Book Review #100: “Maritza: Lead with Your Heart” (World By Us)

The third book in the World By Us from American Girl was as equally compelling and thought-provoking as the other two.

As an American Girl collector, I wish I had the space for all of the community center items and accessories. It’s so colorful and fun!

I appreciated the fact that American Girl tackled immigration and deportation in this book. Like Evette’s and Makena’s books, it’s clear that this was well-researched and carefully crafted.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #99: “Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me” (World By Us)

After reading Evette’s book, I quickly moved to Makena’s book in the World By Us collection from American Girl.

Makena loves fashion, and posts her #OOTD (outfit of the day). I love how expressive she is!

Similar to Evette’s story, racism is a major theme in Makena’s story. Despite Makena’s struggles to come to terms with not one, but two incidents in her young life, I applaud American Girl for addressing both incidents in a thoughtful way. It definitely educated me.

It also encourages open communication between family members, and how talking about your feelings with someone that you can trust is so important.

Reading Makena’s story was another eye-opener for me, as a white woman, to how one phone call or one remark could very easily put someone else’s life at risk in an instant.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #98: “Evette: The River and Me” (World By Us)

I’m always up for new books from American Girl. When they announced the new World By Us line with three books, I was excited. I was able to get the books practically brand-new from a seller in the big American Girl Obsessed BST group that I’m a member of on Facebook.

The first book that I read is Evette’s book. She’s passionate about the environment. The book also addresses the pandemic, social media, and other real-life issues. Racism is one big topic that’s incorporated. I also love the community center that’s featured!

I read through the whole book in one night several months ago. Most American Girl books don’t take me long to read at all, but this one was also beautifully illustrated!

The interesting part about these books, and this line/collection, is that the characters are 13 years old, which is older than the typical target demographic for the company. I personally think this is a great thing, and it shows that American Girl is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, education, and other things.

Given that the target audience is quite a bit younger than myself, I had to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old while reading it.

I really appreciated how the author and the diversity team that is recognized in the book did their homework and tried to respectfully and carefully craft a story that was relevant and would potentially resonate with readers, families, and others.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #113: Thoughts on “Richard Jewell”

Image Credit: IMDb

Al and I watched this biopic on HBO Max. I had been interested in watching it since the first trailer was released in October 2019. We typically enjoy Clint Eastwood movies.

This one hit me a little harder, since it’s based on the real events of the Centennial Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. I was about to turn eight that summer, and I was excited to watch several events on TV. I don’t remember much about the bombing until I was older.


The acting was superb in this film. I loved Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother. Sam Rockwell was an excellent choice for Watson Bryant. And Paul Walter Hauser was exceptional for Richard. The likeness of the actor to the real man was striking. Olivia Wilde was a good choice for Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs.

I won’t give away major spoilers – I try really hard to not do that in my Commentary posts and Book Reviews. But, this movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I really liked how they used archival footage of news coverage, and if it wasn’t archival, it was a really good reproduction. Al pointed out the differences in aspect ratio.

This movie is a really good example of how damaging the media can be. As someone who studied mass media and journalism in college, it stung a little, but what these people and networks did for a story was flat out wrong. And this film captures those emotions so well, and shows many angles.

If you’re interested in a true-to-life film that captures a variety of perspectives, this is a great movie. It’s available on HBO Max until the end of March.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #94: “Courtney: Friendship Superhero”

I wasn’t surprised at all when I powered through Courtney’s second book on Monday night before bed.

This book opens in the last few days of school of the 1985-1986 school year. The Hands Across America event is held, raising money for hunger and homelessness.

Courtney goes to the arcade, and continuing to work on her Crystal Starshooter character and levels of her video game. She meets a new friend, Isaac. He’s an even better video game player. Courtney eventually learns he’s also a talented artist.

As she navigates the waters of family and friendship, Courtney learns that Issac has an illness called HIV. Requests for privacy turn into anger about keeping secrets. Courtney feels like her friendship with Sarah, her best friend, is falling apart.

This book expertly navigated the fears of HIV and AIDS in 1986. I immediately drew parallels between Isaac and Ryan White, a teenager in Indiana who contracted HIV in 1984 through contaminated clotting factor that he received for hemophilia.

Courtney learns several lessons about true friendship along the way, even though she gets entrenched in the fight over Isaac and the local residents wanting to keep him out of school. How awful that these families and children faced such horrible discrimination, just like Ryan White and his family did.

The fun part of the story is when Courtney discovers the first Pleasant Company catalog, and falls in love with Molly McIntire!

I’m not sure if there will be more Courtney books, because American Girl revamped their book line several years ago. They changed the original six-book format to two longer books. This one covers the summer, fall, and winter of 1986.

However, I’m inspired to re-read Ryan White’s autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, and learn more about the 1980s. I was born in 1988, so I’ve always been intrigued by events that happened around the time I was born, and things that happened before I started forming core memories.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #93: “Courtney Changes The Game”

I don’t normally order items from American Girl directly, but they were offering a pretty sweet deal for the Valentine’s Day / President’s Day weekend – 3X the rewards points!

The newest historical character is Courtney Moore, who lives in Orange Valley, California in 1986. I’ve always been fascinated with 20th century history, so I knew I wanted to get her books! Courtney’s character was released in September 2020.

I ended getting the doll practically brand-new from the amazing American Girl Obsessed BST group on Facebook, and I also bought a few outfits and accessories with this purchase!


The AG historical books are typically shorter, as they are designed for readers 8+. Courtney Changes The Game rounds out at 120 pages. I was not surprised that I powered through the entire book on Saturday night before bed.

Courtney loves video games, especially PAC-MAN. She’s also adjusting to being part of a blended family – Her mom remarried Mike, and Tina is her 13-year-old stepsister. They also share a younger half-brother, two-year-old Rafi. Her dad just took a new job, and is moving several hours away. There’s a lot of personal upheaval in Courtney’s life, especially because Tina has quite the on/off switch. Sometimes, she’s happy and dances with Courtney to MTV, and other times, she’s really angry and sad.

The other big news is that her mom has decided to run for mayor!

As Courtney ponders her school project, creating her own video game, her class and school are all abuzz because of the upcoming launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the first-ever Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe!

This was a great opening book. It had me hooked the whole time – I couldn’t put it down, even when I started feeling tired during Chapter 5.

Up next, her second book – Courtney: Friendship Superhero. If this book is nearly as good as the first, expect that Book Review to be here on the blog by the end of the week!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #92: “Loved By The Beast: A Historical Retelling of Beauty and the Beast”

I received my copy of this book for free from the author. I’m excited to read more from her!

This is Elliott’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. She immerses you in early 18th century France instantly. The hardest part for me was not picturing the movies!

I loved Lea and Audric. I also appreciated Elliott weaving in their families, and their elaborate histories. It was so charming and special, like I was dropped into an actual history book and enveloped in a warm embrace the entire time. I had a really hard time putting it down. It took me a long time to finish it, but every single chapter kept me wanting to read the next one.

Even better, Loved by the Beast is the first in a trilogy called The Beast’s Legacy. I’m looking forward to reading Book 2, Service and Slumber: A Historical Tale Inspired by Sleeping Beauty very soon. The third book, A Gentle Pursuit, is slated to be published soon.


Have you read any historical retellings?

Do you enjoy fairy tales?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #235: Part of History (January 20, 2021)

Image Credit: CNBC.com

Today has been a momentous day for me. See below. This is what I posted on Facebook this morning. I’m still in awe, and still celebrating.

I hope others in my life will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine soon!

Cheers, friends!


January 20, 2021

How am I feeling? Grateful, humbled, thankful.

I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine this morning at Sentara Obici Hospital.

The staff at Obici were fabulous. Everything went smoothly. The first dose felt exactly like the flu shot. Aside from a slightly sore arm, I’m not feeling any side effects.

After I got back to my car, I prayed. I thanked God for this opportunity. My 95-year-old Grandpa got his first dose at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center yesterday.

Today is also Inauguration Day. The U.S. will have a new President, and the first-ever woman Vice President will be sworn in. I’m grateful, humbled, and thankful.

Now, it’s back to work (from home), but I feel better and safer today than I have in a long, long time.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #84: “Paper Girls Volume 1”

I first heard about this book from Sara’s review on her blog, The Bibliophagist!

I found my copy at 2nd and Charles in Newport News this summer.

One of the beautiful things about graphic novels is you get a great story, plus beautiful illustrations. The writing of Brian Vaughan and illustrating by Cliff Chiang did not disappoint!

This was a quicker read than I expected. The first night, I got through about a quarter of the book. The next time I picked it up, I got through another 10-15 pages. Last night, when I finished it at the chiropractor’s office, I’d flown through the rest of it in less than 30 minutes. All told, I think it was roughly an hour to 90 minutes for me. The illustrations in particular were incredible, and I wanted to keep turning the pages!

I was left with wanting to find Volume 2 immediately. However, I’m going be a responsible adult here, and wait a bit before purchasing the next one.

I loved the characters, and the adventure they are thrust into within minutes of the book’s opening. I also appreciated the setting – 1988 – and the “vintage” vibes and multiple references. I felt like I was watching everything unfold in the background.

Have you read any graphic novels?


5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #96: Thoughts on “Mindhunter”

Mindhunter Season 1

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

This show right here. Holy cow!

I had heard many good things about it before I sat down to watch it. I took my time with it – I originally committed to one episode per day. This turned out to be a good thing.

This is one of those shows where you need to block everything else out, or as much as you can. Watching it sucks you in, but my habit of looking at my phone while watching a show or movie was broken pretty quickly. Otherwise, I would miss stuff. I started Episode 1 over at one point, because something interrupted me about 30 minutes in, and I wanted to make sure I was refreshed on the details from the very beginning.

I do have some issues with the show, but overall, I really enjoyed it. I really hope Netflix does a Season 3. I want more!


Season 1 (2017)

The show opens in 1977. Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, Glee) is introduced to veteran FBI agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). They begin studying and interviewing murderers in various prisons.

I thought Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper was amazing! It was a bit surreal to hear these actors emulate these horrible men. And the sets looked and felt real!

The pacing was a bit hard to follow sometimes, but I also enjoyed the addition of Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv, Fringe) to the team, and Bill’s wife, Nancy Tench (Stacey Roca) is such a good character.

As you follow Ford, Tench, Carr, and their lives, there are scenes set in Kansas toward the beginning and end of every episode. I thought Sonny Valicenti as the ADT Serviceman was great, but also incredibly creepy! No spoilers — But I highly recommend paying attention to these brief scenes every single time. They are important.

This season was captivating. There is so much going on with these characters! And I enjoy history, so seeing this based on true events in the 1970s was pretty groovy. Haha!


Season 2 (2019)

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

It was perfect timing when I started watching the show. Season 2 dropped on Netflix on August 16th, which happened to be right as I finished up Season 1. I feel bad for everyone else who had to wait two years!

Overall, I liked the angle of Season 2. I knew a little bit about the Atlanta Child Murders before watching the show, but not a lot. I thought it was interesting they focused on it for the majority of the season, if not a bit disappointing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted more about the history and development of the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU).

Regardless, I liked how this season wove the work of the BSU and the ongoing investigation in Atlanta together.

One key piece was Bill struggling to cope with his unfolding family situation in Virginia, while trying to help the investigation in Atlanta. Again, no spoilers, but this was so emotional and real!

Regardless of my slight disappointments, this season felt more emotional and riveting. And the actor they cast to play Wayne Williams is uncanny. The casting was so good!

Also, check out YouTube for several videos on how they made the sets and historical details look so good!

I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of Season 3!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂