Books of the Month of April 2018!

Here are my favorites for this month!

This one has such cute little dishcloths so if you can crochet, this one is a must-buy!

Dishcloths to Crochet: Fun Designs to Brighten Your Kitchen!

Crocheters of all skill levels will delight in these playful patterns for crocheted dishcloths — they’re as fun to make as they are to use! Animals, flowers, and fruits are among the themes of the 25 patterns, which include Sweet Strawberry, Perky Pig, Dandy Daffodil, and other designs.
Full-color photos accompany the easy-to-follow instructions. The directions also show how to convert any of the dishcloths into a potholder with the simple addition of a ring. Great to stitch during warm-weather months, the dishcloths make cheerful displays, and the textured stitches are ideal for efficient dishwashing. They’re great gifts, too!
Price: $14.95.
If you follow social media at all, you are bound to know who Grumpy Cat is and if you are a fan…then you will want this one!

Grumpy Cat’s Miserable Papercraft Book

Have some papercraft fun with Grumpy! Grumpy Cat hates just about everything, including papercrafts. Nevertheless, this book displays the furrowed-browed feline on several cut-out crafts that include bookmarks, door-knob hangers, masks, gift boxes, signs, paper chains, snowflakes, finger puppets, stand-up figures, origami of Grumpy’s face, a mobile, a paper fortune teller, and other items.

Price: $14.95.

If you have kids and are trying to figure out some fun things for them to do away from their screens.this next one is a must-read! I love all the different creative ideas in this book! 

Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family by Shannon Philpott-Sanders.

More about the Author:

Shannon Philpott-Sanders has written extensively about the joys of parenting for local and national newspapers and magazines throughout her fifteen-year career as a freelance journalist. A mother of two, she has dedicated herself to becoming a lifelong learner when it comes to parenting her son and daughter who are now in their late teens.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Philpott-Sanders holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in English. When she is not writing and offering tips for fun-filled experiences with children, she serves as an associate professor of English at St. Louis Community College – Meramec and advises the student-run newspaper.

The next one is known as The Book That’s Changing Millennial Parenting!

“THE BIRTHDAY RULES”

Written by an ivy league psychiatrist and a successful start up founder, The Birthday Rules  applies proven business and  human resources strategies to the world of parenting and offers a structure to help with one of the most important tasks parents have—creating a safe environment to communicate and demonstrate unconditional love.

“A child’s birthday is an excellent opportunity to have important conversations,”  says author Rachel Marsh, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.

The Birthday Rules provides a fun and flexible framework of an annual review process combined with a structure for increasing permissions, responsibilities and conversations.

I found this one interesting and highly recommend!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 3.43.36 PM.png

 

Jeff Wald is a serial entrepreneur having directly raised three companies, and, as an investor and advisor, helped raise about 100 more. Jeff is the proud uncle to three nephews and three nieces. In addition, Jeff is a renowned speaker and startups and growing companies. He has a BS and MS from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard.

Dr. Rachel Marsh PhD is an associate professor of Medical Psychology in the Division of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. She is the mother of three: Milo, Lyla, and Ruby. Dr. Marsh speaks worldwide and has published papers on brain function and development.

These next two books are really fun for kids and adults that love to be creative!

     

Fanciful Sealife Coloring Book

This imaginative collection of 31 wondrous designs features a variety of stylized ocean creatures with highly detailed and decorative backgrounds. Images include schools of exotic fish, a sunken ship and treasure chest, a seashell castle, and such underwater dwellers as jellyfish, an octopus, sea turtles, striped angelfish, whales, and more. Pages are perforated and printed on one side only for easy removal and display. Specially designed for experienced colorists, Fanciful Sea Life and other Creative Haven® adult coloring books offer an escape to a world of inspiration and artistic fulfillment. Each title is also an effective and fun-filled way to relax and reduce stress.

Price: $5.99.

Stone Painting for Kids

This follow-up to the bestselling Art of Stone Painting offers a kid-friendly version of an engaging activity that helps promote creativity. Popular stone artist F. Sehnaz Bac, a seasoned archaeologist who markets her painted Sassi dell’Adriatico (Stones of the Adriatic) on Etsy, presents step-by-step instructions for simple projects, accompanied by full-color photographs. Her introduction explains how to find and choose stones, which kinds of materials and tools are safe for kids to use, how to set up a workspace, simple techniques, and other helpful tips.
A splendid variety of patterns begins with illustrations of basic shapes and designs for human figures and faces, animals, numbers and letters, and natural motifs—flowers, trees, and stars. Other activities include painting stones for games such as tic-tac-toe, chess, and dominoes. Kids will learn lettering techniques for writing names and words on pebbles and how to design holiday-themed decorations. They’ll also discover how to assemble multiple stones for picture-making and story-telling.

Price: $19.93.

This next one is a delightful story that I recommend for all young children! It is simply a magical story!

It’s late in the fall when Oyster Jack and his boat Dinah sail out to the Chesapeake Bay to harvest oysters. Their friend Wind helps them by blowing against Dinah‘s sails. But Wind is cold and Oyster Jack won’t share his coat or blanket. When Wind hears of a nearby coat of frost and then a blanket of snow, she rushes off to look for them. Oyster Jack and Dinah can’t sail without her. He must find a way to keep Wind warm—and with him. Readers of all ages will be delighted by the clever wordplay and imaginative solution in this feel-good story about the importance of looking out for your friends. Ages 0-6.

Marcia G. Moore has studied the effects of wind upon sail and sailors for more than forty-five years. She and her husband explore the coves and rivers of Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Little Bird, a replica of a Chesapeake Bay skipjack. Her boating stories have been published in Sail magazine and The New York Times.
Heather Crow, winner of numerous awards including the prestigious national Robert Rauschenburg Power of Art Award for Maryland, spent her career as a public school art teacher. She and her husband live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she enjoys illustrating stories her big family can read together over and over.

About the Publisher:

Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. is a family-owned, independent publisher of high-quality books. Since 1974, Schiffer has published thousands of titles on the diverse subjects that fuel our readers’ passions. Visit www.schifferbooks.com to explore our backlist of more than 5,800 titles. To receive regular announcements about new releases from Schiffer Publishing, sign up for our e-newsletter.

This next one is really cute and fun for young kids!

Paint by Sticker Kids: Beautiful Bugs just was released this month and it’s a must-buy!

Many view bugs as terrifying little creepy crawlers, but thanks to movies such as A Bug’s LifeAntz, and the Bee Movie, these flying and scurrying insects have been given a cute and adorable appeal for children!

The newest addition to the Paint by Sticker series, PAINT BY STICKER KIDS: BEAUTIFUL BUGS ($9.95; April 3, 2018) features a diverse selection of itsy bitsy critters including colorful butterflies, a glowing firefly, marching ants and more!

With a combined 1.2 million copies in print the Paint by Sticker series has become an amazing success which is sure to grow as children all over being sticking together the images of these enchanting and charming bugs.

The perforated pages make it easy for each picture to be torn out and proudly displayed on the refrigerators and office desks of proud parents everywhere!

And, last but not least..I love these fun and educational books!

   

ABOUT BIGFOOT VISITS THE BIG CITIES OF THE WORLD

Sharpen your search and find skills by locating BigFoot at his favorite metropolis. It won’t be easy! BigFoot is visiting ten major cosmopolitan destinations, from the Big Apple and London to Paris, Athens, Tokyo, Toronto, and more.

This handsome hardcover book presents each urban oasis as an immense two-page visual puzzle, full of teeming people and creatures. Your task is not only to find BigFoot and his legendary footprint, but also more than 500 other unusual and sometimes unexpected personalities and objects. Fun facts and pictures accompany each scene to help you learn more about the world’s most popular cities.

ABOUT BIGFOOT GOES ON VACATION

BigFoot is enjoying his holiday in ten different ways, from deep sea diving and joining a balloon festival to taking a cruise, going to the beach, visiting Yellowstone National Park, and more. This handsome hardcover book presents each getaway as an immense two-page visual puzzle, full of teeming people and creatures.

I gave these two books to a young family friend for Easter and he just loves them! These are perfect for ages 5 and up.

HAPPY FOX BOOKS are for children and all of those who enjoy beautifully illustrated books.

ABOUT D.L.Miller: As with Bigfoot, D.L. Miller is a bit on the reclusive side, rarely seen in public, spending most of his days sketching from his studio located amongst the mighty oak trees only found in the deep dark woodlands far off the beaten path. After spending decades learning the habits of the elusive bipedal humanoid, he has finally agreed to share his illustrative journals that capture the sightings of this larger-than-life creature that has mystified generations.

Connect with Fox Chapel Publishing on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook and learn more about the fun, educational, and friendly BigFoot at ifoundbigfoot.com.

BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World and BigFoot Goes on Vacation are now available for purchase in hardcover via Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.

Self Disclosure: I received copies of the above books to facilitate this post and feature the books in my featured book posts. I only feature books that I highly recommend. Images and Information were also provided. 

 

Blumhouse’s Truth Or Dare – Jump-Scares, Second Guessing – Fun To Watch With Friends

Olivia, Lucas and a group of their college friends travel to Mexico for one last getaway before graduation. While there, a stranger convinces one of the students to play a seemingly harmless game of truth or dare with the others. Once the game starts, it awakens something evil — a demon which forces the friends to share dark secrets and confront their deepest fears. The rules are simple but wicked — tell the truth or die, do the dare or die, and if you stop playing, you die. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Imani B.G. comments, “I am a huge fan of horror and thriller films and was so excited to see the amazing acting and suspense behind this work. This film offers jump-scares, second guessing and is loads of fun to watch with friends.” Arjun N. adds, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is a somewhat disappointing thriller with lots of initial potential… Fans of thrillers and horror movies may want to check it out but proceed with caution.” See their full reviews below.

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

By Imani B. G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Truth or Dare is a new thriller that has the audience questioning their real abilities and intentions behind the fun-filled game. I am a huge fan of horror and thriller films and was so excited to see the amazing acting and suspense behind this work. This film offers jump-scares, second-guessing and is loads of fun to watch with friends.

Olivia (Lucy Hale) and a couple of her college friends take a trip to Mexico for a final getaway before graduation. Little did they know it would turn into something more. While there, they meet a stranger who convinces Olivia to play a harmless, fun game of “truth or dare” with the others. The game starts and so does chaos which follows the group back to their hometown, releasing all their deepest and darkest secrets. The rules are quite simple, but fearful: tell the truth or die; do the dare, or die. No one gets out alive if you don’t play by the rules. Or do they?

Growing up, my friends and I always played the game “truth or dare” at sleepovers. This movie made me question what secrets are we all hide in this game? If the consequences were real, such as they are in this film, how would we react? My favorite part of this film is how I was able to somewhat relate to the characters. They are all teens, as am I. So, it really had me feeling as if I was in their shoes and made me question what I have done in order to survive. I adore the cast, because each one has something to offer to the character they play.

The message in this film is about being honest with your friends and family and to trust one another in any circumstance. Olivia and her friends are torn apart towards the beginning of the film, due to their belief about whether or not the game was real. Once their eyes are opened, they work together in hopes of beating the game and surviving.

I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars. It has a great storyline, cast and cinematography. I it for ages 13 to 18. I recommend seeing it with a group of friends to really get the full effect. Also, it would be more fun! It opens nationwide in theaters on April 13, 2018 so, be sure to check it out. Think about this film the next time you play “truth or dare” with your friends!

Blumhouse’s Truth Or Dare

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is a somewhat disappointing thriller with lots of initial potential. However, the acting and direction allow for some fun thrills. Fans of thrillers and horror movies may want to check it out but proceed with caution.

The story follows teenage friends Olivia (Lucy Hale), Lucas (Tyler Posey), Markie (Violett Beane), Penelope (Sophia Ali), Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk), Ronnie (Sam Lernie) and Brad (Hayden Szeto) on a trip to Mexico. Along the way, they encounter Carter (Landon Liboiron), an amicable person with a dark secret, playing a game of “truth or dare”. This quickly takes a turn for the worst, once the game summons a curse among the friends. Upon returning home, the curse sequesters the friends, forcing them to play a deadly game of “truth or dare” – one which will result in death if lost. Realizing they are all being forced to play the same game, the friends try to find a way to remove the curse.

Lucy Hale, as Olivia, delivers a commanding performance as the main lead, willing to go to any lengths to stop the curse. She excels in presenting her unstable relationship with her best friend Markie. Tyler Posey, as Lucas, is extremely determined to save his friends using logic to outthink the curse. Violett Beane, as Markie, is excellent with what she is given, but her character could have been more aptly written. She denigrates a repetitive plot point used to propel her inconclusive relationship with Olivia. Sophia Ali, as Penelope, wonderfully presents her character’s nonchalant attitude to circumstances, until it’s her turn to play the game. Nolan Gerard Funk, as Tyson, prominently portrays a smart yet misguided teen. Sam Lernie, as Ronnie, is the most careless of the group. Hayden Szeto, as Brad, is my favorite character due to his clever comic relief. Landon Liboiron, as Carter, mysteriously presents his character’s involvement in the story.

Jeff Wadlow directs the movie with some fun thrills, but also many that are predictable. My favorite scene is Olivia’s first dare for Markie to break her hand. It is well-acted with a visceral intensity. The flaws in the movie are in its inconsistent writing, which completely steal all the potential we see initially. Most of the characters end up in situations that are unintentionally funny. The characters are written to be hate-able and bipolar for the sake of the movie’s plot. The conclusion ends up feeling rushed and used as bait for a sequel.

The message of this film is to always be careful of strangers and unknown places. I give this film 2.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 because of the horror, sexual references and language. The movie releases in theaters on April 13, 2018, so check it out.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

Acclaimed Bay Area Songwriter Sara Lovell Releases ‘Wild Is Everywhere’ on April 20 Giveaway Opportunity!

Award-winning songwriter Sara Lovell celebrates the release of her fanciful new album “Wild Is Everywhere” with this all-ages acoustic show. Furry alligator puppies, pickleberry wormnut pies,  run-away socks, rhinos under the bed, and flying children are just a few of the wonders you’ll encounter in Sara Lovell’s fanciful worlds. With two full-length albums of songs for kids and families, it’s apparent that Sara is not so much singing to children as she is reporting back with love from a magical landscape she inhabits.
Her music is fun and guaranteed to inspire your children and dancing, smiling and singing along is guaranteed!~SoCal City Kids. 

Sara Lovell, an award-winning songwriter and producer known for “imaginative lyrics, sparkling harmonies, intriguing musical layers” and “a voice rich in both purity and nuanced detail,” will release her second all-ages music album Wild Is Everywhere, on April 20 (Unbreakable Chord Music/ distributed by Burnside Distribution). With a wide range of topics and musical styles, these 14 original songs journey through a landscape populated with flying children, misplaced animals of a certain size, and insects or flowers that turn up in the most unexpected places.

From the Sgt. Pepper’s inspired first track, “Get Up,” where listeners are invited to “grab onto the tail of someone’s kite,” the excitement and mystery builds and expands song by song. Wordplay and a vivid fantasy life are apparent with the funky “Rhinoceros under the Bed” and “Raspberry Pickleberry Wormnut Pie.” Blues, disco and funk inflect “Bounce,” “Stand Together” and “Where You Hiding All Day Long?” Every child will recognize the unfairness when “All the Grownups Get To Stay Up Late” and the impatience of “I Want It Now,” showing that Lovell understands the big feelings that live in all of us.

At a time when it can be a challenge to find good news, Lovell reminds us in the songs of Wild Is Everywhere, that joy and imagination are no small offerings. “When we allow curiosity to take hold, it widens our perceptions letting us envision the world we want to see.” As she says in the playfully creepy song, “The Dark Side of My Room,” it’s important to acknowledge: “Oh, I know, I can be a hero in my dreams / Oh, I know, I will see the light in every scene.”

Sara Lovell’s first album for families, You’ve Got Me, won a 2016 Parents’ Choice Gold Award and national critical acclaim. Songs like “Dance Like There’s Music in Your Pants” remain YouTube and radio hits. In fact, her animated and live-action music videos have attracted fans from around the world. Belarus artist Anna Silivonchik, created the colorful album art for You’ve Got Me and Wild Is Everywhere.

A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer with a clear, strong voice and a wide-ranging musical repertoire, Sara Lovell is also a solo mom to an imaginative eight year old who loves to paint his face and dance in front of the mirror. In her home studio in Berkeley, CA, Sara continues to follow the lead of the myriad characters that show up in her songs and stories. She collaborates with producer/arranger Monica Pasqual and guitarist/engineer B.Z. Lewis to create her kid-friendly recordings. Lovell plans to release new music videos and perform concerts for children and their families this spring. Visit www.saralovell.com for updates.

Connect with Sara Lovell on Facebook * Instagram * YouTube

Sara’s site: www.saralovell.com
Sara also has an upcoming show and we have teamed up for a giveaway! One winner will win a CD and a family 4-pack of tickets to the show! To enter, leave a comment below but hurry! The deadline is April 27th, 2017 at noon PST. One winner will randomly be selected. 
Show info:
Sara Lovell’s “Wild Is Everywhere” concert at McCabe’s Guitar Shop
Sunday, May 6 at 10:30 am
Self Disclosure: I received a free CD to facilitate this post. Information and images were also provided. 
COVER ART BY  ANNA SILIVONCHIK

PHOTOS BY ANDREA SCHER

CD PACKAGE AND PROMO MATERIALS DESIGNED BY ALICIA BUELOW

 

Rampage – What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in pure spectacle and fun!

Global icon Dwayne Johnson headlines the action adventure “Rampage,” directed by Brad Peyton. Johnson stars as primatologist Davis Okoye, a man who keeps people at a distance but shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, incredibly rare albino silverback gorilla who has been in his care since he rescued the young orphan from poachers. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size. To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created alpha predators tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with discredited geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “What Rampage lacks in complexity and story, it makes up for through pure spectacle and fun.” See his full review below.

Rampage

By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Rampage is a healthy dose of CGI mayhem, anchored by the star power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. What Rampage lacks in complexity and story, it makes up for through pure spectacle and fun.

Rampage is loosely based on the classic arcade game of the same name and follows Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist (basically a monkey scientist) who takes care of a gorilla named George. Davis and George share a close bond with one another. When a sample of a mysterious substance lands in his enclosure, George inhales it. The good-natured gorilla turns into a building-sized behemoth. The same thing happens to a few other animals, making the threat even larger. With the help of a scientist with a tortured past and a sarcastic, Southern-accented government operative, Davis seeks out George to protect him from harm, while still trying to end the wrath of these animals.

My favorite part of this film is the extended high-action showdown. This part reminds me of what made the game so fun: seeing these behemoths battle on an expansive urban playground where skyscrapers are like jungle gyms. We get to see the monsters battle each other and all the plot threads unfurl into monster madness. The supporting characters get some memorable character moments and Davis Okoye comes into his own as an action hero.

Dwayne Johnson spews charisma with every line. So this, mixed with his great comedic timing, make him a good choice to play an action hero, which is exactly what he does here. Johnson makes lines that would normally sound poorly written and cheesy, quotable and cool. Johnson also brings to the screen Davis’s bond with George well, considering one half of the pair is entirely CGI. Johnson also delivers certain lines that manage to poke fun at Rampage’s insane concept.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 due to suggestive content, language and violence. Rampage is more violent than average blockbuster and, there are a few scenes that I had a hard time watching. If you are a fan of the arcade game, be sure to look out for some Easter eggs that tie the film back to its source material.

I give Rampage 3.5 out of 5 stars. While not a cinematic masterpiece, if you’re looking for a big-budget battle of large creatures with entertainment to spare, this film is for you. Rampage opens in theaters April 13, 2018. Be on the lookout for it.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

 

PBS KIDS Launches First Gaming App from Series: Cat in the Hat Builds That!

THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!, Now available in the App StoreGoogle Play andAmazon, the Cat in the Hat Builds That! app features a collection of science adventures for preschoolers to engage with the characters, curriculum, tools and fantastical worlds, even their own customized backyard.

The Cat in the Hat Builds That! app offers the second adaptive learning game from PBS KIDS, with personalization that empowers kids to make choices about their play-based experiences that enhance their learning. Like The Ruff Ruffman Show’s Fish Force, released in the fall of 2017, the adaptive game within the app offers experiences that provide real-time contextual feedback based on what just happened in the game, and shifts challenge sequences to adjust difficulty and match player ability.

I had the chance to try this one out and I highly recommend for pre-schoolers! I love that the app is free and that it is a fun and educational game. It’s really cool that there is a fully customized backyard that grows the more you play. But, I really like that there are 4 Cat in the Hat inspired tools to help with science discoveries such as the magnifying Micromaboodle (say that fast 5 times!) and the Doodlemaboddle sketch pad. 

In addition to the app release, kids and families can now watch new episodes of THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!. The episodes air on PBS stations (check local listings) and the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream, and will also be available for free on pbskids.org and the PBS KIDS Video App.

Self Disclosure: Information and images were provided. I rarely review apps but highly recommend this one!

Celebrate Earth Month with PBS KIDS

In celebration of Earth MonthPBS KIDS’ annual “Explore the Outdoors” initiative encourages families to discover and connect with the natural wonders that surround them. Fans of PBS KIDS’ SPLASH AND BUBBLESWILD KRATTS and NATURE CAT will get a chance to see new episodes beginning Monday, April 23, exploring themes such as marine biology and the animal kingdom. New episodes will premiere on PBS stations (check local listings) and be available on pbskids.org, the free PBS KIDS Video App and the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream.

Kids will be inspired to learn more about the animals and natural world featured on their favorite PBS KIDS shows with new games from NATURE CAT and WILD KRATTS on the free PBS KIDS Games App and on pbskids.org. A new update to Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors App is also available, now offering more than 100 daily nature adventures families can experience together.

Engaging hands-on crafts and outdoor activities are available on PBS Parents. PBS LearningMedia offers preK-12 educators a wide range of lesson plans, project-based activities, interactive games and contextualized videos supporting environmental science and STEM curriculum. These curated resources, designed to reinforce key concepts and help students make connections between timely current events and lessons discussed in the class, can be found here.

Across the country, local PBS member stations will be hosting Earth Month-related events to connect children to the environment through hands-on learning activities. Events will feature everything from local ecology to gardening, camping and exploring the local zoo. Families will also have the opportunity to dive into nature themes and environmental concepts with PBS KIDS “Explore the Outdoors” activities and materials.

“PBS KIDS aims to spark children’s curiosity and inspire off-screen learning. With new episodes of SPLASH AND BUBBLESWILD KRATTS and NATURE CAT and a variety of games, we hope that kids will want to further explore the natural world,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Children’s Media and Education, PBS. “Our local stations bring this initiative to life in communities across the country, encouraging kids and families to step outside and discover new things in their own backyards and neighborhoods.”

PBS KIDS Explore the Outdoors Program Details & Air Dates (check local listings)

Credit: PBS KIDS.

AUTONOMOUS by Andy Marino is a Must-read for ages 14 and up! Special Guest post by Andy Marino!

AUTONOMOUS by Andy Marino (Freeform | On Sale: April 3, 2018) Combines social media stakes with jaw-dropping, high-tech action for a road trip saga like no other. The Fast and the Furious meets Stephen King’s Christine in this story about a group of friends and a cutting-edge driverless car (OTTO) that taps into their online profiles, unlocking deep secrets that put the entire group in danger. Readers are encouraged to buckle up—once inside Autonomous, there’s no escaping until the finish!

William Mackler is about to go on the road trip of a lifetime. After winning a contest-and nearly dying in the process-he becomes the proud owner of Autonomous, a driverless car that knows where you want to go before you do. #Worthit! To sweeten the deal he gets to pick three friends to go with him on a cross-country trip. For William, a reckless adrenaline junkie, this is the perfect last hurrah before he and his friends go their separate ways after graduation.

But Autonomous is more than just a car without a steering wheel. It’s capable of downloading all of the passengers’ digital history-from the good, to the bad, to the humiliating. The information is customized into an itinerary that will expose a few well-kept secrets, but it will also force William to face some inner demons of his own. Think you know Autonomous? The real question is, how much does Autonomous know about you?

More about the Author:

ANDY MARINO was born and raised in upstate New York, and currently lives in New York City with his wife and two cats. He’s also the author of Unison Spark, Uncrashable Dakota, and The Door. You can visit him at andy-marino.com or on Twitter @Andy_Marino.

We have a special Guest post by the Author!

Question: Where do you think Otto would take you on a road trip if the car tapped into your computer?

Andy Marino’s answer: Otto would figure out pretty quickly from Instagram that I like playing music and going to shows, so he would probably start by planning a trip around those things. I think he would take me across the country to all the famous venues I’ve always wanted to see, like Red Rocks in Colorado and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

But that’s too easy for a sophisticated AI like Otto to be satisfied with for very long. He would dig a little deeper to find out that my musical hero is John Frusciante, the former guitar player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Our road trip would end at John Frusciante’s house in California—and in true Otto fashion, he will have failed to understand that you can’t just show up at somebody’s house unannounced, so Mr. Frusciante will probably be alarmed to find a total stranger in a prototype driverless car in his driveway.

Look for AUTONOMOUS at a store near you or online! 

 

Self Disclosure: I participated in a Blog Tour and received a copy of the book to participate. No other compensation was received and I only feature books that I recommend. This one is great for ages 14+.

Ready Player One – Takes You To a World You Would Never See Without VR

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This film remarkably resembles its subject. Like virtual reality, it takes you into a world which you would never see without the gear. Like VR, it shows the future of technology. Like VR, it has its ups and downs that can be improved upon.” Benjamin P. adds, “Ready Player One is a delightfully nostalgic, modern-day sci-fi classic filled with Spielbergian magic.” See their full reviews below.
Ready Player One

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

This film remarkably resembles its subject. Like virtual reality, it takes you into a world which you would never see without the gear. Like VR, it shows the future of technology. Like VR, it has its ups and downs that can be improved upon. Finally, like VR, Ready Player One has the potential to either change everything or to simply bring us back to the past. Ready Player One entertains the audience with its adventure-packed explosions that run the plot of the film and add a surprising amount of comedy, which the actors deliver perfectly.

Ready Player One’s adventure follows the quest to find an Easter Egg. This hidden object requires a lot of effort as it is hidden in the massive virtual world called The Oasis, which has a land size greater than Earth and access to multiple planets. The value of it makes it worth the search, as the finder gets half a trillion dollars as well as complete control of this massive online world. While many of the independent gamers fight for this egg, there is also a large corporation fighting to make it a money-making opportunity instead of a skill-based experience. To them, the richest should win. The race is on to get the egg and to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

My favorite scene is what should solidify this film’s nomination for an Academy Award in visual effects. This scene contains a challenge that unlocks another step in finding the Easter egg. The challenge takes place in the classic horror thriller, The Shining. Not only did I immediately love this scene, due to its dedication to the great mind and creator of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick., but I love it because it visually breaks all the boundaries. Despite The Shining being a much older film, with the sets that probably no longer exist, Ready Player One completely recreates the setting from the film and perfectly places the characters’ avatars in that world too. Just like the films Star Wars and Avatar, which took your breath away because of ahead-of-their-time visuals, this film and specifically this scene does as well.

Ready Player One excels at bringing the visual world that Ernest Cline describes in the book to the big screen. The surroundings and the story are packed with references to different movies, comic books, games and TV shows. It would take months of constant replay to catch every little detail, which defiantly will delight the fans that are craving nostalgia. The CGI really is what makes this movie stand out. Despite it being branded as live action, it has more runtime in the completely animated environment than it does in live action. However, these visual scenes do not look like the standard animation of Pixar. They look and feel, unmistakably like real life. In a way, Ready Player One fails to portray a virtual world, because it looks so real. The acting has its ups and downs. Inside the Oasis, where acting relies primarily on voiceover and basic body movement, it excels. Outside, where the actors are left to the task completely on their own, they feel rather flat and somewhat monotone. The romance that runs throughout the story feels somewhat forced, partly due to the acting and partly due to the story. Interestingly enough, the romance feels more natural in the virtual world, than it does in the real life. The score of the film is one of the many pleasant surprises. Without the video, the score would still leave audiences satisfied. It does not quite reach the masterful skill of John Williams, but Alan Silvestri, known for his soundtrack for the Back to the Future series, creates beautiful harmonies that sound incredible.

The book and film differ quite a lot in a positive way. While the book (one of my favorites) is a joy to read, in many ways it would not translate well into a film. For that reason, while the main story barely changes, the actual events are structured much better for the movie and make it much more interesting. Instead of watching a person playing a game, the viewer is offered an opportunity to watch someone jump over zombies in a ballroom. The book has mainly 80s references, but the film mixes it up much more to include references from the games and movies that became popular in the last few years, which really allows the nostalgic adults, as well as the kids, enjoy the film.

Even though the messages and possible future is shown in Ready Player One should be shown to kids, there are some things that are a bit mature. For that reason, I recommend this to ages 10 to 18. Despite some issues with acting, it makes for a great adaptation of the book while keeping important messages in place. The biggest accomplishment would be the mass scale of the lifelike CGI that truly makes you believe you’re in the virtual world of the Oasis. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

Ready Player One

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Ready Player One is a delightfully nostalgic, modern-day sci-fi classic filled with Spielbergian magic.

Based on Ernest Cline’s bestselling book, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, a teen living in dystopian Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045. Like much of the population, Wade plays the OASIS, a multiplayer game in an expansive virtual world created by the eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday died, he told players he left a hidden Easter egg that will win control of the OASIS and his shares in his company Gregarious Games. A malicious corporation called IOI wishes to turn the OASIS from an imaginative escape to an ad-filled wasteland. Wade’s avatar Parzival teams up with his friend Aech, his crush Artemis and a pair of best friends named Shoto and Daito, to take down IOI by finding the egg before the company does and foil its evil agenda.

Ready Player One, true to the book, is full of 80s pop culture references from Halliday’s early life and his icon status. At the same time, much of the film takes place in the video game and is visually vibrant and futuristic. Steven Spielberg brings the OASIS to life very well. He sneaks in visual gags from Robocop to Street Fighter. The OASIS has an insane color pallet that totally matches the idea of what that virtual world is. There is a lot of CGI used, but it is necessary to tell the story and the characters’ avatars look very realistic.

As a huge fan of the book, this film adaptation still holds up for me. Quite a bit of what happens in the book is different on the big screen, but fans should not despair because the film remains true to the book’s main themes. This film is also very funny. The entire ensemble gets great one-liners. This is refreshingly different from typical sci-fi and it makes the ride through Ready Player One even more fun.

I give Ready Player One an age rating of 11 to 18 for some language and heavily implied violence. Older kids and adults will enjoy the film’s crazy visuals.

I rate Ready Player One 4.5 out of 5 stars. This film is excellent and I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of anything pop culture. Whether it is music, film, video games or anime, Ready Player One has something for you. This film opens in theaters March 29, 2018 so check it out.

All photos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!