Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Biographical picture books from Candlewick Press: Ben Franklin & Alfred Russel Wallace [Review/Spotlight & Giveaway US/CANADA]

A Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Matt Tavares

ISBN: 9781536201215
Hardcover | $16.99
Candlewick Press
Ages 5-9
My thoughts: 
Another superb early reader's biography that will promote interest in reading non-fiction books. A Ben of All Trades recounts in prose the young reader will find easy enough to read, well constructed, and informative enough that it will capture their attention providing entertaining education.

This is a retelling of information gleaned from Ben Franklin's own memoirs. While history aptly records the famous and varied life of Mr. Franklin, A Ben of All Trades provides a look at the activities and likes and dislikes that shaped the young Ben. It also, subtly, provides a look at life in general for a young boy of that time in history.

The artistry of Matt Tavares is beautifully done capturing the period and joy and disappointments of young Ben. I love the entire layout of the book and the pleasant, classic sense of illustration.

I highly recommend this book.

About the book: Young Benjamin Franklin wants to be a sailor, but his father won’t hear of it. The other trades he tries — candle maker, joiner, boot closer, turner — bore him through and through. Curious and inventive, Ben prefers to read, swim, fly his kite, and fly his kite while swimming. But each time he fails to find a profession, he takes some important bit of knowledge with him. That tendency is exactly what leads him to become the astonishingly versatile genius we remember today. Inspired by The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Michael J. Rosen’s wry tale captures Ben’s spirit in evocative yet playful language, while illustrations by Matt Tavares follow Ben from the workbench to the water in vivid detail. A love story to the value of variety, A Ben of All Trades sheds light on an unconventional path to greatness and humanizes a towering figure in American history.

Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution by Christiane Dorion and illustrated by Harry Tennant

ISBN: 9781536209327
Hardcover | $24.99
Ages 10 & Up
Candlewick Press
My thoughts: 
Fully recognizing that this picture book biography is about a man's search and endorsement of Darwin's evolution, I still believe that I, who does not embrace the evolutionary concept, can benefit from reading about early scientists and their discoveries. I also think that in non-evolution households that children should be able to learn from books such as this.

The travels and experiences of Alfred Russel Wallace were daunting when he pursued his search for beetles and they are daunting to read about today causing one to marvel and, yes, appreciate the obstacles  encountered and his tenacious spirit to forge ahead through various wildernesses throughout the world and make discoveries and comparisons of his findings.

Not only were his travels fraught with discomfort, hardship, and dangers he did not have a wealth of scientific tools with which to work or much scientific basis and discoveries on which to build. It was new. It was hard. It was astounding. He marveled at his findings. 

The illustrations are nicely done and representative of Wallace's discoveries.

About the book: Everyone knows Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist who proposed a theory of evolution. But not everyone knows the story of Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s friend and rival who simultaneously discovered the process of natural selection. This sumptuously illustrated book tells Wallace’s story, from his humble beginnings to his adventures in the Amazon rain forest and Malay Archipelago, and demonstrates the great contribution he made to one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.
Begins June 2
Ends July 1 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA and CANADA addresses
(No P.O. Boxes & NO business addresses)
Canadian winners must provide phone number
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies from the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's copies are provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist.

Cross Shadow (Shepherd Suspense Novel #2) by Andrew Huff [Giveaway]

About the book: All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid it.
Former CIA agent turned evangelical pastor John Cross is busy caring for the small community of believers he ministers to in Virginia. Journalist Christine Lewis is busy with the demand for her talents from top news agencies in New York City. Neither has any time left for their relationship, which began eight months before when they paired up to prevent the detonation of a chemical bomb in the nation's capital.
But when Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of conspiracy, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation-and in trouble far deeper than they expected.
With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive.
About the Author

Huff spent ten years in local church ministry as a youth pastor and creative arts pastor before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the product director at Igniter Media, a church media company (ignitermedia.com).
He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014, 2017) and also won the best screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA. A Cross to Kill and Cross Shadow in the Shepherd Suspense series are his first releases.
Huff holds a bachelor of science in religion degree from Liberty University and a master of arts in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Watch for Chat With Vera's Review - soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Giveaway is hosted by Read With Audra (a blog tour giveaway) who will provide with the publisher winner's prize and send it directly to the winner.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ella Freda Organics Facial Moisturizer [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: Ella Freda Organics Facial Moisturizer was surprisingly effective for a product in this price range. It has been said that Retinol is a standard go-to product for results in the care of your skin and to slow the signs of aging we all disdain. No one wants dry, wrinkled skin. We don't want tiny wrinkles and we most definitely don't want those deep wrinkles.

This new product from Ella Freda Organics is a Facial Moisturizer. It has a texture somewhat between serum and cream in density. I apply a moderate amount to my entire face (avoiding close to eyes), chin, neck, and ear lobes and behind ears (neglected area). It goes on smoothly and I use smoothing upward strokes that rotate massaging the tension away and the moisturizer into the skin. My hands have a slight "tacky" feeling to them as does the face, but it soon dissipates. 

After moisturizing my skin, I cream around my eyes (using whatever current product I have) and occasionally use a nice skin oil to further moisturize. After caring for my skin, I apply my makeup for the day whether it is a stay-at-home day with little or no color added or a one of my full-out makeup days. Beauty products work well with the Ella Freda Organics Facial Moisturizer.

Anti aging skin care is a multi step process. Genetics plays a part in how our skin ages and we can't control that. Stress and living in a highly emotional state is highly detrimental. You need to protect your face from sun damage while still getting sun to maximize your Vitamin D - balance is key. Also, a healthy diet is good. I prefer a pretty well rounded diet that provides the nutrients we need without the extra calories and harmful foods and additives. Then finally, one needs to protect the skin from the elements and environmental pollutants by using a good moisturizer. Use the best you can afford looking for those with preventative and anti-aging ingredients. 

As with the Ella Freda Retinol Moisturizer Cream used in the evenings, this Facial Moisturizer used in the evenings prior to bedtime, has my facial skin looking amazingly good with the wrinkles surprisingly diminished and the "sleep wrinkles" pretty nonexistent. The product has a caution warning about getting it too close to one's eyes, but of course I don't use it real close to the eyes - that's a definite no-no for me because I have very sensitive eyes. But I  apply it liberally all over my face and chin and then a bit on the ear lobes and just under the ears. Using this Facial Moisturizer in the morning and evening works very nicely.I can only imagine what regular, long-term use could do. (Find on Amazon)

Ella Freda Organics Facial Moisturizer (anti-aging) is pictured here with their Retinol Moisturizer, and Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

I think this is a good product and suggest you give it a try. Check out the Ella Freda Organics website.  Click Here

Product information: This anti wrinkle cream gently and thoroughly moisturizes without stripping, pore minimizer, drying or leaving build-up. Softens, repairs and reverses damage with natural healing, anti-aging ingredients. Our Face Moisturizer, an acne scar cream is perfect for all skin types. Improves condition of the pores and latisse. 

What we put into our products is just as important as what we leave out. This anti aging cream is formulated with 5 proven Bio-Active ingredients: Retinyl Palmitate -the ester of retinol, Aloe Barbadensis, Sodium Hyalurate. Green Tea & Licorice root Extract.

Suggested Use: Liberally apply to clean, gently-dried skin twice daily.

Caution: For external use only. Avoid direct contact with eyes.Rinse with water if direct eye contact occurs. Do not use on broken skin. For adult use only. Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help right away. Stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and persists.Use sunscreen and avoid long term exposure to sun.


  • Deionized Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice,
  • Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid,
  • Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract, Collagen
  • Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Allantoin
  • Sodium Hyaluronate, Polydimethylsiloxane, Carbomer,
  • Triethanolamine, Panthenol, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate,
  • Glycosaminoglycans, Disodium EDTA, Tocopheryl Acetate

Can't wait to see if you win the giveaway? Order now  

10% DISCOUNT = Use VERA10  

Ella Freda Organics Facial Moisturizer
Begins May 30
Ends June 23 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a product cost free or highly discounted to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own, alone after using the product and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided by Ella Freda Organics and shipped directly to the winner.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

My thoughts: 
A  wonderfully well written and interesting foray back to the 1880s showing the restrictions and obstacles facing women during those times. Nora, the leading lady, was lovingly raised by her mother  and her professor father who was key in developing her sense of presence, worth, and intelligence. He introduced her to his field of study - entomology, which she found great joy in sharing with him. This eventually led to her  attending Cornell University and studying the world of insects. 
This career goal of Nora's was dismissed as frivolous by her step-father. He tries to rule with an iron fist, making decisions and giving orders to Nora impacting her future college education, employment, and marriage - and to whom she will be married and when. She goes into full-Nora mode.
This means Nora is a free-thinking, highly-vocal, quite opinionated, impulsive, precocious lady that is quite ahead of her time. 
She does manage to be included in a field experience for several months where she traveled to India along with her fellow classmate, Her experiences in India are beautifully described and well articulated by the author. I am definitely not an insect enthusiast, but the author's descriptions of the country with its beautiful scenery and vast population of various insects, butterflies, and other living creatures was well written and I enjoyed reading it.
Nora learned that women and girls in India had less freedom than she herself. Her friendship with a young Indian girl was lovely and permitted Nora to grow personally. It also was her major pitfall as she made some rash decisions that placed her in danger.
A lovely read and a tremendous first publication by this new author, Kimberly Duffy. 
About the book: Determined to uphold her father's legacy, newly graduated Nora Shipley joins an entomology research expedition to India to prove herself in the field. In this spellbinding new land, Nora is faced with impossible choices—between saving a young Indian girl and saving her career, and between what she's always thought she wanted and the man she's come to love.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishing to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ask a Southern lady what makes the South different

From my rambling thoughts in 2013.

Did you ask a Southern lady what makes the South different?

Ah, you ask a Southern lady what makes the South different? Well, we say "Yes Sir" and "No Sir" in these parts. We show respect. We call someone older than our self Mr. and Mrs. XXX and we hold the door for ladies and old folks.

We still expect baggers at the grocery to bag groceries and help the eldery get them to the car. Of course, the budget and the yanks have just about taken that away from us.

We like our tea strong and we like it sweet and we like it cold and not diluted too much with ice. Just enough to break a sweat on the glass if its warm outside.

We like our vegetables cooked tender and soft - not tender crisp (or raw). We do enjoy a nice cool salad but salads and cooked vegetables are two entirely different things.

Most of us talk slow enough so you can understand what we're saying and take it in. It usually gets pretty warm down here and we just can't rush things as much or our "boiler" will burst wide open.

Here in the "new South" we enjoy other things and foods as well as the next person. Just keep within the bounds of proper cooking. No "wave offering" of warmth over that food. We like it cooked hot and long. We like our grits - morning and night. We enjoy them with butter and we enjoy them with cheese. I don't like sugar and milk on mine and have never known a Southerner who does.

Now if you're from the North or from California (or Seattle) you might think we're a bit slow around here. Not so. We just take it easy because as I said..... that boiler might just explode in the heat. But if you'll be patient with us, we'll try to be patient with you and your fast talking, fast driving, fast living (well, they're doing that everywhere aren't they). We'll let you tell us about your ways and maybe you'll be courteous enough to let us share a bit about us, too.

Now, what 'r you having for supper tonight? Grits?

Saturday, May 23, 2020

WHERE IS WISDOM? by Scott James

ISBN: 9781535965965
B&H Publishing
My thoughts:  It is surprising how much "theology" one can glean from a children's book. The author, Scott James, delves into Job 28 (click to read) to pull a nugget of wisdom for young readers or listeners.

The book of Job in Scriptures is difficult to comprehend. All that pain and suffering. All that advice. All that seeking. In Where Is Wisdom? the search (of Job 28 for wisdom) begins with an understanding that men are smart and searchers. Man searches for food from the Earth. For minerals that glisten and gleam from the depths of the Earth. And still he won't find Wisdom.

Beautifully illustrated the book begins with man seeking for hidden things. The text tells the story of man searching and working hard to find. And then the story, as does the Bible, brings home the truth that man can search but what he finds is a generous gift from God. And man needs to seek after God. The God of all. The one who will help man find wisdom.

A lovely book and one that can take parents and children deeper in understanding with each reading.

About the book: Where can we find wisdom? Down in the deep caverns? At the bottom of the ocean floor? This visual tour through the poetry of Job 28 parallels Scripture and leads readers on a treasure hunt through the wonders of God’s creation.

Among all the dazzling treasures this world has to offer, we learn of an even greater treasure—wisdom—and of the mighty God who alone can lead us to it. Beautifully illustrated, Where Is Wisdom? is a unique celebration of the words and imagery of Job, one that guides young readers high and low to marvel ultimately at the true end of wisdom, Jesus Christ.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from B&H Publishing, B&H Kids, to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl & illustrated by Lauren O’Hara - Walker Books US [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

ISBN: 9781536210224
Hardcover $18.99
Ages 5 - 8
Walker Books US
A Division of Candlewick Press
My thoughts:  This is sheer delight to read. You must read it aloud to a child or group of children who will certainly listen with rapt attention. Mabel is a precocious child and is the daughter, only child, of the owners of the Mermaid Hotel.

The hotel is Mabel's home, her playground, her fascination. And Mabel is fascinated or consumed with being a quirky, vocal, spying imp that is everywhere finding things and doings that fascinate her and of which she forms far-flung opinions of who, what, when, where.

And Mabel spies on Madame Badobeday and determines that she is an ancient (hint - old lady) spy who is currently hiding from those whom she has spied upon. The conclusion is simply she awaits her next assignment.

The story is in three sections and would make great read aloud sessions to build the suspense. Or your older youngish reader will be enthralled to read it all by themselves. It is a lot of fun reading about just who Madame Badobedah is (or was) and discovering about all the fascinating, odd, and beautiful items she has. Meanwhile, quirky, inquisitive Mabel is a darling going about in her inquisitive manner ferreting out information.

The real charm of the book is the multi-generational friendship that forms between the two. How a child can grow to like (even love?) an older, non-family person who is at the sunset moment of their life and needs someone to care is a gold nugget to pass along to children.

This book is a winner.

About the book: There’s a strange new guest at the Mermaid Hotel — a very old lady with a growly voice, bags stuffed with jewelry and coins and curiosities, and a beady-eyed pet tortoise. Mabel, whose parents run the hotel, is suspicious. Who is this “Madame Badobedah” (it rhymes with "Oo la la") who has come to stay indefinitely and never has any visitors? To find out, Mabel puts on her spy costume and observes the new guest. Conclusion? She must be a secret supervillain hiding out from the law. The grown-ups think Madame Badobedah is a bit rude — and sad — but when she invites “dahlink” Mabel for a cup of forbidden tea and a game of pirates, the two begin a series of imaginary adventures together, and Mabel realizes that first impressions can sometimes be very wrong. Conjuring two quirky heroines that young readers will love, Sophie Dahl adds her talented voice to a grand tradition of books that celebrate the alliance of the old and young in the face of humdrum adults, while Lauren O’Hara’s illustrations are as packed with intriguing details as Madame Badobedah’s suitcases.
GIVEAWAY - 2 Winners
Begins May 19
Ends June 15 at 12:01 a.m EDT
Open to USA & CANADA addresses only.
NO P.O.Boxes & Canadian winners must provide phone number.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize copy is provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher or publicist.