Saturday, January 30, 2016

Amphibians and Reptiles by Katharine Hall from Arbordale Publishing

ISBN: 9781628555608
Paperback $9.95
About the book: What makes a frog an amphibian but a snake a reptile? Both classes may lay eggs, but they have different skin coverings and breathe in different ways. Pages of fun facts will help kids identify each animal in the class like a pro after reading the fourth book in Arbordale's Compare and Contrast series. Similar to Polar Bears and Penguins, Clouds and Trees; Amphibians and Reptiles uses stunning photographs and simple non-fiction text to get kids thinking about the similarities and differences between these two animal classes.

My thoughts: I love Arbordale's Compare and Contrast books. When comparisons or differences are observed during study, the facts of each animal, critter, or object become more firmly planted in the memory. It also aids in the creative thinking process. 

This little book of frogs and snakes (frogs are amphibians and snakes are reptiles), etc. will delight most children. Dare I to say "boys"? The illustrations simply shine with "slime" and pebbly skin is clearly seen. Clear and closeup photography is very good. The text is brief and concise accompanying each picture or spread. This will become a good source of reference for the young child as they begin to learn about amphibians and reptiles.

The book begins....

  • There are three main types of amphibians - pictures, with brief text
  • There are four different kinds of reptiles - pictures, with brief text
  • Amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded
At the back of the book the "For Creative Minds" section gives material on Vertebrate Classes, Amphibian or Reptile Sorting, Herpetology (study of amphibians and reptiles), and Amphibian Life Cycle Sequencing. Tremendous information that will facilitate using this book spanning the entire elementary age group.

This is another winner in the Arbordale series of books. I highly recommend it.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.

They Just Know: Animal Instincts Written by Robin Yardi Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein published by Arbordale

ISBN: 9781628556391
Paperback $9.99
About the book: How do some young animals know what to do and how to do it? Does someone teach a caterpillar what to eat? Who gives a baby shark swimming lessons? Sometimes young animals learn things from their parents, but other times… they just know! Explore animal instincts through engaging text and fanciful illustrations.

My thoughts: Arbordale provides great little books packed with real information with a story line that entertains and educates. in They Just Know: Animal Instincts the author and illustrator have presented the truth of how animals do the things they do without having any "lessons." They just know is all about instincts each animal has and how these animal instincts do not occur in children but must be learned.

As the illustrator creates scenes throughout the book, she uses realistic illustrations showing creatures naturally and realistically. By the same token she switches to fantasizing the creatures in humorous situations and scenes. You'll get a laugh or chuckle out of some of these bits. I just love the illustrations!

Again, Arbordale has a great little "For Creative Minds" section at the back that allow further in-depth study into the instincts and behaviors of animals. This is  always a winning addition.

They Just Know is inherently a secular book. As a Christian, it is my firm belief that God has endowed the animal creatures with behavior instincts specific to their own need and design. I see and value this book as a great little entertainment and educational tool for children.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Arbordale to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Beyond the Silence by Tracie Peterson & Kimberly Woodhouse, Historical Romance [Review & Giveaway]

ISBN13: 9780764214103
Bethany House $14.99 Paperback
My thoughts: The collaborative writing of prolific authors Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse has brought a moving story to the Christian historical fiction realm. Laced with gossip, fear, suspicions, the world of Angels Camp, California is fertile ground for people to turn their backs on a family that is hurt and needful and living with intense sorrow.

Lillian Porter literally walks into this world and frankly has no recourse but to grit her lady-like teeth and stay put. She can't return to the life she has left and she has not the means to go elsewhere.

As the story unfolds, the tenderest victim is the young boy who is terrified and hasn't spoken a word since witnessing the horror. Lillian quickly wins his confidence, though not yet his voice, and begins to bring him back from the shadows.

This is a tender and yet strong read of a young woman who dares to speak out, who dares to venture forth, and who dares to love a young child and the man her heart speaks to.

A good read and worth the time.

About the book:  The shadows over this olive grove hide more than just the truth. . . .

Lillian Porter has always wanted to fulfill her mother's dream of going west, so when she hears about a nanny position in Angels Camp, California, she defies her grandfather and takes a chance on a new future. But she quickly wonders if she made the right choice. Murky rumors swirl around Woodward Colton, her new employer, but the gossip doesn't match the man Lillian comes to know.

Still, something dark did happen in the family's past. Lillian's seven-year-old charge hasn't spoken in over a year. Gently, Lillian tries to coax him out of his shell, hoping he'll one day feel safe enough to share what scared him. But the Colton olive farm is no longer a safe place. Lillian encounters suspicious characters on their land and mysterious damage done to the farm. When the housekeeper is brutally attacked, the town once again suspects the worst. Will discovering the truth help Lillian clear the name of the man she has come to love---or will it endanger her even more?
Begins January 24
ENDS February 10  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the authors and Bethany House to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway prize copy is provided by the publicist and will be sent directly to winner by publicist or publisher.

Friday, January 29, 2016

I Can Play It: Music games and activities to help your child learn by Patricia Shehan Campbell & Maja Pitamic [Review & Giveaway]

About the book:
Paperback $17.99 
ISBN-13: 978-1438007076
  • Explore the rhythm of speech and song accompanied by instruments as well as easy-to-find objects at home
  • Make suggestions for integrating music in everyday activities:
This enjoy able guide to musical exploration is packed with kid-pleasing, skill-building activities that will keep them laughing, singing, and moving all day long. Open up the world of music to children and watch them learn how to express themselves in entertaining, educational, and enriching ways.

My thoughts: This is not a children's book. This is a book for parents and/or teachers to utilize in guiding children to engage in a world of sounds - specifically making musical sounds in and around the world they inhabit. Older elementary children will have fun with a few of the activities that they can do on their own. This activity book takes the child from banging the spoon on the pot to constructing a rubber band banjo. It will help the child to identify and learn about counting rhythm and beats.

This is a HAPPY book full of joyful experiences and radiant faces. That alone would make it a pleasure to own. However, I relish in the fact that mommy will now have a guide to help her even if she, herself, is somewhat musically "challenged." Little tots already have an innate desire and ability to bang pots, plunk piano keys, sway, prance, and jiggle whenever they hear music. They have that innate ability to create joyful sounds with their voices when happy.

Taking everyday objects and creating sounds and learning rhythms is one of the steps in this guidebook. Guides to nap music and a listing of a variety of compositions and composers helps in selection. There are activities in each section. Singing rhymes is covered with several well-known nursery rhyme/songs.... Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc...... though the music itself does not accompany the words. Basically, the book is about the sounds that are all around us and turning them into an appreciation for sounds, rhythms, and music.

It is up to the parent and teacher to guide, encourage, and provide tools and resources that will fully develop a world of wonderful sounds and delightful music in the child. I Can Play It is certainly a step in the right direction and a march to the right drum.
Begins January 29
ENDS February 18 @ 12:00 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a copy by Barron's Educational Services to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway prize is provided directly to the winner by Barron's.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

If I Run by Terri Blackstock [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: The story is told from the viewpoint of the male and female protagonists. Casey is the young woman fugitive who is running for her life. Dylan is the young man who has been engaged by the parents of the slain man to find Casey who is suspected of killing their son.

As each speaks and we learn what is happening from their points of view. We  see an intelligent, strong young woman who has instincts for survival and the financial means to do so because she has a small inheritance from her deceased father. The death of this deceased father who was a cop is pretty much the key to the entire If I Run situation.

Dylan and, yes, Casey both are are dealing with the terrors of PTSD in their lives. His from serving in the military and her's from her father's death.

The side-plot in this story involves Casey discovering a crime of long-standing and sacrificing her own safety and fugitive status to rescue a victim of this crime. Exciting! Terrifying! Spellbinding!

As the reader flips page after page of this engaging read, he or she will find himself questioning "Would I run?" "Would I save the victim?" "Would I.......?"

About the book: Get ready for the newest thrill ride from New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock: If I Run!
Casey knows the truth.
But it won't set her free.
Casey Cox's DNA is all over the crime scene. There's no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she's arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn't matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That's the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren't adding up. Casey Cox doesn't fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan's skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn't guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan's damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.
Begins January 27
ENDS February 15  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read more reviews & get more information - click here
Author: Terri Blackstock has sold more than six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as the Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters series.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Zondervan Publishing and the author to facilitate this review. I was not compensated for the review and opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I like using products that are kind to the environment, kind to my skin, and cruelty free. Oz Naturals is such a brand.

The Oz Naturals Ocean Mineral Facial Cleanser contains organic Rose Hip Oil and Vitamin E. With these ingredients listed as major for the product, I would assume it to be somewhat moisturizing. I found the product to effectively cleanse my face. It lathers nicely in my hands and on my face when water is applied as well.

I found I had to be especially careful around the eye area as it does sting my eyes. This is not unusual with face cleansing products or soaps, but I had hoped for a face cleanser I could liberally scrub all over my face to effectively remove makeup from facial planes as well as eye socket area. Of course, we know we must keep our eyes closed when cleaning the eye socket area.

I found it a little drying to my skin, but as we age we have less natural oils so that may be the main problem. I think I need a more moisturizing product. This could be a good product for younger skin.

About the Product OZ Naturals CRUELTY FREE formula does not contain alcohol, parabens or sulfates and is safe for all skin types. Our Ocean Mineral face cleanser is extremely effective.

  • MADE IN THE USA in a state of the art FDA registered facility, OZ Naturals formulates the most effective anti aging skin care products on the market
  • OZ Naturals NATURAL & ORGANIC facial cleanser is considered to be the highest quality skin cleanser on the market.
  • POWERFUL INGREDIENTS include rosehip oil, rich ocean minerals & vitamin e. This formulation was developed to specifically be gentle on sensitive skin yet highly potent and effective at dissolving nasty particles that clog your pores.
  • THIS FACE WASH is guaranteed to gently cleanse your skin and clear clogged pores naturally & effectively. 
About the Brand: OZ Naturals is a top seller on and its easy to understand why.
Co-Founder and Certified Esthetician, Angela Irish launched OZ Naturals as a company that embodies everything she's passionate about -- healthy skin, anti-aging, natural ingredients, and utilizing the latest technology to formulate the highest quality skin care products on the market.

Utilizing her personal experience of skin issues, that she understands that when your skin is unhealthy it can negatively affect your self-esteem. After try tons of products over the years she was always left with the same skin issues as before. Sometimes even worse than before. Angela knows how disheartening this can be, especially when so many skin care products make huge claims, and simply do not deliver. It's especially frustrating when the cost of those products are hardly affordable, and you realize once again that you've wasted your money.

While it's true that beautiful skin is also hereditary, healthy skin comes from taking care of the inside and outside of our bodies. However, finding the right products for your skin can be the toughest part of the equation. This is why OZ Naturals was founded, to create healthy, premium skin care products to help those who weren't naturally born with perfect skin, to obtain more perfect skin. The kind of skin that everyone deserves to have.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary product to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Jesus Today®: Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young [Review & Giveaway - 2 winners] Release date Feb. 2

  • ISBN-13: 978-0718038052
  • Tommy Nelson Publisher - Ages 6-10
There is just something so sweet and special about kid's products - especially kid's products that help guide your children in their walk with the Savior.  Our awesome friends at Tommy Nelson (a division of Thomas Nelson) has a devotional just for kids.

I have recently seen a plethora of children's Bible study and/or devotional books and many are really cute (sometimes too cute). But while we want the materials used to teach and encourage children toward their walk with God, we shouldn't want them so cute as to lighten the reality of the awesome power and love of God. We need to strike a happy balance.

In this edition of Sarah Young's Jesus Today®: Devotions for Kids, this well bound, small hardcover book has a cute and appealing cover. Inside, though, it is all serious business. This book is print only on the inside (aside from border color and little bird).  The text is written in a down-to-earth yet serious tone that will get across to the child God's supreme love and power but it is in terms and phraseology that a child can grasp.
Each two-page devotion has one page of devotional text and one page of Scripture quotes. The print is sized to make the early reader comfortable. While the book is directed for the age 6-10 child, I see the younger children will possibly need assistance reading (good parent to child time). However, I believe, too, that this will appeal on upward to the 12-13 year old as well.
I think this is just a wonderful page. We know we
can ALWAYS trust God because He ALWAYS does
what He says; and if He promises, the promise is kept!
I like that there is a Scripture Index in the back of the book which is broken down by books of the Bible. I would prefer that the author had used the King James Version, but the conservative Christian author has chosen a different version to utilize. Parents can choose this opportunity to show a comparison to their child, if they so wish.
Jesus Today®: Devotions for Kids is about Jesus and His amazing Love for you.  It's also a book about hope.  Some kids may think that hoping is just wishful thinking.  But the hope Jesus offers you is something you can hold on to -- knowing it will never let you down.  Because Jesus will never let you down!  No matter what is happening -- whether you are happy, scared, angry, or sad -- God is always in control, and He is always good.

Jesus is the Friend who is always with you. Jesus Today®: Devotions for Kids will pour this powerful truth into your children’s hearts as they learn that He knows everything about them and loves them more than they can imagine.

Each devotion is based on Scripture and is written as though Jesus is speaking, assuring that He is in control, that He is good, and that an amazing future awaits all who put their hope in Him.

Adapted from ECPA Gold Medallion–winner Jesus Today®, this devotional has the same themes as the adult version, as well as written-out scriptures. It is a great choice for families to read and discuss during devotional time together.
#1 receives "Jesus Today" book (US/CANADA)
#2 receives a $25 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate (US ONLY)
Begins January 24
ENDS February 2 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Visit your local Family Christian store or shop online at for this and other amazing products to encourage and uplift your heart.
About the author: Sarah Young's devotional writings are personal reflections from her daily quiet time of Bible reading, praying and writing in prayer journals.  With sales of more than 14 million books worldwide, Jesus Calling has appeared on all major bestseller lists.  Sarah's writings include Jesus Calling, Jesus Today, Jesus Lives, Dear Jesus, Jesus Calling for Little Ones, Jesus Calling Bible Storybook, Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids, and Peace in His Presence -- each encouraging readers in their journey toward intimacy with Christ.  Sarah and her husband were missionaries in Japan and Australia for many years.  They currently live in the United States.

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.

Giveaway: Beyond the Silence by Tracie Peterson & Kimberly Woodhouse

ISBN13: 9780764214103
Bethany House $14.99 Paperback
About the book:  The shadows over this olive grove hide more than just the truth. . . .

Lillian Porter has always wanted to fulfill her mother's dream of going west, so when she hears about a nanny position in Angels Camp, California, she defies her grandfather and takes a chance on a new future. But she quickly wonders if she made the right choice. Murky rumors swirl around Woodward Colton, her new employer, but the gossip doesn't match the man Lillian comes to know.

Still, something dark did happen in the family's past. Lillian's seven-year-old charge hasn't spoken in over a year. Gently, Lillian tries to coax him out of his shell, hoping he'll one day feel safe enough to share what scared him. But the Colton olive farm is no longer a safe place. Lillian encounters suspicious characters on their land and mysterious damage done to the farm. When the housekeeper is brutally attacked, the town once again suspects the worst. Will discovering the truth help Lillian clear the name of the man she has come to love---or will it endanger her even more?
Begins January 24
ENDS February 10  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read more about this book & more reviews - click here
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the authors and Bethany House to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway prize copy is provided by the publicist and will be sent directly to winner by publicist or publisher.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Body Merry Vitamin C Cleanser for a "Flash Facial"

My skin feels nice and clean after using the Body Merry Vitamin C Cleanser. I absolutely avoid the eye area because of the microbeads. Since it is an exfoliating product, it should only be used a couple of times a week in my opinion.

I also enjoy using it to wash my hands and lower arms a couple of times a week. This helps shed the dead skin off these areas without being overly harsh. Leaves the hands and arms feeling fresh and clean.

This Vitamin C Cleanser contains microbeads made of jojoba oil which work well for mild exfoliating. They do not leave gritty residue in the basin or bath and they are safe for the environment.

The scent of this product is mild and very natural in essence. I have enjoyed using this product.
About the product: 

  • 6 OZ BOTTLE of Vitamin C Exfoliating Cleanser is sure to last longer than other face washes while providing a deeply effective, yet gentle cleanse.
  • an ideal mix of natural and organic ingredients like MSM, Olive Oil, Jojoba Oil, RoseHip Oil and Tea Tree Oil, paired with 10% Vitamin C with the gentle exfoliation of Jojoba Beads. This extra 'oomph' helps brighten your complexion and prevent other skin concerns, while providing a thorough cleanse.
  • Combining some of the most powerful antioxidants used in skincare, this cleanser helps repair and slow down the process of sun damage, fine lines, dryness and wrinkles to achieve youthful skin. 
  • cleanser is designed for all by gently removing impurities while nurturing your skin - a formulation your skin will thank you for.
  • Body Merry offers a 90-day MANUFACTURER GUARANTEE on all its products. We also prefer to cuddle with animals so none of Body Merry's products are tested on them. Our products are cruelty free and made right here in the USA in an FDA registered and GMP compliant facility.

I received this product at a discounted price to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Getting through the winter blasts tips and reminders

Blast of frigid, snowy, icy weather hitting the Eastern US - North and South - calls for a concerted effort by all to get through. First of all, the Energy (think electric power) folks gear up well in advance to prepare to handle outages so when it turns nasty, cold, and the lights go off they are ready and able to get out there and get the job of restoring power for each and every one in each and every area.

Then there are the wonderful first responders and healers. They ARE OUT THERE - STILL - getting the job done. They get to the hospitals to care for the sick. The ambulances roll. The firetrucks roll. The police and safety personnel roll. The job gets done. You are their priority.

But what can YOU do?

  • Conserve the heat you have in your house by opening doors as little as possible.
  • Plug those spots in your house that allow the cold to creep in.
  • Let the sunshine in on the sunny side - open blinds, shades, and curtains.
  • Keep the blinds, shades, and curtains closed on the shady side.
  • COOKING: Don't go on a marathon cooking spree. However, DO COOK foods that generate moist heat. Stews and soups will warm your house as well as your tummy.
  • Conserve energy by using low-energy cooking sources: microwaves and slow cookers. (This doesn't necessarily negate the "cooking" tip above.)
  • Conserve energy by using only those lights and electronics necessary. Severe cold draws enormously on the power resources. Conserve! click to Tweet
  • Keep your heat set as low as is safe for you. Remember the very young and the elderly need more heat. 
  • Wear an extra layer (sweater, jacket) and warm socks while inside so you can set your heat lower.

Stay safe. 

Enjoy the beauty of a wintry day. 

Help each other. 

Remember to thank an energy worker or first responder or medical professional.

Share this with someone - just click to Tweet!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Electric Foot Callus Remover & Spa Socks provide affordable and great home foot spa experience [Review & Giveaway]

After a childhood of running barefoot, after many summers of running on the hot beach sand near my home, after years of dance lessons, and after growing a bit old I have calluses on my feet. I've used a variety of files to abrade the thick, tough skin. I've used lotions and creams (I do have a favorite cream, though). Still the calluses are there. The skin is tough. It is unsightly.

Now I have this fabulous Electric Foot Callus Remover that is absolutely wonderful. Just running it over my thickened foot skin areas removes dead skin and smoothens the area. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't take long. It is effective.

The device has two heads, a cleaning brush, and cable to connect it for recharging the battery. I used it dry and wet in the bath (battery). Advantage of using it wet is that you don't get the "skin dust" all over things. It works beautifully both ways.

And then there are the Spa Moisturizing Gel Socks that are a treat to your feet. Wear them (wash feet first) every few days for 30 minutes to an hour for a gentle "treatment" for your feet. This softens the skin. Since the inside of the socks is a layer of gel infused with oils, they feel different on your feet than regular socks - that's the gel. The gel doesn't seem to transfer to your feet (think liquidy gel which this is not) though it works it's magic. When (and if) you walk around in the socks, there are non-skid spots on the bottom for your safety. However, I advise that you use caution walking around in them because the gel gives a very different sensation to walking about - kind of a squishy feel.

Combining the use of the Electric Foot Callus Remover and the treatment spa socks on a regular basis can lead to prettier, softer feet. I am thoroughly enjoying my duo spa treatment.
Begins January 21
ENDS February 12  @ 12:01 a.m. ET 
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Product: (find on Amazon - click here)

  • Remove callus & treat feet with premium SPA MOISTURIZING GEL SOCKS for long term foot health.
  • Quality PEDICURE at home. Roll device over feet and watch callus fall. Unlike hand Pedi Files, no pressure needed.
  • WET, DRY? No problem. This awesome foot spa product transforms cracked callused feet into lovely feet.
  • Device comes with beautiful PREMIUM SPA SOCKS infused with Vitamin E, Jojoba, Olive, Rose Essential Oils.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary or highly discounted product to facilitate this sponsored review. Opinions are solely my own and rendered only after using the products. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway prize is provided at no cost to winner and shipped directly to winner by Kilimanjaro Health & Beauty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Undaunted Hope (Beacons of Hope #3) by Jody Hedlund [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: As I have read each of the books in Jody Hedlund's "Beacons of Hope Series" I have been amazed at the lives of the characters who lived during the mid to late 1800s and who manned the light houses in and around the Michigan and Great Lakes area. Living in North Carolina as I do, I know some of the history and necessity of light houses for the safe sailing of ships throughout history. Hidden shoals or rocky shores are treacherous and make such areas burial sites for many a ship and sailor.

But I am amazed, too, at how these persons managed to grapple with life as presented to them during these bygone days. It was hard. It was unjust. It was unrelenting. And Jody Hedlund brings it all to bear as she writes her well constructed characters into the events fleshed out so well historically.

To travel alone in 1870 to secure a teaching position was perilous enough. But to arrive and you're a woman but they they were expecting a man really places the lady at risk. Endeavoring to brave it and forge ahead, Tessa Taylor succeeds in beginning her work as the sole teacher in this forlorn and forsaken place.  She soon sees the need for opportunities for the adults to also receive an education and makes plans to make this happen for them. She also tutors and helps those who have need of more than usual instruction. But especially does she learn to love a young crippled girl and her strong uncle.

As the story unfolds a villain is exposed and the people seem helpless against this person. But hope sustains and in the end hope prevails.

About the book: Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

See Jody Hedlund's answers to questions about writing this book. Some entry questions refer to these questions. - Click this link.

ENDS February 4  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway copy is provided by the author, publisher, or publicist.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Bright Outdoors Solar Lantern - energy charged by the sun or via a USB port cable [Review & 2-unit Giveaway]

When the power goes out, what do you do? Light candles? Get out the flashlights (oops! batteries are dead)? Or how about when you're camping in the great out-of-doors? What lights up your campsite or lights your way through the dark?
1) Solar lantern expanded, 2) Closed cover of the USB ports, 3) Hanging handle & solar panel, 4) Flashlight/strobe light

The Bright Outdoors Solar Lantern is a small, collapsible device that is truly a gem. It folds down to be tucked away in a pocket or backpack or safely stored away at home for those times when you need to have some light. My little video is very poorly done, but it is an attempt to show you how the light changes from normal glow to brighter glow and then to strobe/emergency light. (video might not work with Chrome browser)

I truly love this product. The light is truly intense and bright. There are two levels of light brightness and then a third lever that works as a strobe or emergency flasher. And you can use it as a flashlight to direct the light where you need it or it can be opened up to form a lantern that lights up the darkness very well. Truly a gem!
In a darkened room and with a flash on the camera, the lantern's
glow is still apparent in this picture though it does not fully capture
the brightness of this light.

But the goodness of this neat little lantern doesn't end with it's light abilities. You can charge it with the sun - solar energy. Or you can charge it with the USB port cable included. In fact, if you're out 'n about and your phone battery goes dead on you, you can use the charge of the lantern to charge your phone with the cable. So neat! I am so glad to have the opportunity review this product and can truly recommend it.

Product Description #thebrightoutdoors (from supplier):

The Bright Outdoors Solar Lantern is a super versatile, super bright light that suits any outdoors activity. Solar powered, you can simply leave it to soak up the sun's rays or plug in to a USB outlet for 6-10 hours of light.

The ingenious design creates 3 products in one: leave closed for a directional flashlight or pull open for a lantern that lights up the campsite or yard. If you need to charge your phone or other device, simply plug into the powerbank (will charge the average smartphone about 50%) 2 different brightness modes let you control the battery life. And there's even an SOS flash setting for when things get rough.

Clever design gives big light (65 lumens) from a package that folds down to just 2 inches high and 3 inches wide. It easily fits in your backpack, cupboard, glove compartment or just about anywhere!
Retail Price: $19.95 but for a limited time a special deal of $9.99 using the code JXGHI872. Find it on Amazon - click here.
Begins January 19
ENDS February 7  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary product to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thin Ice by Irene Hannon

My thoughts: Irene Hannon delves into the twisted world of psychopath and how war culture creates a downward spiral into the insanity that is the life of a psychopath.

Single lady and former Olympic candidate figure skater is frightened enough by messages to seek the aid of the FBI. No one can find a cause for this threat against her and her family. Little did they realize that kindness had backfired on Christy.

By developing characters rich in uplifting qualities and throwing them in the midst of various traumatic life events, the author has written another rich suspense story about men of valor. True the lead character is Christy, a female figure skater, but the male protagonist, Lance, brings strength, wisdom, and experience to bear as he and his coworkers ferret out the psychopath that is wreaking havoc on Christiy's life.

A tense, suspenseful read that is hard to put down.

About the book: If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave?

After losing her parents and her sister, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Now, life is finally starting to feel normal again--until an envelope addressed in her sister's handwriting arrives in the mail. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case . . . but he's coming up with more questions than answers. Is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As Lance digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: someone in the shadows has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and three-time RITA Award winner Irene Hannon pulls out all the stops in this high-stakes thriller that races to a bone-chilling finish.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chat with Jody Hedlund about newest "Light House" novel, Undaunted Hope set in the Great Lakes Basin

After reading three of Jody Hedlund's novels set in the lake area of North America, I have garnered greater respect for the people who were the frontier workers and who have paved the way by the sweat of brow and toil of labor along with the heartache of deprivation from cold and ice and lack of food and medical needs. From ruthless weather and ruthless people. Yes. This was a hard area in which to live and so it is still today. But surely reading about these lighthouse keepers has given insight and made me more appreciative of their labors. And more fearful of these mighty bodies of water within the Great Lakes Basin.
Map of Great Lakes Basin from
Jody Hedlund has graciously answered some questions about writing these books and in particular the latest, Undaunted Hope.

1. How did you come up with the idea for Undaunted Hope?

For this third book in my Michigan lighthouse series, I wanted to pick a location that was different than the other books. The first two books, Love Unexpected and Hearts Made Whole, are set in the "Mitten" of Michigan. So to add variety to the series, I decided to place Undaunted Hope in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in Winter
In doing my research of Michigan lighthouses, I learned that there are lighthouses dotted all over the coast of Lake Superior since it was such a treacherous lake to traverse and an important place for steamers due to the rich natural resources that were available. As I studied the various lighthouses, I finally landed upon Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in the Keweenau Peninsula because not only was the area rich in resources, but it was rich in history and the makings of a really great story!

2. Each of your lighthouse books is set at a real lighthouse that once existed in Michigan or still does exist. Tell us a little about the lighthouse in this third book.
Yes, my first lighthouse book (Love Unexpected) is set at Presque Isle which is on Lake Huron on the north eastern side of the state. The second book (Hearts Made Whole) is set at Windmill Point Lighthouse that once existed on Lake St. Clair near Detroit.

Undaunted Hope is set at Eagle Harbor Lighthouse which is in the far north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In fact, it's about as far north as you can go in Michigan. During the mining boom in the Upper Peninsula, Eagle Harbor saw a rapid increase in the commerce in the area with ships arriving to supply miners as well as load up the valuable copper that was being mined. Due to the dangers of a rocky ledge in the harbor, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse was established in 1851 to guide ships safely to and from the docks in the harbor.

3. What special research did you do in writing Undaunted Hope?

As I wrote this third book in the Beacon's of Hope Lighthouse Series, I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Eagle Harbor and the lighthouse that serves as the setting for this book. In fact, I was able to stay for a whole week in the assistant keeper's cottage that now sits next to the lighthouse.

The large covered front porch of the assistant keeper's house overlooked Eagle Harbor and Lake Superior, so it was a gorgeous view! Every morning I woke up to the sound of the crashing waves and every evening I watched the sunset. It was one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I've ever stayed.

Not only did I get to do in-depth research on the lighthouse (and walk around inside it as many times as I wanted!), but I also was able to research the entire area taking lots of pictures of the lake, flowers, wildlife, and the numerous waterfalls throughout the peninsula. It's a remote wilderness area of Michigan, sparsely populated, and cold! I visited at the end of June and brought short sleeve shirts. I had to wear sweatshirts almost every day instead.

4. The heroines in the first two books actually live in lighthouses. In Undaunted Hope, the heroine is a school teacher. Why did you decide for her to be a school teacher instead of a light keeper?

As I researched the area and the Keweenau Peninsula, I came across the diary of a real school teacher, Henry Hobart, who lived and taught in Clifton which was just a few miles down the road from Eagle Harbor. He wrote a detailed account of his life as a school teacher to the mining children.

I loved reading his diary and learning about all he experienced, especially those unique things that came with being in such a remote area of Michigan and living among the mining community.

I used many of Hobart's experiences in Undaunted Hope. For example, he boarded with a Cornish family, the Rawlings, and Mr. Rawlings was a prominent mine engineer and mechanic. So I had Tessa board with this particular family. Hobart faced many hardships like bedbugs, lice, scarlet fever, the harsh winter, and much more. So again, I had Tessa experience many of those same things.

Eagle Harbor itself has an old one-room school house now known as the Rathbone School House. While it's no longer in use and serves as a museum, during my research trip I was able to visit it. I used it as the inspiration for the school house in this book.

5. The location of Undaunted Hope is in the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan. Tell us a little bit about what makes this setting unique.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is known as "Copper County" because it has a rich vein of copper running down the center of the peninsula. In the 1800's early explorers to the region discovered the copper. And by the mid 1800's miners and their families were flocking to the numerous towns that formed around the mines.

Due to the decline of the copper mining industry in England at approximately the same time as the mining boom in Michigan's UP, many Cornish immigrants came to the Keweenau Peninsula to continue mining. To this day, the Cornish have left a heritage in the area including homemade famous "Pasties" that can be found at most local restaurants. These were the hot meat pies that miners would carry in their pockets down into the mines to eat for their midday meals.

The bustling copper mining community was a rough and wild area that resembled the Old West. If the danger from the mines wasn't enough, the residents also faced incredibly harsh winters where they were cut off from supplies from the lower part of Michigan.

Nowadays, except for a few tourist towns, the area is a graveyard of ghost towns and abandoned mines. During my research trip, I was able to walk deep underground in one of those old mines and get a firsthand look at just how dark, damp, and dangerous the mining life was.

6. This is now the sixth book that you've written with a Michigan setting. What draws you to write stories set in Michigan?

I've lived in central Michigan for the past sixteen years. All but one of my five children have been born in Michigan, and this is where I've raised my family. So Michigan definitely has a special place in my heart.

Not only has it been a wonderful place to raise a family, but it's also a beautiful state. Michigan is a peninsula and is bordered by 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, giving it approximately 3,200 miles of shoreline which is the most of any state except Alaska. Michigan not only has lots of beaches and sand dunes and hiking trails and state parks, but it also is home to the most lighthouses.

Aside from the beauty of the state (which makes for very picturesque book settings!), Michigan has a rich history due to the lumber and mining era that attracted many settlers to the state, but also attracted plenty of colorful and dangerous characters as well.

All that to say, Michigan is full of wonderful, interesting, and fascinating stories of real life people. I've only begun to touch on some of those people, and I hope that I'll be able to bring more of them to life in the future.

7. Do you base the villain in Undaunted Hope on a real Michigan criminal as you do in previous books? If so, who did you pick this time?

The villain, Percival Updegraff, is based on a real rogue from Michigan history, Albert Molitor. Molitor lived in Rogers City and ruled as "king" over his wilderness lumbering community. He controlled who was hired and fired. He had a company store and held a monopoly on all food and merchandise.

He was also a sexual predator. Since he had so much control over the people who worked for him, if he took interest in a woman, he would walk into the woman's house and order her into bed. If she refused or resisted, he'd fire her husband and force the family to leave the company owned home.

He "ruled" this way until the people in the community finally revolted. They held secret meetings to plan to overthrow him. And while it took a couple of attempts, they attempted to assassinate him. He was mortally wounded and eventually died which finally freed the town of his cruelty.

Lake Superior
8. What do you hope readers take away from Undaunted Hope?

I pray that this story will encourage readers with renewed hope. Just like Tessa, I hope that readers will find the strength to face their fears. We all have things that frighten us, and many times we find it easier to run away from those things that scare us. Sometimes, however, God calls us to walk directly into that thing we fear most. He wants us to know that during those times, he's there walking right beside us and that he'll help us come out on the other side stronger as a result.
Begins January 13
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Last Operative by Jerry B. Jenkins

I usually thoroughly enjoy a book by Jerry B. Jenkins. This was no exception. I enjoyed it. I found it interesting and since I'm not an authority on spy-craft or the CIA or NSA, I found it plausible.

I am sure there are more "accurate" stories. I am sure there are more intriguing stories. But I found this good enough for me. It told me a tale about which I had no mental concept - spies who spy upon spies and who then report to unknown authority figures. And then the "operatives" are almost all gone- except The Last Operative who is the main protagonist.

We see him in a tangle where he doesn't know whom he can trust out of those he has trusted most and completely in years and events bygone.

Folks die. Houses are blown to smithereens. Folks are on the run. People lie, steal, spy.

A good read that incorporates faith - faith one has and faith one needs to regain.

DISCLOSURE: I received this via the TyndaleRewards program after earning points. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Get FREE BOOKS via Tyndale Rewards Points for joining and sharing your review links

I just want to ENCOURAGE each of you Chat With Vera readers of the wonderful Tyndale Rewards program. You earn points in a variety of methods (one of which is to put a link to a Tyndale book review in the Tyndale Rewards website) and after you earn points you can select Bibles, children's or teens books, audio, Christian fiction, and other books. A WONDERFUL program. Here is some info on it....

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