Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians" by Carla Morris, Illustrated by Brad Sneed: Review & Giveaway

Hardcover: $16.95
Peachtree Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-56145-391-7
This is a cute and cheerful book about a young boy who loves books, is curious about any and everything, and who spends lots of time in the library asking questions of his favorite people - the reference librarians.  His insatiable curiosity takes him beyond the pages of books as he finds his interests in the world outside (bugs), his school activities, and life in general.  But as his exploration of life and the outside world lends itself to opening doors of wonder and question, he takes his curiosity back to the library and to the reference librarians.
In this book, we find a child who is not afraid to ask the adults for help.  We see the adults (reference librarians) every ready to assist the eager, seeking child in finding knowledge withing the scope of the books and resources they have organized so beautifully in the library.
 "They couldn't help it.  That's how librarians are."
Melvin, sees first hand that organization and order are paramount to his learning and his finding what he needs.  He seeks that the skills of his reference librarians center around keeping the library organized and ready for folks to use.

This is a good book and I recommend it because the illustrations are bright, llively, and engaging and the teaching qualities of libraries and librarians as good sources for children to have as places where they can find answers to many of their curiosities.  

However, I do find the author's premise that a child goes to the library every afternoon after school daunting.  Children need frequent access to libraries but daily "public library" visits may be a bit much.  So parents reading this picture book with their child should be ready to counter the argument of "Why can't I go by myself?" when it presents itself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(Please wait patiently while uploads the entry form
Begins September 28--ENDS October 13
Open for USA addresses only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE:  The good folks at Peachtree Publishing provided a complimentary copy for me for rending my review. Opinions expressed are solely mine and I was not obligated to give a positive review.  The giveaway copy is also provided by Peachtree Publishing and will be sent directly to the winner by Peachtree.

Author: Carla Morris is a children's librarian. She lives in Utah.
You can visit Carla Morris’s website.
Illustrator:  Brad Sneed has illustrated almost twenty picture books, some of which he has also written. His titles include The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, Mr. President Goes to School, and When Wishes Were Horses. He lives in Kansas. You can visit Brad Sneed’s website.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pacific Beach Peanut Butter™ - Review & Giveaway

Travel back a bit in time with me, if you will.  When I was a young mother (I'm a Southern Lady of-a-certain-age now) and my five children were growing up, we had "supermarkets."  But we also had the "corner" grocery where the meat market was a local butcher and he knew you and your family by name.  They had short aisles, a few various grocery items, fresh produce and you could grind peanuts in the store into your own jar you brought from home.

Once you got this old-fashioned peanut butter home, you had to be careful to stir it every time you used it, because it would separate with the peanut oil on top.  It was just peanuts ground up.  You could stir in a little salt if you wanted to, but it was stiff-stuff to stir.  It was wholesome.  And, it could become  rancid because there were no preservatives in it.  But it really didn't last long in a large family that tended to cook peanut butter cookies on a regular basis and serve-up lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Those days of grinding your own peanuts in the store are for the most part gone.  But you can still find great tasting peanut butter that takes you back to that you-grind-it-yourself flavor. That is if you get yourself some Pacific Beach Peanut Butter!

They have perfected the method of grinding Valencia peanuts (their choice for best quality and taste) and varying it with some add-ins that really give it a gourmet kick.  Right now I have some chocolate raspberry peanut butter, some toffee peanut butter, and some cinnamon peanut butter.  Pacific Beach Peanut Butter sent these flavors to me in an absolutely beautiful and understated navy blue gift box with a gold elastic band closing it.  Inside was yellow shredded packing paper to cushion these delectable jars of peanut butter.  A beautiful and great tasting treat. (My package also had a cute silver Pacific Beach spoon included!) Don't you just hear this package shouting to you, "Give me to someone you love!"?

I have been enjoying each of these treats.  They are all crunchy, rich in distinctive flavor, and full of nutritious goodness.  I truly can't pick a favorite. I thought my favorite was the chocolate raspberry until I tasted the cinnamon.  Truly a hard choice.

These peanut butters are thick but you can spoon them out and eat them "as is" or you can follow the directions and heat a little to restore the right spreadable consistency.

I challenge you to treat yourself to this very nice gift for yourself.  But it might also be a really nice treat for the peanut butter loving person in your life to gift them with a truly enjoyable gourmet twist to his or her peanut butter. Order here!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(USA only - ENDS OCTOBER 9 AT 12:01 a.m. EST)

Wait patiently while loads, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a package of 3 jars of Pacific Beach Peanut Butter in order to render my honest review.  Pacific Beach Peanut Butter will also provide the winner's prize package and ship it directly to them.  All opinions express are my own.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Bear in Love" by Daniel Pinkwater Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

When you first pick up Bear in Love you will fall totally in love with these delightful, loveable, gentle illustrations of bear as he ambles along through his day.  Illustrator Will Hillenbrand has portrayed bear as a gentle giant and loveable critter for the young child to whom you will be reading this book.

Most children have a stuffed teddy bear that they already love.  So it is somewhat an understatement that they love bears already.  Well, here is another that they will love.  There are teddy bear stories abounding in libraries and book stores - example:  Winnie the Pooh, that beloved Pooh-bear.  So it is not a far stretch to say that the child in your life will fall in love with 'bear' in Bear in Love.

Author Daniel Pinkwater understands children and what they like to hear and see in a story.  So he has created a gentle bear who awakens to a gift from an unknown friend.  A friend he wants to engage.  A friend whom he, too, tries to befriend with a gift.

Amble along with bear as he discovers his new friend.  Enjoy the beautiful illustrations.  Have the child to whom you are reading this book discover details in the art and in the story that enlighten and teach.  Enjoy!
(via rafflecopter - wait for it to load, please)
Late note: I am still new at posting contests/giveaways--sorry this is only for USA mailing addresses.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of this delightful hardcover book by Candlewick Press for the purpose of rendering my honest, unsolicited review.  I was under no obligation to speak positively of the book.  The prize copy for the winner of the giveaway is also provided by Candlewick Press and will be shipped directly to the winner by Candlewick.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Balance Bar 'Bare' - Review & Giveaway

The good folks at Balance have graciously provided a box of 3 assorted flavors of the Balance Bar "Bare" for me to try and let you all know what I think about them.  I really believe these are my "most-favorite" Balance Bars to date.  And I rank the three flavors as #1 - Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond, #2 - Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter, and #3 - Blueberry acai.  But that is just a matter of personal preference.  They are all REALLY GOOD!

Sweet, meet Salty. Salty, meet Sweet. Rich chocolatey flavor spends quality time with real almonds and whole grain oats. Our Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond Balance Bar is a delicious combination that delivers all the energy you need.

Nutrition at a Glance:
  • 15g Protein
  • 200 Calories
  • 6g Whole Grain
  • 5g Fiber
  • Excellent Source of Antioxidants
  • 19 Vitamins & Minerals
Real roasted peanuts and creamy peanut butter flavor combine with the whole grain goodness of rolled oats to provide a perfectly balanced sweet and salty Balance Bar snack, with energy to spare.

Whole grain nutrition and hearty rolled oats meet a burst of blueberry and acai fruit flavor, offering lasting energy for any activity – with a sweet finish that satisfies your taste buds.

The nutrition of each of these is basically the same.  Lots of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals.  Good stuff for you! Get the real low-down on nutrition on these bars at

I shared some of my treasure trove of "Bare Bars" with my son and his wife.  They live and eat very healthy and exercise to stay fit.  These are right up their alley!  You should have seen the grins on their faces when I said, "Have some!"

I love packing these in my desk drawer at work for when I have a low moment or simply work past lunch.  Keeps me feeling like I'm not so hungry and it is also a "feel-good-to-eat-this" food for me.
My friends at Balance Bar are also graciously providing a GIVEAWAY for one of my readers to win.  Simply follow the RAFFLECOPTER giveaway guidelines.  GIVEAWAY ends October 2 at midnight EDT.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE:  BalanceBar provided my box of Balance Bar Bare for me and my family to sample and for me to render my honest opinion in this review.  They are also providing a box of the same for one of my readers who will be chosen from among the entries using and a random selection.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Mortal Fire" by C.F. Dunn: Book Review

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (3/2012)
ISBN-13: 978-0857212023
About the book:  When Emma D'Eresby - a 29 year-old, self-contained Professor of History - leaves her Cambridge college for a post in an exclusive university in Maine, USA, she hopes to learn more about a curious 17th-century journal in the College library. Instead, it leads her to a secret that should never have been uncovered. In the States, Emma meets the enigmatic 33-year-old surgeon, Matthew Lynes, a quiet and thoughtful widower. Driven to learn more about him, Emma takes the unique journal from the College library in which she believes there are clues to his family's English past. Meanwhile, the sinister Professor Kort Staahl mounts a psychotic attack on her. Matthew's courageous intervention saves her, but as he nurses her back to health, his unusual attributes raise questions he is unwilling to answer. As Part One ends, she returns to her claustrophobic family, avoiding her domineering father and wrestling with despair ...

My thoughts:  I found the book interesting and perplexing.  I found very little connectivity between "The Journal" and the plot except for the fact that the heroine's main reason for accepting the position in the USA was because it housed the original "journal" a transcribed portion of which held her interest since childhood.

The introduction of each character is slow but thorough and lends to the surface flow of the story.  However, the slow progression of the story almost lost this reader before I could engage in the seemingly main idea.  This main idea is truly not one that you can really grasp as it is most elusive in nature.  In fact, where the title "Mortal Fire" gets its genesis is lost to this reader.

I did finish the book and ultimately I found it quite interesting.  It seems as though the "hero" of the story is somewhat supernatural, not human, or most rare and unusual at the least.  There is not a clue as to why he is different, he just is.  He is certainly a gentlemanly and kind individual of many talents and strengths.

I found this read in the land of academic interesting because they being highly educated individuals are ultimately pretty normal folks after all.  But some really interesting personalities were revealed in the characters Ms. Dunn created for Mortal Fire.

I am sensing connection between the "hero," The Journal, and the dying grandmother (wife of the grandfather who introduced our heroin to "The Journal."  Only future books will reveal if this is indeed so.

I am not overly fond of books in a series unless they can still be read as "stand alone" books.  This one literally begs to be finished and the promise of completion only seems to be in the upcoming sequel, "Death Be Not Proud." 

The genre is Christian fiction thriller or mystery.  There is an element of Christian emphasis in the book, through not strong.  The heroin is a Christian and endeavors to let her faith in Christ be her guide and her strength.  There is an element of evil and danger, of love and romance, of friendship and avoidance, and of family love.  There is also the element of things seemingly being non-Earthly or other-Worldly.

Would I recommend it? Let's just say I could recommend it.  The author, C.F. Dunn, certainly has a gift with words and the telling of a story. Mortal Fire is just a bit different from that which I normally read - even when I'm ready for a heavier read instead of the lilting light reads that you settle down with when you need to simply relax.  I do think I would like to read the followup book/s.  The cliff hanging ending has just simply whetted my appetite.

Watch the video trailer here!

About the author:   C F Dunn runs a special school in North Kent for children with dyslexia, autism and other difficulties.  For more information check Ms. Dunn's website here.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Mortal Fire by C.. Dunn in order to participate in a blog tour sponsored by Kregel Publications and render an honest review.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"The Quill Pen" by Michelle Isenhoff: Book Review

The author's historical fiction has always flowed flawlessly with beautiful wordsmithing bringing wonderful word pictures to the young readers who have chosen to read her books.  The young reader will inevitably learn new vocabulary as well as true historical fact and descriptions of settings when they read a Michelle Isenhoff novel.

However, The Quill Pen, while set in a long-ago seaside village is not historical fiction per se it is a venture into fantasy.  You see, the quill is a feather pen of magical qualities - it is capable of writing without true ink events and happenings of the future and they do transpire as written.

Micah is a young teen boy held under the domineering and stoney thumb of his unfeeling father.  Micah wants a different future from that which his father has planned, and Micah sees how the feather/quill pen can be the instrument of his attaining this different future.

Characters in the story:  Widow Parsons, a sharp-tongued lady; Gabby and her family, outcasts from village society because of an issue of race; Micah, tormented by the possibility that he will have to accede to his father's planned future for him.

Middle school readers will find themselves enjoying the conversations and actions of the characters as they are exposed to the beautiful, fluid writing style of Michelle Isenhoff.

I enjoyed reading The Quill Pen but was expecting more of a historical fiction from the pen of Ms. Isenhoff.  I usually do not read fantasy, but found this fantasy enjoyable and I would recommend it.
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of The Quill Pen by the author in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Bink & Gollie" by Kaye DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Tony Fucile: Review & Giveaway

ISBN 9780763659547
Paperback $6.99
 About the book:  Meet Bink and Gollie, two precocious little girls--one tiny, one tall, and both utterly irrepressible. Setting out from their super-deluxe tree house and powered by plenty of peanut butter (for Bink) and pancakes (for Gollie), they share three comical adventures involving painfully bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion. No matter where their roller skates take them, at the end of the day they will always be the very best of friends. Full of quick-witted repartee, this brainchild of Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and award-winning author Alison McGhee is a hilarious ode to exuberance and camaraderie, imagination and adventure, brought to life through the delightfully kinetic images of Tony Fucile. 

My thoughts:  Typically I'm not your "cartoon/graphic art" book reader.  But when Bink & Gollie arrived I couldn't help but chuckle at the image of each of them.  The droll Gollie - tall, thin, calm - and the whimsical, mischievous, daring Bink with her spiked, yellow, out-of-control hair.  The drawings which so aptly demonstrate each personality and each incident along side the dry humor are reminiscent of Garfield or Calvin & Hobbs  but in a more "chapertized" format that will appeal to young readers but also adults with a sense of humor.

There are three stories or chapters in this little volume capturing episodes in the lives of Bink & Gollie.  Authors Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee with illustrator Tony Fucile have got the eye glances, body language, verbiage, amount of color vs black and white images, and vocabulary down to a tee that combines to bring a delightful reading adventure to any reader.

Friends are what Bink and Gollie are.  And as friends they have differences because they have such completely different personalities.  Bink discovers some truly atrocious (in Gollie's eyes) socks of a multitude of colors.  The war of differences begins.  But ultimately as friends they resolve and compromise - right to the end of the book when ice skating one of the remaining socks is now a scarf for Bink (she just couldn't quite rid herself of both socks).

Then as friends they must settle the fact that sometimes it is good and desired to do something simply by one's self.  For example Gollie wishes to climb to the top of the Andes (while remaining in her living room), but Bink simply keeps disturbing her and knocking on her door. 

And finally, the issue of venturing forth with new friendships and the resolution of sharing friendships while recognizing the value of special friends is faced.  Also, the act of a friend in saving another friend's relationship with one "outside" their circle because it is the right thing to do.

I can see parents and teachers using this delightfully entertaining book as a teaching tool with children.  I can also see adults recognizing themselves and their children in the characters Bink and Gollie and laughing at their own circumstances.

GIVEAWAY:  Candlewick Press is providing a giveaway copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win.  Use the Rafflecopter Entry Form below. Contest is open in US only. (Please wait while Rafflecopter loads)
DISCLOSURE:  Candlewick Press provided a complimentary copy of Bink & Gollie for me to render my honest review and I was not required to post a positive review. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Bethany House Publishers
On Sale October 2, 2012
Trade Paper ISBN: 978-0-7642-1089-1
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-7642-1090-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4412-6117-5
About the book:  Ann Silver is a cop’s cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region’s most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI’s top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn’t expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is . . .

My thoughts on the book:  Dee Henderson has written a number of very good books which I have had the pleasure to read. After a 5-year sabbatical from publishing, she has given us Full Disclosure.  It seems to me that this book begins more slowly and in a somewhat different style from that which I recall from past reads.  The lead character Ann Silver is an extremely complex individual of strong fidelity, strong friendships, and strong faith in God.  She has secrets that only a few know.  Her life intersects with the lead male character, Paul Falcon, in the investigation or disclosure of information on a cold case involving a notorious Lady Shooter.

This is not a fast paced book, but it is a well written story that is not difficult to follow.  Interwoven into the thread are characters from her previous books that not only are revealed as real-people-friends but many are also connected to Paul Falcon.

The story progresses to an ending that is definitely difficult to predict and surely the Full Disclosure is the climax.  Another good read from Dee Henderson.

Can’t wait to read the book? Read an excerpt today!

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided an Advance Reader copy in order to render my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  Visit to purchase the book.

"About Crustaceans: A Guide for Children" book for ages 3-8 by Cathryn Sill & Illustrated by John Sill (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

ISBN-13: 978-1561454051

This is the third book in the delightful nature series by Carolyn and John Sills that I have reviewed here on Chat With Vera.  This very talented team brings to the young child information that they can understand without compromising the scientific accuracy.  The illustrations are beautiful and so very accurate. 

Again, the book design is simple.  A large picture on the right hand page showing detailed physical characteristics and simple text on the left page with short descriptive scientific title or clue.  In the back of the book there is an afterward that revisits each crustacean giving more detail and information.

The young reader will learn what crustaceans look like, what they eat, where they live.

The book can be read to the very young child or the older reader can delve into it himself.  A treasure to have tucked on a shelf ready for the inquisitive youngster to while away an afternoon learning while he is having fun. I highly recommend this set of books for the home library as well as the school library.

My other reviews:  About Birds and About Arachnids.
~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY~ ~ ~ ~
a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of About Crustaceans by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  The giveaway copy will be provided and will be shipped to the winner by Peachtree Publishers as well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"About Arachnids: A Guide for Children" by Carolyn & John Sill - (Review & Giveaway CLOSED)

About the book: This kid-friendly volume offers a first glimpse into the creepy, crawly, complex world of spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks.
Author Cathryn Sill explains in easy-to-understand language what arachnids are, how they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce. Wildlife painter John Sill's detailed realistic illustrations reflect the diversity of the arachnid population—from the poisonous Brown Recluse Spider to the innocuous Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion—and present each in its natural habitat.
An appendix, which provides further detail on the arachnids portrayed, will inspire young readers to learn more about these fascinating, often misunderstood creatures.   Hardcover: $15.95 ISNB: 978-1561-45038-1

My thoughts:  When I think of spiders, I think back to my growing up years and the backyard garden my mother had.  It was separated from the front of the "backyard" by a fence that was nearly head high - to me.  There were bushes and vines on either side of the fence.  We lived in the hot, humid Southern state of North Carolina.  A fertile field for insects of all varieties.  The most fearsome to me was the very large "garden spider" that inhabited the gate area to Mom's flower garden.  I loved the flowers, but I was fearful of the spider!  Mother tried to tell me he would hurt me and to just brush the web aside and go on in.  Mom loved the out of doors until she died in her 90s. 

But then I didn't have a lovely picture book showing me all the various "spiders" or arachnids and how they lived and what they did and if they could harm me.  The book About Arachnids A Guide for Children is simple and very instructive.  The art work is beautiful and accurate depicting these scarey and wondrous creatures.

Carolyn and John Sill have teamed up beautifully to bring us another delightful book for children ages 3-8 teaching them to love the creatures in our wonderful World.

At the end of the book is an "Afterword" with each page/illustration presented with a short but broader statement about that particular bird or illustration.  I highly recommend these books as excellent for the home library, the school library, or for a gift from grandma.

It is a pleasure to present North Carolina Cathryn Sill, author and John Sill, artist.  North Carolina is a diverse state filled with a vast quantity and variety of wildlife.  BUY IT HERE FROM THE PUBLISHER

Author Photo
Cathryn Sill, a graduate of Western Carolina University, was an elementary school teacher for thirty years. She lives in North Carolina.
Author Photo
John Sill holds a BS in wildlife biology from North Carolina State University. Combining his knowledge of wildlife and artistic skill, John has achieved an impressive reputation as a wildlife artist and received several awards. He lives in North Carolina.  You can visit John Sill’s website here.
GIVEAWAY CLOSEDPeachtree Publishers is offering a copy of About Arachnids to one of Chat With Vera's readers. Begins September 8 & ENDS September 22 at  8:00 p.m. EDT- USA only.  Email required for contacting winner (edit it as "myname at yahoo [dot][com]" )
  1. Mandatory entry:  Visit Peachtree Publishers website & find "About Arachnids: A Guide for Children" and find 2 other titles in the Guide for Children series that appeals to you.  Leave a comment on here telling me which two titles. Leave your email so I can contact you if you are the winner.
  2. Extra entry/s:  May be done DAILYTweet this review.  Use the Tweet button at the end of the post to Tweet & include the hashtags @GG_Survey @PeachtreePub #Giveaway. Leave a separate comment here for each daily Tweet which includes the Twitter URL for the Tweet (your email, too, please).
  3. Extra entry/s:  Share this review link in a Facebook post & visit  saying I'm from Chat With VeraEach comment counts as an entry so leave a separate comment here which includes the Facebook URL for the post (your email, too, please).
  4. Extra entry: Follow this blog via email, GFC, Networked blogs.  Leave comment for each "follow" & the name you follow with (your email, too, please).
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of About Arachnids by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.  The giveaway copy will be provided to one of Chat With Vera's readers by Peachtree Publishers.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Bride Wore Blue (book 3 in the Sinclaire Sisters of Cripple Creek series) by Mona Hodgson (review)

Paperback  $13.99 ISBN: 9780307730305
Book 3 in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series opens with Vivian, the youngest of the Sinclair sisters and the only one not yet married, traveling with her aunt to Cripple Creek where her sisters await.

About the book:  At last, the sisters are reunited! The youngest Sinclair, the family“ baby”, is moving from Maine to Cripple Creek, Colorado and joining Kat, Nell, and Ida. But Vivian is a young woman with a will of her own, and made some decisions back in Portland that have begun to haunt her. Will she be able to live up to the expectations of her three perfect and now happily-settled sisters?

The sisters warmly welcome Vivian to the mountain west, but the wild-and-woolly mining town isn’t ripe with opportunities for a respectable young woman. The youngest Sinclair sister is determined to make her own way, so when she’s offered a job as a hostess in a sporting house, she takes it, thinking the position is appropriate for a tainted, unlovable woman like herself. Although she’s convinced she’ll never be asked to entertain privately, Vivian keeps her employment a secret from her sisters, knowing they’d be mortified—as will Carter Alwyn, the kind and godly sheriff ’s deputy who’s sweet on her.

Vivian is descending into a life of secrets, lying to the very people who love her and could help her heal from her mistakes. Will an outpouring of grace remind her that she is still God’s beloved and that her past can be washed as clean as Rocky Mountain snow?

My thoughts:  This is a very enjoyable read of the American West in 1867.  Cripple Creek is a small western town with limited prospects for employment and yet Vivian wants to be able to stand on her own two feet and begin working as a designer of ladies clothing. But prospects are dim.

Vivian has secrets in her young life that no one is aware of - least of all her sisters.  She has tried to put them behind her and live her life according to God's leading, but she continually  finds herself being deceptive and not choosing wisely.  She does not seek the assistance and counsel of those who love her. So she makes mistakes.  Big mistakes.

This is a story of the American West and the book brings good christian fiction, sweet romance,  wild west outlaws, soiled doves,  and a train robbery all lending color and adventure. But you won't find inappropriate scenes or language to spoil it for you.  Being a Western style story, we have a hero, too - Deputy Carter Alwyn.  So watch out for tender sparks between Vivian and the Deputy Carter.

Character development is good and each personality shows through.  You will fall in love with Hattie.  (I'll not tell who she is so you can read the book and find out!)  And the sub-sub-plot of Nell and her husband desiring a child and being unable to have one resolves itself in a beautiful way. (Again, I'm not going to give this sweet morsel away!)

But this is a story of forgiveness.  God's grace and forgiveness and that of those we love.  No matter how big or terrible our mistakes, God is gracious and God is forgiving.  You will find an inspirational read in The Bride Wore Blue by Mona Hodgson that will be an encouragement to you if you need forgiveness and a source of helping others whom you know who need to realize the forgiveness of God and that of friends and loved ones.

You will also find family loyalty and acceptance toward Vivian even after her mistakes and secrets are discovered.

The Bride Wore Blue can easily be read as a stand alone book although it would be fun to read the entire series in the order in which they were written.  I look forward to reading Mona Hodgson's new release in October 2012 of Twice a Bride.
About the author:  Over the last twenty-five years, Mona Hodgson’s publishing credits have grown to include nearly thirty children's books, contributions to more than ten books for adults, and four historical novels, including her debut, Two Brides Too Many in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. Mona is a popular speaker for women's groups, schools, and educators’ and writers’ conferences. She lives in Arizona.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a copy of The Bride Wore Blue by Blogging for Books on behalf of Waterbrook Press and the author in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"The Captive Princess: a Story Based on the Life of Young Pocahontas" by Wendy Lawton: book review

ISBN: 978-0-8024-7640-1
Paperback: $6.99
Author, Wendy Lawton, has written a detailed, informative biographical novel of the historical person, Pocahontas, from the early settlement period of American History.  It is written for the young 8-12 year old reader or reluctant reader and will engage them in the activities and conversations of the characters as well as the subtle historical facts that they will surely glean from a reading of this tale.

This particular rendering of the tale of Pocahontas does not sensationalize nor create a "fairy tale" of sorts out of the life of a young daughter of Chief Powhatan, a "Princess" in real life. The story shows her living a life respected as the chief's daughter and as one who receives special attention and favor by all.

Her interest in the English ship and it's inhabitants who begin living on the shore develops into a concern for and friendship with them and in particular with John Smith whose life she saves.  Carefully researched by Wendy Lawton, the historical information is reliable and interesting.  There is a glossary of Powhatan words as well as a listing of names and places which are helpful in enabling the reader to fully understand about which person and which place they are currently reading.

The Captive Princess is only one of the eight books in Wendy Lawton's Daughter of the Faith series. This is my second book in the series to review.  You may read my review of Almost Home by clicking here.  I highly recommend the series for the young or reluctant reader.  These are historically accurate and well written books.

DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy of "The Captive Princess" by Wendy Lawton from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  There was no requirement for a positive review.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Rare Earth" by Davis Bunn: Book Review

ISBN: 978-0-7642-0906-2
Price: $14.99

My  thoughts:  For some strange reason Marc Royce, accountant, is being flown by helicopter into Kenya where the area is torn violently by the eruption of a volcano and the refugee camps filled with people who have been evicted from their traditional lands.  One wonders why an accountant would be positioned in such an eruptive political situation.

We soon discover that Marc Royce is not a meek accountant but is in reality an undercover agent.  His assignment is to rout out what is really going on with the displacement of so many tribal Africans.  And, too, the kidnapping of a key international individual.

Author Davis Bunn has traveled extensively and his travels and gift for description enable him to draw vivid word pictures of sun rise and set, of dry parched land, and of hungry displaced refuges.  Vivid descriptions of a volcano spewing forth ash and fire are set forth on the pages of Rare Earth.  Not only has Bunn painted glorious word pictures of the scenes, he has drafted a multi-talented character in Marc Royce.  A man of a quiet spirit and yet he can erupt with the fierceness of a volcano to fight mightily against wrong.  He is a man of many strengths.  He becomes the warrior the refugees need and he is the man that has a gentle soft side that appeals to the "leading lady."

Rare Earth is intensely written and filled with action packed scenes that will appeal immensely to the male reader.  Marc Royce's strength and agility and degree of focus are not that of a "normal" man but that of a trained warrior.  The story is one of international intrigue, and you won't know until near the very end just who the rogue players are.

For fun I recommend you research "rare earths" on the internet and see just what Bunn is writing about in his book.  It is truly a front page story.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of writing an honest review of my opinion of Rare Earth.  No compensation was provided and all opinions expressed are my own.

About the author:  Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis' Web site at

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Soft Scrub Total Cleaner - Product Review & GIVEAWAY

The never ending chore of cleaning the bath rears it's persistent head repeatedly and we can't avoid it.  To do so would mean dire circumstances arising that none of us want to face - dirt, soil, mess, bacteria, germs, scum, etc., etc., etc.,  You get the picture - and none of us want to see THAT picture in OUR house.  Well, Soft Scrub has been around a long time trying to enable each of us to keep the faith and get the job done and be good little wives, mommies, and house keepers.  But now Soft Scrub has brought new joy to us with a new product and dispenser.  Read on....

Soft Scrub Total all purpose cleaners have a patented trigger that allows you to clean with either a fine mist or thick foam.  Now here is the real clincher..... the trigger even sprays UPSIDE DOWN so you can get into those hard to reach places.  You know as well as I that it has been really frustrating to try to get to ALL those nasty hard to reach spots.  Now you've got help!
I received a bottle of All Purpose with Bleach and Bath & Bowl cleaner to review. I really like the design of the bottles because they are easy to hold and I truly love the option to spray  or foam.  The UPSIDE DOWN feature is absolutely great! Although I love the cleaning properties of bleach products and the way they clean, the "bleach" smell is a bit strong on this product and it seems to bother me. It worked great, but I will have to be cautious when I use it.  

Soft Scrub will be holding a sweepstakes with $3,000 in prizes.
1 lucky winner wins $1000 and 50 other winners win $40 each.
Chat With Vera is holding a little giveaway contest!
Leave a comment telling me how you think the new Soft Scrub product and dispenser will help you in your task of cleaning.  I'll send a winner a coupon for a bottle of Soft Scrub.  O.k. folks!  I'll send TWO COUPONS.  That way you can try two of the different products.  BEGINS SEPT. 2 ENDS SEPT. 14 @ 12 NOON EDT. USA ONLY.

So here is what you do....... Simply leave the comment above along with your email address (modified to thwart those nasty web crawler spies) and that's it!  You just might win 2 coupons good for a free full-sized Soft Scrub spray.

But hey! If you want extra entries TWEET THE FOLLOWING: I entered the Soft Scrub Total Cleaner - Product Review & GIVEAW...
Disclosure: Soft Scrub provided a free sample of their Bath and Bowl so I could review them.  However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"The Judge" by Randy Singer

ISBN-13: 9781414335681
Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 8/17/2012

About the book:  When a brilliant billionaire is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he realizes that all his considerable wealth cannot prepare him to meet his Maker. But he has an idea that might: he will stage the ultimate reality show. With his true agenda hidden, he auditions followers from all the world's major religions, inviting them to the trial of their lives on a remote island, where they must defend their beliefs against spiritual challenges.

Oliver Finney, a feisty old judge with his own secrets, is chosen to defend Christianity. As the program takes a strange twist, he quickly realizes he is trapped in a game of deadly agendas that may cost him his life. With Internet access monitored, Finney sends coded messages to his law clerk, Nikki Moreno. Aided by a teen crypto-geek, Nikki soon discovers the key to understanding Finney’s clues in an apologetics book Finney wrote and must race against time to decipher the mysteries contained in the ancient words of Christ before her boss dies defending them.

My thoughts:  I have read several of Randy Singer's books and he is a fine writer and  man.  I appreciate his dedication to his craft of writing and to his practice of law.  Did you know that he is also a pastor?  Hmmm... did you wonder why he wrote such spiritually grounded books?  Well, when I received "The Judge" to review and to participate in the blog tour, little did I expect the twist and turns this story would take me on.  I did not anticipate the level of intensity with which the characters were required to defend their faith.

The story begins with a very wealthy man who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer with a year to live.  He has no faith.  He is enthralled with the current "rage" on TV of reality shows and decides to fund a reality show called "Faith on Trial."    Candidates for the Faith on Trial show represent several of the major religions of the world - Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, a non-believing scientist, and a Christian.  At the end of the show, the "faith" that wins is the faith this wealthy man will choose to die believing.  Then he virtually exits the story line, though he does follow afar off.

The candidates are flown to an unidentified (to them) island and allowed no contact with the outside world.  They are put on trial for their faith and must defend it.  It is set up like a court room and they are interrogated.  Before long it becomes clear to the characters, especially Oliver Finney, the Christian in the group, that all is not well and they are pawns in a game that does not seem legal or ethical.

Oliver Finney (the character who is "The Judge") is a student of  variety of codes, has written books with embedded codes in them, and has discovered embedded codes in classic books.  His former law clerk, Nikki Moreno, is a beautiful young lady whose code-breaking skills are sorely lacking.  Enter Wellington Farmington, a young, very intelligent geek who skillfully breaks codes and helps Nikki discover the ways and means that Oliver Finney has found to communicate with her about the odd happenings on the Island.

This twisted and turning plot uncovers hatred and desire for revenge.  But mostly it covers the testimony of a man of faith as he, knowing he has only a few months himself to live, defends his faith in Christ to the death.

Randy Singer also wrote "The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ"  which would probably be a good book to read in conjunction with "The Judge."  "The Judge" was formerly published in 2006 under the title of  "The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney."

A requisite for participating in the review of this book and the blog tour was that I would  "Answer:  How do you defend your faith?".  My answer is that I don't know how I would defend my faith when placed in circumstances of life and death.  I hope that I would be able to give a soft answer that rings true to my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.  I could not stand up to the brilliant scientist who scoffs because I "believe" in the unseen.  Nor could I explain that my heart and mind belong to the Lord who is my Rock, my Sustainer, my Salvation, my Lord, my God simply because I hold dear that each word of the Word of God, the Bible, is true and is a gift from God to mankind.  My defense of my faith is my belief in God and in my Savior and in the truth that is His Word.

About the author:  Randy Singer is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. He has authored 10 legal thrillers, including the 2003 Christy Award-winning Directed Verdict, Irreparable Harm, Dying Declaration, Self Incrimination, The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney, False Witness, By Reason of Insanity (2009 Christy Nominee), The Justice Game (CBA Bestseller), and Fatal Convictions as well as the novella, The Judge Who Stole Christmas. He has also authored or co-authored three nonfiction titles. Randy runs his own law practice and was recently named to Virginia Business magazine’s select list of “Legal Elite” litigation attorneys. He also serves as a teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, VA. He calls it is “Jekyll and Hyde thing”—part lawyer, part pastor. He teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School. Visit his Web site at

My review of Randy Singer's book The Last Plea Bargain can be found here.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a copy of The Judge by Randy Singer by Tyndale Publicity to facilitate my honest, unbiased review.  I was under no obligation to render a positive review.