Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Food Should Taste Good®: Chips that have it all!

 As I investigate food and how it is processed, I am becoming more and more inclined to read the label, reject the products with unpronounceable ingredients, go for those with fewer ingredients, and look for the good tasting among the good for me products. So where does that leave me when I want to satisfy that nibble-a-bit desire for a bite with crunch?  Does "Food Should Taste Good®" sound like a reasonable option?

I have found that it really does!

For a second time around, the good folks at Food Should Taste Good® have sent me a box with a variety of their chips to sample and tell you what I think of them.  I have so-very-much enjoyed nibbling and crunching on these delectable chips.  Original Sweet Potato (kettle cooked). Barbequed Sweet Potato (kettle cooked). The Works. Cheddar. Multigrain.

Let's look at "The Works" which might be my "most favorite":  Ingredients - Stone Ground Corn, High Oleic Sunflower Oil and/or Safflower Oil, Evaporated Cane Juice, Corn Bran, Garlic, Onion, Poppy Seeds, Sea Salt, Caraway Seeds.  Is there anything in that list you don't recognize or can't pronounce? Just good stuff mixed together, rolled thin, and cooked.  Then bagged and shipped out for you.

I'm from North Carolina and we grow a LOT of sweet potatoes.  In fact, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, has researched and developed many innovative ways for the sweet potato to be used and marketed.  So friends, the idea of the sweet potato chip in those Food Should Taste Good® bags just might have come from my home state.  Who knows? But I do know that in our house, we really enjoy sweet potato chips and Food Should Taste Good has produced exceptionally good chips.

GIVEAWAY:  These gracious folks at Food Should Taste Good® are going to treat one of Chat With Vera's readers with a boxed assortment of their chips.  Now you just enter the random giveaway by using the Rafflecopter form below.  Begins April 30 and ENDS May 16 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA mailing addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a boxed assortment of Food Should Taste Good® in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. Product information was gleaned from their website. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

" Poison" (Bloodline Trilogy #2) by Jordyn Redwood (Medical Suspense) - Review & Giveaway

About the book:  Five years ago, Keelyn Samuels's armed, mentally ill stepfather took her family hostage in their house in rural Colorado. She and her half-sister Raven made it out alive, but others did not. Authorities blamed the father's frequent hallucinations about a being named Lucent, but in the end, even the best of the FBI's hostage negotiators failed to overcome the man's delusions and end the standoff peacefully.

SWAT team member Lee Watson was there that day. He watched it all unfold and was able to pull Keelyn and Raven from the grip of their demon-possessed father. Though partially successful, his team had still failed, and the outcome of that day--and that tortured family--has continued to plague Lee ever since. Though unusual for SWAT to reconnect with survivors, Lee bumped into Keelyn two years after the crisis, and they both found some peace in their budding relationship. But peace is hard to maintain when the memory returns . . . in the flesh.

Lucent is back, and he's no hallucination. In fact, he is a very real person with dangerous motives. He has kidnapped Raven's daughter, and--Keelyn worries--maybe has hurt Raven as well. Though she is estranged from her sister, Keelyn feels the immediate need to find Raven and save what family she has left. But when others who were involved in that fateful day start dying, some by mysterious circumstances, Keelyn wonders if she and Lee can emerge unscathed a second time.

The highly anticipated second installment of the Bloodline Trilogy explores the boundaries of faith and family and what happens when both are put to the test.

Review:  With a title such as "Poison" you just know that this book will jolt you by taking you somewhere into a world where there is a deadly poisonous substance or person that is encountered.  You crack the book anticipating, not knowing what will grip you.  Book #2 of the Bloodline Triology follows tight on the heels of "Proof," Book #1 in the series.  in "Proof" we were taken on a roller coaster ride into the lives of characters as they were seeking proof for their case. "Poison" is no less of a ride and certainly takes you into a venomous world of danger. A world of spiritual darkness. Mental instability. Danger fraught at every turn. "Poison" is a psychological thriller sure to keep you on edge.

Jordyn Redwood has wrapped her story around characters with psychotic behaviors.  Characters include some who are from the book "Proof" and were staged in the shadow of a tragedy that was a subplot of 'Proof."   The story opens with our heroine waiting for her fiancée to arrive. A man sits beside her and tells her he is Lucent.  But Lucent is suppose to be the delusion of a sick man and not a real person; yet Lucent, a real person, is sitting beside her and knows things this stranger shouldn't.

Keelyn's half sister, Rachel, one of the survivors of the tragedy in "Proof," is missing and the story is tightly woven around her. Rachel is a troubled young lady but one who is a seeker. But does she find God? Does she reject God? Keelyn's
fiancée, Lee, is a SWAT team member and certainly a handy person to have around with all the danger they face.  
"Her screams caused Keelyn's body to shake with desperate anxiety."
The author's personal experience as a pediatric nurse in the ER is evidenced as she records scenes involving Raven's child, Sophia, whose life is in immense danger. The professional care for this child - medical, social services, and personal - (and others for whom she has cared in the ER) is evident as Ms. Redwood writes.  It is rather humorous to read the scenes and actions as Keelyn takes on the care of Sophia knowing absolutely nothing about child care. In a story as deep and dark as "Poison," it is nice to see a bit of levity.

Having now reviewed both "Proof" and "Poison," I can hardly wait for Jordyn Redwood to launch Book #3 - "Peril."

GIVEAWAY: A giveaway copy has been provided by the author, Jordyn Redwood, for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Begins April 29 & ENDS May 13 # 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open USA mainland only.
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Author info: Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two novels, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal and have been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of "Poison" from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. Giveaway copy provided by the author. Opinions expressed are solely my own. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"A Tree for Emmy" by Mary Ann Rodman & illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781561454754
Hardcover - $15.95
About the book:  "I declare, Emmy," said Gramma. "That mimosa tree is a lot like you. Stubborn and strong and a little bit wild."

Emmy loves trees. She loves oak trees with acorns. She loves pine trees with cones, and willow trees with swishy branches. But best of all, Emmy loves the mimosa tree that grows in her grandmother’s pasture. Emmy swings on its branches, plays with its fuzzy pink blossoms, and rattles its seedpods like maracas.

But when Emmy decides she wants a mimosa tree of her own for her birthday, she is dismayed to find that many grown-ups do not share her enthusiasm. Garden stores only sell ornamental trees like plum or pear or tulip trees.

Emmy is crushed—until she discovers that the answer to her problem is growing right before her eyes!

This joyful story of a spirited young girl’s steadfast affection for a wild mimosa tree will appeal to all who cherish a special dream, and will help readers appreciate the natural world around them. Illustrator Tatjana Mai-Wyss’s whimsical watercolor and collage illustrations capture Emmy’s exuberant personality and the story’s hopeful ending.

My thoughts:  The book presents an interesting lesson about variety of trees. Note: it is not a tree book or a truly instructional book about trees, leaves, seeds, etc.  The story revolves around Emmy, a little girl full of energy and who her grandmother describes as stubborn and wild.  Grandmother also describes the Mimosa tree as stubborn and wild.  Describing a will-growing tree that is hard to get rid of is one thing. To describe a child as stubborn and wild and consider it a positive trait is hard to understand as a favorable trait.

It is true that stubbornness in a child is indicative of a strong will which when guided and tempered with control can lead to a strong leader in adult life.  However, to praise a child for being stubborn and wild without tempering it with controls and leadership by the adults in the child's life can only lead to an adult that is a loose cannon and that is a destructive leader.

Now the story is cute in that Emmy wants one of the pretty Mimosa trees (I, too, think they are beautiful and wouldn't mind having one in my yard.). So that is what Emmy asks for as her birthday present. She and her parents look and look but cannot find one to purchase since they are considered "wild" trees. They return to grandmother's and Emmy finds a little, tiny shoot of a Mimosa tree which they dig up and take home to plant.  Emmy learns that she must protect her new seedling and care for it even though it is a wild tree.

As I said, the story is cute and Emmy learns a little about trees and young trees.  The book is pretty and the illustrations are very nice.  Emmy looks like a loveable and delectably irresistible child. I can see the book being used to teach the tenacity of wild trees and how they are stubbornly difficult to rid oneself of. I can also see object lessons on stubbornness in a child being drawn from the story by astute adults.

GIVEAWAY: Peachtree Publishers has graciously provided the opportunity for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win a copy of A Tree for Emmy. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  Begins April 29 & ENDS May 14 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA mailing addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of A Tree for Emmy" from Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

"Ted E. Bear the Labradoodle" by Joanna Rau-Tobin & illustrated by Dinah M. Rau (Review & Giveaway)

When I saw the little book, Ted E. Bear the Labradoodle, online, I contacted the author about the possibility of reviewing it. You see, I have a wee bit of a special interest in Labrdoodles.  One of my grand daughters just received a Labradoodle puppy this year and I thought a book about one would be a delight to her.  So the author has graciously sent a copy to me for review and it is also signed!

This is a small book, soft cover, with basic water color illustrations typical of the life of a puppy dog.  Ted E Bear has been selected from a liter of 8 and, of course, he is the cutest of all.  He is a curly hair dog that is full of love and life. Somewhat confusing to me is his going "bananas for bananas." And later "For blueberries, apples, zucchini, and cheese, Ted E. Bear smiles--pretty please." I'm not sure if he loves fruit and veggies, or if this means something else.

"He loves to swim......" that would definitely be the "Labradore Retriever" in him.  They definitely are swimmers.

This is a sweet picture book about a puppy that comes to stay.

GIVEAWAY: The author is providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. Open to USA addresses only. Begins April 27 and ENDS May 13 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for my honest review.

"Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit & the Fox" by Sybrina Durant & Illustrated by Donna Marie Naval (Review & Giveaway)

It seems that fewer and fewer men are wearing ties in today's world and the little boys are simply not learning how to tie a tie. But society does require or demand a tie to be worn by gentlemen at least on some occasions.  So don't forget to teach the boys to tie a tie - someday he may need to dress appropriately for a special occasion or a job that requires the wearing of a tie.

Sybrina Durant has written a cute little book that teaches how to go about tying a tie. There is also a cute little song about it. (click the link below to hear the cute song)

The story begins as rabbit strays and then finds something succulent to nibble on. But nearby was fox! Then the chase is on......

On each page of the book you will see the story of the rabbit and the fox as the poor little bunny runs and hides from the fox. Also on the page are illustrated steps on how to tie the young man's tie. And he, too, is pictured as he goes through the tie-tying steps. 

Pros: A cute story. Nicely illustrated. Gets the job done of teaching a young man how to tie a tie in a delightful way.
Cons: A CD of the song tucked away in a pocket in the back would be a real plus. The paperback version of the book I received doesn't lay flat without really breaking the spine or bending pages. An instructional book would be better served if it would lay flat.

GIVEAWAY: The author is graciously providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers.  This would be especially nice to help that little boy in your life learn to tie a tie. Begins April 28 & ENDS May 14 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of How to Tie A Tie with the Rabbit & the Fox in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"America's Lost Dream" by Tom Dooley & illustrated by Bill Looney

About the book:  Throughout this nation's history, many of its greatest leaders believed that America's future was inextricably linked to America's faith in God. This mighty nation, now known as The United States of America, was born from the dream of people who envisioned a sovereign state where people could be free and only God would be their king.

This dream of “One Nation Under God” would mean freedom from the rule of human monarchs and tyrants, but would also extol a large price for these original “founders” of this great country. Nothing short of a miracle, the dream prevailed and this new nation came to be. But slowly, a long season of spiritual apathy crept over the land like a fog. The dream was forgotten and the nation's relationship with benevolent God extinguished.

This intriguing and artful book will re-awaken the original dream within the hearts of young and old alike. Filled cover to cover with exquisite artwork depicting the original scenes, along with in-depth historical facts woven throughout, this book will enlighten and educate all to the wonderful and rich history of this “One Nation Under God.”

My thoughts:  Being a some-what history buff, this little book was a pleasure and privilege to read.  It might be considered a children's book and as such would give a brief lesson in the struggles over the years that America has gone through to pursue its dream of freedom.  But it might also be considered a "coffee table" book in that it is pretty, has nice pictures, and easy to read text.  But my take is that it is simply a good book.  A book that addresses the beginning journey toward the dream of freedom for a people oppressed because of their religious beliefs.  But the book takes us on into the future with the dream for America and that is that "the timeless principals of faith in God and love of country and our fellow man. People with strong faith make good citizens..... We need national leaders who will call us back to the dream." 

From the opening pages where William Brewster drafted the Mayflower Compact to settle the differences of those aboard the Mayflower prior to going ashore to settle the land and on to the continued war with England and the battle in 1814 at Ft. McHenry where the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner moved Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our National Anthem. Then through the Civil War where one race fought to free another race from the chains and bonds of slavery and on to the infamous 9/11 tragedy that befell our Nation.  The story of the American dream of freedom has moved on, and what has moved it has been the feet, lives, words, and faith of the people.

I heartily recommend this little book for libraries (home, public, and school) and for people of all ages to read.  True there is a strong Christian emphasis in the book but it speaks to the freedom of the American people and how it was won for each of us.  

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of America's Lost Dream from New Leaf Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"The Hidden Son" by Dianna T.Benson (Review & Giveaway)

About the book:  When U.S. DEA Special Agent Lelisa Desmond refuses to follow an order to bury evidence in a high profile case, her superior hires a hit man to kill her deep in the ocean off Grand Cayman Island. Lelisa survives the first attempt on her life, but someone close to her is mistakenly murdered in her place.

With no one to trust, Lelisa enlists Inspector Alec Dyer for help but learns she's his number one suspect in the scuba diving homicide.  She sets off on a daring mission to bring down the man who ordered her execution. A man in a high position, with powerful friends. A man who will stop at nothing to silence her forever in order to hide his son’s crimes.
My thoughts:  I am simply amazed that a first published novel can be so enthralling, engrossing, engaging, and exciting as The Hidden Son is.  Dianna T. Benson has taken us from the beauty of the Cayman Isles to the depths (pun intended) of diving into the devious and destructive world of murder and mayhem.  We're speaking of hit men who are law enforcement officers and who are working at the beck and call of real power players in law enforcement.

Agent Lelisa is on the run to preserve her life and tagging along, much to her consternation, is Cayman Isles Inspector Alex.  Who can Lelisa trust? Who can Alex trust? Can they trust each other? Where does all this murder and mayhem originate? Who is behind it all? What is behind it all?

Attempts on Lelisa's life get her running from the Caymans back to home in Raleigh, North Carolina.  But is isn't easy. Trouble is following her and pursuing her.  There is intense action in The Hidden Son and the story is multi-layered.  Inspector Alex is grieving the loss of his 16 year old daughter who went missing two years prior on his watch as detective at the FLPD. When he was removed from the force and the case he moved to the Caymans. Lelisa is grieving the loss of her friend and (sometime) boyfriend, Rick, who died in the diving accident at the beginning of the story.

This is a faith based story that does not preach. In crisis, Alex shares prayer and faith in God with Lelisa in a limited way. But it is effective. And then I especially enjoyed the EMT action in the story and know that the author is writing from her personal experience as an EMT herself. Benson has created believable characters and dialogue that smacks right at the heart of the story.

Since I'm from North Carolina, when they were running around Raleigh, Durham, and I-40 and I-440 I could envision the neighborhoods. I've shopped in Raleigh, worked and shopped in Durham. I could mentally visualize the chase.  I've been to the hospital and walked its corridors.  The author wrote beautifully of the Caymans and of North Carolina.  (And yes, as Alex observes, North Carolina has lots of trees and flowers!)

I anticipate reading more from Dianna T. Benson as the other two books in this Cayman Islands Triology are released. It has been a pleasure to read this book and review it. I hope to be a reviewer for Dianna T. Benson in the future!

GIVEAWAY:  Dianna T. Benson has gracious provided a giveaway copy of her first book, The Hidden Son, for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win.  So here is how to do it.  Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  Begins April 9 and ENDS May 1 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. 
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About the author: See Dianna's guest blog here on Chat With Vera by clicking HERE.
Visit the author's website: www.diannatbenson.com
DISCLOSURE: I was provided an uncorrected ARC of The Hidden Son in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Romance the fragrance - "Heart" from Garden Botanika (Review and Giveaway -USA & Canada)

It is such a privilege to be able to share with you products of quality and that I have used myself.  The Garden Botanika folks have again graciously sent me their best selling fragrance just in time for Mother's Day, Spring, and Graduation presents.  Or for just one of those "any time" gifts to a special someone or to one's self for a bit of self-indulgence.

As we approach Mother's Day when we think sweet and lovely thoughts of one of, if not, the most important person in our lives, we think of getting a little something to show our love and appreciation.  Well, "Heart" by Garden Botanika might be just the thing.  They actually have a special Mother's Day package of a variety of the "Heart" products - includes 5 full sized favorites lotions, body cleansers, etc. and the little Travel Candle.

In the picture below, you will see the little lit candle in the Heart fragrance.  It is nice and subtle and romantic.  It is called a Travel Candle, but I think it is an "anywhere" candle.  There is also a small "hanging tag" with the fragance of Heart as well.  You can hang anywhere you want a bit of freshness with a touch of fragrance.  Closet, office, car.  And of course, you can see the full-size bottle of Heart Eau de Parfume.

So this time around, we'll looking at self-indulgent, romantic fragrance from Garden Botanika - home of products manufactured in the USA that  are cruelty free. 

Such a lovely way to give a gentle fragrance to your home.  I know you can purchase room fresheners and fragrant candles just about everywhere, but Garden Botanika has unique products that are a joy to use or to give.  Their complete line is awesome - skin care, fragrances, even a few home items.

Heart Eau de Parfum
Garden Botanika's most popular selling fragrance. A light, sheer breeze of fragrance to refresh you throughout the day. Heart fragrance blends the sheer scent of florals with tones of cedar, citrus and a hint of musk. 3.38 fl. oz.

Free of Parabens, Gluten and Phthalates.$28.00

I wonder if perhaps these three Garden Botanika self-indulgent or gift-perfect products are "calling to you" to be the products for yourself or someone else.
GIVEAWAY - Open in USA & Canada:  Thanks to Garden Botanika, one Chat With Vera reader in the United States or Canada will win a package of the same fragrance products valued at over $30  https://www.gardenbotanika.com!  Garden Botanika will ship the winner's prize.  Details:  Begins April 21 and ENDS May 9 at 12:01 a.m. EDT and is open in US only.
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NOTE: Garden Botanika products have been reviewed three times now on Chat With Vera. I find these naturally based products very good and heartily recommend them.  All fragrances do not suit every individual.  Each must choose that which appeals most to themselves.  Products in this review are specifically fragrant in nature for individual use and for the home.

DISCLOSURE:  Garden Botanika provided these three products free of charge for me to sample, review, and post on Chat With Vera in exchange for my honest opinion.  All opinions expressed are my own.  All product information is garnered from the https://www.gardenbotanika.com website.  I was not compensated further for this.  Please note that Garden Botanika ships only to the US and Canada.

"A Nobel Groom" by Jody Hedlund (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780764210471
Paperback $14.99
About the book: Time and place - Michigan, 1880 
Annalisa Werner's hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That'll be enough. A marriage for love...that's something she's given up on. 
So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher-or so he says. He's looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives. 
With time running out, she accepts his help, but there's more to this man than he's admitting. He's also gentle, kind, charming-unlike any man she's ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.   

My thoughts: This was an interesting read giving insight into the plight of immigrants to the United States in 1880.  Noble Groom specifically involves German immigrants seeking a new and better life free from the overlords and virtual enslavement of 1880 Germany and Europe.  They initially came to work in the mines, but when that did not work out, they took advantage of the opportunity to establish farms on cheap land from which trees had been harvested.  The land was filled with debris and tree stumps which made clearing the land and farming it formidable.

Determined to make this opportunity work and live as free men who owned their own land, they banded together into "communities."  In our story,  the heroine is left by the death of her husband to make her land pay so the debt can be paid off within the allotted time.  She is expecting a baby.  The community leaders meet and determine that a groom will be sent from Germany to marry her, further clear and farm the land, and pay off the debt with earnings from the land.  She has no voice in her plight.

Indicative of the culture of the time, women were simply helpers and breeders.  Their life was hard. Most were unloved; or if loved, the love was not expressed in any comforting way.

At the same time that the "selected groom" is suppose to arrive from Germany,  another man of gentle, noble ways arrives.  Carl is not hardened by life nor is his body hardened to hard, manual labor.  He protests when a marriage to Annalisa is immediately initiated upon his arrival by community leaders.  After making the mistaken identity known to the community, he does, however, agree to work the farm for her in exchange for his room and board. 

This is an interesting read from a historical standpoint as well as relaxing and enjoyable. I found the characters believable and well developed and the story line easy to follow.  The sweet romance was another plus and was presented in a wholesome way. I was again delighted to read another of Jody Hedlund's books and look forward to future works by her.

GIVEAWAY: A giveaway copy has graciously been provided and will bless one of Chat With Vera's readers.  Just use the Rafflecopter entry form to enter.  Begins April 20 & ENDS May 7 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA mainland residents only.
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About the Author:  Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. Litfuse Publicity Group provided the copy on behalf of the publisher, Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group, and the author, Jody Hedlund. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care - Review, Sweepstakes, Giveaway

 If you've been housekeeping many years, you will recall the deodorizing and "cleaning" blocks that used to hang by a wire hanger in your toilet bowl or either in the tank at the back.  Frankly, I thought they stunk. I didn't think they did a job of cleaning at all.  And sometimes that wire would leave black marks on the porcelain of the toilet. That was NOT GOOD!  So I simply didn't use them. I relied on various other cleaners as well as straight bleach to clean and disinfect the toilet bowl.

The good folks at Soft Scrub have come up with an innovative bowl cleaner, refresher, and "sparkler." Now there is Soft Scrub 4-In-1 Toilet Care. It is a rim hanger that uses a plastic hanger, and the product that actually does the work is in 4 little balls held in a plastic cage. So each time your toilet flushes, a little bit of the product disperses into the bowl helping you keep it nice and sparkly and clean.  I don't sense a fragrance when I am in the room, but if you held the product up close, you could and it is pleasant.  Now some product bits of information:
  • 2 Types: 1 has bleach (Alpine Fresh) and 1 does not have bleach (Sapphire Waters)
  • Cleans toilets
  • Prevents future buildup
  • Fights toilet bowl ring
  • Freshens up to 4 weeks
  • Is NOT expensive
  • Does NOT leave "blue water" in the toilet bowl!

GIVEAWAY:  I have been provided coupons to offer as a giveaway so that one of Chat With Vera's readers can also have the opportunity to acquire this product.  Entries are via Rafflecopter. Begins April 20 and ENDS April 30 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA mainland residents only.
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Disclosure: As a Purex Insider and representative of various brands, I received a free product of Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care to evaluate and provide my honest opinion. I received no compensation for this post. Coupons for the giveaway were also provided by Purex Insiders

"Captain McFinn and Friends" DO THE RIGHT THING (Review & Giveaway)

I am so very delighted to welcome my very talented youngest daughter as guest blogger today as she reviews the Captain McFinn and Friends series of books, sing-along-CD, activity books, and stickers that were provided for her to share with her 4 young ladies.  She homeschools her girls and it is just a joy to watch her as a young mother interact with her girls.  So without further from me, let's hear from Becky..........
Childhood is a wonderful, magical time.  Children have an ability to imagine unique and beautiful worlds where they can play for hours.  Unfortunately, there are times that the real world is a harsh place.  There are bullies that populate schools and playgrounds, and their actions and words can leave lasting scars on the hearts of the children around them.
Phyllis Cafaro has created an interactive undersea world where children can safely dive into learning about friendship, respect, forgiveness, and working together for the good of others.  The stories of Captain McFinn and friends encourage children to live lives that display kindness and bravery.  The Captain McFinn series of books also features a sing-a-long cd, apps, and an activity book with stickers and a variety of activities.  

My girls have called the series “lots of fun,” and their favorite character is the beautiful undersea princess named Coral Rose.  Each book also includes Fun Finn Facts, where kids can learn more about our incredible world. 

In what may be the best line of the stories, Captain McFinn says, “Doing the right thing when we’re scared is the bravest thing of all!”  In a world where children face bullies and we are all heartbroken by the shock of tragedies such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, this is a perfect reminder for kids and adults alike to stand up for others – to race to the aid of those who are hurting – even when we are afraid.  

Yes, Captain McFinn, doing the right thing when you are scared really is the bravest thing of all!

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GIVEAWAY: The author, Phyllis Cafaro, has graciously agreed to share some of the Captain McFinn books and materials for one of Chat With Vera's readers.  Just follow the Rafflecopter entry instructions. Begins April 19 & ENDS May 9 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA continental addresses only.

DISCLOSURE: All Captain McFinn books and materials were sent to the reviewer by the author in exchange for an honest review. Prize for giveaway is also provided by the author. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. 

"Betsy's Day at the Game" by Greg Bancroft and Illustrated by Katherine Blackmore (Review & Giveaway)

It's baseball season, and also time to read a bit about the game! This time around, we'll read Betsy's Day at the Game and see what Betsy and Grandpa are up to.

About the book:  Betsy's Day at the Game is the heartwarming story about family traditions and America's favorite pastime. Betsy loves spending time with her grandfather, especially at the ballpark. Today is another game day, and she is ready to show her grandpa all that she has learned about keeping score. Betsy can keep track of it all--foul balls, home runs, and favorite players--but more exciting things are about to happen at today's game than just what's on her scorecard. The book even includes a full scorecard (with more available online). As John Coy, author of Top of the Order and the 4 for 4 series said, "This book celebrates the ways baseball is passed down through generations. Young fans will connect with Betsy and also learn how to keep score." For parents, grandparents, and especially baseball lovers, what could be better?

My thoughts:  Family dynamics have changed dramatically in the last 50 or 60 years here in America. The ties of generations interacting have diminished or vanished. Respect and love for grandparents and other other relatives has taken a back seat, and we as a nation and world have suffered from this loss.  It is very encouraging to see a charming book that shows a young girl connected so well to her grandfather.  There is most definitely love and respect.  There is the sharing of his knowledge and experience to a granddaughter.  And there is the occasion to experience a much anticipated and welcome day out together.  Now let's actually see a bit into the story....

Betsy and her Grandpa head out to the baseball game and Betsy is delighted to see the amazing ball diamond and stadium.  As the game begins she and Grandpa talk about the team members and their positions, and the way to call a ball, strike, a foul, or out. And how to keep score of each of these events.  Frankly, not being sports minded myself, it was a bit confusing to me. But Betsy and Grandpa seemed to really enjoy themselves doing this.

The game progresses and surprise of surprises! Betsy catches one of the balls!  But that is not the end of the game.  Grandpa insists it isn't over until it's over.  So they stay until the end taking home their happiness and enjoyment with spending the day together, learning about the game, and catching the ball.

A big part of this little book is learning to record and keep score during a baseball game. I found this an interesting concept and one that will appeal to many folks. I found the illustrations lovely and the characters pictured filled with passion for the game.


-A short video on scoring by Greg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz4RR-UcrNs
-Link to downloadable additional scorecards:  http://betsyscorecard.scarlettapress.com/

Scarletta Kids Publishing is providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. Begins April 20 and ENDS May 6 at 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA residents only.
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Disclosure: Scarletta Kids Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Betsy's Day at the Game in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"This Is Our Time" movie DVD (review & giveaway)

About This Is Our Time:  The movie tells the interwoven stories of Luke (T.J. Dalrymple) and Alé (Erin Bethea), who marry right after school and move to India to serve as missionaries for Embrace A Village, a ministry that cares for those afflicted with leprosy and their families; aspiring financier Catherine (Kate Cobb), who joins a prestigious financial institution determined to make an impact on corporate America; Ryder (Matthew Florida), who lands an impressive job in social media and can’t wait to use the powerful medium for a greater good; and Ethan (Shawn-Caulin Young,) seemingly the odd man out, who struggles to find his God-given-purpose and feels sidelined by God.
    “What they all come to learn is that it never really was their time,” Arnold said. “It always was, always is, God’s time.”

Review:  This is a really nice movie about the lives of five college students who have high dreams upon graduation from college.  It will make you laugh and cry, but reminds us that we all have a purpose and that God alone shows and directs that purpose.  We just have to be willing to obey and then follow.

It also reminded me that although many of us may have had similar "high dreams" upon graduating high school or college, those dreams may not have come to fruition -- it doesn't mean that God still can't use us for His purpose and His Time.

Although it may seem like a low budget film, it is well worth watching and can easily be watched with the family.  No need to worry about inappropriate content.  (rev. P.Howard)

GIVEAWAY: Chat With Vera readers have the opportunity to enter for a random giveaway based on entries in the Rafflecopter form below.  Begins April 16 and Ends May 1 at 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA continental entries only.
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This Is Our Time presented by Pure Flix.  Releases on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, April 16. It will be available nationwide at Family Christian Stores and most Christian online and brick-and-mortar retail stores nationwide
    Website: http://www.christiancinema.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4565
"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

"Stress Test" by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: 
They may not have enough evidence to convict him, but they have enough to ruin his life.

Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. But the kidnappers who attacked him as he left his last shift in the ER have no such plans-they just want him dead. Bound and in the trunk of his car, Matt's only thought is escape. He does so, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU . . . where he awakens to discover he's being charged with murder.

Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors. But when Matt calls, she knows she can't walk away from defending someone who is truly innocent.

Matt's career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he's a murderer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth-and the faith to keep going-will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

My thoughts:  In the book market you will find a number of successful authors who write in the medical thriller genre.  Authors who are doctors and can write with authority from a medical standpoint.  However, if you prefer to limit yourself to reading works written by Christians, your selection begins to shrink.  Awhile back I saw that a retired physician (and his picture looks the epitome of a gentle, kindly family doctor) was now in the playing field of physicians who write medical thrillers published by Christian publishing houses.  I could hardly wait to get my hands on his new book, Stress Test.  His name is Dr. Richard L. Mabry. 

I was not disappointed because from the first page, the author caught my attention with dynamic and fast moving action.  This work is not a stroll through the halls of some grand research hospital or the vying for attention by some cute nurse for that handsome, intelligent, and wealthy doctor.  No, this tale involves a kidnapping, attempted murder, emergency room action, skilled surgery, doctors and lawyers, and  a variety of characters from the shady side of life. It is written with skill and will draw the reader right into the
unfolding drama.  Dr. Mabry writes with the authority of an experienced and skilled surgeon without the mumbo-jumbo of an overtly medical expose.

The main character, Dr. Matt Newman, awakens from being kidnapped to find himself accused of murder. The story follows his and his attorney's struggle to exonerate him of charges and stay alive in the process.  Through these trials, Matt finds himself being drawn back to the faith of his childhood. 

I found the characters well developed and interesting and the story plot exciting, suspenseful, and medically interesting.

This is a fast paced, enjoyable read that I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to review.  I look forward to future books by Dr. Mabry and hope to be among his select reviewers.

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GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers will be the recipient of a copy of Stress Test by Dr. Richard L. Mabry courtsey of Litfuse Publicity Group. Just enter using the Rafflecopter entry form below (please be patient if it is a bit slow to load). Begins April 16 ENDS May 6 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT.

About the author: A retired physician, Dr. Richard Mabry is the author of four critically acclaimed novels of medical suspense. His previous works have been finalists for the Carol Award and Romantic Times Reader's Choice Award, and have won the Selah Award. He is a past Vice-President of American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of the International Thriller Writers. He and his wife live in North Texas. Visit his website at http://www.rmabry.com

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Stress Test was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author and publisher, Thomas Nelson to facilitate my honest review without obligatory constraints for a positive report. The giveaway copy is provided courtesy of Litfuse and will be mailed by Litfuse directly to the Chat With Vera winner. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Noah Webster: Father of the Dictionary" by Isabel Proudfit

Comment: This biography for young readers was originally published in 1942.  It is truly encouraging to see it reprinted and available to students.  Noah Webster was an exciting figure in the early days of American history.  And of course, he is really known for probably his greatest achievement  was most likely the The American Dictionary. (Vera)

Review: This student biography, “Noah Webster Father of the Dictionary” by Isabel Proudfit is well written and an enjoyable read for upper elementary and middle grade students.   The author presents the life of Webster as it is woven into the fabric of a young America and the growing pains that were experienced in that time.

Webster’s life is a wonderful example of what a person can do when they accept their strengths and use them to their best ability.  This is not a picture of an easy life, but a life of determination to make a difference.  The author uses clear language to lead the reader on the journey of Webster’s life in an interesting fashion that draws the reader into the time period.  Middle school readers will enjoy the details of everyday life of a child, while at the same time learning about the history of America.

The vocabulary is interesting with words unfamiliar to us today but commonly used in the day of Webster. I would recommend this as a fun read for both boys and girls.  (rev.Claudette Delorge, Librarian)
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for our honest review from BookCrash on behalf of the publisher. Opinions expressed are solely our own.

"Love at Any Cost: A Novel (The Heart of San Francisco)" by Julie Lessman

Paperback $14.99
ISBN-13: 978-0800721671
Release: April 15, 2013
About the book: Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west. But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself bucked by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can't buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?

With delectable descriptions and a romantic sensibility, bestselling author Julie Lessman brings the Gilded Age to life in this sumptuous new series. Readers will faithfully follow Lessman to the West Coast for more romance, passion, and surprising revelations found in Love at Any Cost. (from amazon.com)

My thoughts:  Travel back to San Francisco of 1902 - just 110 years ago - and visit still vibrant landmarks of the city that still stand and you can still enjoy.  I've dined in the Cliff House, seen the trolleys, visited the Embarquadero, whiffed the fragrant salt air, seen the bay.  San Francisco is a beautiful and memorable place to visit or live.  That is if you have the funds to do so.  Living in San Francisco in 1902 as a pauper along the Barbary Coast was to live a condemned life itself.  The hero of our story, Jamie, was born to an unwed mother and spent his early years living along the Barbary Coast.  A determined boy, his goal was to scrabble his way out of poverty and into a life of the privileged along Nob Hill. And so he did.  As our story begins, he has completed his schooling and has a degree in law.  He is pals with two young men with connections to one of the most wealthy and influential families in San Francisco. At this point in his life he is seeking a wife amongst the wealthy with political connections.  He plans to make it to Nob Hill.

The McClare clan has cousins political connections, money, and a matriarchal head (Caitlyn) who is the widow of a McClare brother. Another McClare brother, Logan, is now the patriarchal head and an influential attorney in the City. Jamie is now a fledgling member of Logan's law firm.

Upon this scene, a McClare cousin from Texas visits.  Cassidy is a spunky, God loving, young woman who is recovering from being spurned by a young man in Texas who leaves her when he finds out that her father's oil wells have gone dry. And Cassidy is all tomboy cowgirl!

Julie Lessman has woven a delectable story of power and poverty, of people and privilege.  The characters are true to life, interesting, and captivating to the reader.  Jamie is a young man that drives for what he wants - marriage to privilege, power, and prestige.  He passionately woes Cassidy (a bit too passionately for my taste).  Cassidy keeps pushing him to distance  himself (arms distance) and just stay "friends." No "courtship" until Jamie turns his heart and life over to God and becomes a man of faith. This is primary to Cassidy in her standard for marriage. She refuses to marry a man whose heart does not belong to God so they can share their faith.

Not all goes well because assumptions prevail as to the wealth of each character.  But when the truth is out, the story takes on another twist.  However, the twist at the end is even more intriguing than I could imagine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and enjoyed traipsing along San Francisco and environs.  I would prefer a bit less in the passion department.  For Christian fiction, I think we can have characters who don't grope, snuggle, or kiss each other so passionately.  The story was very good.  I'd love to read more in "The Heart of San Francisco" series, but I would encourage Julie Lessman to tone down the passion a bit.

A bit of information on the notorious Barbary Coast: http://www.ask.com/wiki/Barbary_Coast,_San_Francisco?o=2800&qsrc=999

About the Author: Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of "Passion with a Purpose" underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as "Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction." Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers' Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #5 Novel of the Year, and #4 Historical Fiction Author of the year. She resides in Missouri with her family and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series and the Winds of Change series whose first book, A Hope Undaunted, ranked #5 on Booklist's Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.

DISCLOSURE: I was given a complimentary copy of Love at Any Cost in exchange for my honest re view by Revell a Division of Baker Publishing Group. Opinions expressed are solely my own. Book synopsis was taken from the Revell website.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"The Heiress of Winterwood: Book One in the Whispers On the Moors series" by Sarah Ladd (Review & Giveaway)

If you are a fan of Jane Austen and Jane Erye, you will love Sarah E. Ladd's debut. The Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance (contest for previously unpublished works) and is sure to be enjoyed by all historical romance fans!
About the book:  Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend's baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word-even to the point of proposing to the child's father-a sea captain she's never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.

Amelia's detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she's forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.

Graham's strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.

Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them.

My thoughts: Welcome to the world of the wealthy English heiress of 1814 - independent, spunky, and non-traditional yet trapped in a relationship with her guardian aunt and uncle who are trying to make certain she marries a man they find suitable based on a business arrangement but who the heiress considers mean, unworthy, and deceitful.

Factor in the young child (toddler) that Amelia (the Heiress) has promised her friend, the child's deceased mother, to protect and raise as her own, and you have an interesting story.  You see, the potential groom doesn't want the child.

Now the child's father, a well-established second son who did not inherit property but went to sea as a young lad, has returned as a highly successful Captain.  He has never seen his child.

Sarah Ladd is a new author on the landscape of Christian fiction and she has written beautiful scenes filled with believable characters.  You feel immersed in the historical period and begin to understand the societal mores of the time that constrain the behavior and actions of the characters. I found ­­­­­­Amelia to be a lady of strong Christian beliefs and character.

This is book one in the new "Whispers On The Moors" series.  I look forward to reading Sarah Ladd's next book in this series.

GIVEAWAY: One Chat With Vera reader is going to be blessed to receive their own copy of "The Heiress of Winterwood" in a random selection from entries using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins April 13 and ENDS April 29 at 12:01 EDT. Open to USA mainland residents only.

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Author bio: 
Every word has a melody.
Every sentence has a rhythm. 
This truth has intrigued me since my early years. Even before I fully understood the meaning behind many of the words, I devoured literature and consumed poetry.

Austen, Alcott, Wordsworth: I left no piece of literature untouched, left no author unexamined. I continue to see magic in how a word is transformed by the word next to it and how written thoughts can incite emotion and evoke change.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary in exchange for my honest review from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher, Thomas Nelson and the author Sarah Ladd. Opinions expressed are solely my own and a positive review was not required or expected.