Monday, October 29, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman

About the book:  
Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.
Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who’s preparing to spend the holidays alone…again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny’s farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she’s more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

My thoughts:  This lovely Christmas novella begins with a bang when boy meets girl down on the farm and things start to really get mucked up a bit.  She wants to sell the farm. He wants to buy the farm. She is a farm girl that wants a stab at city life and music.  He is a city boy (wealthy) that wants to buy the farm to prove he can succeed at something.

It is October. Thanksgiving is coming.  And Christmas is not far behind.  They both love music and it has a lyrical impact on their lives and the book's storyline.  But all is not sweet music or well down on the farm or in the city.  It is 1961 and the civil rights movement is afoot.  There are racial undercurrents afoot as well as at-hand.  Then we throw into the mix a bit of family dysfunctionality and you have a whale of a story even though it is set on dry land.

Franny is a sweet, hysterically funny lady that is dedicated to doing the right thing.  Charlie is a well-bred wealthy city boy that doesn't know a thing about farming and buys the farm right away. I really enjoyed this sweet tale but did feel that the racial and dysfunctional family issues a bit heavy for a Christmas novella.  That threw the book out of the warm-fuzzy-Christmas-read category in some degree.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  I enjoyed the characters and Anita Higman writes a very readable story with beautifully developed characters. Be prepared to laugh, chuckle, and feel happy inside.  But you will also feel pained and bad about some of the issues the characters face in their lives.  I recommend!

About the author: Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Other reviews:
Link to buy the book:   
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of A Merry Little Christmas by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher, Summerside Press,  and the author in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Flight of Fancy by Laurie Alice Eakes (Review)

About the book:  Filled with the mystique of London society and the charming beauty of the English countryside, A Flight of Fancy explores what it means to find the true source of happiness and love amid the distractions of life. Readers will love the next installment in this rousing Regency series from accomplished author Laurie Alice Eakes.

Cassandra Bainbridge has twice set aside her scholarly pursuits--once for the London Season and once for her wedding preparations. Love seems a wonderful alternative to study, until disaster strikes. When an accident brings an end to her betrothal, she heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. There she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when her former fiancé slips back into her life, what course will she choose?
About the author: Laurie Alice Eakes is the author of Lady in the Mist, A Necessary Deception, Heart's Safe Passage, and several other novels. She won a National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency in 2007 for Family Guardian.

My thoughts:  I enjoy a good Regency story now and then because it was a gracious period of history packed full of events and mysterious intrigue that shaped much of society and the politics of nations leading up to modern times.  The social mores of the period are somewhat contrived and hard to believe in today's world of permissiveness and wanton living.

Flight of Fancy
involves a slightly rebellious young lady who wanted to break out of the mold society has placed her in as a woman.  The story is set in England and the time period is 1812 and the politics involved the Luddite rebellion and uprising against mill owners.  But the "story" of the book is a young lady and a young "Lord" who are in love.

The story includes mystery, rebellions/uprisings, blackmail, love, injury, accidents, broken hearts and other emotional workings.  It is a good story and gives you a glimpse into the window of Regency lifestyles and a touch of English history.  I enjoyed my visit with our friends in
Flight of Fancy and hope to be able to read more of Laurie Alice Eakes works in the future.

Engraving 1812: Leader
of the Luddite rebellion
Now a touch of history:  Since a major theme in Flight of Fancy centered around the Luddite uprising in Britian in 1812, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what this movement specifically was about.  Here is a link with some information that you might find interesting

“Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Flight of Fancy by Laurie alice Eakes by Revell of Baker Publishing Group
to facilitate my review.  Opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Bananas in My Ears" by Michael Rosen & Illustrated by Quentin Blake (Review & GIVEAWAY)

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6248-6
Candlewick Press - Hardcover
Ages 4 and up
Children are interesting creatures - interesting people - and not just small adults.  They have this insatiable sense of humor and get tickled over the most nonsensical stuff.  They absolutely love rhymes and "stories" in rhyme. (Oh why is there not more of this for them in their world - school, play, pleasure reading, etc.?)
"There's a man over there,
and he's sitting in the sand.
He buried himself at teatime.
Now he's looking for his hand.

There's a boy over there,
and he's sitting on the rocks,
eating apple crumble,
washing dirty socks.

There's a woman over there,
sitting in the sea.
I can see her
but she can't see me."
Children love silliness and riddles.  They love poems and nonsense stories.  So Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles, and Rhymes is absolutely right up their alley.

There are four divisions to the book.  Each follows virtually the same format.  I believe some of my favorite parts of the book are the "Nat and Anna" stories.  These siblings are so down to earth, sweet, and downright silly.  But the stuff of what makes them so much fun is that they are so very much like your own kids - or you when you were a kid.

I personally believe if children when very young and continuing through the middle-years are exposed to fun rhyme, serious rhyme, sweet rhyme that they will when they are in their teens and adult life embrace the beauty of poetry instead of shying away from it.

But don't think "Bananas" is simply a book of cute rhymes.  It is not.  It is creatively illustrated with figures and messy scenes with facial expressions and "body language" that will capture your attention and tickle your funny bone.

A good read-aloud or I-can-read-it-myself book that children will embrace for the sheer fun of it.
~ ~ ~  ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Candlewick Press on behalf of the author for the purpose of a review. All opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.
Author Michael Rosen is an eminent writer, broadcaster, poet, and performer who has received many prestigious awards. His books with Candlewick include MICHAEL ROSEN'S SAD BOOK, also illustrated by Quentin Blake; WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; THIS IS OUR HOUSE and I'M NUMBER ONE, both illustrated by Bob Graham; RED TED AND THE LOST THINGS, illustrated by Joel Stewart; TINY LITTLE FLY, illustrated by Kevin Waldron; and THE TOTALLY WONDERFUL MISS PLUMBERRY, illustrated by Chinlun Lee. In 2007 he became the British Children’s Laureate. Michael Rosen lives in London.   

Illustrator Quentin Blake was the very first British Children’s Laureate. One of the world’s foremost illustrators, he has won numerous awards for his books and is best-known for his work with Roald Dahl. His books with Candlewick include MICHAEL ROSEN'S SAD BOOK, ON ANGEL WINGS by Michael Morpurgo, and THE RIGHTS OF THE READER by Daniel Pennac. Quentin Blake lives in London..

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Serious Place for America and the World

The stock market crash of   The Great Depression of 1929 and the dust bowl of America that crippled the farmers and grain producers was part of a world-wide, devastation. Hunger and joblessness were not simply an American problem. It was worldwide. Climatic changes as well as poor farming practices and swarms of locusts were causes of the dust bowl issue in America. But Russia had major issues growing grain as well.
1937 - Oklahoma farmer and sons during dust  bowl storm. The drought that helped cripple agriculture
in the Great Depression was the worst in the climatological history of the country.
she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen
vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the
children killed. She had just sold the tires from
her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent
with her children huddled around her...
(Popular Photography 1960)
Mismanagement and greed caused the stock market to crumble. Some of the issues with the stock market were actually issues from the cost of grain and of the lack of grain. No grain, you can't feed the world. Grain was a commodity that guided the entire market.

After or during this crisis across the globe we call Earth, there arose to power a mighty, influential, and convincing presence in Germany that captivated an entire nation and had visions of ruling the world. Hitler of Germany. The efforts to produce the engines of war, plus the fact that world climates became more favorable toward the production of grains, helped to bring America and the World out of this Great Depression.

Following the war, the nations of Europe and the nation of Japan had to cope with the rebuilding of their nations. America came to the aid of many of these countries - even those that sought to subjugate us. Since that time, America has continued to be the hand that helps.

Will the coming days, months, and years produce worse conditions than the Great Depression and World War II? Only time will tell. But yes, the cycle of little and much, and then little again will most likely occur. The days and times will most likely be those of desperate living conditions. We should always live with an eye toward the future in order to provide for ourselves and our families. But we should never panic. Preparation and insightful living should be the daily goal of each and every one of us.

The Bible instructs us to "go to the ant, thou sluggard..." The ant is a diligent worker and prepares for the cold days of winter. When the winter of our society or of our own personal lives comes, we should be prepared.

"The Memory Jar" by Tricia Goyer: Review & Giveaway

About the book:  Book One in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series
Every year, 30–40 young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive ‘resident’ status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides! Sarah Shelter has lived in West Kootenai for the last ten years and wonders if she will ever fall in love.

Since the tragic death of her best friend, she carries her memories in a jar along with the small items connected to them. For just as long, she’s also been carrying around her emotions instead of allowing them to penetrate deep into her heart. Now she’s met a kind and gentle man who may be able to break down the wall. But can Sarah risk her heart to finally achieve her dreams?

My thoughts:  First of all, I found the concept of a "memory jar" as kept by Sarah in "The Memory Jar" rather quaint even for an Amish story.  To think that teens and adults would collect rocks, tiny pinecones, etc. and store them in a jar to aid as a tool to recollect their special moments or experiences in life is not in keeping with any society beyond that one really backward or very young.  In spite of my concept and thinking on a "memory jar" that is an item of particular importance in The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer. 

When a young girl our heroine and her young friend both keep their memories intact inside th memory jar.  This becomes especially important to Sarah after her best friend Patty dies in a boating accident. Memories are all Sarah has left of Patty and therefore the jar becomes important.

Sarah can not seem to get into the boy meets girl and girl and boy marry scenario that is expected of the Amish.  She is not much for routine housekeeping responsibility and dotes on her skills as a "fancy" baker.  She dreams of one day having her own bakery.

Jathan arrives on the scene along with other young Amish bachelors who come to the area hunting - both for wild game and for brides. Jathan is somewhat shy but he has spotted Sarah. They are in a group that goes hiking and become well acquainted because she has an injury and he helps her.

As the story progresses, they have family and community issues that put roadblocks in their path.  It looks like things might work out for them and then it all falls apart.  Will their relationship end up in the memory jar? Will it be a good memory, or will it be a memory of heartbreak?

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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of The Memory Jar from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author, Tricia Goyer,  and publisher, Zondervan, in order to render a review. Opinions expressed are solely mine and I was under no obligation to give a positive review. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sparkle Box - A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas with a sparkle box included! Written by Jill Hardie Illustrated by Christine Kornacki (Review & GIVEAWAY)

ISBN-13: 978-0824956479
Hardcover ~ Ages 4-8
Really good for ALL ages!
Fold-out Sparkle Box included!
About the book: Sam is so excited about Christmas! He's thinking about his Christmas list, looking forward to holiday parties, and puzzling over one very mysterious gift: a sparkly box sitting on the mantel. In the midst of the festivities, Sam and his family participate in various acts of kindness to others. On Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the Sparkle Box, he finds only slips of paper that record the family's good deeds. Sam's mom explains that the things that they've been doing are, in fact, a gift for Jesus, for Jesus said that whatever we do for those in need, we do for Him.

My thoughts: Children are just naturally very "me centered;" and a season when there is gifting especially centered around the younger ones tends to motivate children to be very centered on what "I" will receive, "I want this," "Can I have that," etc.  A wise parent seeks to direct the child's thoughts toward more of a "what I can do" and "what I can give" in order to raise them to be selfless and motivated toward those who need their help and not toward what can be done for "me." 

In the story of the Sparkle Box, the parent has created a special gift box. Inside the box will be the deeds done for good. The secret is to get the child to put others first.... The child with no toys.  The family with no food.  The person with no winter coat.  To get the child to look outside of himself and his personal wants and wishes.

In the weeks and days leading up to Christmas, Sam's Mom clothed the cold, feed the hungry, gave to the thirsty, etc. - but what did that have to do with Sam's sparkle box?  

On Christmas morning they opened their presents and the Sparkle box - which was a gift for Jesus - was opened.  Inside were slips of paper for each and every way they had been a light in the darkness by doing for others.  

I really like that the story teaches children that they, too, can have an impact on helping those in need.  That they have something they can give.  I like that the books shows the gentle, sweet side of family life and interaction and involvement in reaching out to help others as a way to show their Christian love. 
"You are the light of the world - like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see." Matthew 5:14
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
 Matthew 25:40

THE SPARKLE BOX - Official Book Trailer from Ideals Books on Vimeo.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
The "Key" to this giveaway is...

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Author Bio
Author Jill Hardie and her family began placing a gift for Jesus under their Christmas tree as a way of bringing more meaning to the holiday.  The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they felt a profound joy and peace.  Jill hopes that The Sparkle Box will spark a new Christmas tradition, bringing light into thousands of lives.  

Illustrator Bio
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life.  After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, October 22, 2012

"What About Heaven: Little Blessings" by Kathleen Long Bostrom

ISBN: 9781414375106
Softcover $3.99

 About the little book: Kids have lots of questions; Little Blessings question books help parents answer the tough questions. What about Heaven? helps explain eternal life to kids and adults alike. The rhythmic rhyming book begins with questions kids ask about heaven and answers each one in a theologically accurate yet age-appropriate manner, including scriptures to reference. The adorable multi-cultural kids and colorful art will make this a favorite book for kids and adults. Learning about Heaven has never been so sweet and simple.

I know that God loves me.
Of this there's no doubt.
But what about heaven?
What's that all about?

My thoughts on the book:  Children are beautifully inquisitive and they do ask questions about what happens when death occurs.  As parents and adults who desire to give a Biblical response to these inquiring inquisitive youngsters, it is good to have the right answers.  And sometimes we need tools to help us do just that. 

What About Heaven? is written attractively for the very young child and will capture their attention right away with the rhyming text full of the questions for which these youngsters want answers. Illustrated in sweet, whimsical style that parents as well as children love, their attention is kept visually as well as verbally.

Now just how effective will this little gem of a book be to us as we minister to our young charges?  I think the sweetness of the book will generate a gentle response of heart and mind to the topic of Heaven.  As the questions have been posed in the early part of the book, the response or answer is given in rhyme in the last portion. Answers are Biblically based (references to Scripture are at the top of the "answer" pages) though written in age-appropriate rhyme.

All in all I think this is a treasure to be used since the Biblical truths are expressed clearly with the specific Bible references for parental and child future study.  I recommend homes with little ones acquire it for a "go to" book for those special question and answer moments.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy from Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher and author in order to review and render my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely mine.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix: Book Review & Giveaway

ISBN: 9781414368405

About the book:  When Marshall Becker arrives in Lamorlaye, France, to begin the massive renovation of a Renaissance-era castle, he unearths a dark World War II history few in the village remember. The project that was meant to provide an escape for Becker instead becomes a gripping glimpse into the human drama that unfolded during the Nazi occupation and seems to live on in midnight disturbances and bizarre acts of vandalism.
My thoughts: This was a book a bit slow to get interested in.  However, as the story progressed I became aware of the tangled plot that was taking place with the characters. 

The story centers on a castle being renovated under the skillful guidance of Becker from the United States.  The family who has hired Becker and his company consists of  very expectant mother, father, and twins (a boy and a girl), and the nanny.  Becker obviously has a problem communicating and interacting with people.  But it is not until well into the story that we see just what is causing this issue with him. The nanny is not without problems as well.  There is definitely some boy meets girl tension at hand, but it is not acted upon primarily because each has their own problems that preclude their interaction.

On the grounds of the castle is a "squatter" which the French allow as having squatters rights. He is old, reclusive, non-talkative, and an unknown quantity.

Running through the book's contemporary story of Becker, et al, is that of the German - Nazi - occupancy of the castle in 1943 when they used it as a "hospital" for the breeding of an Aryan nation. (Lebensborn) You wonder throughout the book why this would be such an integral part of the contemporary story unless it is because of the setting in the castle.  Ah, just wait and see.

There is a light at the end of the book.  There is hope.  But it doesn't end with a "happily ever after" lovely wrap-up ending. There are lots of tangles and just like a head of hair that is tangled, it is hard to straighten it all out.

A very interesting read. I just wonder, will be a sequel?

Background on the story from the author.

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About the author:   Michele Phoenix - Born in France to an American mother and a Canadian father, Michele Phoenix is an international writer with multi-cultural sensitivities. A graduate of Wheaton College, she taught writing, music, and theater at the boarding school for missionaries' children she attended as a teenager. She currently works for Global Outreach Mission as an advocate for Third Culture Kids, helping them transition back into North American culture and educating stateside churches and missions about the special needs of this people group.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Tangled Ashes via publicist Handlebar Marketing on behalf of the author and publisher in order to facilitate this review of my honest opinion.  No compensation was given. I was under no obligation to render a positive review.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk Series by Jannifer Powelson, Illustrations by Kalpart (Review & Giveaway)

Author Jannifer Powelson has graciously shared her first three books in the Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk Series with me for a review.  She will also provide one of my readers a set of these very cute, beautiful, insightful, and fact-ful books as a giveaway prize.  Now let's see just what Rachel and Sammy have been up to.....

First of all I was drawn to the charming illustrations of Sammy and Rachel.  They are beautifully drawn, expressive, and exude a charm and beauty that is sure to draw children and parents alike.  Each discovery by Sammy and Rachel is also illustrated by photography of the specific discovery  showing in accurate detail the particulars of that subject.  The both artists - illustrator Kalpart and author/photographer Jannifer Powelson are to be commended.  I simply regret that these books are not in a more lasting hardcover format because they will surely get a lot of use.

Rachel and Sammy Visit the Prairie - Book 1
These two adorable critters take a little stroll in the prairie and Rachel instructs Sammy on the various grasses and flowers they find. Each plant is discussed for its specific features - leaves, flowers, stalk, stems -  and beautiful photography shows the detail of each plant. They discover the similarities of plant leaves, stalks, and flowers and how they are related. The variety of plants they learn about is interesting.
Rachel and Sammy Visit the Forest - Book 2
As Rachel and Sammy enter the forest they begin to see that all is not trees in the forest for there are beautiful small flowering plants that you can only see in their full beauty during the early Spring when the foilage of the trees is not fully developed.  They discuss the various leaves, stems, veins, colors, small plants and flowers.  They learn that the forest is trees and small plants.
Rachel and Sammy Learn About Trees - Book 3
Jannifer Powelson's text and photography with the illustrations by Kalpart have brought rachel and Sammly to the reader in book 3 in this series along with their school friends who hike along a nature trail and learn all about trees.  They learn the definition of a tree:  "perennial woody plant that has a main trunk and several branches."  They learn the two main types of trees:  coniferous and deciduous.  Ms. Powelson's photography of the leaves, trunks, fruits of trees, and products that come from trees rivals many books in academia on the study of plant life.  Rachel and Sammy Learn About Trees

This series of books holds a plethora of information for the growing child to use for continued learning and review.  These are not just story books.  They are "adventures with nature" in story form but packed full of education material.  Ideal for the homeschool library, personal library, and classroom.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(Begins October 17 - ENDS October 31)
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About the author: Jannifer Powelson was raised on a farm in West Central Illinois. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where she first started to get interested in the prairie. She received her Master’s Degree in Biology from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville. It was during her thesis research, which took place in Northern Illinois, that she began to learn, identify, and photograph prairie plants. She conducted research on wild raccoons and also had a few “incidents” with skunks, and that is how the characters from Rachel and Sammy Visit the Prairie, the first book in this series, were derived. Rachel and Sammy Visit the Forest – A Guide to Spring Woodland Wildflowers is the second book in this fun and educational series, and Rachel and Sammy Learn About Trees is the third book in the series.

Jannifer is employed as a conservationist and resides in Princeton, Illinois with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys reading, writing, photography, and travel. She is completing work on her next book entitled: Rachel and Sammy Learn to Conserve.

DISCLOSURE: The author Jannifer Powelson provided a copy of each of the three books for my review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not obligated to render a positive review.  Ms. Powelson will also provide a set of the three books as a giveaway for one of my readers chosen at random from the Rafflecopter entries.
NOTE: I do not agree with the author's statement that the prairie plants began 10,000 years ago.  As a believer in God's creation, I believe the Earth to be younger.

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Hide!!! by Jeff Foxworthy

What a fun book!  I can just see Mom or Dad with the kids reading and searching through the pages for the kids who are hiding in the ageless game of hide and seek and all the little objects - i.e. 2 spoons, 4 flip flops, 1 raccoon, etc. - tucked away in the illustrations.

The Mom’s Choice Awards® has named Hide!!! among the best in family-friendly media, products and services.

The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) is an awards program that recognizes authors, inventors, companies, parents and others for their efforts in creating quality family-friendly media, products and services.

I love that it is written in rhyme with a good deal of humor. 

"Where to go?" thought Chris Cash
As he made a mad dash
To hide where he'd never be found.

When he saw the big tree
His heart leapt with glee.
To find him, don't look on the ground!

The illustrations get more complicated and the hidden objects become more numerous  and varied as the "story" progresses.

This colorful children's book took me back to a kinder, slower, more gentle time.  A time when on a summer's evening the kids were safe to run through the neighbor playing hide and seek.  They were safe. They had fun. And it was good exercise.  Remember how we could slip back in to "base" while the seeker's back was turned? It was always good to do that and not be found. The essence of this time of fun in a child's life was captured by the facial expressions and body language of the kids.

Well done, author Jeff Foxworthy and Illustrator Steve Bjorkman.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary review copy of Hide!!! by the publisher Beaufort Books on behalf of the author in order to facilitate my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a favorable review.
Kid Lit Blog Hop

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kids' Crisps by Crunchmaster - Review & Giveaway

Crisps are made with 100% whole grains, contain 50% less fat than regular cheese and graham cracker snacks and are certified gluten and peanut free. Crunchmaster Crisps give kids (and grown-ups) the perfect snack for at home, on the go and every stop in between. Keep the flavor. Lose the gluten.

There's nothing better than the savory taste of cheddar cheese and crispy Crunchmaster crackers.

I personally found it hard to believe that something that is certified gluten free, made of 100% whole grain could be so very delicious.  Kids who need to eat gluten free can now enjoy a cheesy taste in a snack "crisp."
Cinnamon & Sugar
Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps are the perfect mix of crunchy and sweet with just the right touch of cinnamon.

The box of Grammy Crisps says "Winning Graham taste without the wheat!"  We know that you get the graham taste and texture from the whole wheat.  So I'm thinking, just how do they expect to achieve this with brown rice?  Well, they have done a bang-up good job of creating a kid and adult loving crisps/cracker that is just slightly sweet, perfectly spiced with cinnamon, and crisp 'n crunchy.  We are thoroughly enjoying these crisps.

There is no one in our family that needs to modify their diet to avoid gluten.  But there are folks virtually everywhere that absolutely must not eat gluten.  It is sad, but you see gluten is in items you don't even suspect.  So when these dear gluten-challenged individuals need to shop, they absolutely must read each and every label to see what is hiding in the food they buy.

CrunchMaster carries the "Certified Gluten-Free seal of approval".  All of the CrunchMaster products are Certified Gluten Free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. Also, the Grammy Crisps and Cheezy Crisps are "peanut free oven baked."  Again, a safe-guard for those who have peanut allergies.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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DISCLOSURE: 1 box each of Cheezy Crisps and Grammy Crisps was provided by CrunchMaster to me to sample and write an honest review.  I alone am solely responsible for opinions expressed her.  Information about the specific products and company are from the product information produced by CrunchMaster. The winner's prize of 1 box each of same will be shipped to them by CrunchMaster.

"Twice Promised" by Maggie Brendan: Book Review

ISBN: 978-0-8007-3463-3
About the book: Two beautiful brides. One unsuspecting groom. Three weeks to figure it all out.

Greta Olsen arrives in Central City, Colorado, as a mail-order bride, expecting to marry Jess Gifford, the man she’s come to know through his tender letters. But when she meets Cora Johnson, she discovers she’s not the only bride waiting at the train station for Jess.

Already shocked to find they must compete for Jess’s affection, the young women can hardly believe it when not Jess but his brother Zach picks them up from the station—and reveals that Jess knows nothing about any mail-order bride, let alone two. Will either bride make the match she hopes for?

Filled with surprises, misunderstandings, and tender romance, Twice Promised is the story of how two unlikely women become twice blessed.

My thoughts: This is a  first read for me of a book by Maggie Brendan; and I found that she writes a delightful story, although somewhat unbelievable at times, that is both sweet, humorous, insightful, and has a touch of history.

The mail order bride market flourished during the settlement of the west because men were the settlers, adventurers, and gold miners and they were lonely.  There was also a plethora of women who had immigrated to the United States and had no where else to go.  Many had no family.  Some had family but were either virtually no more than slaves to the family or unwanted by their family.  There were a few adventurous souls who simply wanted something new and a different life.

Enter that scene our two ladies - Greta with her Swedish blond looks, strength, and challenging manner and Cora a dark haired beauty that is fragile and a real "lady" who is obviously from a cultured, well-to-do background. What they have found is that they are both waiting at the station after their journey for the same gentleman and that he is not expecting them since his brother was the writer of the letters contracting with the ladies to make the journey as potential mail order brides.

The story evolves and the personalities of each of the brothers and the two ladies brings together two couples and two love stories. Their story is somewhat predictable but nonetheless very enjoyable.

I enjoyed the two mens' grandmother and her wisdom and also the young "orphan" that blustered his way into the lives of all of them and found forgiveness and redemption.  Altogether a good read and I look forward to another Maggie Brendan read in the future.

 “Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

About the author: Maggie Brendan is the author of the Heart of the West series and Deeply Devoted, which was a 2012 ICRA Award finalist. A member of the Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America, and Georgia Romance Writers, Maggie lives in Georgia. Visit her at

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Twice Promised by Revell in order to provide a review and my honest opinion. All opinions are solely my own.  Book information is provided by the publisher.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Would You Read Me To Sleep? by George E. Edenfield

The art work of Would You Read Me To Sleep?  is beautiful on most of the pages.  There were a couple that were not up to the quality that initial pages presented.  The precept of the story is that of a small girl asking her father to "read me to sleep."  Father and daughter have spent time together, but bedtime beckons.

And she wants her father to read her to sleep.  As a parent, I found that reading to my children at bedtime was always a pleasant affair - good for them and good for me.  Yes, there were occasions when I was very weary and it seemed a "task" instead of a joy.  But I don't regret one minute of reading to my children.

So the premise of the book is sound and the art work is good (excellent, in fact) but the book is lacking.  What is lacking is an engaging story for the young child or a shorter version of this wordy story.  I applaud George E. Edenfield for wanting to get the message out that fathers need to snuggle with their children and read them to sleep.  Father and daughter (or child) time is truly an enchanting time that is well spent.  And the lasting effects of this time well spent is immeasurable.

Mr. Edenfield uses the story time to teach the lesson of eternal life with the God of the universe the Creator our Savior.  That is a lesson every father needs to instill in his child.  And Mr. Edenfield ends his story with the statement "'The Great Treasure of Golden Destiny' which is the greatest treasure of all.... " which I find confusing in the context of this child's storybook.

This book is not one that will be well received by children because it is too wordy and the story line gets muddled.  I appreciate the author's desire to present God's gift of eternal life as the goal of his story, but somehow the book just doesn't quite fit what you would want to use to read to a child and teach a child.

The author has asked in the book, "Can you find all of The Golden Keys?" which I found confusing.  I did not see illustrations of golden keys nor "key" phrases that were indicative of some supposed merit.  I would recommend that the author address this issue in future publications.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a copy of Would You Read Me To Sleep" by BookCrash on behalf of the author for the purpose of rendering my honest opinion in a review.  All comments are my own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

About Habitats: Mountains By Cathryn Sill & Illustrated by John Sill (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN-13: 9781561454693
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
About the book: This lovely picture book explores the major attributes and majestic beauty of mountains, using examples from around the globe. In simple, easy-to-understand language, this guide teaches children what mountains are and what kinds of animals and plants live there.

The superbly detailed full-color illustrations reflect the diversity of mountain landscapes—from the snow-covered peaks of the Himalaya Mountains in Asia to the forested slopes of the Appalachians in the United States. A wide variety of the plants and animals that live on mountains are also represented. A glossary and afterword provide readers with further fascinating details about mountains.

My thoughts:  The young age 4 to 7 child who has the pleasure to read and study this book will enjoy the soft colors and simple rendering of accurate illustrations of the various mountain habitats.  Eagles soaring.  Mountain goats perched precariously in virtually perpendicular places. Sharp peaks.  Sloping, rounded roofs of the world. Snow capped. Volcanic.  All are depicted for the child to travel through the mountains of the world enriching his vocabulary and knowledge while he enjoys beauty.

This is the first habitat book I've review and it is an interesting presentation as an introduction to the study of our world for the young child. At the beginning of the book is a world map with mountain ranges featured in the book indicated on the map. I recommend this along with the other "About" books by Carolyn and John Sill.

The author and illustrator: 
Cathryn Sill, a graduate of Western Carolina University, was an elementary school teacher for thirty years. She lives in North Carolina.

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 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(Begins Oct.12 ENDS Oct. 26 12:01 a.m. EST)
Please wait while Rafflecopter loads
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was given a complimentary copy of About Habitats: Mountains by Peachtree Publishers to facilitate 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.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"When A Heart Stops" by Lynette Eason: Book Review

ISBN:  978-0-2008-7
$14.99 Paperback

About the book: The second installment in the Deadly Reunions series, When a Heart Stops  is full of suspense and romantic tension and is intense, emotional and fast-paced.

Spunky and outgoing, nothing much bothers medical examiner Serena Hopkins--except for the thought of falling in love again. But when a serial killer is picking off her former classmates, Serena's life becomes intertwined with her old high school crush, FBI agent Dominic Allen. Is the secret she's keeping putting her next on the killer's hit list? Can she trust Dominic with the truth before it's too late?

My thoughts: This is an intense read involving particulars of a serial killer targeting former classmates of the medical examiner, Serena.  Extensive dialogue reveals the characters as they are developed by the author and as the story unwinds.  If a reader enjoys mystery, suspense, and the gritty crime investigative world and if the reader wants a clean read, then Lynette Eason's When a Heart Stops is definitely for you.

There is romantic tension, but nothing passionate and nothing offensive is involved.  Frankly, they are very busy trying to stay safe as they solve the series of crimes.  

Dysfunctional family life is given as causative for actions of the criminals though not spelled out directly.  However, as the characters Dominic and his sister reflect on the dysfunctional family premise, they are very thankful that they did not end up such as the criminals did for they, too, were from a dysfunctional family.

There is a subplot or sub-crime involved working in the background and even at the end of the book, I couldn't figure it out.  Perhaps in the next book in the series it will come to light. I see it as involving political intrigue and dirty politics.  But we'll have to wait to see.

Not a lot of "churchy-ness" or open Christianity in the book.  But you get the basic idea that they are Christians by their actions.

About the author: Lynette Eason is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, A Killer Among Us and When the Smoke Clears. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina. Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at @LynetteEason.

What others think: "I love this book. It will keep you guessing until the very end." Dee Henderson, bestselling author
 “Available October 2012  at your favorite bookseller from
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of When a Heart Stops by Revell a Division of Baker Publishing on behalf of the author in order to write a review.  All opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation write a positive review.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Support the National Breast Cancer Foundation with Musselman's "Celebrate Family" sweetstakes and event

Some of my readers are aware that my daughter is a breast cancer suvivor - two years now.  She had a very aggressive form of Her2+ (I guess that is the way to say it) and has had her chemo treatments and some pretty major surgery.  She is a school teacher of special ed students in a small town in Georgia.  My husband also battled Lymphoma and is a 2 year survivor.  We are so thankful and blessed that there was wonderful treatments available for them.  So our family's heart goes out to those in the big "C" battle.  Now let's talk about the NBCF and Mussleman and how they are working together to defeat the big "C" monster.

This year the show is the Musselman’s Apple Sauce Family Skating Tribute. Hosted by skating champions (and parents) Kristi Yamaguchi and Michael Weiss, the star-studded event features a live performance by Grammy Nominee Jewel, as well as other champion and Olympian skaters and their children.
On 9/19/12, Musselman’s began running a Celebrate Family sweepstakes on its Facebook page at For every new “like”, Musselman’s will donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). Keeping families healthy is part of Musselman’s mission and donating to, and working with the NBCF is a big part of that mission.

Once an individual “likes” the page, the fun begins.  Each week Musselman's will pose a question – does your family like “this” or do they “that”?  Fans will answer the question and then be able to enter into a sweepstakes. They can enter one time each week.  Fans are able to enter one time each week . . . so there are lots of chances to win! To help encourage participation and further support the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Musselman’s will donate an additional $1 to NBCF for each entry it receives. *It’s a win-win. Fans get a chance to win prizes and the NBCF gets a larger donation with each entry.  

It’s easy to enter:
1)  Go to the Musselman’s Facebook page at and click the like button (if you have not done so already)

2)  Click on the Sweepstakes tab to go to the page to answer the “this or that” question

3)  Fill out an entry form for the sweepstakes

4)  Share the link with friends and family

Thank you in advance for your support of Musselman’s Celebrate Family sweepstakes. Be sure to visit Musselman’s Facebook Page for all the details!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Glade Expressions review & giveaway

As a member of the BzzAgent team, I was given the opportunity to try the Glade Oil Expressions Diffuser and the Glade Expressions Fragrance Mist.  They sent me a booklet with coupons for a FREE starter kit of the oil diffuser and a FREE starter kit of the fragrance mist.  Nice!

Lavender & Juniper
Cotton and Italian Mandarin
So I found these in our local supermarket and bought the lavender and juniper in the oil diffuser and the cotton and Italian Mandarin in the fragrance mist.

I am using the fragrance mist at home and I take it to whatever room I want to give a whiff of freshness.  The unique squeeze and spray mist container is sleek and non offensive sitting out exposed for anyone to see. I have the oil diffuser in my office.  It sits nicely on an out of the way shelf and my office is so fresh and fragrant.  It is also reassuring to know that this is a non-spill container.  I had a reed diffuser in my office and I was always afraid it would get tipped over.

Now I am going to give 3 of my readers the opportunity to have high value coupons to help them purchase these Glade Expressions for their own homes.  Each of the 3 winners selected by Rafflecopter will receive a $4 coupon for a Glade Expressions Oil Diffuser Starter Kit and a $2 coupon for a Glade Expressions Fragrance Mist Starter Kit.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(Begins Oct 3 ENDS Oct. 13 @ 12:01 a.m EST - Open USA addresses only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: As a BzzAgent I was given the opportunity to participate in this promotion. Opinions expressed are my own and I received no compensation.

Night Flight by Diane & David Munson

Diane and David Munson draw from their exciting careers as agents for the US government - David with NCIS and DEA and Diane as an attorney and Federal prosecutor and serving in the US Department of Justice - to write fractional fiction that you wouldn't be embarrassed to hand to your mother or grandmother to read.  Clean. Well written.  And no bad language or behavior that cause shame to the cause of Christ.  But their books are not preaching episodes.

They have written Night Flight for the middle-reader market and it involves the same family as  their previous adult novels.  The teen and pre-teen, Glenna and Gregg are our main characters.  They are homeschooled by their mother and their father keeps "working for the company" which is nondescript term for the CIA or spying.  The kids have been wanting a dog and dad finds them one that is being retired from "service."  Blaze seems to forget that he is no longer in "service" and sniffs out some tainted money.  This results in Glenna and Gregg being at risk until the trial is over and the culprits are behind bars.  Therefore, Mom and Dad take them to Florida for an extended visit with the grandparents.  Their neighbor and friend, Mason, who is near their age goes with them.

While there, Blaze again "sniffs" the bad stuff out and we see Gramps, Glenna, Gregg, and Mason embroiled in another rollercoaster of a ride.  They want the bad guys caught. They want the reward, too.  Because something has come up and they really need it and want to have some big bucks to help someone. 

Kids in fourth grade up will enjoy this book.  The characters are realistic as well as their conversations.  Kids like a good spy story or a good catch-the-bad-guys story. In Night Flight they will find a tale to enjoy.

Read my review of Diane and David Munson's book Joshua Covenant.

DISCLOSURE: I "won" Night Flight" in a contest on and was not under obligation to write a review.  It was a pleasure to read another of the Munson's books and write a review of it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life with Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher & May Ann Kinsinger: Book Review

About the book and authors:  Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher and debut author May Ann Kinsinger introduce readers to 6-year-old Lily Lapp in Life with Lily, the first book in The Adventures of Lily Lapp series. It combines the real-life stories of growing up Amish from Kinsinger’s childhood with Fisher’s critically-acclaimed writing. The first of four novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, Life with Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish.

Kinsinger was raised in a happy Old Order Amish home in western Pennsylvania. After she and her husband made the difficult decision to leave the Amish, she started the blog A Joyful Chaos as a way to capture her childhood memories. “I was told almost every day by readers that they would love if I published my memories in a book,” says Kinsinger. “I love how dreams can come true bigger and better than I could have imagined.” After becoming friends with Fisher through her blog, the pair jumped at the opportunity to collaborate on a children’s series.

“The Lily books are more than just another good children’s series,” says Fisher. “They’re a little slice of America, a peek into the world of a happy Amish family, fun and foibles. I have a sneaking hunch that children of all ages will quickly grow attached to Lily.”

My thoughts:  This is an interesting story of a little six year old Amish girl and her life and family on the farm.  It is written to hold the interest of young children.  It can either be read to the non-reading child or can be read by those able to read "chapter books."

Each chapter is just a few pages long and would not tire the young reader but would engage with interesting topics and conversations and draw the child back for more.

Lily almost pulls the tail of another
"kitty" that was really a skunk!
Lily is a lively and obedient child who wants to interact with children her own age and with her family.  Like other children her age, she is bothered by such things as a "mean neighbor" and understanding just why he is like he is.  She is happy to help prepare the barn for Jim, their horse, and for the new cow that has been given to them by spreading hay to make their "floor" softer.  She enjoys planting corn seeds and tomato plants with her mother. She is a joyous child.

But change comes.  People change.  So Lily's parents and many other families in her community choose to move.

There is not a big plot to Lily's story.  It is simply a collection of episodes in Lily's daily life growing up on an Amish farm, attending an Amish school and church, and helping her mother with basic chores.  The reader will learn a lot about how the Amish live plain and basic, and their use of farm grown and produced products.  You won't have to screen this book for inappropriate material, but you may want to read it simply because it is a nice read. I plan to pass this sweet book along to my book-loving grand daughter.  I know she will find a friend within its pages.

Life with Lily is book the first of a four-part series. 

“Available October 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

DISCLOSURE:  I was given a copy of Life with Lily by the publisher, Revell, on behalf of the author in order to render a review with my honest opinion.  All opinions express are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.