Friday, May 30, 2014

Daisies are Forever by Liz Tolsma (Review & Giveaway)

About the book:  Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.

Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.

However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch's identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her "marriage."

Their journey to Gisela's mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella's daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.

In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.

My thoughts: No matter how one tells the story of war or the people involved in war, the pen can not describe the horror of it adequately. No matter which side of the conflict is being chronicled, war and its horrors are unspeakable. The stories of World War II usually tell of the brutality of Germany against those deemed unworthy to live. The plan of Hitler to cleanse Germany and produce a pure nation resulted in horrific acts toward those condemned.

In Daisies Are Forever, the focus is on the peoples of Germany as the war turns in favor of the Allies and against the German war machine. The men, women, and children not involved in the atrocities that made up the war effort of Germany. Their fears. The dangers they faced. The ones who could not flee. The stumbles and falls along the way to flee the sweep of soldiers into their own cities and villages. The hours and days in bomb shelters. The destroyed buildings and lives at the hands of the Allies.

This story milks one of our compassion for a people caught in the throes of war – a people for whom we normally would not feel compassion.  A people who would have rejoiced in victory had the Allies not defeated them. A people who still, even in the face of invading Allies, believed in their Fuhrer and all that his purification of Germany held.

This story is well written and it does show how the ordinary people are caught in the conflict of war.
But you can not paint the story of war – especially so brutal, intense, and hugh a war as WWII was – with a gentle, loving brush. War is brutal. The conquering armies of Germany were not gentle as they swept through Europe. So it is difficult to hold compassion for the people of Germany when the tide of war turn in their disfavor.

It is difficult but it is not impossible. For forgiveness is of God and from His heart we are able to forgive.

I found Daisies Are Forever an interest read but not one that I enjoyed. I could not enjoy a story of such intense emotions, but I could think well of the author and her writing abilities and handling of an intensely conflicting story. I felt she showed a pretty true side of history, but one that none-the-less can be difficult to read.

GIVEAWAY:  A copy of Daisies Are Forever is waiting for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter. Begins May 31 & ENDS June 20 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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About the author: New York Times best-selling author Liz Tolsma is the author of Daisies are Forever, Snow on the Tulips, and the contributing author of A Log Cabin Christmas. When not busy putting words to paper, Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children, all adopted internationally.

Connect with Liz: website

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Daisies Are Forever in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day By Day Beauty Vitamin C Serum (Anti-Aging Product Review)

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
  • I have been using the Day By Day Beauty Vitamin C Serum for two weeks - morning and evening. I cleanse (wash) my face first and then apply the serum followed by my moisturizer.  Using the serum completely by itself tends to have a slightly sticky feel, but the moisturizer takes care of that. I don't believe the serum is intended to be the sole product for skin care. The company indicates users should follow its use with a moisturizer.
Since it is intended for skin evenness and dark spots, I have also been lavishing it on my the tops of my forearms just to give it further trial.  I followed this with my body lotion of choice.

Now just what do I think of this product? First of all, I have not seen any outstanding, noticeable results in the brief two week span. But neither have I seen any deleterious effects, either. When using the Day By Day Beauty Vitamin C Serum followed by my moisturizer, I do see a smoothness to my skin, a "glow" that is not present with moisturizer alone.  I see this as a favorable result. I like the pump bottle, too.

I think that with continued use, the serum will prove beneficial. It does, of course, have to be taken into consideration that we take care of our skin but we do not expect to end up with the beautiful smooth and soft skin of a baby. We must consider our age and the abuse that we have subjected our skin to through the years. We must consider that we are what we eat as well.

Frankly, I am delighted to be a part of reviewing this product and others of a similar nature because I truly hope that when I encourage men and women to care for their skin they will take heed and seek out effective products to do just that very thing. As I have said many times, "Cream your face!" That means use whatever products you have at hand and can afford to moisturize and care for your face. Skin treatment with a serum such as Day By Day Beauty Vitamin C Serum perhaps is one of choice that my readers will find beneficial to the care and upkeep of their skin. Product may be acquired online at Amazon.
Who are likely users of this anti-aging product - Day By Day Beauty Vitamin C Serum? Anyone who desires  to improve their skin's appearance. Young and middle age men and women, and older men and women. 
From a news release by Day By Day Beauty
Natural Ingredients, No Fillers, Day by Day Beauty's Vitamin C Serum recommend that someone new to Vitamin C Serum may want to consider trying a Percentage under 20%. This gives the facial skin the opportunity to adapt to the new product and in a way build resilience to it. "Many people forget that Vitamin C is an acid, and too much acid right away for some will cause breakouts or irritation. So it isn't that the Vitamin C Serum is a poor product, it is that their selection in which product and percentage was poor," Co-Founder Pamela from Day by Day Beauty shares.

Day by Day Beauty designed their Vitamin C Serum to be an 18% being very well aware that first time users, or those with sensitive skin, may not have success with a 20% - 30% Vitamin C. Many customers with sensitive skin share their surprise in reviews on the company's Amazon listing.

Day by Day Beauty sees these types of reviews on a regular basis and are so glad they decided to stay with an 18% potency despite the marketplace.

Be informed about the percentage of Vitamin C within a serum and make a decision what is best-fit for your skin. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Day by Day Beauty's customer service or consult your dermatologist.

About Day by Day Beauty, Inc.  
Day by Day Beauty is a top-rated seller on The company is proud to provide deeply nourishing beauty products made from certified organic ingredients. Day by Day Beauty keeps the environmentally conscientious beauty gurus in mind. All products are made in the United States under FDA guidelines. There is absolutely no animal testing, no parabens, no alcohol and no additives. Product will come with minimal packaging and is recyclable.

DISCLOSURE: 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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Explore the Bible Sticker Book (Candle Discovery Series)

  • ISBN-13: 9781859858189
About the book:  Explore the Bible Sticker Book helps children discover life in Bible times as they search for the detailed sticker that relates to each fact or story. As children find the correct sticker that completes the page, it helps them retain knowledge and, once completed, the book serves as a fully illustrated resource. Explore the many facets of life in Bible times, including the people, professions, architecture, journeys, and daily life that make up a rich biblical history.

Perfect for today’s 7 to 9 age range, Explore the Bible Sticker Book is interactive and informative!

My thoughts: This is the third book in the children’s Candle Discovery Bible Reference Series that I have reviewed here on Chat With Vera recently and it has been a pleasant privilege. In Explore the Bible Sticker Book this “over-the-top” quality sticker book is not for the wee little ones. It is for those ages 7 and up. Salient facts are encapsulated with beautiful, realistic art to give detail in learning the various Bible facts on lands, times, and characters. Arranged loosely along the same lines as the timeline of the Bible (Old Testament to New Testament), you can see how they lived, cooked, fought, built houses, grew food, etc. There are pages devoted to the Egyptian World, the Greek World, and the Roman World. Transportation, writing, the religion of the Jews, and Bible People are just some of the topics.

When finished going through reading and matching the stickers with pictures, the book becomes a good reference tool for future study. I see this as being enjoyable and educational for the elementary child. What a treat it would be to receive this as a gift! I recommend Explore the Bible Sticker Book.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Explore the Bible Sticker Book from Kregel Publishing in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received and opinions are my very own.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day. What does it mean to you?

Memorial Day.  What does it mean to you? What does it mean to me?

I know what it is designated to be and that is a day to remember those who have given their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, in battle to secure and maintain the freedoms we hold dear here in this beloved United States of America. But really, what does it mean to you and to me?
It depends on how you’ve been raised to remember the day and it depends on how your community remembers the day. But it also means how you as an individual have brought into your own being a desire to take moments or a day to recall the struggle of battle, the cost of war, the ultimate sacrifice of thousands upon thousands who have won our freedoms.

As a small girl in the 1940s, I had three uncles who were Army men. Two served in Europe and one was an Army pilot. An army pilot who trained others to pilot planes to fly in Europe or in the Pacific. My father could not serve because he had medical problems. He tried to serve. He signed up. He joined. And then they said, “No, go home.” My grandmother had four sons and they would have all served. But only three were accepted.

Dad loved photography and he took pictures – stills and movies. We have a special 16mm movie he took. It shows a little boy dressed in a play army uniform – my older brother around 10 years old. It shows a little girl with a mass of curls and big little girl smile – me – around four years old. It shows a grandmother and grandfather proudly smiling. It also shows a handsome young man in full army uniform. My Uncle Herbert. We’re all smiling, waving, and enjoying ourselves.

That was my Uncle Herbert’s final trip home.
Brother Sam & Uncle Herbert

Grandfather & Grandmother With Uncle Herbert

Uncle LH, Uncle Bill, & Dad
He died. Not on a battle field. Not from an enemy bullet. Not from a crash of his airplane on foreign soil. He died teaching another how to fly a plane. But he, too, gave the ultimate sacrifice. He, too, was lost to a mother and father who loved him. I lost an uncle. My brother lost an uncle. My uncle never had a wife. Never had children. He was America’s youth. And like so many of America’s youth in the 1940s, he gave his all.

My other two uncles served in Europe. Thankfully, they came home. They married and had children. And they loved on the little girl that lost her other uncle.

Our family has had others who also served. I think of…..
My husband – US Airforce during the Korean War
My cousin, Lee – US Army served in Vietnam
My brother, Herb  - US Army
My brother, Sam – US Army
My father-in-law – US Army, WWI
So what does Memorial Day mean to me, it means family time. It means time to be thankful for our freedoms. It means a time to recall those who served our country and especially those whose service was the ultimate sacrifice.

Friday, May 23, 2014

If you were me and lived in... Australia: A Child's Introduction to Cultures around the World (Volume 8) by Carole P. Roman (Review & Giveaway)

  • ISBN-13: 978-1490522395
Former teacher, Carole P. Roman, writes children’s social study books that are an introduction to learning about other cultures. I am reviewing If You Were Me and Lived in Australia which has a little boy and girl showing the location of Australia on a globe. You learn first of all where Australia is located and that it is a continent all by itself.
Some of the basics of Roman’s culture books include names for Mommy and Daddy, types of food enjoyed in that culture, and activities – sports, etc. – they have. I found particularly interesting the page covering the Great Barrier Reef which is peculiar to the ocean around Australia.

Australia is English speaking but they pronounce their words differently from the English spoken in America. Roman provided a pronunciation guide in the back, with brief definition, of specific words.

To date, Carole P. Roman has written and printed the following If You Were Me and Lived in…… books: Mexico, France, South Korea, Norway, Turkey, Kenya, India, and Australia. Chat With Vera has reviewed most of these. I invite you to read my reviews and see if these might be good books to add to the library of that special child of yours. They are especially nice to have on hand in the homeschool library or school classroom library.

GIVEAWAY: Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. You may be blessed to be the winner of a copy of the book that Carole P.Roman is so generously providing. Begins May 23 & ENDS June 12  @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only. 
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DISCLOSURE: The author provided a complimentary copy of If You Were Me and Lived In Australia in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Christmas Eve Blizzard by Andrea Vlahakis and illustrated by manuel (Manny) Schongut (Review and Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780976494331
Ages 5-9, Grades K-4
Hardcover $15.95
About the book: Christmas Eve Blizzard is the tender story of a beautiful cardinal who is trapped in the snow until a young boy rescues him. Nicholas places more importance on caring for the injured bird than in decorating the Christmas tree or opening his gifts on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve Blizzard will truly touch your heart. The "Creative Minds" section contains information on how to make your backyard into a bird-happy habitat, several simple bird-feeder crafts, "cardinal numbers," math games, and information on what to do if you find an injured bird.
Review:  This is a lovely picture book reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s books for children. The illustrations are soft, sweet, charming and beautifully drawn. The story is somewhat bilingual in that the characters, Nicholas and his Abuelo (grandpa) use Spanish words here and there. The story is in English.

It is Winter and there is a blizzard raging and it is Christmas Eve. There is a small, young apple tree in the yard which Nicholas and Aubelo have planted. Nicholas is worried about his little tree. Looking out the window he spies a fallen Cardinal and rushes out to rescue the little bird. They feed, shelter, and water the bird and the following day - Christmas - they release the bird.Then a bit of folklore style magic takes place - for many following years the apple tree is covered with Cardinals on Christmas Day.

In the back of the book, Arbordale lives up to its reputation for educational stories by factoring in some "Creative Minds" activities - Spanish and English Glossary, Teaching Trivia about birds and especially Cardinals, Making a Bird-Happy Backyard Habitat, and then a couple of pages dedicated to bird feeders.

A super book to entertain and educate. (rev. V.G)

About the author: Andrea Vlahakis (Christmas Eve Blizzard) is a busy children's author, having been published in Highlights for Children, Turtle, Ladybug and Appleseeds. In addition to her own writing, Andrea is an instructor at the Institute of Children's Literature. A large portion of Andrea's work revolves around nature and birds. The inspiration for this book comes from her childhood home. When she was eight, her father hung a cardinal-red birdfeeder from their old apple tree and her love of bird watching was born. It also comes from her own rescue of a bird during a blizzard a few years ago, with the help of an equally snowbound wildlife rescue person on the other end of the phone. Andrea lives in Connecticut surrounded by woods, streams, and lots of birds to watch. For more information, visit her website at

About the illustrator: Emanuel (Manny) Schongut (Christmas Eve Blizzard and Turtles in my Sandbox) is a prolific, multi-faceted freelance illustrator who works in children's books, book covers, textbook illustration, editorial art, posters, and advertising art - essentially he does it all!. Some of his numerous clients include Masterpiece and Mystery Theater, Public Television, New York Magazine, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. His cover art and/or illustrations grace books from a wide variety of book publishers including Harper & Row, MacMillan, Doubleday, Morrow, Green Willow Books, and now Arbordale. In addition to his own artwork, Manny taught reportorial art and figure drawing at Pratt Institute in New York for several years. He now illustrates and teaches in the San Francisco Bay area.

GIVEAWAY:  The good folks at Arbordale Publishing (formerly SylvanDell) love for kids to read their books. They have graciously agreed to provide one of our readers with a copy of Christmas Eve Blizzard for a special child in their lives. Giveaway begins May 22 & ENDS June 16 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

ISBN:  9780307731494
Waterbrook Press
About the book:  In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?

My thoughts:  Fearing the worst situation to be the outcome of a marriage arranged by her abusive stepfather, Tamsen entrusts her well-being to a man she does not know to flee the scene and escape marriage to Ambrose. She and her defender, protector leave North Carolina to The State of Franklin. This is where the history buffs have a bit of fun. Little known history of North Carolina and Tennessee is The State of Franklin which is/was situated in the mountainous area nestled between the two states. This was a rough time in history and men took to arms over seemingly small circumstances.

Traveling on horse hundreds of miles and in ill designed clothing for travel (especially the shoes), Tamsen soon hardened to the journey. All was not just traveling difficulties, Tamsen and her protector, Jesse, soon discovered that her stepfather and wealthy suitor were pursuing them. Fear and dread were around every tree and curve for Tamsen. But there were kindnesses here and there along the way, too.

Lori Benton's writing and research have made this book a pleasure to read.  And who doesn't love to read of a damsel in distress being rescued and cared for? The story is adventurous with strong characters who hold true to their faith and beliefs. There is sweet romance that stays clean and pure. You feel the soaking rain, the cold, the fear that the characters feel. You see in your mind's eye the beauty of the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains and land. A totally good read.

DISCLOSURE: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Heart’s Pursuit | Enter to win a $200 “Romantic Weekend Getaway” from @RobinLeeHatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher's latest novel, The Heart's Pursuit, is receiving critical praise: "The Old West lives again in this inspirational romantic adventure. . . . Themes of forgiveness, justice and mercy dominate the story and add to the characters' depth. Hatcher treats readers to a rich sensory experience—you can taste the desert dust and smell the smoke and stench of a crowded gambling hall." (Publishers Weekly)

Robin is celebrating the release of her novel by giving away a $200 "Romantic Weekend Getaway."

  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (Get away for the weekend with that special someone!)
  • The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced June 9th on Robin's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on June 8th to see if you won.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Swords: An Artist's Devotion by Ben Boos (Review and Giveaway)

About the book:  Be smitten by the sword! An extraordinary young artist brings the history of this noble weapon — and its skillful masters — into stunningly sharp relief.
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763650988

Brave men and women have taken up the sword since ages of old, and a fascination with this formidable weapon grips dedicated followers to this day. Here is a celebration of swords and swordsmen that spans time and place — from ancient warriors such as Beowulf to medieval knights; from stealthy ninja and samurai to legendary maidens of war. Illustrated with breathtaking intricacy, SWORDS reflects the passion of a true devotee, offering lavish background details on design and use as well as exquisite spreads showcasing specimens in all their shining glory.
My thoughts:  This is a book that truly brings the art of historical weaponry to the reader in beautiful illustrations that highlight and clarify the intricate details and shapes of the various types of swords. An oversize book, it truly does justice to the subject.

I will donate this book to our local Christian school library, and I foresee this being a frequent check-out by the boys.  But then, of course, I see their daddies also pouring over its pages once it is in the home.

The array of swords, knives, and other such weapons are covered in 14 chapters including but not limited to: Warriors, Raiders, War Maidens, Villagers, Soldiers, Knights. Kings, Samurai, Ninja.
I can see this book used and studied for the sheer artistry of each illustration. I can also see that the interest of a reader would be drawn to the historical value of this piece because the author has done his research homework thoroughly. 
The use of swords throughout history has indeed been bloody and yet some cultures hold to the belief that the sword is a sacred instrument.
The combination of such intricate beauty with destruction in its use is mindboggling but none-the-less factual – swords are beautiful and swords are destructive.

GIVEAWAY:  The good folks at Candlewick Press have graciously provided a copy of Swords: An Artist's Devotion for one of Chat With Vera’s readers to win. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form. Maybe you can win this for that special young reader in your life.  Begins May 20 & ENDS June 12 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to addresses in USA only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Swords from Candlewick Press in exchange for this review. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker

  • ISBN-13: 978-0989619004
    Hardcover $24.95
My thoughts:  Designed and referred to by the author as a “coffee table book," it fits that description well. This is a nicely done book with really good illustrations. The size is not that of a very large “coffee table book” but somewhat smaller. A child can easily pick it up and leaf through it.

While written on a level of basic Biblical and scientific knowledge, it still would benefit the youngsters in the home or classroom from having it read aloud and discussed with them to facilitate their grasp of content. Older children would benefit from their own perusal and study of the contents.

Not meant to be a textbook, it covers the seven days of creation in the broad sense of the word yet is done with some good facts and insight. The moon’s rotation and the tides of the earth were nicely done and I found these pages interesting. 

I see this book as an asset to the home (library shelf or coffee table) for adults, teens, and children to enjoy and educate themselves with on how God, our Purposeful Creator, designed each and every aspect of earth.  And all of this purposeful design benefits God’s greatest creation – Man.

My husband thoroughly enjoyed perusing this book.

Author:  Jay Schabacker, once an engineer on the Apollo Moon Program, and founder of a financial investment firm, is a graduate of Cornell University, with a Masters Degree in Finance & Investments from George Washington University. He now devotes his time to educating children and adults on God's wonderful and purposeful design of this world - and each of us. His passion includes videos, speaking engagements, and now the new coffee table book, "Purposeful Design - Understanding the Creation". Jay's activities over the years have included the chairmanship of Romanian Christian Enterprises helping to bring at risk orphan children out of distress; and the chairmanship of Ken Ham's 1992 "Back to Genesis" Washington, DC Seminar sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research.

DISCLOSURE: I was given a complimentary copy by BookCrash on behalf of the author in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

The Shark Whisperer (Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians) by Ellen Prager (Author), Antonio Javier Caparo (Illustrator) [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: After his most klutzy move ever, falling into a pool of sharks, things for Tristan Hunt begin to look up. Tristan is invited to an ocean-themed summer camp in the Florida Keys where he discovers that he and the other young teens there have very special and rare talents when it comes to the ocean. After the camp receives a distress call from ocean animals, Tristan and his new friends get pulled into a daring rescue in the Bahamas. With the help of sharks, dolphins, a quick-escape artist octopus, and some seabird bombers, the campers must use their young talents in an attempt to outwit an evil shark-finning, reef-blasting billionaire.

Review: This is a really good book. The first in a new series, The Shark Whisperer is fun, quirky, and educational all at the same time. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and found them very relatable to teens today. What teen wouldn’t want to swim with sharks without getting eaten!

The author, Ellen Prager, is a marine scientist and was the chief scientist at the world’s only undersea research station located in the Florida Keys. Her ability to weave “science” throughout the storyline is awesome and not all boring. The target reading age of 9 to 12 years for this book is spot on. I could easily see a teacher reading this to a younger age class and the kids enjoying it just as much. The Shark Whisperer is a fantasy book, but a really good one. I look forward to the next book release in this series!

GIVEAWAY: The kind folks at Scarletta have generously provided a copy of this same book for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. So use the entry form below and let's see who gets a neat book. Begins May 17 & ENDS June 10 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to those at USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Shark Whisperer was provided in exchange for this review. Reviews expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Muir: America's First Environmentalist by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated by Stan Fellows (Review & Giveaway)

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Candlewick Biographies
Hardcover: 56 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0763664701
About the book: Quoting from John Muir's diaries, Kathryn Lasky tells the inspiring tale of one of America's most dedicated environmentalists, aided by Stan Fellows's evocative, dramatic acrylic paintings.

From the meadows of Scotland to the farms of Wisconsin, from the swamps of Florida to the Alaskan tundra, John Muir loved the land. Born in 1838, he was a writer, a scholar, an inventor, a shepherd, a farmer, and an explorer, but above all, he was a naturalist. John Muir was particularly devoted to the high cliffs, waterfalls, and ancient giant sequoia trees that, through his careful influence, were set aside as one of the first national parks in America - Yosemite. Here is the life story of the man who, moved by a commitment to wilderness everywhere, founded the Sierra Club in 1892, a conservation group that carries on his crucial work to this day.

My thoughts:  This is a great biography for the target age group! They will thoroughly enjoy reading about John Muir. Biographies I read as a child were so boring and uninteresting, but Kathryn Lasky has presented John Muir’s life from his early years in Scotland to moving to America and then to his later years with such relaxed, almost lyrical prose that one can’t help but be interested.
John Muir’s early years found him interested in many things: Nature, science, math, inventions. His mind was intrigued by his surroundings, and he found many inventive and interesting ways to engage himself with his surroundings. I was surprised at how self-taught he was in math and the sciences and at his inventive streak. It is fascinating to see how his mind and spirit drove him to explore that to which he was exposed.

When he finally began his trek through America, he left Wisconsin and walked to the Gulf coast of Florida. From Florida he went by boat to California. In California his real life’s work began. He discovered the wilds of California and began to chart the very essence of that nature in his blue book. He was the instrument through which our National Parks were established and for that we should be forever grateful. 

In this biography, the end includes a biographical list of sources and further reading. As with all good biographies, there is an index at the back of the book to facilitate study and re-discovery of facts. I highly recommend this as a choice biography for young readers.
The illustrations by Stan Fellows are striking watercolors showing the colors and beauty of nature from the tiny flowers John Muir so loved to the vast mountains. Tiny details as well as majestic mountains fill the pages to render the book beautifully engaging for the young reader.

GIVEAWAY: The good folks at Candlewick Press have graciously provided a copy of John Muir America’s First Environmentalist for one of Chat With Vera’s readers to win. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form. Maybe you can win this for that special young reader in your life.  Begins May 19 & ENDS June 10 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to addresses in USA only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of John Muir America’s First Environmentalist from Candlewick Press in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.


Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
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  • Hydration and nutrients combine to support the skin's natural repair process during sleep in darkness
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Restores the appearance of natural plumpness and stability of the skin
  • Minimizes the look of pores and enhances skin's hydration
  • Paraben-free for the ultimate in skincare safety
Directions for use* - Cleanse face with Bioque Facial Cleanser and pat dry. If using Serum XL and/or Serum Rejeuvenate, apply first and wait for product(s) to fully absorb. Apply in the evening to facial area, gently massaging with upward motions; can also be used on back of hands and neck. Wait for absorption before applying any additional creams. (The above product information was taken from the Bioque website from the Vouray Night Skin Repair product page.)

My thoughts on this product:  This is a lovely facial cream; and while it is a cream in a jar, it is light and fairly thin so it goes on easily with a light feel. This is nice. While it is a "night cream" and intended to be used while sleeping (read above information), I decided to use it morning and evening during this trial period to really give it a work out.  I found it left my skin feeling very soft and it looked nice and "rested" the next morning. My make up went on very nicely in the mornings after using it in the morning under my makeup. I tried it without further moisturizing and with an added layer of moisturizer. Both worked well. My pores looked smaller than usual. I have enjoyed using Vouray Night Skin Repair Facial Cream!

My premise is "cream your face" and use the best product you have access to. Sometimes it will be a really low cost (I hate the word "cheap"!) brand and for some it will be the $200 a jar product. This cream is listed at $45 on and you can also purchase it there.  

I can recommend this one to try and it may be just the product for you. But whatever you do, remember to "cream you face"!

DISCLOSURE: 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.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden to Table by Katherine Hengel (Review & Giveaway)

It is the responsibility and pleasurable joy of every parent (usually the Mom) to ensure that her children know about the preparation of food for food sustains us throughout life. Food is to be cherished and enjoyed. Food is the energy of life. So this lovely book, Garden to Table presents the adult-in-charge of imparting this savory knowledge along to his or her children a beautiful and well done volumn that literally teaches the preparation of food from planting it in the garden to preparing it for your table.

While written for an intended audience of 8 to 12 year olds, those older than 12 will certainly enjoy it for its information and recipes. Beautifully illustrated with photographs and drawings, it makes for a visually appealing and instructive book. The recipes use basics such as carrots, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce. 

An illustrated listing of cooking ingredients, and kitchen tools is wonderfully informative and valuable. The recipes entice with their wonderful ingredients and finished product photographs. I can hardly wait to pass this book along to my daughter’s four young girls. I predict it will be well-worn and well-loved.

GIVEAWAY:  The kind folks at Scarletta have generously provided a copy of this same book for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. So use the entry form below and let's see who gets a neat book about growing and cooking food. Begins May 17 & ENDS June 5 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to those at USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Scar in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ozeri Green Earth Smooth Ceramic Nonstick Frying Pan, 100-Percent PTFE and PFOA Free by Ozeri (8" Size)

8" Ozeri Green Pan in Package
My thoughts about the pan:  This is the second in the line of Green Earth Pans by Ozeri I have been privileged to review. They are similar, yet different. The products both feature the GREBLON ceramic non-stick coating. They are 100% PTFE and PFOA free which means they are ultra-safe.

I have used several non-stick pans through the years. All were Teflon coated. They were priced from really cheap to pretty costly. Inevitably, each and every one of them began to shed the non-stick coating. This is worrisome when you think about it. We’re ingesting the stuff these coatings are made of and that can’t possibly be good for you!

Fluffy, Cheesy Eggs Cooking
This little 8” pan was first used in my home to cook a “breakfast dinner.” I cooked Farina (a wheat cereal), scrambled eggs with lots of cheese, turkey bacon, and applesauce. Simple, but good and nutritious. The pan for the eggs – Ozeri  8” Green Earth Pan. And it performed well with the eggs cooking nicely using just a few drops of olive oil (according to directions), and left just a few traces of eggs (tiny bits and a bit of egg-moisture) in the pan. Clean up was a simple swish and swipe. Love it!

After cooking, pan will only require a quick, easy wash.
Last week, my daughter’s lovely family visited. This little pan (along with the other Green Pan I reviewed) both got really good workouts when my daughter and her husband used them to cook. No complaints in their department about the pans. And I certainly won’t complain about the wonderful food they cooked.

This 8" Ozeri Green Pan is not heavy, but it is substantial enough. An 8" saute pan is every cook's essential. There are so many times you just need a little pan to stir up something in. This works great! The interior surface is very smooth. The handle is nice to grip and doesn't conduct heat. And....... did I say I really like it? 

About the pan:  

  • Unlike other ceramic cookware brands, the Ozeri pan utilizes an ultra-safe ceramic coating .derived from nature which is 100% PTFE and PFOA 
  • free.
  • Delivers unprecedented non-stick performance without releasing harmful fumes or toxins at high temperatures.
  • Features a scratch-resistant 100 percent ceramic coating as found in nature (no heavy metals or chemicals) that is super easy to clean.
  • Made out of durable heavy-gauge die-cast aluminum with no heavy metals or harmful chemicals.
  • Boasts a comfortable heat resistant Bakelight handle, and a magnetized induction stove safe base for rapid heat transfer.
DISCLOSURE: I received the 8" Ozeri Green Pan in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not required to post a positive review. No compensation was received for this review. View and purchase this pan on if you wish.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Candle Bible Handbook by Terry Jean Day & Carol J. Smith

About the book:  Travel through Bible history with this comprehensible exploration of the Bible, following the key narratives from Genesis to Revelation. Perfect as a child’s first Bible reference, he will travel through Bible lands and times and discover how the people lived: the foods they ate, the homes they occupied, the clothes they wore, and the work they performed. There are sections of study questions throughout to further learning, as well as glossaries and FAQs to help understanding.

My thoughts:  Perfect for a child's first Bible reference book and appropriate or ages 7 and up.

Bible handbooks are great tools to have on hand to enrich and/or enable study of the Bible. It greatly facilitates locating key information and can be used to generate interest in specific topics. The Candle Bible Handbook is just such a tool and it is geared for the young or new-to-Bible-study individual.

Beautifully illustrated with drawings, maps, diagrams, and photographs and coupled with concise text, this book will prove to be an invaluable tool for home, church library, or school.

It begins with how the Bible is organized and then follows sections on each book in the Bible which include Frequently Asked Questions, Study Questions, Outline, and appropriate illustrations and maps. I found it interesting that it covers “Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus,” “Life in Jesus’ Time,” The Parables of Jesus,” “Paul’s Missionary Travels,” etc.

Following the books of the Bible, the back of the Candle Bible Handbook includes “Big Ideas in the Bible” such as Atonement, Covenant, Grace, Forgive, Salvation.  A Who’s Who in the Bible in the Old and New Testaments provides a brief biographies of key people.

As with all good reference books, Candle Bible Handbook includes an Index in the back. The organization and information in Candle Bible Handbook will also aid in learning how to study using reference books. Truly this is a gem to place in the hands of caring parents who wish to guide their children in learning about the Bible. I just wish I had one available when I was raising my children.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Kregel Publishing on behalf of Candle Books an imprint of Lion Hudson in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris

About the book:  Desperate times create desperate people. And desperate people are dangerous . . .
Though Emily Hunt comes from a family of cops, the relatively quiet life of a high school teacher suits her just fine. She's saving up to buy a house, slowly moving forward after her brother's death, and settling into a life she loves. So the last person she wants to spend time with is Mason Taylor.

An undercover cop, Mason is enemy number one as far as her family is concerned. His involvement in the death of Emily's brother is still up in the air, and now he expects her to help him with a case. Mason has been working with one of her students, Rafael Cerda, whose brother has been kidnapped by a drug cartel. And with time running out to meet their demands, Rafael is getting desperate.

My thoughts:  I was anticipating reading Fatal Exchange; but when I began reading, I had some difficulty getting my mind wrapped around the characters and the development of the story. It caught my attention, however, from the moment that a student with a gun walked into a classroom and took teacher and students hostage. Why would this capture my attention? I have worked in education for over 35 years, and the real-life episodes of this type of drama that pepper the news creates a sense of fear and worry in my heart. It is the nightmare of every caring adult involved in the educational process of students – children – no matter their age. So yes, the author now has my attention.

This book obviously builds on the lives of characters from the first book in the series. Once your mind senses who is who and their past experiences with each other, then the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit in place. Even though the story line of a school hostage situation is attention grabbing, the story doesn't seem to flow well. I did find it interesting. Without engaging in "spoilers," I'll; just say that the book leaves you questioning; and it is obvious that the author has placed a hook to make her readers return for book three in the series.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Fatal Exchange from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Valentia Even Glow Serum with 20% Vitamin C

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
NOTE: The Even Glow Serum seems to be replaced by a different Vitamin C Serum. It's link is - I can not endorse this different serum as I have not tried it. I have tried several Valentia products and enjoyed using them.

I was given the opportunity to review the delightful Valentia Even Glow Vitamin C Serum. I have heard and read about amazing results using Vitamin C Serum in facial skin care products, but had never pursued trying them out. So I was interested in seeing just what all the hype was about.

This little bottle holds quite a nice product. I applied it in the mornings after cleaning my face, I allowed it to absorb and dry before applying moisturizer and makeup. My face felt a little stiff or drawn when it dried, but applying moisturizer quickly took care of that.  The fragrance is fresh and reminiscent of oranges.

I personally did not experience any harmful effects from using the product and feel that use of this product could possibly positively effect my skin. As we age, it behooves us to utilize all the tools (interpret that to read - creams, serums, lotions, and potions) we can avail ourselves of and that fit the constraints of our pocketbook to take care of our skin.

But taking care of your skin is not just washing it and applying nice creams and lotions. It means not abusing it with too much exposure to sunlight or harsh weather conditions. To have lovely skin, love your skin and care for it.

Product Description provided by Valentia and copied here for your convenience:

Valentia Skin Care NEW - EVEN GLOW SERUM - 20% Vitamin C - Natural & Organic Ingredients -

98% Natural Ingredients (see below for a description of our Key Ingredients chosen specifically to enhance Vitamin C efficacy on the skin)

Vanquish dark spots and skin discoloration, replacing uneven and ill-textured skin with smooth, wrinkle-free skin that leaves you looking flawless and ageless.

Revitalize your skin with essential fatty acids that leave skin smooth and visibly brighter. Smooth skin capable of reflecting light will give your skin a youthful glow and a brilliant shine for that well-rested and refreshed look.
Dropper with Vitamin C Serum. 

Moisturizes skin due to the capacity of the hyaluronic acid to absorb water, thereby increasing fluid between cells, giving your skin a smoother and younger appearance. This intense water absorption means no more dry, peeling or cracked skin, even in extreme weather.

The presence of Organic Rosehip Seed oil to support Vitamin C increases collagen production so your skin retains the elasticity responsible for a youthful appearance and prevents skin sagging associated with aging. Enjoy smooth and supple skin that takes years off your appearance.

Reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles with the help of our foundation 20 % Vitamin C. Special ingredients such us Hyaluronic Acid and Organic Sea Buckthorn oil work to plump up the skin, which reduces fine lines and wrinkles in the skin so it is smoother, clearer and younger.
A small amount on cotton ball.


Vitamin C: With a 20% concentration does more than boost the body’s immune system; it also provides many benefits to keep the skin tight, smooth and looking ageless. Vitamin C has been scientifically proven to reduces the effects of sun exposure on the skin, including sunburn, sun spots, redness and wrinkles.

In addition to helping reduce the signs of aging, Vitamin C is essential for everyday maintenance to strengthen and smooth out the skin, as well as neutralizing free radicals before they can damage the skin. 

***Our additional Key Ingredients below were all selected for their ability to enhance and support Vitamin C's effect on the skin. 

Organic Rosehip Seed Oil & Organic Sea Buckthorn Oil - These oils promote skin hydration and lock in moisture to protect your skin from signs of aging and improve its beauty and youthfulness. Rosehip Oil specifically has been used in medical communities around the world for those with serious skin ailments and only recently has North America learned to embrace natural solutions from our ancestors. These two organic oils are full of antioxidants and therefore act as the perfect supporting cast for our best friend - Vitamin C

Resistem (Plant Stem Cells) - This provides the perfect mix of protection from stress-related aging and promotes skin detoxification. Resistem will help your skin regenerate faster while protecting it from environmental stressors.

Hyaluronic Acid (Botanical) - Holding up to 1000 times its weight in water and drawing moisture out of the environment and onto the surface of your skin ,there is not a more effective moisturizing agent on the market today. Penetrates deeply, and actives collagen production for a fresher, younger, firmer, and brighter complexion

Green Tea Extract- The catechins in green tea are a potent antioxidant which also contribute to the overall anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant benefits of this ancient health and beauty secret.

DISCLOSURE: 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.  Opinions are solely my own and product information is provided by the company. I personally do not make any claims for product effectiveness. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Bible Facts: Candle Discovery Series" by Anne Adams, edited by Dr. Tim Downey

      About the book:  Bible Facts, part of the innovative Candle Discovery Series, provides fascinating details about life in Bible times on a wide variety of topics including customs, daily living, education, government, occupations, travel, and warfare. The unique presentation, including recipes, newspaper-style headlines, and classified ads, is certain to engage children.

    My thoughts:  
    First of all I would like to say that I have found the "Candle Books" for children beautifully presented, well bound, factually correct, Biblically sound, and engaging to the child. I have reviewed Candle children's Bible story books, "first" Bibles, and others. I wish I had had access to these when I was raising my five children in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Christian parents desiring to help their children learn Bible lessons, history from the periods covered in the Bible, and other Bible facts will value the opportunity to use Bible Facts for their children's edification.

    In Bible Facts the author and illustrator have used photographs and beautifully drawn color illustrations to fully engage the imagination and attention of the learner.  

    The first "chapter" is about tent making. Did you know that woven goat hair comprised the tent panels? I didn't. From tents, the text moves on to houses and their design and function. Did you realize that animals were kept in the house at night? And then around the tent and house, the preparation of food and types of food consumed was covered. So a section is devoted to baking and meal preparation.  

    Other topics included are Music, The Sabbath, Great Jewish Festivals, The Roman Army, Medicine, The Synagogue, and others. While the book is most likely for ages 7 to 9, but I believe it will be beneficial earlier and later. It is one of those rather timeless books that is even good to have on the coffee table for browsing.  I heartily recommend Bible Facts.    

    DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy of Bible Facts from Kregel Publishing in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are my own and I received no compensation for this review.

Blown Coverage (Riley Covington Series #2) by Jason Elam, Steve Yohn

About the book:  Linebacker Riley Covington returns to another season of mini-camp for the Colorado Mustangs just as a wave of terrorist attacks begin to occur across the country. Sleeper cells are being awakened—likely by the leader of the Cause, who has recently escaped from captivity and is coordinating attacks not only on America but also on Riley and his loved ones. As Jim Hicks, Scott Ross, and the rest of the Counter terrorism Division follow leads in Europe, Riley goes on the offensive to draw out his attackers. But can the Cause be stopped before they're able to reach their ultimate goal? Tyndale House Publishers

My thoughts: This story is written by a football player and involves a professional football player and his involvement in taking down sleeper terrorist cells.

Excitement, suspense, intrigue, and danger lurk on every page. Peek into the world of the pro football league (PTL) as Riley Covington takes on the enemy. Riley’s loved ones, team, country, and world at large are in danger of jihad. But as a Christian, Riley prays for God’s protection and care as he races toward danger and battle.

Fast paced, this story is sure to engage the interest of suspense readers and especially appeal to those who follow pro football.

Book one in the series by this team of authors is Monday Night Jihad.

Published by Tyndale House Publishing

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dr. Fischer Anti-Wrinkle Lycopene Night Cream and Serum

Recently, I was given the opportunity to review skin care products for Dr. Fischer's Dead Sea Minerals and I enjoyed the products so much. They also sent me facial care products in another of their lines, that I have been using. They did not ask me to review these two products, but I thought I would share with readers what I thought of them.

First of all, they are pleasant on the skin. You skin doesn't feel greasy nor does it feel drawn and tight. Let's look at the products and what they are all about.....

Product information:  As the body ages, it loses its ability to produce the collagen and elastin protein framework that is critical for its structural support. When this occurs, aging signs, such as lines, creases and wrinkles become increasingly apparent. Dr. Fischer R&D Laboratories have created the Anti-Wrinkle Lycopene range; a world-leading breakthrough and the result of the most advanced and effective anti-aging technology for the immediate
and long-term treatment of wrinkles. Anti-Wrinkle Lycopene instantly and noticeably refines, firms and plumps-up the skin and provides long-term anti-aging protection against wrinkle formation.
IMMEDIATE LIFT SERUM – Noticeably Reduces Wrinkles Firms the skin and reduces dark circles around the eyes. Dry to Normal Skin - Oil-Free
Lycopene, Dynalift™, Hyaluronic Acid,
Q10, Polysaccharide, Polyamides.

  • Immediately reduces the appearance of aging signs on delicate facial tissue.
  • Polyamide micro-fibers visibly refine aging and facial expression lines.
  • Intensive treatment to help create firm, supple and youthful looking skin.
  • Powerful antioxidant protection against harmful and aging free radicals.
TIME DEFYING NIGHT CREAM - Effectively Treats Wrinkles (face, neck & décolletage)Works over-night to help reduce lines and wrinkles.
Dry to Normal Skin - Oil-Free
Lycopene, Hyaluronic Filling Spheres,
Vitamin A, Vitamin E, CM-Glucan,
Pro-Vitamin B5, Polysaccharide, Silicone Elastomers. 

  • Effectively diminishes aging signs for a noticeably improved complexion. 
  • Enriched with optimal moisture and nutrition to help restore and renew the skin.
  • Gives the skin a smooth, supple, shine-free appearance and great silky-soft after feel.
  • Powerful antioxidant protection against harmful and aging free radicals.
Produced in Israel, I don't know how readily available these are the the United States but here is a site I found them at online:

My thoughts:  The way I used these two products was to apply the serum in the morning under my moisturizer and makeup. Then at night I cleaned my face and applied the night cream.  The serum is nice feeling on my skin and doesn't make it feel drawn like some serums. The night cream is, well, "creamy" and feels very nice on my skin - not oily like some night creams are. I thoroughly enjoyed using these two products.  When I use products of this quality, I feel like I am taking good care of my skin and providing those little extras that will help prevent the wrinkles of aging by keeping my skin toned and moist.

DISCLOSURE: I received one of each of these products at no cost to me. No review was expected. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.