Monday, February 25, 2013

"Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles America’s First Black Paratroopers" author: Tanya Stone (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780763651176
Hardcover $24.99

Grades 5 and Up
About the book: World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Enlisted black men are segregated from white soldiers and regularly relegated to service duties. At Fort Benning, Georgia, First Sergeant Walter Morris’s men serve as guards at The Parachute School, while the white soldiers prepare to be paratroopers. Morris knows that for his men to be treated like soldiers, they have to train and act like them, but would the military elite and politicians recognize the potential of these men as well as their passion for serving their country?

Tanya Lee Stone examines the role of African Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in a little-known attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of Morris, "proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability."

They became America’s first black paratroopers. Why was their story never told? Sibert Medalist Tanya Lee Stone reveals the history of the Triple Nickles during World War II.
My thoughts:  The era of World War II brought out the best in men and gave them strength, endurance, intelligence, cunning, fortitude, and love of country.  It brought out these things in men of every color: Caucasian (white), Negro (black), Asian (yellow-with the "face" of the enemy), and red (Indian). The book Courage Has No Color is primarily about the desire that men of color had to serve this nation which they loved by fighting the enemy.  And the color which Courage Has No Color primarily records is that of the black American - the Negro.  (I realize that to some the term Negro is not considered a good descriptive term, but I was taught that Negro was what Africans of black or brown skin were - it was their race per say.  So when I use the word Negro, it is with respect for the race of those whose skin is brown or black.)

While the military of America did have Negros serving, it was not as combatants.  It was more the positions of guards, cooks, cleaners, etc.  True, someone has to do those things, but some of the men of color desired to actually fight the enemy, and Courage Has No Color is the story of how a few brave men of color pursued opportunities to become fighting soldiers.  This took the form of gradually putting together the first group:  the Triple Nickles as they were called.   Once they were actually beginning to train and did become paratroopers, it grieved them to see that they still had segregated eating, sleeping, and clubs.  They actually saw that prisoners of war were allowed to sit at the same tables as the white soldiers while they, the soldiers of color, were not.  They had to endure the ridicule of the prisoners of war who taunted them because even though they were uniformed soldiers, they still had to ride at the back of the bus while the prisoners rode up front.

The desegregation and integration of the military, though slow, in World War II is a significant part of military and also of civil rights history.  The author has presented a well documented piece of history with a lot of pictures that tell the story.  The story also brings home a strong point that America was fighting racism, fascism, and human rights issues abroad but needed to address the issue of racism and rights here on the home front.

GIVEAWAY:   And to share this piece of history with a Chat With Vera reader, Candlewick Press is providing a copy for one my readers.  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below (please be patient as it loads. GIVEAWAY begins February 26 and ends March 12 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy by the publisher, Candlewick Press, on behalf of the author, Tanya Stone, in exchange for my honest review. Opinions are solely my own.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Can't and Able: An Inspirational Story" by Cynthia Fabian and illustrated by Daniel Stevens

Can't and Able  is a children's book that is billed as an inspirational story.  I find that it is not a Biblical inspiration story at all, but is instead a story to inspire children to deal with issues they have that make them feel incapable.  In other words, their key word would be "can't" and "I can't" because they just don't feel they have the capability to accomplish whatever it is with which they are confronted.

In the little story, we see charming little stars in the heavens shining with all their might and doing what stars are suppose to do - shine!  However, Can't doesn't shine very brightly and he is made fun of and teased because of this and hence his name - "Can't."

The story progresses and "Able" has a major problem and "Can't" saves him.  Yes! Can't has now done something of great importance.  Then the doctor renames him "Can."

A cute little book that can be used to teach overcoming a plethora of issues in life.  Again, the inspirational aspect is not Biblical but is inspiring just the same as a life lesson.
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About the author: Cynthia Fabian - “I grew up with a disorder. I always felt like I could not shine, just like Can’t. When I became a teacher, I saw many children that were experiencing the same difficulties. They were teased and often felt smaller. This book is for all of you, struggling and not knowing how to change your circumstances. If you simply believe, you can change your own circumstances. Believe in yourself and you will see the wonders of change are in your power.” 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Honey Bunches of Oats TROPICAL BLENDS cereal (Review & Giveaway)

Today we're going to talk breakfast food!  We're going to meet a brand new Post cereal - Honey Bunches of Oats!  "Whoa! You said new!" you say?  Yes! Let's finish that name - Honey Bunches of Oats Tropical Blends!  When you stroll down the grocery aisle you're going to see a whole lot of "fruity" cereals these days.  It's a far cry from the days when raisins were the only fruit you saw in a box of dry cereal - and we know it was always accompanied by "bran."

Back to Honey Bunches of Oats Tropical Blends!  I was so delighted to learn that I had been chosen to review and tell you folks about this new Tropical Blends cereal. Of course, part of that delight is something NEW! We all love new, don't we?  Part of that delight was in getting something FREE!  We all love free, too, don't we?  Well, the best part of getting to do this is getting something that is SO VERY GOOD! 

When I nibbled on a handful right out of the box, I was so surprised by the slightly sweet and very nice fruity taste.  Definitely different! Not overtly coconut tasting nor was it a strong artificial fruit flavor.  Just a nice mellow fruit taste along with the flakes and granola chunks.  I did say GOOD, didn't I?  Now some stats on this HBO-Tropical Blends:
  • 10g Whole Grain
  • 120 calories
  • 6g sugar (less than most others)
  • 9 Essential Vitamins & Minerals including 60% Daily Value of Iron
  • 4 Wholesome Grains
  • Heart Healthy: 06 Trans Fat, 0.5g Saturated Fat, 0mg Cholesterol
And also enter the GIVEAWAY by completing the entries with the Rafflecopter form below.  2 Winners will be chosen to each receive 1 free product coupon with a maximum value of $4.49.  Giveaway begins February 23 and ENDS March 12 @ 12:01 a.m. EST.  Open to USA addresses only.

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DISCLOSURE: As a member of Purex Insiders, I was provided information and product in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. Coupons for prizes in the giveaway hosted here on Chat With Vera were also provided by Purex Insiders.  Chat With Vera will mail coupons to the winners but will not be responsible for lost or misdirected coupons in the mail.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Damascus Countdown" by Joel C. Rosenberg

When I saw the opportunity to participate in the early review of Joel C. Rosenberg's newest novel, Damascus Count I was was elated and grabbed at the opportunity.  Rosenberg is one of today's more exciting authors because he writes exciting stories based on timely matters and he is right on target with events.  It is almost as though he can see through the glass into what is about to happen.  So let's look at this newest book of his that is due for release March 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-1970-4
Hardcover - $26.99
Pages: 480

About the book:  All eyes are on the Middle East. Israel has successfully launched a first strike on Iran, taking out all of their nuclear sites and six of their nuclear warheads—and causing The Twelfth Imam to order a full-scale retaliation. US President William Jackson threatens to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish State for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression.

Meanwhile, CIA operative David Shirazi has infiltrated the Iranian regime and intercepted information indicating that two Iranian nuclear warheads survived the attack and have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location. In danger not only from the ongoing missile strikes on Iran but also from the increasingly hostile and suspicious governments of multiple countries, David and his team are in a race against time to find the remaining nuclear warheads before disaster strikes.

My thoughts:  Damascus is known as probably the oldest continuously settled or occupied city in existence.  But is the clock ticking down? Are we now counting down the moments or days before the demise of Damascus or the world's demise?  In Damascus Countdown, Joel C. Rosenberg take us deep into Syria and Iran and among the heads of state both politically, militarily, and spiritually.  The Twelth Imam is foretold to be the "Messiah" of the Islamic faith and the one who will lead them into world dominion.

Just like the morning news reports of today, this story unfolds with tension over nuclear arms in Syria and Iran and those armaments being pointed at Israel. Joel Rosenberg is a recognized authority on the Middle East and also on Biblical understanding of that area.

In Damascus Countdown Mr. Rosenberg takes us through passages in Isaiah that point to the fate of Syria and Iran.  We see the story unfolding with a CIA deep cover operative and team leader, David Shirazi, alias Reza Tabrizi, who is also Iranian by birth.  The book begins with a bang and each page you turn brings scenes of intrigue, of explosive events, of political adversaries on both sides of the ocean, and of spiritual emboldenment by converts from Islam to Christianity.

If you're expecting a sweet little romance, this is not the book for you.  If you're expecting a feel-good story - even with a bit of adventure, this is not the book for you.  This book is long at 480 pages.  It is dramatic. It is intense.  It gives long interpretive discourses of Scripture.  But it is not boring. It is not dry.  It is not a "tear-jerker."  This book will capture your attention and hold it until you turn page 479.

In Rosenberg's fiction you will discover finely tuned and developed characters.  You will visualize the scenes he so aptly describes and almost feel the intensity the characters feel. And you will discover individuals who have willingly and joyfully counted the cost, and counted it very small indeed, to convert to Christianity.
About the author:  Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels—The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, Dead Heat, The Twelfth Imam, and The Tehran Initiative—and five nonfiction books, Epicenter, Inside the Revolution, Implosion,Israel at War, and The Invested Life, with nearly 3 million copies sold. The Ezekiel Option received the Gold Medallion award as the "Best Novel of 2006" from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Joel is the producer of two documentary films based on his nonfiction books. He is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus" with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief.

As a communications advisor, Joel has worked with a number of U.S. and Israeli leaders, including Steve Forbes, Rush Limbaugh, Natan Sharansky, and Benjamin Netanyahu. As an author, he has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV programs, including ABC's Nightline, CNN Headline News, FOX News Channel, The History Channel, MSNBC, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and The Glenn Beck Show. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Times, the Jerusalem Post, and World magazine. He has addressed audiences all over the world, including those in Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and the Philippines. He has also spoken at the White House, the Pentagon, and to members of Congress.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher and author in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. i received no compensation for this review.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"David Sticker Book" by Karen Williamson; illustrated by Amanda Enright

ISBN: 9781859859315
About the book:   David Sticker Book is a fun, interactive retelling of the story of David and Goliath, complete with four pages of stickers, so children can help illustrate the story and fill in the gaps. Kids will love the fun, reusable stickers and bright illustrations as they engage with this well-loved Bible story.

My thoughts:  This is a nice little Bible story book that gives a good accounting of the story of David from his anointing by Samuel to his becoming King of Israel.  The text is comprised of short sentences that would be easily understood by the age child to which the book is directed.

The stickers (4 pages!) enhance the child's experience in learning and enjoying this Bible story.  I recommend the book and know that children will enjoy putting all the stickers in place from the tiny ladybug sticker to big bad Goliath or the crown for David.  At $5.99 parents and other adults will find this a good investment in a child.

About the authors:  Karen Williamson worked as a London primary school teacher and publisher's editor before launching a successful career as full-time writer. With three children of her own, she specializes in Bible stories for young readers. 
Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review from Kregel Publications. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Heaven's Lessons" by Steve Sjogren

ISBN:  9781400204311

I typically don't read "theological" books unless I am fairly certain the author's beliefs are at least somewhat close to mine.  I don't mean Christian vs Buddhism or something else so diametrically different.  I mean Christian as in rather conservative Baptist. I'm still a KJV preferred translation Bible reader myself. So being given the opportunity to read Steve Sjogren's Heaven's Lessons I almost said, "No. Not this lady!" But then, I thought, "I've never read anyone's perspective on a near-death-experience. Let's give it a try."

Steve Sjogren doesn't go into a lot on his NDE in Heaven's Lessons as I presumed he would.  Rather he addresses that in a previous book. In  Heaven's Lessons he is sharing 10 lessons he believes he has learned from God (or what he believes God has shown him as a result of the NDE).  I see these as his way of realizing that he came so close to "permanently" dying that he is going to live his life according to revelation from God for the remainder of life he has left to live. And he seems to be doing this in his personal, family, and church ministry life.

Sjogren is sharing each of these 10 lessons and how they have impacted his life and his personal and church ministry for God.  Steve is pastor of a large non-conventional church that focuses on servanthood as a means of reaching the lost, unloved, unwanted humanity and bringing them to God.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this focus on servanthood and kindness to mankind.  However, I also believe that Christians are to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not a gospel of kindness or gospel of servanthood.  When the two are combined with the Biblical preaching of the Word of God holding the prevalent position and servanthood and kindness an off-shoot of the saved reaching the unsaved, then it can work.

In Sjogrens book he does share how his "accident" occurred during routine gallbladder surgery when things went very wrong and very much damage was done. He ended up dead for around 6 or 7  minutes and during that time was floating above the operating table and recalled later the episode even to conversation being carried on during that period.  The accident and experience left his body damaged and in need of repeated surgeries to repair the damage.  It also required years of recuperation and therapy.

The lessons in Heavens Lessons are good for anyone to learn and they are not new for Christians.  They are, though, often overlooked in importance.
  • God is BIG
  • God Especially Enjoys Irregular People
  • Don't Fear Death (really good reading)
  • Quit Quitting
  • Face Your Fear (another good read)
  • Be Thankful
 DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of Heavens Lessons from BookSneeze on behalf of the publisher and author in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

"Picture Perfect " in Weddings by Design Series #1 by Janice Thompson

About the book: Known for her contagious humor and cast of quirky characters, Janice Thompson gives her fans more of the bridal business drama in a brand-new series all about those long-suffering people who make beautiful weddings happen. Picture Perfect is the first in the new series and brings our favorite character, Bella, back in a big way, while introducing new characters readers will love. Fans will laugh out loud as they experience this breezy and entertaining novel from a great storyteller.

Feisty wedding photographer Hannah McDermott has dealt with her share of difficult brides. But none can compare to the ultimate Bridezilla she's dealing with now. Still, she's trying desperately to impress Bella Neeley, Galveston Island's most sought-after wedding planner, so she can take the top spot in Bella's list of recommended photographers--a spot currently occupied by her arch-rival, Drew Kincaid. What she doesn't count on, however, is falling head over heels for the competition.

Review: A talented photographer, the older unmarried sister, living at home with parents, feeling she's "been passed by" in many ways gets the opportunity of a life-time to photograph the wedding of the year. But then she realizes that her "competition" is going to be getting in on some of the action. And yep! It's a "he." And It's a "Handsome he"! And he's a nice person, too.

Fasten your seat belts and get ready for a delightful, fun read of contemporary fiction that deals with the ups and downs of wedding planning, personality clashes, business competition, etc. Janice Thompson writes a light, fun story that will tickle your funny bone and capture your interest. 

I felt the book was well written and filled with interesting well-developed characters (you will love her father). Though not a genre I typically read, I enjoyed it and would give it a four-star rating. Not a five-star, you ask? No, and only because I felt there was not a lot of depth to the story. But then maybe if light hearted reading is what you need and crave, it would rate a five-star.

About the author: Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and screenwriter. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson offers an inside look at the wedding business, drawing on her own experiences as a wedding planner.
“Available February 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”  
In addition........., author Janice Thompson is holding a Facebook Launch Party and will be giving away prizes on MONDAY evening, February 18th.  The party is from 7 – 8 p.m. Central time.   To win the grand prize of a Kindle Fire, you must be present at the end of the event.  For more details, sign in on the “Bella’s Back”  page here:!/groups/135412673290188/events/
I previously reviewed Janice Thompson's The Director’s Cut. Read my review.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Picture Perfect from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group on behalf of the author in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

"Full House An Invitation to Fractions" by Dayle Ann Dodds & illustrated by Abby Carter (Review & Giveaway)

What a colorful book that is sure to capture the sit-down attention of children. It will be enjoyed by children ages 3 and up. It will be comprehended as a conceptual book on fractions by beginning elementary students.  As parents we begin early to show our children fractions by speaking of cutting an apple in half or in fourths (quarters).  That is a beginning.

Full House brings us into the guest house or boarding house of Miss Bloom and she has six rooms in her house.  Each guest (entirely different in personality which adds to the adventure) occupies one room = one/sixth = 1/6.  So when the second guest arrives, he is in room two and 2/6 of the house is occupied.

The text is my favorite style for capturing tickle-bone-funny interest of kids:  rhyme.  And the vocabulary used will expand word understanding for the young child as words uncommon in young children's books are used.

Then into the kitchen Miss Bloom went to make
a scrumptious dinner for all to partake.
There were chicken and peas, potatoes au gratin,
but the very best part --
Miss Bloom had forgotten!
We see on the bottom of the right page of each spread, the fraction concept is explain as it pertains to that guest's arrival.

Toward the end of the book, the guests have found the "very best part" that Miss Bloom had forgotten and they have divided it into "fractions" for one each or 5/6 leaving the last part for Miss Bloom who was number six.

Brightly illustrated by Abby Carter, the facial expressions and cheerful mood of the watercolors will win over parent, teacher, and child.  I highly recommend this as another way to entertain as you teach your child.

GIVEAWAY:   And to help a child with his or her introduction to fractions, Candlewick Press is providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers.  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below (please be patient as it loads. GIVEAWAY begins February 17 and ends March 5 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Full House was provided in exchange for my honest review by the publisher, Candlewick Press, on behalf of the author without obligation for a favorable review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Humble Heart: A book of virtues" by Amy Meyer Allen

ISBN: 978-1-4143-8069-8

In Humble Heart we meet a variety of cute critters such as Percie Pig and Felicity Frog.  They and the others featured in Humble Heart are learning about virtues:

Humility, Love, Thoughtfulness, Faithfulness, Mercy, Encouragement, Comfort, Courage, and Joy.

While this is a cute book, in my opinion it is designed  to be used with parent leading and reading to the child.  The author writes little stories about the critters such as: "Percie was angry! Someone ruined her garden. Who would do something so mean? She followed muddy footprints. Aha! Barnabas Bunny must have walked through her garden." (You see, we meet Barnabas Bunny in another little story.)

Each of the Humble Bumbles are imperfect just like us. But they can learn virtues just as we can. Each of the nine virtues addressed in this little book is listed in the back of the book with a Scripture verse and reference to reinforce it.

Humble Heart is not a large book, but neither is it small.  It is designed to be read to children and used instructionally so that they can learn virtues.  The illustrations are simple line drawings with bold colors.  I see this as a good tool for use in the home where children can learn virtues and how to deal with their feelings.
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher, Tyndale Kids, and the author, Amy Meyer Allen, in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

PB Crave (Flavored 'Natural' Peanut Butter) Review & Giveaway

Just look at those yummy ingredients!
You know chocolate & bananas & peanuts
are just naturals together. Now add in
Long ago in a far-gone time there was a wee little house with a wee little lady and she had a not-so-wee little family of wee little ones.  There were not many wee little pennies to go around, so the wee little lady pinched them tightly in her wee little hand.

But her 5 wee little ones did not have such wee little appetites.  And she wanted them to have happy-tites (I know, that's a silly play on words).  Anyhow, this mama knew her nutrition and she knew that peanuts and peanut butter were nutritionally dense and sound for her wee little ones. Oops! Just gotta get out of that silly wee mode.

Well, the kids loved cookies.  So we had peanut butter cookies by the hundreds. They loved cake, so we had peanut butter cake and peanut butter frosting. We had peanut butter chocolate fudge and most any other goodie I could come up with.  And don't forget all five of those lunch boxes.  You got it..... peanut butter sandwiches. Peanut butter 'n jelly. Peanut butter 'n bananas. Peanut butter 'n raisins. Peanut butter  'n honey. Can you imagine the delight that would have shown on their little faces if I had HAD PB CRAVE VARIETIES?????

Actually, this starving, energy craving mama had a favorite pick-up of her own, and that was a plain banana sliced length-wise down the middle and slathered with peanut butter then sandwiched back together - NO BREAD.  Try it sometime and you'll see the plus of that snack; and if you fix it with PB Crave's various flavors, you'll be in for a real treat.

Today, I needed an afternoon pick-me-up and I grabbed a slice of whole wheat bread, slathered it with PB Crave Choco Choco, and then topped it with orange marmalade.  Talk about yummy! That touch of chocolate and orange together was simply wonderful! I had to restrain myself not to make another!

Now, let's talk specifically about PB Crave jars of peanut butter (that's what the PB stands for - makes sense, don't you think).  Since the peanut butter is natural and doesn't have all the stabilizers that others on the market do, you'll find it will have oil float to the top (just like in the good-ol-days).  Well, you simply take a knife or stiff spatula and give it a twist and a twirl and an up 'n a down.  Then you're ready to go.  I wish we didn't have to stir it, but that is a small price to pay for natural peanut butter.

Cost:  Yes, it does cost more than what you will find in your main line grocery stores for "brand name" or "store brand."  But it isn't that much more.  It is located in Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Fresh Market grocery stores and you can purchase it online at

I'm thinking I might make some brownies this weekend.  I like frosting on mine.  I don't really have a recipe.  I usually just cook a basic sugar, cocoa, butter, evaporated milk base until it is syrupy, cool it a bit, and then beat in confectioner's sugar.  Sometimes I add a dollop or so of peanut butter.  If I do, I don't use quite as much butter.  I'm thinking I might separate out the "frosting" and add a different flavor peanut butter to each.  What do you think?  
Check out Celebrity Chef Andrew Zimmern's OpenSky Page and video review on PB Crave
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
These good folk at PB Crave are going to give one of Chat With Vera's readers a PB Crave Natural Peanut Butter, Variety Pack, 1 CoCo Banana, 1 Cookie Nookie, 1 Razzle Dazzle, 16oz Jars, (3 Jars Total) - just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  

BEGINS February 16 and ENDS March 5 at 12:01 a.m. EST.  Open to USA mailing addresses only.
–No hydrogenated oil
–No artificial flavors
–No syrups
–No high-fructose corn syrup
–Gluten and cholesterol free
–Small batches, artisan crafted
–USDA-approved manufacturing
–Fun, delicious and nutritious
DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a PB Crave Natural Peanut Butter Variety Pack by PB Crave in exchange for my honest review. I was under no obligation to render a positive review and was not compensated for this review. The winner's variety pack will be shipped directly to the winner by PB Crave.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"A Home For Lydia" by Vannetta Chapman (Review & Giveaway)

About the book - A Word From the Author: “A Home for Lydia is a story of old things made new, the value in working together, and the gift of love—between a man and woman, family members, and friends. We return once again to the Amish community of Cashton, Wisconsin where life is not perfect, but it is simple. Most of all, this is a story of God's grace, and how it is always sufficient. I pray it will touch your heart and reassure you of the love of our Father.”

My thoughts: Vannetta Chapman begins this tale of the Amish in Pebble Creek community with Lydia, a beautiful young Amish woman who is single, fearful of being an "old maid," burdened with the responsibility of supporting her family (parents and siblings), and taking care of a run-down set of tourist cabins. She is weary and sitting on the steps of one of these cabins when a young man arrives and looks at the scene with obvious disgust, shock, and frustration. He accosts Lydia when he finds out she is an employee of his deceased uncle and wants to know why she has allowed things to get in such bad shape.

Lydia's feisty personality is really ignited by Aaron Troyer's confrontation. But Aaron is now her "boss" and he moves with swift action to bring to "rights" the cabins and to make them into a profitable enterprise. Aaron is the nephew of the deceased uncle, and as extended family, they feel it their place and responsibility to help the uncle's widow and children have a means of support.

The setting for the story is along Pebble Creek and the cabins are nestled close to Pebble Creek where there is an abundance of beautiful wild animals, birds, and plants. It is a serene, peaceful place where tourists can come and experience the plain life in simplicity and peace. But alas, all is not at peace there.

A Home for Lydia
is book 2 in the Pebble Creek series and we again meet our friends Miriam, Gabe, and Grace from A Promise for Miriam, book 1. Grace is the adorable little daughter of Gabe and her character continues to charm and warm your heart.

In A Home for Lydia we again see the strength of the Amish in strong families and strong community. When the family or community is threatened by illness, disaster, poverty, ruination, or weather destruction they come together in support of each other bringing healing of heart, soul, and purse. When crime or meanness invades their community, they deal with it with love and concern and try to help the offenders and those who have been offended.

Vannetta Chapman has again done a beautiful job of developing each of the characters where they seem real, believable, and true to the role they are crafted to play in the story. The story line moves well, is easy to follow, and a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading book 3 in the Pebble Creek series due to be released in the summer of 2013.

About the author: Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 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 Feb. 15, 2013 - ENDS March 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST

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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of A Home For Lydia from the author, Vannetta Chapman, in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was given for this review.

"Unbreakable" by Nancy Mehl (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Gentle and unassuming, Hope Kauffman has never been one to question the traditions of her Mennonite upbringing. She quietly helps her father run Kingdom Quilts and has agreed to the betrothal he arranged for her with the devout but shy Ebbie Miller.

Despite the attempts of Hope and other Kingdom residents to maintain the status quo, changes have already begun to stir in the small Mennonite town. The handsome and charismatic Jonathon Wiese is the leader of the move to reform, while Ebbie insists Kingdom must remain true to its foundation. When Hope's safety is threatened by a mysterious outsider, she can't help but question what she's always been taught about the Mennonite tradition of nonviolence.

As it swiftly becomes apparent the threat Hope faced is only the beginning, the town that's always stood so strong finds itself divided. With tensions high and their lives endangered by an unknown enemy, will Hope and the people of Kingdom allow fear and division to break them or will they draw on the strength of the God they serve?

My thoughts: Unbreakable is the second book in the Kingdom series about a small community of Mennonites.  One of the beliefs of Mennonite believers is that God would have them behave non-violent toward those who offend or harm them.  That is a key issue in Unbreakable.  The story opens with a single lady, Hope,  driving her horse and buggy along a deserted road and a red pickup truck runs her off the road.  It then turns around and is about to finish what it had begun when another truck arrives in time to save her from sure destruction.  She is Hope Kauffman of Kingdom and the man who has come to her rescue is Jonathan Wiese.  Hope was engaged to marry Ebenezer Miller (or Ebbie for short) but finds herself drawn toward Jonathan.

There is much discussion among the Mennonites regarding the on-going threats to churches and individuals in the Mennonite community and how they should protect themselves from this danger or how they should react should they encounter it.  Jonathan is ready to take up arms and protect the community and enlists others from outside the community.  However Ebber, who is the young Mennonite that Hope's family has plans and hopes she will marry, is an Elder in the church, and he is constant in his belief that the Mennonite non-violent belief and policy is the way they should react.

Nancy Mehl has well developed characters who are completely believable.  The story line is intriguing enough that you don't lose interest as you read.  The insight into the gentle, non-violent Mennonites is interesting and challenging as you, as an individual that is not Mennonite, examines your own closely held beliefs into how you would protect those you love and just how you would react.

I had already read book one in the Kingdom series but reading it is not prerequisite to understanding Unbreakable. Read my review of Nancy Mehl's other book, Inescapable.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Litfuse has graciously agreed to provide a copy of the book for one of Chat With Vera's readers as a giveaway prize.  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 Feb. 15, 2013 - ENDS March 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST
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About the author:  Nancy Mehl, the author of 13 books, received an ACFW Carol Award in 2009 for her novel For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. 

DISCLOSURE:   I was provided a complimentary copy of Unbreakable by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher, Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group and the author, Nancy Mehl in exchange for my honest review. Opinions are solely mine.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Eradicate: Blotting Out God In America" by David Fiorazo

ISBN:  9781622450268
What a fearsome thought runs through my mind when I think of the title of David Fiorazo's book Eradicate: Blotting Out God In America!  It should strike fear in the heart of every born-again man, woman, and child and also in the heart of those who are not but who are morally upright, good people.

Can you imagine what America would be like without God? Without the influence of God's people? Without the influence of godly morals?  Believe it or not it seems that very scenario is fast approaching us from sea to shining sea and from the North to the South and encompassing every corner of our existence. 

Having lived beyond my allotted three-score and ten, I have seen much of what Mr. Fiorazo speaks and he documents it very expertly.  I was not aware, though, that even before I was born or my parents were born that movements were afoot to lay the groundwork for the abortion movement, for the removal of God and His Word from the school house, and the complete revolutionization
of the political framework that makes America "American."

I can confirm, though, that just as Mr. Fiorazo so astutely records, the 1960s  brought about drastic change and society continued to spiral downward and unfailingly to the abyss that we now see.  But the question was raised, "Where were the Christians? They failed to stop the process to eradicate God in the public arena, in the school house, and even in the 'House of God.'"  But I assure you, the Christians have been there but there were just not enough involved. Today there are still strong Christian groups trying to stay the tide of destruction of that which we hold near and dear to our hearts - a God-fearing America!

Mr. Fiorazo is not a timid writer. He clearly and definitively speaks to the issues and the details of the downfall. He tells it as it is - quotes people, names people and places and organizations.  He does not hold back because of fear of reprisal.  He is bold in his address of events and issues and the people who are the cause and advocates. Adults need to read this book. It needs to be discussed with high school students about to launch into the adult world where they will become the leaders of the future.  But I caution, there is at least one chapter that has very strong language and references. 

The book deals with history and the present movement right up to the 2012 Presidential election. But the information it contains will not become outdated because the references will be a great resource concisely taking you down the timeline recording the process of downfall.

One short-coming I felt the book has is a means of research or finding material if one so chooses to reference it at some point.  I can see the need for a comprehensive index at the end with page numbers for each appearance of an event, organization, individual, etc.  This would make this book invaluable for study or future reference. I would strongly encourage the author to pursue this for subsequent editions of this book. If such is already available, perhaps it can be posted on the author's website for downloading.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

"Alphabet Anatomy" by Linda Jones & Illustrated by Branson Jones (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN:  9781460200476
I remember all five of my children learning to say and identify their letters and learning to write them.  I'd sit down with them and speak of little things that might help make it fun for them such as the "M has two peaks pointing up like the tops of two mountains."  Well, Linda Jones has taken the joyful task of teaching children the letters by creatively giving personality, shape, rhyme, and meaning to each letter.

With each letter, it takes on a personality which is brought out in the rhyme and in the identifying words such as snake, sleek, slinky for the letter "S." As the child is being read this rhyme, he can repeat all these "S" words with emphasis on the s-s-s-s sound.  This helps him to develop listening and thinking skills because he hears the sound, repeats the sound, and thinks about the context of the rhyme and the picture on the page.

Look at the "T" page and the "T" words that go along with it.  "T" stands tall, too.  We want our capital "T" to go all the way to the top of the space between the lines so he stands tall.
T stands tall hauling timber on top of his head.
He’s building a tree house and painting it red.
T – Timber
I really love the "B" page.  When introducing "B" we get a little lesson in the letter itself, and the words that begin with "B"; but most fun of all, we get to see where "B" gets his belly.  Its a bit of a "health" lesson tossed in for good measure.

Linda Jones is the mother of 4 sons and her son Branson is  the illustrator of her book.  Jones has a passion for helping children learn their letters, learn to read, and become life-long learners. She has a very nice website that tells lots about the alphabet and her interest in helping children read.  There will soon be coloring pages that you will be able to download for free. But right now, Mom can find lots of information to help her help her kiddies with letters, reading, phonetics, etc. 

 And to help a child with his or her capital letters, the author is providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers.  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below (please be patient as it loads. GIVEAWAY begins February 10 and ends February 25 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Open to USA addresses only. 
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About the author:  Linda was born in Albany, New York, moved to Arizona after high school graduation, and 3 years later met a handsome firefighter; together they have 4 very talented sons now ages 17 to 27. She began writing poetry in 1994, much of which was published and sold in the scrapbooking market, with popular titles such as “Forever My Little Boy,” “Forever My Little Girl,” and “Miracle of Love.” Alphabet Anatomy is her first published children’s book series.  Linda’s favorite days are when all the boys are back home together, including the 2 family dogs, Zorro and Rocco, who joyfully add to the noise and chaos. She knows these words to be true: “Time sneaks up and ticks away the precious moments of each day. Before we know it, years have passed; my child will grow up way too fast…”
DISCLOSURE:  The author provided a complimentary copy to me in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. The giveaway copy is also provided by the author and will be mailed by the author directly to the winner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Jellybeans Morning Noon & Night" by Maggie Pajak & Illustrated by Marni Backer (Review & Giveaway)

Just looking at the cover of this bright, delightfully illustrated book and seeing the expressions on the faces of the three children who are the inventive characters of the story Jellybeans Morning Noon & Night simply draws you into its pages in anticipation of a rollicking time with the kids.

Now the two boys simply love jellybeans and they enlist their cousin to help them convince their mother that they can have them to eat morning, noon, and night.  The plan is devious for certain. The kids are determined.  Their plan is to be the chefs for the day and serve their mother each and every meal - incorporating jellybeans into the mix in a delightful way.

Of course, mother is smart and goes along with them knowing full well that in the end, they will see the folly of eating jellybeans all day long. Smart mom. Smart kids. Happy ending.

The author, Maggie Pajak, as the wife of a deployed serviceman was full time story-teller to her boys while daddy was deployed.  Therefore, she has the wonderful dedication in the front of the book " all of the soldiers who are not able to tuck their little ones into bed with a night-night story while serving their country and all of their little ones who wish that they could."  Commendable!  Much appreciated!

The use of strong, vibrant colors and intense black lines  and the joyous, smug, delight expressed on the kids faces.  The kids marching through the kitchen or shouting up the stairs just engage the reader or child fully in the story.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Author Maggie Pajak has gracious agreed to provide a copy of the book for one of Chat With Vera's readers as a giveaway prize.  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 Feb. 7, 2013 - ENDS February 21 at 12:01 a.m. EST
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Jellybeans Morning Noon & Night by the author in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The Tutor's Daughter" by Julie Klassen

About the book:  Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin teaching the two younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to find the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementoes?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her...

When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart? Filled with page-turning suspense, The Tutor's Daughter takes readers to the windswept Cornwall coast--a place infamous for shipwrecks and superstitions--where danger lurks, faith is tested, and romance awaits.

Review:  Author Julie Klassen has again brought a regency novel set in the year 1817 of the Jane Austen caliber to us just as she did in Maid of Fairbourn Hall (see my review of that book).  I thoroughly enjoyed the development of each of the characters in The Tutor's Daughter.  The delightful Miss Emma Smallwood, daughter of the tutor whose school is failing to the boys who have previously been students of the elder Mr. Smallwood and whom Miss Emma has dealt with when she acted as her father's assistant in the school.  The two boys each with such different characters and who had in past years been young students in the school and who have grown into manhood. And of course, Mr. Smallwood who is struggling with melancholy because of his wife's death.

An opportunity presents itself to the Smallwoods when Mr. Smallwood is called to tutor the twin sons of Sir Giles Weston,  the younger siblings of Phillip and Henry Weston whom they had previously taught in the school.  This opportunity will allow them to leave their impending poverty and move into the rambling castle on the Cornwall coast typical of the well off class during the Regency period. The castle and coastal area is replete with secrecy, mystery, beauty, and strained family relationships.  As the story develops, the twist of plot and keen attention to detail so characteristic of Julie Klassen's writing brings this Regency period historical story alive to the reader.  There is even a sweet romance that develops (and of course, I'm not telling the outcome of that).

If you are a Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, classic or Regency period enthusist, you will most likely enjoy the writings of Julie Klassen.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy of The Tutor's Daughter was provided by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"A New Home for Lily" by authors: Mary Ann Kinsinger & Suzanne Woods Fisher

I had the opportunity to read and review Life With Lily (book 1 in the Lily series) after which it found its home in Texas in the hands of my daughter's 4 daughters. Just the other day my daughter called to tell me that her 9-year-old came running into the room and was just beaming.  She said, "It's almost February and that is Fantastic." Mommy asked, "Why?" And then the granddaughter  said, "Because in February book two about Lily comes out. If Grand-mommy can't send it to us, we'll just have to go buy it! It is the most wonderful book I've ever read."

Mommy went on to explain to me that from time to time my granddaughter takes the book off the shelf and re-reads a portion or so. This little girl is a prolific reader (as all in the family are). Mommy is homeschooling the girls. Mommy is also the wife of an Army Chaplain.

Anyway, I just had to share this with you, because Life With Lily has brought such joy to my granddaughter.

Now let's talk about book 2, "A New Home for Lily!" Every reader of this delightful book will learn customs of the different Amish groups and how the various differences affect even the thinking of the young children - buttons or hooks on clothes, pins or hooks on wraps, the shape of the girl's headcovering, even the width of the ribbon-ties of the headcoverings. Also, the keeping of refrigerators indoors as opposed to having them on the back porch.   So we find the book educational from beginning to end. But this isn't a "text" book, it is a fun and entertaining book!

Lily has to adjust to life in Pennsylvania and how it is different from that in New York.  We're talking adjustments to the differences between the observances of the two Amish communities.  But first of all, Lily is a growing little girl with curiosities, opinions, likes and dislikes, hurts and loves and she grows with each episode.  The spilling of the milk pail to the sticking of burrs in brother's hair. A young child reading this book will learn that they, too, can learn important lessons from daily life just as Lily can.  Both Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily are refreshing forays into the reading world for the child 8-14 (and adults, too).  There is so very much unsuitable reading now available that it is a joy to pick up a book you know is safe for your child or grand child to read.

DISCLOSURE: I received this book for free from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group for this review.

Purex Crystals for Baby (Review & Giveaway)

O.k. all the babies in my home are grown and they have mostly grown-up babies of their own.  But my "baby" has 4 girls at home and the youngest is 2.  So why (I can just hear you asking me, "Why you.......???") are you, lady-of-a-certain-age, telling me about a baby laundry product.  Well, because this lady knows laundry and this lady knows babies.

So let's talk about the new Purex Crystals for Baby and why they are special.
  1. They leave a fresh, gentle scent to the laundry. Now don't expect a really strong overpowering fragrance.  You do, after all, want to be able to still get a whiff of that sweet fragrance that only a  baby has.
  2. The laundry stays fresh and fragrant longer.
  3. Purex Crystals for Baby is hypo-allergenic, dye free, and is a 87% natural formula.
  4. It is safe to use on children's sleepwear.  It doesn't compromise the fire retardant qualities of the their pj's and gowns.
  5. For baby's and young children's sensitive, soft skin it is a gentle product.

As with other Purex Crystals, the bottle is shaped nicely to fit your hand and has a dome cap that is your measuring cup.  Just measure the amount you need for that large or small load of laundry in the pink dome cap, pour it into the laundry tub at the beginning of your wash,  and you're set to enjoy pleasant baby laundry (or even family laundry).

Now where can you find this product?  Walmart stores should stock them beginning in February.  Perhaps other stores will get in on the know-baby-laundry-bandwagon and put it on their shelves, too. Don't forget that Purex recently came out with their Purex Baby Detergent, too.  What a wonderful combination.

GIVEAWAY:  Two of Chat With Vera's readers will win a free product coupon each for a bottle of Purex Crystals for Baby.  Wait patiently for Rafflecopter to load and then leave your entries.  Begins Feb. 3 ENDS Feb. 18 at 12:01 a.m. EST.

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Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary sample of Purex Crystals for baby by the manufacturer in exchange for my honest opinion which you have just read.  I was not required to render a positive opinion.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams as Retold by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Katherine Wilson

ISBN: 9780824919009
About the book:  Margery Williams's tale of a stuffed rabbit's quest to become Real has been loved for generations. Here, the story has been adapted for a younger audience, so parents can share this classic with their little ones. Simple words and bright, colorful artwork make this board book the perfect introduction to this well-loved rabbit and the power of Real love.

Margery Williams found inspiration for this classic story first published in 1922 by watching her children play with toys and animals. In her lifetime, Williams published more than 25 novels and children's books.

Review:  If you check out the offerings for The Velveteen Rabbit online, you will see just about every shape and variety of artistry and re-telling of this classic children's story by Margery Williams.  Today we're looking at a very-young child's version of the story - a small board book with very limited "story" of The Velveteen Rabbit as retold by Patricia A. Pingry. The illustrations are sweet, softly colorful, and along a classic art format - lovely.

Children absolutely love their toys and especially their cuddle toys such as teddy bears and stuffed rabbits.  In this story Christmas morning arrives with a cute little stuffed rabbit "stuffed" into the top of the boy's stocking. And the little boy adores this sweet toy so much that he declares the rabbit is a real rabbit and not just a stuffed rabbit.  In the hearts and minds of the young child, very often their beloved toys are real to them.  Time passes, the rabbit becomes much the worse for wear with his pink nose rubbed off, etc.  So Nanna throws him in the rubbish pile.  Well, the story ends well (as all readers and lovers of the original story know) with rabbit running among the real rabbits and very happy.

The young child can tuck this little book under a pillow or blanket. Carry it around as he or she plays, and ask for repeated readings.  I picture the child gathering his own audience of stuffed animals around him as he "reads" about the stuffed rabbit that became a real rabbit.

I recommend this treasure of a little book for $6.99 and available at Ideal Books.  

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of The Velveteen Rabbit board book in exchange for my honest review. A second copy was also provided for me to give to a lucky recipient which will be a school.

"Baby Come Home" by Elizabeth Kail Arnita (Review & Giveaway)

Review: This children's picture book is an allegorical story of a little bird that wants to get out of his cage and scale over the garden wall to the big world outside.  The story is about the protection Sam (the human) offers the birds in the garden and especially "Baby."

This is a story of protection from the evils and dangers that lurk in the outside world.  We can easily see that the imagery is that of a child leaving the confines, rules, and protection of home.  But the bigger picture is that of the child of God straying from the protection of God or the shelter a Christian has in the fellowship of believers.

The story, though brought down to children's level, is a bit heavy for a child's comprehension; but I do  believe a "seed" can be planted via the reading of this story that a child can learn that he or she must not stray from his place of protection.  The lesson can also be learned that someone will care enough to come pick up the pieces of our brokenness and restore us. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
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