Monday, January 28, 2013

"Twice a Bride" by Mona Hodgsn

About the book:  Love lost doesn’t mean love lost forever.
Can unexpected romance deliver a second chance for two deserving widows?

Full of resolve, young widow Willow Peterson decides to pursue her dreams to be an artist as she settles into a new life in the growing mountain town of Cripple Creek.  When she lands a job working as a portrait painter with handsome entrepreneur and photographer Trenton Van Der Veer, the road before Willow seems to be taking a better-than-anticipated turn. 

With questions tugging at several hearts in town, including the Sinclair Sisters’ beloved Miss Hattie, change is traveling down the tracks as several unexpected visitors make their way out West.  Will the new arrivals threaten the deep family bonds of the Sinclair sisters and the roots of love that are just taking hold for Willow?    

Filled with the resonating questions that all women face, this romance awakens hope against grief, love against loss, and dreams against life’s unexpected turns.

My thoughts:  In Twice A Bride I picked up on a previously read Sinclair Sisters storyline and continued to read of the interactions between these ladies, their gentlemen, and Hattie the owner of the boardinghouse.

We have two widows - one young and old older.  They are entirely different and really neither are interested in pursing a romantic relationship.  The younger widow, Willow, is a gifted artist and she is recovering from institutionalized despondency following the loss of her husband.  Hattie, the older widow, is the owner of the boardinghouse.  She is also like a "mother hen" to all the Sinclair sisters. 

But this is a story of romance and of discovering new helpmeets for life.  Enter the scene: Trenton a photographer of fame who is interested in having someone produce canvas paintings of photographic portraits he has taken of his clients.  That is how Willow and Trenton become acquainted.

The "twice" comes into the storyline in duplicate manner.  There are two ladies who have previously been brides and they become brides again.  I'll let Hattie's groom-to-be remain a well-guarded secret at this point.

This is the final in the Sinclair Sisters series of four books.  I previously reviewed The Bride Wore Blue - click the title for my review.
  DISCLOSURE: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group via Blogging for Books for this review.

"Safe In His Arms" by Colleen Coble (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781595549143
Paperback: $15.99
Thomas Nelson Publishers

My thoughts:  Ranch life in the 1800s was not easy for man or woman, married or single.  Opening the pages of Safe In the Arms we find Margaret O'Brien who is helping her father run the ranch.  Margaret's mother died when Margaret was young and she has not had much female influence in her life. Her life has been that of the rough riding ranch hand - but she is the daughter of the owner of the ranch.  She has worked hard to help her father keep the ranch going and building it to enviable status.

Now dad hires a new foreman, Daniel Cutler and Margaret sees him as an intrusive, soft, non-rancher who possibly has a criminal background.  The story has twists and turns around future ownership of the ranch when Dad decides he is going to leave the ranch to a male cousin and settle money on Margaret when she marries.  His goal is to see her settled in the role of wife and mother.  Margaret is headstrong as well as body-strong and she is hurt, befuddled, and very ill at ease with the situation.

Then things really begin to happen and danger lurks.

Author Colleen Coble has written an interesting historical story of the peoples and life on a Texas ranch in the 1800s bringing her characters to life and capturing our interest.  Yes, I figured that the romance would happen and predicted its outcome.  I did not, however, see the outcome of the danger and intrigue portions.  You'll find this an interesting read.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Just enter via the Rafflecopter links below.  (Please be patient as Rafflecopter is sometimes a bit slow to load.) This giveaway only open to USA addresses. 
Begins Jan. 28, 2013 - ENDS February 14  at 12:01 a.m. EST

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The author:  Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary advance reader copy was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher and author to facilitate my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely mine and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"The Adventures of Charlie Bubbles!" by Paul Carafotes & illustrated by Jeff Vernon

This is a book written to a son by a father about the son.  The story is about a little boy that can blow bubbles (we've all seen young babies bubble with their mouths).  Considering the child is depicted in a crib and "bubble-blowing" children are usually young babies, the story seems written to and about one somewhat older but still in the preschool stage.

Little Charlie blows bubbles and is caught up in one so large it floats him away out the window of his room and onto an adventure.  Along the way he meets several who help him face issues.

First is a nervous and frightened squirrel who hides in a pumpkin (jack o lantern) and calls himself Paulie Pumpkin.  Despite being scared, he agrees to help Charlie find his way because Charlie is lost.

Next we meet Teddy the worn out teddy bear who offers softness, comfort, and encouragement.

We also meet Honey bee and Mean bee.  Honey bee is sweet (of course) and helpful.  And Mean been is a fighter bee that bursts bubbles and defends the hive.

The adventure progresses and due to the kindness of friends Charlie finds his way back home.  The story is good for preschoolers and perhaps first graders.  It is written to be read to a child.  Format is that of a picture book, but it is a wordy story.

It is charming to think of the author as the father of Charlie telling his child this cute, teachable story and then publishing it for others to enjoy. More about the author, Paul Carafotes can be found at. Facebook: and Website:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Just enter via the Rafflecopter links below.  (Please be patient as Rafflecopter is sometimes a bit slow to load.) This giveaway only open to USA addresses. Begins Jan. 27 - ENDS February 10  at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Charlie Bubbles from the author for the purpose of my honest review.  Giveaway copy is provided by the author and shipped directly to the winner.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"D Is For Dinosaur" by Ken & Mally Ham

ISBN: 9780890516423

Ken Ham has again developed a bright, colorful, and interesting book on dinosaurs and this time it is for the little ones just learning to read through perhaps 5th grade. D Is For Dinosaur is a nicely rhyming book featuring each letter of the alphabet.  It is not just limited to dinosaurs, though.  Children will learn simple yet profound truths in basic terminology that they can understand. 

No, the pictures are not "real" or "life-like" but they will capture the interest of the young child and that is the goal here.  Children are enthralled with "dinosaurs" and love to have dinosaur toys to play with.  They just know these are interesting creatures.  Now, the Christian parent and teacher has a good educational tool to use with the youngsters. 

This is a flip-book and the flip side holds information that helps prompt the adult who is directing the reading of this book with ideas and information that pertain to that particular page's picture and verse.  This book is not intended to be an argumentative tool, but it is a good beginning book to teach the basics of creation, the flood, dinosaurs and it uses the alphabet for teaching Biblical truths.  Example: "A is for Answers in God's holy book."

I highly recommend D Is for Dinosaurs for the Christian home library as well as the Christian school, church, and public library.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of D Is for Dinosaur by New Leaf Publishing Group on behalf of the author for the purpose of an honest review. There was no obligation for a positive review and all opinions expressed are solely mine.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"The Tainted Coin" by Mel Starr (The fifth chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon)

ISBN:  9780857212504
About the book: 
It is the autumn of 1367. Master Hugh is enjoying the peaceful life of Bampton when a badly beaten man is found under the porch of St. Andrew's Chapel. The dying man is a chapman--a traveling merchant. Before he is buried in the chapel grounds, an ancient, corroded coin is found in the man's mouth.

Master Hugh's quest for the chapman's assailants, and his search for the origin of the coin, begins to make progress--but there are men of wealth and power in league with his old nemesis, Sir Simon Trillowe, who wish to end his search . . . permanently.

But Master Hugh, and his assistant, the groom Arthur, are determined to uncover the thieves and murderers, and the source of the chapman's coin. They do, but not before they become involved with a kidnapped maiden, a tyrannical abbot, and a suffering monk--who needs Master Hugh's surgical skills and in return provides clues that assist Hugh in solving the mystery of the tainted coin. 
My thoughts:  The historical setting of The Tainted Coin is medieval England in the year 1367.  This is a new period read for me and I found it very interesting.  So often historical reads are romances and filled with the give and take of the male and female protagonists.  However, in The Tainted Coin I discovered Master Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon and found him a character of many fine points that the author develops quite well.

The story is written first-person with the voice of Singleton.  He is the bailiff for the Lord's estate as well as a surgeon.  Author Mel Starr is a historian by education and trade and has thoroughly research this period novel.  Included in the front of the book are words and terms to help understand the terminology of the period.  But you don't feel as though you are reading a history book.  Frankly, you are riding from town to town, from village to village with Singleton and his trusty companion, Arthur, as they ride their horses who have definitely seen better days.  It seems that they are constantly looking for lodging and food.  Their food is most often maslin (bread made from mixed grains) and ale.  They find villains and down-trodden folks.  Sick and injured.  You sense the justice as it is doled out during that period and which is based on laws hard to comprehend.  You grasp the social order and the privilege of rank that exists.

Singleton is trying to solve a murder that occured on his Lord's estate and in the process encounters various individuals with problems, and he being a compassionate person seeks to aid them with whatever skills or possessions he has at his disposal.

I wish I had had the opportunity to read Mel Starr's other four books in this series, and perhaps I shall someday. You do not, however, need to read them to enjoy The Tained Coin as it is a good stand alone book. I found Starr's style different and refreshing.  It was interesting to read this period book and I felt that I could trust Starr's interpretation of the customs of the time.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of The Tainted Coin from Kregel Publications on behalf of Monarch Books and the author for the purpose of my honest review. I was under no obligation to provide favorable comments. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow" by Olivia Newport

Paperback $14.99

About the book: In the second book of the Avenue of Dreams series, Olivia Newport explores the complicated relationship between social classes while creating a story of courage, strength, and tender romance.  Set against the glittering backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, this compelling story captures the tension between the wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable.

Charlotte Farrow, a maid in the wealthy Banning household on Chicago's opulent Prairie Avenue, has kept her baby boy a secret from her employers for nearly a year. But when the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child's fate. Can she face the truth of her own past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life's tragedies determine the future for her?

My thoughts:  Olivia Newport writes a very enjoyable book that plunks you right down in the midst of the specific historical period in which the story is set.  In this case we go to Chicago in the 1890s during the period when the World's Columbian Exposition (world fair) is being held.  In book one, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, we meet the wealthy folks living in the row of large, beautiful homes where tour groups actually go by to show the common man and woman how the wealthy pursue happiness. 

In book one, Lucy Banning enables her maid, Charlotte Farrow, to keep her new born infant a secret.  It is important here for the reader to know the social mores of the time.  The servants of the upper class were most often required to remain single, have no children, and leave their position of employment should they marry.  Compassionate Lucy helped Charlotte.  Now in book two, we find Lucy married and leaving for her honeymoon.  Charlotte's child is entrusted (secretly) to a nursemaid who cares for the child full time at the behest of Lucy. Suddenly the scene changes and Charlotte is now in possession of her child, on employee (the Banning residence) property, and found out.  The dilemma is to convince the others that this "foundling" has been thrust upon them all because of Lucy's caring for orphans and that they should all care for the child until Lucy returns and settles the issue.

The story rambles on with the daily life of the Banning resident, the servants ins and outs with one another, the secrets they share and those that they withhold, and the care of the new foundling.

It is interesting to see how the struggles and interactions of Charlotte with the other servants are so very much directed by the social issues of the times.  We get a glimpse into how servants felt about their plight and how  there was a movement to provide better working conditions for all afoot  on the fringes

It is interesting to see, too, how emotions and love can cause one to do that which does not seem normal but that which  is perhaps best for the one we love.  It is interesting to see how Charlotte's dilemma is resolved.  You'll just have to grab a copy and see for yourself. Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller.

(Tip: Though not absolutely necessary, it is beneficial to read book 1 in the series, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, prior to reading The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow.

My review of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning can be read by clicking this link.

About the author: Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. Her novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two adult children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by Revell, a Baker House Publishing Group on behalf of the author for the purpose of rendering my honest opinion and review. Opinions expressed are entirely mine.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Balance Bar® Helps Outlast New Years Resolutions (review & giveaway)

I recently shared some information here on Chat With Vera that could help you in your healthy living and helping you stick with those New Years Resolutions.  Now I've got a real treat for you!  Balance Bar® sent me a delightful assortment of their nutritional bars to sample and tell you about. They are also providing a box of these sample bars for one of Chat With Vera's readers.  

About Balance Bar:  Founded in 1992, Balance Bar®, one of America's original nutrition/energy bars, inspires consumers to lead active, well-rounded and balanced lives by providing great-tasting, healthy and convenient nutrition for lasting energy. Balance Bar®s are available in eight unique product lines (Original, Gold, Dark, Bare, Cafe, CarbWell, nimble and mini) and all 28 flavors are based on the 40/30/30 nutrition model - a proven formula developed by scientists to help stabilize blood sugar levels that represents the caloric ratio the body needs to enjoy lasting balanced energy and satisfy hunger for longer; 40% of total calories from carbs, 30% from quality protein and 30% from dietary fat.  For more information, visit Follow Balance Bar® for tips and nutritional information on Facebook ( and Twitter (

I really, really like the Peanut Butter and the Chocolate Mint Cookie Crunch but they are all tasty.  You know, we all have our favorites.  That's because we are different, have different tastes and preferences, and that is why Balance Bar® continues to provide such a terrific assortment for us to choose from.

Peanut Butter Balance Bar: Savor the creamy taste of protein-packed peanut butter in this crave-able peanut butter energy bar. Then try to say "protein-packed peanut butter" five times fast…after you've cleaned off the roof of your mouth, of course. Nutrition at a Glance:
  • 15g Protein
  • 200 Calories
  • Balanced 40-30-30 Nutrition
  • Low Glycemic Index (GI)
  • Excellent Source of Antioxidants & Vitamin D
  • 23 Vitamins & Minerals

Now about that GIVEAWAY!  The giveaway prize will be an assorted pack of Balance Bar®s (provided by Balance Bar® and shipped directly to the winner), containing Peanut Butter, Chocolate Mint Cookie Crunch, Blueberry Acai and Cookie Dough & Double Chocolate Brownie Minis (only 100 calories each!). You simply leave your entries via the Rafflecopter entry form.  Don't forget you can Tweet daily for an entry, too (see Rafflecopter for details). Begins January 19 and ENDS February 3 at 12:00 p.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a variety box of Balance Bar® nutritional/energy bars to evaluate and write my honest review. No obligation was made for a positive review. All nutritional claims of Balance Bar® are those of the product producer.  Giveaway winner's prize is provided by and shipped by Balance Bar®.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Dinosaurs for Kids" by Ken Ham

ISBN: 9780890515556
Hardcover $14.99
The reader of "Dinosaurs for Kids"by Ken Ham and published by Master Books needs to first of all understand that this is a publication for:
  1. Kids (maybe 3rd through 6th grade). Its tone is "I am talking to kids."
  2. It is written by and produced by a Christian author and a Christian publishing house that defends the Gospel and the Biblical account of creation.
  3. It is not a good source for introducing the authentication of when dinosaurs roamed the earth to non-believers (non-Christians) because you must first of all convince them that the Bible is truth and is the Word of God. That is the basis for every argument and statement in Dinosaurs for Kids.
The illustrations are excellent and I was very pleased that they were not cartoons. The dinosaurs are very "lifelike" and show great variety within their "kind." The explanation of how secular science has misinterpreted the fossil record and how our understanding of the fossil record - especially that of dinosaurs - has changed through the years.

I enjoyed the section that showed how "Sue" was discovered in the 1990s and is now located in a Chicago museum and this particular fossil dinosaur was reconstructed and how it applied to the reconstruction of fossil remains.

The book dwells exhaustively on the Biblical text as through it needs to be reiterated on nearly every page. For the Christian home this should not be necessary and for the home of new Christian parents and children, it could become tedious and irking.

The 7 "F" Stages of Dinosaurs was an interesting concept:

  1. Formed (When Creation)
  2. Fearless (In the Garden, man and animals live together without fear, without death)
  3. Fallen (Age of Sin and Death)
  4. Flood (Fossils formed and spread over the world)
  5. Faded (begin to die out)
  6. Found (People rediscover dinosaurs and that they were not myths)
  7. Fiction(Biblical truth vs Evolution)
A lovely book and worth incorporating into the church, Christian school, and home library.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Dinosaurs for Kids by Master Books for the purpose of providing my honest review without obligation for a positive report.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo audio production by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

I grew up in the era before television and when weekly night time serial dramas on the radio were highlights of the week. It was exciting to sit beside a radio listening to The Green Hornet, The Shadow, and Gangbusters.  Exciting! Drama!

Listening to Les Misérables performed by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre brought back the "art of listening creatively."  We are so accustomed today of seeing as well as hearing, that our attention actually is not fully engaged in the details of the sounds of footsteps, water splashing,  doors shutting, banging, etc.  In this superbly produced audio version of  Les Misérables you are fully engaged.  You have to mentally visualize the excitement, the pain, the intrigue, the doubt.  There are no facial expressions or stage sets to aid in your understanding of the story. And what a story this is.....

The time frame is roughly that of 1815-1830 and the historical setting in France is that of the June Rebellion.  The letter of the law was cruel and unjust in France during that time.  And it is in that social environment that a young Jean Valjean is sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and he is in prison for 19 years. The story examines law vs. justice and mercy or  grace on a social standing.  But it is also a story of redemption and examines social redemption as well as personal redemption through the grace of God.

I had heard of the story of Les Misérables but had never read the book nor seen a drama production of it.  So I can not speak to the accuracy of the audio presentation by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre as it relates to Victor Hugo's book.  I can, however, attest to the fine quality of this production, the sound effects, the dramatization of actors, the flow of the story from its beginning to its climax. I highly recommend this audio presentation to families.  The only restraint I have is that parents listen to it first prior to having their children listen to best determine at what age they prefer to have their children listen to it.  That period of French history was cruel and violent and this story presents the period well.
A bit of information about that time and the story:  Read some good information on the story.
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Les Misérables by Tyndale Publishers on behalf of Focus on the Family Radio Theatre for the purpose of rending my honest opinion. There was no obligation to give a positive review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Secret Smitten" by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt (Review & Giveaway)

Secretly Smitten

Summer, fall, winter, spring-Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There's a secret in Grandma Rose's attic-a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose's three granddaughters-Tess, Clare, and Zoe-and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

My thoughts:  In Secretly Smitten we visit the charming old village that is a modern day remnant from the hey day of logging 200 years ago.  The local residents are descendants of loggers and are an independent, hearty group of individuals.  Their little town is dying and they want to bring life and vitality back to it via a return of the railroad line coming into town. They want Smitten to be know as a romantic get-a-way town.

The story of Smitten is written as 4 novellas by 4 fiction authors who collaborate beautifully without error to bring the characters together into one smooth flowing story.
  1. "Love Between the Lines" by Colleen Coble
    A set of World War II dog tags is discovered between the cracks in the floor of the attic.  The name on them is that of a former sweetheart of Grandmother Rose.  Tess (Rose's granddaughter) begins to investigate.  Meanwhile Tess meets Ryan who lives where the family of the former GI lived, and Tess begins to rummage through Ryan's attic in order to find clues to the old romance of Grandmother Rose.
  2. "Make Me a Match" by Kristin Billerbeck
    In this section of the book, Zoe is beginning her start up business as matchmaker for Smitten residents.  But the new city manager, William Singer, throws curves at her that threaten to shut down her just opened business. 
  3. "Knit One, Love Two" by Diann Hunt
    Anna Thomas is the owner of a yarn shop and holds classes for beginner and advanced knitters and crocheters.  She meets Michael whose mother needs yarn and he comes into Anna's shop to acquire it. The discovery of more secrets and information continues in the Grandmother Rose saga as Anna and Michael discover each other and Anna learns to overcome previous hurts.
  4. "Love Blooms" by Denise Hunter
    Clare is the sister in the family who is gifted with the art of growing plants and planting gardens.  She is not gifted in relationships, though, and shies away from commitment.  Into the picture arrives a wanderer who is looking for work in the nursery and who finds a spot in her heart.
The entire book is a delightfully light read of good, clean fun and relationships.  You'll grow to love the little town of Smitten and the various characters who live there.  You'll love the relationships between each and every one and even laugh at the spat between the seniors in the book. "Secretly Smitten" is a sweet, good, clean read.

Novellas are fun reads and this set of 4 is especially fun in that it is so beautifully interwoven to flow as through written by a single author. 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Begins Jan. 15 & ENDS Jan. 31 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open in USA addresses only

Please wait patiently while Rafflecopter loads.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway  

DISCLOSURE: I was provided an advanced reader copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing and the authors in return for a non-biased review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was provided no compensation for this review.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition by Juliet David; illustrated by Jo Parry

About the book: The successful Candle Bible for Kids with the distinctive art style of Jo Parry, is now available in a version specially written for younger readers. The Candle Bible for Kids, Toddler Edition features simplified text by Juliet David, as well as a smaller size and fewer stories, which makes it an ideal introduction for younger readers. Sure to be a family favorite.

My thoughts: My preference for illustrations is along a different design or format of art, but the very young child - the toddler - will relate very definitely and positively to these colorful, simple drawings that definitively express what the story is saying at that point. Look at the hills and valleys, the trees and flowers in the page shown below.  Their eyes will interpret it just as their mind already had.  And as they are capable of grasping a crayon and drawing, their art will capture lines similar to these.

I love for the young child to be able to hold his or her own story book in their hands because they begin to consider the pictures and the words they have heard previously and that is how they begin to incorporate it into their heart.  Story telling is seeding time for parents and what better seed to plant that the love of the Word of God and how He explains Himself to people through His Word - the Bible.  Of course, we all recognize that the very young need very simple versions and ideas at the start or they will be overwhelmed. That is where these "bibles" or Bible Storybooks come into usefulness for the child and the parent.

The Toddler Edition of Candle Bible for Kids is worth exploring and using with the young child in your life - parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle.  Opportunity is knocking for you to plow the field and plant the seed in the young heart of a child.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition was provided by Kregel Publications to me for the purpose of an honest opinion review without expectation of positive remarks. Opinions expressed are solely my own. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Choices of the Heart" by Laurie Alice Eakes (Review)

ISBN:  978-0-8007-1986-9
Publish date: January 2013
$14.99 Paperback

About the book: She thought she had left her old life behind . . .

Esther Cherrett comes from a proud line of midwives and was trained by her mother to take over the family calling. When a terrible scandal threatens all she holds dear, Esther flees, taking a position as a teacher in the wild western mountains of Virginia. But instead of the refuge she was seeking, Esther finds herself in the midst of a deadly family feud - and courted by two men on opposite sides of the conflict. All she wants is to run away again. Yet could it be that her past holds the key to reconciliation-and love?

In this gripping story of trust, deception, and bittersweet loss, you’ll discover the true meaning of choices of the heart.

In the third book of The Midwives series, you will be transported back to 1840’s Appalachia with a tender romance that includes closely guarded secrets and a bitter feud.

My thoughts:  I previously read Laurie Alice Eakes' book A Flight of Fancy  and reviewed it here on Chat With Vera. Click to read review.  However, reading Choices of the Heart is a totally different reading experience in my opinion.  This third book in Eakes' "midwife" series is set in the isolated mountains of Virginia in 1842.  Esther Cherrett leaves her home of affluence in coastal Virginia under cover of night to obtain a position in the mountains as teacher for the uneducated  and very isolated families.  As they travel by horseback to reach their destination, she learns that she is entering a virtual hornets nest of feuding amongst families similar to that in Scotland.  Dangerous indeed.

Esther is a midwife but wishes to keep these skills a secret and not practice this  profession she learned from her mother.  However, upon seeing injuries and illness from knives, guns, and life in general she can not withhold her tender care of folks.

The rugged terrain of Appalachia, the desire of men for her company, the feuding over longheld anomosities, and ignorance are wonderfully described by Laurie Alice Eakes as she unfolds this tender story of romance and choice.  The characters are well developed and come alive on the pages of the story, and the story plot is realistic and well chartered.

The period detail provided by Eakes  is indicative of her research and brings to mind visions of the mountain folk and their times and troubles.  You feel the poverty of the people and the emotional strife as well as the longings they experience.

Without giving a spoiler clue, I'll just say the conclusion might be a bit surprising to some of you that normally get a book figured out before you reach mid-read.

I regret that I have not yet read the first two books in the midwifes series and will look forward to "catching up" later.  Though the books most likely build on the previous story, Choices of the Heart is a well-written stand alone book and there is no problem reading it without previously reading the first two.

About the author: Laurie Alice Eakes is the author of Lady in the Mist, Heart's Safe Passage, A Necessary Deception, A Flight of Fancy, and several other novels. She won a National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency in 2007 for Family Guardian. Laurie Alice writes full-time from her home in Texas, where she lives with her husband and sundry dogs and cats.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy of choices of the Heart  by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group on behalf of the author for the purpose of rendering my honest review. No positive remarks are required. Opinions expressed are solely my own.
“Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reflecting on blessings

From one who has been through the valley of cancer:

I am grateful to have a day to reflect on my many blessings.  Here are some of the things I was thankful for today:
  • The opportunity to experience the joy, pride, and even frustration of being the mother of teenage boys. 
  • Healthy parents.
  • Siblings who jumped on planes to attend appointments with me.
  • Siblings who attended appointments with mom and dad when I couldn't. 
  • Siblings who sent care packages, cards, and texts.
  • A family that made sure I ate well.
  • A sister who hung out with me for twelve hours of surgery and chemo.
  • Siblings-in-law who spent hours on the phone and internet helping me find solutions.
  • Friends who wore "Vera shirts" on Fridays.
  • Answered prayers.
  • Strength and peace during a trying year.
  • Assurance:  "To live is Christ; to die is gain."
  • Laughter.
  • Hair.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery; today is a gift. That's why it's called the Present."  I am so thankful each of you!  I love you!

My thanks and appreciation for this survivor's comments.  They cause each of us to pause and reflect on how good God is to each of us.

NOTE: I originally shared this with my readers in November 2011.  It would bear sharing again for someone out there might need this word of encouragement. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

What about those New Years resolutions? "Outlast Your Resolution" opportunity brought to you by BALANCE BAR®

A live, two-hour Twitter chat with Amber and BALANCE BAR® on
January 9 at 
1:30 p.m. EST/10:30 a.m. PST will also help kick off 2013.

BALANCE BAR® will also be hosting its “Outlast Your New Year’s Resolutions” Facebook contest to win a personal coaching session with Amber along with a great prize package featuring BALANCE BAR® products and items to help consumers achieve healthy balance in the coming year. The contest runs January 1 – 18 and will include helpful tips from Amber. Click HERE

Check out what Amber has to say about Outlasting your resolutions by clicking HERE.
Watch for my product review of assorted BALANCE BAR® and giveaway coming SOON!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Vanished" (Pursuit of Justice series) by Irene Hannon

ISBN: 978-0-8007-2123-7
Release: January 2013
New Romantic Suspense Series from Two-Time RITA Award Winner
Three PIs Who Got Burned Playing by the Rules Go Under the Radar in Pursuit of Justice

My thoughts: Consider the perplexity of your own situation if you were driving down a lonely country road at night and in the middle of a raging storm.  Suddenly you see captured in your headlights a terrified woman. Your reaction would be to avoid hitting her.  The consequences could be a crash off the road in a ditch or against a tree.

But you heard a thud. Help comes. Assists you. You drift into unconsciousness. Later real help comes and your journey into confusion begins.  The woman you "saw" vanished or simply wasn't there.

But this journey is not one of confusion to you.  It is of not knowing what you believe you really know to be true and having others know it, too.  So you pursue the vanished to see if they truly were there; and if they were, where they vanished to.

Irene Hannon spins a tale that grips you and makes you appreciate your own ability to know the real from the unreal.  The friends who believe and help and the friends who simply don't believe or understand you. Our lead female character, Moria Harrison, is an investigative reporter of renown, and she enlists the services of Cal Burke, a private investigator, to get to the root of the accident that has left her feeling that something was covered up.

Cal and Moria are romantically drawn to each other, but put their attraction on hold because of the investigation. The other private investigators in the firm are interesting characters and friends who make the story interesting and believable. They help to bring some levity into an otherwise tense situation. The characters all seem to be living Christian lives and their actions speak of their beliefs and Christianity. 

I found this another engrossing read by Irene Hannon and highly recommend it. There is no overt romance or sex which is refreshing even in the realm of Christian  fiction. I am growing more and more fond of Irene Hannon's works.  My first review of her's was Lethal Legacy (Guardians of Justice series) which you may read by clicking the link.
Vanished - available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary review copy of Vanished by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, to facilitate my honest review without obligation for positive remarks. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Irene Hannon is the author of more than 40 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award, a Retailers Choice Award and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. For more information about her and her books, visit her web site at and follow her on Twitter at @IreneHannon.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Bible Stories that end with a hug!" by Stephen Elkins & illustrated by Simon Taylor-Kielty

When a parent engages a young child with a book to read and a lesson to learn, the art of the book is key to making a special moment in time of the occasion.  "Bible Stories that end with a hug!" is just such a book.  The soft, delightful art is geared for the young child (and the young in heart) and will properly engage their attention for the lessons to be learned in the book.  Commendations to Simon Taylor-Kielty for this beautiful artistry.

Now let's get to the "meat' of the book.  Author Stephen Elkins has taken 75 Bible events/stories and presented a very short "thought" about each story.  There is a sweet full page picture on the left side that gently illustrates the story and includes a short Bible verse.  (Verses are from the NLT. My personal preference is KJV.)  On the right hand page the short paragraph or paraphrase of the Bible story is given.  Below that are three other sections:  1) A couple of questions such as "What did Moses do?" and 2) "Will God supply my needs too?".  Then there is an application to the idea of the story as it pertains to the child.

In the story of Daniel in the Lions' Den, the verse is "Never stop praying." I Thess 5:17.  And the questions are "Did Daniel stop praying?" and "Can I learn to pray like Daniel did?" followed by the  application - "The bible teaches that we should never stop praying."  Basic, straight-forward application and lesson.

However, in places the book deals with "decision making" of a theological nature.  The parents' responsibility is always to lead and guide their child toward a relationship with God. However, one should guard against improperly pushing a young child into decision making for which they are truly not ready - just to get that hug the  book promises.

The concept of the hug at the end of each story lesson is great.  But a child should never feel they will receive a Mommy or Daddy hug only if they are good or only if they make the right response to a story application.  So care needs to be exercised that hugs are not given as payment for such.

Again, this is a beautiful book and filled with opportunities to gently teach the young child lessons from the Bible.

About the author:  Stephen Elkins is a Grammy Award–nominated record producer and a multimillion-selling children's author and songwriter. He is owner and founder of Wonder Workshop, a multifaceted Christian media company specializing in the creation of juvenile books, audio products, and DVDs.

A complimentary copy was provided by Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher and author for the purpose of an honest review. 

"The Lesson" by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Review & Giveaway)

Welcome to the campaign launch for Suzanne Woods Fisher’s final book in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, The Lesson! To celebrate Suzanne is giving away TWO iPads with 3G! Details coming soon. Enter via the link/image in the sidebar.

About the book:  Centered on one of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s most loved characters, this is the story fans have eagerly anticipated. The precocious M.K. is all grown up (well, almost) and ready to take on the world–with surprising results. Fisher’s trademark plot twists and turns are as unexpected and satisfying as ever in this third book in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series.

My thoughts: When you crack the spine of an "Amish" book, you expect sedate, non-nonsense characters who live lives above reproach and who have wise sayings abounding to fit each and every occasion or situation.

Well, meet M.K (Mary Kate Lapp) - or perhaps you remember her from previous Stony Ridge stories.  In The Lesson she is 19, unmarried, untethered, inquisitive, adventurous,  and simply full-speed-ahead in life.  You will find yourself laughing many times at the antics and situations in which M.K. positions herself.

She accidentally rams into her former school teacher as she scoots along on her push scooter.  Now M.K. is suddenly thrust unwillingly into the classroom of the one-room-schoolhouse of the Amish in the community as Teacher M.K. The Bishop and her parents have decreed that this is what she will do because a teacher is needed and they say she is the one to do the job.

But about this same time a newcomer to the community catches her eye and she his but they are at odds with one another. But his younger sister is a student in the classroom.  Investigative M.K. and quick to make conclusions M.K. seems to be in hot water and the past of the community catches them all in a tangled web.

In The Lesson there are various lessons being learned. Just as M.K. as Teacher M.K. learns to teach her classroom lessons to her charges she, herself, is confronted and learns many life lessons herself.
With a surprise at every turn a gentle romance, and a shocking answer to an old family mystery, The Lesson is the dramatic conclusion to the Stony Ridge Seasons series (book back cover)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Begins Jan. 5 & ENDS Jan. 23 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open in USA addresses only

Please wait patiently while Rafflecopter loads.
Link to buy the book:
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary review copy of The Lesson by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author and Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group to facilitate an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. There was no obligation for a positive review.

Author Info: Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is the host of internet radio show Amish Wisdom and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iphone or ipad! Download the Free App

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Two book review & giveaway: "The Magic Word" and "Peter and the Whimper Whineys" by Sherrill S. Cannon

Everyone loves a well-behaved, sweet mannered child.  So when we encounter a rude, selfish, demanding, whining, whimpering child we get into "get-them-straightened-out, teach-them-the-right-way, let's-do-better-than-that" mode. Author Sherrill S. Cannon has given us two such wonderful teaching story tools to use to help our ill-behaved children learn better and to help the ones who are not so ill-behaved make certain they are not classified that way.  Let's see what she has in store for us in her award winning books....

The Magic Word by Sherrill S. Cannon

About the book: The Magic Word is a book emphasizing good manners which can be read to toddlers, but is especially appropriate for kindergarteners because they are going to school and learning about making friends and developing good social skills.  It is a rhyming story of a little girl who is rude, selfish and demanding – and has few friends because of her lack of consideration for others. Her mother suggests she “think more of others and less about you”, and recommends Elisabeth use "Please" and "Thank You" frequently.  When Elisabeth goes to school the next day, she finds that it is important to “try to treat others the way you would like” and discovers that she has made many new friends.  It emphasizes the importance of good manners and the use of the "golden rule". The Magic Word has won six awards: a 2011 Readers Favorite Gold Medal, a 2011 NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award, a 2011 Global eBook Finalist Award, a 2012 Reader Views Second Place Award, and was both a 2012 Next Generation Indie Finalist and a 2012 International Book Award Finalist.

My thoughts: If you have read any of my reviews of children's books, by now you realize that I am a big fan of rhyme for telling the story.  The meter (or rhythm/cadence) and the repetition of sounds and word endings impacts the learning positively so that what is being heard and read more likely stays with the child.  So let's look at our rude little girl in The Magic Word.
Elisabeth “never said thank you, excuse me or please.
She made fun of people, she’d argue and tease.
She took what she wanted whenever she could, 

Elisabeth’s manners were not very good.”

and later..... Cannon uses more of a poetic prose....

It was hard to please others, to try things their way.

But she knew she was happier now, for at last
She felt she was finally a part of her class.
"That was my teacher, she said she'd come, too.
That's all of my class, and with me--twenty-two!"
So Elisabeth learned her lesson and became more pleasant to be around and made friends.

Peter and the Whimper-Whineys by Sherrill S. Cannon

About the book: Peter and the Whimper-Whineys is another teaching book, and is a fun way to help children stop whining. Read with alternating whining and normal voice, it helps children understand how annoying whining can be! It is about a small rabbit who whines all the time. His mother cautions him that if he keeps on whining and crying, he’ll have to go live with the Whimper-Whineys. One night Peter hops into the dark forest and meets some Whimper-Whineymen. He discovers that not only do the Whimper-Whineys whine all the time, but they are very ill-mannered and rude. He discovers that everything is sour in Whimper-Whineyland and decides his mother was right! If only he can get back home. Peter and the Whimper-Whineys has won a 2011 USA Best Books Finalist Award, and a 2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal.

My thoughts: Peter is another that needs to learn behavior skills and get-along-with-others manners.  He was not good to be around anyone!  Let's see how Ms. Cannon helps Peter learn not to whimper....
In a house in the forest all covered with vines
Lived a very small rabbit who did nothing by whine.
He'd whine and he'd cry from morning till night,
and nothing that anyone did would be right.
and later...... (after meeting a little man ....)
"I've heard all the whining and crying you do,"
Whined the strange little man with the great big red nose,
Who was dressed all in green in his strange little clothes.
"I'm a Whimper-Whiney, a Whimper-Whiney Man,
And I've come to take you to Whimper-Whineyland."
Of course the little man was his imagination or dream, but it seem to bring him around to living without whimpering and whining. 

I found these books enjoyable to read, very nicely illustrated by the Kalpart team, and educational for children as well as "fun."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just enter via the Rafflecopter links below.  (Please be patient as Rafflecopter is sometimes a bit slow to load.) This giveaway only open to USA addresses. Begins Jan. 3, 2013 - ENDS January 26 at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: The author, Sherrill S. Cannon provided a copy of each of these books for the purpose of my giving an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and no requirement for a positive review was made.  A copy of each book will be provided by the author and mailed by the author directly to the giveaway winner.