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    Rooftops: An Interactive Children’s Book

    A book about balancing real life and technology
    The launch screen of Rooftops interactive book app

    In our digital world there is a big, ongoing discussion about the balance of technology and in person interaction in our lives. This applies to all ages but like a lot of things the debate heats up when it concerns our children. A lot argue that too much screen time is detrimental to children’s growth both educationally and socially. But with the right balance you can use technology to your kid’s advantage. Join us as we enter the wonderful world of Rooftops.

    The Story

    Inside kevin's room, he is focused on his tablet
    Inside Kevin’s Room

    This book starts by showing the main character, Kevin, glued to his iPad. However, he forgets to do his homework and loses the privilege of using it. In the absence of his tablet he starts looking out the window of his room and seeing all the rooftops in the city. He starts seeing interesting things that eventually make him want to go explore outside.

    His parents take him out for a walk and head to the neighborhood park. There Kevin gets to interact with other kids who also see fun things from their windows. At the end Kevin learns that there are fun things to do that don’t include his tablet and is excited about exploring the world around him.

    Rooftops Trailer

    Features

    • Listen to the animated story, with narration, music, and sounds
    • Fun, interactive animations throughout the story
    • READ TO ME & READ BY MYSELF functions
    • Play a simple, create-your-own window game
    • Suitable for ages 4-8
    • Absolutely no in-app purchases, hidden costs, or in-game adverts. Perfect for Kids!
    • Created especially for the iPad
    Kevin at the playground

    The Developer

    Rustbot Studios is a brand new studio founded by two brothers, Juan and Carlos. They are primarily focused on developing applications that tell stories and Rooftops is their first children’s book.

    We at Rustbot Studios believe in the positive impact of technology when used responsibly and in accordance with more traditional, healthy habits. We don’t believe in demonizing mobile tech, which is a ubiquitous, complex, and relatively new interactive experience that cannot be shunned with blanket statements without considering all its nuances and implications for the future of the human experience, especially at an early age.

    Juan Santiago, co-founder of Rustbot Studios
    A sneezing chimney

    What’s Divine Say?

    As a parent who’s glued to my own technology, this is definitely a topic that I’m doing my best to instill good habits in my kids with. Balancing outside, learning time, and screen time can be difficult – especially when your child latches onto a piece of tech.

    My eldest, now four, has had a kid’s Kindle since he was 1 and he played baby apps on my old first gen iPad prior to that. (You know, those baby apps you just smack to interact with? lol) He now has to do sight words and have outside or non-screen play time every day in order to earn his video game or Kindle time. (He just got the new 10″ Kindle for his birthday he’s super hyped about!). Luckily he’s not so attached to it that it’s an issue when we cut down screen time.

    I think that this book is a great way to illustrate to kids the idea of balance and try to excite them about the world outside a screen. Hopefully that the developer makes many more to tackle even more hard to explain concepts early on. The art for this was great and the options for narration and reading along are great. I would definitely read these kinds of books with my kids in the future.

    Get the App

    Grab the app on the App Store and read it with your kiddos today!

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    Apps, Books, Featured
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    Humble Book Bundle: Make: Electronics 2018

    Humble Book Bundle Make Electronics 2018

    Humble Bundle brings you $367 worth of digital books about electronics, JavaScript and even a digital book about how to make drones! Pay what you want, starting at $1 to unlock the first five digital books. The $1 bundle level includes a digital book with fun and easy DIY projects for younger budding electricians. 

    If you, or someone you know has an interest in things like making wearable electronics, sensors, or even how to teach facial recognition on a Raspberry Pi this is a great bundle. It’s also getting really close to the holidays, so this might make a perfect gift for someone you know!

    What’s Humble Bundle?

    Humble Bundle is a distribution platform that sells ebooks, video games, and lots of other great digital content. Humble Bundle also supports many charities. Using our link to purchase things via Humble Bundle additionally supports Extra Life, one of our favorite charities! 

    * Disclosure: The Mommy Gamers are a Humble Bundle partner. Using our link helps keep our website going and helps Extra Life charity. Thank you!

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    Books, Technology
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    Vampire The Masquerade 5th Edition – Review

    Say Hello To The Night

    This may come to no shock to you all, but your humble narrator was once an angsty teen. I know, hard to imagine right? Like any angsty teen growing up in the late 80s and early 90s we have a plethora of material to fuel us. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Blade, The Crow, The Lost Boys, Interview with The Vampire, The Craft… You get it.

    *Author’s Note – If you haven’t seen ANY of those movies I highly recommend you have a movie night soon.

    Back in 1991 the gang at White Wolf Publishing created the tabletop role-playing game: Vampire The Masquerade. Based on a Storytelling Engine, Vampire The Masquerade has one GM/DM, or Storyteller, guide players through the game as they struggle with being a vampire. Seduction, intrigue, politics, and feeding are just some of the things players will face as they venture from night to night. Vampire The Masquerade also introduces unique dice aspects such as Blood Dice and Hunger Dice. These dice represent how hungry a vampire is, or how much of their blood they can spend to do something extraordinary.

    Not only was this one of the first mainstream RPGs to feature vampires, it also introduced an entire World of Darkness where players can play as Werwolves, Wraiths, and more.

     

    As with any tabletop RPG, rules change over time and Vampire The Masquerade has gone through a couple of iterations. Coming in August 2018, the  5th Edition of Vampire The Masquerade will be hitting digital and physical bookshelves and I, dear readers, got an advance digital copy to look over.

    If you have been following along with the metaplot of Vampire and World of Darkness, (if you haven’t, don’t worry), then you know that there was an event (Gehenna) that basically wiped out the vampires (or Kindred). 5th Edition, or V5 as we’ll call it from here on out, isn’t a reboot of the world, but rather  new way for the Kindred to deal with the events of the past. There promises to be overarching plotlines that storytellers can use to create chronicles for their players.

    I haven’t played Vampire The Masquerade since 1991 so I wasn’t around for the rules changes nor can I tell you how much is different from the original version. For me, Vampire was all about the lore. I owned multiple clanbooks and ancillary products because I loved the idea behind the World of Darkness, I just never played in it. I say this because it is important to understand that I went into V5 as a new player to the game, but not new to lore and ideology of Vampire The Masquerade.

    Within the first few pages of the core rulebook you will be instantly flooded with page after page of just pure setting. Letters from other vampires, transcripts of secret conversations, notes from an examination that have been marked up. It’s a wonderful introduction to the world and coupled with the art and photos, helps puts the player in the perfect mindset in minutes. Immediately following the lore, the intro and rules set in, and there are A LOT of rules. The core rulebook is no light read. It’s over 400 pages of rules, lore, and more rules.

    I thought to myself, “There’s only one way to properly review this.” and I started sending emails and text messages. Within minutes I had my crew and I was set. I am lucky enough to know some amazing actresses and outgoing people who all agreed that they would take part in some sessions so that I can review the core rulebook.

    I have very few negative things to say about Vampire The Masquerade V5. In fact my biggest complaint has nothing to do with the actual rules, but rather the lack of a physical book. Having to manually scroll through page after page on my laptop, iPad, or phone was incredibly time consuming. I had to make notes about what pages players needed so I could easily get back to them. I know books are big and bulky but there’s just something about hearing the crack of the spine on that first open. It’s much easier for me to flip a ton of pages at once than it was to scroll through a digital copy. As an old school RPG player a lot of my rulebooks have sticky notes and tabs for easy access and with a digital copy I just can’t have that. My players also had a tough time endlessly scrolling trying to find the pages they needed.

    I had asked my crew to do a little bit of prep (I linked them all to older editions of the clan descriptions) and OH WOW did they get into it. Don’t believe me? Take a look

    Vampire The Masquerade Mike Robles The Mommy Gamers

    Yup, that’s my wife and her friends vamping it up and taking this way more seriously than I thought they would. What happened next was the most intense Session Zero* I have ever experienced.

    *Session Zero refers to the session where players create their characters. In a game like Vampire The Masquerade this is often best to be done in person so that they can all build off each other and determine their relationships as well as how they all came to know one another in this chronicle.

    Together my players and I spent about 6 hours total going over every detail we can find and creating characters. My wife had gotten a head start and did some research on the older versions of the game. She was able to create an entire backstory the night before and was able to help the other players. This is where my note from before came into play. With so many rules scattered across so many pages there was a lot of confusion. It took us about 2 hours before we were at a point where we could easily move on. If I’m being completely honest, I think this would have gone smoother with a physical copy of the book.

    After getting every set we ended up with two Malkavians, a Tremere, and a Thin-Blooded. While this might not make sense to you mortals, it makes for a very interesting dynamic. After about 6 hours of character creation, we were ready to dive in.

    Vampire The Masquerade is, at it’s core, a storytelling game. While yes, there are saves vs X and players can check for traps and roll some dice, Vampire is different. Players use a d10 for all die rolls and instead of adding up numbers, you’re just trying to get higher than a 5 for a “success”. A natural 10 is a critical success and counts as two successes. I’m not going to get into each mechanic of the game but I will tell you that Vampires have A LOT of powers. So dice rolling will happen a lot. Like any good RPG, Vampire makes sure that story overrules dice rolls.

    New to V5 is a revamped Hunger mechanic. This, to me, is the most interesting aspect of running a chronicle. Each time a vampire has to use certain powers they have to quell their hunger. Get too hungry and a The Beast takes over and a vampire can think of nothing more but to eat and only eat. Represented by a different color (usually red) these hunger dice will replace a vampire’s regular dice pool the hungrier they get. Making challenges much harder.

    In addition to all the rules, there is the lore and “The Masquerade”. Vampires hide in the shadows to protect themselves and their lineage. Combing secrecy, intrigue, politics, and managing hunger makes for some excellent legs for your chronicle to stand on. The core rulebook gives you so much information that it’s overwhelming. So my advice would be to take your time and learn as you go.

    White Wolf has taken great care to give players a new, revamped edition of Vampire The Masquerade with V5 and I am beyond honored that I got a chance to sneak a peek at the core rulebook. I have spent countless nights reading and rereading sections trying to come up with stories to draw my players in. After we finished our second session I thanked my players and told them that I had enough experience to write my review. Every single one of them agreed that they were way to invested and having way too much fun to stop. We all gathered around and scheduled our next session, so I guess I am now running an ongoing chronicle… and I couldn’t be happier about it.

    Vampire The Masquerade V5 launches later this year and White Wolf wants me to go broke. There’s this amazing collectors edition with the core rulebook, two extra supplemental books, and the most beautiful vampire dice. I want it. I want it bad. If you want to pre-order the book now we’ll attach a link below for you to do so.

    Like most vampires, Vampire The Masquerade has awoken from it’s slumber and is ready to take the world by storm. I, for one, am happy to be along for the ride. Pre-order here.

    The author was given a watermarked pdf of the core rulebook for review purposes.

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    Care for Our World

    CareforOurWorldGameTheMommyGamers

    My daughter Amber and I received a copy of Care for Our World, an interactive storybook app for iPad, and we had a blast playing around with it. Care for Our World, written by Karen Roberts, was originally published as a book in 2012. It included punch-out animals for children to play with. Sunbreak Games, have brought that creative play to the app with features like Habitat Playset (Amber’s favorite feature) where children can use interactive stickers to create their own animal habitats, Coloring Book where you can color a scene from the book almost anyway you want to, and Animal Encyclopedia where your child can learn about all of the animals mentioned in the story as well as hear what they sound like, and see pictures of them in the real world.

     


    The actual storybook part of the app is well done for the most part, and is highly interactive. Nearly everything you touch has a reaction, and narration. The colors are vivid, and the illustrations are whimsical. In fact, the only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the narration. In my opinion, when you have a story with words that are rich and full of life, you should strive to have a narrator that matches them with their voice. Unfortunately, in this case the narrator falls a little flat, and while his voice is not unpleasant, he’s not far enough away from monotone for my liking. I also feel that since the app is geared for ages 3-8, not having an option for narration in the, Animal Encyclopedia section of the app was a missed opportunity, as younger children will need someone to read for them.

    Overall, I think Care for Our World is lovely, and has a great deal of replay value for children. It is well worth the $2.99 investment. You can download it now on the iOS App Store by clicking here.

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    Apps, Books
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    The Halloween Happening

    By Priscilla York from Holiday Traditions

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Halloween has become one of my children’s favorite holidays. They rapidly consume any Halloween-themed media they can get their hands, especially books. The Halloween Happening by Priscilla York is one of those books, and has created a delightful new holiday tradition in our house.

    The Halloween Happening is a story about a little pumpkin friend who comes alive and spells out a secret message in the days leading up to Halloween. The kids pick a name for their pumpkin character — we named ours Jackimus — and the book describes what happens next. Basically the pumpkin shows up each day, in a different location, holding a number. That number corresponds to a letter in the alphabet. The children record each number and then decode the message on the night before Halloween, when the pumpkin goes on his merry way until next year.

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    The idea is very reminiscent of The Elf on Shelf Christmas tradition, just a little less creepy. The nice thing about this setup is that each year the message can be different, and you can customize the number of days the pumpkin shows up by controlling how long the message is. Our pumpkin visits start on October 1 and run through the end of the month, so we have some wiggle for a slightly longer message this year. For people who have less patience, you could just do a week and have a nice short message.

    The book itself has fantastic illustrations and is fun to read. The kids sit attentively through the whole story, and then say goodbye to our pumpkin friend until he mysteriously appears again. My daughter especially loves all the illustrations for the pumpkin’s different facial expressions throughout the story. The included stuffed pumpkin character is super cute and seems durable enough to hold up to a few years of Halloween fun, given the right storage. At this rate I am going to have a creepy box filled with various characters that come alive at different times of the year. If I ever write a horror movie script that would make the perfect starting point.

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    The bottom-line is: if you are looking for a fun activity that the kids can participate in around Halloween, this book seems like a great idea. It is excellent for kids that are just learning to read, or even younger kids who need practice identifying letters of the alphabet. This is a nice, warm, fuzzy experience in the middle of a spooky holiday season. My kids remain very excited about our Jackimus making daily visits all through October. I have a feeling this will be another tradition my children look forward to for a few years to come.

    The Halloween Happening and other Holiday Traditions books by Priscilla York can be purchased at htraditions.com

    [box type=”info”]You can read more about our official disclosure policy here. A review copy of The Halloween Happening was provided to The Mommy Gamers by Holiday Traditions.[/box]

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    Books, Reviews
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    A Comedy & A Tragedy: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write

    From Travis Hugh Culley and Ballantine Books

    A_COMEDY__A_TRAGEDY_cover

    As a student of writing and literature, my literacy is one of those things which I constantly utilize within my life, but it is also something that I often take entirely for granted.  I began reading before I entered public school, and wound up being placed in a pre-1st classroom after essentially “testing out” of kindergarten.  So, as large a role as literacy has played in my life, it’s never been something that I was even all that conscious about.  It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

    [quote]The idea of an established writer being someone who did not come to literacy until age seventeen lays the groundwork for an incredibly impressive and inspirational tale.”[/quote]

    A_COMEDY__A_TRAGEDY_coverThis was a huge factor for why the opportunity to review A Comedy & A Tragedy was so appealing to me.  Written by Travis Hugh Culley and published by Ballantine Books, A Comedy & A Tragedy: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write details Culley’s struggle toward literacy among a seemingly-endless field of obstacles.  Emerging from a history of abuse and a toxic family environment, Travis begins to find inventive ways to hide his illiteracy while navigating life as the epitome of the nontraditional learner.  His experiences in theater become a fitting gateway to learning to read and write, but the journey is an arduous one.

    [quote]It was difficult to hide my fear of reading from my acting teachers.  They were training us to take a piece of writing and translate every word of it into action.  They saw behind the process.  In every way, the theater was a threshold for learning literacy because it depended on a full and exact understanding of the actions.” (Culley 139)[/quote]

    The idea of an established writer being someone who did not come to literacy until age seventeen lays the groundwork for an incredibly impressive and inspirational tale.  Culley’s ideas about what writing means to him are so unique and intelligent, it almost seems as if his “late blooming” ended up being a tremendous advantage in his future as a writer.  He seems hyper-aware of the meaning of words, and the spectrum of that meaning; no doubt thanks to his theatrical experience and the idea that the same set of lines in a play can be performed in endless ways with endless nuance of meaning.

    [quote]The script we’d rehearsed so many times seemed to completely disappear between the actors.  This incredible instructive illusion, this force of coordination, was magical because at the end of the night it led me back to myself” (Culley 181)[/quote]

    Even though my path to literacy was quite different, the traumatic circumstances that Culley encountered were things I found myself relating to on a very deep level.  I’ll admit, this is not exactly a lighthearted read.  There are moments which are difficult to get through, but they are also incredibly compelling, because they highlight the immense achievement of Culley’s eventual mastery of written language.

    Travis_Culley_credit_Megan_HicklingI would recommend this book to anyone, though perhaps especially to writers and aspiring creatives.  But this is a unique experience for people, because as you read Culley’s words, you become more aware of your own process of reading, of why it is important to you, and the power that words have over our lives and our interactions with others.  And, when it comes to writing, Culley beautifully expresses that which every writer from amateur to professional holds dear: that writing has the power to teach you more deeply about yourself and your environment, and it will force you to examine and heal your deepest wounds in the process.

    TRAVIS HUGH CULLEY is the author of The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power. Travis has an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a recipient of the Ox-Box Fellowship in Saugatuck, Michigan.

    A Comedy & A Tragedy: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write (ISBN: 9780345506160) is available now through retailers including Amazon in Hardcover ($26.00) and Kindle ($12.99) formats.

    [box type=”info”]This post contains an affiliate link. You can read more about our official disclosure policy here. A review copy of A Comedy & A Tragedy: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write was provided to The Mommy Gamers by Random House.[/box]

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    A Dance with Hummingbirds: A Gift from the Other Side

    From Helen Deines and Berkeley Square Press

    A Dance With Hummingbirds Book Cover

    Helen Deines novel, A Dance with Hummingbirds: A Gift from the Other Side was a pleasure to read. It starts out with Regina, a social worker for the elderly who has recently lost her husband Elliott. She has gone back to work and is trying to readjust to her life as a widow. Along with her cat, Maggie, she is getting through the days as they come, when she hears a whistle. Not just any whistle. It is the tune that had been a constant in her life for the 30 years she was married to Elliott.
     
    [quote type=”center”]She hears a whistle. Not just any whistle. It is the tune that had been a constant in her life for the 30 years she was married to Elliott.[/quote]

    How is Regina hearing her dead husband whistle? When other strange things start happening, such as a garage door opening and closing on its own and a pair of dance shoes mysteriously appearing in her closet, Regina isn’t sure if she is really being contacted from beyond by her husband or if she is going crazy!

    With the help of one of her elderly clients named Mrs. Staples, and a few co workers, Regina ends up on a journey that she never could have imagined. She learns more about herself and her relationships, and she is able to have one final adventure with Elliott.

    I loved the characters and the storyline, although a few things missed the mark for me. The basis of the book was Regina’s husband coming back for unfinished business. That business was that they had never danced together. I couldn’t understand why this was so important when it was revealed that neither of them had danced over the many years of their marriage, and Regina didn’t even know how to dance. I also felt as if things were not brought to a good conclusion. You never get closure on exactly how the elderly neighbor and her daughter reconciled or how and why the goddess Brigit fit into Regina’s story.
     
    [quote type=”center”]This is a beautiful love story that is filled with humor and lots of heart![/quote]

    Overall this is a beautiful love story that is filled with humor and lots of heart! I think it just need more details and information to make everything come together in the end!

    A Dance with Hummingbirds: A Gift from the Other Side is available in Paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon.

    [box type=”info”]This post contains an affiliate link. You can read more about our official disclosure policy here. A review copy of A Dance with Hummingbirds: A Gift From The Other Side was provided to The Mommy Gamers by Berkeley Square Press.[/box]

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    Marsha Mellow Goes Missing: An Unofficial Story for Shopkins Collectors

    from Kenley Shay and Sky Pony Press

    Marsha Mellow Goes MissingMost parents who have been in a toy store in the last year are familiar with Shopkins, the tiny grocery-themed collectibles that fly off of shelves whenever a new shipment comes in. Their popularity has sparked hundreds of millions of views of Shopkins fan videos online, and an official cartoon series set to release in 2016. So, needless to say, they’re kind of a big deal.

    Marsha Mellow Goes Missing is the first novel in a series of unofficial Shopkins stories from publisher Sky Pony Press, known for their exceedingly popular unofficial series for Minecrafters. Written by Kenley Shay, this adventure follows nine-year-old Maggie and her friends of the Shopkins Kids Club on a camping adventure where, as the title suggests, a Shopkin goes missing: the ultra-rare blinged-out Marsha Mellow. As Maggie searches desperately for her most prized possession, accusations fly and friendships are put in jeopardy. But when her little brother Max goes missing, Maggie starts to learn the importance of her relationships with friends and family, and that maybe she hasn’t been acting like the greatest sister or friend.
     
    [quote type=”center”]Kids who read this story will learn about the bonding power that exists when we are passionate about something, and the importance of inclusion.[/quote] 
    This middle grade novel is perfect for independent readers ages 7-12 and could certainly be read by an adult to younger Shopkins enthusiasts. Kids who read this story will learn about the bonding power that exists when we are passionate about something, and the importance of inclusion. We all know that fandom can be a means of bringing people together or tearing them apart. This novel shows both sides of that, settling on the lesson that bringing more people in just makes things a lot more fun.

    Shay, a Shopkins enthusiast herself, captures the excitement of these adorable collectibles while handling very age-appropriate lessons for young readers, about caring for your belongings, relationships with family and friends, and knowing when it is time to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. The writing is both captivating and easy to understand, and the balance between the intensity of fandom and the accessibility of narrative is perfection. Shopkins lovers and those unfamiliar with the brand would both find much to love about this book.

     
    [quote type=”center”]We all know that fandom can be a means of bringing people together or tearing them apart. This novel shows both sides of that, settling on the lesson that bringing more people in just makes things a lot more fun.[/quote] 
    My daughter (who is eight and is also, coincidentally, named Maggie) and I have been into Shopkins for several months now and this novel has only fueled our mutual excitement for the toys. She can’t stop talking about how much she wants a Marsha Mellow of her own! She found an ultra-rare Shopkin over the weekend and was so excited because it made her feel just a little bit closer to these characters.

    While reading through the book, my daughter and I split reading duty so we could include my son who is four. Their relationship often mirrors that of the characters Maggie and Max in the text, and reading through their struggles and triumphs has brought my children even closer. As a parent, I was relieved to discover that the story was so appealing and entertaining that I wanted to find out what happened next as much as my kids did!

    We had such a lovely time reading through this story, and I would say that it is a must-read for Shopkins kids and families. I look forward to getting my hands on more books to come in this series, as well as check out the unofficial stories for Minecrafters published by Sky Pony Press. These books are a genius way to blend fandom for toys and games with literature and get kids truly excited about reading!

    Marsha Mellow Goes Missing is on sale now from a variety of retailers (including Amazon.com) in both paperback ($7.99) and Kindle ($4.99) format.

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