Saturday, February 28, 2015

Twisted Innocence (Moonlighters Series #3) by Terri Blackstock {Mystery/Suspense Review & Giveaway}

About the book: Romantic Times gives Terri Blackstock's Twisted Innocence four stars! Written for anyone who's ever made bad choices, this thrilling conclusion in Blackstock's Moonlighters trilogy is packed with romance, danger, and intrigue.

Holly Cramer's past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Though Holly's stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily's father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family---she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he's a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller---the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he's innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can't trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.

Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.

NOTE: While this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone.  Other Moonlighters titles include: Truth Stained Lies and Distortion.

My thoughts: Terrific conclusion to the Moonlighters Series! The interwoven employment, families, and marriages sometimes leaves the reader holding his breath while turning the pages to see how just how much more convoluted their lives and troubles can get. What will be the final outcome? Will another lose his life? Whose heart will be torn asunder?

The two protagonists of Twisted Innocence are Holly Cramer and David Creed. A year prior to the opening pages of Twisted Innocence these two were living on the wild side, meet up with each other, and ended up with an eventful one-night-stand. As the pages open up, Holly has a four week old baby and David is in serious trouble with drug kings and the police. The secrets and the hide and seek are countless - or so it seems. 

Extended family involves Holly's sisters working as an attorney and also as P.I.'s Also, strong characters from previous books, Michael and Max are law enforcements and are totally immersed in the story.

This is a fast paced, easy to read book. Contemporary Christian suspense well done.

GIVEAWAY: I am so delighted to be able to host a giveaway of Twisted Innocence provided by the good folks at Litfuse Publicity Group. Here is an opportunity for 
one of Chat With Vera's readers to receive a copy. Begins February 28 & ENDS March 20 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
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Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of InterventionVicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group to facilitate this review. I received no compensation. Opinions expressed are solely my own. Giveaway copy is provided by Litfuse and sent directly to the winner.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ozeri Fresko Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mill and Grinder, Silver

This picture shows the entire grinder
with salt and pepper in their chambers.
You can also see the grinders parts
separated and ready for filling.
The Ozeri Fresko Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mill and Grinder is a sleek, beautiful utilitarian piece to place on your table for those who wish to season their food with salt and/or pepper. It is all in one. There is a snap off lid on each end that opens so you can grind and disperse the desired seasoning. In fact, if you wish to have other seasonings available for individual application, you can place more than one grinder on your table for variety.

I think this is a lovely and sturdy product. It grinds salt and pepper nicely and you can adjust the grind. Separating sections to open the compartment for filling is a bit tight and needs to be "wiggled" a bit, but it works.

I've only used this a bit and time will only tell about its durability. But I like it. It is lovely and a product to be proud to place on one's table.

Product Description (provided by Ozeri) - The Ozeri Fresko Duo Salt and Pepper Grinder is designed in Germany and handcrafted using the highest quality stainless steel. Boasting a space-saving design that combines BPA-free salt and pepper chambers in one grinder, the Fresko Duo offers a chic form factor that both looks good on the dining table and store easily. The Fresko Duo utilizes powerful earth-friendly ceramic gears capable of grinding peppercorns, salt, and spices. The Fresko Duo also features two adjustable knobs for grain adjustment from fine to coarse, and a transparent container that both reveals the grinding action and makes monitoring seasoning levels easy.

Easy to fill chamber is being filled with pepper.

  • Designed in Germany and made of the highest quality stainless steel
  • Features powerful ceramic gears for effortless grinding action of peppercorns, salt, and spices
  • Boasts a space-saving design that combines dual BPA-free salt and pepper chambers in one grinder
  • Includes two adjustable knobs for grain adjustment from fine to coarse
  • Transparent container reveals the grinding action and makes monitoring pepper level easy; Satisfaction Guaranteed

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary product to facilitate this review. Opinions are solely mine. I was not compensated for this review. 
Find the product here:

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis by Carole P. Roman {Review & Giveaway}

About the book: Captain No Beard and his crew of loyal pirates heave anchor for another adventure, this time in the icy waters of the Arctic. Captain No Beard's steering a course due north, sailing by the light of the North Star. Everyone on the crew wonders what the captain's up to, especially as he gets embarrassed when they ask. When the captain finally admits his plan, the crew discovers he plans to steal the aurora borealis, the beautiful northern lights that brighten the arctic sky. They're all shocked. They may be pirates, but even they know stealing is bad. Besides, how can anyone steal the lights from the sky? A charming, engaging tale about doing what's right, Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis is the latest installment in Carole P. Roman's award-winning pirate series. The first book, Captain No Beard-an Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life, received the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012 award and the Star of Remarkable Achievement. The series presents real-life problems in an imaginary setting and encourages discussion with both parents and educators.

My thoughts: Taking the concept of children (siblings) playing together using their imagination to sail on the sea of counterpane as pirates, the boy, Alexander, leads the crew of imaginary pirates. He is Captain No Beard - after all, a boy has no beard.

They have sailed together through various adventures on the "high seas" and learning some good lessons in behavior, manners, and now a touch of science and geography. In Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis they learn....

  1. The use of the North Star for navigation
  2. The real name of the North Star
  3. That it is wrong to steal and borrow without permission
  4. What the Aurora Borealis is
Overall all, a pretty good mix of learning wrapped up in the guise of a cute little story. But what else would you expect from a former educator? Teachers teach!

Carole P. Roman is generous to a fault and in her generosity is again Chat With Vera's readers the opportunity to vie for their own copy. This giveaway begins February 27 & ENDS March 19 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open for USA addresses only.

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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by the author in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Southern Snow

Southern Snow. What is it about snow in the South that drives Southerners to drive in circles in grocery store parking lots, jockeying for a slot so they can go help clear the shelves of bread and milk and other mysteriously essential items to have in your house when they predict Southern Snow?

What is it about people who will stand in a line to check out two items in the grocery store when the line snakes around the entire store and the store manager queues when you can access a cashier. (Well, it does prevent cart busting log jams and frazzled nerves of the most un-frazzelable.)

And then whether it is two inches or ten inches, the cancellations pour into announcement centers. But everything can't be cancelled. You can't cancel the hospital. My daughter-in-law works there. You can't cancel the power & light folks - Duke Energy. My son works there. You can cancel school (thankfully we do keep the kiddies safe). You can't cancel your public safety - police and fire protection.

Well, here in middle North Carolina we got 8" or so of snow last night. It's the pretty kind that drapes all over everything - bare branches, pines, tree trunks, fences, streets. Houses and cars are hooded in a heavy layer. One gas station roof collapsed (over the fuel tanks) because of the heavy snow.
But it is one of those nice snows that folks make snow cream out of. That kids play in endlessly.
Power outages? Sure. But not like when we get ice. Ice is bad. Snow can be nice. Until it melts a bit and then everything freezes over and the black ice creates hazards that end up either in the ER or the mortuary.

Snow in the South? Mixed emotions. I love it. I hate it. Right now, I'm keeping my old bones inside a warm, toasty house. I enjoyed lots of wonderful Chai tea in my lovely "heart" tea cup. And I thought about the Southern Snows I'd seen and lived through in the past. Southern Snow is beautiful.

Berenstain Bears' Please & Thank you (Review & Giveaway--US/CANADA)

The cherished Bear family is coming to a new generation of toddler and preschool readers.

Stan and Jan Berenstain introduced the first Berenstain Bear books in 1962 and the Bear family celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012! Here the charming and lovable Bear family is once again introducing children to the typical issues and questions that they face every day.
In The Berenstain Bears’ Please & Thank You Book, little readers are introduced to the importance of manners, through gentle reminders given to Brother, Sister, and Honey as they await their milk and cookies. The short story and well-loved characters provide toddlers a perfect introduction to valuable life lessons and routines.

My thoughts: What sweetness! So needed today in a world of entitlement and gimme-gimme-gimme to teach the simple refinement of saying please and thank-you. These beloved books in the original printings understandably wore out, so I am so glad to see that the beloved series of the Berenstain Bears is continuing to be printed. Now this new generation of children can enjoy the sweetness of the bear family.

They had a vast number of experiences and adventures and mama and papa bear taught many lessons to the little ones. Just like you and your kiddies today have these experiences and adventures and the need for the simple lessons of the good life. Say "please" and "thank you." Be kind. Be generous. Be loving.

I encourage our younger families to look into the older books such as the Berenstain Bears and enjoy them with your little ones. This particular little board book is sized just right for little hands and the board construction of the book renders it hardy for much beloved use.

GIVEAWAY: One of Chat With Vera's readers is going to win a copy of this sweet little book. Begins February 26 & ENDS March 5 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to US & CANADA addresses only. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

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About the author: Mike Berenstain grew up watching his parents work together to write about and draw these lovable bears. Eventually he started drawing and writing about them too. Though Stan died in 2005 and Jan in 2012, Mike carries on his parents’ love of creating Berenstain Bear stories from southeastern Pennsylvania, which looks a lot like Bear Country.

 Official Website (The Berenstain Bears’ new additions will be available March 1st)

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Poppy Austin Revitalizing Eye Cream (multi-purpose & organic)

The eye area is one of the most sensitive skin surfaces of our entire body. The skin is typically thinner and more susceptible to being puffy, saggy, and having wrinkles and the dreaded dark circles. To combat this we need to stay healthy, get enough rest, not rub our eyes, avoid irritants to the eyes, and apply a surface lubricant such as the Poppy Austin Revitalizing Eye Cream. There is a plethora of products available to care for any and every area of our skin and for the eyes there are gels, creams, and a cross somewhere between the two. I tend to prefer the creams so the Poppy Austin Revitalizing Eye Cream is a good fit for me. It has these attributes that I like:
  • It is creamy and goes on very smoothly.It is not stiff. It has not clogged the pores around my eyes.
  • It absorbs nicely. Some folks want the product to create a film that "holds in" the moisture and seemingly moisturizes better. I don't think this is necessarily the case. I like for it to absorb and not be too thick.
  • The fragrance is almost nil. There is a slight hint of freshness on "first whiff" which is nice.
  • Poppy Austin states that this cream may be used all over the face. I have done this and it feels very good and works well.
  • The pump bottle holds 1 oz and most effective eye creams are marketed with only .5 oz in a tube.
I think this is a nice product and one I can recommend.

Product information (provided by Poppy Austin)

  • Poppy Austin Revitalizing Eye Cream is a highly concentrated blend of naturally derived and organic ingredients, designed to restore a youthful glow around the eye area and directly tackle dark circles and puffiness.
  • A multi-purpose and lightweight organic eye cream, it can also be used as an all over face lotion, absorbing quickly into the skin without clogging pores. It is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and is naturally free from silicones, parabens, additives, fillers and alcohol.
  • Key ingredients include our luxurious organic Aloe, Grapeseed Oil, organic Jojoba Oil, Green Tea, Lemon Citrus, organic Rosehip Oil, Vitamins E and C and many other sumptuous moisturizers and natural antioxidants.
  • Check them out on Facebook 

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

Lift the Flap Bible By Karen Williamson; illustrated by Louise Anglicas

ISBN: 9781781281307
Hardcover/Board $12.99
About the book: What's under the flaps? Find out in this collection of eight very simple Bible stories in a large cased board book format. Each story is told across a double-page spread and there are flaps on every page. Bright, quirky illustrations full of wit and color from Louise Anglicas are perfect for this engaging introduction to Bible stories.

Stories are: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Bulrushes, Daniel and the Lions, Jonah and the Great Fish, Born in a Stable, Boy with Loaves and Fishes, The Lost Sheep, and Man Lowered Through the Roof.

My thoughts: This is a sturdy board book just right for those little hands of two through four year olds. (Well, I think the older kids will have fun with this book, too.) Candle Books has a definite talent for creating engaging books and other products for children. in Life the Flap Bible (Candle Tiny Tots) the illustrations are bright and colorful and the character's expressions will definitely tell the story's point - fierce lions in the den with a contented, praying Daniel. 

The "story" on each two-page spread is very simply put. Two's, three's, and four's don't need a lot of words when they have a story-telling picture book. The engaging flaps are large and small (not tiny). They are easy to lift for those little fingers. And they complete the story. For example, the little boy who helped Jesus feed the 5,000 had a basket of bread. You lift the flap and the food and basket are gone and the little boy has a happy "I shared" expression on his face.

Little children will be able to easily "read" this book aloud to anyone willing to sit and listen. Once they have heard the few words that express the story, it will be short work for them to lift the flaps and tell the entire story themselves to all their own dollies, stuffed animals, and friends and family that will listen.

I love that they can discover birds and other critters in the world-of-small on these pages. I think this book is a winner and that children will love it. And no, it isn't the Bible. It is a beginning to learn about the Bible book for the little tots.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review from Kregel on behalf of Candle Books Publishing and Lion Hudson. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Trouble with Patience by Maggie Brendan

 ISBN: 9780800722647
About the book: Patience Cavanaugh has lost hope in romance. The man she yearned to marry is dead and her dreams are gone with him. Now she is consumed with restoring a dilapidated boardinghouse in order to support herself.

Despite Patience's desire for solitude, Jedediah Jones, the local marshal with a reputation for hanging criminals, becomes an ever-looming part of her life. It seems like such a simple arrangement: She needs someone with a strong back to help her fix up the boardinghouse. He needs a dependable source of food for himself and his prisoners. But as she gets to know this "hanging lawman," Patience finds there is far more to him than meets the eye--and it could destroy their tenuous relationship forever.

My thoughts: This is a light read. I found myself skimming in parts and felt that the story and characters were somewhat lacking. There are good features about the book, though, and these should not be lightly skimmed over.

  1. The title of the series - Virtues and Vices - fits nicely. Patience was a woman of virtue and the west and its unsavory characters have vices.
  2. Patience was a woman of faith and determination. She left her home and demanding, critical mother to venture West upon inheriting her Grandmother's boarding house. Determined to make a profitable business out of it, she pitches in and labors hard to repair it and manage all its aspects.
  3. Forgiveness and redemption are themes in the story and are played out well. 
There is a sweet romance in the story. If you want groping and vivid romantic scenes, this is not where you'll find it. I appreciate Christian authors that can tell a story without vivid scenes. 

In the book you get a glimpse of the old west but not the foul, grittiness that some authors give. It was  a rough time. Rough men. Not much civilization. However, the folks of this town were bringing civilization and law and order about for the good of all.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snuggle Time Devotions that end with a hug! by Stephen Elkins

ISBN: 978-1-4143-9948-5
Hardcover $14.99
About the book: Children will grow in their understanding of faith and look forward to spending time with God as they read, play, hug, and get inspired through these 52 heartwarming snuggle time devotions. Along with the short devotional reading and Bible story, each snuggle time moment features a game or activity to help kids remember the lesson and tuck it away in their heart. This book will get you and your child talking together, laughing together, and hugging together! It’s a great way to strengthen your parent-child relationship while introducing young children to the joys of spending time with God. It’s also an effective resource for helping to shape behavior and for teaching kids biblically based life principles.

My thoughts: Family devotions time is important in the Christian home. It instills Bible study in each member of the family. That is, if done correctly. There is no absolutely correct way to hold family devotions. It just needs to work and to be a time looked forward to by each member of the group. This means it should start early in the life of the child. It also means it should be geared to be understood by the child.

In mixed age families, it is harder to accomplish the goal of gearing the level of material covered and most likely the younger children would need to have a different time set aside for them and then pre-teens and teens can have devotions with parents. 

For the young child or children in the family, using a guide such as Snuggle Time Devotions  that end with a Hug! can ensure that their attention is captured and the material suitable for their age.

In reviewing this Snuggle Time/Hug! book, there are pros and cons. Well, nothing is perfect except God’s Son and His Word. The author, Stephen Elkins, has done a pretty good job of taking Bible stories and really breaking them down to a level for very young children. The “take away” for each section guides parents as they establish with the child that the story has merit to the child because they can “take away” a lesson they learn. 

With 52 lessons, I can see this being used once a week. Obviously, most Christian homes are going to have devotions or Bible time more often than once a week. Using this only once a week can provide opportunities for other materials and variety during this time of devotions. 

Now what don’t I really care about?  The cover is cute and that is fine and appealing to children. However, the drawing of Jesus on the cover is just a bit too cute for me. Use cute children. Use cute animals. But please don’t cutesy up Jesus.

As far as the text and lessons inside the book are concerned, they are fine but the material for each “story” from the Bible is somewhat glossed over. Even young children can learn more from a Bible story than is shared on these pages.  It is a guide, though, and parents can elaborate as much as they wish with more details of each story. The Biblical references are given for each story so it can be easily looked up in the Bible.

All in all, this is a good book and children will love it. The size is good for children to hold and the binding is hardcover which gives it durability. 
I strongly encourage families to establish family devotions and stick with it. Modify it as needed for accommodating the kids as they grow. Make it interesting. Make it fun. Make it reverent because you are dealing with God and His Holiness. Don’t cram it down the kid’s throats. Give them opportunities to participate. Let them read. Let them pray. Sing. Be joyful. And don’t forget a hug is always a good part of family time.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Snuggle Time Devotions that end with a hug! from Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of Tyndale Kids and the author to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely mine. No compensation was received for this review.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness (Middle-Grade) by Tricia Springstubb illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

On Sale 4/14/2015
Middle-grade readers drawn to Judy Moody or Clementine will find a funny and charismatic companion in Cody, star of this delightful new series.

160 pages
ISBN: 9780763658571 
Hardcover $14.99
For whimsical Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, and Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job as Head of Shoes, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer. What to do? Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.

My thoughts: Cody and the Fountain of Happiness is billed as a fun book for middle-grade readers. However, as I read through it I found that in my opinion the only middle-grade readers for whom the book would have appeal would be slow readers.

I did find that there were a couple of items in the story that I found inappropriate for 7 to 10 year olds and they involve the crush Cody’s teen brother has on a teen girl. While this was not handled inappropriately, the subject was just not a desirable one. Also, the mother-drama involving her stress over work is hardly the subject for 7 to 10 year olds, or even middle-graders, in my opinion. 

The story has much potential. Cody is sparkly and filled with personality. She cares for others and she cares for the ants and Mew Mew the cat. So this aspect of the story is fun and instructional. I also like the way Cody relates to the neighbors - Spencer who is staying with his Grandmother. There is the potential for a lot of joy and happiness in this story. It just needs less teen-drama and mother-drama. The illustrations are very nicely done and lend interest which would be helpful for either an early-reader or a reluctant-reader book

So I can’t truly recommend this book since I was somewhat disappointed. It isn’t a total loss. Just not one I can heartily  recommend. 

DISCLOSURE: I received an Advance Reading Copy from Candlewick Press to facilitate review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for the review. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma {Review & Giveaway}

About the book: Be swept away to exotic places in Liz Tolsma's Remember the Lilies! Filled with mystery, romance, and a race to find a family before it's too late, you'll want to keep the pages turning.

Irene and Rand come from very different walks of life. Will they find common ground in their fight to survive?

Irene has grown up in the jungle as a missionary with her Aunt Anita, but now she and countless others are imprisoned by Japanese soldiers at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines. Irene and her aunt are safe there, and she keeps busy with her duty of delivering censored messages to the camp's prisoners, but like everyone else, she prays for the war to end and for her freedom.

Rand is a wealthy, womanizing American, whose attempted escape from the internment camp has put himself and others in danger. When Rand and Irene's Aunt Anita meet one another in the hospital, Irene learns more of his story and her heart is determined to save his family.

But the danger outside the walls of the hospital worsens every day, and life in this exotic place is anything but luxurious. Can Irene find Rand's family before they disappear forever? And can a humble missionary woman and an arrogant man find common ground in the face of their biggest fears?

My thoughts: As I began reading Remember the Lilies I made side trips online to discover the real history of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila.This was the location of this work of fiction by Liz Tolsma. I had never heard this bit of WWII history, so it was a revelation to me. I knew of the atrocities of prisoner of war camps of both the Japanese and Germans. I knew of the atrocities of the Holocaust victims in German encampments. But I had missed this bit of history where the civilians - American, Australian, English, German, etc, were imprisoned on the Santo Tomos campus for three years. At first, it was somewhat livable and survivable, but as the war was waning the Japanese became more brutal and starvation was the menu. I read several accounts of this period and it fleshed out Remember the Lilies with reality.

Tolsma has written a good story. The characters are believable and well done. The scene is painted in grim and realistic word pictures without grisly details. It is brutal enough as written.

The story covers characters who range from the wealthy owner of nightclubs, niece of a missionary, doctors, and nurses. They are reduced to living in huts or shacks made up of mats which do little to protect from rains and mud. They do have a "clinic" comprised of doctors, nurses, and nuns in captivity. Their captors, the Japanese, who guard them are uncaring and brutally harsh on them. The least infraction results in extreme measures of punishment. The children, too, are there and bring rays of sunshine into the midst of suffering. The adults give up of themselves and their meager food supply to care of these youngest amongst them.

The story of faith, redemption, perseverance runs strong through the darkness that is their struggle. The end is predictable because we already know who won WWII. But surprises are in the storyline. Surprises of joy in the midst of sorrow.

A good story. A good read. An opportunity for a romp into a bit of history with which we might not be familiar.

GIVEAWAY: A copy of Remember The Lilies is reserved for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Just enter using the form below. Begins February 14 & ENDS March 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.

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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review. Read more reviews here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Journey by Aaron Becker, Caldecott Honor Book Award

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. I tend to agree. However, when one picks up a children’s picture book, one tends to think there will be written text for the story. Not so with Journey by Aaron Becker. This winner of the Caldecott Honor Book Award published by Candlewick Press can truly stand alone as a “picture book” with no actual words written on its pages. How so?

As the little girl seated on the steps of her city home all forlorn and friendless drifts from moment to moment and room to room and family member to family member, she despairs of anything with which to entertain herself.

The pictures are drawn in muted browns, blues, and greys. There is a touch of color wash here and there, but mostly it is the muted tones of a dream world. There is a bright spot, though, in the red crayon of the little girl. Her crayon takes her on this magical Journey to kingdoms, danger, rescue, and friend.

When my four little granddaughters recently visited me, we had a grand time “reading” Journey. They loved picking out the minute details that flesh out the story. The bird (his color is purple). The boy with the purple crayon. I loved finding minute details in the early pages of the book that were replicated as a prison-cage, the military Phoenix, hot air balloon, etc.

Yes, a picture storybook without words is a possibility and it tells a grand tale, indeed.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review. 

Author Max Lucado launches new book for children, Treasury of Bedtime Prayers {Review & Giveaway)

About the book: This collection of classic prayers, as well as brand-new prayers by Max and Denalyn Lucado, will help parents who want to make prayer a daily part of their children’s lives.

Prayer is the foundation of a believer’s life. This collection of prayers from Max and Denalyn Lucado offers parents a resource to teach little ones how to talk to God. This prayer collection includes classic prayers that have been updated for today’s young readers, introductory stories for each section, as well as twenty new prayers for little ones written by Max and Denalyn.

Max and Denalyn open the book with an expanded introduction that instructs parents on teaching their children to pray. A helpful prayer builder taken from Max’s trade book Before Amen teaches kids that there are four different kinds of prayers: worship, trust, compassion, and gratitude. This collection of new and classic children’s prayers are divided into ten sections. Children will find it easier to learn to pray with examples showing that prayer is a dialogue with God for all times. Beautiful art by Lisa Alderson complements the keepsake style of the book.   
My thoughts: When my children were small, we taught them to pray. We used everyday language when we prayed and taught them that prayer was speaking to God. I also utilized the written prayers, primarily in rhyme format, to instill prayer thoughts. I firmly believe that children retain knowledge that is acquired through the written word and specifically through rhyming. While the adult does not typically use the rhyming children's graces and prayers they learned at their mother's knee, these very words impact their adult thoughts beneficially.

Max Lucado's beautifully designed book brings the family classic rhyming prayers as well as those by the Lucados. While I found them all to be wonderful in that they bring hearts close to God, I still prefer the classic rhyme for children's prayers.

Father God, Holy Spirit, and Jesus the Son

Father, You are on earth and in heaven today.
Jesus, You are truth; please show me Your way.
Holy Spirit, Comforter, You teach me each day
To say close to You so I'll know how to pray.
                                       --Max & Denalyn Lucado

Now the Day Is Over

Now the day is over,
Night is drawing night,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.
Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep...........................
                  --Sabine Barring-Gould, Aapted
I love the gentle and lovely illustrations. The book is hardcover which will give it durability for the long term. This is the type of book that is used and passed along to the next generation.

GIVEAWAY: The good folks at Family Christian are providing a $10 Appreciation Certificate for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Enter the giveaway below: Begins February 13 & ENDS February 25 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Family Christian Blogging Group on behalf of the publisher and author in exchange for a review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bunny's First Spring by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrations by David McPhail

ISBN: 9780310733867
Hardcover $15.99
The author uses short sentences and prose in an easily readable style to tell the story of little bunny. Born in springtime he frolics through the seasons of the year enjoying all of life around him. Fear and concern envelope little bunny as the Fall begins and changes are dismally apparent to him. He doesn't care for the cold, hardness of winter as it settles in.

Finally, Spring with all its beauty and glory bursts into bloom around little bunny and he is happy once again.

Beautifully illustrated using the soft tones of watercolors, the artist David McPhail, brings the seasons to life for little bunny and all the little readers who hold this lovely book in their hands.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from BookLook book blogging program on behalf of ZonderKidz and the author to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Athos Miracle Cream from Greece

When my package of Athos Miracle Cream arrived straight from Greece, I was so surprised. I really thought this would be sent from an online store that sells a plethora of products. The shipping package told differently, though. Straight from Greece. The language on the package was Greek. The stamps were Greek. Authentic!
Athos Miracle Cream is prepared by hand of natural Mediterranean ingredients.
This product is not your ordinary cosmetic cream. this product is produced with natural Mediterranean ingredients and by hand. When you first touch the cream to get to apply, you're surprised at its "tackiness." I'm supposing that is from the natural honey and beeswax. After smoothing it onto your skin, though, there is no "tackiness" or feeling of being sticky. Just soothing.

And the fragrance. Oh my! It is so natural and brings to the mind herbs and greens and florals from a country meadow. This product has Sage as an ingredient. Now the sage with which I am familiar is that of Thanksgiving turkey. But this sage is not the same fragrance. I don't know how to describe it other than, "Wonderful!"

I've smoothed it over my lower legs, my feet, my hands, my elbows. It feels so soothing. I can only imagine being in a home with little ones who have an insect bit and soothing that hurt with this cream. I know my feet and hands feel so nice when I use this.

Product Description (from Athos Miracle Cream source) 

Carefully made by hand using 100% Authentic Mediterranean Ingredients, Athos Miracle Cream is a precious skin care product that promotes the natural process of hydration, repair, and protection of irritated and sensitive skin.
The unique formula of Athos Miracle cream has been originally created by the Monks of Mount Athos, in the northern part of Greece (Europe). Based on their vast knowledge of natural remedies and the contribution of individual plants to healthy skin, our forbears have created a pure treasure for the skin using nature's wisdom as a guide and source of inspiration.
Today, being respectful of the rich history and eco-system of the region, we are using the same fresh ingredients our ancestors did, following their original instructions. Each ingredient is methodically introduced following a particular sequence, at a specific temperature, in order to safeguard its full potency. Every jar is hand-blended and hand filled. Due to this exacting preparation process, production is made in small batches.
Suitable for: Dry hands, feet, elbows, knees, cuticles, cracked and chapped skin, wounds, insect bites, scars, minor burns and sunburns, skin blisters, depilated and waxed skin, tattoo aftercare, relief from neurodermitis, pedicure massage. 
DISCLOSURE: I received this product from Athos to facilitate this review. No compensation was received. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden {Review & Giveaway}

About the book: Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

My thoughts: Cartography has historically been a very important skill and one that was highly valued and respected. The story’s female protagonist’s father was a cartographer for the United States; and he taught his beloved daughter, Anna, skills in the area of map study. Having lost her father at sea when a young girl, she grew up with her aunt and uncle. This was not a happy arrangement and left scars of the heart and body on Anna.

When she grew into adulthood, Anna was able to obtain a coveted job with the United States Library of Congress in the map library. She loved her job and realized that this gave her an opportunity to further investigate the loss of her father’s ship at sea. She also realized the tenuous position that female employees held since few valued the skills of ladies in positions such as she held.

While working in the map library, Anna met a congressman from Maine and is assigned to assist him in his research. She and Luke form a friendship and it develops into a sweet, budding romance. Anna realizes, though, that any romance or relationship between them would result in her abrupt dismissal from the Library of Congress as an employee.

Secrets abound in and around Washington and there are those whose careers would suffer if Anna pursues her quest to discover the true story behind her father’s ship.

I enjoyed roaming the halls of the Library of Congress and learning a bit of it’s history. Our Library of Congress has always served our Nation so it is worthwhile to learn about it. I enjoyed, too, the political fever that was leading up to the Spanish American War of 1898. Short lived though it was, it was avoided as long as possible and yet set the stage for further American expansion and conquest.

While historical fiction is truly that – fiction, it does serve well as a spring-board to further examine bits and pieces of history. This is a sweet, romantic read that treats the history lover with a journey into a world they so love – history. This is an easy book to recommend for his well-written prose that is all the while easy to read.

GIVEAWAY: A copy has been reserved by Litfuse Publicity Group for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below and let's see who will receive this little treasure. Begins February 10 & ENDS February 28 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only. 
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Author, Elizabeth Camden is the award-winning author of four books, including Against the Tide (2012), winner of a RITA Award, Christy Award, and Daphne du Maurier Award. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

ISBN-13: 9780763637842
Candlewick Press
Recently my granddaughters visited, and when they saw that I had a copy of Library Lion, they were positively ecstatic. They were quite familiar with the book since it is one they have checked out repeatedly from their local library in Virginia. Needless-to-say, it was read several times during their visit with Grandmama.

What is the draw of this book? What is its charm? Why is it a winner of a plethora of awards?

The library is a very special place and has rules. Miss Merriweather is the librarian and she makes certain that folks obey the rules. One day a lion walks into the library. No rule against a lion in the library. The lion goes to story time.  No rule against that.

As time goes by, the lion visits earlier and earlier and becomes Miss Merriweather’s library helper. And one day she falls off her stepladder. Oh my! Now a rule must be broken.

This gentle story about the lovely library and the gentle giant of a lion is sweet and endearing. It gently teaches that rules are important. Yet it also teaches that there are circumstances where we must make a decision to break a rule.

Beautifully drawn illustrations capture the essence of the story. Together the words and pictures create a story that a child wants to hear again and again.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Body Merry's new product: Stretch Marks Defense Cream - For Prevention and Reduction of Old and New Stretch Marks & Scars

I have reviewed several products by Body Merry and really enjoyed using each of them. When the opportunity to review their new Stretch Marks & Scars Defense Cream I almost didn't agree to do so. Frankly, I was one of those fortunate ladies that didn't get stretch marks during pregnancy (oh so very many years ago) and I don't have many other scars. However, I decided I would try the product on a new spot on my lower leg where a pre-cancerous spot was burned off six months ago.

For a couple of weeks I've applied a bit (rubbing it in thoroughly) to the spot. The spot seems to be unchanged. I will continue to use this on this spot for awhile with the hope that it will lighten the area. The cream is very dense and thick but rubs in adequately. I don't care for the scent of this cream. Other Body Merry products have had a scent I have found to be very pleasing. This one, though, is not pleasing to me. I can tolerate it because I'm using a small amount and it is being used on the lower leg.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary product to facilitate my review. I received no compensation. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Product Description (provided by Body Merry) - Looking for a highly effective natural and organic solution for those pesky stretch marks and scars?

Body Merry’s Stretch Marks & Scars Defense Cream is just that - a natural and organic formula consisting of organic cocoa butter and shea butter, alongside lots of pure plant oils and vitamins. This cream provides intense moisturization and nourishes your skin to help visibly reduce the appearance of existing marks and scars, whatever be the cause. Not only that, it effectively prevents the formation of new ones.  Like all our products, it is free from harsh chemicals such as parabens, sulfates and phthalates.
Safe Natural & Organic Ingredients: A bunch of premium natural and organic ingredients make up this formulation - Organic Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Vitamins E + C + B3 + B5, Sunflower Seed Oil, Plant Stem Cells, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Raspberry Seed Oil, Avocado Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Organic Gotu Kala, Algae Extract and Japanese Green Tea Leaf Extract - to name just a few. Yes, ingredients that you KNOW are good for you. Need we say more?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

23 BLAST {Movie Review & Giveaway--US & CANADA}

About the movie: As a typical teenager, Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka) is a local hero both on and off the high-school football field in his small Kentucky town, but in 1997, Travis contracts an infection that destroys his optic nerve and renders him blind overnight. With the loving help and concern of his parents, physical therapist, coach and best friend, Travis demonstrates what true bravery is: He continues to compete on the gridiron and helps his team advance to the state finals.

Review: When my husband first asked me to watch the movie "23 Blast"  with him,  I thought, "great, another low budget film!" But boy, was I wrong this time! The movie is loosely based on the life of Travis Freeman and includes the struggles of youth and disabilities during the teenage years.  As a promising high school quarterback, Travis Freeman,  suddenly becomes blind right before his senior year! (In reality, Travis Freeman became blind around the age of 12 years). The movie portrays Travis' battle with depression and his struggle to overcome his disability and the desire to continue to play football.

Being a nurse, I am naturally over-critical of movies that include hospital and medical scenes, and this one was no different. A few of the medical scenes were slightly inaccurate, but overall, they were believable!

One of Travis' childhood friends, Jerry Baker, is also portrayed during the story. Jerry, along with his coach, Mr Farris, encourage Travis to keep trying and not to give up. They help him believe in himself again. The story line also reveals the need and importance for team work. The movie also demonstrates the different paths of two teenage boys: Travis turns to his faith in God, while Jerry turns to drugs and alcohol. The movie does include scenes of teenage drinking (involving Jerry) and includes one curse word.

Overall, I recommend this movie for family entertainment for mid-teens and up. I think it would be a good opportunity to discuss the teen pressures of drinking and the need to say "no" to drugs and alcohol and to discuss the importance of Faith.  Travis chooses to go on to college and earns a PhD in the ministry.  In the end, some of the real folks portrayed in the movie are shown. The movie is dedicated to Jerry Baker. (Guest Mary P.G.)

GIVEAWAY:  A copy is reserved for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Enter below -Begins February 4 & ENDS February 12 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA & CANADA addresses only. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”
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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY (For children ages 9 and up) by Chiu Kwong-chiu & illustrated by Design and Cultual Studies Workshop {Review & Giveaway}

The China Instituted an educational program about the Forbidden City. Included in this educational emphasis will be the publication of several books. Today we're looking at This Is the Greatest Place and In the Forbidden City.

Serving as the seat of imperial power for six centuries, the Forbidden City is one of China’s most famous and enigmatic landmarks. Accompanied by a mischievous cat, readers will tour this colossal architectural structure, discovering the secrets hidden inside the palace walls. They will encounter the people who have walked through its halls and gardens, including emperors, empresses, and rebel leaders, and hear exciting tales about the power struggles and intrigues of everyday life.

This large format book conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous foldout spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes.

My thoughts: Though done primarily in black and white line drawings with small touches of red or gold, the book is replete with exquisite detail and packed with historical information about China and the rule of Emperors through the centuries. What fascination!
This two-page spread shows detail of outer court. 

There are numerous fold-out pages offering vast and minute detail of the Forbidden City. I found it interesting to learn that areas are called by such names as: Between Home and Country, Hall of Mental Cultivation, Hall of Heavenly Purity, Gate of Lunar Essence.
This is a small portion of a two page spread in the book. Minute details are packed with information.

I think this book will primarily be of interest to those most connected to China by heritage, lineage, or location. But the interesting format and plethora of information can prick the interest of many and varied readers.
GIVEAWAY: One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to receive a copy of This Is the Greatest Place and also In the Forbidden City.  Begins February 3 & ENDS February 24 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of each book was provided by the China Institute In America to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review. Giveaway copies are also provided by The China Institute and will be shipped directly to the winner by The China Institute.

THIS IS THE GREATEST PLACE! The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals by Brian Tse, author & Alice Mak, illustrator {Review & Giveaway}

The China Institute of America launched an educational program about the Forbidden City. Included in this educational emphasis will be the publication of several books. Today we're looking at This Is the Greatest Place and In the Forbidden City.

About the book: Rabbit is eating breakfast with his friends Baby Squirrel, Young Porcupine, and Little Brother Panda when an unexpected visitor arrives. He is a master builder, searching for inspiration to design a great palace for the Emperor of China. Together, Uncle Builder and the little animals explore how nature supplies us
with the wonders that enrich our lives.

Created by internationally renowned children’s book artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this book teaches children about Chinese architecture, how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony. The illustrations capture the majesty of both the natural world and the Forbidden City and are enhanced by interactive components for readers, including a gatefold spread and lift-flaps.

The creators of the book, Brian Tse and Alice Mak, are beloved the world over for their heart warming and educational stories for children. They are the creators of the iconic cartoon characters McMug and McDull, who have been featured in numerous award-winning works including books, comics, television shows, and movies. The translator of the book, Ben Wang, is a senior lecturer in humanities at China Institute, an instructor of Chinese at the United Nations, and guest lecturer at numerous prestigious academic and cultural institutions. His lectures on and translations of Kunqu dramas have been reviewed and acclaimed three times by The New York Times, and in 1988 he received the National Prize in Literature Translation from the National Literary Association of Taiwan for his translation into Chinese of Growing Up by Russell Baker. The editor of the book is Nancy S. Steinhardt, Professor of East Asian Art and Chair of the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Steinhardt is also the Curator of Chinese Art at the Penn Museum.

My thoughts: Last week my grand daughters visited and we repeatedly read This Is the Greatest Place. They loved it. The 6 year old especially enjoyed the book and the little flaps that you raise to find details. What a charming book and filled with the concept that the Forbidden City is reflective of our natural world. As the story is told, Uncle Builder explains how the creatures of the forest and the trees and the streams are all shared in the Forbidden City. The illustrations are colorful, sweet, and charming and tell the story well.

Traditionally, I have not seen much in libraries in my part of the world that educate children about China. This series of books is a real plus.

GIVEAWAY: One of Chat With Vera's readers has the opportunity to receive a copy of This Is the Greatest Place and also In the Forbidden City.  Begins February 3 & ENDS February 24 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of each book was provided by the China Institute In America to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review. Giveaway copies are also provided by The China Institute and will be shipped directly to the winner by The China Institute.