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My Friend Amy



Books, stories, TV, story I love it all here.



Last Build Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:41:00 PST

 



Night Shift by Debi Gliori

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 22:58:42 PDT

I received a copy of this book for review.



Depression is a difficult topic to explain to someone who has never experienced it. It can manifest in different ways for different people but it visits a lot of us. In fact, about 7 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from depression.

Debi Gliori has written and illustrated a beautiful picture book about depression and how it feels. Because you can talk and try to explain with words but still fail, this is a very effective method.

The illustrations are lovely and evoke the actual feeling of depression. The young girl who is at the center of the story experiences a fog that rolls in...and she doesn't remember when. She experiences it at night and also during the day. The pictures and text continue to describe the feelings and illness that persists even while the character does not know how to describe them herself. The book doesn't end in a deep dark fog though the reasoning for the shift may seem hard to understand.

Ultimately, I found this book to be effective and I think it would be a great conversation piece to discuss depression as well as a good gift to someone who suffers from it. The gift of being able to express what it's like to experience such an internal condition is appreciated and I think Night Shift can add to our conversations and understanding.




Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 00:00:18 PDT

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This post contains Amazon links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a tiny commission. I received an ARC of this book for review consideration from the publisher.

Josh Malerman seems to be interested in the horrors our senses can visit upon us and not in any light way. Both of his works, thrillers that verge on being horror novels tease the concepts of what would happen if something could threaten us so completely through one of our senses. By exploring this idea, other philosophical questions gain entry even as we rapidly turn the pages to find out what happens next. In Bird Box, the horror was what our eyes would see and once seen, could never be unseen. In his latest, Black Mad Wheel, he turns the spotlight on our hearing.

This is not only a thriller/horror but also a work of historical fiction! It takes place about 13 years after the conclusion of World War 2. A small group of men who served in the military during the War have started a band. Their history and their musical talents make them attractive to the military who feel they have discovered a brand new weapon. This weapon seems to render all other weapons useless and makes men sick. It's in the deserts of Africa and they need someone to go and locate its exact source.

Like with Bird Box, Malerman alternates between the present and WHAT HAPPENED in order to build a suspense and a deep desire to know what happened. I enjoyed this book and once I had time to read I read it one day. It was a fast read but it does venture into philosophical questions or originy type questions so there's some depth. I don't think it's as effective a novel as Bird Box or as enjoyable overall, but comparison isn't always helpful as I did enjoy the book overall. There are some definite science fiction aspects to it. it's not real world grounded but it is interesting.

It's hard to imagine a sound so terrible it's a weapon itself, but that's what the characters face in Black Mad Wheel.

Recommended!




A Look Back at August

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 20:06:20 PDT

I hope everyone had a nice Labor Day! I did! I relaxed, read two books, and went to see Annabelle: Creation.

This blog saw some activity in August, so just in case you missed it, here's a quick wrap-up.

I read, reviewed, and loved The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. This book definitely cemented her status as a favorite author for me and I do recommend it.

I also reviewed The Breakdown, BA Paris's follow up to Behind Closed Doors. While I wasn't as enthralled with this book as her debut, I did find it to be a solid and entertaining read.

And I reviewed three creative YA books all of which I enjoyed. INFJoe's Text, Don't Call, You're Weird, and Surprise Yourself. All of these would make great gifts depending on who you would like to gift them to.

Finally, I reviewed Mad by Chloe Esposito which was a hugely entertaining book and a great read for summer or anytime.

The blog will stay active in September! As mentioned I've read some books I already want to review and I'll throw in some movie reviews, too. Plus, I hope to share some recommended reading lists and share some other things I've been thinking about.

Times have been tough and our world feels very uncertain as we face continual change brought on by governments, climate change, and our own bodies that war against us. Every moment is precious even in the face of thinking about a future that feels dark and grim. I'm thinking of you all.








Surprise Yourself by Lisa Currie

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 07:43:32 PDT

This book was sent to me for review consideration by the publisher, Tarcher Perigree. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on one of them and make a purchase, I might make a tiny commission. Surprise Yourself is a life workbook designed, in its own words, to be both "an adventure guide and a comfort blanket." I think it fulfills that purpose quite well! I really love the idea of having a journal like this that requires you to be both introspective, but also gives you opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do some fun things. There are a lot of different topics covered from exploring the world that is already deeply familiar to you, to creating your own works of art, interviewing people who are different than you and more!There are also checklists included so that you can keep track of the different parts of the book as you do them. It's not necessary to do the book in order, you can pick and choose which parts you want to do at which time. I really like the idea of this book because it can also serve as record for yourself. The ideas to push you out of your comfort zone are fun and seem designed to really make you a better more thoughtful and empathetic person. They can even lead to new friends! And the tasks about yourself also seem fun and like they will cause you to really think about yourself and why certain things are the way they are. I think books like this are great because sometimes we need to be forced to slow down and look at things differently and really consider the people around us and also why we feel and think the way we do. But Surprise Yourself makes all of that fun and accessible and easy and possible for anyone.For example, there is an activity that asks you to focus on some traits you notice about your co-worker. I think this is great for really becoming a more thoughtful person. A lot of times we do notice things about people without really reflecting on them. There is also an activity to host a themed dinner party. This resonated with me because it's the sort of thing that always seems like it would be fun to do but I haven't. But making it a goal to finish the activities in this book makes it more likely. Recommended! [...]



Mad by Chloe Esposito

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:26 PDT

I received a galley of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Summer's not over yet! Despite some cooler than normal weather we've been experiencing in Southern California, the kids heading back to school, and even though the Halloween and Fall decor is hitting store shelves much my extreme delight, the temperatures are starting to rise again and well summer technically has some time left.I say all of that because Mad by Chloe Esposito is a perfect summer read. It's what you might call a beach read, but not everyone gets to go to the beach, so instead we'll just stick with summer read! This book is not so unlike it's title...it's crazy! It's a kind of shock read, but I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next. It was also kind of funny. The compulsively readable nature of it makes it easy to recommend, but I gotta say...If you can't stand unlikable characters, by which I mean characters that may not even be particularly clever and completely out for themselves, you might not like this. However, for me the fact that I was reading a book with a female character like this was kind of a novelty! I also didn't feel like I neeed to like Alvie to enjoy the story because there were plenty of twists and turns that kept me engaged and going with it.In short, Alvie is kind of a mess. She's working a job she doesn't particularly love and makes some pretty poor life decisions when her twin sister invites her to come visit Italy. (Alvie is located in England). She decides to go once she realizes it will be paid for and she basically has no other choices. However, not everything is as it seems when she arrives and she quickly finds herself in a situation much bigger than she imagined..which will only be intensified by her selfish poor decisions.This was a unique and fun read for me and I do recommend it! I think it's perfect for summer! So if you're looking something a little light that veers towards fun you might want to pick this one up. However, if you're easily offended, it might not be for you. Also, it looks like it's part of a trilogy which makes sense. Looking forward to more. [...]



You're Weird: A Creative Journal for Misfits, Oddballs, and Anyone Else Who's Uniquely Awesome by Kate Peterson

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:00:30 PDT

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.I really do love these hand-lettered books! I love that they are creative in and of themselves and I also love that they encourage creativity. This one is for letting loose your inner oddball and the topics are pretty fun and what you might expect. The pages encourage writing, coloring, and drawing. If you aren't a great artist like myself, I still think you can use this book (and this kind of book) because really it's for you. Since You're Weird is all about, well, being weird the pages inside encourage the participant to focus on what makes them unique and celebrate it. Some of the topics include thinking about what you do differently than other people, thinking about famous people who are a little different that you admire, picking words that describe you, and reflecting on the events that shaped you into your uniquely wonderfully weird self. Some of the creative activities include drawing an apple that fell really far from the tree and coming up with a slogan for yourself. There are also some challenges of weirdness to complete.The book is delightfully hand-lettered and illustrated. It's cute, spunky, and fun. I think it would make an ideal gift for any young person that might be struggling with accepting their own weirdness or rather uniqueness. It really gives you space to celebrate the things that make you different which is needed and important especially at ages where peer pressure is intense, but really at any age. A book like this can be considered a journal and become a respite against difficult times or simply a tool to help you enjoy your unique oddballness even more.Recommended fun!I haven't done a Things You Might Want to Know About in ages but I do want to mention the book uses the term "spirit animal" and while I know it's used popularly in the mainstream culture, it has come to my attention that it's cultural appropriation. It's not a term I ever really understood in the pop-culture sense and learning that actually helped make sense of it for me! It's just one page/activity, but it's worth mentioning. If you give this as a gift to your teen you could talk about the use of that word and why other words like patronus are better to use. [...]



The Breakdown by B.A. Parris

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 00:00:27 PDT

I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.I thought BA Parris's first book, Behind Closed Doors, was a good thriller. I'm not going to lie, parts of it forced me to remember it was fiction as certain plot points stretched what I could realistically believe. Even so, it was super engaging and kept me with it and the conclusion was very satisfying and made me glad I read the whole book. Sometimes, coming to an ending can really make the journey worthwhile.Is it cheating to say I had much the same feelings about her follow-up, The Breakdown? It was a good thriller and it kept me with it even if I could generally figure out how things were going to unfold long before they happened. I thought the psychology of it was good (and I guess I should amend everything I am saying to note that her books really are psychological thrillers). The beginning was so great and pulled me in right away. Because I think it offers so much of the enjoyment of the book I don't want to explicitly spoil it. But it sets up an atmosphere in which the following events can take place. It also forces you to really put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist which might be uncomfortable considering what she does.A lot of the book focuses on well, the breakdown. Cass doubts everything in her life and is worried she's suffering from the same condition of her mother. The overwhelming sense of dread, fear, and uncertainty really fill the story. Additionally, Cass starts to feel hunted by a murdered but no one in her life will believe her.Like I said, the book was very engaging and kept me with it. I appreciate that Parris's protagonists feel human and do things that are kind of startling. It makes them interesting. However, I saw where this book was going before we got there and I think it would have been more enjoyable if that were not the case. Still, I will read her next book and I enjoyed this one and recommend it!It's been fun to discover some new thriller writers in the past couple years. I really enjoy the genre quite a lot as I find the stories generally keep me with them but they have some unexpected depth as well. What is the best thriller you've read recently? [...]



Text Don't Call by INFJoe

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:00:13 PDT

I received a copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher. This post uses Amazon affiliate links.Introverts! Have you always known or understood your introversion? Aaron Caycedo-Kimura didn't so when he took a test (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and learned he was it was like everything in his world fell into place. Thanks to the glorious marvel of the Internet, he hopped online and began sharing little cartoons about being an introvert and now he has a book! And it's a cute little gem of a book for introverts.Text, Don't Call's subtitle is: An Illustrated guide to the Introverted Life and that's just perfect. This isn't a book that gets into the deep nitty gritty of life as an introvert, but it does offer a quick run through of what it means to be an introvert and provides many assurances that it's okay to be an introvert. I like how he explains that extroverted qualities are idealized and it certainly makes sense why it's that way given the nature of the personality types. But as an introvert myself, I do think it's important to understand and to learn to accept the particular strengths of being introverted. Text, Don't Call pokes fun at introversion in a charming relateable way through the illustrations. The comics are cute and in most cases felt pretty spot on! He even captured several little moments you've experienced as an introvert but maybe never expressed before. In addition to the charming illustrations, there are little tips for navigating life as an introvert. Everything from holidays to finding people who understand you, you can find it in this book. He draws inspiration, I think from the hashtag, #introvertproblems which I've never checked out before, but I'm going to have to since I think I'll probably be able to relate to a lot of it!I think this is a fun read for any introvert but also would make a great gift for a young introvert in high school or college that you know. That's about the age you start realizing who you are as a person and having a fun little book like this would be a great relief and comfort.Recommended! [...]



The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:06:40 PDT

I received a digital galley of this book with no expectations from the publisher, Simon & Schuster. This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. I loved Ruth Ware's In a Dark Dark Wood a lot and also really liked The Woman in Cabin 10. She has a wonderful style of writing for thrillers, interesting flawed characters who feel relateable, intriguing premises, and a knack of really giving you a sense of empathy for the characters you might not otherwise feel. There's a lingering sadness under the surface of all her stories, every single one! And I suppose that's part of why they are so attractive to me.So I was excited for The Lying Game. A group of friends get a text that is both chilling and urgent. I need you, it reads. While they were friends in their youth, their adulthood has brought them along mostly separate paths until this point. We enter the story from Isabel's perspective. She's a young mother and full of dread at the prospect of going to meet up with her friends, but she does anyway. She has to. When she goes we learn the history behind the tight knit group of friends, the reason their friend has called them so urgently, the strains in their present life, and so much more.While the group harbors a secret, I feel that is uncovered fairly early. There's more to the story than that...another dark truth that threatens them all.I loved it! It's interesting as I was googling in preparation for writing this review I saw glimpses of extracts of other reviews. They were pretty negative, but I actually think it's Ruth Ware's best book yet. There's so much depth to it and the detail of how these women are living their lives and the feelings they experience matter. It's a thriller, yes, but it's also deeply human. This fantastic combination she has of really getting into the skin and heart of her characters and combining it with a mystery is what I love best about her books! The setting is also rich and atmospheric and contributed to my overall enjoyment of the book.And the story is about so much more than "the secrets." It's about our relationships to one another, growing up, cliques, and the secrets we keep and why. It's a pretty fascinating examination of love, friendship, and family.So I definitely recommend it, especially if you're read her other books and love them. As I got into this one, I suspected it was going to cement her status as a favorite author of mine and it did just that. So I definitely do recommend it to anyone looking for a good thriller with great characterization, some quotables, some mystery, and a good read. [...]



Interview with Candace Ganger author of The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 20:35:29 PDT

So pleased to share a short interview with author The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, a book you definitely want to have on your TBR this summer.What's the appeal in writing stories about first love? I still remember my first love like it happened yesterday. The feelings are so vivid and raw, it’s a difficult thing to replicate as an adult. I miss the intensity of it all and how, despite the repercussions or consequences, I threw myself into loving that person wholly, without hesitation. With first loves, there’s no other heartbreak to compare. I think that’s the most beautifully painful part. In a sense, it molded my heart for future relationships. How did you come up with the idea to insert little science lessons at the ends of the chapters? When I thought of the title, I vaguely remembered a lesson from high school about The Collision Theory and after researching, knew I had to implement it. It was more than a plot device—it’s like a celestial map of Birdie & Bash’s fate. I found Kyle and Bash's relationship to be achingly realistic. Where did you draw from to write these two characters and how the relate to each other? I think we’ve all had a Kyle in our lives, haven’t we? However subtle they may be, those toxic people feed off others to get what they want from life draining us of our own energy. They’re true parasites and may not always realize it. Hence, Wild Kyle. I’ve certainly had people like this in my life. No matter how much you want to do the right thing, these personalities use whatever they can to hold you back. Kyle is also, in a form, the darker side of us; an inner antagonist that can’t help but make the wrong decisions—even when we know what’s right.About the Book: Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page. [...]



I Read YA Week: #YASTANDSFOR

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 00:00:10 PDT

I'm participating in @ireadya's annual celebration of YA literature this week on my social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. The theme this year is #YAStandsfor and you can also participate by following along with that hashtag.

I won't be posting here everyday about it since it's a social media campaign, but I did want to let you know about the campaign and encourage you to follow along as well! And I wanted to take a moment to talk about #YAStandsfor in a way I can't on limited social media platforms. (they actually are encouraging you to make a video and I might later in the week, but writing is still my favorite!)

For me, there is something special about YA. I find that YA books generally tend to focus on important growth areas in one's life. So for me, #YASTANDSFOR growth. For being challenged, for learning about the world, life, your body, interests, gifts, and weaknesses. All of this is explored in YA. It also stands for empathy. YA books can comfort, help you understand others, and know you're not alone. They have a really special quality of helping you see the world through the eyes of another. And of course YA stands for fun. The stories are fun and imaginative and there is no limit. Comedy, imagination, drama, you can find it all in YA.

I'm looking forward to talking about more specific YA books this week and the ways in which its a great genre. But until then, I'd love to know what #YASTANDSFOR to you!

(@Ireadya is Scholastic's YA reading account Scholastic publishes a lot of my favorite YA books)






Blog Tour: Solveig Leithaug TIME

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:00:28 PDT

It has been awhile since I've posted anything about music but I couldn't resist joining in this blog tour for Solveig Leithaug, friend of The Rabbit Room.

I don't often get a chance to listen to new music. Something about aging also made new music less important to me. So you know I was really interested to join in on this blog tour!

The music is very nice, pleasant, and Solveig has lovely vocals that create a sense of wistfulness and longing right along with the music. There are also a nice variety of guest vocalists like Cindy Morgan, Kelly Willard, and Anthony Skinner. I'm pleased to share a music video with you as well as an interview video so that you see for yourself if this is something that you would like!

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I'm choosing to share the song "Get Together" with you as I feel it really captures the strife of our times and adds some music to it!

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I hope you have enjoyed this music as I did! You can visit Solveig on the web, like her facebook page, and follow her on Twitter. You can purchase the album on iTunes.




Book Review: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 07:25:49 PDT

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.If you're looking for a sudsy, sexy entertaining summer read, look no further. The Idea of You by Robinne Lee has everything you could want and is a compulsive and addictive read. Solene Marchand ends up taking her daughter and her friends to a boy band concert when her ex-husband backs out on their plans. The girls have a brief meet and greet where they make an impression on Hayes Campbell the young star and anchor of the group. The flirtation continues in a backstage visit and Solene indulges herself a little bit. Yes, she's thirty-nine and he's twenty but what's the harm?Hayes follows up, though, entering Solene's real life and thus begins an affair. Solene convinces herself it's just physical and she's simply fulfilling some fantasies, enjoying herself, and reawakening a part of her that was lost when she got divorced. But the longer the affair goes on, it becomes harder to deny the real feelings on the sides of both partners. And the longer it goes on, the more Solene puts her personal and professional life at risk.This book as I said above is easy to read. It's sort of voyeuristic in the sense that it's an interesting idea...the much older woman with the young guy--what would that be like? Also, it's always fun to read stories where money is no object and the characters involved can go on exotic vacations, etc. Toss in the fact that Solene herself is highly educated and hugely sympathetic--an art gallery owner that only features women and people of color and you have the makings of a perfect escapist read. I wouldn't say this book is pure escape, though. It takes a hard look at fan culture as it relates to celebrities. August Moon, the fictional boy band, have a lot of fans that have strong opinions about Solene dating one of their boys. And because Solene has a teen daughter, things extend there as well. But it's still really fun.I do want to note this book doesn't fade to black, there's a lot of sex and frank sexual language.I enjoyed it a lot, though, and became very wrapped up in Solene and Hayes story and what would happen to them! [...]



Film Review: Urban Hymn

Wed, 31 May 2017 18:53:14 PDT

I received a screener for this film in exchange for my honest review.

Urban Hymn has been making the rounds in various film festivals but hit theaters in limited release May 12th as well as on demand. It's a film I do recommend checking out. While there's a bit of extreme language, the environment of the story certainly supports the use of it.

The film is really about two women..primarily Jamie, a troubled young girl who is deeply enmeshed in a relationship with her friend. They feed off of each other's bad tendencies and as such keep each other trapped in their circumstances. It's also about Kate, a social worker who at the beginning of the film admits that she's ready to make a real difference after years of lecturing on sociology. Kate recognizes a special talent in Jamie, and works to nurture and encourage it despite Jamie (and her friend Leanne's) initial resistance.

The acting is great and the scenes set the stage for the gritty reality. While this may seem like your typical "inspirational film" where things are romanticized...it's not, not really. The characters have sufficient complexity on their own and nothing about either reality is really romanticized even if hope of a better life remains the more attractive option.

And there is enough conflict, the road is hard, and there are consequences to pay for breaking free. It is never cheap or easy, nor does it come free.

I liked this movie a lot, and do recommend it! You can watch it on demand now!

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Graduation Gift Idea and Giveaway: Adult-ish by Cristina Vanko

Mon, 29 May 2017 19:19:21 PDT

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. All opinions are my own.Still trying to think of something to give as a graduation gift? It can be hard to come up with a thoughtful little something in the middle of college supplies or cash gifts to help ensure a young graduate of high school or college has a smooth transition. Cristina Vanko's Adult-ish, however, might be the perfect thing to fit your need.It's a lovely hand-lettered book that invites a new adult to record a variety of life experiences in the process of growing up. Little illustrations add to the charm, and the book suggests recording not only actual milestones that are more measurable such as "what was your first big move?" but also more emotional moments like the first time you felt vulnerable and memories like making a list of the songs getting you through.For someone really willing to invest the time to record such memories and moments, this book would be the perfect outlet to do so and provide a keepsake that could have a lot of meaning later on. Of course it's possible not everyone would be willing or interested to do so, but giving the book as a gift could encourage them to or spark the idea to be more observational about life growing up.You can see a sample page below:As you can see, it's easy to write a fun growing up experience. The author suggests thinking of this as a baby book for adults.The publisher has kindly offered to provide one copy of Adult-ish for giveaway. Open to residents of the United States, please just fill out the form below. Winner will be notified via email. Giveaway ends June 3, 2017. src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfD0upEIz0sSh0ynbohVEuHNPfmp6ZK8gbIoYw67Z3z96c6Mg/viewform?embedded=true" width="460" height="300" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading... [...]



Max 2: White House Hero Blu-Ray Giveaway!

Wed, 17 May 2017 09:05:04 PDT

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own


I shared a review of Max 2: White House Hero movie Monday, and some insights with Zane Austin and Francesca Capaldi yesterday, and now I'm happy to be able to offer you a chance to win a copy of Max 2: White House Hero on Blu-Ray for yourself!

It's simple and fun! Just play the game below and share your time in the comments. Make sure you leave a valid email address in the comments form so I can contact you if you win!

Here's a reminder of what the movie is about:

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Duty calls again, and our hero dog Max returns to action in "Max 2: White House Hero." His new assignment brings him to Washington, D.C. to serve on the U.S. president's Secret Service detail. When a foreign leader arrives with his precocious daughter Alex (Francesca Capaldi), tensions arise between both countries. First Son TJ (Zane Austin), along with Max and Alex, uncover a dangerous plot that puts both kids and both nations in jeopardy. A highly-sensitive mission will push Max’s specialized skills, intelligence and loyalty to the test.


The Blu-Ray and DVD come out on May 23rd! In the meantime, you can like the page on facebook and visit the website for additional information. Also, please play the game below and share your results! This is your chance to win!

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Good luck!











Zane Austin and Francesca Capaldi on the making of Max 2: White House Hero

Wed, 17 May 2017 08:52:34 PDT

Thanks to Warner Bros. for giving me early access to the film and access to the cast. The opinions I share are my own. This post contains links to Amazon. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I get a tiny commission of the sale.I had the chance to listen in on a conference call with the young stars of Max 2: White House Hero I really enjoyed this charming family film and shared my thoughts on it yesterday. Today I thought I'd share a bit about the call!Francesca Capaldi is best known for her role as Chloe James in Disney's Dog with a Blog, but she's also been the voice of the little Red-haired girl in the Peanuts movie and the face of Claire's Stores Tween line. Zane Austin is a committed young actor who has starred in various national commercials.Both Zane and Francesca were incredibly down to earth and bubbly with a lot of enthusiasm for the film. They easily fielded the various questions they received from the expected questions about working with dogs to the maybe more personal question about sharing a first kiss on screen. A film centered around a canine would naturally be of a lot of interest to viewers. What is it like to have to act with an animal on set? Fortunately and perhaps naturally both young actors love animals...Zane has a family pet, "Wilson" a goldendoodle and Francesca previously worked on the show Dog with a Blog giving her a depth of experience. That doesn't keep them from dreaming of more pets in their future, though, while Francesca would be thrilled to have a maltipoo she also harbors the wild dream of owning a koala. Zane already has a dog which allows him to dream even more of owning a sloth.What might be more surprising is that a film like this doesn't work with just one dog. It actually used four dogs to make every scene with Max come to life. The different dogs fulfilled different roles. Jagger was the main working dog who did most of the scenes. (he was actually recently featured in Entertainment Weekly!) Dude was the stunt dog who did things such as jumping through car windows. Carlos is the face of the movie....featured in the promotional materials and attending the film's premiere. The fourth and final dog, Pax, did the action work such as swimming and running. It's so interesting to think about the amount of work that most go into making the film feel seamless with a dog. "They are all very, very talented dogs," Francesca was quick to say but when pressed for a favorite she admitted it was probably Jagger as he is a very loving dog who likes to give kisses. Zane agreed that Jagger was his favorite. Working with the dogs also required a period of time with the trainers where the dogs got familiar with them and the sound of their voices.Learning a Russian accent and doing the various action sequences in the movie presented both a challenge but also fun. Francesca has done some accents before but maintaining the accent through the movie was a fresh challenge for her. I have to say she did a great job! When asked about the kiss the two characters shared, Zane commented that they had to film the kiss 30 times. Francesca admitted she was nervous about the kiss scene, but her mother reassured her that it's not her first REAL kiss but her first REEL kiss. With so many cameras and people around, it was hardly real. It might be concerning to some that such young kids are already doing acting. However, it seems that both Francesca and Zane are well grounded. They attend school and participate in extra-curricular activities. Acting is just an extra lucky thing they get to do.Max 2: White House Hero is available on digital demand right now with the Blu-Ray comin[...]



Movie Review: Max 2: White House Hero

Wed, 17 May 2017 08:52:15 PDT

Special thanks to Warner Brothers for providing access to cast members Zane Austin and Francesca Capaldi and providing a digital screener for review. This post contains links to Amazon. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I get a tiny commission of the sale.While the first Max movie is a bit of a more serious movie focusing on a war hero dog, the second movie, Max 2, is a lighthearted family film. Max has a new assignment..he's to serve on the detail of the President of the United States! But he quickly forms a bond with the President's son, TJ, which calls his ability to serve in a serious capacity into question. TJ is struggling with his new role as the President's son, though, and loves Max. Their quick bond eases some of his discomfort at constantly being in the public eye. The Russian president is arriving to hammer out some details with the President of the United States and brings along his daughter Alex. Alex and TJ become quick friends with a flare of attraction between them. Their banter is delightful and cute and they become a root worthy pair. Someone is out to sabotage negotiations, though, and TJ, Alex, and Max assign themselves to the case. Their clever thinking and ideas give them the chance to investigate many of the people on the grounds while they also have some adventures of their own....all with Max by their side.As noted, this is a family film and one you can watch comfortably with the kids. It's super charming--the casting of both Zane Austin and Francesca Capaldi is perfect. They are cute and bring a lot of energy and personality to their roles. And dog lovers get the added bonus of having Max in many scenes but never in true peril. This is not a sob your eyes out dog movie, fortunately.There are a lot of adventures and I was genuinely surprised by the conclusion of the film! Now available on digital HD and available on blu-ray May 23, Max 2: White House Hero is recommended for families and kids.The Blu-Ray edition will include 15 minutes of extras in addition to the film, including blooper scenes with the canines!Tomorrow I'm excited to share some insights into the making of the movie from Zane Austin and Francesca Capaldi. I really enjoyed the conference call with them so much. [...]



Book: Duplicity by Jane Haseldine

Fri, 12 May 2017 00:00:19 PDT

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. This post contains links to Amazon. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I get a tiny commission of the sale.I love a good mystery and thriller and Duplicity had all the makings of a classic thriller, so I was excited to pick it up. But on top of that, the cover is simply gorgeous and so enticing! One of the things that drew me to the story as well is that author Jane Haseldine is a former crime writer herself so I knew that she might pepper in bits of her own experience to the story that would give it an added touch of authenticity. Duplicity is the second in a series, but I did not read the first one. It didn't really matter. While events in the first book were alluded to, I was able to fully understand the current situation and characters. Julia Gooden is a crime reporter married to an Assistant DA which, as you can imagine, creates a situation screaming conflict of interest! Especially when the prosecutor secures a top secret witness in an ongoing case, but a crime writer would want to know exactly who that is! Adding to the boiling pot of emotions is the fact that Julia and her husband are only patching things together in their marriage and still keeping their reunited status from their children. Something happens though and the city faces a great attack. Suddenly David's life is hanging in the balance and the crime boss he was threatening to put away is looking to go free. Julia can't let this rest and takes it upon herself to investigate what happened and make sure the right people are punished.Duplicity is a fast thriller. The pace is fairly unrelenting and while the characters definitely experience a range of emotions the story doesn't take a lot of time to sit in them. I really enjoyed the read, I found it quick and pleasurable with a lot of twists and turns. I was definitely surprised by the conclusion--it wasn't something I necessarily saw coming. I also really enjoyed the character of Julia and her relentless pursuit of the truth. Sometimes I feel like it would have been fun to be an investigative reporter, but it also seems like a profession that sort of owns you. You don't get to choose the timetable at all! Even so, Julia's tenacity and courage were admirable, if at times frustrating, and made for a good story. The story doesn't hold back and goes full force ahead into where it needs to go. Recommended! You can visit the author's web page and buy the book on Amazon. [...]



Book: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Thu, 11 May 2017 11:01:17 PDT

I received an ARC of Long Black Veil through the LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. This post uses Amazon affiliate links, if you click on the link and make a purchase I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.Long Black Veil was classified to me as a mystery/thriller. With such a dark and mysterious title and cover, I was certainly intrigued. I found the book to be less of a thriller and more of an exploration of identity. While it certainly has thriller elements, I find this classification a little bit misleading. It didn't detract from my appreciation of the book, but I do think if you're looking for a "can't put it down twisty read" you're not going to find it here.It begins with a night that will drive much of the plot for the book...a group of young people accidentally find themselves locked in broken down prison and something awful happens that they will never forget. As they grow older, the events of that night drive their decisions and impact their future choices. Just who was responsible? And why? So that's the mystery element of the book, but it's also largely about the secrets we keep and how those secrets impact our lives and relationships. How does a longheld secret affect our ability to trust others? What happens when it finally comes to light?The writing is lovely and the book really kept me with it. I enjoyed it! You can read a really nice in-depth interview with the author at The Advocate and purchase a copy of the book at Amazon. [...]



A Look Back at April

Tue, 02 May 2017 09:38:37 PDT

It's hard to believe it's May 2nd already. Time just continues to fly!

Here's a look back at April on the blog:

I reviewed The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah. This horror story was okay, but failed to reach its potential in my opinion. Even so, my concluding thoughts were that it was, "it was a quick and entertaining read, and I liked Hannah's style and will try some of her mysteries in the future!"

I also reviewed Still Mine by Amy Stuart. This was a more quiet thriller with a growing sense of dread. And not just dread that something awful was going to happen, but also just dread because the circumstances were awful. My concluding thoughts, "I enjoyed this book quite a lot despite the fact that it had a certain "unreal" quality to it."

And I reviewed Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. This was a completely charming book that I highly recommend! The book itself (as a physical object) is a gift and the story inside will entertain the intended age group, but also, I think hearten adult readers. My concluding thoughts, "More than anything, it's the kind of book that makes you feel generally better about things when you finish."

I provided a rundown of some recent book to TV news that I thought was interesting and pertains to my interests. Since that post, The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice has also been optioned.

I joined the Readathon, but alas, probably only ended up reading for about three hours or so. Even so, what an event! Hopefully one day I'll be able to do a proper readathon again!

I hope you all had a wonderful month of April with many things to look forward to in May!
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Readathon 2017

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:03:30 PDT


I haven't participated in the Readathon for awhile, and my participation this time will also probably be pretty casual. But..I do want to read this weekend and I can't help but be interested and intrigued by seeing everyone's posts!

My main hope is to get the recent mystery I'm reading, Duplicity by Jane Haseldine, finished and to make a good dent in a book club book...What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity. I haven't read any of her books before can you believe it?

In any case, I may update this post as the day goes along and I'll probably tweet from myfriendamy as well. And perhaps, share some insta stories in instagram...you can follow my bookish account at mfabooks if you aren't already!

Have fun, everyone!

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Book: Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:00:23 PDT

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher."You have to be brave to be an artist...It takes a fearless knight to imagine something and then let it out into the world. You never know what might happen to it. You never know what you might discover. Don't be scared. Go make something new."Imagination is a wonderful thing, right? But what happens when you imagination takes on a life of its own? This is something Henry Penwhistle is about to discover when he draws a mighty dragon...that runs away. Henry has a wild and crazy and wonderful imagination. He finds it hard to fit in at his school and meet the demands for conformity there. But he loves to draw and he draws a glorious chalk dragon on his door that makes its escape and heads for his school. Now Henry, his friend Oscar, and his whole school must face the consequences of Henry's imagination. Henry will learn very important lessons about chivalry, art, creation, and friendship in the process.I really enjoyed this book! I am outside of the target age zone, but I can easily see this being a delightful read aloud book as some reviews suggest. I love Henry's imagination, and how exciting everything is with it on the loose. It's such a fun concept and so...kid. But at the same time, the book addresses real issues about creativity and friendship that make it even more special. It's wild, adventurous and fun, has a sweet and gentle sense of humor, and when I finished I just felt a warm glow in my heart. Not all of the characters are who you think they are at first and there's a deep sense of generosity that hums in the bones of this story. But lest I go off on a tangent of how happy the heart of the book made me, the tale itself is clever, fresh and fun. More than anything, it's the kind of book that makes you feel generally better about things when you finish.The physical book itself is absolutely gorgeous, perhaps one of the nicer physical books I've held in awhile. There are some illustrations in the book as well, delightful drawings by Benjamin Schipper that add to the overall experience of the story.So...recommended! [...]



Some Recent Book to TV News

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:39:57 PDT

I recently devoured the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I had read the book many years ago (and it's interesting to go back and read my thoughts now!) and was interested to see how the series would be. I liked the series a lot. I would venture to say it's one of the best teen series I have ever watched. I think the format of a series helped to flesh out the story in ways the book couldn't quite manage. It reminded me that all adaptations aren't evil. (I understand there is some controversy around the show and I would never tell someone they have to watch it or suggest a teen watch it on their own. However, with this type of media I really shy away from broadbrushing it as all evil or all good. What speaks to one person may harm another and that's the nature of art and story)Books remain a big source for TV so I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the recent news surrounding book to TV adaptations.Of course, one of the most exciting is the news that Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle is being adapted. I know Stiefvater wanted this as a TV show which makes sense as there's certainly a lot of room for story. However, there is a lot of fantasy stuff that will need to have a budget to look good, LBR. From the announcement, I can't see that a network is attached, so it could end up anything in the NBC Universal family if I understand correctly. (I'm not a TV expert, though I do read a lot of press releases so this is just a guess!) I think a cable channel would be the right call. Catherine Hardwick is directing the pilot (I have no opinion on this) and Andrew Miller will be the showrunner. Andrew Miller was the showrunner for The Secret Circle, another YA series I loved and that showed died fast. It had promise, though, so hopefully The Raven Cycle will be good, become a series, be dearly loved, and change all our TV lives forever.Another intriguing possibility for a show is You based on the book by Carolyn Kepnes which has already been ordered straight to series (which means we don't have to bite our nails during a pilot process to see if we get the show) by Lifetime. I looooooved this book. It's funny, smart, biting, and such a great commentary on our cyberstalking culture. But...it's also really quite...well gross? I mean it's twisted as described in their press release, and I have to hope they'll tame some of that stuff. Also, the second person POV is so key to everything, it's hard to imagine the humor coming across in quite the same way. This show was originally set up at Showtime which might have been a better a fit, but I'm hoping we get a more watchable show on Lifetime.Netflix has started developing the series, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is most exciting news as horror is one of my favorite genres. There aren't a lot of awesome horror shows, and this has the potential to be really good with horror director Mike Flanagan behind the show. Definitely keeping my eye on this one.Not a novel, but a comic, and not something I've read, but worth noting because of the involvement of Scott Derrickson. (while Derrickson has come under a lot of fire in recent times for whitewashing Doctor Strange; I've been a longtime fan because of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister) Hulu is developing an adaptation of Joe Hill's Locke and Key. Carlton Cuse would be showrunner and he's worked on two of my favorite shows of all time, Lost and Bates Motel. So I have to admit this is s[...]



Book: Still Mine by Amy Stuart

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 12:17:41 PDT


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher (Touchstone/Simon&Schuster)

Still Mine is a quiet sort of thriller. Clare is hired to find a missing woman in the mountains by a mysterious man. Clare herself is mysterious, it's hard to understand exactly where she came from or why she feels this is the best course of action for her in the beginning. Despite all of that though, Stuart quickly drops you into her reality. Clare is on the run and is looking for a woman who may be on the run, may have been abducted, or may have been killed.

The setting really adds to the overall creep effect; it's isolated, creepy, and dark. The town is still recovering from tragedy and pulses with desperation. These all reflect Clare's own internal state of mind, barely surviving tragedy herself.

She gets drawn into the townspeople and regularly questions who she can trust as she continues to investigate Shayna's disappearance. Her own instincts fly in the face of what everyone is telling her.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot despite the fact that it had a certain "unreal" quality to it. Clare's situation on the surface was certainly real enough but her whole mysterious employer was harder for me to buy. Still, the circumstances of the town and her quest to find Shayna were enough to keep me with this book and come back to it when I had to set it aside for some time. The ending is also worth it! The writing is also a touch above what you might find a general thriller.


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