It’s the holiday gift giving season again, and may of us know someone who is more than a little obsessed with music and musical instruments. If you’re at a loss for what to get for the musician in your life, why not check out a string instrument? A ukulele, mandolin, or banjo will delight the music lover in your life and will allow them to have fun and create fresh new sounds. Having another outlet for creativity is always appreciated by those who love to play!
If you’re a parent, devices are probably two things to you…
Your best friend, and your worst enemy.
At the moments you need them (cutting your kids nails or when you need two minutes to get chores done), they’re great… But when you want them to be shut off (for homework time, or dinner), sh*t hits the fan.
I tried to take an ‘organic’ approach to limiting screen time: having conversations about the importance of limits, asking politely for screens to be set aside, enforcing ‘screen free zones’ in the house.
Truth is? None of it was effective. Not just because my kids weren’t listening, but because I would easily lose track of time, or didn’t have the energy to argue about five more minutes.
The thing is, the whole idea of ‘parental controls’ really rubs me the wrong way. (The phrase itself brings to mind overanxious helicopter parents.) Instead, I was hoping for something that would bridge the tech gap between me and my kids, and make sure that at the end of the day, my voice was heard when it mattered most.
Right when I was about to hit a wall, I heard of an amazing app that has completely changed my life; it’s called OurPact.
OurPact is different from other parental control apps. It instead positions itself as more of a ‘parental guidance tool’ aimed at helping kids develop healthy habits independently.
Here’s how it works.
Parents install and sign up for OurPact’s iOS app on their parent device, or sign up for an account at their website. (Psst… The app is completely free, at the time of publishing at least!)
Then, you pair up your children’s iOS OR Android devices to be managed – an intuitive process that you are led through, and takes no longer than a couple of minutes.
This is when the app takes a unique approach.
Instead of simply setting up limits, the app encourages you to sit down with your kids, sign a Family Screen Time Contract, and even let your kids set up the rules in the app that will restrict their own use. (This way, the limits aren’t being imposed on them, and your kids can expect them to kick in when they do.)
Parents can manage up to 10 individual child devices, each with separate rules and profiles. During blocks, all internet and apps disappear off of kids devices (on Android devices, they don’t disappear, but access is blocked completely), and reappear when block times end.
How does the app actually work, though?
Blocking is made possible through two main features: at-a-touch blocking/granting, or automated schedules…
With At-a-Touch Blocking, parents go into the OurPact app, and navigate to the child profile that they wish to manage. Then, you select ‘Manual Block, and the period of time you want to set a block for. This feature is a favorite for nipping ‘five minute’ arguments in the butt, and ensuring your kids don’t get distracted during meals or homework time.
Automated Schedules are perfect for hands-off management, and encouraging healthy device habits with minimal work. What you do is go into the parent app, and set up periods of time you want your children’s devices to automatically enter and exit a blocked state. This is great for bedtime, or school hours.
At-a-Touch Granting can also be used at any time to allow access on an as-needed basis over scheduled or manual blocks. (Think, if your kid miraculously finishes homework early!)
OurPact is nothing short of amazing, and should be in every parent’s back pocket. Since I introduced it to my family, screen time has been put firmly in its’ place… A place with no arguments, no grumpy kids, and no silent family meals.
(Children of the Gods #1)
Publication date: September 2nd 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Elyse knows what it means to keep a secret. She’s been keeping secrets her whole life. Two, actually. First, that she ages five times slower than average people, so that while she looks eighteen years old, she’s closer to eighty. Second, that her blood has a mysterious power to heal. For Elyse, these things don’t make her special. They make life dangerous. After the death of her parents, she’s been careful to keep her secret as closely guarded as possible. Now, only one other person in the world knows about her age and ability. Or so she thinks. Elyse is not the only one keeping secrets. There are others like her all over the world, descendants of the very people the Greeks considered gods. She is one of them, and they have been waiting for her for a long time. Some are waiting for her to put an end to centuries of traditions that have oppressed their people under the guise of safeguarding them. Others are determined to keep her from doing just that. But for Elyse, the game is just beginning – and she’s not entirely willing to play by their rules.
The complete series:
While the blog tour is happening, you can get the recently released box set of the books for $.99!
When I left Cearno’s in a state of half sleep, I found the door to my apartment ajar. I grabbed the knob and pushed it open with caution, assuming I had forgotten to close it all the way.
“Hello?” I asked, just in case.
No answer. I shut the door behind me.
It wasn’t until I reached the top of the stairs that I felt something wet on my palm and realized I had blood on my hand. I made my way to the sink, looking for where I’d cut myself when I heard her.
“It’s not your blood,” Kara said from behind me, making me jump a foot in the air.
“What are you doing here, Kara?” I asked, callous and guarded. The last time I’d seen her, she’d stabbed me in the leg.
She was slumped down in the corner, sitting on the floor of my kitchen, a bloody mess.
My face registered with shock. “What happened to you?”
I waited for an answer, but she only glanced at me briefly, annoyed by the question, and continued staring off into the distance.
“Are you hurt?”
If she wasn’t going to talk to me I would find out for myself. I knelt down in front of her, looking over her blood stained hands, arms and face. She seemed fine.
“It’s not my blood either,” she said, her eyes finally meeting mine.
Jessica Therrien is the author of the young adult paranormal fiction series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release.
Aside from her Children of the Gods series, Jessica’s work can also be found in a published collection of flash fiction stories called Campaigner Challenges 2011. Out of over 350 submissions her story, The Soulless, won first place for people’s choice and fourth place in the judging round of Rachael Harrie’s Writing Campaign Challenge. Her story, Saved, is also available as part of the anthology.
Jessica spent most of her life in the small town of Chilcoot, California, high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In this town of nearly 100 residents, with no street lights or grocery stores, there was little to do but find ways to be creative. Her mother, the local English teacher, inspired her to do all things artistic, and ultimately instilled in her a love for language.
In 2003, Jessica attended California State University Long Beach where her passion for language found her studying Chinese, and in 2005 she moved to Taiwan to study abroad. From 2005 to 2006 Jessica was fully immersed in the Chinese language as she attended National Taiwan University, and in 2008 she graduated from San Diego State University magna cum laude.
Jessica currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two sons. She is working on an adult novel and a children’s picture book.
YOU CAN WIN: $10 Amazon Gift Card & Signed Copy of OPPRESSION
by Clara Kensie
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
There are always, and have been recently, stories of those who have been abducted getting rescued. We watch with rapt attention as we are shown the details of who took them, how long they were kept, and the deplorable conditions in which they were forced to live. But how often do we think about what becomes of their lives when they try to get them back to normal?
Aftermath is the story of 16 year old Charlotte Weatherstone, whose 4 year ordeal ended when she was rescued from a cage in an attic. Her family, which was the only thing that let her allow a glimmer of hope while she was imprisoned, has fallen apart in several ways. Her twin sister is not the girl she imagined she would be. And though Charlotte is free from her captor, she still feels his hands around her neck all too often.
The story gripped me instantly, opening with Charlotte’s rescue, and though this terrible part of her life is over, there’s much left to experience. I felt her raw fear as she had flashback after flashback. I was heartbroken along with her when she learned about what was going on with her parents and sister. I grieved when she finally broke down and told the stories about what exactly had happened to her while she was being held. This was in some ways, a very cathartic book.
There were some moments that seemed trite to me, such as Charlotte’s twin sister Alexa deciding she wanted her new last name to be Enola (yes, the backwards spelling of ALONE). This may be because I am an older reader and this book is targeted to young adults. But for the most part, I could relate to Charlotte and the fantastic characterization allowed me to feel close to her. I would recommend this book without hesitation.
About the Author
How old is your home? What kind of condition is it in for its age? Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to be able to enjoy your home for many years without having to consider a major remodeling project. However, if your home is getting on in years, it might be a good idea to consider renovating a few things just to be on the safe side. Even if you aren’t planning to sell your property just yet, it’s still a good idea to see if a few repairs and renovations might just add a zero or two to your total home value.
When Is The Best Time To Consider A Home Renovation Project?
The best time to consider undertaking a renovation project can vary. Perhaps the best time is when you are considering putting your property up for sale. To meet the state and Federal codes, you’ll need to make sure every area in your home is absolutely up to the most modern and exacting standards. If you any doubts concerning your kitchen, bathroom, or heating and cooling systems, it’s an excellent idea to plan for a thorough check up and possible renovation project in these important areas.
What A Timely Renovation Can Do For The Value Of Your Home
Hiring the services of a reputable and professional remodeling contractor is an excellent idea. You can add a great deal of resale value to your home in a few short days or weeks. If there are areas in your home that need serious attention due to safety concerns, now is the time to get them back to tip top shape. Not only will you feel safer in using these areas, but potential home buyers will also take notice of the work you’ve put in.
Even if you are not planning on moving for quite some time, you will still want to be absolutely sure that every part of your home is in the best possible condition. A home renovation project is a great way to make sure of this. It never hurts to bring the decor of your kitchen or bathroom up to modern fashion standards. Even the tiniest change will add value to your home. A professional contractor is an excellent resource of valuable advice and counsel in this area, and would be well worth getting to know.
Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for
In the Beginning: Dark Retellings of
Biblical Tales Anthology
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Happy Book Birthday!
In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
IN THE BEGINNING, ed. Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken.
The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.
Condemned by Elle O’Neill
Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
In the Beginning: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
From THE DELUGE, by Marti Johnson:
The stench of mildew and mold is heavy in our nostrils, and my lungs feel as though they are on fire. My breathing is audible in the lulls between the thunderclaps. My mother huddles, shivering, propped between two rocks. She is coughing painfully, and I can hear her teeth chattering.
It is hard to breathe because the air itself is full of water.
A deeper shadow has fallen across the side of the mountain on which we are sheltering. I pull aside the brambles, and gasp in amazement when I realize what it is. “Look!” I call to the others, and point at the sight. The ark has risen with the water, and now bobs up and down. It sits high in the water. We hear nothing from it but the creaking of the wood timbers and the sound of the branches and rocks on the hillside scraping against its hull.
Stephen Clements earned a Masters in Political Science from the University of Memphis, served a stint in the US Army with a heaping long tour in Iraq, and would never recommend Baghdad as a vacation spot. When he got out, he cornered and married a mean, beautiful woman, and they have three corgis and one murderous cat. He has three books, with a recent short story in MEMPHIS NOIR. He loves history, theology, travel, and making wine.
Nicole Crucial is a creative writing student at UNC Wilmington. Her hobbies outside of reading and writing include social media, Netflix, yoga (sometimes), costuming, organizing things, and spoiling her cat. She loves writing about fantastic worlds because she is certain that she would not survive in them. You can visit her website at: http://www.nicolecrucial.com.
Mike Hays is from Kansas, a tried and true flatlander by birth. He relishes the fact his adult self can now make stuff up and not be sent to the principal’s office for it. His life is built around stories—whether as a dad, a molecular microbiologist, a high school sports coach, or as an author— stories are key. He writes mainly from a boy point of view and hopes to spread ideas and stupid-funny inspiration through his books, blogs, and social media. His upper middle-grade historical fiction, THE YOUNGER DAYS, is about a family’s survival in the fallout from the violent Border War over “Bloody” Kansas. Connect with him on Twitter (@coachhays64).
Nurtured through a troubled teenhood by Aslan in Narnia, Sharon Hughson has long appreciated the power of the written word. She has published romance and women’s fiction, but her dream is to write young adult fantasy, a genre she credits for keeping her alive during her parents’ turbulent divorce and the chaotic readjustments that followed. Sharon fuels her imagination with recollections from years of motherhood and a lifetime of experience working with young people, at church and in public school. She resides in Oregon with her husband, sons and three cats, where she spends her non-writing hours substitute teaching, reading, playing piano, enjoying the outdoors and scrapbooking her family’s memories.
Marti Johnson was born on an American Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She has lived in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Nevada and California. Marti hiked and climbed mountains as a girl and young teen, and spent many years on horseback in the scenic eastern Sierras in California. She is the author (under her given name, Margaret Johnson) of DARK HORSE SPIRIT: BEYOND REDEMPTION published in 2014, and is currently working on a sequel.
Elle O’Neill loves reading and writing—from her first all-nighter as a seven-year old with autographed copies of David Adler’s Cam Jansen books to her high school and college English and creative writing classes. She believes that you can fall into the world of a book and find yourself. While she sometimes has a hard time separating fiction from reality (or is it that she prefers not to?), she likes to think that’s a whimsical asset. She enjoys reading just about anything, but treasures underdogs and bluestockings—their trials and successes feel close to home.
Lora Palmer writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Her debut novel, THE MIRRORMASTERS, is forthcoming from Clean Reads. Bucks County, Pennsylvania is her home, where she resides with her wonderful husband and their mischievous cat. She has earned a graduate degree in Psychology and works at a local residential facility serving autistic children and teens. In her spare time, she also sings in a praise band, Chalice Sounds.
Christina Raus earned her BA in Creative Writing from Western New England University in 2015. She received the Max Y. Litman English Prize for literary analysis and written communication upon her graduation. She has written articles for Lioness Magazine, a digital publication for female entrepreneurs. Originally from Massachusetts, she currently resides in New York, where she is attending Sarah Lawrence College and working on a novel. She is expected to graduate from Sarah Lawrence’s MFA in Creative Writing Program in 2017. “Emmaculate” is her first fiction publication.
LAUREEN P. CANTWELL, Editor:
Laureen grew up in eastern Long Island and eventually found her way to Memphis —“the rock ’n’ roll side of Tennessee,” where she worked as a librarian at the University of Memphis and grew to love the darkness of the city—and Elvis. While there, she proposed and co-edited an anthology of short fiction, Memphis Noir, part of Akashic Books’ renowned Noir series published in November 2015. That adventure led to a conversation with Georgia McBride at a library conference, and to the thrilling experience of working with In the Beginning and putting together a charity anthology full of complex stories suitable for a young adult audience. She currently lives in Western Colorado and works as a librarian for Colorado Mesa University.
GEORGIA McBRIDE, Editor:
Georgia lives in North Carolina with her kids and husband. She has three dogs, one bird, and a fish. She loves to read, watch movies, listen to music, and go see films. She is a publisher, producer, writer, and editor. She has never met a piece of bacon she did not eat, or a cup of coffee she did not drink.
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
One (1) winner will receive a scrabble tile book cover charm (US ONLY)
Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of In the Beginning: Dark Retellings of Biblical Stories (INT)
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by Margot Livesey
Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife, Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.
Mercury’s owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.
Donald may have 20/20 vision but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia.
1 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Mercury by Margot Livesey
Though there is a horse cover of this novel, the horse doesn’t actually factor in as much as one would imagine. I’m OK with this; I’m not really a horse or horse book fan. What I wasn’t OK with was the extremely slow plot development, the plethora of characters, or the fact that these two married people seemed to be living in different worlds, neither of them expressing to the other their discontent.
Viv and Donald Stevenson have been married nearly 10 years, have two kids, and vastly different careers. Donald left his surgical career after the death of his father to become an optometrist. Viv left a fast paced job in New York City to work with horses at a friend’s stable. What was once a pleasant relationship becomes filled with secrets and comes to feel perfunctory. Viv falls in love with Mercury, a horse that seems to give her a new lease on life and a chance to capture her lost childhood dreams.
The book starts off very, very slowly. To be honest, it didn’t ever truly pick up speed. The characters all felt boring to me. The only one who had a modicum of personality, Donald’s friend Jack, lost it after he started a relationship with a woman. Even the Stevenson children do nothing to bring levity or humor to this droll story.
One thing that bothered me a lot is the extremely heavy use of foreshadowing. Several times a chapter, the narrator would say something like, “But how could we know what was to come later?” or, “Looking back, I wish I would have known…”. It took me way out of the story and I just plain didn’t like it. I would like to just experience what is going to happen as it’s happening, thanks very much.
As a married person, I can see how the tedium of everyday life can cause stress on a marriage. But if you want to make it work, why not talk it out? Viv and Donald ignore each other, speak under their breath, and do nothing to make the other aware of how they’re feeling in any way. Instead of trying to talk to each other, they hide in their work and confide in others. I guess this does happen, but as a happily married person I found it very sad and immature.
I finished only about half of Mercury and couldn’t complete the rest. It just didn’t grab my attention on any level.
About the Author
Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Title: Touch Me
Author: Skye Malone
Series: Book One of the Demon Guardians Series
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wildflower Isle
Publication Date: September 16, 2016
Cover Artist: Karri Klawiter
six-foot-two, and easily the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on. And he
smiles like he knows me. Like he’s saying hello.
— Excerpt from Touch Me (Demon Guardians #1) by
Skye Malone. Copyright Skye Malone. All rights reserved.
Be Frank with Me
by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Alice is 24 years old, working in the book publishing world, and is sent to be an assistant of sorts to the famous-for-one-novel Mimi Banning. When she meets Mimi’s 9 year old son Frank though, she suddenly has to become so much more. Frank lives in his own unique world to say the least. Adults either cannot deal with him or find him endearing, and children his own age just find him plain weird.
Mimi has been in hiding since the massive fame she gained with her first and only novel. Having Frank has changed her, but not necessarily for the better. She now is on a tight deadline to come out with another bestseller, and Alice must keep her household and child under her sights while Mimi tries to do just that.
I quite enjoyed this look into the lives of some truly intriguing characters. I instantly fell in love with Frank, even though many may find him annoying or struggle to understand him. It’s never stated, but seems obvious to me, that Frank falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. His mother, delicate as she is, loves him but does not always have the energy or attitude necessary to keep up with him.
I loved the bond that Alice and Frank formed. It’s cliche to say they both helped each other learn a lot, but it’s true. Frank needed Alice to guide him socially and in some other ways, and Alice learned that things are not always so cut and dried and perhaps can be looked at from another angle by watching Frank.
One thing I didn’t understand nor was it even touched on was the reason why Mimi was so rude. Alice was there to help her, after all. Maybe Mimi resented needing the help; maybe she felt she was being spied on and didn’t like it; maybe she became jealous of the attention Alice was getting from Frank. These are all plausible, albeit facetious reasons that could explain Mimi’s perpetual nastiness towards Alice, but it felt like something deeper was at play.
I don’t know if the book could be described as hilarious or heartwarming, but I’m glad I read it, if only because I was introduced to young Frank. He’s a character that will stay with me for some time and make me think of him often. I loved the author’s writing style, though I didn’t particularly like the flow of the individual chapters.
Give this novel a read if you love characters with a lot of heart and honesty, or if you’re interested in reading a story that is true to life about a child on the autism spectrum.
About the Author
Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.