Monday, September 29, 2014

"Love's Fortune" Book 3 in the Ballentyne Legacy by Laura Frantz

About the book:  Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas's vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Rowena makes the journey hi.m and quickly finds herself in a whole new world--filled with family members she's never met, dances she's never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew. As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes' shipping line. Even with his help, Rowena feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

My thoughts: Young Wren is arbitrarily thrust into Pittsburgh Society when she and her father travel by steamship from their beloved Kentucky home.  The story is set during pre-Civil War years and the slavery issue stirs everywhere.  For years the Ballantyne family has had members involved in the underground railroad aiding escaped slaves to freedom. James Sackett who is loosely connected to the family is tightly connected to the freedom fight.

Wren must have a "season" and she must marry well. So she is corseted, groomed, trained, be-gowned, and coached to prepare herself for this responsibility. The author presents well the snobbery of society toward those considered beneath them. She also gives the reader a delightful glimpse into the graces involved in escorting and protecting a young lady.

There is danger and romance and villainy. Laura Frantz has again brought a lovely read to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction and readers will not be disappointed.

Laura Frantz will be "stopping by" Chat With Vera every now & then to chat and answer your questions. Leave a comment or question below and let's see what she says!

GIVEAWAY: A complimentary copy is being provided by the author for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win in this giveaway. Use the Rafflecopter form below to record your entries. You can come back daily for the daily entries. Begins September 29 & ENDS October 16 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to address in the USA only.
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Ever wonder how a book cover is designed? Here is a bit of insight into the magic!
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Love's Fortune in exchange for this review. I was not expected or required to render a positive review. No compensation was received for this review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum {Review and Giveaway}

I have had the pleasure to use several Vitamin C serums and have found using such a product to be a real winner for me. As a lady-of-a-certain-age, the inevitable has happened. Yes, there are wrinkles. Yes, there is sagging. Yes, there are dark spots finding their way to the surface. And yes, I'd love to turn back the clock and make all things new. But folks, there is no magic pill. There is no magic potion. There is nothing magical about it. It is simply you "Do what you can and enhance and protect as much as you can!"

I have found that using products for my skin - morning and evening has a major impact on making my skin look better. Using creams for my eyes, creams for my face and neck, serums, and nice washes really does help. Does it remove the toll of years? No. But it does soften the look and helps tremendously.

Now  about the Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum I've been using about two weeks now. I've used it morning and evening though they say once a day for most because it could dry your skin if used twice a day. Twice works nicely for me and has not caused dryness. First I cleanse the face. Then I apply the serum which I allow to dry to maximize the effect. I follow this with my moisturizer (day cream for mornings and evening cream for evenings - there is a difference, you know). After the moisturizer has soaked into the skin somewhat, I apply my makeup.

If I'm not going out for the day, I just use a little blush and lipstick. Using the serum along with a moisturizer tends to give my face a nice glow which I like.

One of my daughters was recently visiting me and she noted that the dark spots on the side of my face were not as prominent. Wow! That makes me feel that something is working. I believe perhaps the Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin Serum could have a major role in this for me. So I'll continue to apply it.

GIVEAWAY: One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to win their very own bottle of Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Open for USA addresses only. Begins September 26 & ENDS October 16 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
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About the product - from their website: Voilà Ve  Triple Action Vitamin C Serum is no vitamin C serum. The secret that sets Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum apart from the rest is its three different forms of Vitamin C, unlike competitor's brands which contain only one form. These three forms combined together with 100% percent pure Hyaluronic Acid make this product more effective and faster to work than one type alone.

Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum is effective at treating a variety of skin problems. The three types of vitamin C plus Hyaluronic Acid in this rich serum will:
  • Even out skin tone
  • Lighten dark spots and discolorations, including sun damage
  • Reduce the appearance of wrinkles and crow's feet
  • Brighten the skin
  • Soften and moisturize skin
  • Balance skin's pH
  • Lighten acne scars and other scars
  • Make skin appear firmer and smoother
  • Gives skin a youthful look
  • Will not clog pores
Unlike other vitamin C serum products, Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum contains no fillers, just pure nutrients. Plus, it DOES NOT contain potentially-harmful parabens. Only a few tiny drops are needed and will cover the entire face, making the product go further and last longer. Voilà Ve Triple Action Vitamin C Serum comes in a handy, easy-dispensing 1 oz. pump bottle.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary product in exchange for this review. I only recommend products I use and can recommend. I was not compensated for this review and I was not required to render a favorable review.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Super Stroller Organizer by Children 'n Us

Part of being a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grand mother is that you can say, "Been there, done that!" and smile and keep going. But also part of the lady-of-a-certain-age scenario is that you stand in awe at the fabulous products now on the market for moms and dads to enjoy today. Wow! Let's give that a double-Wowie!!!

Diaper bags of my generation were simply rectangular shaped, a strap, and maybe a zipper. Period! No pockets. No pouches. No frills. And folks, they usually had to last for more than one baby!
Pockets, Pockets, Pockets! 2 cup/bottle pockets, a phone pocket
A large center pocket. An outside smaller items pocket!

Today's diaper bags are tremendously innovative and work so well. They are even stylish. But today we're not talking about diaper bags. I have been given the privilege of examining the Children 'n Us Super Stroller Organizer. This bag is designed to be attached to a stroller and to hold all sorts of stuff today's mommies and daddies like to take along when they get out 'n about. 
Straps easily attach to stroller and hold the organizer
Not just for strollers! Use on your bike when you take Junior for a spin with you!

Out 'n about in the car - short trip or long journey - hang it over the seat back/headrest.

I don't need one of these. My days of needing this are over, but my great- grandchild's mommy and daddy will be thrilled to have it, I'm sure. I can't wait to pass it along to them. I can see it being a really nice "go-to" shower gift to purchase in the future when the opportunity arises.

I don't care a lot for company names on my clothes or products I use and this organizer does have the "Children 'n Us" name emblazoned across the front. Their company is not the only one that does this and it seems acceptable most folks. It certainly won't interfere with the organizers usefulness.

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.

Immi's Gift ~ Written & Illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Review & Giveaway)

ISBN: 9781561455454
Ages 4-8, Hardcover  $15.95
Little Immi is a  child of the far north, cold frozen land of Alaska. She is a native Inuit. Her people fish for their sustenance and little Immi is learning young to fish.

One day while out fishing she catches a beautifully carved and painted bird.She is filled with joy at this beautiful gift from the water. On subsequent days she catches other beautiful treasures.

At the end of the story, she decides to "gift" the sea with one of her very own Inuit treasures. Ultimately, the Inuit treasure is caught from the sea by a Pacific Islander.

This beautifully told and illustrated story is charming. There is sweet innocence and true joy. There is also an underlying story of bonding across the distances imposed by water, land, or cultures. 
" Immi was about to go, 
she stopped and put her hand to her necklace. She took the small bear and gently dropped it into the water."

The illustrations alone are what I consider "keeper quality." But combined with the effortlessly and beautifully simple told story, it makes for a perfect book for the child's home bookshelf or libraries at school and city.

GIVEAWAY:  Peachtree Publishers has graciously agreed to provide one of Chat With Vera's readers their own copy of Immi's Gift. Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August September 24 & ENDS October 14 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Immi's Gift from Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review. The winner's giveaway copy is provided directly to them from Peachtree.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mini Myths by Joan Holub: "Play Nice, Hercules" and "Be Patient, Pandora"

Be Patient Pandora by Joan Holub

Title: Be Patient, Pandora! (Mini Myths) | Author: Joan Holub | Illustrator: Leslie Patricelli | Publication Date: September 16, 2014 | Publisher: Abrams Appleseed | Pages: 24 | Recommended Ages: 1 to 5

Summary: When Pandora is warned by her mother not to open a box, her spirited curiosity trumps her obedience. Pandora harmlessly touches the box, innocently leans on the box, and eventually, albeit accidentally, bursts the box open! The cupcakes that were hidden inside are ruined, except for one last vestige, which Pandora presents in the hope that her mother still loves her. Leslie Patricelli’s depictions of this physical comedy bring a lively narrative to Joan Holub’s carefully crafted text. Includes a summary of the original Pandora’s Box myth at the end.

My thoughts:  Pandora is typical of any small child when there is an unopened surprise or gift. "Do not open the box..." is tantamount to stirring the ever present curiosity that is innate in the child. So she looks. She approaches. She touches. She sits upon it...... well, you kind of get the idea that "Pandora's box" is ultimately opened.

While this state of curiosity and disobedience is natural in a child, they need to learn to manage it. In the Mini Myths series for the very young child, Pandora is nicely handled. I think the "myth" that is explained at the back of the book is perhaps understandable by the 5-year and older child; it will be a bit lost on the younger audience. I would recommend this for someone who wants to teach control of curiosity to a young child.

Play Nice Hercules by Joan Holub

Title: Play Nice, Hercules! (Mini Myths) | Author: Joan Holub | Illustrator: Leslie Patricelli | Publication Date: September 16, 2014 | Publisher: Abrams Appleseed | Pages: 24 | Recommended Ages: 1 to 5

Summary: Hercules is not as interested in “playing nice” as he is in playing strong! But when one feat of strength destroys his little sister’s 12-piece tower, he must use his powers for good to restore the tower and seek her forgiveness. She forgives him indeed, and then shows her own strength by gleefully knocking down the stacked blocks herself! Joan Holub’s expertly focused text pairs perfectly with Leslie Patricelli’s famously humorous illustrations. Includes a summary of the original Hercules’s Twelve Labors myth at the end.

My thoughts:  Hercules is a bad, rambunctious little boy. He literally wrecks the place. The illustrations really portray Hercules as an intentionally bad little boy. But when asked, "Are you playing nice?" he switches his behavior.

This is suppose to parallel the myth of Hercules. In the back of the book there is a synopsis of the story of Hercules, the myth. Frankly, I think this is beyond understanding of the targeted age group this book is designed to reach. The story of the "modern" Hercules is fine, though he really is a naughty boy, and shows behavior can be modified. I don't necessarily recommend this book, but some might feel it is appropriate for their children.

About the Author: Joan Holub’s fascination with mythology inspired Mini Myths, a new board book series that translates famous myths into situations familiar to preschoolers. The first two titles, Be Patient, Pandora! and Play Nice, Hercules! debut in September. Joan co-authors two other mythology series for Simon and Schuster, Goddess Girls (ages 8-12) and Heroes in Training (ages 7-10). Her picture book, Mighty Dads, was a New York Times bestseller in 2014. 

Tried and True by Mary Connealy (Review & Giveaway)

Tried and True

Let Mary Connealy take you on an exciting trip back to the wild west! Tried and True, book one in Connealy's new Wild at Heart series, is sure to entertain!

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister---and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It's a risk---they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as "boys"---but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.
Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?

My thoughts:  Sometimes we want to pick up a book, kick back and relax, read, and have a bit of fun while we’re at it  Plunging into Tried and True by Mary Connealy tickled my funny bone, captured my attention, drove me into the settling of the wild west, and had some sweet romance thrown into the mix. This was a fun read.

The story is about the Wilde family of three grown daughters all of which fought in the Civil War at the insistence of their uncaring father, Cudgel Wilde. Dressed as men during the war, they served the army. Now their uncaring, demanding father has each of them claiming a homestead in the unsettled Idaho territory. Trouble is, they still must pass as men. So they continue wearing trousers, cropping their hair, etc. They are pretty much making this work until a land agent arrives on the scene and right away figures out these are beautiful women are wearing trousers, not men! 

The plot ripens when a cattle rancher gets involved and also a trio of unsavory characters bring danger right to the Wiley ladies (oops! Men???) homes.

The story moves fast and is fun, so grab ahold of the horse's reins and ride!

GIVEAWAY:  One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to win a copy of Tried and True. So just use the Rafflecopter entry form below as much or as little as you wish. Begins September 20 & ENDS October 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
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 Meet the Author 
Mary Connealy writes fun and lively "romantic comedy with cowboys" for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Kincaid Brides, Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series, and she has been a finalist for a Rita and Christy Award and a two time winner of the Carol Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a copy by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pig and Small by Alex Latimer (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Two friends learn that size doesn't matter in this hilarious story about finding common ground.

Pig and Bug just want to be friends. But their size difference is proving to be a BIG problem. Pig wants to play games - but Bug is too small. Bug wants to make things for his friend - but Pig is too big!
Just as they've given up all hope for their friendship, 

Pig has an idea... But will it work? (Yes, it will!)
Meet "Bug" who is the squeak on the
snout of Pig.

My thoughts: When Pig wakes up one morning, he discovers a squeak in his snout. Never had he squeaked but now everything was a squeak. Finally, he realizes that his squeak is actually a very small BUG.

As Pig and Bug begin to discover each other and explore the friendship they so desire, they realize that friendship is something you work hard at and that you have to accept that others are special just the way they are.
"Pig and Bug were very sad. They'd tried so hard to be friends, but it just wasn't working.
So they said goodbye.... and parted ways."
Isn't that sad? But wait, there is MORE to the story! Well, they find ways to do things together and then their adventure begins.

This story of Pig and Small is sweetly told and then colorfully illustrated with simple line drawings, simplistic eyes and animations, and will delight the child as you read to him or the early reader who reads it aloud with you. 
"Pig couldn't help feeling as though he'd done most of the pedaling."

I can recommend this to Chat With Vera readers and for libraries everywhere,

GIVEAWAY:  Peachtree Publisher has graciously agreed to provide one of Chat With Vera's readers their own copy of Pig and Small. Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August September 17 & ENDS October 7 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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School Library Journal recommends this humorous tale of unusual friendship for storytime, especially for the big bright illustrations.
About the author/illustrator: Alex Latimer lives near the border of a national park so when not writing or drawing, he spends his free time shooing baboons out of his lounge. The Boy Who Cried Ninja is his first book for children. He lives in South Africa. Publishers Weekly Reviews notes that "Latimer (Lion vs. Rabbit), whose deadpan visual comedy is always a treat, once again proves he's adept at conveying life lessons with the lightest of touches." 
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Peachtree Publishing in exchange for this review but no paid compensation. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not required to give a positive review. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Candid Essentials Vitamin C Serum - 20 percent

Well, here is a different Vitamin C serum that I have had the opportunity to use and tell you all about. I guess by now you have surmised that I have found that vitamin serum makes my skin look good and feel good, too. Some of the vitamin C serums are a bit watery, but the Candid Essentials 20% Vitamin C Serum is not watery. It is a thin "liquid" gel type serum. It has a very slight yellow tint to it. However, once you place it in the palm of your hand you don't "see" color. It goes on smoothly and nicely. I like the way it makes my face feel and look and I believe using this natural product can only bring benefits to my skin.

See the image above? Well, just read what this Vitamin C serum does. Impressive! Did you notice that there are no SLS, no Parabens, no Phthalates, no Toxins, and no Harmful Chemicals? Did you notice, too, that it is natural and organic? Wow!

I plan to continue using Vitamin C serums and the Candid Essentials brand is one of the good ones. I recommend this to my readers as a good product to investigate for your own use.

Product Description (from Candid Essentials)

Our Serum is a combination of STAY-C® 50, Vitamin E, Feluric Acid and Hyaluronic Acid for the most powerful anti-aging properties and added skin protection.

Topical Vitamin C is easier and safer than a facelift or chemical peel and can be just as effective at reversing the impact of environmental damage.

If you have experienced:

* Loss of elasticity to your face
* Fine lines and wrinkles
* Sun spots and skin discoloration
* Dry skin

Our Vitamin C can help 

* Boost collagen production to reduce and prevent fine lines & wrinkles for a firmer appearance
* Minimize sun spots and skin discoloration by creating a more even toned skin and a beautiful, healthy glow
* Reduce oxidative damage caused by harmful elements like sunlight, smoke, and air pollution and prevent further damage
* Smooth the texture of your skin, minimize your pores and give you a brighter, vibrant complexion

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, September 15, 2014

Candle Prayers for Kids by Claire Freedman illustrated by Jo Parry

About the book:  A delightful companion prayer book to the popular Candle Bible for Kids. Jo Parry's distinctively bold and vibrant illustrations complement a combination of traditional and modern prayers by Claire Freedman, author of the Benjamin Bear series. Candle Prayers for Kids helps to bring prayer and talking to God into the life of every child.

My thoughts:  Storytime can be turned into an opportunity to teach the habit and grace of prayer in the life of a child. A habit that should follow them through life. The opportunity should encompass all aspects of the child's life - success and failure, receiving and giving, hurting and hurting others. Every aspect of life. Petitions. Thanksgiving. Praise.

In Candle Prayers for Kids a parent can easily use the text to guide the child to think on the subject of prayer for that which is covered on each "story page." As the child thinks and repeats the prayer with the parent, the concept of engaging in prayer is taught and experienced. From that the child can grow to verbalize his or her own words of prayers.

These are not necessarily prayers to be memorized such as "Now I lay me down to sleep....." They are prayers to teach, guide, and engage. I see this as a valuable tool for the Christian parent to utilize to bring their young child to an understanding of prayer.

Illustrated in bold and captivating art using strong primary colors, Candle Prayers for Kids will surely capture the attention and heart of young children. I can visualize younger children carrying this little book around after having had it read to them and "showing" his own Teddy Bears and dolls the pictures and helping them, too, learn to pray. Remember, the play of children is their work and their life.

DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary from Kregel in exchange for my review. No compensation was received. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Ageless Derma Natural Camoufleur Concealer With Vitamin A, E and Apple Extracts. It is Good for your skin....

 A tiny package that packs a big impact!
I've had pretty good skin through the years but time does ultimately take its toll. There are some wrinkles, some "age" spots, and those inevitable dark circles under the eyes. The dark circles have increased exponentially since my heart procedure and were becoming worrisome to me.

I've never been a fan  of concealers, but when given the opportunity to experiment a bit with Ageless Derma's concealer that has natural ingredients such as vitamins A,E, and apple extracts that can actually help the skin along with the minerals and "stuff" of a concealer to cover up the dark, well, I said "Yes." And I am so glad I did.

It has taken a little trial 'n error to get the application process down just right because a tiny bit goes a long way, but I think I am about there. And I believe I am seeing cover-up as well as improvement in the way the dark circles actually look without makeup. That is a real bonus!

The dark spots on the left side of my face  don't hide well enough with basic foundation so the Ageless Derma Natural Camoufleur Concealer dabbed and gently massaged on the spots just prior to applying foundation seems to work for me.  In fact, on a stay-at-home-no-makeup-day recently I played around with the concealer (after applying serum and moisturizer) and just a bit of light blush. Works very nicely. Doesn't show up as a dabbed on concealer at all. Nice!

This is a tiny little package, but a little goes a long way. In fact, I even shared about half the tiny package with my daughter who has a large dark spot on her face. I simply put about half the concealer in a little tiny jar and showed her how I am using it. Since she was visiting me at the time, I can't wait to hear from her to see how she likes it.
A favorite of the "stars."

Product Description (from Ageless Derma): 

Ageless Derma Natural Camoufleur Concealer with Vitamin A, E and apple Extracts.

Ageless Derma line of mineral makeup includes the dynamic Camoufleur Concealer that is ideal for covering up imperfections of the skin such as scars or brown spots or port wine stains that distract from the skin’s beauty. This versatile mineral make up concealer provides a natural look that is long lasting and will also cover those dark circles beneath the eyes, so it is an anti aging makeup that will conceal those visible signs of aging.

PARABEN FREE- 100 % Pure Minerals- Great For Sensitive Skin- Broad Spectrum Sun Protection. Never tested on Animals.  Potent Antioxidants to prevent wrinkles. Made in USA.

Ageless Derma Mineral Makeup was featured at Emmy Award show in LA, See images of  Celebrity  from General Hospital,  The Young and the Restless and The bold and Beautiful  with Ageless Derma products at our facebook page

Ingredients: Apple Extract & Horseradish & Phospholipids & Retinyl Palmitate & Tocopheryl Acetate & Butylene Glycol

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.

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St.Amant (Review & Giveaway)

Sweet contemporary fiction

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie's bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat's best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York. 
As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself---her---is suddenly in danger of slipping away. 
The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat's senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.
My thoughts: When I agreed to review All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, I felt it would be a light, fluffy, saccharine sweet story. I wasn’t far wrong in my assumption. I dove into it ready for some fluff and relaxed reading. I found that from the very beginning the author used the muddling, confusing thoughts of the characters to flesh them out and give the reader insight into who they were what was going on – or what they the characters thought was going on – in their lives. This writing style can be used effectively, but this time the author simply lost this reader. However, I promised to read and review and so I continued to read. I’m glad I did.

While not a favorite of mine, the story has some really good elements to it. I like that Lucas was a good football coach and life-shaper for the boys on his team. I like that he loved Kat and wanted to help her become more secure in her feelings about her own adequacy in life’s design. She was virtually consumed with insecurity.

I like that while a sweet romance it remains very low on the passion scale which suits me fine. I like that they practice restraint even when tempted.

There were storyline issues such as the family not being supportive of Kat and critical of her. The resolution of this was kind of backhanded and understated. 

Simply stated, the book revolves around cupcakes and the baking of said cupcakes – hundreds of cupcakes. There was just so much cake eating and tasting – but then, the title alludes to that, doesn’t it.

GIVEAWAY:  Litfuse Publicity Group is providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win for their very own. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form below. And may the best cupcake - oops! ..... forgot this wasn't the cupcake contest. Here's to fluff reading with lots of sweetness involved! Begins September 15 & ENDS October 8 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author and publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer

About the book:  Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.

My thoughts: Set during the Great War, otherwise known as World War I, or the War to End Wars, Playing byHeart follows a young very educated and intellectual young lady who teaches in University and is working toward a PhD in mathematics. This is virtually unheard of at this point in time, but Lula pursues this dream of hers and her father’s. All seems well until she learns that her sister’s husband has died leaving a widow with four small children to care for. Lula’s entire family insists that Lula must give up her teaching position and scholarship and take care of her sister and sister’s family.

Devastated at the thought of leaving her loved profession of teaching in an institute of higher education and further pursuing her own education, it seems that everything is stacked in favor of her making this change in her life – at least temporarily.

The title, Playing by Heart, threw me for awhile – especially since the cover shows Lula touching the keys of a piano. Then into the story we learn that Lula takes a teaching job at the local high school teaching music (not piano) and coaching girls basketball.  Both a far cry from mathematics.

Anne Mateer has written another of her good stories that entertain and keep one reading. I’m not a basketball fan and know very little about the game. So when the game became a somewhat major point in the story, I thought I would lose interest. However, there was not so much game detail that I lost interest; but there was surely enough to realistically portray the character’s activities.

Music does play a part and that proves to be a soothing, comforting, and supportive part of the story. There is a touch of sweet, light romance that I don’t have a problem with at all. I can recommend this book.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Playing By Heart by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason [Review]

ISBN: 9780800722098
About the book:  She thought her days of hiding were over . . . but the danger has just begun

The day Danielle Harding takes her eleven-year-old son and flees from her abusive husband is the same day Kurt Harding dies. A relieved Dani believes she and her son are finally safe--but in reality, things are just heating up. When Kurt was alive, he took something important from a mysterious individual--who wants the item back and believes Dani now has it. As she and her son run for their lives, they have nowhere to turn, until she hires Adam Buchanan of Operation Refuge and goes into hiding. Unfortunately, she won't be able to hide for long . . .

From the first breathless scene, this tension-laced story will hold you in its iron grip as bestselling author Lynette Eason propels you along in a race to discover the truth.

My thoughts: Expecting a good, suspense filled read, Nowhere to Turn absolutely did not disappoint. It seems today that the news is filled with the sad story of abusive relationships - men abusing women, abuse of children - deadly and devastating relationships. This story is compellingly frightening. After years of captive abuse by her husband, Dani is now free from it because he has died. But this story goes on and on with more scary episodes that the normal person needs to read about.

Hopefully, this is all fiction, but sad-to-say often fiction is a re-telling of hard biting truth. Dani literally goes all around trying to escape her troubles. She and her son Simon are not safe. To escape this continuing problem, she seeks help from a refuge group. While they are professionals and are helping to protect her, somehow, someway her pursuers are just one step behind her - no matter where she goes.

Lynette Eason's series of suspense novels,  Hidden Identity, is proving to be entertaining and seriously compelling reads. I suggest you reading them all.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series and the Deadly Reunions series, as well as No One to Trust. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and she lives in South Carolina. Learn more at

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stanley's Garage by William Bee (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Can Stanley fix all the cars in his garage today?

Stanley is working at his garage. From filling up Hattie's red speedster with gas to changing the tire on Shamus and Little Woo's blue station wagon, it sure is a busy day. As his friends each come in with their car problems, Stanley knows just what to do to get them back on the road.

My thoughts:  Have you fallen completely in love with Stanley yet? Stanley is now the owner of a Garage and he has lots of his neighbor's cars and trucks to take care of - especially Myrtle's.

Got a flat tire? Stanley will come where you're stranded and fix it for you. See he is fixing theirs by jacking the car up.

Stanley gets a call from Myrtle saying she is having problems with her little purple car. (Remember, Myrtle is the friend for whom Stanley built a house.) After taking his tow truck to where Myrtle is stranded, he "tows" her back to his garage so he can fix her car.

It takes lots of different tools to fix cars and trucks, and Stanley has lots of tools. Kids and Dads will have lots of fun naming all these different tools and talking about what to "fix" with each of them.

This is sure to be a good series for the young child because the illustrations are clear, pleasant, and the text is direct and simple. The book is fun, cute, enjoyable, and delightfully educational. I recommend you consider acquiring copies of the Stanley books for your library at home, school, or public.

There is a grand blog tour going on. Visit each and see what these bloggers, book lovers have to say about Stanley the Builder. Most will be hosting a giveaway, too. For whom will you try to win this cute book?
GIVEAWAY:  Peachtree Publisher has graciously agreed to provide one of Chat With Vera's readers their own copy of Stanley's Garage. Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins August September 10 & ENDS October 2 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.

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About the author:  William Bee is an artist and commercial designer who has worked for renowned fashion houses, including Issay Miyake and Paul Smith. As well as writing children's books, he races a vintage sports car, is an international skier, and when at home tends his lawns and meadow. He lives in England.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Peachtree Publishing in exchange for this review but no paid compensation. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not required to give a positive review. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Feast for Thieves By: Marcus Brotherton (Review & Giveaway)

About the book: Sergeant Rowdy Slater is the most skilled-and most incorrigible-soldier in Dog Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, an elite group of paratroopers fighting for the world's freedom in World War II.

Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Rowdy returns to the States after the war, turns his life around, and falls into the only job he can find-preacher at the sparsely populated community church in Cut Eye, Texas, a dusty highway town situated at the midpoint of nowhere and emptiness.

The town's lawman, suspicious that Rowdy has changed his ways only as a cover up, gives an ultimatum: Rowdy must survive one complete year as Cut Eye's new minister or end up in jail.

At first Rowdy thinks the job will be easy, particularly because he's taking over for a young female missionary who's held the church together while the men were at war. But when a dark-hearted acquaintance from Rowdy's past shows up with a plan to make some quick cash, Rowdy becomes ensnared due to an irrevocable favor, and life turns decidedly difficult.

Rowdy's a man used to solving problems one of two ways: with his rifle or with his fists. Will he be able to thwart his old friend's evil schemes while remaining true to his new higher calling?

This is a wild ride of a book bursting with a bank robbery, kidnapping, desperate prayers, and barroom brawls. Before the smoke clears, all sides just might end up getting exactly what they want.

My thoughts:  This was certainly an interesting read. Quite frankly, the making of a preacher of the Gospel out of Rowdy (main character) will certainly elicit laughter and create fodder for the church-hating public that sees Baptist, Southern preachers as ignoramuses and shysters. You see, Rowdy is a discharged army guy who has been to prison and who has helped rob a bank. He happens to get caught by the Sheriff of Cut Eye (the town) who needs a new preacher for the town’s church because his town is quite frankly going to the Devil. Rowdy knows no Bible, is not a Christian, and is a most unlikely candidate for the position. But a bargain has been struck between the Sheriff and Rowdy.

Feast of Thieves is the author’s first novel but he has written many non-fiction titles including We Who Are Alive and Remain about veterans. He draws the character, Rowdy Slater, with skilled language plotting twists with the story taking unbelievable turns wrapped in the colloquial dialogue that is small town South of the mid-forties.

A fairly short book, it “grows” Rowdy from a drifting, troubled war veteran whose past has given him a lot to overcome to have a future of any good and into a man dedicated to God. Yes, the outcome is good and it is sweet.  Though the story style is not one I usually enjoy, I ended wondering what in the world was going to happen next to Rowdy. Maybe we won’t have to wait long to find out. I understand there are more “Rowdy Slater” books on the horizon.

This is a story of redemption and it is presented in an unusual way and in a style evocative of a really good literary work.

Want to win a copy? One of Chat With Vera's readers will be randomly selected as winner of their own copy graciously provided by River North Fiction. Use the entry form below. Begins September 8 & ENDS September 30 @ 12:01 a.m. ET.
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About the author:  MARCUS BROTHERTON is the author or coauthor of more than twenty-five nonfiction books. Notable works include Shifty's War, A Company of Heroes, and the oral history project, We Who Are Alive and Remain: untold stories from the Band of Brothers, a New York Times bestseller. This is his first novel.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from a publicists on behalf of the author in exchange for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.I received no compensation for this review.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thank You, God by J. Bradley Wigger and illustrated by Jago

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5424-7
Hardcover $16.00
Eerdman's Books for Young Readers
I thought it would be appropriate to review the Eerdmans Thank You God by Bradley Wigger on a Sunday. We should say "Thank you, God" everyday, but most especially on Sunday.

The artist presents the story in unusual, vibrant art using active multi-racial and multi-national people throughout. There is an exuberance and joy vibrating in the art.

The story by Bradley Wigger uses a loose form of poetic prose - sometimes a rhyme but mostly prose. The basics to be thankful for are covered: earth and sky, family and friend, home, food. Then thankfulness reaches beyond the usual children's-book thanks by being thankful for "new words I learned today," rain and puddles, "all that breathes--bees and beetles..."
The book concludes with......
Bless you, God,
for this day,
for life,
for your love holding us together. Amen

I consider this a book worthy of your child's bookshelf as well as a church, school, or public library.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Eerdman's Publishing in exchange for this review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

10 Things for Teen Girls (You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.) [Review & Giveaway]

About the book:  The world is run by teen girls: parents of teen girls, teachers of teen girls, boys trying to date teen girls, feminists who want to empower teen girls, companies trying to sell things to teen girls, and people who have had it “up to here” with teen girls.   Chances are if you’re reading this, there is a young woman in your life for whom you desire the very best, and 10 Things for Teen Girls can help with that.
Based on student minister Kate Conner’s runaway blog post, this book answers a lot of important questions: Why should I follow my heart? Should I care what other people think of me? Why are boys only interested in my body? How do I handle my emotions? Am I beautiful? Am I enough? 

My thoughts: Got a teen girl? Or a 'tween girl? Or a girl? Well, Moms and Dads of girls need to read Kate Conner's on-target, get-in-your-face (and heart) book that gives you the low-down and a head's up on what your teen girl needs. So if you don't right now, this very minute have a teen girl, but you do have a "girl on board," this little book is right down your alley.

Initially, you'll see that these girls need to be told in words, actions, and deeds....
  • You are beautiful
  • You are valuable
  • You are enough
Its a hard, mean world out there and our treasures, our girls are vulnerable; and it is your responsibility, Mom and Dad, to protect, shape, and strengthen them. This is a great tool for parents to use to help instill in their daughters that they are of value. They belong to the King of Kings. They are not objects. And on and on....

Kate Conner has a delightful writing style replete with get-you-attention termanology and real "cool" humor. You'll laugh and you'll "Oh me" throughout. You'll wish your parents could have had a book like this when you were that teen. I'm not going to pretend and say I agree with everything she says, but by-and-large she is "spot-on" and she uses Scripture to back what she says.

While written for teen girls, you'll WANT to read the book so you can begin to understand and help that teen you love.

GIVEAWAY: One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to win their very own copy. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Open for USA addresses only. Begins September 4 & ENDS September 25 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
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DISCLOSURE: As a Family Christian Blogger, I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) by Diet Standards

What in the world is a senior citizen (women of-a-certain-age) doing playing around with amino acids?

Come on, folks, we all know that body builders, exercise enthusiasts, determined dieters, and all the ilk and kin of these folks are the ones who  use products such as this. Right? Well, sure. They exercise to build muscle and amino acids are suppose to help in the process. You can read all about it on all sorts of websites and literature that caters to the exercising crowd. 

But, again, me? Why did I think I'd give the Amino HD1000 (especially a huge bottle such as this) a whirl? Well, I have heard that the elderly (such an awesome word), the seniors, and the ladies of-a-certain-age can also use amino acids to help take care of their own declining muscle mass even without all the vigorous exercise. 

See the quote from a reputable website below: 

Is it beneficial for basically non-exercising seniors to take amino acids? (the following quote is from ----

Now that I've been using them awhile, here are my observations.
  1. Sometimes I "taste" the capsule for a few minutes after taking it or them if I take two. But this is entirely because I tend to "taste" large capsules or pills - especially if it is a natural product. This goes away in a few minutes, so that is fine with me. I can handle that.
  2. I think I am already seeing a bit less of a tummy. I don't know why this is or what is taking place and it may simply be my imagination, but I like less tummy!
  3. I don't see any muscles building up and don't really expect to. I am truly hoping that these amino acids will help to preserve the muscle mass I currently have and perhaps regenerate some that I have lost. Am I dreaming? I don't know, but it is a happy thought, isn't it?
  4. Of note: without researching this somewhat online (in addition to the previously quoted article) as to whether or not it is plausable or good for a senior citizen to consume this product, I would not have participated in this product review.

Branch Chain What? AminoHD 1000 BCAAs launched at Amazon recently: Don't let the name fool you. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein.
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are "essential" amino acids, meaning that the body cannot synthesize them - BCAAs must be consumed through high-protein foods and/or supplements.
** Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) make up 35% of essential amino acids in muscle protein. **
Dieting Down? Use BCAAs to retain muscle mass.
Bulking Up? Use BCAAs to help build muscle mass.
BCAAs are best taken any time the body has high protein requirements and low whole food intake.
  • Ideal intake times are: PreWorkout, IntraWorkout, Post-Workout, Between Meals, During Intermittent Fasting, and Before Bed.
You won't wake up after 1-day looking like a juiced up NFL linebacker.
But it just might give you the extra edge to keep and create that lean muscle tissue we're all after.
AminoHD 1000 BCAAs has only 2 ingredients: Branch Chain Amino Acids and Vegetable Capsules
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are shown to Support Muscle Building and Exercise Recovery!
  • AminoHD 1000 is now complete with Diet Standards "MuscleDelivery Matrix" - Combines a trusted 2:1:1 Ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
  • BCAA's + Veggie Capsules = PURE! (This is the most pure form of BCAA's you can take in a capsule.) - There are No Fillers and No other ingredients - NO: Gelatin, Magnesium Stearate, Silica, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Glycerin, Titanium Dioxide, or "Pharmaceutical Glaze" (whatever that is). Just pure BCAAs!
  • BCAA in Capsules: No more messy powders, sugars (real and fake), and terrible taste. Just Amino Acids that bypass your liver and directly metabolize in your muscles!
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.