Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: ~~~ She’s a Pinkerton detective. He’s working undercover for Wells Fargo. Neither has a clue about love.
Annie Beckman arrives at Last Chance Ranch in the Arizona Territory holding the classified ad she found. Miss Walker’s search for an heiress who is single and willing to remain so gives her the perfect cover. As a detective for the Pinkerton Agency, Annie’s latest clandestine task is to discover the identity of the mysterious Phantom, a train robber thought to be hiding out at the ranch.

Ranch hand and undercover Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is secretly tracking the Phantom too, but Annie suspects he may be the train robber she’s after. They’re constantly at odds and she even goes so far as to serve him gunpowder tea in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

Danger lurks around every corner and everyone is under suspicion—even Miss Walker! It’ll be a race to the finish to see which rival detective finds the Phantom first. Nothing—not even romance—can get in their way.
My thoughts: I enjoy a varied genre of stories and those that have a touch of romance, a bit of mystery, some interesting or funny characters, and that blend faith into the mix make for light, enjoyable, relaxing reads. I place Margaret Brownley's Gunpowder Tea in that category. Margaret Brownley is a New York Times Best-Selling author of more than 25 historical and contemporary novels to her credit. Now about this third installment in the Brides of Last Chance Ranch series. 

As you have seen from the introductory information on the plot of the book, Miranda Hunt travels west in the 1890s to apply to be the heiress of rancher Eleanor Walker, but Miranda is really an undercover Pinkerton agent trying to solve the mystery of multiple robberies by the elusive "Phantom." I really enjoy the characters Miranda and Eleanor and their interaction. Both ladies are feisty and both are headstrong.

One of the ranch hands, David Branch, draws the suspicion of Miranda so she targets him for her undercover investigative work.  However, the two are drawn to each other and that gets sweet and it gets funny.  The mystery thickens. The danger encroaches on daily life. That which seems seemly is not in fact what it seems. The ending in this one is a bit of a surprise - but you'll have to read it to know what it is.

Gunpowder Tea, though third in the series, is a good stand-alone read that will leave you feeling you've met some friends (in the characters), enjoyed their good points and understand their bad points, laughed with them and at them, and rejoiced when difficulties are overcome.

GUNPOWDER TEA Yes, there is such a thing as "gunpowder tea" and it is a speciality green tea where each leaf is painstakingly rolled into tiny pellets. You can read about it HERE. I found this information very interesting and feel I absolutely MUST try some gunpowder tea!

GIVEAWAY:  I have been graciously given the opportunity to host a giveaway for one copy of Gunpowder Tea to one of Chat With Vera's readers. Just complete the Rafflecopter entries below. Begins October 31  & ENDS November 21 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US mainland addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Gunpowder Tea from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing and the author, Margaret Brownley, for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review and was not required to render a positive review.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"How long will you love me?" by Patti Brassard Jefferson (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN-13: 978-1612441788
Hardcover - $16.95
Usually when you pick up a children's book that assures them of your love - forever and a day - it is basic and yet profound but definitely directed to the little ones.  In How long will you love me? the author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson has succeeded in creating a book that you can give to a child or to that special adult in your life.

The illustrations are colorful and engaging. and you'll begin by looking for the heart on each and every page. Interwoven into each illustration is word-play and humor and the ever present promise to love you. Simply turn the page to get another jolt of loving promise with a touch of sweet humor via the delightful illustrations that will bring forth those little deep seated chuckles.

A nice book I can recommend and it'll make a nice gift.

GIVEAWAY:  The author has graciously provided a copy that will be mailed directly to the winner. Just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter the giveaway. Begins October 28 & ENDS November 18 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA mainland addresses only.

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DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for our honest review. No compensation was received for the review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Texas Wildflowers" a Four-in-one-collection by Anita Higman

I thoroughly enjoy reading Anita Higman's books. Recently I read and reviewed WinterIn Full Bloom and  AMerry Little Christmas and find each of her books slightly different in style but thoroughly enjoyable reads.  In Texas Wildflowers  she writes the stories of four sisters. Each is named after a flower - Rosy, Lily, Violet, and Heather; and each has their own story in novella form bound into one book. Nice idea for bringing a family story to the reader. Instead of one book with their stories interwoven throughout, each is a stand-alone novella.

As a Christian author, Anita Higman has characters whose faith is the guiding force in their lives and key to their decisions.  And in a Christian novel that focuses on sweet romance, that is a real plus.  Also, the romance doesn't get uncomfortable as many romance novels would.

This is a book I would categorize as beach-reads, rainy-day reads, or just-for-fun-relaxing reads.  Each novella can be read in an evening or a "rainy-day" sit by the fire.

DISCLOSURE: The author shared this book with me and I enjoyed reading and writing this review. No expectation was made for a review or for positive opinions. I received no compensation for this review.

"The Justice Game" by Randy Singer

For legal thrillers, Randy Singer is a go-to-author. He is an attorney, pastor, and author. How the man ever finds the time to do two of these, let alone three, escapes me. Needless-to-say, I do enjoy his writings. As many of you are away, "Chat With Vera" enjoys a number of genres and legal suspense/thrillers is one. But as with my other readings and reviews, the majority are written by Christian authors.

In The Justice Game, Mr. Singer writes about an angle I simply would not have dreamed possible - "shadow juries" that try the trials and speculation by wealthy hedge fund groups and individuals on the outcome. Who will win and how it will affect stocks is up for speculation and grabs. When the verdict comes in, millions are made or lost.

In the book there are several storylines - 1) the hedge fund/speculation on trial outcomes, 2) the battle between the gun rights and no gun rights groups, and 3) the harboring of personal secrets that can make or break careers. Interwoven beautifully the sub-plots are delivered in the beautifully worded style of expert, Randy Singer. His expertise as an attorney brings legal credence to the story. His experience as a pastor draws characters flawed and seeking diving help.  The element of danger surrounding
criminal and civic trials to those involved in the proceedings is dirty and evil. If you enjoy legal suspense, I recommend this book.

I previously reviewed Mr. Singer's books. Read my reviews:  Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, The Judge, The Last Plea Bargain.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of The Justice Game from the Tyndale Rewards program. You can sign up to receive free  book by CLICKING HERE.

"Love's Awakening" by Laura Frantz

Author Laura Frantz writes a compelling historical novel that is well-research and whose characters fit the mores and social restrictions of the period. In Love's Awakening  the story has two basic story lines that captured my interest. One is the generational dislike between two families - one whose livelihood involves the manufacture and distribution of distilled spirits and whose members have flawed and tainted characters, and the other family lives a more genteel, faith-based life that is above reproach.  The other storyline involves the abolitionist controversy in a state that had actually outlawed slavery but which had groups that as vigilantes punished those who supported the freeing of slaves.

Love's Awakening reeks with danger on many fronts. But there is a sweet tale of love between the two families so at odds with one another. The story follows somewhat predictable lines, but thoroughly enjoyable to read in spite of the predictability. But one of the characters is left "hanging" at the end and that is the tale for the next in the series by Laura Frantz.

For reading fiction about the mid-to-late 1800s, Laura Frantz is an author to follow.

DISCLOSURE: I received prize copy of this book via the giveaway program. No review was expected so this is a courtesy to the author and publisher.

The Journey of Josephine Cain, #6 in the American Tapestries Series by Nancy Moser (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN-13: 9780824934279
Paperback $11.99

About the book: When a socialite from the nation's capital embarks on a journey to the Wild West, her life is changed forever.

A setting populated by hundreds of laborers, outlaws, and Indians is hardly the place for a wealthy general's daughter. But Josephine Cain is determined to visit her father, who supervises the day-to-day work involved in the grandest ambition of post-Civil War America: the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Life with the railroad is far from the proper life Josephine is used to, and she faces deadly gunfights, harsh weather, and vigilante uprisings. She is torn between the West and the East; between her privileged upbringing and the challenges of a new frontier; between the pull of the suitable beau her parents approve of and an attraction to a rough but charming Irish railroad worker. But if Josephine is willing, she just might find a new life, a unique purpose . . . and true love.

My thoughts: 
I don't recall reading one of Nancy Moser's book previously, but The Journey of Josephine Cain was a fine story to introduce me to her writing. She has taken a little know piece of American history and woven a tale that is interesting and entertaining. Characters:
  • Josephine Cain, daughter of a Union General
  • General Cain impeccable leader of Union forces during the Civil War and now leader of the railroad's task to lay track across America.
  • Lewis - Suitor of Josephine - His character comes across as flawed early in the story, but unbeknownst to Josephine.
  • Hudson - Union soldier under General Cain and now trusted worker under General Cain in the railroad's push to lay track
  • Mrs. Cain - bitter, grieving mother of Josephine who can not reconcile her grief and live a normal life.
The story begins just at the end of the Civil War when Josephine is attending a theater production in Ford Theater. She sits in a box and has a clear view of President Lincoln and his party. She also witnesses first hand the assignation of Lincoln.
The story moves on and being a real "daddy's girl," Josephine wants to leave her home in D.C. and go west where she can be near her father - really so she can escape the restrictions and confines of her mother's grief. So she journeys with Lewis west to find her father. Once she arrives she meets Hudson who is the epitome of a strong gentleman, gracious in his actions, and respected by his leaders and the men with whom he works.
Historically, the book brings to light the still raw relationship between white men adventuring westward and the native Indians. But it also shows how they are trying to get along. The story also brings to light the fact that America is a melting pot when it refers to the men working the rail line - Irish, Italian, Chinese, black, white, Southern, Northern. How they survived the Civil War and how they must now try to pull the country together and their own personal lives as well.

I found the story interesting and a nice read. The plot was somewhat predictable and I wondered why the villain was so slow to be recognized. "The Journey" was not just a westward trek for Josephine, it was a journey of discovery as to just who she is and what her place in life is to be. It is in discovering that she can achieve and she can make wise choices.
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About the author: Nancy Moser is the best-selling author of more than twenty novels. She is a winner and two-time nominee of the Christy Award, and her latest novel was named to Booklist's "Top 10 Romance Novels of 2011." Nancy and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren, and they live in the Midwest.  Learn more at Nancy at:
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse on behalf of the author and publisher for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received and all opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith and Illustrated by Breezy Brookshire (Review & Giveaway)

Hardcover w/Dust Jacket - $14.99
ISBN:  9781433680458
B&H Publishing Group
From the cover to the very end, this beautiful book will enchant. The artistry is compelling, soft, delicate, warm, and happy. Just right for a children's picture story book. Illustrator Breezy Brookshire has truly captured the essence of author Angie Smith's delightful tale of a little girl and a bunny.

In a shop there is a barrel of stuffed toys ready to be purchased by children and adults. One is a bunny that is constantly being bypassed for the other toys. You see, bunny is flawed. He has a spot on his chest. But bunny's hope is that someone will want to love him anyway.

There is a delightful little girl and she and her mommy go shopping in the shop. The little girl looked right at bunny and even said something to her mommy, but they left. Bunny thinks it is because he has a spot on his chest. But another day, Caroline (the little girl) and her mommy return and Caroline picks bunny up by the ears and says, "I want this one." She also names the bunny, Audrey. Love began to grow in bunny for Caroline and Caroline began to love bunny. And the story continues sweetly on.

What is so delightful about the book is that it helps children see and realize that each of us is different in some way - each has some type of flaw - and each can be loved just as we are. God has made us all different. 

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14
GIVEAWAYOne of Chat With Vera's readers is going to be blessed to win a copy of Audrey Bunny for some special child in their life. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Begins October 21 and ENDS November 4 @ 12:01 ET. 
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About the author and illustrator:  Angie Smith, author, is the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of award-winning group Selah), best-selling author of Mended, I Will Carry You,  and What Women Fear, and a popular speaker and blogger. Check out Angie's blog at

Breezy Brookshire, illustrator, also illustrates for Clementine Pattern Co., Noble Rose Press, and The Breezy Tulip Studio.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from FlyBy Promotions on behalf of B&H Publishing, and the author, Angie Smith

Friday, October 18, 2013

"The Christmas Candle" by Max Lucado

About the book:   Glowing bright with a timeless message, The Christmas Candle will warm your heart.

It’s 1864 in Gladstone, England, a tiny village in the Cotswolds. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens here. Except at Christmas time. This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, have to make a difficult choice—who among them most needs a Christmas miracle?

As hope blossoms in wintertime, soon the entire town glows brightly with Christmas joy.

My thoughts:  Prolific author, beloved by his readers, Max Lucado has written a sweet story that begins in 1664 in the cottage of the village candle maker. This sweet story of miracles and enchantment coupled with the miracle of faith has been made into a movie and one of the players is the beloved vocalist Susan Boyle who in her early 40s took the entertainment world by storm or by miracle - you choose. But about the book….

The little village has entered a more modern time and they have lost their beloved pastor. A new reverend has been sent to check out the village church. He is welcomed by virtually everyone and passed along from one delightful individual to another as he learns about them and they learn about him. He does end up preaching to them and they expectantly await their beloved message dealing with their own personal "village Christmas miracle." Anticipating who will be the recipient this time around - and it only occurs every 25 years - has them all in knots.

The village characters will wiggle their way into your heart with their sweetness and their quirky ways.

This story is simply that - a story and it is a tale to delight, but there is no basis for its truth or possibility of being reality in it.  It is akin to the Elves and the Shoemaker in its sweetness and magical qualities. The big difference is that they do find the true source of miracles and find their faith is in their Lord the Saviour who was born in the tiny manger in Bethlehem so many years ago. A delightful story, a quick read, and another lovely Christmas novella.
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided to me by BookSneeze on behalf of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishing and the author, Max Lucado for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was given for this review.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"A Christmas Gift for Rose" by Tricia Goyer (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780310336785
Zondervan - $15.99 Hardcover
My thoughts:  The story actually begins during the Great Depression of 1929 and entails the hardships on families. Some didn't have enough to eat. Some did. There was illness exacerbated by lack of proper nutrition. There was death and fear of death. This was the childhood of Rose and the beginning of her story.

The book opens when Rose is around 20 and is happily living in an Amish household as a devoted Amish Community member. She loves a young Amish young man, Jonathan, who veered away from the normal Amish non-violent, peaceful approach to war by enlisting in the military as a medic during WWII. The war is over and he is back in the Amish Community trying to again be a respected member.  Rose and Jonathan love each other but must overcome questions and doubts.

This charming novella explores the hearts of those who adopt and who are adopted. It explores the wonderful value on many levels that adoption provides. But mostly, this little book leaves the reader with the feeling of joy and fulfillment. It is a story of hearts-ease.

If you enjoy Amish reads, this little Christmas novella is sure to please you. If you're not particularly a fan of Amish novels, you will most likely enjoy this because of the story of sacrificial love that is told.

GIVEAWAY: One Chat With Vera reader will be chosen from the Rafflecopter entries below to receive a copy of A Christmas Gift For Rose. Will it be YOU???? Begins October 17 & ENDS October 31 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA mainland addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of A Christmas Gift for Rose from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Zondervan and the author, Tricia Goyer for the purpose of providing my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review. The giveaway copy is also provided by Litfuse.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness with "Food Should Taste Good" chips

 The good folks at "Food Should Taste Good" are joining forces with us all to support the fight against Breast Cancer. 

This fall, they are continuing their effort to support finding a cure for breast cancer with a $100,000 donation to Play for P.I.N.K, regardless of sales.  All funds collected by Play for P.I.N.K. go directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for life-saving research. The Play for P.I.N.K. foundation has raised $29.7 million to date, helping to keep researchers at the forefront of discovery and progress.

Chat with Vera has a vested interest in fighting breast cancer. You see, my daughter was diagnosed 3 years ago with HER2+ and has had surgery, chemo, and more surgery. She is now receiving medication to keep the beast away.  Her treatment is the result of positive, wonderfully successful treatment.

Now also for the 3rd year in a row, Food Should Taste Good is going pink changing Multigrain, Sweet Potato, Blue Corn, and Olive to demonstrate their commitment to Breast Cancer Awareness. Now you can go out and "shop pink."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"First Date" by Melody Carlson

About the book: When it comes to catching the eye of that cute boy at school, sometimes you just need a little help from your friends.
ISBN: 9780800721312
Paperback $12.99

Devon, Emma, Cassidy, Bryn, and Abby have one thing in common as they start their sophomore year: none of them have ever been on a "real" date. With homecoming looming, the girls make a pact and start a secret club they call the DG (Dating Games) that has just one objective--dates for the dance.

They're sworn to secrecy, but the club is their way to set each other up on their first dates so they can report back to the DG. They'll have to navigate expectations and rules from their parents, figure out how to act on a date, and endear themselves to the guys they like.

What could possibly go wrong?

Review: This is the first book I have read by Melody Carlson and as I started through the first couple of chapters, I was convinced that I was not going to like this book.  In fact, the more I read the more I felt that it was a waste of my time and most certainly was not something that I was going to recommend anyone else to read.  However, as I remembered the target age for this book (High School: 10th grade and up), the story began to make sense to me and how it would possibly appeal to this age group simply because of the topic of dating and let’s face it, most young girls are interested in dating.  The characters in the book are real and you could easily see any of these girls walking up and down the halls of any high school – Christian or Public.

Devon is the new girl at Northwood Christian School.  She transferred from the local public high school because of her parents’ divorce and her mother wanted a “better place for Devon.”  Devon has no interest in the spiritual side of the Christian school and is only interested in basically one thing – guys.  She can’t understand why the boys aren’t paying any attention to her.  She never had that problem at the public school.  Was everyone at Northwood a stick in the mud?  

What she doesn’t know is that one of the teachers at Northwood, Mr. Worthington, has given all the high boys a talk about dating and showing respect to the girls and being careful about who you date and that perhaps the young men would consider making a pact to not date and wait on God to show them whom they should date.  Once Devon is told of the “talk” by Mr. Worthington, she makes it her mission to break “the pact” and the Dating Games club is borne.   

She talks her best friend Emma into joining the club, as well as three other girls who are friends with Emma and tells them all that they can help each other get dates for the Homecoming Dance.

“First Date” is not a bad book, The girls in the story do develop a deeper friendship because of the Club, but I was disappointed that there was so little spiritual application until well into the book – more than half way through before the thought is introduced that if you’re a Christian, then you need to be very cautious about who you might date and how that might affect your testimony.  Oddly enough, though, I remember some of these same situations during my high school years and I am sure things are pretty much the same now.  

Ms. Carlson has done a good job in character development and any high school girl who may read “First Date” would/could see herself in one of the five girls of the Dating Game Club.  Hopefully, however, they will also realize that it’s okay if you don’t date.  That may sound a little naïve’, but one can hope. (guest reviewer: P. Howard)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was received to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review. "First Date" published by Revell a division of Baker House Publishing.

"The Christmas Quilt" by Vannetta Chapman (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781426752773
Paperback $12.99
Releases: October 1, 2013
Vannetta Chapman has written the sequel to her book, A Simple Amish Christmas, which I reviewed. Frequently, sequels include minor characters from book one as major players in book two. This time, we see a bit of that as well as two major players in A Simple Amish Christmas being lead characters in The Christmas Quilt. Annie had gone out into the world (from the Amish community) and while dwelling there, trained as a registered nurse. Being educated beyond grade eight is simply not done within the Amish community, but she pursued it and that is where she opened the pages of the story in A Simple Amish Christmas. As we begin book two, The Christmas Quilt, we see Annie is now married to the widower Samuel who serves as doctor, through holistic medicine, to their community. They make a great team and now their team is beginning to grow as Annie is expecting their first child.

Annie's brother is married now to her best friend, Leah, who is expecting a set of twins. As her pregnancy progresses she needs to be hospitalized to prevent losing the twins. Annie sits with her in the hospital. Their experience there is good and strong - medically, spiritually, communally, and personally. Their faith and their personal relationships with others are forged stronger each day.

The story progresses very much surrounding the production of the nine-square crib quilt that Annie is making for Leah. To pass the time, Leah even participates in the sewing. The real progress though is spiritual as they explore the fruits of the spirit which are nine.

I highly recommend The Christmas Quilt as a lovely story to be read for enjoyment and one that will bless you as you read. This author, Vannetta Chapman, is one I can endorse and recommend for the quality of her writing and her treasured stories. You might want to visit Vannetta's blog by
clicking here.

GIVEAWAY: Begins October 8 & ENDS November 4, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for USA addresses only.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Christmas Quilt for the purpose of this review without compensation and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"A Plain Disappearance" book 3 of the Appleseed Creek Mysteries by Amanda Flower

About the book: It's Christmastime in Amish Country, and Chloe Humphrey has begun settling into her life in Appleseed Creek excited to see where her new relationship with Timothy Troyer will lead. Unfortunately it leads to murder when the couple discovers the body of Amish teenager Katie Lambright while on their first date.

Near the scene there is evidence that Timothy's friend and auto mechanic Billy Thorpe is involved with the crime. The police reveal Billy is not really who he said he was and has been living the last decade in Knox County under a stolen alias. Now, Chloe and Timothy must find Billy, bring him to justice, or prove his innocence. 

My thoughts:  For those of you who grew up reading Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys mysteries, you are in for a new take (sort-of) of their adventures as author Amanda Flower modernizes, intensifies, and deepens the old tried and true youth mysteries. Those old stories involved young folks who were not detectives or police but got themselves involved in the solution of various crimes and mysteries.

Here in A Plain Disappearance we have a young lady who is an "Englischer" computer geek at the local college and her not-quite-boyfriend, Timothy, involved with the local police in the solving of a murder. Actually, Chloe and Timothy are the ones who discovered the body of the young Amish girl in the snow. (Prepare yourself for a nice cozy mystery.)

This story while not a deep dark read does actually present a varied community of folks. We see Amish who are very strict living with family members who have left the church for the more "modern" Mennonite faith. We also see relationships developing between Mennonite, Timothy, and Englischer, Chole. Interesting indeed.

This book also brings out a darker side to some of those who live within the Amish community and who are living as "respected" church members. There is intense anger, cruelty, abuse, and isolation. But to our true enjoyment, the story also brings the delightful character, Grandfather Zook, to the forefront and you will absolutely fall in love with him. And I would be derelict if I did not mention "Sparky" - the faithful old horse that they all love.

As usual, family is a big part of the story as it is in all Amish tales. But as I mentioned, these families are beginning to mix it up a bit with leaving the faith and embracing another faith and yet being allowed to remain in the family and fringes of the community.

A Plain Disappearance is book 3 in the series Appleseed Creek Mysteries by Amanda Flower who is a prolific writer of Amish stories, middle reader adventures, and contemporary cozy mysteries. She is an Agatha-nominated author (A Plain Scandal, A Plain Death), and published by B&H Books.    Read my review of Andi Unexpected  which is one of her middle reader adventures.

I received a complimentary copy of A Plain Disappearance for the purpose of rendering my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Maps - Travel the world without leaving your living room (children's illustrated map study) [Review & Giveaway]

I recently featured an author's social studies intro set for young children, today we're going to look at another "social studies" book that is sure to please, inform, entertain, and delight. That book is....
ISBN: 9780763668969
Hardcover- 10" x 14"

There are 112 pages packed with images to help a young person catch a glimpse at the world that is out there for him to discover. Each country has the map actually drawn out and it is jam packed with small, even tiny, drawings of peoples, costumes, historical points and locations, animals, etc. that make that specific country unique.

About the book:
This book of maps is a visual feast for readers of all ages, with lavishly drawn illustrations from the incomparable Mizielinskis. It features not only borders, cities, rivers, and peaks, but also places of historical and cultural interest, eminent personalities, iconic animals and plants, cultural events, and many more fascinating facts associated with every region of our planet.

Travel the world without leaving your living room. (from the website)

Two page spread of "Maps"
More from Vera: When your child stretches out on the floor with this educational delight in front of him, he will learn minute and vast amounts of information. Children delight in little picture drawings and hidden objects. This is kind of like a seek-and-find picture book. Lots to learn and lots of fun doing it. No. It is not a "game book." It is a learning book but one that will be lots of fun to use.

See natural elements for each country as well as the country's cultural heritage. There is a bit of historical significance thrown in with mention and images of historical figures, sites of battles, and other.

So go to your local bookseller and see what a delight this would be to have in your own home library. And you can also try to win a copy here on Chat With Vera. 

GIVEAWAY:  One Chat With Vera reader will be randomly selection from the Rafflecopter entries (use form below) to win a copy of Maps for the delight of a child or a school you wish to benefit. Giveaway begins October 4 & ENDS October 29 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for US addresses only. 
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Author/illustrator: Aleksandra Mizielin´ ska and Daniel Mizielin´ ski graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, in 2007. In 2010 they were nominated for the Bologna Ragazzi Award and the IBBY Honor List.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Maps from Candlewick for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received and I was not required to render a positive review. Giveaway copy is also provided by the publisher and will be shipped directly to the winner from Candlewick.

Musselman's makes big announcement on big cups (Review & Giveaway)

I know you're asking because everyone's curiosity gets the best of them, "What has the big wait been all about that folks have been whispering around the fruit aisle in the grocer's?" Well, it is all about a BIG CUP. But first let's look a bit at some stuff...
Did you know?
  • Snacking now accounts for 53% of all eating occasions in the U.S.
  • More than 50% of adults are snacking more than once a day. 
  • Musselman’s Apple Sauce is naturally fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free and low in sodium.
You knew some of that, didn't you. But have you really let it sink in what all-that-snacking-does-to-you???? Well, what do you want it to do to you? Give you energy? Yes, surely, of course! Make you fat? No and I know that is a silly question. But in reality it does often, face it - most of the time, make you fat or fatter or less thin than you want to be. So let's talk snacking that is good for you. 

Have you ever tucked an individual cup of applesauce into your purse, pocket, lunch bag for a snack and after eating it wished it had been just a bit more? I have. Sometimes I need just a bit more of a pick me up. That is where the BRAND NEW BIG CUP from Musselman's comes in. Yep! These big cups  now pack 6 oz. into each of them but they also pack that extra 2 oz. of wonderful nutrition that only quality applesauce can bring to the plate.

Varities:  Cinnamon Applesauce, Original Applesauce, and Unsweetened NATURAL Applesauce. Something for everyone. For the purist amongst us, the Unsweetened Natural Applesauce is the prime product. Enjoy!

GIVEAWAY: Musselman's family operated company is kindly going to bless one of Chat With Vera's readers with some BIG CUP MUSSELMAN'S APPLESAUCE. Now you just need to use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter. Begins October 4 & ENDS October 28 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for US addresses only - No P.O. Boxes, please.  
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Help Fight Breast Cancer with a Few Clicks!

Tell your friends & family to “like” us on Facebook and take part in our Celebrate Family Sweepstakes. For every new “like” and sweepstakes entry we receive, we’ll donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Our goal is $50,000, so start spreading the word today!

DISCLOSURE: I received  2 packs of Musselman's big cup applesauce and a "Musselman's logo big cup" to facilitate this review. No compensation was received for this review. Giveaway package is provided courtsey of Musselman's and shipped directly to the winner.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Great Christmas Gifting Opportunity..... Captain No Beard Series of 4 Books and a $50 Toys-R-Us Gift Card Giveaway

Author Carole P. Roman has provided the opportunity for one of Chat With Vera's readers to be blessed by receiving all 4 of the Captain No Beard children's books AND a Toys-R-Us $50 giftcard.  I previously reviewed each of the Captain No Beard books and found them delightful, educational along the lines of character traits, colorful, and fun. Take a look at each of my reviews:
  1. Strangers On The High Seas
  2. Stuck In The Doldrums
  3. Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience
  4. Captain No Beard (book 1 in series)
Each of these books is a delight and so cute. Children love the "pirates" and love to "shiver me timbers" and "Ahoy, mateys."

Why not read my reviews and also go to and read other rave reviews for Carole P. Roman's Captain No Beard 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: Just in time to make your Christmas shopping a breeze!..... A print copy of each of the Captain No Beard books PLUS a $50 Toys R Us gift card (USD) to one lucky winner. Open in US and Canada. Begins Oct. 3 & ENDS Oct. 28, 2013  @ 12:01 a.m. ET.

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DISCLOSURE: Set of 4 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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"How To Make Friends and Monsters" by Howard Boward (with a little help from Ron Bates)

ISBN-13: 978-0310735519
If you are looking for an entertaining, humorous book for a middle-schooler, this is it!  Howard Boward has a little in common with a lot of seventh graders.  He is one.  But there, the similarities seem to end for him.  He has few friends, no, in all honesty, he has no friends.  It is such an obvious lack that his mother buys him a book, "How to Make Friends".   However, instead of reading it as "HOW to Make Friends", Howard sees the title as any nerdy junior scientist would:  "How to MAKE Friends"!

Written in first person, and with Howard being prone to talk to himself, (a necessity since he has no friends to talk to), much of the book reveals Howard's character and thought processes to the reader. He is a creative boy trapped in an awkward, skinny body with a low self-esteem and a high IQ. The kind of junior-high student bullies look for- and find- daily!

Howard's description of the "in crowd" are those superstars of middle school who can utter  "a single word and plunge another student to the bottom of the popularity ladder or raise you to that glorious place where even the eagles get nosebleeds."  He dubs these chosen ones the UP's, the "uber-populars."  At the beginning of the story Howard wants to be one.  At the end of the book, he knows he had a close call with being one, but thankfully, he now knows the meaning of being a true friend--thanks to Franklin Stein.

Franklin Stein was the name Howard gave to the friend and monster he created out of spare parts and the DNA of various animals,  (thanks to his animal catcher dad) and his natural ability to invent things.  Secretly hanging out in his make-shift lab in the garage along with lab assistant, Reynolds Pipkin, the experiment became larger, literally, than Howard could have imagined.  A creature began to take shape and with the help of a computer inputting information, a walking, talking friend emerged.  Fortunately for Howard, as a last moment decision, he had thrown in some blonde follicles belonging to Winnie, one of the nicest, kindest seventh graders at school.  

From Winnie and a few other kind characters in the book, Franklin morphed into Howard's true friend, not like one of the UP's he used to worship.  A true friend doesn't have fun at the expense of others, coax others to do their work for them, use friends for selfish gain, or abandon friends in need.

Hopefully, this book will not only entertain but help readers define what a true friend is and how to be one!

The book is hilarious and a good read for all ages.  Pre-teens should find it funny, I often found it hilarious. (reviewed by  Carly D. Karns, Teacher at Alamance Christian School)

GIVEAWAY: If you live in US you can qualify for a giveaway copy provided by the publisher. Simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. NO P.O. BOXES, please! Begins October 3 & ENDS October 21 @ 12:01 a.m.

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About the author:  Ron Bates is a freelance writer and award-winning copywriter who lives and works in Texas. He began his career as a newspaper reporter and later became an editor and columnist. His frequently funny takes on life caught the attention of Legacy Publishing, which hired him as resident humor-columnist. His works include the children's story Arnold Bought a Bug; the inspirational play Flight 1615; Underground Ink, a collection of humorous poems; the Cranium Comics series Brawn; and St. Mary's and the Art of War, the true story of how Italian POWs transformed a tiny, Texas church. Learn more at

DISCLOSURE: Zonder provided a complimentary copy on behalf of the author for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received for this review.

"Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I" by Alison Hart & Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

About the book:  At home in England, Darling is a mischievous but much loved pet to Robert and Katherine. But when the British military asks families to volunteer their dogs to help the war effort, they send Darling off to be trained, even though it is very hard to say goodbye. Darling goes through training along with many other dogs and is ultimately used as a mercy dog, seeking out injured soldiers on the battlefield and leading the medics to them. After saving the lives of numerous soldiers, Darling is faced with a major challenge.

"Dear soldier,
This is Darling.  She is smart and brave.  Please take care of her and send her home to us.  We love her even though she runs away sometimes.
                 Yours truly, Robert and Katherine." 
This note is attached to Darling's collar when she arrives at the British training camp.  Young dog-lovers will enjoy Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I, where history is told from a dog's point of view. Facts about trench warfare and the role of animals in World War I are woven into a whimsical tale of a runaway dog. Darling and her friends brave German gunfire to save the lives of British soldiers and deliver messages to the front. Readers find themselves at the battlefront as Darling wears a gas mask and crawls through barbed wire. Darling and Private Kent take care of each other, but will they make it back home?

This chapter book has engaging illustrations scattered throughout, though not in overabundance. While an early-chapter-reading elementary child can read the book, the subject matter might frighten the younger child. Perhaps a middle to upper elementary child would be best suited for the story.

Very little is taught to students in today's educational system about World War I. This little book can serve as an introduction to the war period for the young student.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary hardcover copy of Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I. There was no obligation to review, but it was a pleasure to do so.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Princess Petra's Talent (Book 2 in the Sir Princess Petra- The Pen Pieyu Adventures series) by Diane Robinson (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Sir Princess Petra has already proven she is a king and noble knight.  This, however, does not please the king and queen – they want her to behave like a princess and forget this silly knight nonsense of hers!  But when the king writes a new rule in the royal rule book that requires her to attend Talent School and acquire a princess talent certificate or suffer the spell of the royal magician, Petra reluctantly, agrees to go.  But who could have guessed what Sir Princess Petra’s Talent would be? (back of book)

I was given the opportunity to read this wonderful little book before the actual release date of September 24.  It is the second in this particular series.  The first book was “Sir Princess Petra” and describes exactly how and why Petra wanted to become a noble knight.  A great little book to read and probably should be read before “Sir Princess Petra’s Talent” so you can understand some of the characters and who and what and why.
Now, back to my review of “Sir Princess Petra’s Talent”.  This is absolutely one of the silliest books I’ve read, but oh what FUN!!  The author has created such an imaginative story of magical characters.  The King and Queen (aka Mom and Dad) want Princess Petra to be a proper princess and not the tomboy Knight that Petra is.  And so the King (aka Dad) believes that if he writes a new law forcing all knights to go to Talent School that this will change Petra because certainly she will want to learn how to knit or cook.  Petra’s adventure along the way and the creatures she meets along the way are delightful.  The adventure doesn’t end once Petra and her friends arrive at Talent School, but continue after they have attended school and received their talent certificate.  I won’t spoil the story and tell you what Petra’s talent was.  You’ll have to read the book, but reading the book is not a waste of your time.  While I don’t know that any child who reads the story may get the underlying theme of the book, which is basically you can achieve dreams and goals with hard work, I do believe they will enjoy the book because it is just plain silly and a lot of fun.  It reminds me of how many children make up stories and use their imagination! 

“Sir Princess Petra’s Talent” is a great little book and is targeted toward readers who are 3rd grade and higher.  It is short book and can easily be read in one day by children.  (Rev. P.Howard)

GIVEAWAY: One of our readers will win a copy of both book 1 and book 2 in the Princess Petra stories. Use the Rafflecopter form below.  Begins October 1 and ENDS October 21 ! 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to mainland US & Canadian addresses only.
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Author and artist: Diane Mae Robinson lives in a small hilltop castle nestled amongst a very old and magical forest. In this mystical forest, all the fantasy creatures one can imagine live and audition for parts in the author's next book. Diane has a journalism diploma from the Schools of Montreal and an advanced diploma from the Institute of Children's Literature. The author also teaches acrylic and watercolor art to children.  Find her at

DISCLOSURE: A review copy was provided to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.Giveaway copies provided directly by the author.

"The Journal" by Beth Harlow (historical fiction)

About the book:  When Mary gave a journal to her fiancé in 1861 before he left for war, neither of them had any idea how many hands would write in it over the next four years. The little book travels back and forth across enemy lines and almost takes on a personality of its own as the new owners read what others have written and add their own reflections. The Journal covers some of the major battles of the Civil War from a personal point of view. Each soldier who writes in the journal is in a different place in his relationship with God, and each draws strength and help from what others have written.

Review: All soldiers miss home and long to return to the ones they love. The Journal shares viewpoints of soldiers from the North and South during the Civil War. History is told as fictional Union and Rebel soldiers describe some of the major battles of the war, yet the war is personalized as soldiers from both sides of the war describe their hunger and loneliness. 

The journal begins its journey in the South but is found by a Yankee soldier who finds answers as he reads of the Rebel's love and dependence on God. Enemies understand each other better as the journal is lost and found by soldiers on both sides of the war. The Journal shares history and the gospel in a way that readers will enjoy. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Bookcrash on behalf of the author and publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer and no compensation was received for this review. May be purchased at: