Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Memories Present and Past

The unusual winter weather so far for 2013-14 has been much in the news. It has brought devastating conditions in the Midwest, northern plains, Northeast, East Coast, and now in the Deep South. We have seen temperatures pulmuting far below the norms for the area and time. We have seen unprecedented snows in unexpected areas. We have seen storms swoop down from the effects of the Arctic polar vortex and push up from the Gulf and southern coastal waters. It has been hard. It has been cold. It has been trying. It has been a winter to remember.

And as we have memories carved in the recesses of our minds from the weeks and days of winter already experienced this year, it brings memories to mind of long past snowy winters here in middle North Carolina. It brings visions of children out to play in unexpected snows. I see frolicking children building a snowman in front of the picture window for their sibling who could not go out in the snow because of a strep throat and fever.

I see a three year old vainly (yet so funny) trying to get his little tricycle wheels to turn in the snow. Yes, he was stuck just as those Atlanta motorists were just this past week. His wheels simply wouldn't go for him.

I remember my children coming in after being stranded at a shopping center by their ride after a commute of 30 miles from school because conditions were so bad the driver had to leave them for someone else to come get. And someone did.

I remember my teenage son cooking muffins and walking through the snow to take them to an elderly gentleman who lived alone. He just wanted to check on him to be sure he was alright and to share something with him.

I remember my children coming in from an early school closing (again from that school over 30 miles away) on a very snowy day and diving into a piled up plate of donuts I had cooked for them. (Folks, these were the easy "canned biscuit" donuts and I glazed them with a simple glaze.) Talk about happy teens!

I remember when they were young we didn't have the money for snow boots. We simply didn't get enough snow to merit buying them for growing feet. So when it snowed, we used bread bags over their shoes held in place with rubber bands.  They lasted awhile. When their feet got cold, they had to come in.

Yes, here in the south and mid-west and north east there are lots of memories being formed. Memories of being stranded. Memories of someone bringing those stranded something to eat and drink.  Memories of being stuck at school because there was no way home. Memories of teachers and administrators taking care of stranded children. Memories of hot chocolate. Memories of slipping and sliding down hills. Snowball fights. Snowmen.

What memories have you? Treasure them. Be thankful for them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Southern Snow and Southern Sprit Soars

Getting slammed by snow, ice, and freezing rain preceeded and followed by temps in the teens when you're in the South is the setting for a disaster of mammoth proportions. True the states north of the Mason Dixon Line got a lot more snow and true their temps ran a lot lower, but consider what the south is and what the north is. That is UN-prepared and PRE-pared!

That doesn't mean the south is slow or lacking in wisdom.It simply means that preparation for something such as a slamming snow and ice storm is outside the southern jurisdiction. But then, that is where some of that gracious, cozy, warm and fuzzy Southern living style comes in to play, too. That is where the Christian spirit of those nudging close up to the Bible Belt gets lived out. For example....

..... in Birmingham, Alabama, folks were stranded for hours (I mean somewhere around seven hours) in their cars. No food. No water. Just stranded. These folks don't know the preparedness for getting stuck in a snow storm on an "interstate parking lot" like folks north of the Mason Dixon line do. Northern folks know to carry some food, water, and survival blankets plus flares and flashlights. But when push came to shove, there was a restaurant (fast food, chicken) manager that decided to cook up hundreds of sandwiches and biscuits and pass them out to those stranded. He opened his restaurant to anyone who wanted to crash inside. No charge for anything!

He walked up and down the road, slushing and crunching on the snow and ice, delivering hot, fresh chicken sandwiches to hungry and thirsty.

...... and then there were the stranded teachers and students in schools in Atlanta. They couldn't go anywhere. Folks couldn't come get them. Buses couldn't run. But you had the faithful teachers, administrators, and staff that comforted and consoled the students while they wiled away the hours waiting to be rescued. Then the Governor called out the National Guard to come to the rescue. And then there was a baby born in the freezing grid-lock that was the interstate parking lot (and I believe there just happened to be a nurse stranded nearby, too). 

Now would all of this have played out in the north as well as the south? Probably so. But sometimes you just have to brag a bit on your Southern "cousins" down around Birmingham and Atlanta for being there and doing the right thing.

Now about doing the right thing...... "go and do thou likewise."

Purex® Crystals fresh mountain breeze (Review & Giveaway)
Purex® has again provided Chat With Vera with the opportunity to share one of their products with my readers.  Awhile back we talked about Purex® Crystals and that is what is on the docket again today.

This time the bottle holds 28 oz. and has the new fragrance - "fresh mountain breeze." This is such a terrific fragrance. Not too bold. Not overwhelming. I think it is just right.

Purex® says the following about this nifty product:
  • Clothes smell fresh for weeks, not days
  • Does not reduce the absorbency of towels 
  • Natural formula is safe for your family and the environment.
Mountain air is so much fresher than city air and when I take a whiff of fresh mountain breeze it exudes flowers, freshness, a gentle breeze, and open air. Well, you kinda get a smile on your face just sniffing.

GIVEAWAY: Two of  Chat With Vera's readers have the opportunity to receive a coupon for a free bottle of Purex® Crystals fresh mountain breeze. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form below and let's seen who just might take that imaginary sensory trip to the mountains with a whiff of Purex® Crystals. Open only to US addresses.  Begins January 29 & ENDS February 19 @ 12:01 ET. 
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DISCLOSURE: The Purex® brand provided me with a sample of Purex® Crystals Fresh Mountain Breeze in exchange for a product review. All opinions expressed are solely my own. Coupons for the giveaway were provided along with the sample for me to host a giveaway.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shadowed by Grace by Cara C. Putman (Review & Giveaway)

Publisher: B&H Books 
ISBN-13: 978-1433681783
About the book:  Desperate to save her dying mother, an American woman accepts her newspaper's assignment to travel to Italy where she takes photographs dangerously close to the front lines during World War II. But Rachel's real motive in this journey is to find the father she never knew, an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive at such a desperate time.

In her quest, Rachel becomes involved with what will become the Monuments Men effort to save great monuments and works of art from the Third Reich. Soon enough she will find more than she ever imagined---in war, in love, and in God.

My thoughts:  I have read many historical fiction novels though few positioned during WWII and in the midst of the battles. So the opportunity to read Shadowed By Grace was appealing to me. The scene is Nazi occupied Italy and involves Grace, a news photographer charged with the responsibility to bring the heart of the war story to the world at large. But Grace is there primarily on a personal journey to find her never-before-seen father.

Raised by a single mother who was an art student in prewar WWI Italy, Grace’s mother never shared the birth of Grace with the father. Now Grace’s mother needs funds for life-saving medical treatment. Grace hopes to find her father and appeal to him.

Europe was home to centuries of art treasures that told the story of mankind and these treasures were in danger of being lost forever. The American government commissioned a group of service men called The Monuments Men and they were responsible for finding and securing for posterity these magnificent treasures. The Monuments Men were educated in the arts and knew the value of the pieces they sought out. But nefarious sources were also seeking the pieces. Some damaged by the war. Some safe from harm but not secure from thieves.

Grace was assigned to Monuments Men soldier, Scott. Together they did their part in WWII.  

I found Shadowed By Grace to be interesting from a historical standpoint as the author handled the WWII period of history accurately and graciously. I found the information about the effort to salvage and save the world’s art treasures  beyond interesting and compelling. I also believe the author’s title, Shadowed By Grace, to be two-fold in meaning. The heroine’s name was Grace, and she "shadowed" 
a Monuments Men;  and then the story of the outpouring of the Grace of God was told as well.

GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to get a free copy of Shadowed by Grace by simply using the Rafflecopter entry form below.  Open to continental USA addresses only. Begins January28 & ENDS February 17 @ 12:91 a.m. ET.

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About the author:
Cara C. Putman graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. The best-selling author of more than a dozen books, Cara is active in women's ministry at her church, teaches graduate courses at Purdue University, practices law, and is a homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and 4 children in Indiana.  Visit Cara's website: 

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy  Shadowed By Grace from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, January 27, 2014

"With Autumn's Return" by Amanda Cabot

ISBN: 9780800734619
About the book: She's planning on instant success. She didn't plan on love.
When Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne to open her medical practice, she is confident that the future is as bright as the warm Wyoming sun. Certain she'll have a line of patients eager for her services, she soon discovers the town may not welcome a new physician--especially a lady doctor. Even Jason Nordling, the handsome young attorney next door, seems to disapprove of her chosen profession.

When a web of deceit among Cheyenne's wealthiest residents threatens to catch Elizabeth and Jason in its snare, they must risk working together to save one of Elizabeth's patients--even if it means falling in love.

My thoughts:   A story is a story, is a story,…… Well, that is often the case. A novel is simply a story told to entertain and wile away a bit of time while one relaxes. Personally, I prefer stories or novels that educate and enlighten along the way as well as entertain. With Autumn’s Return is a sweet, entertaining story about the Wyoming Territory, specifically progressive Cheyenne, during the 1880s.  When newly graduated Elizabeth leaves medical school and sets up her practice in Cheyenne, she expects to have patients lining up to see her. Not so. Frankly, the wild West is just not ready for a woman doctor.

Her office is situated next door to an attorney, Jason Nordling, who just won a case for a murderer who he really thought was innocent but who declared his guilt at the conclusion of his trial. Now Jason is highly suspect in the town.

A capable woman doctor and a suspect lawyer next door to one another. However, they don’t behave as caring, loving neighbors. He has no use for a woman doctor – just as the other folks in town don’t.

The story of With Autumn's Return is one of acceptance, trust, and a sweet romance. And there is a ripe subplot that addresses the plight of women being accepted as having a role in society other than that of wife, mother, housekeeper. 

This is book three in a series and is not dependent on the first two. There is reference to, but not dependence on the two previous books.

About the author:  Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Texas Dreams series, as well as Christmas Roses, Summer of Promise, and Waiting for Spring. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers Best. She lives in Wyoming. Find out more at

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of With Autumn’s Return from Revell a  division of Baker Publishing in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was received for this review.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Unstoppable" (DVD review and giveaway - US and Canada)

Release Date: January 28, 2014
Run Time: 65 minutes
Dove Approved ages 12+
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
About the film:  Inspired by the death of Cameron’s close friend who succumbed to cancer at the age of 15, Kirk Cameron takes viewers on an inspiring and hope-filled visual journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raising question in faith: “Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?”

Going back to the beginning—literally—Kirk investigates the origins of good and evil and how they impact our lives … and our eternities. UNSTOPPABLE will prompt audiences to consider the role that pain and suffering has in our lives, as they affirm their personal views on faith, and encourage conversation starters about God, suffering, and hope.
In theaters for only two weeknights (Sept 24th and Oct 3th, 2013), UNSTOPPABLE: A Live Event with Kirk Cameron sold a staggering 260,000 tickets and reached a theatrical gross of over $3.2 million dollars. In just two nights this independent project sent a loud message – audiences want thought-provoking and meaningful entertainment.  
Kirk Cameron is best known for his memorable role as “Mike Seaver,” a cultural icon of the 80's, with his mullet hairstyle, cool glasses, and wisecracking comebacks. More recently he enjoyed much success with the No. 1 grossing inspirational film of 2008, Fireproof, and his recent documentary, Monumental. Kirk and his wife, Chelsea, were on-screen sweethearts during their Growing Pains years and are the founders of Camp Firefly, where terminally and seriously ill children and their families are provided an all-expense paid retreat ( Together, Kirk and Chelsea live in California with their six children.

Review:  At first I wasn't sure I would like Kirk Cameron's visual documentary since I'm not a fan of most documentaries! However, after several minutes, I could start to see how the story was coming together. Kirk does an awesome job bringing to life the story of Man's beginning on earth to the death of Christ and God's redemptive power over evil! Scenes appear throughout the visual journal of the celebration of life of a young 15 year old family friend. Kirk uses this tragedy together with the Biblical stories to help us understand "where is God in the midst of death and suffering?" I'm glad I decided to watch the whole story. It helped me remember that God uses everything for his good and he is always with us, even during times of sickness and death!  (by guest reviewer M.Godley) 

GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to win their very own copy of Unstoppable just by entering the contest using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins January 26 & ENDS February 12 @ 12:01 ET. Open in US and Canada.

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About Provident Films: Provident Films, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, produces, markets, and distributes faith-based films. The company is part of Nashville-based Provident Music Group, which has been one of the world’s leading Christian entertainment companies for more than three decades.  Films from the company have included Courageous, October Baby, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants. More info is available at

"Disclosure in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with Susan Warren on her newest release "It Had to Be You" published by Tyndale

Let's  visit with Susan Warren....
  1. This is the second installment in a new six - book series. Can you give us   bit of background on this series?
    The Christiansen Family series is a spin -
    off of the bestselling Deep Haven collection, stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior. The original series started with a book titled Happily Ever After and grew to include six titles. However, one family began to stand out, and we decided their story needed to be told. We wanted a series about a family with adult children learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives. And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.
  2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
    It’s a gorgeous place to set a story—on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, in a tiny town where everyone knows your name. It’s a town with a rich heritage, strong ties, and a place where people want to escape—in fiction and in real life (as it is modeled after my town of Grand Marais, Minnesota). You’ll find people from all walks of life here—and most importantly, Evergreen Resort, run by the Christiansen family for four generations.
  3. What is your hope for this series?
    Of course, I hope people fall as much in love with the Christiansens as I have. They’re a great bunch—all led by John and Ingrid Christiansen, who have tried to instill their values into their children. But each child has their own path to walk, and part of the series is just watching as they walk that path—through the good and the bad, trying to figure out where their faith and their parents’ legacy fit into their lives. It’s a contemporary epic family series set in the wilds of northern Minnesota with romance, suspense, and lots of great family drama! 
  4. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Eden Christiansen?
    Eden Christiansen came from a number of places. Watching the siblings of movie stars and athletes, watching my own daughter cheer her athlete brothers, even watching my friends, parents who feel on the side lines of their children’s lives ....maybe even a little left behind as they leave for college. I began to wonder—what if you had an amazing sibling, and your entire family focused on his or her successes, and you felt left behind, void of your own amazingness? This is Eden—who feels like she hasn’t accomplished anything and is sitting on the sidelines of her life. She feels like she needs to “get into the game” but doesn’t know how or where to start. And she feels like she really has nothing spectacular to offer.. But God has different plans.
  5. Did you base the character of Jace Jacobsen on anyone in particular?
    Jace was loosely modeled after famed Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died, in part, due to the many concussions he suffered as a hockey player. The problem of concussions with today’s athletes, especially in hockey and football, can be life-threatening for athletes, and although hockey (and football!) is played much differently today, it’s still an issue. I wanted Jace to have the opposite problem from Eden—he is only good at one thing. In fact, he’s spectacular at it, but he believes if he walks away from it, he will be nothing. So same problem...different perspective. It gave me a good opportunity as an author to examine our “worth.” Of course, adding the John Doe element only rounded that theme out with yet another perspective. I loved how these three angles came together.
  6. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
    I think we all need to see our worth not in relationship to our external successes but in how we work out the task God has for us. How we love one another, how we use our gifts and talents. How we abide with God in our daily lives. Hopefully readers will begin seeing their worth in a new way.
  7. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?
    I am hoping readers walk away from this book, and this series, with hope. The sense that they belong to something—to God, to family—and the feeling that our lives are not chaotic or out of control, but that God has a unique and amazing journey for each of us, and it’s lived out with in our relationships. I want them to feel as if they’d found a new set of friends.
  8. Have you received any feedback from your fans on this series? What are they saying?
    People fell immediately in love with Darek and his sweet son, Tiger, in Take a Chance on Me, and I think readers will really enjoy Jace and Eden’s romance in this story. I’m thankful that people enjoy the work I put into developing my characters and the romance, and I have loved diving into these multilayered stories about people with realistic, everyday struggles.
  9. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
    I loved writing about Minnesota in the winter. And I loved the story of John Doe and uncovering who he might be. (I plotted it like a mystery, so it was fun to revisit my mystery-plotting techniques). I especially loved the layers of Jace, the hero, and how, with every turn, he became more intriguing.
  10. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?
    Try to up your writing game with each book, and just keep writing. Not every story appeals to every reader, but I try to write a story I would enjoy—and then hopefully my readers will also.
Be sure you come back to Chat With Vera on February 2 and read my review of "It Had To Be You."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The Headmistress of Rosemere (Whispers on the Moors)" by Sarah Ladd (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father's school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin's edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property --- including the land where Rosemere School is located --- but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience's brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William's past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God's plans for their lives-and their hearts.

My thoughts:  After reading Sarah E. Ladd's first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood, I was anticipating highly the release of The Headmistress of Rosemere. From the initial foray into "Rosemere," I was not disappointed. The characters have deep layers to discover as they are woven in and out of the actions in the unfolding story. Rosemere is another estate similar to Winterwood. The residents of Rosemere survive by hosting an academy on the premises founded by the father of Patience. But Patience's father has died and her brother William has left the estate for London. This leaves the running of the academy to Patience.

Nearby is the estate of William who lives at Eastmore Hall and is land rich and money poor. William also has enemies - those to whom he is indebted. These are dangerous people. As William acquaints himself with Patience, he realizes she is in danger because of him and his past associates.

I found The Headmistress of Rosemere" to be an entertaining and captivating read. The romance that develops between William and Patience is somewhat predictable but it is sweet and fills a need in the overall scope of the story. You can depend on Sarah E. Ladd to write a clean book and not worry about undesirable scenes and foul language.
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GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to get a free copy of The Headmistress of Winterwood by simply using the Rafflecopter entry form below.  Open to continental USA addresses only. Begins January 23 & ENDS February 13 @ 12:91 a.m. ET.

About the author: Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. The Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of The Headmistress of Rosemere by the Publicist on behalf of the author and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for this honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was received for this review. The giveaway is also provided by the same source and will be shipped directly to the randomly chosen winner.

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Smitten Book Club" by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter

About the book:  At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love—often in spite of the historic book’s advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.

My thoughts:  Smitten Book Club is the third book in a series that tells the story of the charming little town (or village) of Smitten, Vermont.  The Smitten community is a caring, close knit one that came together to rescue the little town itself from dying by creating a tourist attraction for romantic get-aways.

In Smitten Book Club the community has come together to take care of Molly and her son Noah who are left when Molly’s husband died as a fireman. But Molly isn’t the only one with a story that needs telling and lives that need mending or completion. We have three other ladies – Heather, Lia, and Abby – who with Molly make up the Book Club. Their newest acquisition in the book club is an old book written by a long ago resident of Smitten who was actually an ancestor of Molly’s deceased husband. This book is the century-old Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship.  Not only do our four ladies find clues to love and courtship, there are other hidden clues within its pages. And they go exploring.

This is a contemporary Christian anthology of four novellas. Each tells the story of one of the ladies and is written by a different novelist.  Colleen Coble writes about Heather in Love By the Book, Kristin Billerbeck tells Abby’s story in Shelved Under Romance, Dianne Hunt delves into A New Chapter for Lia, and Denise Hunter finishes the collection with Molly’s story of Happily Ever After.  And the four authors have done a fantastic work in creating a flowing story with no glitches in characters, settings, or moods.

The overall story is one of community helping and pulling together to help one of their own – Molly. But it also tells how community can be there to help and support each and every member of the community.  And since this is about life and how it plays out day-by-day, it also involves romance. Each lady finds love and their stories are sweetly told.  I think you’ll find that these are folks you’d like to have as neighbors of your own.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Smitten Book Club from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

"The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story about the Six Simple Machines" by Lois Spangler & illustrated by Christina Wald (Review & Giveaway)

Paperback  $9.95
ISBN: 9781607186328
About the book: When a young child decides to build a fort in the backyard, Grandpa comes forward to help. But they can’t do it alone—they get help from the six simple machines: lever, pulley, inclined plane, wheel and axle, screw, and wedge. Told in cumulative rhyme, similar to The House That Jack Built, this story follows grandfather and grandchild as they build a fort together from start to finish.

Review: Who better to give a review of a children's book than the little ones themselves? Well, our librarian at Alamance Christian School read the book to several class groups and here is what they are saying....
  • "I like the book and the dog." Zoe...K4
  • "I liked the  book. My favorite part was when he built the fort." Qunicy...K4
  • "I liked it! I've always wanted to build a fort that wouldn't fall over or I can fit in." Preston.... 2nd
  • "I like it! I like the room that had science stuff in it because I like science." Konnor 1st
  • "The book was great! I really liked the science stuff and the pulley." Chandler.... 1st 
  • "It was awesome! I like that they built a fort. I've always wanted to build one." Zack... 4th
Now from a "grown-up" perspective, The illustrations are very well done showing grand dad and the kids building a fort and the pets are romping on the pages. But the really engaging part is that it is a story in rhyme with a story within the story. As the main story of building a fort using six simple machines progresses, the right hand page recounts the story line (sort of akin to "this is the house that Jack built"). Gramps has a design (just like a real builder would have) and with his measuring instruments and six simple machines he builds the fort. 
Near the end the rhyme concludes...
At last, I look around and what do I see?
Six simple machines used to build a fort for me!
We used wheels and axles, a wedge, some screws, 
a pulley, a lever, and an inclined plane, too!!
The back of the book has several pages for creative minds to explore simple machines, tools, and hands on information. A great opportunity to use a fun book to teach, and teach, and teach some more.

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win one copy of The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story about the Six Simple Machines provided by SylvanDell Publishing for one of our readers. Begins January 17 & ENDS February 10 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story about the Six Simple Machines was provided by SylvanDell Publishing in exchange for this honest review. Opinions expressed are solely ours. The winner’s complimentary copy is also provided directly to them by Sylvan Dell.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Author Anita Higman reveals what it's like - "A Day in the Life" (2-book Giveaway)

Just what is it like to be an author? Do they sit at a computer all day pecking away composing thousands of words with ease? Do they have to clean house? Do they take out the trash? Graciously Anita Higman has shared a bit with us.

 A Day In the Life

I have been a morning person my whole life. I’m up at 5:30 every weekday morning—sharp—and after I eat a breakfast of granola, Greek yogurt, and fresh berries, I usually have a short devotion time with my husband. This sets the right mood for the day and this also gives us the spiritual strength to deal with all the many tasks and problems that invariably come up during the course of an average workday.

After my husband leaves for work, I go upstairs to my office to get started for the day. Once at my desk, I answer all my emails—which usually takes an hour or two—and then I occasionally allow myself a few minutes to read a few of my reviews.

Huge mistake.

I would not recommend this ritual, especially at the beginning of the day. If the reviews are gushy then you might get the idea that anything and everything you write will be like laying a nest of golden eggs. Even though reading the honeyed reviews can give you quite the swoony rush, it’s not an honest emotional place to be when you start on your manuscript. Why? You’ll get the feeling you no longer have to try so hard.


If you read even one ugly review, well, those words will paralyze your spirit like a frog in frozen mud. You know I’m right. So, my advice? Start your day with prayer, not reviews.

If I’m working on a rough draft I try to meet a word-count target of about 2,000 words each day. When I hit my goal or nearly there, I can play for a bit, which means I’ll run errands or do some marketing work on my latest release.

There are some days when I don’t get all my work done by the end of the day. When that happens, I don’t usually treat myself to a fun movie or the chance to settle into my cozy den and read one of my favorite authors, such as B.J. Hoff or Jenny B. Jones. It means I’ll have to tromp right back upstairs in the evening and write some more.

Needless to say, it takes a great deal of discipline to be writer. You have to show up every workday—bum securely fastened to the seat of the chair—no matter what. Even if you don’t feel awake or well or motivated.

Or alive.

So, I stay put in that chair even when that rosy halo called the muse isn’t glowing around my head.

Yes, novel writing can be relentless, tedious effort. Can we say boring? But it can also be deeply satisfying. All the way to your soul. Especially when someone tells you that her life was changed for the better because she read one of your stories. It makes all the tedium, all the sacrifice, all the muscle aches and pains as well as the exhaustion, worthwhile.

Okay, after I finish an evening of writing I head to bed about 9:30. Of course, by then the muse is heated up and is now as bright as a street lamp shining in your bedroom window—which means I’m not going to sleep. My imagination as well as my next-day ta-do list can’t turn itself off. So, after I’ve gone to bed, many times my husband will see me pop right back up again to write something down.

After one or two or more of those rounds, I finally settle into slumber. Then, of course, my dreams take it from there. Rarely, though, have I dreamed scenes or concepts that I could use in one of my novels. That’s a shame, really, but I’ve heard other authors say that have incorporated pieces of their dream world into their books. I only wish that were the case for me.

Well, as you can tell, the life of a writer isn’t easy. The life of a writer doesn’t always include a good night’s sleep. But the life of a writer does mean they’ll be days—and sometimes nights—that will be filled with that inimitable and imaginative and miraculous thing called story!

Thank you, Anita, for such a good "share" with us. That gives those of us who are on the receiving end of your labor (your readers) some really good food for thought.

GIVEAWAY: Thanks to the generosity of Anita Higman, two of Chat With Vera's readers have the opportunity to win their own copy A Marriage in Middlebury.  Begins January 15 & ENDS February 5 @ 12:01 a.m. Open to those in USA mainland addresses only.
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About the author: Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. 

Chat With Vera's reviews of Anita Higman's books:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Heart Failure by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. (Review & Giveaway)

My thoughts: The opening action of Heart Failure has lead characters, Dr. Carrie Markham and Adam Davidson, leaving a movie and suddenly they are victims of a drive-by-shooting. And then the action moves from one action shot to another. Carrie and Adam are both professionals. Carrie is a medical doctor and Adam is a paralegal.

The drama unfolds in the emergency room, the streets, and the buildings where they live and work involving complex individuals whose stories are revealed piece by piece as each layer of the story unfolds. It is revealed that Adam is in the Witness Protection Program and he fears that is the reason behind the danger in which they find themselves embroiled.

Author Richard Mabry, M.D. uses his knowledge and experience to write medical suspense thrillers laced with a clean romance and plenty of human interest. Gleaning from his experiences and observations, Dr. Mabry has been gifted to develop believable characters whose own experiences seem to parallel real people in real places and involved in real drama.

Heart Failure is Published by a Christian publishing house, Thomas Nelson, and the reader can enjoy this suspenseful and entertaining story without the author’s having resorted to the use of explicit immoral behavior and language.  Yet there is enough action to keep the reader on edge anticipating the next page turn.

Medical suspense is a genre that requires knowledge and skill in the medical arena and the author certainly has an abundance of such.  I share my Richard Mabry, M.D. books with my daughter-in-law who is a highly skilled nurse and she devours them highly anticipating each new release.

About the author: (Note: I have taken the liberty to copy the author information directly from his website because his experience just amazes me and I want my readers to get to know him just a little.)

In addition to the practice of medicine, my past includes a stint overseas in the US Air Force, several periods as an interim music minister, and an all-too-brief experience as a semi-pro baseball player. In other words, there’s more to me than “M.D.” covers. Let me share a little about myself.

Education: My BA is from the University of North Texas (which was North Texas State University at the time). I graduated with an MD degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, then obtained my specialty training in otolaryngology (that’s “ear, nose, and throat” to most folks) at two major teaching hospitals in Dallas: Parkland and the VA Hospital.

Air Force: I served for almost three years as a Captain in the US Air Force at Lajes Field, in the Azores, a Portuguese possession in the middle of the North Atlantic. I’ve forgotten most of the Portuguese I learned there, but will never forget the friendships I made. Because I was involved in saving the life of a little Azorean girl whose airway was obstructed by a coin, I was written up in Stars and Stripes and received the Air Force Commendation medal. When there’s a recognition on Veteran’s Day, I’m proud to stand beside all the others who’ve served.

Religion: I’ve been a Christian for six decades. For almost forty years, I was a Deacon in the Baptist church, serving as a Sunday school teacher and singing in the choir. After a recent move across the city, I’m proud to be a member of the Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where I get to hear Dr. Chuck Swindoll preach regularly.

Medicine: During the 36 years I spent in medicine, I wrote or edited eight textbooks, authored over a hundred professional papers, and was an invited guest speaker all over the world. I held the presidency or vice-presidency of three professional societies, and was privileged to receive a number of awards and honors. But if you asked my greatest reward in medicine , it would be in seeing patients get better under my care.

Hobbies:  Primarily golfing, usually once a week with the same golf partner for the past ten years or so. We don’t keep score (heresy to purists, I suppose) and we enjoy the fellowship. I’m also a voracious reader, mainly fiction, although I do read non-fiction books.


NOW FOR THE FUN! - GIVEAWAY TIME:  Dr. Mabry has reserved a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form below - some of the entries may be done DAILY so you get more opportunities to win. Begins January 14 & ENDS February 5 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open only to contiguous USA.

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DISCLOSURE: I received my copy by winning a contest and am happy to share a review with my readers. The author will mail a copy of Heart Failure to the winner. 

"Animal Helpers - Zoos" by Jennifer Keats Curtis (Review & Giveaway)

Paperback $9.95
ISBN: 9781607188506 
About the book:   Zoos are amazing places to see and learn about the many native and exotic of animals that inhabit this world. Some animals are plentiful while others are threatened or in danger of extinction. Zookeepers not only feed and care for these animals, they may also be helping to conserve and protect whole species through breeding and “head start” programs. Follow the extraordinary duties of these unusual animal helpers in this behind-the-scenes photographic journal.

My thoughts: Award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis has created another in her series of “Animal Helpers” - Zoos -  that is spot-on with its text, illustrations, and educational pages at the back of the book.

Animal Helpers: Zoos inquires of the reader whether they could do certain things for the animals in the zoos.  It asks the reader could you do….. while picturing a zoo worker scrubbing a rhino’s foot or giving a baby moose a bottle – all daily incidentals that occupy a zoo worker.

The book presents facts in a subtle way – “Zoos are safe, permanent homes for native and exotic animals.” – letting the child understand that there are many types of animals housed in the zoo.

The interest level of this book can span preschool through middle elementary grades.  For the older child, the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of the book can present ideas and facts that will engage him. This is a book that examines the zoo employee’s work and also gives information that will intrigue and inform on different levels. Example: Occupations of Zookeepers, Zoologists and Veterinarian are described with enough detail that a child can comprehend that there are differences while they all deal with the care and/or understanding of animals.
GIVEAWAY: Enter to win one copy of Animal Helpers Zoos provided by SylvanDell Publishing for that child in your life. Begins January 14 & ENDS February 4 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to contiguous USA.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Animal Helpers Zoos was provided by Sylvan Dell Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. The winner’s complimentary copy is also provided directly to them by Sylvan Dell.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"The Dancing Master" by Julie Klassen (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780764210709
Bethany House $14.99
About the book:  Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julie Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable
soul---and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master---a man her mother would never approve of---but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village . . . and to her mother's tattered heart? 

My thoughts:  The Regency novel presents the reader with word pictures that capture the imagination and fill the mind with visions of loveliness, gentility, culture, customs, and drama. Julie Klassen has done this in her novel The Dancing Master.  
We meet delightful characters whose individual voices and actions are well-crafted so that the story evolves revealing multiple stories intertwined with the end result a beautiful tapestry.

The leading lady, Julia Midwinter, is a bit spoiled and a mite flirty. She desires to leave the small community and the village matriarchal family home in which she has grown up and sally forth into the bigger world to discover wonders and delights.

The leading gentleman, Alec Valcourt, is a dancing master recently of London and now settled in the village with his mother and sister. There is a cloud hanging over them and Alec must establish himself as a dancing master in the village, in spite of the cloud, to support his family. He is challenged by the flirtatious Julia Midwinter and the wholesale ban on dancing in the village.

While dancing, or the subject of dancing lessons, is a primary focus of the story, the other characters’ lives, histories, and interactions with each other lend dimension and depth to life in the village. The climax of the story has some surprises for the reader other than the anticipated sweet romance between Julia and Alec.

I found The Dancing Master an enjoyable read and encourage those who enjoy Regency novels to indulge.

GIVEAWAY:  I have the wonderful opportunity to host a giveaway of Julie Klassen's book The Dancing Master for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. Just use the handy-dandy Rafflecopter entry form below and enter as often as possible. Begins January 13 & ENDS February 5. Open to continental USA addresses only.
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Other Julie Klassen book reviews by Chat With VeraThe Tutor's Daughter  The Maid of Fairbourn Hall   
About the author:  Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of The Dancing Master in exchange for an honest review which I have given. No compensation was received and opinions expressed are solely my own.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream (Review)

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
About the product: Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream has the power to transform the skin. Firmness improves, lines, wrinkles and the look of pores become less visible, skin looks virtually ageless.

Ultrarich Cream:  Even the driest complexions are renewed and rejuvenated. With the nutrient-rich Ageless Rejuvenating Cream, you receive profound powers of transformation, skin is immersed in moisture, sensitivities soothed, radiance     restored. ...

Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream is an extraordinary formula. The secret to activating its renewing power and enjoying its profound benefits lies  in a soothing ritual. Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream must be warmed for a few seconds between the fingers until it becomes translucent, then rubbed gently into the skin. (Ingredients: Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Jojoba oil, Aqua, White Petroleum, Stearic acid, Epsom)  (The above information was acquired from the Brenese™ website.)
Sale: $32.90
My thoughts:  I found this to be a very dense, stiff cream. It does not have a perfumed fragrance, but has a hint of an oil fragrance essence. I did not care for the dense, stiffness of the cream as it was so different from any face product I have previously used. However, I found that placing a dime sized portion on the palm of my hand and massaging it to get it more liquified, the denseness was negated and it spread nicely onto my face. Once applied, the hint of oily fragrance was diminished and quite o.k. I did feel that it was right much "oilier" than I like for my skin.

I shared a portion of this cream with my daughter and her response was that she did not care for the heavy, oily cream for her face and feared that repeated use would clog her pores.

After using the Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream for a week - day and evening - my skin was soft. I did not notice any problems with skin irritation or pore clogging using this cream for this short period of time. I can recommend it for anyone that prefers a natural product with heavy oily properties.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a jar of Brenese™ Ageless Rejuvenating Cream in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are those of myself and my daughter. I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Carolina Gold" by Dorothy Love (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: The war is over, but her struggle is just beginning.

Charlotte Fraser returns to her late father's once-flourishing rice plantation on the Waccamaw River, determined to continue growing the special kind of rice known as Carolina Gold. But Fairhaven Plantation is in ruins, the bondsmen are free, and money is scarce.

To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly accepts a position as tutor to the young daughters of Nicholas Betancourt, heir to the neighboring Willowood Plantation. Then Nick's quest to prove his ownership of Willowood sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that reveals an old family mystery---and threatens all that she holds dear.

Inspired by the life of a 19th century woman rice planter, Carolina Gold continues Dorothy Love's winning tradition of weaving together mystery, romance, and rich historical detail, bringing to life the story of one young woman's struggle to restore her ruined world.

My thoughts:  The ruination of the South was rampant following the Civil War  and the landed families suffered greatly. Prior to the war they were possessors of land that was their primary source of income through the venue of cotton and rice crops. They were mostly self-sustained in that they also produced their own food. Their ability to work the land was based on the use of slaves to labor in the fields. Slaves were fed, clothed, and housed on the property of the owner. Some were well cared for and others were mistreated gravely. The Civil War emancipated the slave. But the slaves' emancipation did not resolve all their problems, but it did thrust upon the freed slave and the former slave owners problems of equally as great a magnitude.

In Carolina Gold, a South Carolina plantation is now owned by the daughter, Charlotte, and she is determined to resume growing the plantation’s crop of rice – called “Carolina Gold.” She engages freed slaves  to work for her and agrees to their payment terms.  The hired laborers prove to be undependable and do not honor their agreement. Some of this problem is based on their attitude toward a former plantation owner being the one for whom they are working and one of the problems most likely stems from their not desiring to work for a woman. Charlotte is definitely moving in uncharted territory as she works to bring her plantation back to productive status.

Charlotte is resourceful and secures a bank loan to purchase seed and to pay salaries of former slaves engaged to now work the land as freedmen, and she also undertakes the tutoring of two young daughters of a neighbor. But as with many farming endeavors past and present, disaster in the form of weather strikes and most of the crop is lost. But Charlotte continues to persevere. 

This story provides the reader with a historically accurate glimpse into post-Civil War South Carolina. The characters present some of the still-intact grace the Southern landed class had prior to the war and how they endured the hardships placed upon them as a result of war. It also gave a glimpse into the freed slave and how they began to establish themselves in the labor market as free men and women.

Having grown up in a Southern coastal city and knowing that area once had a rice producing plantation, the story Carolina Gold (the rice and the production of it) was not entirely foreign to me and it shed interesting history on the demise of rice as a crop in the South. I found the story an interesting read and enjoyable. I especially found the two girls Charlotte tutored to be delightful. The sweet romance that eventually blossomed between Charlotte and Nicholas was pleasant.

About the author: A former journalist, free-lance writer and college professor, Dorothy Love explores the intersection of history and human relationships to create novels that speak to the hearts of women everywhere. She is the author of the acclaimed Hickory Ridge novels set in her native state of Tennessee.

After earning a masters degree and Ph.D, she authored dozens of magazine articles before breaking into book publishing with a number of award-winning novels for preteens and young adults. The Hickory Ridge series marked her adult fiction debut. Currently she is working on several stand-alone historical novels set in the South.

GIVEAWAYBegins January 9 & ENDS February 2 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to Continental USA only. One copy of Carolina Gold will be sent to one of Chat With Vera's readers by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author.
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To keep up with Dorothy Love, visit, become a fan on Facebook (Dorothy Love Books) or follow her on Twitter (@writerDorothy).

Read more reviews of Carolina Gold  

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Carolina Gold in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review.

Monday, January 6, 2014

"If Jesus Came To Visit Me" by Jill Roman Lord & illustrated by Amy Wummer- 2013 edition) (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN-13: 978-0824919085
Board book: $6.99
About the book:  An excellent tool to introduce little ones to Jesus, this board book is the perfect size for small hands to handle. Featuring warm illustrations and paired with a simple, rhyming text, kids will see for themselves what could happen if Jesus came to visit for the day. This book is helpful in starting conversations between parent and children about Jesus and can help bridge the gap in explaining the many ways a child can come to know and love Jesus.

My thoughts:  From the very first page, the sweet words of this rhyming book touched my heart.....
If Jesus came to visit me,
I know just what I'd do.
I'd wrap my arms around him tight
And say, "I'm glad it's you!"
How often have we as adults wished we could just wrap our arms around Jesus and have Him enclose us in His ever loving arms? Well, what do you think about a child? They naturally reach up and love. And then we turn the page and see the child asks, "May I serve you, please?"

And then the rhymes take the child/children through their day with Jesus asking Him questions and sharing their day and play with Him. Oh what a lesson for we adults.... we need to ask Him and we need to take Him with us throughout our day.

And then Jesus and child walk hand in hand back home and Jesus answers (or so the child asserts) all his questions so I will understand. Well, God has answered all our questions in His Word and if we dwell in His word we'll understand.

Lastly, the child wants to give Jesus something - maybe his favorite toy. But then he decides the best thing to give Jesus is his heart. Oh what a wonderful lesson and it is told so that the small child will understand and is presented in a beautifully designed and illustrated little board book for the young child to keep close to himself.  I think you know already, but I'll say it anyway, I recommend this book for you and the young child in your life.

GIVEAWAY:  Candy Cane Press, an imprint of Ideals Publications is providing one of Chat With Vera's readers the opportunity to win a copy for that special child in their life. Begins January 7 & ENDS January 28 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA mainland addresses only

a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of If Jesus Came To Visit Me from Candy Cane Press an imprint of Ideals Publications A Guideposts Company in exchange for my honest review. The giveaway winner's copy is also provided by Ideals Publications and will be shipped directly to the winner by Ideals. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.