Today is Ash Wednesday, and I have been doing some thinking about what I would want to “give up” for Lent. Last year, I didn’t even bother because I knew I had long days with a newborn and I was so tired I was bound to lose any willpower quickly. But my son, in second grade and learning about the deeper meaning of Lent now that he is getting older, came home today asking, “Mom, I don’t know what I want to give up for Lent. Why do we give up things? Can you help me think?”
After a little while, I told him that Lent was a special time for us to think about how Jesus lived his life for us, and everything he gave up for that, including his life. I didn’t know how much detail my kid would understand. I told him the best way to live during Lent was to maybe DO things that Jesus would like. After all, Lent is a time to make our faith stronger, and I am a believer that any way you choose to do that is fine.
One way you can partake in Lent is to learn more about the life of Jesus, the tales and mystery surrounding him, and how he affected others, such as the apostles.
Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery is a supremely interesting show. Each episode explores in detail some facet related to Christ: the Shroud of Turin, Mary Magdalene, the Cross. While the story is reenacted in the foundation of the show, you are taken on a journey around the world to hear from religious and secular experts to learn more about the episode’s subject.
Season 2 of Finding Jesus will debut on Sunday, March 5–just in time for your family to experience together during Lent. The first episode is centered around the apostle Thomas. Known most famously by his somewhat notorious nickname, “Doubting Thomas,” this episode proves that there was so much more to his life than his momentary disbelief. After his faith in the risen Christ was restored, he traveled and spread the word of the Lord, affecting the faith of millions today.
Doubt is such a prevailing theme in everyday modern life. A person is always wondering if they’ve done enough; if they have said something wrong; if they are doing right by their family. I believe Lent is the best time to realize that you should give up your doubts to the Lord, just as Thomas did.
I am giving away a $25 gift card to Lifeway Christian Stores to one commenter. It’s just in time for you to get a new bible, gift for upcoming confirmations and communions, and much more.
Please leave a comment letting me know if you have seen Finding Jesus, and if so, what you think about it. I will choose a winner on March 10.
by Sara Flannery Murphy
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies”, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.
But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.
After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.
A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.
4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I give props to the author for finding such a unique premise for a book. It’s not quite clear how things work, but suspending your disbelief ensures you will enjoy this story.
Edie is very good at her job, which entails slipping in and out of consciousness while a dead person’s (spirit? soul? it’s never really named) speaking through her. She is basically going along day after day until she finally, unexpectedly, makes a real connection with a client. Patrick Braddock is visiting Edie to contact his recently departed wife. As Edie channels Sylvia, she finds it harder and harder to separate herself from Sylvia’s former life, and Patrick as well. She soon becomes entertwined with him, and as she gets in deeper and deeper she learns that even though your body might be one with another’s, you can never truly get to know their secrets.
I found this book easy to get absorbed in. Edie is a shaky, very withholding narrator, but as she opens up and learns more about Sylvia and gets closer to Patrick, she becomes more intriguing. While I have put this book on my “thriller” shelf, there are no really scary parts or anything where you’re holding your breath waiting for something to happen. The true deliciousness in this story is watching Edie slowly start to become someone completely different from herself.
I cannot say I particularly loved the characterization. The reader learns almost nothing about Edie until the last 5 percent of the novel. And even then, the way her past is unraveled takes you a few minutes to think about.
As I have thought about this book over the last 24 hours since I’ve finished it, I’ve loved it more. I definitely read it quickly and lost track of time in its’ pages. I would recommend this novel to those who like their stories to unwind slowly…because delayed gratification is what makes this book work. I am looking forward to more from this author.
About the Author
Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son. The Possessions is her first novel.
As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for the health and safety of your child is purchase the best car seat you can afford. So often, people get lost in all of the research you must do when trying to find the seat that’s best for you. I’ve found a site that helps you compare and contrast dozens of seats, giving you the scoop in easy to understand language: Best Car Seat Hub.
Best Car Seat Hub has all the info you need to research seats in one place. Whether you’re looking for infant seats, convertible seats, boosters, or travel system information, you can find it there.
Not only can you see convertible and infant car seat reviews on bestcarseathub.com, you can get information on your state’s regulations, recall updates, and tips on how to clean your seat.
Best Car Seat Hub helps you by putting the statistics and ratings found on such sites as Consumer Reports Reviews in one easy to use, simple to understand place. I will be using the pros and cons on different convertible seats soon to find a secondary car seat for my one year old.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by all the car seat hubbub on the internet, visit Best Car Seat Hub and find out what you need to know, quickly.
Microsaurs: Follow That Tiny-Dactyl
by Dustin Hansen
Danny and Lin never say no to adventure, so when Danny’s spy camera captures a tiny dinosaur crashing into Lin’s helmet during her skateboarding tryouts they know they have to investigate. But even they weren’t prepared for a secret laboratory filled with amazing inventions (including the Shrink-a-Fier and the Expand-o-matic 2) and astonishing discoveries (Triceratops are NOT fond of the color red!).
Who knew that tracking one tiny pterodactyl would open up such a giant world of adventure with the Microsaurs!?!
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Jurassic Park in this new action-packed illustrated chapter book series from author and illustrator Dustin Hansen.
I have to say, first off this book and the idea of tiny dinosaurs reminded me of this movie from my childhood:
I wish it were streaming somewhere so I could show my older son! We read Microsaurs together. He immediately wished he could have a tiny dino as a pet and described to me all the places we could take him 😀
My son is a second grader, but a bit of an advanced reader for his age, and only had trouble with a handful of words. We both enjoyed the silly parts and watching the little dinos be adventurous. This is a cute, fun series that I think boys and girls will love equally. We can’t wait to read the next installment.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a small town boy at heart. I grew up in rural Utah, where I could find adventure an hour in any direction. I spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, hiking, biking, and fishing like a Viking. (Vikings fly fished for small mountain trout, right?).
I remember many times going on ‘an adventure’ with my sisters as we explored the rattle snake infested acreage behind our home in Pigeon Hollow. The landscape was barren, yet beautiful, and while we walked and chewed on the sack lunches we always brought along, we made up fantastic tales, ranging from daring survival stories to walking with the giants of old.
This imaginative upbringing led me to a career as a visual artist in the video game industry, but my passion for telling stories was always tickling in the back of my mind.
2. What made you want to become a writer?
A lot of road led me to this point in my life. Most of them were dirt roads full of rocks, ruts, and pot holes, but all of them wound through the same fertile grounds. Family. I remember fondly having my dad read The Secret Garden to us as children, one chapter a night until we begged him to finish the last quarter of the book as we drew closer to the end. I remember making up stories with my sisters as we played for hours with our Fischer Price Adventure Set. And as I grew older and had a family of my own, I began to understand the importance of storytelling, and how it not only provides entertainment, but how it can empower, enlighten, and strengthen us. The first book I wrote that I was willing to share I read a chapter a night to my young children. They were, and still are, my biggest supporters, and their desire to add to the story, read sections aloud to each other, and demand me to hurry as I approached then end was all the fuel a tired writer needed to continue.
So, that’s really it. I became a writer to share my dreams and weird wanderings with my family. It’s just that now, my reading family is growing.
3. What do you need around you to write (special drink, lucky items, etc)?
I’m a pretty simple guy. I’d be lying if I said that my desk wasn’t covered in the ghostly remains of empty Diet Mt. Dew cans, but other than that, a little solitude, a warm blanket on my lap, and a bit of time is all I need to get the old words to travel from my brain to the keyboard.
4. What are some of your favorite books?
Oh boy. This is the most difficult question you could ask. Okay. I’ll try. I’m a huge fan of all things Roald Dahl. In many ways he is my storytelling ideal. I faked sick in the 8th grade to read Robinson Crusoe in a single sitting (first time I’d ever done that with a novel). The same year I read my first Stephen King novel, It, and it rocked my 13 year old world and set me on a 15 year King obsession. Those were definitely my formative books. But today, I LOVE Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Those books just tap my funny bone. The One and Only Ivan reminded me that heart is the most underappreciated element of children’s lit. Somehow I had forgotten this over the years. And A Monster Calls reminded me that young readers are not only able to handle big topics, but in many cases they are better at it than we adults are.
5. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Yes, and no. My main character, Lin, is loosely based on my daughters, Malorie and Annie. She kind of pulls her snarkiness from one, and her bravery from the other. But Twoee, the lovable puppy-ish triceratops is absolutely based on my 7 year old pal, Rusty. He’s a big brown puppy and when he’s not proofreading my rough drafts, he can be found lounging under my writing desk with one of his stuffed animal toys.
About the Author
Dustin was raised in rural Utah, where his imagination was his most constant companion. A reader, artist, and gamer from an early age, Dustin was encouraged to mine his talents, follow his passions, and find the fun in everyday life.
Dustin studied art in college, and entered the exciting world of video game development in 1994. His career has taken him and his family from coast to coast, but he always considered the small town he grew up in, Ephraim, Utah, his true home.
After spending a year as a director at Habro, Dustin, his wife, and four kids moved back to Ephraim, where he lives today in the shadows of a fine mountain, writes books about video games and dinosaurs, and takes long walks with his dog, Rusty.
Oh, and he loves the Utah Jazz, but that’s another story all together.
PURCHASE THE BOOK:
Joining the bandwagon for this year’s expectant Hollywood celebrities is the lovely couple Kel Mitchell and wife Asia Lee. And by the look of it, Kel is ready to take the order! Kel took to Instagram for his pregnancy announcement as he posted a photo of him and his wife, in an iconic Good Burger theme.
The post was captioned: “We have a bun in the oven! thank you @therealasialee for being the best Wife to me the best Friend to me and now the best Mom to our blessed baby!! I love you so much! #thankyouJesus #Blessed #specialdelivery #myWiferocks photo credit: @ohmyjosephine.”
In the photo, the couple is seen wearing a Good Burger employee hat while holding a cheeseburger while Asia shows off her bare bump as she holds a bottle of orange soda – certainly in an homage to Mitchell’s character in Nick’s Kenan & Kel.
Kel Mitchell played Ed in the famous comedy Good Burger in 1997 along with Kenan Thompson. Back in 2015, he talked about a possible sequel on an interview with Us Weekly. The former child star stated: “Everybody is talking about a Good Burger 2, us doing a Bad Boys type of film. It’s just a thought, just a thought. But there’s definitely a possibility of something. So you just got to keep watching!”
Mitchell and Lee wed in 2012. Before this pregnancy, Mitchell was already a father of two young kids with ex-wife Tyisha Hampton.
Valentine’s Day is less than a week away! If you are looking for a sweet read to gift your little one or budding reader, check out these offerings out recently from Macmillan Children’s Publishing.
XO, OX: A Love Story
by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell
The hilarious tale of love between a hapless ox and a fabulous gazelle, told in correspondence.
For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to say how much I admire you. You are so graceful and fine. Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running away from tigers.
I think that what I’m trying to say is that I love you.
And so begins an epic, if initially unrequited, love affair between a graceful gazelle and a clumsy, hapless ox. Romance will never be the same.
Adam Rex’s hilarious, sweet, and at times heartbreaking letters between a hopelessly romantic ox and a conceited, beautiful gazelle is paired perfectly with Scott Campbell’s joyful illustrations to bring you a romance for the ages.
MY THOUGHTS: A lovingly oblivious Ox has fallen for a rather conceited Gazelle who at first insists she wants nothing to do with him. Cute, but depending on the reader could be taken in a negative light. As for myself, I found it light hearted and kind of funny that the Ox was really in a world of his own and found every thing the Gazelle said and did a sign of her devotion.
Hug it Out!
by Louis Thomas
A fresh, funny take on sibling rivalry and conflict resolution, as two sparring siblings are forced to “hug it out.”
Mom has had enough of Woody and Annie’s incessant fighting. When her pleas for sharing and apologizing are ignored, she demands they “hug it out.” At first, the warring siblings are confused. Hugging? But after a long afternoon of forced embraces, the brother and sister decide to call a truce to avoid yet another icky hug. However it doesn’t take long for them to miss that newfound closeness. And soon they’re looking for something to fight about so they can hug it out once more!
Adults will delight in a new solution to conflict, while kids will enjoy yelling “HUG IT OUT!” at each familiar situation. With subversive humor and smart, eye-catching illustrations, Louis Thomas’s debut is a cheeky tribute to sibling rivalry and (cuddly) compromise.
MY THOUGHTS: A brother and sister who constantly fight are forced to find a way to get along when their mom decides to force them to–yuck!–HUG!! I do have two boys but the youngest isn’t old enough to be fighting with his older brother yet. I will keep this for of discipline in mind though! This book is perfect for kids who are close in age or those who argue and pick. Lessons learned include that time on your own can be OK, and that fighting with your sibling isn’t nice.
All Kinds of Kisses
by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry
A grasshopper mouth opens east-west but not south. They’re like scissors for chopping up leaves.
“Don’t try to hide from a kiss on its side,” says grandpa grasshopper to nymphs.
How would a grasshopper kiss?
Whichever it is, this much is true. When we say goodnight, I love all kinds of kisses from you!
We humans smooch with our lips. But how do giraffes, whales, hummingbirds, tree frogs, and other creatures kiss? It’s fun to wonder about and to see in the pages of this charming book, which includes facts about each animal at the end.
MY THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for a bedtime story! It gives a look into how different animals, such as giraffes, piranhas, and even humpback whales, might give kisses to their young. Older kids will love the scientific facts, and little ones will like trying to act out the different kinds of kisses. I adore books that give chances for kids to interact with what they are hearing!
Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar
by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
In this sequel to Hedgehugs, Horace and Hattie return for another sweet story of friendship.
It’s spring! And everything is colorful—rainbows in the sky and flowers blossoming on trees. When Horace and Hattie Hedgehog see a caterpillar become a butterfly and take flight, they decide to try a transformation of their own. When these two best friends put their minds to solving a problem, nothing can stand in their way!
MY THOUGHTS: Sweet and charming board book about a pair of hedgehog best friends who find a caterpillar. The story moves quick and has a concise ending, which is good for storytime with wiggly toddlers. It encourages kids to use their imagination.
Shiny Shapes: Love You Always
by Roger Priddy, illustrated by Lucy Fleming
Cute and cuddly animals wear their hearts on their sleeves in this charming board book with Valentine’s Day rhymes. There are tactile, heart-shaped holes on every page, while glitter and foil add a sprinkle of Valentine’s Day magic to this endearing book for the little one you love.
MY THOUGHTS: Colorful illustrations and eye catching glitter on the pages will keep the attention of even the littlest ones at bedtime. A quick, easy rhyming read about a duck and bear who are best friends. Super sweet way to show your love this Valentine’s Day!
Thank you so much to Macmillan for providing these books for review! Find more information on these titles, activity kits, and so much more at http://us.macmillan.com/mackids/.
When my older son received a guitar for Christmas year before last, my husband and I quickly learned that we were being introduced into a new and sometimes overwhelming world. Musical instruments require care, usage, and many accessories. We weren’t sure what the best guitar music center was, but we quickly found out that Guitar Center was a one stop shop for all our needs.
Our 8 year old is now taking lessons with a customized guitar and doing very well! We jazzed up his instrument with a designer strap, fret stickers, and more. He loves going to Guitar Center to see the new and cool ways he can make his guitar learning experience even better.
Almost every person on Earth has shared their life with a pet of some kind. Growing up, I always thought I was more of a cat person, even though we usually had both cats and dogs around the house. As I am older now and have my own family, I have recognized the special relationship that humans and dogs can share. This amazing phenomenon is at the heart of the film A Dog’s Purpose, out in theaters January 27, 2017.
Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, from director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love. The family film told from the dog’s perspective also stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall and Dennis Quaid.
Our family adopted Jasper, a rat terrier mix, right around Christmas of 2013. We found he and his siblings near a busy highway, and he was the runt of the litter. We took him home and after a few days he warmed right up to us.
Jasper has been my boys’ best friend through the past few years!
He has been such a special part of our family and we now are dog people, I suppose!
Would you like to win a FANDANGO gift card so you can see A Dog’s Purpose in theaters? Leave me a comment telling me about the wonderful pet in your life! I will choose a winner on February 3 to receive a $25 Fandango gift card!
by D. Melhoff
A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counselors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables in order to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.
Drawing on the grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales, Grimm Woods is a heart-pounding thriller about a deranged killer who uses traditional children’s stories as tropes in elaborate murders. Set against the backdrop of modern-day Michigan, it’s a journey through the mind of a dangerous zealot and a shocking glimpse into the bedtime stories you thought you knew.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I will admit that my initial instinct about this book, after reading the first 10 chapters or so, was to put it down and give it a DNF. For some reason I continued though, and although I can’t say I’m exactly super thrilled I did, the book was worth the time it took to read.
It seems the author was trying to create a Friday the 13th, slasher flick atmosphere; in some ways he succeeded, in some ways not. This is a horror book for sure though; very gory and not for the faint of heart.
Scott Mamer and a dozen other college aged students are counselors at a fairy tale themed camp for kids in the middle of the woods. Before the kids even arrive, the counselors are being picked off one by one, their bodies displayed in gruesome ways. When the murders continue after the children get there, Scott takes it upon himself to see who is really behind the killing and try to stop it.
Don’t get twisted–Scott is no hero, though. He’s not even really likeable as a character. No one in this novel truly is. It’s soon discovered all of the counselors have been handpicked for a reason and they will pay for the sins of their past. The victims and the ways they are killed are all, in some cases very tentatively, connected to old school, violent fairy tales. In some instances I could see the connection, but in others it was a stretch.
I had a TON of questions as I was reading this book and seeing as this was a mystery, decided to keep reading and see if they would be answered. For the most part, they were, but some things still don’t make sense to me. It’s difficult to explain myself more without giving away the plot.
I feel that in some ways the author was trying too hard. He uses big, uncommon words when simpler ones would have fit better. There are mentions of torture devices and methods of killing that are kind of shoehorned in, as if the author was just trying to say, “Look, I know this.”
Though in many ways I was dissatisfied, Grimm Woods was a quick, thrilling read for me and I was totally escaping into the world when I was reading. The author does do a great job with descriptions, whether it’s the setting, or the bloody details of how someone is killed. It’s very vibrant and you can really see it in your mind’s eye.
In my opinion the basis for the story was a creative one and it took me for a ride, but the author just has some writing issues he needs to work on. I would revisit his work in the future.
About the Author
D. Melhoff was born in a prairie ghost town that few people have heard of and even fewer have visited. While most of his stories are for adults, he also enjoys terrifying younger audiences from time to time, as seen in his series of twisted picture books for children. He credits King, Poe, Hitchcock, Harris, Stoker, and his second grade school teacher, Mrs. Lake, for turning him to horror. For more information, visit grimmwoods.com.
Buying a house is the largest purchase you will ever make in your life. Therefore, you should do everything you can to keep it looking great while you are living there. You will get a number of benefits from this. First of all, you will have a home that is the envy of your neighborhood. You will also increase the overall value of your home if it is kept in good condition. This will allow you to make a nice profit on your home if you decide to sell it in the future. One of the most important areas you need to focus on is the landscaping. Here are some of the ways to find a reputable and talented landscaping company to keep your home looking beautiful.
1. Ask your friends and family members for the names of the landscaping companies they are using.
The best place to start your search for a landscaping company is by talking to all of the people in your life who you trust completely. This would obviously be your friends and family members. Ask these people who they use for their various landscaping needs. You might be able to discover some great landscapers that you previously never knew existed. It is always best to get recommendations from your friends and family because these people do not have any ulterior motive to recommend a specific landscaper to you. Therefore, you can always believe what they are telling you.
2. Make sure that the landscaping company you hire has been in business for a long time.
Experience is something you need to take into consideration when you are looking at Toronto landscapers. It goes without saying that you do not want a bunch of novices trimming your trees and hedges. There is an art to these tasks that experienced landscapers have. Deciding to go the cheap route and hiring inexperienced landscapers in an attempt to save some cash would be a huge mistake on your part. Your yard will not look as good as it would have if you had hired seasoned professional landscapers who have been in the business for many years. Ideally, you should seek out landscapers who have no less than three years of experience working in your area. Hiring a landscaper with this level of experience will ensure that you get the quality of landscaping that you are looking for.
3. Does the landscaping company charge a competitive fee for their services?
The fees that landscapers charge can tend to vary greatly. Therefore, you owe it to yourself to contact many different landscapers in your area and get quotes from all of them on their services. You should never pay more than you need to for quality landscaping. You will find that some companies will charge twice as much as others for the same amount of work. Smaller companies traditionally charge less than the big ones because they have much less overhead.
4. Consider signing a long-term contract with a landscaping company.
One of the most popular methods that people use to save money on landscaping is to enter into a long-term agreement with a landscaping company. Decide how often you want the company to come to your home. Landscapers will usually give their customers a significant discount in exchange for giving them the repeat business. Find out what type of discounts are offered for signing a long-term contract with all of the companies you talk to.
5. Ask all of the landscapers you are considering to provide you with a list of references.
It is essential that you see examples of the work that each landscaping company is capable of doing before you decide which one you will hire. All of the reputable companies will be happy to provide you with several references that you can contact. Get in touch with these people and take a look at their property. Ask the people about the landscapers to find out if they were on time and how long it took them to finish their work. This is important info so you can get a sense of the company’s overall professionalism. You can then use this info to help make your final decision.