Monday, May 29, 2017

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

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.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Max 2: White House Hero Blu-Ray Giveaway!

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:

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!

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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

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 coming May 23rd.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Movie Review: Max 2: White House Hero

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.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Book: Duplicity by Jane Haseldine

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.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

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.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Look Back at April

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!