A Journey to the Past: Reviewing “Anastasia” the New Musical

Review

This summer has been an absolute whirlwind! More so than usual considering Andy and I’s engagement, wedding planning and our full-fledged, all-consuming focus on getting our house ready for sale. In this whirlwind, I’ve been delayed in sharing with you my thoughts on my first Broadway experience and one of the famed street’s newest shows: “Anastasia.”

Having signed up to chaperone a high school trip down to the city, I was especially excited to learn that we would be seeing this show. Aside from seeing “Wicked” off-Broadway this March, I had never before seen a show on-Broadway and was ecstatic to learn that my first show would be one featuring its original cast.

Needless to say, I had an incredible time and was thoroughly impressed by the storyline, the actors’ performance and the special effects. Truly, it was magical. My overall positive review being said, here were my favorite pieces of the show:

25ANASTASIAJP-master675SPECIAL EFFECTS:¬†Typically, my textile artist eye is drawn immediately to costuming. And while this show does in fact boast magnificent costumes (that blue dress!), it’s this show’s special effects that really draw you in. I won’t spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it, but for those who have, you know I’m talking about that train scene! (And of course all of the beautiful winter scenery).

 

STORY:¬†This is a beautiful story of love and the journey to finding one’s identity with inspiration drawn from history. If you love historical fiction, then you will love this show. That being said, the musical’s plot does inevitably vary from the original 1997 cartoon produced by Fox Animation Studios. While this is a point of dissatisfaction among ¬†some die-hards, I personally thought the adaptation worked quite well and allowed the show to take on a more mature tone.Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 3.35.54 PM.png

MUSIC:¬†It goes without saying that a Broadway musical should have spectacular music. “Anastasia” held true to this reputation and delivered an array of numbers that are as beautiful as they are catchy. Let’s just say I had “Once Upon a December” stuck in my head for quite some time. I loved that the producers included songs from the film while also adding quite a few original numbers. Again, more music for a further developed, more mature story.

THE BLUE DRESS: You can’t talk about “Anastasia” without talking about that dress. However, I’ll let this costume speak for itself:

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Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. Seriously, so beautiful. I’m convinced there wasn’t a single girl in the audience who didn’t wish they owned their own version of this gown.

Case and point – next time you find yourself in the big apple and are looking for something to do, I would certainly recommend this show. Whether you’ve seen the original movie or not, this story will draw you in and make you a fan for life.

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An Enchanted Retelling of the Tale as Old as Time

Pop Culture, Review

Even though it took me a little while (8 days following the release to be exact) to make it to the movies to see this incredibly anticipated film for the first time, I’m happy to say I have now officially watched Disney’s live action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” twice.

Staying true to the original story, this film was full of the magic we associate with the animated class, while still bringing something new to the table. Emma Waston was, of course, fabulous as Belle, retaining the old world charm we remember of the original character while also furthering Belle’s charisma and fearlessness.

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A round of applause is also in order for Dan Stevens who played quite the believable Beast.

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Aside from the amazing talent and incredible reputations backing up each of the cast members, there were so many other elements that contributed to this film being spectacular, and dare I say, even better than the original…? That might be a debate for another day.

In the mean time, here are (in my humble opinion) the top five changes that made this live action retelling so successful:

Character Development. Characters are one of the most important pieces in your story. While filmmakers already had most of the plot laid out for them, sticking to the original story, it was essential that they add to the characters of Belle and Beast to make them fit for a full-length live action rendition. Adding backstory to both protagonists (essentially the deaths of parents) gave viewers a deeper understanding  of both characters.

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New Songs. Speaking of character development, how fantastic were both “Days in the Sun” and “Evermore?” Did anyone else feel their hearts ripping in half during the latter? Thank you, Disney for giving us new songs to obsess over! (“Be Out Guest” was still amazing of course.)

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Gaston and Lefou: Watching this movie, I realized I didn’t hate Gaston as much as I did in the original. In fact, for a while, I quite enjoyed his role in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, by the end I was wishing to push him off the bridge¬†myself, but I enjoyed the filmmakers’ decision to create a like-able villain, deviating from the always-despicable cartoon version.

And Lefou? He was just hilarious. Enough said.

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Style. While there were definitely differences from the original, I absolutely adored the stylization of the furniture, castle interior and costumes. As I mentioned in a previous post, this story demonstrates Rococo influence, making it absolutely stunning to behold.

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Special Effects. An outstanding bravo to the film’s art department – you guys killed it! In a piece that relies so heavily on fantastical characters it’s easy to become focused on where the fictional representations are lacking. This certainly wasn’t the case with “Beauty and the Beast” ‚Äď the team behind all of the fabulous special effects did an outstanding job. I’ll be waiting any day now for my tea cup to strike up a conversation.

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Clearly, my overall opinion is positive. Unlike so many other movies, I didn’t feel like I was watching the film, I felt like I was experiencing¬†it. Truly an elegant masterpiece that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

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Can’t get enough “Beauty and the Beast?” Check out my story-inspired embroidery piece here and¬†drawing here.

Getting ready to see #BeautyandtheBeast for a second time – this time with mom and grammie! ‚̧ԳŹūü•Ä

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“Wicked” (Touring) – Nothing Short of Spellbinding

Pop Culture, Review

We’re not in Syracuse anymore!¬†

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending my first off-Broadway show: “Wicked,” touring at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse, NY.

Although I had read the book, I was unsure of what to expect from the musical. Obviously I had heard it was good, and considering my¬†predisposed love for “The Wizard of Oz,” I was eager to see what the hype was all about.

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One of the many Scarecrow-inspired paintings I created during my undergraduate studies.

If you read the title to this post, ¬†you probably have a pretty good idea as to what I’m going to say. That being, this musical was FANTASTIC, or should I say WONDERFUL.¬†

Everything about this production was spot-on, magical and completely bewitching. I kid you not when I say I sat at the edge of my seat during the entire show. That’s a full 150 minutes¬†of sitting up as far as I possibly could on my child-sized, 1920s-constructed balcony seat, eager to witness, listen and experience every sound and dance move¬†being performed onstage.

Feeling a little bit #wicked!!! ūüíö

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Whether you’re a Central New Yorker currently debating whether or not to buy tickets for the show, or someone considering seeing it on Broadway in the future, here are three reasons why you absolutely, positively should:

MUSIC

I’ll preface this subsection by first saying that I love music and I love musicals, BUT sometimes, just sometimes, there are musicals that start to lose me¬†in the second act, whether it be through an over-played dramatic number or a rhythm that just doesn’t catch. The great thing about “Wicked?” All of the songs are great! Catchy with character, all of the musical numbers directly contribute to moving the story forward, while also conveying an impact and overall experience that acting alone would fall short of. Some of my favorites included “Defying Gravity,” “One Short Day” and “The Wizard and I.”

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SPECIAL EFFECTS

I don’t care who you are – special effects are fun. Especially when those special effects are portraying a young girl’s transition from bookish outcast to the Wicked Witch of the West. No joke, the end of Act 1 gave me goosebumps. There’s also a lot to be said of watching Glinda fly in on a steampunk inspired bubble.

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STORY

Finally, I’m always one for a strong story – it’s what drives effective communication and makes for the most memorable¬†entertainment. Whether you are a fan of “The Wizard of Oz” or not (though admittedly, it helps) this musical supplies audience members with a strong story, as magical as it is relatable. Themes of¬†love, friendship and the search for identity make this show accessible to all ages. And truthfully, aren’t you just a little bit curious about how the Wicked Witch comes to be? No? How about the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion then?

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Outside of my top three, there are also countless other elements that make this show amazing, including but not limited to costumes, lighting design and the immense talent of the entire cast.¬†All of which goes into my saying that I couldn’t have been happier with my “Wicked” experience – the show was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend you¬†do so. After all, it’s not every day you get to defy gravity.

*Respecting the request of the theater and production, the author refrained from photography during the show. Photographs of the show featured in this article were retrieved from Google Images.

Christmas with the Celts

Holiday, Inspiration, Review

To get into the holiday spirit, my family and I decided to attend a show brought to our local Arts Council: Christmas with the Celts.

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If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending this show, as it was a combination of lively energy, festive music and the perfect amount of Christmas that you are looking for during the holiday season!

#Christmas with the #Celts! ūüĎŹūüĆ≤ūüćÄūüéĽ

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The performance even incorporated local Irish step dancers during a handful of songs and a local elementary school chorus joined in during the group’s rendition of John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas.”

With the tickets only costing $31.00 per person, I’m was very happy with the quality of the show! Seriously, how can you listen to Celtic music and not be happy?

Here’s to checking off that Christmas season checklist!¬†

P.S. Only 7 days until Christmas!

Reviewing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (No Spoilers!)

Inspiration, Pop Culture, Review

I’ve been so busy writing Christmas and Fall inspired posts that I haven’t had the chance to reflect upon Fantastic Beasts. Having seen the film two weeks ago, I’ve been itching to write down my thoughts on the film and share them with the creative and wizard-loving community.

The first thing I’m going to say is this: Go see the movie. If you have not yet seen it, but believe that you may possess even just the slightest interest in doing so, then stop reading this and go to the theater immediately.

Because my overall review is that Beasts was, truly, Fantastic. 

Clearly very different from the Harry Potter story, this film brought something new to the table: A plot line and experience of the wizarding world seen through the perspective of an adult, littered with maturity and the vibrancy of early-1900s New York City.

Though I could absolutely rant and rave about this film, I’ll keep it simple with my top three¬†favorite things:

1. The Beasts.¬†Anyone who reads this blog knows of my love of mythical and fantastical creatures.¬†If you loved watching Harry fly over the lake with Buckbeack, or perhaps secretly wished for Norbert’s prolonged residence in Hargrid’s hut, then you will love the creatures brought to you in Beasts.¬†While the niffler provides sufficient humor, the thunderbird emanates wonder and encourages imagination.

With so many other creatures also presented during the film, the beasts are a large part of what makes this film fantastic.

2. Character Development. Without a doubt,¬†Eddie Redmayne makes this film. Socially awkward and enraptured by seemingly “dangerous” characters, Newt Scamander is a character for whom you find yourself rooting for.

Also captivating is our first muggle/no-maj main character, Jacob, who adds an immense amount of humor to the periodically dark storyline.

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Sisters Porpentina and Queenie also make for well-developed main characters, playing like-able, as well as complete and total opposites.

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3. Storyline. This storyline, while playing into Harry Potter, was also completely fresh. It was also a great balance of light-hearted humor and serious, symbolic themes. Although this was her first screenplay, J.K. Rowling has outdone herself once again.

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This year has been a big one for the wizarding world, bringing us the release of  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as the beginning of this new Fantastic franchise. Ultimately much more pleased with this film than I was with the Cursed Child play book I look forward to seeing it one more time before it leaves theaters and ultimately encourage you to do the same.

Early Christmas gift perhaps?

Until then, so the fan art begins…

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Reviewing Colgate University’s Newly-Constructed 1965 Arena

Review, Travel

The hockey program at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY received a major facelift this October with the opening of its new 1965 arena. With its predecessor, Starr Rink, having been constructed in 1959, the new facility was a long time coming.

Having attended the men’s game against Boston University this past weekend (and too many to count at the old rink), here are my thoughts:

IMPROVEMENTS

Seating: Compared to the unpadded benches of the old rink, the ticket-designated fold-down seats of the new space are a major improvement. Not to mention there are now cup holders, conveniently placed on the back of the seat ahead.

img_0779Traffic Flow: With plenty of space now above the seats and around the perimeter of the rink, guests no longer have to worry about people walking in front of them. This was a major problem at the old rink, as most of the student viewers would show up late, walking in front of guests late in the first period.

Improved traffic flow also means that spectators no longer have to wait for a break in play before being able to return to their seats following a bathroom or concession break.

Upgraded Concession: Aside from an improved menu, the new arena features not one but TWO new concession stands. This translates to better food for a shorter wait.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Ticket Price: Despite the generous 22 million dollar donation by the class of 1965, ticket prices have literally doubled since last year. Also, unlike the old rink that featured free parking, parking near the new facility now costs an additional $5.00.

Still no bar! I had heard rumors that the new rink would feature a bar and was really excited to attend this year’s games because of it (Andy is the hockey enthusiast, not I). So you can imagine my disappointment upon finding the menu still devoid of alcohol.img_0778

The Horn:¬†This is less of a disappointment and more of an actual problem. Unlike the rest of the new facility which elevates the spectator experience, the new horn is so loud that it causes discomfort. You know something is too loud when you see numerous grown adults holding their hands over their ears as they anticipate the home team’s entrance onto the ice.

Despite the few disappointments, it is undeniable that the new facility is a major improvement to the hockey program and university as a whole. While the increased ticket price may result in our attending less games, at least those we do attend will be a much-improved experience!

CNY’s Ultimate Fall Destination¬†

Review, Travel

Undoubtedly, the best time to visit Central New York is in the fall. Our region is known for its picturesque orange and red foliage, pumpkin patches and various apple orchards. One of the best known fall destinations is the Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek, NY.img_0269

Dating back to the 1800s, the owners have kept up tradition, continuing to make cider (both regular and hard) the old-fashioned way. Having gained an immense amount of popularity in the area, the tourist attraction offers much more than just cider and donuts:img_0254

Food Samples: Recently remodeled, the inside of the Mill is the main attraction, with the store offering a plethora of different jams, sauces, pastry mixes, dips and more. While there is plenty to buy, the best part is getting to taste much of what the store has to offer!img_0255

Wine Tasting: the store offers its own miniature winery, allowing customers to sample all of the different apple wines and apple ciders they make on site. While their classic apple cider is delicious and festive, splurge a little on the Apple Frost wine if you are looking to treat yourself.

Snack Shack: If you’re not full from your round of tasting, feel free to stop by the Mill’s snack shop where you can purchase fall-themed delights such as mac-n-cheese, sausage and sauerkraut, rich soups in bread bowls or one of their famous apple cider slushies.

Visit the Upstairs Museum: The renovation didn’t just bring better lighting to the store, it also brought a charming miniature museum to the second story. Read more about the evolution of apple parers and the cider-making process.

img_0251Gift Shop: Accompanying the mini-museum on the second floor is the Mill’s gift shop, a quaint country-style selection of seasonal décor. The store offers décor for most holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, and offers the most in regard to Christmas.

img_0246Feed the Fowl: Grab a handful of feed out of the dispenser for a meager .25 cents and enjoy feeding a diverse grouping of ducks, geese and chickens.

Tips:

  • Arrive early: The mill is very busy, especially during the Fall season. Arrive in the morning to avoid traffic and having to wait in line outside.
    • Side note: Consider attending during the off-season.
  • Set up a rewards card: Unlike other stores that charge you for membership or act as a credit card, the Fly Creek card does nothing but reward you for your purchases. You earn points for your purchases (which never expire by the way) and after having spent a designated amount, you will receive a $25.00 gift card in the mail!
  • Bring a Cooler: This way, if you purchase dips, cheeses or other refrigerated items, you won‚Äôt feel rushed to get home.
  • Don‚Äôt forget your free tote: If you spend $50.00 or more (which frankly, isn‚Äôt difficult to do) you receive a free tote with your purchase. Make sure you grab one on your way out, located by the registers.

Great New York State Fair Musts

Festivity, Review, Travel

When you are a New Yorker, attending the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, NY ¬†is a near-obligatory yearly outing. A celebration of agriculture, food, music and all things New York, there are a few sights and eats that you won’t¬†want to miss.

  1. The Butter Sculpture: What has grown to be one of the most well-known and revered traditions of the NYS Fair, the annual butter sculpture is always an impressive feat. The 2016 sculpture is Olympic themed, supporting Team USA through the depiction of three athletic figures.
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Butter Sculpture 2016

 

2.Wine Slushies:¬†If you like wine, then you will like wine slushies. Don’t worry about missing this fair-eat as there are at least 10 different vendors that offer this summer delicacy. Find several¬†at the Taste NY Wine, Beer & Spirits Village.

Enjoying my first #wineūüć∑ slushie at the #greatnewyorkstatefair

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3.¬†NYS Animals:¬†From Peacocks¬†to Angora rabbits, the various barns provide much¬†in regard to local agriculture and domestic animals. For those New Yorkers that don’t have the pleasure of living in the country, this can be a great learning experience and, also, an excuse to gawk at ¬†baby pigs…

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4. Fried Dough:¬†A fair wouldn’t be a fair without fried dough. You can find this summer treat practically anywhere you look at the NYS celebration.

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5. History of the Great New York State Fair Exhibit: Located adjacent to the Dairy Cow building, this exhibit provides an interesting and well-designed history of the event, including information on previous locations and famous fairgoers. There are also replicas of past butter sculptures and 2016 fair model, a three dimensional map for those who may need extra help finding their way around.

Additional Offerings:

  • Rides (Ferris wheel, rollercoaster, etc.)
  • The Iroquois Village
  • Toyota Coliseum
  • DEC aquarium
  • Science and Industry Building
  • Infinite amounts of delicious foods

The fair lasts until September 5 so be sure to catch it before it disappears for another year!

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Reviewing Cursed Child (Warning: Contains Spoilers)

Inspiration, Review

Our wizarding friend Harry Potter has been all of the media lately, with the release of the playbook¬†Cursed Child¬†gaining not only a lot of attention, but equal amounts of praise and criticism.¬†Now that I’ve had a week to collect my thoughts, I’m ready to publish my review.

Readers of this blog and those of you who know me personally will know that I am a huge Harry Potter fan and attended the midnight release party for this book. Nine years later, what I loved best and what I disliked most:

Worst:

  1. Lapses in character. I have a few thoughts concerning this criticism.
    1. Readers witnessed serious breaks in character from Harry. Harry would never have been so cruel to his son, having grown up an orphan himself, and it was out of character for him to also be rude to McGonagall.
    2. Ron’s character was disappointing. He just didn’t feel like Ron.
    3. Harry and Draco’s newfound friendship was much too rushed (granted this is probably due to the play format…but still).
    4. Voldemort would NEVER have a child. He’s too smart to procreate and risk having another human¬†possess the same amount of power and abilities as himself.
  2. Reliance on the time-turner. I wish that there had been more new content as opposed to a heavy reliance on the past. This felt like a cop-out to me, but I was also afraid that the play would¬†now change my perception of events when I go back and re-read or re-watch the original series. When I think about the night Voldemort murders Harry’s parents, I don’t want to think about future Harry witnessing it or about Voldemort’s deranged love child attempting to keep him from dying.
  3. Penmanship. J.K. Rowling did not write this play…and it shows. I realize this was a play, but it still read very differently from the books, format aside. I wish the language and nature had been more similar to the books that we all love.

Best:

  1. The fun of another book. Marking the release date on my calendar and attending a midnight celebration allowed me to relive one aspect of my childhood. It was a lot of fun looking forward to this book and also enjoying the rebirth the series has had in pop culture.
  2. Draco’s son. In my opinion, Scorpius was probably the best and most interesting character in the play.¬†Immensely different from his family, readers were introduced to a well thought-out new character.
  3. Visiting Hogwarts again. Although I did not love all of the plot, it was fun to revisit Hogwarts and the wizarding world once again. Nostalgia brought back of lot of good memories, both in regard to reading the original series and visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and there were several places in the play that I found myself laughing and smiling as I thought back on this series.

Thoughts? Comment below.

2015-2016: Top 5 Nonfiction

Inspiration, Review

Continuing on with summer reading, today’s post is all about nonfiction. While a lot of people shy away from this category, thinking it to be dull or uninteresting, I absolutely adore nonfiction.

Why? A few reasons:

  1. It’s broad. Nonfiction could mean anything from how-to books to biographies.
  2. It can teach you. Whether you are educating yourself on a particular topic or teaching yourself a new skill, I love reading for a purpose.
  3. You don’t have to read the whole book. A lot of times, a nonfiction book can serve a purpose in a matter of pages or chapters. You don’t necessarily have to read it cover to cover.

Here are the top 5 nonfiction books that I came across this year:

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  1. “The Bright Bizaar” by Will Taylor

Category: Interior Design/Home Decorating

If you have any interest at all in interior design or decorating, then you absolutely must check out this book. Will Taylor’s sense of style is quirky and unique, while also managing to make complete sense. Having worked at a public library for the past six years, I have seen a lot of home decorating books. This one is my favorite by far.

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2. “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by¬†Dinah Bucholz

Category: Cooking

This cookbook is¬†a lot of fun and has encouraged me to try cooking traditional British cuisine. Whether you are an amateur cook or an expert chef, this book provides recipes for a wide range of skill sets, supplying Harry Potter quotes as it does so! So far I have tried the¬†cauldron cakes¬†and Kreacher’s French Onion Soup, and both of which were delicious!

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3. “Rewire” by Ethan Zuckerman

Category: Anthropology/History/The Internet

I was actually required to read this book for my “Social Media Theory and Practice” course. Despite the fact that it was assigned, I truly enjoyed it! One of those books that will make you think differently about our world and digital landscape, I highly recommend this book to those who have an interest in the internet and the effect it has had on mankind.

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4. “The Art of Frozen” by Charles Solomon

Category: Film/Film Production

I have mentioned this book before, as I love the artwork and the behind-the-scenes look at the animated movie that broke records and won acclaimed awards. I loved reading about the research that went into designing the characters, costumes and architecture present in this Norwegian-inspired movie. If you’re an adult that loves¬†Frozen¬†like I do,¬†then you will love this book.

 

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5. “The Wisdom of Walt” by Jeffrey A. Barnes

Category: Leadership/Success

I discovered this book when working on a PR management project. As a PR major, I wanted to learn more about the most successful communications business man in American history. Aside from supplying great leadership advice, the author is also successful in providing useful personal insight. This book will leave you feeling inspired.

Starting in on my book choice for #PR #management

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If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my top picks for novels and series! Happy reading!