Heart of Africa Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, July 27, 2020

A Congolese man runs from a terrible accident and finds himself at a revolutionary camp, where he is told that he has a great destiny. He tries to escape and start a new life by going to another town, joining a new religion, and becoming a missionary. Ultimately, though, he finds himself back in the very place he had tried to leave. He must face his fears and his shame—but also his magnificent possibilities. Heart of Africa is the first full-length, faith-based film to come out of the nascent Democratic Republic of Congo film movement. After decades of colonial oppression and civil war, the country's scars run deep. Cinema is emerging as a cathartic new medium, and director Tshoper Kabambi is a leader of a new kind of revolution: one driven by stories that he hopes will heal the hearts of his people and the DR Congo.

Review - Heart of Africa shared many different themes ranging from finding yourself, culture vs. faith and more. The movie moved quickly and explored the different struggles within the Congo and breaking away from the tribal culture to a religious culture. There was mild violence. Most of the movie was in subtitles with the later half containing some English. The subtitle pacing was just about right for me. It gave the movie authentic credibility. I enjoyed the movie, however, I would suggest the ideal audience is older teens and/or adults. The movie is based on a true story and I think it's worth watching to at least understand the different struggles that different cultures have within their community.

Learn more here and purchase Heart of Africa here or here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The sponsor is responsible for running the giveaway and prize fulfillment for the winner. This post does contain affiliate links.

Monster Twins Blog Tour, Author Interview and Giveaway

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Monster Twins Written by Robert and Karen Hanvik Illustrated by Ella Ransom

Publisher’s Synopsis: Bella and Bertie are twins, but they don’t know that, or each other. Separated while babies by bad law, they grew up 6000 miles apart, in Singapore and London. Follow the twins as they discover their shared past and do their best to make a better future for themselves, their families, and others like them. For more information, visit the website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The book is available to purchase here



Life Is What It's Called - What was your inspiration for The Monster Twins?


The Monster Twins started as more of an idea than an inspiration. We wanted a family project that could bring together our interests and abilities in creative writing, design, and illustration. A children's book was a logical idea.


From there, though, the book advanced based on a variety of inspirations. Ella has been creating monster pictures since she was five or six years old (she is 19 now); as she has grown up, she added a deep interest in drawing architectural features and icons. These two elements became a focal point for the book.


Karen has been stretching her creative muscles for many years. Having trained at London College of Fashion and Central St Martins, Karen has channeled her creativity into numerous areas over the years, including her own line of high-fashion scarves (karenhanvik.com) and a successful career as a digital marketing consultant. She is inspired by her passion for travel, as am I. This shared passion made the element of multiple locations for the setting of the book another logical decision.


Regarding the copy, it started as a much longer manuscript designed to introduce many concepts and images that could inspire the book's design. Gradually, the words were pared down to allow the design and illustration to carry much of Bella and Bertie's story. 


Finally, subconsciously at first, then consciously, the story's emotional elements were inspired by current events. The Monster Twins features a number of conflicting emotions, such as sadness and joy, separation and togetherness, loss, and gain. This mirrors the current state of so much of the world, with division being such a common theme across geographies, political leanings, and personal ideologies. We wanted to share a book that focused only on overcoming those divisions and finding happiness together… in such a way that makes a positive difference for others.


Life Is What It's Called - What do you hope kids will gain from reading it? And why should parents want their kids to read this book?


During our research as we developed The Monster Twins, we were pleasantly surprised about the quite wide age range of children who enjoyed the book. Kids as young as three or four simply enjoyed the big, bold, colorful pictures and some funny bits. Children up to 11 or 12 enjoyed the look and feel of the book, but seemed to really spark to the idea of thinking about what the story really means… giving them a chance to create their interpretation of it. No matter what the age, though, we want young listeners and readers to like Bella and Bertie – and their extended family! – as people who overcome challenges and strive to help others… and have some fun at the same time.


As for the parents, we hope the book is a joy to read every time to their children, letting them use their imaginations and apply their own interpretations. We also hope it might inspire them to talk to their children about the concepts they take away from the story. Finally, we hope it will spark an interest in the locations featured in the book and nudge them to learn more with their children. (We have created a new format for The Monster Twins, available at monstertwins.com, that is interactive and does not require an e-reader; it features bonus materials on every page of the book, including fun facts about the locations, downloadable coloring pages, and activities.)


Life Is What It's Called - Do you each have a favorite part of the book that you'd like to share? 


Ella: My favorite pages are those where Bella and Bertie are on the same page doing different – but related – things, like where they're climbing in different locations, or in their separate beds in London and Singapore. Also, because of my interest in architecture, I think it's great to share with kids my view of such amazing buildings from around the world. 


Karen: The mobile phone page spread always makes me smile as it's where Bella and Bertie and the families find each other, thanks to social media, mobile phones, and the internet! I also love the 'hot spots' in the interactive online version of the book we created for our website. And it makes me happy and proud to hear the comments from people that the pictures surprise them in a fun way. We worked hard to include unusual details that kids and parents would enjoy.


Robert: I like all the icons in London and Singapore, as they bring back memories of our travels together. But I think my favorite bits are the smaller touches, like Baby Bella's Smellies branded diaper and the 'monster accessible' school bus. My favorite spread is the one that reveals that Bella and Bertie are monsters because the reference to short arms and selfies makes me smile.


Life Is What It's Called - Can you share a highlight from the process of creating The Monster Twins?


I think the overall highlight has been just being able to share such an ambitious project as a family. In addition to Ella, Karen, and myself, other family members have helped in many behind-the-scenes ways. You can learn more about how we created The Monster Twins by visiting the 'Making of' page on our website, which provides an overview of how the book was drawn, together with early pictures of the character development. 


The other thing that has been a real highlight is the multitude of reactions and interpretations we have received from everyone who has been exposed to the book. To us, that's a sign of a great book, one that engages people in ways that are meaningful to each individual.


Life Is What It's Called - Are there more books featuring the monsters in your future?


Yes! We already have drafted manuscripts for two more books, which will take Bella and Bertie and their family to other parts of the world, including the United States. We have roughly sketched out more stories but thought we should not get too far ahead of ourselves.


Life Is What It's Called - Robert, since you have experience in writing journalism, and, Karen, you have experience in marketing, can you tell us if these said careers are harder or easier than writing for children? How have your backgrounds helped you write this book?


Robert: I feel fortunate in that writing has always come easily to me. I think journalistic writing is more natural for me, especially having done it for so long, in that it is quite logical and straightforward. Creative writing can be challenging because linear thinking is not always best. Plus, I have to constantly remind myself that I'm not writing the book for myself; I have to think about those who I want to enjoy it. I do feel that my approach to writing has helped us think through things in the book. By 'over-writing' as I tend to do, I cover many things that are much better drawn and brought to life by design.


Karen: Writing and illustrating books for children is certainly more fun! Besides the learning curve of stretching myself to 're-learn' how to draw and design again after a number of years, it has been a fantastic experience and given me ideas for new characters and stories. Having had five children (now all adults) and remembering the pleasure of reading endless books to and with them, also definitely helped make the book better and added to my enjoyment of creating it.


Life Is What It's Called - What's one fun thing about you that readers should know?


Ella: Some of the architectural drawings I submitted as part of my school homework were so precise that my teachers mistakenly thought I had traced them from a book.


Karen: At age 15, I was asked to fill a gap in my school's sports day and throw the discus for the very first time. Randomly, it turned out I was a natural and, after lots and lots of practice, I ended up training with the Team Great Britain, the national Olympic track and field team! 


Robert: I hold a record that will never be broken: longest baby to be delivered at the hospital where I was born – 24 inches. (I know the record will always stand because the hospital closed shortly after I was born!) 


GIVEAWAY Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Monster Twins and a Visa gift card!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A physical copy of The Monster Twins
  • A digital flipbook copy of The Monster Twins
  • A $25 Visa gift card to stock up on more books from your favorite bookstore

Five (5) winners receive:

A choice of:
  • A physical copy of The Monster Twins 
  • A digital flipbook copy of The Monster Twins

Giveaway begins July 20, 2020, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends August 20, 2020, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

July 22 Jrsbookreviews 

This post is in partnership with The Children's Book Review.  All opinions are my own. The giveaway is run by The Children's Book Review.

Ways to Save Money

Monday, July 20, 2020

Do you need to cut your costs down and save more money? There are several ways that can help you save money and cut down your costs. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Create a budget - This will help you plan out your expenditures and your savings.

2. Change Your Entertainment Habits: Are you always buying the latest movie or game? Do you have cable television running in your home? Are you renting movies? Look for cheaper options for your entertainment habits - switch from cable to online streaming, borrow movies from the public library, watch what you already own.

3. Plan Your Meals: Plan what meals you are going to make for the week. This will stop you from making unnecessary shopping trips and limit what you're buying on the grocery list to what you really need.

4. Switch from Name Brand to Store Brand: There are times when a name brand is really worth the cost and times when it's not. Switch to cheaper brands to save money and keep an eye out for sales at the grocery store.

5. Cancel Subscriptions: If you're not using some of your subscriptions, cancel them. Only keep what you use.

6. Utilize Coupons and Coupon Codes: Whenever you're shopping online or in a store, utilize coupons. Coupons and discount codes can save you a surprising amount of money over time. My favorite tools to use are Ibotta and Ebates.

7. Only Use Your Credit Card for Emergencies: Don't get into unnecessary debt unless it's absolutely necessary.

8. Change Your Meal Habits: Are you eating out a lot? Are you purchasing frozen dinners? Making your meals from scratch tends to be cheaper and healthier.

9. Plant a Garden: By planting a garden with packets of seeds for a few dollars, you can freeze or can vegetables to use throughout the year. Sometimes, farmers will let you glean their fields. Ask local farms if they allow this and sign-up to participate.  This will help save you money and limit how much you're spending at the grocery stores.

10. Consider Buying Used Instead of New: Instead of buying something new, consider gently used items. This will help save you extra money and prevent wastage. Besides local consignment stores, there are several available online. You can even sell some of your unwanted items. One of my favorites is Thredup. You can even save $10 by using my referral code here.

11. Change to DIY: Are you using services that you could do yourself? Instead of hiring out the landscaper to cut your lawn, do it yourself. Have a leaky faucet? Google or YouTube how to do things on your own then if it's beyond your skillset or comfort level, hire someone (make sure you get several quotes).

12. Only Buy What You Need: Change your buying attitude to only buying necessities. If you already have a dozen shoes, you probably don't need a new pair.

13. Reduce Electricity: Save money and the environment by reducing your electricity usage - hang clothes dry outside, turn out lights when not in use, unplug electronics when not in use, etc.

14. Change Your Drinking Habits: Switch over your sodas, fancy drinks and juices for water. It's healthy and more cost effective.

What are some of your tips and suggestions?

Please note that this post contains referral links.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs