Monday, September 30, 2013

"Fired Up" Trouble In Texas book 2 by Mary Connealy (Review & Giveaway)

About the book:  Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner-never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. Themen in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?

Review: This was an unbelievably funny read so filled with virtually "slap-stick" comedy page after page. Author, Mary Connealy, has taken the dangerous and serious wild-west and turned it upside down into a rollicking story.

Now just what is "Fired Up" - well, there is the male lead, Dare Riker who is in one dangerous situation after another and someone wants to ride the scene of him. So Dare gets fired up.

Then there is Glynna who is fired up after two failed marriages so is now determined to make it own her own by opening an eating establishment regardless that she can't cook at all .

And there is the group of male characters who are friends with Dare and they are fired up with determination that no one is going to "do-in" their friend.

Get ready for a truly fun read that will entertain you and also give you a glimpse (albeit a funny one) into the dangers of the west, lack of law and order, the plight of the mail order brides, and what widowed and unmarried women of that period faced.
GIVEAWAY - Begins September 30 & ENDS October 21. Open to addresses in continental US only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Litfuse Publicity on behalf of the Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group and the author, Mary Connealy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rufus and Ryan Go To Church by Kathleen Long Bostrom & Illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh (Review & Giveaway-US & Canada)

ISBN: 9780824919030
Board Book - $7.99
When children are very young, it is not always easy for the child or the parents to sit through a worship service. Children are squirmy, vocal, and prone to action rather than stillness. But we are taught in the Bible to "be still and know that I am God..." so we want to teach the activity of still worship to our children.

In Rufus and Ryan, Ryan's' family attends worship service and they take Ryan with them. He has a stuffed monkey he loves (as Mommy and Daddy love him) and he explains going to church to Rufus - the monkey - much the same as Mommy and Daddy have explained how Ryan should behave in church.

This is a sweet, eye-catching little board book just right for the very young child. The lesson is that the child can behave in church and can be happy. Below are some tips for helping your child learn to "be still and know that I am God" during worship services.


1.         Attend a child-friendly church.

A church that invites children to attend worship, that has a children’s time during worship or a service in which children are included, will not mind the noise and commotion that comes with having young children in worship.

2.         Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.

Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, Christian education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3.         Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.

Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. If the Lord’s Prayer is used, write down the words and let your child practice at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4.         Play “Let’s go to church” at home.

Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5.         Read the Bible and pray at home.

Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6.         Sit near an aisle or in a place where you can make an exit if needed.

If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can work off a little energy, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!

7.         Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.

Many churches provide materials for children to use during worship, but if not, bring your own supplies. Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards.

8.         Teach basic church etiquette.

Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others.  If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9.         Get to know the pastor.

Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10.       Don’t give up!

It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!
GIVEAWAY: One Chat With Vera reader has the opportunity to win a copy of Ryan Go To church for that special child in their life. Begins September 27 & ENDS October 11 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US and Canadian addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Rufus and Ryan Go to Church from the publisher CandyCane Press an imprint of Ideals Publications A Guideposts Company in exchange for my honest opinion. No compensation was received for this review. Giveaway copy for the winner is provided by and shipped by publicist/publisher.

Two associated books reviewed: "Grace Unplugged" (novel) by Melody Carson & "Own It: Leaving Behind a Borrowed Faith" (non-fiction) by Michael & Hayley DiMarco (Review & Giveaway)

About Grace Unplugged the Novel: Grace Trey is an 18 year old singer as passionate about her Christian faith as she is her phenomenal, God-given musical talent. Both traits come from her father, one hit wonder Johnny Trey who found Jesus after losing his chart success two decades ago.
When Grace encounters her own music break of a lifetime, the sudden dive into the "real world" puts her deeper beliefs to the test. Pop superstardom is just within reach but appears to require some spiritual compromise. Will Grace reject her faith, or will she own it?
"Grace Unplugged" is based on the motion picture of the same name starring AJ Michalka (Super 8) and Kevin Pollak (A Few Good Men) with performances by award-winning artists Chris Tomlin and Jamie Grace.

About "Own It, Discover Your Faith in God" - The movie Grace Unplugged tells the story of Grace Trey, an ideal Christian teenager who is also a phenomenal singer. But when she is pushed into the “real world” at the tender age of eighteen after getting the music break of a lifetime, her faith is put to the test.

Own It mirrors the film by asking what it means to really “own” your personal faith rather than just automatically following in the footsteps of parents, friends, or other influencers. Best-selling authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco help readers understand what to do when faith meets real world challenges.
Without solid beliefs, poor choices are likely to follow. You must take the time to really know who you are, who you are becoming, and who God made you to be. It's your personal faith . . . own it!

“Grace Unplugged” the novel by Melody Carson is a story with a very believable teenage character in a battle for independence and freedom.   Grace longs to make her own decisions and her own choices and be out from under the reigns of her conservative parents.  “Grace Unplugged” realistically captures the struggles many teens and parents face as children grow up.  The author weaves a wonderful tale that draws the reader to wanting to know how it all turns out in the end.  There is some predictability to the story but there are also some surprises that keep the reader interested to the very end.  I would recommend this for teens as well as parents. 
“Own It Leaving Behind a Borrowed Faith” by Michael and Hayley DiMarco is a must read for any Christian that is seeking to grow in their relationship with the Lord.   This book will challenge the faith of more mature Christians as well as encourage a Christian very young in the Lord.  The authors clearly present what God expects of those that call themselves Christians and want to follow Him.  I very much enjoyed the inserts of real people and their own personal experiences in their walk with the Lord.  I found the book encouraging and challenging which is what every Christian needs.  Well written.
"Grace Unplugged" - the movie - releases October 4 
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About the "Grace Unplugged" Author:  Melody Carlson has sold more than five million books. A professional writer for twenty years, she recently received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Melody has two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest.

About the "Own It" Authors:  Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than thirty books including Dateable, Marriable, Mean Girls, and The Woman of Mystery. She has been a featured speaker at Women of Faith, Precept National Women's Conference, and MOPS Intl. among others and has consulted on the creation and enhancement of some of the largest stadium events for teens and young women in North America.
Michael DiMarco is a skillled communicator and teacher who has authored more than a dozen bestselling books including the 2010 Christian Bookof the Year for Youth, B4UD8 (Before You Date). He and his wife, author Hayley DiMarco, have one daughter and live in Nashville, Tennessee. 
(Reviewed by Claudette Delorge)  “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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Hooligan Bear: A Special Day" Book 3 in series by Ian Toynton & illustrated by Andrea Dietrich (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781601311313
I hate for this to come to a close, but I received the three published books about Hooligan Bear by author Ian Toynton and delightfully illustrated by Andrea Dietrich and I reviewed the first two here on Chat With Vera; and now, as all good things inevitably must do, we have the final review. (But all is not lost, they are Tweeting and Storify-ing Hooligan Bear.)

In Hooligan Bear: A Special Day we see the bears are still living in the deserted building and are settled in on the shelf. They are having so much fun - as friends are wont to do - getting into stuff, being friends with each other, watching Scooter on the skate board and that is where this story begins. Scooter is cavorting on his skateboard and wham-o he gets slammed by a baguette (you know, a loaf of bread). Realizing their good fortune, they perch the bread atop the skateboard to take home for Lenny's birthday. When they arrive "home" they all realize that Little Louie is crying. And the reason is, "I've never had a birthday," he sputtered, "and I don't know what a birthday is."

"Inside the bakery, the Master Baker
was far too busy to see Scooter
suddenly appear outside the window."
Then the wheels of thought in the bears heads begin to spin and they decide that Little Louie needs "A Special Day."  And so the adventure begins. They seek out the bakery and enter clandestinely and retrieve a discarded cupcake. But as you know, only Hooligan Bear and friends can do this in such a delightful way.

Now would we want our own boys and girls to behave this way to achieve a special day for someone? Probably - no, definitely - not. But this is a story. It is far fetched. And the adventure is not the real soul of the story. The real soul of the story is the hearts full of love, friendship, and kindness the bears exhibit for one another. It is about friendship.It is about giving of oneself to another to make something special for them. So I can again recommend a Hooligan Bear  book to each of you - to one and all - as a good read, a delight to behold, and a treasure for the library.
GIVEAWAY: A copy of Hooligan Bear: A Special Day is reserved by the publisher for one of Chat With Vera's readers.Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Have fun and here is hoping that there will be many special days in your life and that of those you love. Begins September 26 & ENDS October 15 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for US mainland addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and author for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was received for this review. Giveaway copy will be shipped directly to the winner by the publisher or author.
Ways you can follow the adventures of Hooligan Bear:,, & Twitter @hooliganbears @hbhooliganbear @hblittlelouie

Andi Unexpected! by Amanda Flower (for th 8-12 year old reader - Review & Giveaway)

ISBN 13: 9780310737018
Hardcover $10.99
About the book: Twelve-year-old Andora “Andi” Boggs and her sister Bethany move to rural Ohio to live with their eccentric aunt after the sudden death of their parents. While dealing with her grief, Andi discovers proof of another Andora Boggs hidden in a Depression-era trunk. No one remembers this Andora. Andi, with the help of her new friend Colin Carter, is determined to find out who Andora was and what happened to her.

Review:  I really like Andi as a character. She is sweet, smart, and  just jam-packed full of energy and inquisitiveness.  She and neighbor, Colin, go on a merry run to solve the mystery.  

Though written in today's world, it has the charm of a 1940s or 1950s era when kids could freely roam the neighborhood and town without harm. Of course, there is mystery here and "danger" and some intrigue. But there is just enough danger and just enough mystery to grab the attention of 8 to 13 year olds without scaring the be-jeebies out of them. 

I loved the unmarried Aunt Amelia that takes the orphaned girls in and provides a home for them. She is a character-study herself but devoted and loving to the girls. The next door neighbor grandmother of Colin is warm, smart, and sure to capture your heart, too.

All in all, this was a good read sure to please the young crowd.

GIVEAWAY: Want a copy for that special middle-reader? Use the Rafflecopter Form below to enter a book giveaway of Andi Unexpected provided by the good folks at ZoderKidz. Begins Sept. 26 & ENDS October 16 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US mainland addresses only.
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About the author:  Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read her story out loud and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. She writes the Appleseed Creek Mystery Series for Band H, and the India Hayes Mystery Series for Five Star. She also writes mysteries as Isabella Alan for NAL. A librarian for a small college near Cleveland, you can visit Amanda online at and  

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Andy Unexpected from the publicist on behalf of Zonderevan and the author.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Purex Dirt Lift Action PUREX Ultra Packs Plus OXI and Zout Stain Removers (Review & Giveaway)

Got kids? Got little boys? Or.... maybe you've got bigger boys that play in the dirt, slide into home, hike, fish, and in general get dirty? Got a husband that gets his work or play clothes dirty? I mean real dirty? 
Did I hear you moan and say,

  1. Fights tough stains
  2. 2X the cleaning power
  3. Bright, White & Clean

Don't fret. You can tackle those biggies that get dumped in the mud room, back porch, or on top of the washer with a simple flip of your wrist as you plot a little pack that punches a wallop on the dirt. 

The Henkle Corporation folks and PUREX specifically has teamed up 2X concentrated laundry detergent, OXI to lift dirt, and ZOUT to remove stains and wrapped it up in a little packet that you plunk into the washer. Then you set the dials and buttons, grab something relaxing to drink, and get the clean-clothes-in-a-few-minutes job done.

As a Purex Insider I have been given the opportunity to test-drive a package of these nifty Purex Oxi packs and to also offer you the opportunity to win a free product coupon. But first let's list some thoughts about this detergent....
  1. Pre-measured packet that you can just toss in and go. No messy lid or cup to rinse. The kids can even do it. (I do recommend that as laundress-in-chief, you determine if the load is large enough or dirty enough to require 2 packs.) 
  2. It is definitely less expensive than other detergents which really helps with that frugal budget.
  3. The cleaning job is good.
  4. Variety of fragrances or scents
  5. Designed for HE, Front Loaders, or regular machines
  6. Purex is a branch of the larger Henkel group of products and has a long history of being a trusted brand.
Now I have been given some coupons to share with my readers. So use the Rafflecopter entry form - Begins September 25 & ENDS October 9 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for USA mainland addresses only.
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There are also some nice promotions on the Purex website. Example: the fun scavenger hunt where you can try to win $50. It's football season and you just might be one of 10 folks to win the $50.

DISCLOSURE: The Purex brand provided me with a sample of Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi in exchange for a product review. All opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review. Coupon prizes for my readers is also provided courtesy of Purex.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"A Home for My Heart" by Anne Mateer - Tells the story of an orphanage in 1910

I was particularly drawn to this story when offered the opportunity to review it because it dealt with orphans and orphanages in 1910. The reason? My mother was raised from the time she was eight until she graduated high school in an orphanage during this same time period. Times were hard then and the plight of children whose family situations made care for the children impossible. 

Sometimes it was the death of the breadwinner. Sometimes it was simply there were too many children to house, clothe, and feed. Sometimes the children were removed from the parental care because of crime and illegal activities.

In A Home for My Heart we have an orphanage struggling to meet the financial burden created by their caring for the boys and girls who have need of a home. As the story unfolds, we learn that Sadie becomes the matron of the home where she was taken in as a child and nurtured because her mother could not keep her. Sadie loves the children and knows the need the deserted or neglected child has to be loved and cared for.

There is a touch of romance in the book. After all, we are dealing with young adults drawn to each other by life's circumstances and mental and physical attraction. The romance is subtle and sweet.

While I usually enjoy Anne Mateer's books, this one was a bit slow getting into even with my own personally vested interest in the subject. As the story unfolded, though, it became more interesting and enjoyable. Just because this book was not a favorite, does not mean it is not good. Quite the contrary. It is a sweet, enjoyable read.

DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary copy by Bethany House a division ofBaker Publishing Group for the purpose of providing an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Last Light" Restoration Series #1 by Terri Blackstock

ISBN: 9780310337782
About the book:  New York Times best-selling suspense author Terri Blackstock weaves a masterful what-if novel in which global catastrophe reveals the darkness in human hearts—and lights the way to restoration for a self-centered world.

The city of Birmingham, Alabama, is experiencing a massive blackout. Planes suddenly lose power and crash to the earth. Cars stall in the middle of the street and won't restart. Cell phones and the internet are dead. All communications are cut off. Is it a terrorist attack . . . or something far worse?

In the face of a crisis that sweeps an entire high-tech planet back to a time before electricity, the Branning family faces a choice. Hoard their possessions to survive—or trust God to provide as they share their resources and hearts with those around them? Yesterday's world is gone and now all they’ve got is family and community. Like never before, they must rely on each other.

Especially since someone close by is a killer.

My thoughts:  Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite authors. Her well written stories include characters developed just like you and I - full of flaws, pretty or good looking, ugly or gross, intelligent or slow of wit - you get the picture. Some of the characters you like and some you don't. Some have flawed personalities and character traits but grow through their problems and over come their flaws.

Ms. Blackstock writes Christian stories and they are infused with the Gospel but these are not sermon books. These are stories and the problems and solutions include the Grace of God.

Last Light Restoration Series #1 was first published in 2005 and this is a republishing of the book with new cover.  I read the first edition back in 2005 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I went on to read the others in the Restoration Series. Which I recommend you do as well if you enjoy contemporary suspense.

In Last Light the world is plunged into a world before the advent of electricity. That means there is no water purification, no lights, no heat, no refrigeration, no gas at the station, no cars because they rely on gas and computer chips. The entire world's electric "grid" is dead and nothing works. People must find a way to get food. To cook it. To keep it fresh. To "go to the store" (oops, no store anymore). People have to learn to cope, to pull together, and to maintain law and order in a now virtually lawless world.

Published by Zondervan as a reissue, I recommend you begin with Last Light in the Restoration Series and then proceed to the others. This could happen in America, in the World.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Last Light from BookSneeze on behalf of the publisher and author in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Bash and the Pirate Pig" by Burton W. Cole & illustrated by Tom Bancroft (Review & Giveaway - US and Canada)

Publisher: B&H Kids
Hardcover: 224 pages $12.99
About Bash and the Pirate Pig:  Bash and the Pirate Pig, by Burton Cole, is the story of a cranky city kid named Raymond "Beamer" Boxby who must spend summer vacation at his younger cousin, Bash's, farm.

Beamer prefers air conditioning and video games. He can't see what good can come of this so-called country fun that includes riding cows, river rafting with a pig, or playing with skunks.

But hang tight, Beamer, because Bash's zany adventures with his "Fishin' and Farmin' book" (The Bible) just might lead to the coolest discovery of all.

My thoughts:  Get ready for some down-on-the-farm, slap-stick, tickle-you-in-the-ribs, and boy-talk that'll cause your gag reflex to kick in. When city boy and country boy get up to mischief on the farm, it gets pretty exciting.

There seems no limit to the antics that Bash can dream up and it is usually at the expense of his city cousin "Ray-Ray Beamer." Nearly drowning in the pond, wrapping another "friend" with fly paper, riding cows down the road (I said cows, not horses or mules). And the beat goes on and on and on. City cousin is finally up off the couch and away from the computer game and he is busy just trying to exist without falling into some dire state.

Now what didn't I like about it? Well, I don't care for kids calling folks stupid, etc. So some of the slang could have been deleted and other suitable words in their place. Other than that, it was superbly written for a boy's book and one that will, as I said earlier, tickle-you-in-the-ribs. Also, I liked that though Bash was mischievous and very inventive, he loved the Lord and shared the plan of Salvation with others.

GIVEAWAY: Now the fun begins for you..... you have a chance to win this engaging, silly, fun book for some child in your life. Begins September 18 and ENDS  October 7 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open in USA and Canada - yes friends in Canada, you can try to win, too.
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About the Author:  Burton Cole is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist with thirty years of experience and more than fifty humor writing awards to his credit. He grew up on a farm in northeast Ohio and attended a small-town church with a slew of cousins and buddies. That same boyhood inspires his colorful stories today.

About the Illustrator:  Tom Bancroft has more than twenty years of experience in the animation and illustration industry and worked with Disney on films including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin. Other clients have included DC Comics and Big Idea Productions.

DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy of this book on behalf of B&H Kids Publisher for the purpose of review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Bumper Wipe Clean Activities" by Juliet David & Illustrated by Marie Allen (Review)

Price: $12.99
ISBN:  978-1-85985-766-3
Pages: 72: Size: 6.5 x 8 inches
Don't you just absolutely love it when a children's book - especially a children's activity book - is lovely, of high quality materials and information, and endearing? Well, we have one to talk about today. The folks at Candle Books and author Juliet David continue to bring great books for our kiddies to learn about the Bible, Biblical characters, stories, and truths. Today's book is "Bumper Wipe Clean Activities" and is geared for the 3 to 6 year olds. Some of the text is beyond a 5 year old, but that's where older siblings and parents come in handy, isn't it?

The book is child-hand sized, is sturdy, is lovely, is cute, is bright and colorful. It is also chock-full of engaging activities beyond the typical connect-the-dots and follow the maze. This little book is fun. Also, it is such that it can be SHARED - YES! I said shared - by a family. You see, little Anna can do a page, and then when Suzie wants to do the same page she can. There is no fretting. They can wipe it off and do it again. So they just have to learn to wait their turn. Isn't that a delightful way to learn to share and take turns.

When the enclosed little pen is used up (or lost), Mommy can purchase a good quality felt-tip pen or crayon to use on the laminated pages. To remove marks you simply wipe clean with a soft damp cloth. Just be sure they are not permanent markers. But then, you don't let the kiddies have permanent markers anyway, do you?

For $12.99 this is a steal. So much to learn. So much fun. And a lot to share and keep on sharing.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Bumper Wipe Clean Activities by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. Opinions are solely my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"A Surprise for Lily" by: Mary Ann Kinsinger, Suzanne Woods Fisher (series: The Adventures of Lily Lapp)

Paperback: $12.99
In the first three books in the series The Adventures of Lily Lapp, we've seen young Lily experience many life events - daily struggles, happiness of being a little girl growing up in a happy home, sadness at inevitable life events, good friends and bad friends, good adults and adults that behave poorly. And in A Surprise for Lily, book four, as a fifth grader she experiences more of the same and then more new choices and events come her way, too.

The book starts out with Lily and best friend Hannah getting in a rowboat and pushing off into the middle of the pond. Well, that ends up poorly. But it is a lesson learned just as many lessons are learned by Lily each day.

They discover a lost puppy and give him a home. The Amish tend to care much for animals and are certain that their needs are met. Little Dozer, the puppy, brings joy to the children in the Lapp household.

As Lily continues to endure the poor attitude and actions another little girl in the community, Effie, she learns valuable lessons in right and wrong behavior. She also learns from one of the boys who continues to be the bane of her existence, Aaron Yoder. She learns he is not all bad and he has some pretty good traits.

I have lots of grand children, and I have grand daughters, a 9-year old and a 7-year old, that wait excitedly for each new Lily Lapp book to come out. I know book four will not disappoint them. Just as Lily has learned lessons, my grand daughters learn lessons. They learn from Lily's mishaps and joys as well.

Again, I highly recommend The Adventures of Lily Lapp. If you haven't acquired the first three books, you can read book four as a stand alone. But I highly recommend the entire series.

Who wrote the book? 
Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She is the coauthor of the Adventures of Lily Lapp series and lives in Pennsylvania.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stone Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish,including Amish Peace. She lives in California. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Revell Book Bloggers. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for the review.

Manna Organics Sprouted Bread and Kale Chips (Review & Giveaway)

I grew up eating home made Southern biscuits that were made with white flour, shortening, and buttermilk. Also, our bread of preference for toast and sandwiches was "sliced-white" "enriched" bread. That was a treat in that it was light, fluffy, and soft.  Then times changed and folks thinking changed. "Sliced-white"  and soft-fluffy were not deemed good. They were deemed bad for you. Bad for your digestion. Bad for your nutrition. Bad for your teeth. Just plain bad. So we looked for "wheat" bread. Well, all the bread on the shelves was wheat bread, but the darker bread was suppose to be better for your health than "sliced-white." Then we found out that the darker wheat bread wasn't that good, either. We needed "whole-wheat" and/or "whole-grain" breads.  So our bread eating evolved.

Somewhere along the time all of this was happening, a segment of society branched out into healthier eating by pursing whole foods, unprocessed foods, more natural foods, organic products, etc., etc. That brings us to today's review of Manna Organics. We're going to look at something entirely different from "bread" as most folks know it, and we're going to look at "chips" different from what most folks think of. 

Manna Bread© is a type of bread that is made by sprouting grains based on old scripture recipe found in ancient manuscripts. Its ancient origins is due to the Essenes that once lived near the shores of the Dead Sea, whose legacy survives through the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Aramaic manuscripts. It is named after the heaven-sent Manna that sustained the Israelites as they wandered the desert for forty years. Manna Bread© is remarkably simple and wholesome, made entirely from sprouted organic grains, fruits, and nuts and contains no salt, leavening, yeast, oil, or sweeteners. By fully germinating our grains and seeds, we convert the starches into easily digested natural complex sugars, similar to those found in fresh fruits, hence the sweetness. The sprouts are ground and hand-shaped into loaves, baked at a low temperature, then packed and frozen to preserve shelf life, without any chemical additives. (from the bread wrapper bag)

Cinnamon Date Manna Sprouted Bread
I was sent the Cinnamon Date Manna Bread and the Multigrain Manna Bread. Both breads are delicious and so different from "bread." I enjoyed the Cinnamon Date simply by itself along with my meals, with a cup of coffee, or a cup of tea. It was sweet with just a hint of cinnamon and I could definitely taste the delectable dates.  The Multigrain bread, too, was sweet but not quite as sweet as the Cinnamon Date. It was delicious with home made pimento cheese that had a hint of pepper. Wonderful at lunch with soup or along with a fruit and veggie meal. As said earlier, NO SWEETNER was added. This is wholly natural sweet from the grains and fruits.

"It’s not really bread. It can be best described as a meal of whole sprouted grains, moist and denser than bread. Muffin- or cakelike in consistency. Baked at low temperatures for a short time – almost raw. Nothing like other sprouted breads out there! It doesn’t rise, has no yeast, no salt, no flour, no oils. Very delicious and different. "
I would love to try their other Manna Breads made from sprouted grains and also their sourdough breads.

They also sent me the two bags of Kale Chips to try. These are definitely different and while I thought them tasty, they will take a little acclimating for my taste buds to grow accustomed to. They are NOT salty potato chips or "veggie" chips. These are leaves of Kale dried and seasoned. They are light, crisp and have a unique taste. Do I like them? I think it best described as "I don't DIS-like them." Will I purchase them? I probably will again at some point. But I can say that they will definitely fulfill a need for a crispy snack for those who desire to eat foods naturally better for them.

I've been married a long time. I've raised five children and that was a lot of "sliced-white" bread. But I've learned that there is a better way to eat and there is better bread and that really and truly whole grains are much better for you.  Also, I try (most of the time I don't succeed here) to eat less sugars and more natural fruits to satisfy that sweet tooth that I have. It is absolutely wonderful that there have been folks who have forged ahead and learned how to prepare and present foods that are good for us and that actually taste good.  I recommend you look into purchasing Manna Organics, and you can find them online as well as at select grocery stores and whole foods markets.

GIVEAWAY:  Now it is your turn to try Manna Organics. Just jump aboard the "flight-Vera" Rafflecopter and enter to see if you win all 4 products valued at $25. Begins September 14 & ENDS October 7 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for Continental US addresses only. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
DISCLOSURE: I was provided two loaves of Manna Organics Sprouted Breads and two bags of Kale Chips to facilitate this review. I received no compensation for this review. The giveaway prize will be sent directly to the winner from Manna Organics.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Get acquainted with Social Studies Series for the young child: "If You Were Me and Lived in..... Mexico, South Korea, France" by Carole P. Roman (Giveaway for Chat With Vera's readers)

Author Carole P. Roman has provided the opportunity for one of Chat With Vera's readers to be blessed by receiving all 3 of the childrens' social studies series: "If You Were Me and Lived In..... Mexico, South Kora, France" AND a Toys-R-Us $50 giftcard.  I previously reviewed each of the delightfully informative books and found them educational teaching various tid-bits of information and culture of the country, colorful, and fun. Take a look at each of my reviews:
  1. If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea
  2. If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico....... France (both books)
Each of these books is a delight and definitely geared to the young child's learning and interest. Children love seeing how other children look, where they live, what they eat, and what they play with.

Why not read my reviews and also go to and read other rave reviews for Carole P. Roman's books.  But for right now, just use the entry form below and see if perhaps you might be the one to be blessed with a set of books and a gift card that will help tremendously for your upcoming holiday spending.

GIVEAWAY: A print copy of each of the If You Were Me and Lived In.... books PLUS a $50 Toys R Us gift card (USD) to one lucky winner. Open in US and Canada. Begins 9/13 & ENDS 9/30/13 @ 12:01 a.m. ET.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: Set of 3 books and $50 Toys-R-Us gift card provided by the author as a giveaway for one of Chat With Vera's readers. This giveaway hosted solely for readers of Chat With Vera.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Mama and Me: Rhyming Devotions for You and Your Child by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley - Illustrated by Phyllis Harris (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 978-1-4143-7973-9
$14.99 Hardcover
Tyndale House Publishers
About the book:  My Mama and Me is designed around four questions: Can You Tell Me about God? Can You Tell Me about Jesus? What Does God Think about Me? How Can I Show God I Love Him?

Through 25 rhyming devotions and fun activities, Mom can answer these questions for the curious little one. It’s a great way to introduce kids to faith at an early age yet in an age-appropriate and understandable manner. Each devotion also includes a short Bible verse and a prayer that mother and child can recite together. Some of the activities include creating a card, making a heart wreath, and singing—all of the activities are directly related to the theme for the devotion. These devotions translate to hours of meaningful, faith-filled fun.

The book ends with a touching prayer every mother will want to pray for her children.
My thoughts:  If you were to glance at this book in a store or see it online to purchase, you would think it about a love between child and mother and how they interact with one another. However, that is not the case. This lovely little book is filled with soft, whimsical pictures that will draw the attention of the young child.

As a devotional book, it is especially nice in that it is filled with lovely rhymes.
The greatest thing for you to know
is God loves you from head to toe!
He made you, and he knows your name.
His love for you will stay the same. (page 39)

Mama, I've got questions for you.
Who is God, ad what does he do?
How did God make the great big sky?
How did he put the stars so high? (page 9)
The teaching opportunities are plentiful and the special moments of spiritual discovery that are shared will create memories to last a lifetime. A wonderful little book to help shape a young life. Sadly, this delightful book was not available when my children were growing up. But I plan to pass it along to my daughter who has four lovely little girls who will delight in having it read to them and learning its valuable lessons.
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GIVEAWAY: I know someone is going to be very blessed and happy to receive a copy of this book. Use the entry form below. Begins September 12 & ENDS September 30 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open in Continental US addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Tyndale Blog Network to facilitate my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not compensated for this review. A certificate for a giveaway copy was also provided by Tyndale for one of my readers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cascadian Farm Produces and Uses First-Ever Renewable Plant Sources Liner for its Cereal Box

There is a lot of concern about the packaging our products are stuffed into. Plastic bags. Boxes made of plastic or heavily coated with plastic. And on and on. These products are filling our landfills with materials that simply don't breakdown safely (or at all) into the ground. So what are conscientious corporations doing about it?

The Cascadian Farm Organic folks have set the stage for new packaging. See what The Wall Street Journal has to say - just CLICK HERE.  "Cascadian Farm(R) Goes Green with the First-Ever Cereal Box Liner Made from Renewable Plant Sources" - WOW! That is fantastic. But exactly what does that mean?
"Packaging and sustainability experts at Cascadian Farm developed the plant-based liner with the help of leading sustainable packaging developers. The plant-based liner is a key initiative by the brand to utilize renewable resources. Using plant-based resources that can quickly and naturally be replenished allows the Cascadian Farm brand to take a large step towards being as closely aligned as possible with the land."
It means each time you toss that liner in the trash, it will help preserve our natural resources. The liner of their Cinnamon Crunch cereal is made of up to 57% bio-based material. They are transitioning the bags inside their cereal cartons to those composed of biological or renewable resources.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided information on this cereal box liner from  Cascadian farm and further investigated the product online. I have quoted directly from the Wall Street Journal as it appear online (see link above).

Lest we forget.... ....

In response to someone who was "tired" of hearing about 9/11, I say......

Those who do not study, re-study, and learn, and re-learn; teach and teach again the history of our people will be doomed to have it repeated. Hence, we remember the 9/11 days. The D-Days. The veteran's day events and parades honoring the fallen and those who served who are still among us.

Pray that there will be no repeat 9/11s and no repeat Pearl Harbor Days and no need for any more D-Days.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Unforeseeable" (Book 3 in Road to Kingdom Series) by Nancy Mehl

I have been delighted to follow this entire trilogy of Nancy Mehl's Road to Kingdom series. The first two books were very enjoyable and I loved learning about Mennonite communities. I did not realize that there were such communities where you couldn't live unless approved by the Mennonites. It seemed a rather archaic concept to me in today's world, but obviously there is truth in it.

As book three, Unforeseeable got underway, it wasn't long before Callie instead of endearing herself to me as I felt she should have, I found myself being rather "put-out" by her insecurities and inconsistencies. But folks are like that sometimes whether we like it or not.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting a bit more of Noah's and Lizzy's (and Charity's) stories. And then Noah's brother, Levi played a major role in Unforeseeable as the very youthful, unmarried pastor of the Mennonite church and the betrothed of Callie. Levi's character was strong and steadfast and held true to his pastoral role in the community.

But as with other Nancy Mehl stories, this one is complete with mystery, danger, and suspense. I was not expecting the outcome of the murder with the guilty party being exposed. Nor was I expecting the twist in one branch or twig of the mystery.

Nancy wrote an exciting and very descriptive scene when Levi and Callie were stranded during the storm. I won't say more, but you'll find it replete with controversy for setting, the weather playing a major role in their danger, unexpected "attack" that seriously hurt Callie and Levi with much blood flowing.  Then the following snow-bound scenes and wreck with resultant injuries. Let's just say that the severe winter storm brought lots of action.

I have found that in many of the "bonnet" books, there are a lot of unnecessary conversations involving meddling and opinions in which "normal" folks simply do not indulge. I wonder if that is the norm for Mennonites, Amish, and others of the bonnet persuasion, or is it a tool of authors of this genre to picture them as "involved family and friends." As usual Nancy Mehl has written a good book.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

"Trapped" (A Private Justice novel) by Irene Hannon

About the book:  A runaway teen, a desperate sister, and an intrepid PI determined to discover the truth.

When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . .

In her latest thrilling read, queen of romantic suspense Irene Hannon outdoes herself with a fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.

My thoughts:  As usual, Irene Hannon's writing is superb and she manages to capture the readers (my) attention throughout the book.  I did, however, find this a harder read for me than usual. Suspense is intriguing and the pursuit of the wrong-doer by the defenders of society is always thrilling. However, this particular story deals with a psychopath or psychosis of a criminal mind. It involves the tragedy of a run away teen girl who becomes entrapped by a psycho. The danger. The fear. The terror are all there. And it was just a little much for me this time.

I did finish the book and was grateful for the good ending. Again, Irene Hannon, has handled the subject and the characters with care and taste. There is none of the super-thriller-horror story elements in there. Just good story telling of a bad situation. This story was especially noteworthy at this point in time because of the women just freed from their kidnapper who tortured and abused them for years in his home undetected by society. So the risk of this story being real is very much present and very much to be feared

More about the author: Irene Hannon’s website, twitter and facebook:
“Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group for the purpose of rendering my honest opinion. Opinions are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

New Designer Renuzit® Fragrance Cones (Review & Giveaway)

Just how long have the Renuzit® air freshener cones been around? I don't know, but I've been around a long time and I seem to remember those little cones sitting atop my mother's refrigerator a long time ago. We had a lot of folks who smoked in our house and Mom was always trying to get the smell out of the house.  I don't recall the fragrance, I just knew it was better than the one that came in a bottle and you pulled the wick up.

Today is a new day and there are so many fragrances available and lots of brands of air fresheners. You have plug ins, you have bottles with foam wicks, you have sprays. Oh my, you have so many choices. And you STILL have that good old reliable choice - RENUZIT®. And today we're going to talk about 4 of their fragrances and the brand new shape of that old reliable cone. Now just take a look at the lovely box that came in the mail for me. Renuzit® chose me to be one of their reviewers of this new shape and their new fragrances. Did you know there are 18 fragrances to choose from?

My lovely box (don't you just love that pretty, frilly packing - all pink and girly?) had After the Rain®, Simply Vanilla®, Tahitian Breeze®, and Hawaiian Oasis®. (I plan to up-cycle that pretty packing when I give gifts in the upcoming season. Pretty)

I have placed the After the Rain® in a seldom used bedroom to help keep the air fresh there. You can see just how it blends in nicely with the simple décor without being obtrusive.  The little painting on the stand, is an original acrylic by a friend of my husband's. I wouldn't want to detract too much from the loveliness of that little painting. So I think the black Renuzit® cone fits nicely here and the fragrance is fresh and welcoming.

Now in the following picture you can see all four of the fragrances I received. Of course, when you display them, you'll remove the wrappers and just have the sleek cones visible.
There are several ways you can sample these newbie-oldies in the fragrance world or win big. Learn ways you can refresh your home and yourself, renew your environment, and renew your own self.
  • Enter the GIVEAWAY here on Chat With Vera to win 2 coupons for a free product
  • "Like" Renuzit® brand on Facebook and learn about their Scent Gents and you'll have a chance to win a scent-inspired vacation
  • Save $5 when you purchase $20 Henkel® products - which include the Renuie® brand. (Sign up for - I'm a SavingStar user and I LOVE it.)
  • Review a Renuzit® brand on their website (or their Facebook page) and get in the running for a monthly $25 prize.
GIVEAWAY: 4 Chat With Vera readers have the opportunity to be blessed with 2 free product coupons for Renuit® cones. Begins September 7 & ENDS September 21 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. (Yes, this is a shorter duration giveaway. So act quick!)
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DISCLOSURE: The Renuzit brand provided me with sample Renuzit cones in exchange for a product review. However, all opinions expressed here are solely my own.