Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mice & Spiders & Webs...Oh My! by Sherrill S. Cannon [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: Is your child a good listener? 

Rosemary is a little girl who is worried about returning to school after her teacher warns the class that they would soon have some mice, spiders, and webs in the classroom. Could Rosemary have misunderstood something? 

How can mice and spiders and webs belong at school? Full of “Computer Speak,” this story introduces young readers to basic computer terms in a delightful way! See if your child can discover the mystery of the misunderstood words, and learn about the fun of computers with Rosemary. 

My thoughts: It is hard to imagine a child, even a small child, in today's world not recognizing terms such as mice, spiders, and webs without immediately recognizing them as computer connected terms. However, Sherrill Cannon has presented just such a story with a young, school age girl who is now afraid to go to school because the teacher said that "today" there would be "mice, spiders, and webs" at school.

Written in rhyme, this cute book is fun to read and Rosemary is adamant that she will not go to school with mice, spiders, and webs. 

The case in point is that the young girl simply wasn't listening closely and assumed from what she "heard" that real live mice and spiders would be there. And of course, she didn't want to be around these creepy critters.

She does go to school and she is reconciled to learn that her teacher was introducing them to computers. So now she knows that it is important to listen well to what is being said.

The little book is also an introduction to the world-wide "web" and use of mice (computer mouse), and spiders that creep and crawl along the WWW.

Nicely illustrated by Kalpart, children will enjoy this story and learn a bit, too.
Begins December 31
ENDS January 18, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by the author to facilitate this unbiased review. I was not compensated. Giveaway copy is provided by the author and mailed directly to the winner.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Sparrow and The Trees by Sharon Chriscoe & Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

Arbordale Publishing
Hardcover & Paperback
About the book: The Sparrow family is ready for their trip south for the winter, but Papa’s wing is hurt and he cannot make the trip. He asks the trees for help. One by one, the mighty, leafy trees of the forest say no! Will any of the trees help Papa Sparrow? What will happen to the selfish trees that turned him away? Discover why some trees lose their leaves in winter in this folktale.

My thoughts: Children ages 3-8 will enjoy this modern version of a folktale. But as the follow Papa Sparrow from tree to tree asking for shelter during the Winter cold and seeing him being refused aid by the trees other than Spruce, Pine, and Juniper (evergreens) a lesson in caring for others can be learned. However, the primary focus of the book is a folktale of how trees lost their leaves when Winter arrives.

As with other Arbordale books, there are pages at the back of the book "For Creative Minds" that will facilitate more exploration into trees and provide mental stimulation. Again Arbordale takes utilization of their publications beyond picture book reading to an area of exploration and learning by providing webpages that will enhance the child's critical thinking. Example - click here & here

DISCLOSURE: Arbordale Publishing provided a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated.

derma e® partners with Target, bring shoppers a terrific skin care product line

derma e® is family owned and and has operated for over 30 years, derma e® has pioneered the development of vitamin-rich, high-performance antioxidant skincare solutions. The award-winning line features doctor-developed, consumer-tested and clinically-tested face care, body care and treatment products that are free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and petrolatum. Every formula is cruelty-free, gluten-free and 100 percent vegan. Manufacturing and operations are offset 100 percent by wind power. derma e® can be found in over 16,500 retail outlets across the U.S. such as Whole Foods Markets, ULTA Beauty, CVS and now at Target, Inc.! (this information provided by derma e®)

I am currently using the derma e® Firming DMAE Eye Lift and am thoroughly amazed by this product! It feels wonderful! My eyes are more rested appearing since I began this product and that is only after using it a few days - twice daily.

When I was provided the derma e® Firming DMAE Eye Lift  to evaluate and review for you, they also provided their derma e® Night Cream. And it, too, is simply fantastic.

This product line has been available for awhile at many brick 'n mortar stores across the USA and now it is available at Target, Inc. This makes it so easily available for you to pick up some and give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. In fact, why don't you try this product! New to me. New to you! Super fun!

Run by Target and snag your products and begin enjoying them. While there, perhaps you'll find other stuff to make life more fun I know I most always do. I always enjoy a stroll around their coffees, nuts, and trail mix selections. I'd love to hear back what you find to treat yourself with - in addition to the new derma e® product. Go ahead. "Notice the Lotus" at Target!

The fragrance of the derma e® Firming DMAE Eye Lift is clean and there is a slightly stimulating feel to my skin when the product is applied. It is absolutely non-irritating and feels just wonderful. Skin looks great with just the product; and if you use makeup, the skin care line is great under your makeup.

Now a bit about derma e®: (from product line) Imagine a time, not long ago...

When people didn’t consider how their internal health affected their outward appearance. And nobody understood that what you put on your skin matters, too. The phrases “superfood,” “holistic health,” and “sustainable” were rarely or never used. Nobody was concerned about their skincare being eco-friendly and nobody was eating kale.

Then derma e® got started.

Healthy before healthy was “in” derma e® pushed skincare forward in a new direction by fusing powerful vitamins and plants together with modern science - we called it Green Chemistry. Continuing to be always aware, derma e® adheres to the highest ethical standards when it comes to animal welfare and our impact on the planet.

The results derma e® built a passionate following in the natural products industry and beyond, always aspiring to make highly effective, premium skincare formulas but with cruelty-free green chemistry. (this information provided by derma e®)

Read more about this product by visiting their website. Now I, personally, can heartily recommend it for my readers. Check it out on the derma e® website - CLICK HERE.

DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post for which I received the product at no cost and/or was compensated. Nevertheless, opinions are strictly my own. I was not required to give a positive review.

Friday, December 25, 2015

And there were in the same country, shepherds watching their sheep...... Luke 2

Fribbet The Frog And The Tadpoles by Carole P. Roman (A Captain No Beard Story) Review & 3-book Giveaway

If you are unfamiliar with Captain No Beard, it is about brothers, sisters, and cousins playing in the kid's bedroom and the bed is the ship, the stuffed animals are the crew, and the story line is usually solving the issues that kids face - sharing, bullying, meanness, kindness. 

"Fribbet The Frog And The Tadpoles" 

Fribbet is crying. His fellow shipmates, including Captain No Beard, seek to console him and find out what the problem is. There seem to be some strange fish-like critters and they are crowding out Fribbet. These are his new siblings and like some households, new siblings playing with one's toys or taking up the time and attention previously yours can create problems. Fribbet learns how to deal with this.

There is a brief mention of how frog eggs are laid and hatch into tadpoles and eventually become young frogs. This is good. But especially good is the lesson in acceptance of change in the family dynamics.

Roman has again brought her lively crew to life in this new Captain No Beard story based on the real lives of her little ones (or grand-little ones).

I really like Fribbet The Frog and highly recommend this story. I love how Roman imparts lessons to the kids.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirates Life"

First book in series
There is just something about a tale of pirates that intrigues children and excites them to the adventure.  They love pirate-speak such as “Shiver me timbers,” “Aye Captain….a big blow,” “Aye, me hearties.”

In Captain No Beard young readers encounter purpose and a lesson in how hard work and perseverance or determination can help them.

Captain No Beard is a hearty “lad” capable of being a captain though he finds that it is definitely hard work.  Valuable lessons in hard work, friendship, and determination are taught via this colorful story.

Colorfully illustrated, this “imaginary tale of a pirate’s life” will surely capture the interest of the young child and young reader just as surely as though they had been captured by Captain No Beard, the pirate. 

Author Carole Roman “charms with an imaginative, whimsical picture book that will entertain even the oldest pirates."  "Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience" 

This brightly illustrated children's book begins with a delightful title featuring alliteration.  "Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience" and throughout the book the letter "P" is prominent.

Captain No Beard is the imagination character of young Alexander when he is in his bedroom.  This time the story features Pepper Parrot's problem with anger and patience over his failure to distinguish his right hand and his left hand sides (dyslexia).   

His friends (his mateys) help him "batten down the hatches" on his patience and to also learn how to know right from left through a coping mechanism. 

 10 Winners of assorted pirate books (surprise to winner)
1 Grand Prize Winner will receive the entire series of nine pirate books
Begins December 25
ENDS January 20, 2016  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book from the author to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Valentia True Glow Eye Cream - Natural and Organic - Corrective Eye Treatment [Review & Giveaway]

Valentina products are a favorite of mine to review. When I opened the beautiful box housing the new True Glow Eye Cream and then lifted off the cap for the bottle of eye cream, I was prepared to be amazed. Yep! I was and am amazed at this product.

A slight pump of the bottle and you have a dollop of this camel colored cream to dab around your eyes focusing mainly on the lower lids. It feels truly amazing. I am expecting superb results from this Valentina product. It already has the skin around my eyes looking more refreshed and less tired in the mornings.

I apply it morning and evening. This protects the delicate skin around the eyes during the day and refreshes it while I sleep.

Now I am realistic in my expectations of any skin care product. There is absolutely no magic formula that completely takes away the toll of the years. But the Valentina True Glow Eye Cream does a great job of softening, protecting, and restoring this thin and delicate tissue around my eyes.

Now Valentina has graciously offered the opportunity for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win their own bottle of this fantastic eye cream. Use the entry form below. (Please be aware that this $24+ value product will be free to you, but you will be responsible for the shipping cost of approximately $5. Product is available only on Amazon - click here to see.)

Product Description (from Valentia Amazon page): Valentia True Glow Eye Cream - An illuminating antioxidant rich eye cream that helps lock in moisture, repair and tighten skin for a youthful looking glow around the eye area.

This Corrective Eye Treatment Will:

  • Diminish fine lines & wrinkles
  • Nourish & hydrate
  • Tighten the under eye area
  • Brighten dark circles
  • Reduce puffiness

Specially selected ingredients work together to achieve optimum results.

  • Astaxanthin: A powerful antioxidant that increases moisture levels, smooths fine line and wrinkles, and restores elasticity to the skin.
  • Resistem: Natural Plant Stem Cells repair and protect the skin from harsh environmental pollutants and stress related aging.
  • Vitamin C: Leaves the skin smooth and visibly brighter for a well-rested and bright eyed look.
  • Organic Rosehip Oil: Provides intense hydration to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Arnica: A key anti-inflammatory agent to the restorative process that works to diminish the appearance of dark circles.

Directions for using Valentia True Glow Eye Cream:

  • Apply twice daily, morning and night, after cleansing skin. The under eye area is delicate so eye cream should be applied gently.
  • Using your ring finger, gently dab eye cream in using a patting motion going around the orbital bone and working inwards toward the bridge of your nose.
Begins December 20
ENDS January 12, 2016  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
(This $24+ value product will be free to winner, but winner will be responsible for the shipping cost of approximately $5. Product is available only on Amazon - click here to see.)
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary or discounted product to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review or for hosting this giveaway.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg

ISBN13: 9781496406156
Tyndale Fiction - Hardcover $26.99

“The president of the United States . . . is missing.”

With these words, New York Times journalist J. B. Collins, reporting from the scene of a devastating attack by ISIS terrorists in Amman, Jordan, puts the entire world on high alert. The leaders of Israel and Palestine are critically injured, Jordan’s king is fighting for his life, and the U.S. president is missing and presumed captured.

As the U.S. government faces a constitutional crisis and Jordan battles for its very existence, Collins must do his best to keep the world informed while working to convince the FBI that his stories  are not responsible for the terror attack on the Jordanian capital. And ISIS still has chemical weapons . . .
Struggling to clear his name, Collins and the Secret Service try frantically to locate and rescue the leader of the free world before ISIS’s threats become a catastrophic reality.

My thoughts: After reading several of Joel C. Rosenberg’s previous novels, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review The First Hostage as a Tyndale reviewer. Regretting having not read The Third Target which is the prequel to The First Hostage, I still plunged into this new story and tried, mentally and emotionally, to keep up with the breathless fast pace it runs from crack of spine to flip of the last page.

Amazing! That is simply a mild term for Mr. Rosenberg’s talent for writing and for bringing the reader into the staged situation that could easily be born from any major news channel’s “breaking news” or the headlines of leading international news papers. I was truly intrigued with the plot of this story which begins where The Third Target left off - the United States President having been captured by ISIS and is being held in an undisclosed location with the clock ticking.

Leading male protagonist, J.B.Collins is a world-acclaimed journalist who has interactions with leading political figures across the world. His contacts and insight has led him to advise world leaders, including the US President, that the scheduled meeting of Middle Eastern leaders with the President of the United States is being targeted by ISIS and these leaders should not convene. They do not heed his warning and thus a deadly attack takes place with many lives lost and the President missing.

Mr. Rosenberg’s personal experiences and knowledge of Middle Eastern politics certainly has prepared him to write definitively and with arguably a depth of knowledge few hold.  He seems to understand not just the basic history of the Middle East but the political history and current political temperature as well.

Believable, well drawn characters race through this exciting and fearsome story where Rosenberg has painted scenes and sprinkled dialogue tersely throughout.

Rosenberg writes with the pen of an Evangelical Christian; and while done sparingly he does, none-the-less, have his main protagonist, Collins, struggling with a total commitment to Christ.

I believe, or rather I hope, there might be a third book in this series as I can sense threads of plot that could be deftly woven into a third book for this series. We had The Third Thread and The First Hostage, and now what will you bring your readers Mr. Rosenberg?

AUTHOR: Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of ten novels—The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, Dead Heat, The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative, Damascus Countdown, The Auschwitz Escape, and The Third Target—and five nonfiction books: Epicenter, Inside the Revolution, Implosion, Israel at War, and The Invested Life, with more than 3 million copies sold. The Ezekiel Option received the Christian Book Award as the "Best Novel of 2006" from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Joel is the producer of two documentary films based on his nonfiction books. He is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus" with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief.

As a communications advisor, Joel has worked with a number of U.S. and Israeli leaders, including Steve Forbes, Rush Limbaugh, Natan Sharansky, and Benjamin Netanyahu. As an author, he has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV programs, including ABC's Nightline, CNN Headline News, FOX News Channel, The History Channel, MSNBC, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and The Glenn Beck Show. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Times, the Jerusalem Post, and World magazine. He has addressed audiences all over the world, including those in Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and the Philippines. He has also spoken at the White House, the Pentagon, and to members of Congress.

In 2008, Joel designed and hosted the first Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem. The event drew two thousand Christians who wanted to "learn, pray, give, and go" to the Lord's work in Israel and the Middle East. Subsequent Epicenter Conferences have been held in San Diego (2009); Manila, Philippines (2010); Philadelphia (2010); Jerusalem (2011); Albuquerque, New Mexico; (2012) and Jerusalem again in 2013. The Epicenter Conferences have allowed thousands of people from more than ninety countries to listen to speakers such as Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon; pastors from the U.S., Israel, and Iran; Lt. General (ret.) Jerry Boykin; Kay Arthur; Janet Parshall; Tony Perkins; Anne Graham Lotz; and many others.

The son of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother, Joel is an evangelical Christian with a passion to make disciples of all nations and teach Bible prophecy. A graduate of Syracuse University with a BFA in filmmaking, he is married and lives with his family in Israel.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of Tyndale Fiction and the author to facilitate this review.  Opinions are my own, alone, and I was not compensated for this review.

See more at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Body Merry Night Cream for Face with 5% Niacinamide + Peptides + Ocean Minerals + Seaweed [Review & Giveaway]

I have reviewed several products from Body Merry and each time found them to be effective and pleasant to use. Economically priced compared to similar products, you get a lot for your money.

With the new Body Merry Night Cream for Face  you get a delightful experience of softness as you smooth this lovely cream over your skin. What makes it work? It has 5% Niacinamide and also includes Peptides, Ocean Minerals, and Seaweed. It feels so luxurious as I smooth it over my face, neck, chest, and shoulders.

I personally believe that taking care of your skin is very important. You skin is your body's largest organ. It protects your body. Your skin's condition also determines your personal comfort. Dry skin breaks down and is subject to infection, itching, general discomfort, and your scratching. By the same token, when your skin is moisturized it is soft. It is protected from the causative effects of dry skin. And as your skin is protected, your body is protected.

I apply facial moisturizers every evening and every morning. Most of the time there is a bit of difference between that which is used in the evening and morning. Sometimes the daytime moisturizers contain sunscreens which are best left off at night. But mostly, I believe, it is because night creams or moisturizers are harder workers - the big players in skin care.

I am really enjoying the opportunity to use this new Body Merry Night Cream and feel it is a product that I can recommend.
Find it on Amazon here: Body Merry Night Cream

About the Product (from Body Merry): FIGHT THE SIGNS OF AGING with this powerful concoction that helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, hyper-pigmentation, and discoloration so that you can wake up with a brighter, more even complexion and younger looking skin!

Formulated with the SUPERPOWER OF 5% NIACINAMIDE, this emollient lotion helps to not only address blotchiness and spots but also soothes acne by reducing inflammation and the redness associated with it.

PEPTIDES + OCEAN MINERALS + SEAWEED along with other natural/ organic ingredients such as Aloe + Hyaluronic Acid + Shea Butter + Jojoba Oil, all add their goodness so that your skin can get a rejuvenation that is beyond compare.
Begins December 16
ENDS January 7, 2016  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a discounted product to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for the review.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Kingly Essential Oil, Frankincense

Frankincense is considered "The King of Oils." Consider if you will, that Frankincense has a significant meaning in Christianity, and Biblically, it is listed as one of the gifts brought by the wise men to the Christ child. It can be purchased today as an essential oil that many use for religious observances and by others for its healing properties and as aromatherapy therapy.

I have not utilized essential oils for their aromatic therapy or natural health benefits. I have dabbled a bit with two or three of them. When I saw that the essential oil, Frankincense, was available to try I thought that since it is mentioned Biblically I would try it to see if it would be beneficial to me.

I have used a bit on an arthritic joint and in on-the-stove-top steam to see if I could tolerate it. I had no skin sensitivity to rubbing it on the joint; and in using it aromatically in the steam, it was not offensive to me or my husband. So I plan to try both applications for awhile to see if I get some pain relief and some respiratory relief.

I found the Simply Earth Frankincense oil light and it rubbed into the skin easily. The fragrance on my skin and in the steam was very tolerable and kind of outdoorsy. I also placed some in my bath but did not enjoy this experience.

I have no comparison of this brand to another since I am not that familiar with essential oils.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary product to facilitate this review from Simply Earth. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Just Add Watercolor Inspiration and Painting Techniques from Contemporary Artists by Helen Birch

ISBN 978-1-60774-757-4

Hardcover $21.99

Art - Techniques - Watercolor Painting

I don’t draw and I don’t paint. That being said, I have long desired to have an artistic outlet and now that I’m retired, I’ve been thinking perhaps a bit of painting might be something to try. I also understand that watercolors are the medium best to begin with. Hence, my desire to see just what Just Add Watercolors might have to help this potential painter.

First of all, it is NOT a step-by-step how-to-do-it book that tells you how best to dip you brush into a pot of watercolors and voila an artist is born! No. It is a small book filled with interesting paintings along a “modern” line. Each of the paintings is show on the right side and an explanation of the tools and techniques used by the artist is on the left side.

You’ll get an introduction to techniques and terms on a small scale so you can begin your dabbling in this forgivable medium. Or if you've been painting awhile, you might learn a new technique that will really make your painting come alive.

So now I just need to go out and acquire a bit of stuff - you know brushes, paints, pens, and paper to begin. Then I can see if I have any talent for adding watercolor to create something that might be lovely to look upon. Something with which I can express feelings of joy, moodiness, hurt, love.

The anticipation just might be enough to get me moving. So do I really Just Add Watercolor?

Pssssssttt…. I do have a daughter that dabbles a bit with paints and she enjoys using watercolors. Perhaps this little book will be best suited for her. But then….. perhaps I should give it a real try myself.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings (Christian Historical Romance set in the Ozark Mountains) [Review & Giveaway]

ISBN13: 9780764211416
Bethany House
About the book: She sells priceless antiques. He sells livestock by the pound. Is he really the man to make a bid for her heart?

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the people who could ruin them forever, they track it to the Missouri Ozarks and make an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house and all its holdings before the painting can move again.

Upon crossing the country, however, Miranda and her grandfather discover their new auction house doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its frustratingly handsome manager, Wyatt Ballentine, is annoyed to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more heads of cattle than they can count---but no mysterious painting---Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

My thoughts: Author Regina Jennings brings good clean stories to life with her quirky, sweet, irksome characters. You’ll find as I always do when reading a Jennings book that you get a lighthearted feeling because there is fun, joviality, and downright silliness sometimes in the characters as she develops the story around them.

When Miranda meets Wyatt, it is under hilariously disturbing circumstances. She and her grandfather have just traveled by train from the cultured city of Boston to the rough and tough Ozarks. Expecting to be met by some transportation to take them to their final destination which they assume is a cultured auction house situated in a cultured city or town, they find themselves met by a suave young man seated upon a rough wagon. Right after his arrival, another “gentleman” arrives on the scene and snatches the wagon right out from under the first and departs. This leaves Miranda and her grandfather to fend for themselves.

As the story progresses, Miranda and grandfather find the fancy auction house is actually a stinking animal barn where cows, sheep, goats, and chickens are auctioned. Not some fancy place which they were expecting their newly purchased auction house to be.

As the story progresses, the funny turns sad and more realistic. Miranda’s grandfather is behaving weirdly and totally out of character. Actually, he is spiraling downward into dementia.

Wyatt shows a tender and caring side as he grows fond of Miranda and her grandfather. He is kindness embodied in a strong manly form.

I found this a fun and interesting story touching on a bit of Americana from the turn of the century. Spoiler alert: No, grandfather doesn’t get any better. This is a bittersweet tale that embraces the need for caring people to watch over those cascading down the dark halls of dementia.

I recommend this for light reading with a touch of serious matter.
Begins December 15
ENDS December 30 @ 12:00 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group and the author to facilitate this review.Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

ISBN13: 9780764210723
Bethanay House
446 pg.
About the book: Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

My thoughts: I have read and thoroughly enjoyed previous books by Julie Klassen and looked forward greatly to The Painter’s Daughter. I was not disappointed in the writer’s skill in developing and presenting the story, in the well-crafted word usage, and in her fantastic skill in writing historically correct and entertaining scenes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the story. For that and the stellar writing skills, I give the book a 5-star rating. However, there are just a few issues that to me make the book inappropriate for immature (think teens) readers. I am sure that in this fast-paced, very worldly world in which we live today, my view will seem archaic. But this is my review.

First of all on the plus side, there was no profanity or sexually explicit scenes.There was the situation of pregnancy of an unwed young lady, scandalous secrets, and deception. There was also passionate tension between the two main characters that was not inappropriate given their married state. It was just a bit much. There was nothing offensive for a mature reader, but I would not feel comfortable giving it to a teen to read even though much worse entertainment and reading is flooding the teen market.

Again, I still enjoy Ms. Klassen’s books and her superb skills are always evident.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Two new children's books from The China Institute in America: Bowls of Happiness & What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? [Review & Giveaway]

The China Institute in America has created four books to aid children as an  introduction in today's diverse communities to the Chinese culture. The “We All Live in the Forbidden City” four-book series is part of the institute's children’s programming aiming to bridge the Asian culture gap through educational resources and regional workshops.

The first two titles, In the Forbidden City and This Is The Greatest Place! was reviewed on Chat With Vera (click titles for my reviews) launched last fall. School Library Journal praised In the Forbidden City for taking a “potentially complicated and confusing subject accessible and fascinating without oversimplifying it.” Kirkus Reviews called it “an impressive introduction to the Forbidden City.”

Two more installments continue the tradition of “We All Live in the Forbidden City” books: Bowls of Happiness (ages 4+) and What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? (ages 8+) celebrate the Forbidden City, and the study of architecture, imperial life, and Chinese cultural history in an attempt to make it accessible, appealing, and relevant to children, parents, and teachers.

Bowls of Happiness (ages 4-8)

ISBN13: 9780989377645
Created by internationally renowned artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this China Institute book teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection. Kids learn about how bowls are made and be able to draw their own Bowl of Happiness after reading the story.

Piggy's mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

My thoughts: This is not your typical children's book though it is slated for ages 4-8. It is a sweet story of a mom and her little one, Piggy. Mom is making a Bowl of Happiness for Piggy and it is replete with symbolism particular to China's culture. On the pages before the actual picture book section, there is information for the parents on the establishment of The China Institute and of cultural symbolism in China. This is followed by the beautifully illustrated of Mom and Piggy and happiness.

The next section shows various bowls and details the symbolism of the shape, color, and designs. This is interesting and educational. I venture to say we won't pick up a bowl in the future without contemplating what it represents.

I think that the cutoff age of 8 is a bit young as older students and adults will benefit from the educational aspects of this small book.

The story is sweet and cute and will make everyone look at the designs on bowls a bit differently in the future.

What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? (ages 8+)

ISBN13: 9780989377669
Engaging stories take kids through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets.

Author Chiu Kwong-chiu is an artist, designer, and professor who explores Chinese traditional visual arts and adopts groundbreaking methods to interpret and promote Chinese art and culture.

My thoughts: Illustrated with strong colors and bold black lines, the history of China's emperors is show in brief descriptions of each emperor from about 4,000 BC until the demise of the line of emperors. Some were liked and some were not. Some were successful and some were not. They were considered to be endowed with power bestowed by Heaven and revered. They were the highest. I feel that from this treatise of emperors leadership in China there is very little take away information from which the reader will profit. There is satirical humor. Bubble captions. Mentions of eunuchs and concubines. And then of concubines racing to see who could provide an heir first.

As with other royals, the emperors had food tasters because they feared being poisoned. They were well taken care of by the court physicians. Some lived and ruled long and some very short periods. I learned that the original five emperors ruled over five areas (like chiefs) and then there was a unifying to become China.

There was some interesting information about palace life and the love of beauty. The concubines or women must have specific types of beauty, wear certain attire and jewelry, etc. Life in the palace for the emperor and all those who serve him was certainly different from life today - even "royal" life.

GIVEAWAY: A copy of each of these books will be sent to one winner here at Chat With Vera. Begins 12/13 & ENDS 12/28 @ 12:01 A.M. ET

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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway is provided by publicist, PRbytheBook.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandra Maxwell

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
ISBN13: 9780802854322
A young reader's non-fiction biography of the man who helped to create the modern zoo, Abraham Dee Bartlett. It begins when he as a young boy was fascinated with animals and read all he could about them. He later pursued caring for them long before there were veterinarian doctors who took care of animals located in zoos. 

The illustrations are interesting and of mixed mediums. They clearly depict the era of the 1800's when Abraham Dee Bartlett lived. The expressions shown on Bartlett's face as a boy and young man are happy and pleasant. The animals are pictured as happy and cared for.

Bartlett was first to acknowledge and act on the fact that wild animals need an environment where they could roam, play, and hide that would be similar to where they lived in the wild. I liked that he discovered how giraffes were frightened when he happened to approach them on quiet slippers. He reasoned that because they were prey to lions who crept silently up on them, that his quiet approach brought out this fear.

An interesting book that is well done for the young reader to delve into the non-fiction world of reading.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mr. Zip and The Capital Z by Kimberly Bryant-Palmer & illustrated by Jerry Palmer

About the book: After a terrifically hard and terribly disappointing day before the Fourth of July, Peanut Johnson, wandering aimlessly down Main Street, stumbles upon The Capital Z, a This and That Shop. Stepping inside, he meets Mr. Aloysious Zip, the kind and eccentric shopkeeper, who introduces Peanut to a most extraordinary place. There are toys and trinkets, model cars and miniature wagon trains, even memorabilia from days gone by. Discovering the wonders of The Capital Z, Peanut finds not only anything and everything a young boy could imagine or want, but also history unfolding before his very eyes.

My thoughts: In Mr.  Zip and the Capital Z you have two main characters: Peanut and Mr. Zip. Peanut is from a Southern African-American family and his whole family is introduced in the first chapter with little descriptions of how they were named and what they were like. Mr. Zip runs the Capital Z which is an unusual place where strange things happen or strange experiences happen to visitors. And this is what Peanut and Mr. Zip experience throughout the book.

As Peanut ventures into the Capital Z he touches things and they appear to come to life with historical figures from the early days of the American Colonies. He “experiences” history with Mr. Zip meeting a variety of individuals well known and not so well known. The primary historical figure is George Washington and several scenes involve him and life-lessons are clearly drawn from his life.

Bits of historical information are scattered throughout the book and in Peanut’s experiences. These are backed up in the back of the book with end notes referencing materials used for research. I am a bit of a lover of history so I enjoyed this aspect of the book.

The illustrations are deftly done in black and white and are very well done. Mr. Zip is depicted as a gentle old soul and Peanut is as a sweet young boy.

The story has Peanut and the members of his family speaking in a manner that some might find offensive and condescending. I found it o.k. and not offensive seeing it as a regional and societal manner of speech.

I give it a 5-star rating for the presentation of historical information to the age level the book is intended. I give it a 3-star rating for the story of Peanut’s family as it detracted somewhat from the main emphases of the book. All-in-all, I would say this is a strong 4-star book and will be enjoyed by many young readers. There is a soon to be released second Mr. Zip book which we shall look forward to reading.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from BookCrash to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

The Abbess of Whitby: A Novel of Hild of Northumbria by Jill Dalladay

ISNB: 9781782641544
$14.99 Paperback | Lion Fiction
About the book: Chosen as Eostre's handmaid, Hild will serve the fertility goddess for a year before being wed. Her future is predictable--until King Edwin claims her as kin and she learns that her father was murdered.

Her first love is given a command in Edwin's forces and vanishes from her life, wed to her sister. The court is baptized, ending the old religion and Hild's role. Life looks bleak. She can't stop wondering who killed her father.

Suspecting Edwin, she challenges him, only to be married off to safeguard his northern frontier. Struggling in a loveless marriage, she is intrigued by the Iona priests making pilgrimages to spread Christ's love. When home and family are lost in Oswy's sack of Edinburgh, she finds herself in enemy hands, but meets the charismatic Aidan.

Inspired and guided by him, she builds communities to live and teach Christ's love. She attracts followers. Even her old enemy, King Oswy, entrusts his child to her, gives her Whitby, and seeks her help to reconcile divisions in his kingdom.

She never ceases battling against old superstitions resurrected by storm, plague, and solar eclipse, but at last she receives a bishop's blessing--from a man she trained herself.

My thoughts: I have recently read several novels written by individuals highly involved in the histories of the medieval period. I have found them interesting though a bit difficult to read because of the names of the people and places. I personally like to actually involve myself a bit in researching a period in which a story is immersed to garner more information on said period and to judge the authenticity of it as well.

The Abbess of whitby is staged in the 7th century of medieval Britain. It involves an actual historical individual - Hild of Northumbria. The author, Jill Dalladay, has extensively researched other author's works including the venerable Bede. I found that Hild's story parallels previous works, Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert. I found it interesting to again meet these ancient kings in Hild's story.

While Hild is actually born into the royal line, her plight is not easy. Life was very rustic and hard in Northumbria in the 7th century. It was interesting to read about the life and activities of the times fleshed out by the author who based much of it on archeological finds and her own imagination. The peoples of Northumbria worshiped the ancient gods but were gradually being introduced to Christianity.

I found it interesting how the transition from pagan religion to Christianity took place. How Christianity was spread and how whole clans or "countries" accepted it. Hild's story is just that - transition or transformation from pagan worship to acceptance of the Christ as Savior. It is about how Hild became a leader through her very humble servant's heart, and of the eventual establishment of a very important religious house in Northern England.

I found this an easier to read than other medieval historical novels, yet still I flipped back and forth a bit to review people and places on the informational maps and lists in the front of the book. These were a big help.  The author gives a short dialogue in the back on her research of the period and her reading list of helpful works.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publications on behalf of Lion Fiction to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

EarthEasy LifeStraw Go water filtering system [Review & Giveaway]

The EarthEasy LifeStraw
makes a superb Christmas gift!

Clean water! Our survival depends on clean water!

Here in America it is so easy to take the blessing of clean water for granted. Of course, most folks realize that it is pretty "iffy" to drink from a creek or mountain stream and any of the rivers that flow so abundantly throughout our land. We turn a faucet, we get clean water. We visit a park, we have clean water in fountains. We dig wells, we find clean water in abundance.

But this is not the case in many places around the world. Our focus is on America and having clean water with us when we're on the go - especially if we go hiking, backpacking, hunting, camping. That is where the EarthEasy LifeStraw becomes your "go-to" product of choice. In case you're wondering what the "LifeStraw" is, just read on!

This beautifully designed, function take-along is a fantastic piece of equipment. Simply fill the container with the water at hand (stream, creek, etc.) insert the LifeStraw, drink through the straw. Your water is transformed through this magnificent filtering system into drinkable water. When you finish drinking, you simply remove the straw and blow through it to remove the filtered materials (dirt, germs, bacteria) and then reinsert the straw for next time. Fantastic!

$29.95 Buy Here

Details: The award winning LifeStraw water filter has now been incorporated into a sports bottle to give users access to safe drinking water even when there is no water source nearby. Simply use the bottle to scoop water from any pond, stream or river, and you will have a supply of fresh, clean drinking water. Take the LifeStraw Go with you when you go hiking, camping, or travelling to areas with poor water quality. Use the carabiner to attach to your backpack, or store in your preparedness kit to ensure access to safe, clean drinking water in an emergency.

Features & Benefits:

  • Filters up to 264 gallons or 1000 liters of water down to 0.2 microns
  • Removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (> LOG 6 reduction)
  • Removes 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites (>LOG 3 reduction)
  • Zero aftertaste as it contains no chemicals or iodine
  • Durable, leak-proof bottle made of BPA-free Tritan
  • Filter and mouthpiece detach for easy cleaning
  • Includes carabiner for easy carrying

Bacteria removed include:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Campylobacter
  • Vibrio cholerae
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Shigella
  • Salmonella
  • Protozoa removed include:
  • Giardia lamblia (Beaver Fever)
  • Cryptosporidium Parvum
  • Entamoeba histolytica
The LifeStraw filter is the most advanced personal water filter available on the market today. LifeStraw has been rigorously tested to surpass EPA standards for removing E. Coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium oocysts, and many other waterborne contaminants.

LifeStraw Go filters water down to 0.2 microns without the use of chemicals. When the filter has reached capacity (264 gallons) it will stop taking in water. Since the water filter is detachable, you can simply purchase a replacement filter when the filter has reached capacity. The bottle can be reused indefinitely, saving waste from disposable plastic water bottles.


  • LifeStraw Filter Capacity: 264 gallons (1000 liters)
  • Capacity 23 oz
  • Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Dimensions: 9" L x 3" W
  • Material: BPA-Free Tritan
  • Mouthpiece material: Food Grade Silicone
  • Included: 2.6'' x 0.2'' Carabineer
Made of BPA-free Tritan, the LifeStraw Go is extremely durable. The built-in LifeStraw filter is securely fitted, lid is leak-proof, and the mouthpiece hinge is robust enough to withstand frequent use in rough conditions. The food-grade silicone mouthpiece is flexible which prevents it from chipping or cracking.

Begins December 6
ENDS December 21 @ 12:00 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
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Another Chat With Vera review for EarthEasy was for the Sun Turtle Solar Lamp - Read it here

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a LifeStraw Go to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Friday, December 4, 2015

New novella from Richard Mabry, MD - "Silent Night, Deadly Night" Giveaway of a signed copy

ISBN-13: 978-1518641091
Rolling headfirst into the Christmas season, it is great to know that beloved medical suspense doctor, Richard Mabry, has penned a novella for us to read. Available on Amazon to purchase, you also have an opportunity to try to win your own, signed copy here on Chat With Vera. Here is what it is all about..... (my thoughts...)

In just under 100 pages, Richard Mabry takes the reader on a chilling ride replete with mystery and chilling events. After a body is found precisely laid out in the front yard and under a mound of fresh fallen snow, the officials begin the task of determining how the lady died and at whose hand.

Per usual procedures, the detectives begin their investigation by first questioning family members. This involves one niece and two nephews and each is a respected professional in either the legal or medical professions. As alibis and time lines are worked out, the detectives narrow the field for possible candidates for the identity of the murderer. For yes, it was murder.

This is another suspenseful read by Richard Mabry in which he incorporates his medical expertise and deftly weaves it into the story. The action is swift and enthralling. A quick and entertaining read that will capture the reader’s attention and hold it until the culprit is captured.

About the book: The colored lights on the snow gave it a holiday appearance, but the dead woman’s body in the yard added a grisly touch. How did Ina Bell Patrick die?

Who killed her? And why?

The dead woman had no direct heirs, so two nephews and a niece stood to inherit. Dr. Laura Morris was left to make all the arrangements, attorney Roger Morris could certainly use the money, and Zack Morris had disappeared two years earlier. Then there was neighbor and “best friend” Fay Autrey, who was certain the woman intended to leave her some money—a great deal of money.

The police were still looking for the killer who left the frozen body in the snow when it became apparent someone was trying to pick off the heirs, one by one. Who would win the race—the police or the killer?
Begins December 4
ENDS December 19 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
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Author information: Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of five published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, and have won the Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. He and his wife live in north Texas and are active members of Stonebriar Community Church, pastored by Dr. Chuck Swindoll.

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated.Winner's copy is provided by and will be sent by the author.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Dozen Cousins by Lori Haskins Houran, illustrated by Sam Usher

ISBN: 9781454910626
About the book: What's life like for one little girl with TWELVE male cousins? Not easy! "They read her secret diary. They used up all her paint. They put a lizard in her hat to see if she would faint." Loaded with infectious humor, this rollicking, rhyming picture book features a happy heroine who adores her big, boisterous boy family.

My thoughts: A Dozen Cousins is a cute, silly book that focuses on the abundance of testosterone when there is a bunch of boys – albeit, little boys – around. Sweet little Anna  is the only “girl” cousin amongst 13. No playing with dolls in this group. It is full of mischief, energy, worms, lizards, rockets, and used up paint supplies.

Anna manages to cope with all this boy-stuff by being a good sport.

Delightfully silly story written in short rhymes brought to life by the colorfully sketched illustrations that show us the full-throttle-all-boy messes and playfulness.
Illustration © 2015 by Sam Usher (image source)

This fun book encourages tolerance and lessons in how to get along at play time.

Look for it in libraries everywhere.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Sterling Books to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Midnight Visitors by Juliet David & Illustrated by Jo Parry

ISBN: 9781781282335
$14.99 - Hardback
About the book: Miriam was glad to be warm and cozy. There were so many people in the town but it was nice and peaceful inside her cowshed. Little did she know that she would soon be joined by Midnight Visitors . . . and not just any old visitors!

Snuggle up and enjoy the warm, soft feel the art and narrative bring to this delightful Christmas picture book with a difference.

My thoughts: This is a sweet book with soft, lovely pictures that tell the story of Miriam, a cow. Miriam is settling down for the night in her cozy barn when first a family of rabbits and then a fox seek shelter for the night inside Miriam's barn. Then more visitors are ushered in - Mary and Joseph.

The Christ child is born and "Miriam moves from her warmed spot in the hay to make room for them."  Miriam hears beautiful music (no angels are seen).. Then three shepherds visit.

So Miriam's barn sees Midnight Visitors.

This is definitely a story to categorize as folklore and definitely a diversion from the Biblical record of the Birth of Christ the Savior. Juliet David and Jo Parry have teamed up to create a sweet story. Many will enjoy it. Purists will not.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publication to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet My Best Friend by Sheila Walsh [Review & Giveaway]

Buy it at Family Christian
About the book: The Bible is not only a book, but it can also be a friend—the best friend we have. This engaging picture book is a must-have because it allows kids to see the Bible as a friend they can trust and rely on. It’s a fun read that entertains and also tells the story of how much God loves them. 

My thoughts: This is a really cute book as the twins in Scotland greet newcomer, Abby, to their neighborhood. The McDougal twins invite Abby into their home to play. While there, the twins want to introduce Abby to their best friend so they play a game of hot and cold to see if Abby can find their best friend.

The "friend" is finally located and it isn't an individual; it is a book. Not just any book, it is the Bible, God's Holy Word.

I like the story line and the game the three children play. The two dogs are adorable and in side remarks carry on their own story line.

I personally believe that our best friend is Jesus, the Christ of the Bible. Our Savior. Our Redeemer. One with the Father. So personally I think presenting God's Written Word as a best friend is presumptuous. It is very true that the Bible is sacred and is the Word of God; and the Bible comforts the hurting and lonely. But it is not a personage.

So the story is cute, the illustrations quirky-cute and fun. It will provide a good read.
Begins November 25
ENDS December 9 @ 12:00 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA & CANADA addresses only.
If you have won a copy of this book from our sponsor Family Christian, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Entries will be verified is randomly selected as a winning entry. Example: You Tweet and provide the Tweet URL. I will check it and it MUST be viewable to me.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Family Christian to facilitate this sponsored review. The giveaway copy is provided by Family Christian and will be shipped directly to the winner by Family Christian. Opinions expressed in this review are solely my own. Family Christian is providing a copy of "Meet My Best Friend" for this Giveaway.