Saturday, August 31, 2013

"The Icecutter's Daughter" by Tracie Peterson

In Tracie Peterson's Land of Shining Water series, the settlers of the Great Lake area which were primarily Scandinavian or Germanic folk have their stories told. In The Icecutter's Daughter you'll meet hard working Scandinavians who work Belgium horses and cut huge blocks of ice from the frozen lakes for shipping to parts of the United States.  This is a hard, rough life and takes both brain and brawn.  The Icecutter's Daughter is Merrill Krause who is the only female remaining in her hardworking icecutting family. She grew up without the influence of a mother and works right along with the men at the hard work. But she also does the cooking, sewing, and other household chores. She has not courted and no one is in sight for the role of husband.

Rurik Jorgenson decides he does not wish to marry the bride chosen by his now deceased father in an agreement with her father and he decides to leave his hometown and go to work for his uncle in the furniture making business rather than farm his father's land.  And this uncle lives in a town near where the family of Merrill Krause live. Inevitably the two cross paths and their lives begin to become intertwined.

But all is not well. The "jilted" bride of Rurik arrives on the scene and charges are made that challenge the virtue and integrity of Rurik.

I found the story interesting because I know very little of that portion of American history and very little of the way the Scandinavians who settled our Country thought and lived and how hard they worked. Learning from the research of an author such as Tracie Peterson is enjoyable and interesting.  The storyline itself is sweet and somewhat predictable. It was a relaxing and good read and is one I can recommend. You do see characters of strong faith and you see other characters who will lie and deceive just to get their way.

Now let's see a little real history of icecutting..... This is an interesting article.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of The Icecutter's Daughter from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

"Shoah: Journey From the Ashes - A Personal Story of Triumph Over the Holocaust" by Canto Leo Fettman

My thoughts: This is a small book. Only 200 pages. It begins with a synoptic history of the persecution of the Jewish peoples from early times - in fact over 2,000 years. The continued persecution and disbursement of the Jewish peoples throughout history were fodder for the unsettled economic times of pre-World War II Germany and the rise of the Nazi party and its leader Adolph Hitler.

What happened prior to and during WWII shouldn't have happened. There were many red flags but folks simply looked out for themselves and turned away from the obvious.

Cantor Fettman recounts his and his family's personal story of that period of devastating history. He lost so many and so much. But he was not alone in his loss - there were 6 million Jewish souls lost to history. Also, there were 5 million others consumed by the flames of Nazi terror and hatred.

Cantor Fettman writes in Chapter 17, page 193.....
Am I a bitter old Jew? No. Old, perhaps, and hopefully wiser, but not bitter. Still, there are many ways in which the Holocaust affected, and continues to affect, my life. My war experiences left me damaged both emotionally and physically. I have frequent nightmares. Due to lingering feelings of insecurity, I keep all the shades drawn and avoid sitting on the aisle at the theater. I go to great lengths to avoid a sense of being unnecessarily exposed.

For religious reasons, my head is always covered with a yarmulke, yet I am never without a hat or a cap to cover the yarmulke when I am out in public. I still harbor the fear of anti-Semitism from my youth, more so because it is increasingly around us today.

There is the memory of gnawing hunger that returns still. Holocaust survivors often will take small bags of food when leaving home, even if just for a few hours. ..................

Not one week goes by that I do not dream that I am still in a concentration camp...............
Read the above out loud and slowly. Let it sink in. Let the horror of the events experienced by those who lived and died in the holocaust resonate in your being.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Shoah from Six Points Press to facilitate my honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Crunchmaster Kids Crisps: Cheezy Crisps, Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps, & Multi-Grain Sea Salt Crisps (Review & Giveaway)

It's that time of year again. BACK-TO-SCHOOL. And that means BACK-TO-PACKING-LUNCHES for the Mommies in the crowd (oops! Let's not forget the Dad's that have lunch packing duties, too.) And for some of you lunch-packers there are big issues at stake. You have a kid that needs to eat a gluten free diet. Or you have a kid with peanut allergies. Or you specifically want to watch out for GMOs. Well, the good folks at CrunchMaster have you in mind. Not only for the grownups that need gluten free products, but the little ones, too.
So in their delicious line of gluten free crackers, the good folks at Crunchmaster have added Kids Crisps. These include "Cheezy Crisps" and "Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps." They are certified gluten free and baked in a peanut free facility.

On top of all that good news, they TASTE GOOD. Mom won't complain. Dad won't complain. And the kids won't complain (well, most won't anyway).

Crunchmaster sent me a small box of Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps, Cheezy Crisps, and Multi-Grain Crisps with Sea Salt.  And my hubby and I have thoroughly enjoyed this blessing. They are delicious, crisp, and a snack you can trust.

The Multi-Grain Crisps with Sea Salt (pictured here) are absolutely delicious - eaten alone or nibbled with a cup of tea.

Let's see what they are all about....
  • Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps are the perfect mix of crunchy and sweet with just the right touch of cinnamon.

    100% Whole Grain
    Saturated Fat Free
    Cholesterol Free
    Certified Gluten Free
    Peanut Free
  • There's nothing better than the savory taste of cheddar cheese and crispy Crunchmaster crackers.

    100% Whole Grain
    Saturated Fat Free
    Cholesterol Free
    Certified Gluten Free
    Peanut Free
    Crunchmaster cares so much about you and your family that they have some great resources to share with parents.  Just CLICK HERE to access some nifty recipes and facts.  Why they even have a $1 coupon for you and you can register for more information at: COUPON.
Read my earlier review of Crunchmaster multi-grain snack crackers. You'll see why I am happy for the kids to get some they can enjoy, too.
GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers will receive a 6-pack sampler of these crackers as a treat and blessing. You just have to follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below.  Begins August 30 & ENDS September 23 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to continental US only.
Thank you for visiting Chat With Vera.
Come back again!
DISCLOSURE:  CrunchMaster provided 3 sample boxes of crackers for me to review and render my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.  No compensation was given for this post.

"Unlimited" by Davis Bunn

ISBN-13: 9781433679407
Published by B & H Publishing
Softcover $14.99
About the book: Simon Orwell is trapped in a web of danger and deception. Responding to a call from his former professor who's developed an instrument that can create unlimited energy, he travels across the border--- and learns his mentor has been murdered! Can he discover the secrets to the world-changing device---and the identity of its creator's killers?

My thoughts:  I have read several of Davis Bunn's books and usually thoroughly enjoy them. "Unlimited"  took a bit for me to get into it and enjoy. It seemed that we had Simon Orwell, a somewhat dysfunctional individual wandering around in Mexico getting into one mess after another. Frankly, it is unsafe for him to be where he is and you get to wondering why he doesn't simply just pack it all up and go home.

And then the story begins to come together. You understand some of the characters a bit more. You begin to realize that there is a lot at stake. You also begin to see Simon as not just a sinful, dysfunctional individual, but as a brilliant scientist that also has a soul needing the unlimited forgiveness that God's grace provides.

The invention he and his former professor have worked on will provide unlimited power, but that is nothing to the unlimited grace that is offered by God.  This is a story of forgiveness as well as a struggle between lawless men and those who seek to live by the law.

GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers will have the opportunity to receive a copy of Unlimited. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below.  Begins August 30 & ENDS September 18 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook" by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN 13: 9780310330837
Softcover $14.99
Now "Why?" I ask you would a lady-of-a-certain-age who has raised five children, married them off, and fed their offspring (13 of them) agree to review a COOKBOOK???? Do I NEED another cookbook? Am I REALLY interested in ANOTHER cookbook? Well, the answer to all of those is NO! But then there is the teaser.......

and the LOVE that BINDS THEM."

That, folks, puts it in a different category altogether.  Authors Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph spill the beans (oops! that would be a kitchen mess, wouldn't it?) and share some heart (theirs, of course) as well as ways to cook some good old standbys and some new taste treats. Let's see.

First of all, these two ladies have a great sense of humor. As they tandem write the pages of this "cookbook," the situations they have found themselves in will tickle your funny bone and then tantalize your taste buds.

Becky and Rachel recount the wondrous event of daughter's first pregnancy.  All the ups and downs, the emotional rollercoaster, and then especially the occasion when Rachel goes to purchase nursing bras. Rachel began as a tiny little young lady and she, like many other ladies nearing the time of giving birth, grew to great proportions. Then at eight months the search for the new lingerie began. Oh what a tale that was. Having birthed five children of my own and having had three of my own daughters go through several pregnancies, this hit a homerun in the field of humor. 

Having a hankering to try one of the recipes these two ladies endorse, I decided to try the meat loaf. The basic meat loaf recipe was very similar to what I always prepare here in my home, the kicker was the topping sauce. I'd never heard of a sweet-tart-tomato sauce topping a meat loaf, so I took the challenge. Now their recipe calls for quality ground beef or bison. But since I have a son that hunts and keeps us all supplied generously with venison, I used that instead. It is "free-range" and hormone and antibiotic free which I feel is a great plus. Pictured is my attempt using their recipe and the picture only shows half of the meat loaf (but it is a large platter and the fork is a serving fork). The instructions are to bake it in a 9x13 pan and actually divide it into 4 sections (making 4 smaller loaves).

I was quite pleased with the flavor and texture of the meatloaf.  You blend the ingredients prior to mixing with the ground beef. The sweet and spicy sauce was very good and I enjoyed the way the salsa, ketchup, and sugar blended to tantalize my taste buds. 

What this book is really all about is the sharing of love between a mother and daughter. The joy they experience as they bounce ideas, hopes, dreams, recipes and what-all off each other. Being a mother of three daughters, I too know the joy of being there to love and support when the baby is born (or newborn), cooking for them when they are sick, encouraging them when they lose that lovely slim-me shape for the soon-to-be-a-mom shape. In other words, bonds of mother and daughter are precious and this book gives you a glimpse into the beauty of it.
After reading "We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook" it makes me want to have the opportunity to just run next door (well, if Becky and Rachel lived there) and sit down at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee and chat. I think you'll wish for the same thing once you read their delightful book.

GIVEAWAY:  One autographed copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We cook is being offered as a blessing to one of Chat With Vera's readers from the good folks at Zondervan. Use the Rafflcopter entry form below.  Begins September 1 & ENDS September 21 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US addresses only
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Now just who are these two ladies?.....  
Becky Johnson is the author, co-author or collaborator of more than forty books ranging from family humor to brain science to inspiration and now, memoir. She’s a natural storyteller and spent many years entertaining and inspiring audiences of women. Today she loves getting creative in the kitchen and writes a humorous food blog with her daughter Rachel (

Rachel Randolph writes and speaks about young married life, parenting a toddler, and her and her husband’s unlikely journey to veganism with humor and honesty. She shares a food blog with her mom, Becky Johnson. In their “virtual kitchen” laughter and love are the key ingredients to every dish. Rachel is married to Jared, a high school football and baseball coach.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook  as one of Wendy's Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. An autographed giveaway copy valued at $14.99 is also being provided for one of Chat With Vera's winners compliments Zondervan and authors and will be shipped directly to the winner.  Only one winner per household, email address or home address. If you have won this book on another giveaway, you are ineligible to win another copy. I was under no obligation write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255 regarding the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"An Ordinary Toad’s Extraordinary Night" by Joanne McGonagle & illustrated by Rachael Mahaffey - An introduction to the natural history of amphibians (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 978-0-9890088-0-8
Softcover: $17
About the book: An Ordinary Toad’s Extraordinary Night is the story of a young toad named Andrew, pondering whether his life would be more interesting had he been hatched a frog. Andrew embarks on his first solo hop to ask his grandpa some questions about what it means to be an amphibian. The story is blended with factual information that compares and contrasts the similarities and differences among toads and frogs. A young reader’s curiosity will be piqued as they consider the unique attributes of the individual creatures that make up a species, perhaps sparking the light of conservation in their hearts and minds.

My thoughts:  "An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night" is an introduction to the natural history of amphibians - toads, frogs, bullfrogs, etc. 
Definitionam·phib·i·an  amˈfibēən  Zoology  noun: amphibian; plural noun: amphibians  a cold-blooded vertebrate animal of a class that comprises the frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. They are distinguished by having an aquatic gill-breathing larval stage followed (typically) by a terrestrial lung-breathing adult stage.
Having been written by a zoologist holding a master's degree, the factual information in the book is appreciated. However, sensing that this book is written for younger elementary children, the wordiness, scientific explanations, descriptions, and names could potentially get lost in the reading. Just how much and how elaborate is right for the child to encounter and when or what age? Some children can take a lot of factual detail and for some a little goes a long way. Parental and educator guidance might been helpful as the book is read to or read by the elementary child. Now let's just see what this "toad" story is all about....

Andrew Toad is despairing over the fact that he is an ordinary toad and not a frog or bullfrog as he is being ridiculed by the other amphibians. Mother toad explains to him how he is a valuable individual as an ordinary toad and not to worry. But he prevails upon mother toad to let him visit grandfather toad who has lots of answers. Along the way other critters are met in the dark woods and his encounters are all learning experiences for the critters, toad, and our young readers.

Ultimately, Toad learns that being himself, just an ordinary toad, is important and good. That is a valuable lesson for the reader to take away from the story as well. Ordinary toads are important and each of us is important.

The illustrations are darkly colorful and portray the various critters so that children can enjoy and sense the "feelings."

I can recommend this book and see it can be used as a multi-tasking tool by the parent and educator.
GIVEAWAY: One copy of An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night is being offered by the author to one of Chat With Vera's  readers. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August  26  ENDS September 16 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for US addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway About the author:  Joanne is the author of The Tiniest Tiger children’s book and the award-winning website The Tiniest Tiger’s Conservation Cub Club. Inspired by her cat Gracey, Joanne transitioned from a career in specialty food marketing to writing and studying all cats big and small. She has a Master of Zoology GFP from Miami University and an MBA from Ohio University. She recently spent time in Kenya and Namibia learning about lions and cheetahs.

About the illustrator:  Rachael Mahaffey is an award-winning freelance artist and illustrator located in the historic area of Charleston, South Carolina. She specializes in digital art media, but loves to experiment with new art techniques. Rachael has drawn since early childhood and turned her hobby into her career after graduating from the Art Institute in 2003. She loves to work with authors to make their imaginations come to life.

DISCLOSURE: I was given a complimentary copy by the author in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to write a positive review. The giveaway copy is also provided by the author and will be mailed directly to the winner.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Once Upon a Prince" by Rachel Hauck

After watching the royal British wedding a couple of years ago and reading of other royals marrying in Europe, I wondered just how Rachel Hauck was going to bring a modern Cinderella story to life in the contemporary novel. She brought together Europe and an American Southern coastal island. She was spot-on in her descriptions of coastal life - sand, surf, wind, nostalgia. But back to the story....

This was a very light, easy summer read that has a Prince Charming incognito meeting a just spurned sweetheart of a Southern young lady. It seems that they are instantly drawn to each other, but she being just spurned doesn't really recognize the situation. He being a real prince knows he has restrictions on his future and his future relationships so he maintains a chaste distance. This story has a high level of purity in relationships throughout. (This is much appreciated by this reader as there is too much laxity in today's Christian fiction.)

The prince goes back to his kingdom. The sweet young lady stays on the coast. But then a plot is developed that contrives to bring them together during the coronation of the Prince as King so he can see just how unfit she would be in his social, kingly world. So an invitation is extended and the action begins in earnest.

There is some depth in the story as it examines relationships - boy-girl, parent-child, mother-father, sister-sister, etc.

I enjoyed the book and it was a quick read. This is the second book by Rachel Hauck I've read (The Wedding Dress was the first of hers I read.) I think I would like to read book 2 in the series of royals.

DISCLOSURE: I won my copy on a giveaway at blogger/author's page 

Winter In Full Bloom by Anita Higman (Review & Giveaway)

Anita Higman's "Winter in Full Bloom"

About the book: Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her---a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades---Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.

Without looking back, Lily---with her fear of flying---boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Ausie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.

Review:  I found reading Anita Higman's book a delight. Her skill at crafting the novel and portraying the nuances of a character were right on target!  It was a delight to read as she skillfully maneuvered through the personalities and circumstances to bring out the multilayered story.

Lily Winter has a strained, at best, relationship with her mother. In fact, it has been years since she has visited her. But she garners her strength and resolve and enters the home of her childhood and broaches her mother's presence. Before she has been there long, the untold history of Lily's early childhood is revealed in that there is a twin sister she doesn't know she has. This daunting information places a desire and burden on Lily to find this twin. This causes her to take to the air on wings - and this is unprecedented for Lily as she has a horror of flying and she must literally fly to the ends of the world - Australia.

Broken families. Hurt people. Relationships in dire need of mending. A mid-life romance that blooms. A sister found and loved. Anita Higman skillfully brings the characters through their own personal issues and helps them and others face their fears and shortcomings. This is a delight to read and I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Higman's skillfully written works.

GIVEAWAY: The good folks at Litfuse Publicity Group have agreed to provide a copy as a giveaway to share with my readers and you can try to win it by using the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August 21 & ENDS September 9th  @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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About the author:  Anita Higman  As a best-selling and award-winning author has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. (Full Bio) CBA best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several co-authored) for adults and children, and she has four books coming out in 2013.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provide by Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review. 

On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin (Review & Giveaway)

About On Distant Shores: Caught between the war raging around them and the battles within, two souls long for peace---and a love that remains true.

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson.

Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin weaves an exciting tale of emotion, action, and romance that will leave you wanting more

My thoughts: I found the historical period interesting to read since I was a young child during the time of WWII and my parents, uncles, and grandparents experienced it first hand. Sarah Sundin captured the spirit of the times in that women were feeling they should and could do "their part" in this fight and there was a sheltering aspect to the men to protect women and keep them at home and in their place and not participating in the war effort.

I found of great interest the status of pharmacists, college educated and decreed, who were so under ranked and carried no respect in the military. It was interesting to read the struggle of the pharmacists in the army and the battle at home in congress to recognize them in the military and grant officer status.

The romance that was threaded through the story spoke of the uncertain times. However, it was refreshing to see that the author positively portrayed virtue and steadfastness in relationships.

GIVEAWAY:  The kind folks at Litfuse Publicity Group are graciously providing one of Chat With Vera's readers an opportunity to win a copy of On Distant Shores. Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form to enter. Begins August 21 & ENDS September 9 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US addresses only.
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About the author: Sarah Sundin is the author of "With Every Letter" and the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, A "Memory Between Us" was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards, and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of On Distant Shores from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author and publisher in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alone Yet Not Alone (novelization) by Tracy Leininger Craven (Review & Giveaway US & Canada)

ISBN 13: 9780310730538 
About the book: A true story of an American family. Pioneers in an untamed land, caught between two civilizations, a true test of survival, the ultimate test of faith. An ultimate story of survival. This book is the novelization of the movie by the same title which will release September 27, 2013.

My thoughts: This short book was written with the  middle school or older elementary reader in mind. But a parent must keep in mind when purchasing the book that the story portrays a real event with real horror that some children will find difficulty coming to terms with. It is, however, a true portrayal of a true story and a very real bit of history in the growth and expansion of America. The story begins at the cusp of the French an Indian War.

It opens with a sweet homesteading scene of the Leininger family in the early years of Pennsylvania territory. Then there is the feared Indian raid on the home, the slaughter of family, and the capture of the young daughters. Following is their trek across a vast amount of territory with their Indian captors to the home Indian village. The story portrays harsh Indian behavior as well as some with a more compassionate character. The story also brings out the faith of the young girls that sustained them and how they shared it with their captors.

I found this to be a good read and one that the age for which it is intended can gain a good amount of historical information of the times and peoples of the area in early American history. I highly recommend the book and encourage the publishers to continue publishing books of this nature and caliber.
GIVEAWAY:  A copy of the book Alone Yet Not Alone is being provided to one of Chat With Vera's readers. Begins August 20 & ENDS September 3 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US and Canadian addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from FlyByPromotions on behalf of the publisher ZonderKidz in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.
"Disclosure of Material connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Hooligan Bear - New Friends" by Ian Toynton & Illustrated by Andrea Dietrich (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781601311436
I recently reviewed Hooligan Bear - Home here on Chat With Vera  and what a delight that picture book is. Today we're going to look at the second book in the series Hooligan Bear - New Friends. In book one Hooligan and Louie bear live in an abandoned bear factory atop a shelf that overlooks the street. Well, here in book two, Hooligan and Louie are looking out their window and wonder of wonders they see a large box tumble from a moving truck. Being the curious bears they are, they investigate.

Then the fun begins. Out pops a skateboard and three more bears. Amidst skateboarding, scarf flinging, and fun the three newcomers are welcomed to share the abandoned factory with Hooligan and Louie.

So you see, Hooligan and Louis have new friends and new escapades and new housemates. But you must meet the new friends, too.  They are Scooter, Waldo, and Lenny.

Again the adorable illustrations by Andrea Dietrich capture the loveable, rascally spirit of the bears. The muted primary colors and whimsical drawings will engage the youngest child and make children out of every reader no matter what their age for the sheer delight the story brings.

What will the child learn from this book?  Friendship. Sharing. Enjoying simple things. Caring for others.  I highly recommend the book for homes and libraries.

GIVEAWAY:  This is #2 in 3 Hooligan Bear adventures giveaways spread out over the next few weeks. Each time I review one of the books, I'll host a giveaway for that book.  Today's  book is Hooligan Bear: New Friends and the kind author and illustrator are graciously providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers. You and your kiddie are just going to enjoy this so much! So get moving and enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins August 20 & ENDS September 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
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Soon I'll review book three, so be sure you watch for it. In the meantime you can continue with the adventures weekly following along on Twitter.   
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received by me for the review. The giveaway copy is also provided by them and will be shipped directly to the winner.

"The Candle Classic Bible" Published by Lion Hudson Com. (Bible Stories Retold in 365 Stories)

About the book: With classic illustrations, 365 of the best-loved Bible stories will become favourites for children and parents alike. Old Testament: From the Story of Creation to Isaac, from Joseph to Ruth, from Job to David, from Elisha to the Prophets. New Testament: John the Baptist to the story of Jesus, to the story of the Apostles, to John's Vision of Heaven. Each story is divided into 'easy to read' sections with the day, heading and scripture reference. Children are encouraged to spend family time together reading a new story each day.

Review:  This volume will be a very good addition to the home library where there are children. It will provide a tool to aid in instilling a love of reading God's Word because it puts into understandable story form the various parts of Scripture from Genesis through the New Testament. I would not venture to say that just because a child CAN read the words, he or she should read this book of 365 retelling of Bible stories on their own. It needs parental guidance. But it is an excellent tool.

Each story has a referencing Bible verse or chapter to connect it and to offer parents an opportunity to read it directly from the Bible as well as this volume of retold stories.  Normally in a children's Bible storybook, you get the basic stories that they hear from the time they are very young in Sunday School. This book, though, is more in depth even though the stories are each very short. It covers more ground than your average children's Bible storybook.

The art work is exceptional! Along the lines of traditional or classic with a bit of the cartoon or "illustration" expression tossed in.  The pictures are in color but the color does not overwhelm - there is a muted or earth-tone look to many of the pictures.

I recommend The Candle Classic Bible Retold in 365 Stories for the family with children who have advanced beyond the typical children's storybooks and are ready to begin learning more of what is in the Bible. It is a bridge-work between kiddie books and the actual Bible.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publishing on behalf of Lion Hudson in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rogers Family Organic Coffee Company - Review & Giveaway

Organic Coffee Company consists of 100% organic and shade-grown Arabica beans.
Available in a wide variety of flavors and roasts.
Certified by Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) International. 
Decaffeinated by water extraction process. 
When I wake in the morning, I head for the kitchen, get the coffee maker set up with my "to-go-to-coffee" and press the "go" button to get the day started. Once it brews, I settle in with the coffee and my computer to catch up on the news of the day and emails and generally relax and savor the moment. If I have time (Translation: If I got out of beds on time and didn't fall back to sleep), I drink all 24 oz. of the brew. If not, I gulp (oops, I savor as fast as possible) half and put the other half in my "to-go" cup and hit the road.

Coffee that is good needs to be savored but sometimes we need to move our feet into the get-along shoes and move it out the door. But still we need to have a good cup of java that we can drink slow or drink fast. I learned a few years back, that good coffee is worth the difference in price. I want flavor. I want some bite to it but I don't want it bitter. I want it smooth. In essence I want something like the Organic Coffee Company provides its customers. So I was delighted when given the opportunity to sample four of their products. Do I like them all? Well, I have favorites and I have doeables but less liked. So according to my taste testing, here goes.....

Coffees I received.  Did you notice
they are all ORGANIC COFFEE!
  • Organic French Roast, This is a strong, roast that opens the eyes and says "good morning" in a big way. If you like a cup that is distinct you will most likely enjoy this French Roast. I found it a mite stronger than French roasts I have tried in the past and will need to moderate the amount of beans I use per cup when brewing.
  • Zen Blend, I am really enjoying this blend. It is smooth but has a definitive bite to it.
  • Gorilla Decaf, Now there is a very real need for good, full-taste decaf coffee. Gorilla Decaf is definitely full-taste and completely enjoyable. I'm one of those folks that needs decaf later in the day so I can go to sleep at bedtime. Also, I'm one of those folks who the doctor has said "cut the caffeine," (you know, so the old ticker keeps ticking along as it should) so decaf is a very real need for me. I am not "short-changing" myself when I decaf my coffee using Organic Coffee Company's Gorilla Decaf! Good stuff.
  • Hurricane Espresso Decaf Now for those that want that "jolt" of expresso but not the consequences, then Hurricane Expresso Decaf will be a good choice. 
Meet the Rogers Family
They're the ones who started
the company in the 70s

Now in the morning when I brew my coffee and in trying to comply with what the good doctors tell me to do, I am brewing half regular coffee and half decaf. That way I get a bit of both worlds. But then later in the day, I brew the decaf and using the Organic Coffee Company products I have NOT sacrificed taste and enjoyment! That is saying a LOT!

Next time I visit San Francisco, I hope to stop by and meet some of the good folks at Organic Coffee Company. They have coffee shops City College of San Francisco's downtown campus. (NOTE: As I am finalizing this post, it is a rainy day in North Carolina and I am enjoying a cup of Organic Coffee's Hurricane Expresso's Decaf!
GIVEAWAY: Now for all of CHAT WITH VERA's readers, you have a chance to win the same 4 bags of this ORGANIC coffee. Isn't that super! This is a real nice GIVEAWAY. At the local grocery store, these coffees cost $9.49 per bag. So the prize value is nearly $40. Isn't the Rogers Family Company generous to provide such a nice prize. These are 12 oz. bags of coffee, too. No skimping with 8 oz. or 10 oz. or 11 oz. bags. The giveaway prize will go to one U.S. reader.  Begins August 18 & ENDS September 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for US addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE:  I received the coffees reviewed in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no compensation for this review. Giveaway prize is provided by the Organic Coffee Company and will be shipped directly to the winner.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"it Cosmetics" - Review & Giveaway

Cosmetics   . . . . . Women of all ages need to pay attention to their skin. What it is exposed to. What impacts it daily. What cleaning methods they use. What care they take of the skin. What products they use. Where and how they abuse their skin. How the products impact their skin.

We're all different and we all (we women, that is) must do that which best suits our skin, our budget, our schedule. But do something, we MUST!

As my long deceased aunt who had flawless skin when she died at 90 years of age once said, "You cream your face every day and every night! Use SOMETHING!" Of course she didn't have access to the plethora of products so readily available today on the market, but she had SOMETHING and she used SOMETHING because her skin was stunningly smooth and clear. Now let's talk about a new company (to me, at least) and a couple of products they sent me to try out.

Well, my photography isn't the best, but these are the two products: No. 50 Serum Collagen Veil Anti-Aging Primer and Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Waterproof Concealer with Collagen and Vitamins C&K.  First, we take care of our skin. That is where the 50 Serum Collagen Veil product comes in. So we'll talk about it first.

No. 50 Serum Anti-Aging Collagen Veil Primer - A true beauty breakthrough, No. 50 Serum Anti-Aging Collagen Veil Primer is a multi-tasking luxe concentrated hydrating primer and serum in one, infused in with more than 50 beneficial ingredients, including hydrating anti-aging peptides, collagen, niacin, essential lipid-rich oils, vitamins, extracts and botanicals to nurture your skin and lock in moisture as it prepares it for flawless makeup application.  (information taken from the it Cosmetics website)

 I have used the No. 50 Serum for about a week now either alone or with my day or night moisturizer. This is a gently fragranced cream that glides over your skin and makes it feel so good.  It primes the skin prior to applying your foundation. I really like the properties of this serum. The botanicals are real "winners" in my book and it has lots of vitamins infused in the serum. All good! I think it is really cute that it has been dubbed Baby Skin in a Bottle!

Now let's talk about the Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Waterproof Concealer.  From the it Cosmetics website:
Working hand in hand with the leading plastic surgeons in Brazil, Bye Bye Under Eye was created as a full coverage, highly pigmented anti-aging concealer that utilizes truly innovative technology and ingredients - giving women the power to finally say "bye –bye!" to stubborn under-eye issues. Bye Bye Under Eye offers a waterproof, yet moisturizing, formula that stays put no matter what. The truly innovative formula contains high concentrations of Vitamins K, A, C, E and Collagen, which are clinically proven to reduce under eye puffiness and discoloration while strengthening the delicate skin of the under eye area. More than just full coverage for under the eyes, this formula was developed, tested and is now used to conceal facial bruising and swelling on the face and body of surgery patients in the offices of some of the leading plastic surgeons in Brazil. Hypo-allergenic and non-comedogenic.
 I've used it for about a week now and the tube sent to me is a tad light, but the next shade might be a tad dark. So I simply put it on and touch it up a mite with my foundation to bring the color more in line with the rest of my face. This is a very dense product. It takes such a tiny bit to cover and you use your little pinky finger to apply it. Begin at the inner corner of the eye next to the nose (it usually looks a bit dark there, too, not just "under the eyes") and smooth down and up to cover the under eye area. I have also used a tiny little brush I had on hand and this works nicely, too. It covers. It will, hopefully, enrich the skin under the eyes. It has not been irritating to my sensitive eyes. It is a good product.

These two products are available at the it Cosmetics website and they really have a presence on QVC. The delightful ladies at it Cosmetics are also providing both of these products as a giveaway for one of Chat With Vera's  readers to vie for. Follow the Rafflecopter entry instructions and let's see who will be blessed to receive these really  nice products.

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DISCLOSURE: I received both of the products indicated above from it Cosmetics in exchange for my honest review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and I received no compensation for writing this review. Product information is found on their website and opinions expressed are solely my personal opinion. Giveaway products will be provided by and shipped by it Cosmetics directly to the winner.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Anita Higman’s “Winter in Full Bloom” Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Party! {8/29}

Anita Higman's latest novel, Winter in Full Bloom, has just released. She's teamed up with her publisher, River North Fiction, for a fun giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party on August 29th.

  One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD
  • Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 28th.Winner will be announced August 29th at the Winter in Full Bloom Author Chat Party on Facebook. During the party Anita will be hosting a book chat, talking about family, announcing the winner of the Kindle Fire, and giving away a ton of books, gift certificates, and more. Oh, and she'll also be giving party goers an exclusive look at her next book.

So grab your copy of Winter in Full Bloom and join Anita on the evening of August 29th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)


Death Be Not Proud The Secret of the Journal #2 by C.F. Dunn

ISBN: 978-1-78264-034-9
$14.99 | Paperback Lion Fiction
About the book:  Following the vicious attack by a psychotic colleague, and reeling from the suspicion that Matthew Lynes is not all that he seems, Professor Emma D'Eresby flees her college teaching position in Maine to her hometown in England--taking the mysterious seventeenth--century journal she stole from the college's archives with her.

Broken physically and emotionally, Emma drifts until, fearing for their daughter's sanity, her parents invite a family friend to assess her. In the course of their conversation, Emma discovers that he spoke to Matthew over thirty years before.

This finally spurs her into action and soon, when she finds what certainly must be a reference to Matthew in the journal, she begins to understand Matthew's profound secret.

This second installment in The Secret of the Journal from British author C. F. Dunn. Mixing suspense, romance, and the supernatural, Death Be Not Proud explores the profound moral implications of a life seemingly invulnerable to time.

My thoughts:  When I read book one in The Secret of the Journal series, Mortal Fire, I found it a very unusual read the conclusion of which simply left the reader hanging for resolution but anxious to read on. Here in Death Be Not Proud we begin to see a light in the tunnel.

The author, C.F. Dunn, does a very good job of crafting her story and creating characters. The visuals created with words help the reader to grasp where they are, what is happening, and all the people involved. I find the premise of Matthew's unique qualities hard to ingest and daunting to the rational mind. Hopefully in the next installment in the series, we will see some reasoning behind his unique qualities - though surely they will be the creation of a very active imagination.

I know that "love can be blind" (and no, that is not a quote from this book), but Emma seems blind to the fact that she is placing her trust in someone whose very existence should not be.  I think that somehow in the end we will find that her own family the D'Eresby's, including the grandmother of which, seems to "know" something about what is going on connected with Matthew. So book three should give up more secrets that are hidden from plain view and not only in the journal.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Death Be Not Proud from Kregel on behalf of Lion Hudson in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea by Carole P. Roman (Review & Giveaway)

I previously reviewed the first two books in Social Studies teacher and award-winning author, Carole P. Roman's series "If You Were Me and Lived in ......." (A Child's Introduction to Cultures) The first two books were about France and Mexico. Today we're going to look at her newest "If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea." (Read that review here)

In today's world where people are traveling with much more frequency than ever in the past and even in America where we are seeing much more interaction with the various cultures and peoples of other nations, it is of vital importance that children learn about the countries, people, and customs around the world. I have felt for a long time that there is a dearth of knowledge of the geography of this world and "social studies" - or study of people and cultures - in our educational system. So the introduction of this little series for the young child is a welcome change in that which has been so lacking.

As in the two previous books, an introduction to South Korea features a young brother and sister and their family. You learn the South Korean language names for mama and papa, you will learn of their special holiday, and the names of some foods.  There is a glossary in the back so you can see the words and begin to learn a bit about their language.  The illustrations are consistent with those of the others in the series yet lend a distinction peculiar to the country about which this book teaches - South Korea.

Carole Roman is dedicated to helping children learn - good conduct, good behavior, and social studies. Her interest in children learning is further illustrated in her generosity in providing copies for families to read to their children. So be sure you enter to win a copy  If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea.

GIVEAWAY: Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. You may be blessed to be the winner of a copy that Carole P.Roman is so generously providing. We will choose TWO WINNTERS FOR THIS GIVEAWAY. Begins August 9 & ENDS August 27  @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: The author provided a complimentary copy of If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea in exchange for my honest review. Giveway copies are also provided  by the author and will be shipped directly to the winners.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fels--Naptha Laundry Bar Soap (History & Giveaway)

The following was borrowed from and I simply found it too good to NOT share with Chat With Vera readers:

The Fels Naptha soap story begins in 1861 in the small town of Yanceyville, North Carolina. The local economy was floundering, so the townspeople devised a plan to create a distillery to boost the economy. They set to making a local brand of whiskey, and used the sour mash as feed for pigs. The problem was that the mash wasn't cooked all the way through and proved fatal to the pigs. A local man named Lazarus Fels stepped in, purchased the entire lot of pig carcasses and cooked the fat, combining it with lye to concoct bars of soap. The business had a slow start, so the Fels family moved operations to Baltimore and, in 1873, to Philadelphia.

Under the name Fels & Company, the Fels family continued to create and sell soap to the wholesale market. It wasn't until Samuel Simeon Fels, the youngest son of the Fels family, joined the company in the late 1800s that Fels & Company created its signature brand. In 1893, Fels & Company released a new type of soap product that incorporated naptha, otherwise known as benzene solvent, in its soap.

Fels Naptha soap was different from its predecessors. The active ingredient of benzene solvent proved to cut through grease and clean surfaces thoroughly. Throughout its century-long history, Fels Naptha soap has been used as a home remedy for rashes, a stain remover for grease-based stains, a base for homemade laundry soap and even a pesticide for worms that bore into dogwood trees.

Fels Naptha is one of those products that has experienced little change in its appearance and properties throughout its history. Although it is currently made by the Dial Corporation, it still features a basic paper wrapper with an old-fashioned logo.The soap is yellow and longer than most bars of soap. It resembles laundry soap more than body soap.

Out of the wrapper, the bar is larger
than regular "bath" bars but not too
large to handle for rubbing into stains.
Although many people have used Fels Naptha soap on their hair, scalp and skin, it is not intended for bathing use. The active ingredient is an irritant to the eyes and skin. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has identified high concentrations of benzene, which is also found in some plastics, rubbers, synthetic fabrics and solvents, as carcinogenic to human beings (see Resources below).
I found it particularly interesting that this all began here in my home state of North Carolina. Although, its true success was not achieved here.

Purex and the folks at Dial now manufacture Fels Naptha soap.  Here is what is said on their website:
Easy size to grasp and rub
onto stained fabrics
Purex Fels-Naptha is a powerful laundry bar that works overtime to remove greasy, oily stains, perspiration, and ring-around-the-collar. With over 100 years of removing America’s stains, you can rest assured that this laundry bar knows how to tackle your toughest stains.  All you’ve got to do is rub the stain with a wet bar of Purex Fels-Naptha and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wash your clothes as you normally would and say farewell to tough stains for good.
Lots of folks are trying to get back to more basic products for laundry and household care. Well, this is one way you can do that. These bars cost less than $2 and has a basic, clean fragrance.
GIVEAWAY: I have a couple of coupons that I'd like to share with my readers and you can try to win one by using the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August 3 & ENDS August 25 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received 1 bar of Fels-Naptha and 3 coupons from Purex Insiders in exchange for this review. Two of the coupons will be used as giveaway prizes I will mail to Chat With Vera readers. No compensation was received for this post.

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Happy This Year! The Secret to Getting Happy Once and For All" by Will Bowen

"If I get ______, I'll be happy."
"If I do ______, I'll be happy."
Happiness is not the result of getting or achieving. Rather, happiness is a cause that is the shortest and most direct path to personal fulfillment and achievement. In "Happy This Year!," internationally-bestselling author Will Bowen teaches you how to align your thoughts, words, and actions so that they create the habits, character, and destiny of happiness.

Abe Lincoln said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Unfortunately, most of us never make up our minds as the level of happiness we wish to enjoy. This book encourages the reader to set a happiness goal and then to measure his or her success at reaching that goal.

Being a happy person significantly improves all areas of life, leading to better physical health, an increased sense of well-being, greater success at work, and deeper, more fulfilling relationships with others.

Through practical advice, step-by-step instructions, and inspiring stories, Will helps you remove your mental and lifestyle blocks so that happiness flows freely. Will's unique perspective on happiness, formed through a wide range of spiritual and secular influences, infuses timeless spiritual wisdom with scientific study, personal experience, and powerful anecdotes.

Regardless of your challenges, you can experience increased and sustainably higher levels of happiness every day!

My thoughts:  I am sure that the majority of people have a deep desire for happiness. According to Will Bowen this can be achieved. Not because of your circumstances but because you tap into an inner self that focuses on happiness.

Mr. Bowen speaks early on of religious and spiritual aspects in our lives and their effect on our happiness. He seems to dwell on the spiritual part of our being as having a highly causative effect on our pursuit of happiness. But his definition of spiritual and mine are somewhat different.

The author quotes Confucius, Buddhism, and the Christian Bible (as he himself titles it). He seemingly gives more or less equal weight to the validity of each. Personally, I believe that while some sayings outside of those in the Christian Bible are good thoughts, they can not be considered in equal terms with verses from the Holy Bible (consisting of Jewish Old Testament and Christian New Testament sections).
Sitting in a prescribed position, holding one's hands in a certain style, and chanting or saying anything repeatedly or a respective sequence of times will not induce a state of happiness.

I think that focusing more on those things in our lives that are positive (our joyful occasions, our blessings, our up-times) and beneficial and less on that which is negative (our down times, our sorrows,  our hurts) will tend to lend a happier countenance to us and outlook on life for us. But sometimes life simply hurts and we have sad moments. It is how we handle those moments and what source of strength we draw from that determines our success in handling the bad moments and the good moments.
I personally can not recommend this book although aspects of it were interesting and point-on.

DISCLOSURE: I was sent an invitation to review Happy This Year! and render my honest opinion. Grand Harbor Press on behalf of the author provided a complimentary copy for this purpose. No compensation has been provided for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough and illustrated by Debby Atwell (Review & Giveaway)

Just suppose you had no money for books. Just suppose you had little ones at home and you wanted to broaden their outlook on life and introduce them to the joys of the written word in stories or poetry or travel the world on the pages of a book. You could go to the library if you were an adult and if there was a library in your town. But really, there was not much there to appeal to the child. Your child could NOT even enter the doors. Children were NOT welcome in libraries and children definitely could NOT check out a book. What children's books there were in the libraries were only available to adults.
But Miss Moore Thought Otherwise .......

ISBN: 9780547471051
In the late 1800's this was the story of libraries and this was the plight of children who wanted to read books. But Miss Moore thought otherwise and began a movement to bring the children into the libraries. To allow children to have library cards to check out books. And to have their very own children's book rooms and story time.

Even as a child Miss Moore was different from the other girls in that she liked rambunctious play and more active activities.  And she liked books. Upon reaching adulthood, she began her movement to bring books to children via the public library.

Today's children have much to be thankful for in having such ease of access to public libraries and books designed especially for them and their specific age group. This is all because Miss Moore Thought Otherwise.

The illustrations in this delightful, informative book were created by Maine artist Debby Atwell.  She uses paints to boldly draw the scenes picturing Miss Moore, the children, and the libraries in a primitive style that is charming, bright, and delightful and will certainly appeal to children.

GIVEAWAY:  Ms. Jan Pinborough has agreed to provide one of Chat With Vera's readers a copy of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, and you can try to win it for yourself or someone you wish to have it by simply using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins August 2  & ENDS August 21 @ 12:01 a.m EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary review copy by the author, Jan Pinborough, in exchange for my honest review. The winner's copy in the giveaway is also provided by Ms. Pinborough and will be shipped directly to the winner by the author. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.