for her lightsabers in the most unlikely place (I don’t want to give this away). She saves the people of Raada with Bail Organa’s assistance.

I tried not to get too deep into details when writing this review, but I needed to get across that no matter where or what Ahsoka does she’s going to be pulled back into the war and fighting the Empire. She’s a good person and doesn’t want to see anyone suffer, so she risks her own life (revealing her Jedi powers) to save others. She is heroic and strong. I feel that even though she closed herself from the force for so long she became even stronger than before after deciding not to hide it anymore. Stronger than when she was in the Clone Wars.

I really enjoyed reading this book because I had just finished watching Star Wars Rebels so it was nice to put a a few other pieces together on how Ahsoka and Bail Organa teamed up again and how Fulcrum started.

I highly recommend the book Ahsoka if you’re a Star Wars fan and want to know more about this character or the storyline leading up to the Star Wars Rebels series.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | TWITTER

E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes. (Bio from Goodreads)

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Star Wars Canon Book Reading Challenge

I’ve been really into Star Wars since The Force Awakens was released. So ever since then I’ve been watching various Star Wars series and movies. I finished watching Clone Wars and Rebels in 2020 during quarantine.

Now I want to learn more about some of the characters I’ve come to love from the Clone Wars and Rebels series, so I decided I’m going to read all the Star Wars Canon Books using this timeline I found online from The Hashtag Show. It gives a timeline list with everything from the movies, TV series, comics, and books so I have an idea of where the books I’m reading are at in the Star Wars Universe. I’m not going to read the comics, novelizations, or young reader books. Just the novels and young adult books.

What is a canon book?

“Star Wars Canon refers to everything in the Star Wars universe that takes place on-screen in the main films or is mentioned in materials such as comics and novels published after 2013.

For something to be considered “canon” in Star Wars, it has to be confirmed either through an official story (e.g., Queen’s Shadow) or by a Star Wars creator (e.g., if Dave Filoni confirms something about Ahsoka, it’s canon).

If something is referenced in a Legends story — anything outside the movies written before 2014 — it’s not considered part of the Canon.” (excerpt from Youtini)

I started with the book Ahsoka because she’s now one of my favorite characters and you’ll be seeing the book review soon. I’m sure this is an ambitious goal, but excited to read all these books. Looks like around 52 books added to my reading list and I’m sure more will be published before I can get to all of these. Wish me luck!

You can check out my progress here.

My 2021 Reading Challenge

2020 was an interesting year to say the least and with the amount of time spent at home you’d think I would have accomplished my reading challenge. Nope…I didn’t and my goal was only 12 books. lol

I spent a lot of my quarantine doing other things like cleaning the apartment, drawing, painting, and binge watching series like Star Wars Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels just to name a few.

So for 2021 I have set my reading challenge at 12 books again. Will try to read at least one book per month. Hope everyone has a great year (better than 2020 for sure)! Happy reading!

Book Review | The Return by Nicholas Sparks

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: The Return

AUTHOR: Nicholas Sparks

PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing

RELEASE DATE: September 29, 2020

GENRE: Romance, Fiction, Women’s Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

In the romantic tradition of Dear John and The Lucky One, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the story of an injured Navy doctor — and two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, NC. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.
Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while gearing up for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . and yet, from their very first encounter, his connection with Natalie Masterson can’t be ignored. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road from his grandfather’s cabin. Claiming to be 19, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. When he discovers she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began. (Description from Goodreads.com)

MY THOUGHTS

I can always count on Nicholas Sparks to write a novel I can’t put down. While I couldn’t completely connect with these characters, like I’ve been able to with other books he’s written, the book was still enjoyable and he created some interesting and complex characters.

Trevor is a veteran working through his PTSD while also going through the pain that came with his grandfather’s passing. The mystery behind where his grandfather was when he died also gnaws at him. While going through his grandfather’s belongings and fixing up his house he meets many people in the town that he becomes interested in and curious about. One of them is a police officer named Natalie and a young girl named Callie.

Trevor really likes Natalie and wants to get to know her, but she’s very guarded and Trevor has no idea why. He makes several attempts to take down her wall, but once he thinks he’s gotten through there’s another wall. Trevor has his theories about why she keeps closing him out, but what he discovers is nothing he ever expected, but it gives him what he needs to let her go…at least until the end.

He also meets a young girl named Callie who lives in a trailer park near his grandfather’s. The fact that she seems so young intrigues him, but also that it seems she knew his grandfather. Trevor tries to talk to Callie about his grandfather to see if she could shed some light on the mystery of where is grandfather was when he died. But Callie wants nothing to do with him. Callie’s story and finishing his grandfather’s journey to help this young girl is what gives Trevor a new purpose and helps him keep his mind off Natalie.

In the end, they all end up where they should which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from a Nicholas Sparks book. If I look at his work as a whole The Return is not my favorite, but its still good. I would recommend it if you’re a Nicholas Sparks fan or you can connect with a character who is a veteran with PTSD.

OVERALL RATING

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Mother – A Poem

Mother

By Danielle Olson

When I’m alone I often think of you my dear mother

How can I still have so much anger in my heart and yet miss you dearly at the same time?

I do wish I could talk to you one more time

Hear your voice

Tell you I love you

Is that something you can know after death?

I wish I told you more in life

Oh, how I wish I could have saved you

Wish I could have silenced your demons

Wish I had the patience

Wish I had the understanding of what weighed heavy on your mind

Could there have been something…anything to alter your thoughts?

Could I have changed things if I listened to your pain?

I feel guilty for all the things I truly wanted to say

For if I spoke my true mind you would never forgive me

My words would have made your life darker

I would have caused your mind to travel deeper into your oblivion

 

Unable – A Poem

Unable

by Danielle Olson

Your eyes while open are lifeless

Unable to express words

You allowed the darkness to consume you

Or have you always been chained?

Unable to break free

I know who chained you

And yet I didn’t save you

Fear – A Poem

Fear 

By Danielle Olson

Avoid anything you once did I must

So as not to become what I fear most

My fear is that I would become you

I cannot become you

It would destroy me

Mother’s Death – A Poem

Mother’s Death

By Danielle Olson

Oblivion…

Oblivion was in your eyes

Oblivion…

Oblivion took your mind

Oblivion…

Oblivion took your soul

Oblivion…

Oblivion was your undoing

Oblivion…Oblivion…Oblivion

For eternity

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