Category Archives: Challenges

Book Review | The Art of Luca by Enrico Casarosa & Daniela Strijleva


TITLE: The Art of Luca

AUTHOR: Enrico Casarosa (Forward) & Daniela Strijleva (Contributor)

PUBLISHER: Chronicle Books

RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2021

GENRE: Art, Nonfiction

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

This vibrant volume is an exclusive look behind the scenes of Disney and Pixar’s original feature film Luca.

The Art of Luca explores the stunning visuals of the coming-of-age story, set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera. Readers get a front-row view at never-before-seen development art, character sketches, storyboards, color scripts, and interviews with the creators.

• Behind the scenes of the making of Disney and Pixar’s Luca
• Features colorful concept art and character explorations from the movie
• Includes fascinating facts and details from the creative team

In the animated film, Luca and his newfound best friend are sharing an unforgettable summer and a deeply-held secret: they are sea monsters from a world just below the water’s surface.

For aspiring artists, animators, and fans alike, The Art of Luca is part of the acclaimed ART OF series, inviting audiences behind the scenes of their favorite animated films. (Description from Goodreads)


If you’re a fan of Pixar movies and you love seeing behind the scenes I would highly recommend “The Art of” books. The Art of Luca has some written aspects to it, but I’d say about 95% or more of the book is all visual. You get to see character development art, background art, early storyboards, and photos from their research trips. It’s a great behind the scenes look at this adorable animated film.

I really loved the movie and I love art so it made sense for me to buy this book and I’m so happy I did. I have it sitting on my coffee table along with other art books.


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Book Review | Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston


TITLE: Queen’s Peril

AUTHOR: E.K. Johnston

PUBLISHER: Disney Lucasfilm Press

RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2020

GENRE: Science Fiction; Young Adult

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other. (Description from Goodreads)


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

Queen’s Peril takes place when Padme Amidala becomes Queen of Naboo and how (and why) she built her team of handmaids we see in the movie Phantom Menace. Towards the end of the book it actually overlaps with the events that took place during the movie.

The book delve into the process Naboo takes in voting for and getting a new Queen up to speed and Amidala was determined to make a difference for her people. She was only 14 years old. She was also coming into power during an uncertain time which is why the head of her security team suggested handmaids who looked very similar to her. The idea grew from there and she had a team of handmaids, each with their own skills. Each one taught Amidala and the rest of the handmaids their skills. It got to the point where several of the girls could fill in for Amidala if needed.

The climactic point in the book was when it overlaps with Phantom Menace and Naboo is being occupied by Vicroy.

What I wanted to know more about is why Naboo elected Queens when they are teenagers. I got the sense that it was a long standing tradition on their planet, but I did want to know why teenagers were elected into such high profile roles and for such short time frames (2 year terms).

I highly recommend Queen’s Peril if you’re a Star Wars fan and want to know more about Padme when she got elected as Queen of Naboo and the beginning of her reign.




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


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)


(***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.




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


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)


(***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.




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


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)


(***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.




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!

What’s your reading challenge for 2020?

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like these days. There’s so much do to and so little time in the day to do everything.

But I still make sure I give myself a reading goal every year and this year I’m aiming for 12. That’s one book per month. I feel like that’s doable. I was able to read 10 last year.

What’s your reading challenge for 2020? Set a goal on Goodreads like I did.

Read a Spark | 5/17 – 7/26


I’m very excited to be participating in the 2015 Read-A-Spark hosted by Olivia from Brewing Up Books, Kathy from The Novelty of Life, and Cassandra from ccbooks66512.

This Read-A-Thon runs from 5/17 – 7/26 and will include discussions, activities, and challenges relating to all eleven of the Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaptations that have been released thus far. #ReadaSpark will be used on Instagram and Twitter, so feel free to follow along and tag your own posts.

Here’s the reading schedule:

The Longest Ride – 5/18

The Choice – 5/24

The Best of Me – 5/31

Safe Haven – 6/7

The Lucky One – 6/14

The Last Song – 6/21

Dear John – 6/28

Nights in Rodanthe – 7/5

The Notebook – 7/12

A Walk to Remember – 7/19

Message in a Bottle – 7/26

Anyone can participate in the Read-A-Spark – simply add your name and blog/Goodreads URL to the list on Brewing Up Books and create an introductory post on your blog, linking back to Brewing Up Books. (Source: Brewing Up Books)

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Spooky Reads Week & Giveaway | Oct. 27th – Nov. 2nd

From October 27th – November 2nd, I will be participating in Spooky Reads Week hosted by Paris Baker’s Book Nook.  I will be reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Fortunately, my future father-in-law had the book and is letting me borrow it.  Score!  If you are participating, let me know what you will be reading.


There’s also a giveaway that you can enter for Spooky Reads Week!  Paris has a great giveaway package which includes the following:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Paperback)
  • Grim Crush by S L Bynum (Paperback)
  • Fate’s Exchange by Sasha Leigh (E-Copy)
  • Tristen: The Last Seeker by Fleur Calancho (E-Copy)
  • Plus some Halloween Treats!

Click here to enter into this amazing giveaway. i already did!


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