Monday, February 29, 2016

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S.Britt [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: What is "normal?" That's the question an eager young scientist hopes to answer as she narrates her very first book. Unfortunately, her exceedingly "normal" subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what's a "normal" scientist to do?

Brightly illustrated and brimming with silly scenes that will have young readers in hysterics, this loving look at the wackiness that makes us all special serves as a gentle reminder that "normal" can’t ever be defined. Norman and his scientist friend will encourage and inspire children to embrace their individuality and be their own “normal” selves.

My thoughts: Of course Norman is the main character and he is aptly brought to delicious life by the illustrator who has used the un-normal coloration of blueish-purple and golds to help Norman in his un-normal way to stand out.

I love the little girl scientist who is a first-time book narrator and "scientist" who is trying to define normal in her book. She is unidentified and is only, "I." (But let's get a shout-out and an encouraging nod to all the little girl would-be scientists and encourage the little girls to pursue the fields of STEM: Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics.)

"I" our narrator is being graded by the head scientist who is an adult male with a beard . And in the end he gives "I" a passing grade because she recognizes that normal cannot be defined. Our little girl scientist goes about observing, recording, and drawing conclusions as she tries to define Normal Norman. (All a part of the scientific process.)

Using this book, a teacher or parent can encourage children to recognize that which is normal to one individual or community might not be normal to another and that we are each valued individuals.

This is a charmingly engaging book with the illustrator using bold black lines and strong pastels for the art work. (Well, using pastels and strong in the same sentence seems to be un-normal, doesn't it?) I love the little girl. I love the big, lumbering gorilla in his purplish colors hugging his favorite stuffed critter. And I love the way the author encourages us to embrace the ordinary, the regular, the common everyday people and critters around us.
Begins February 29
ENDS March 16  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
Some publishers reserve the right to decline winning eligibility if you have won from them in the past 30 days.
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Author: Tara Lazar lives in Basking Ridge, NJ, with her husband, two daughters, and 2,749 stuffed animals. She’s the author of The Monstore, I Thought This Was a Bear Book (both Simon & Schuster), and Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House). Tara founded Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), an annual online writing event held on her award-winning blog at, which has hundreds of registered users and receives tens of thousands of blog hits.  

Illustrator: S.britt (AKA Stephan Britt) first developed his zeal for drawing in childhood, when he drew on anything and everything that wasn’t dripping wet. His first picture book, Over In the Hollow (Chronicle), was a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best. Stephan lives in Portland, OR. Visit him online at

DISCLOSURE: Information and images reprinted with permission from Normal Norman © 2016 by Tara Lazar, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations © 2016 by Stephan Britt. I was provided a copy by the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for the review. The giveaway prize is provided by the publisher and will be shipped directly to the winner by the publisher.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Today it is called "innovative" but then it was call odd and strange - "Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd" by M.T.Anderson

ISBN: 9780763687755
Paperback $7.99
My thoughts: The progression of music through time has taken the listener from primitive drums to the Gregorian Chant and from there to the centuries of great classical music from artists such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Handle. But at the end of the 1800s when Erik Satie began to compose and play his music, it was seen and heard and absurd, loud, ridiculous, and strange.

Erik Satie himself was a bit of an oddity in that he didn't like the ways things were - rules for how music should be, rules for behavior in school, rules for romance, rules for how to dress. He was at odds even with the French avant-garde community of those days.

My three girls took years of piano lessons and studied music on into college. I don't recall their playing any of Satie's compositions though they did play twentieth century composers. So to see just who Erik Satie was and what his music was all about that was so absurd and disruptive, I looked him up and found a plethora of listings online of his music.

Now about this children's biography Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd. I have reviewed another of M.T.Anderson's biographies - Handel and found that he and the illustrators do a magnificent job of presenting these people to the young child. They make it interesting, fun, and informative. And they make the Mommy or Teacher want to research further into the life of the individual and his work.

The quirky life and absurdity of Satie is well captured by Petra Mathers illustrations. The cover illustration of a Satie seated at a grand piano with a jumble of stuff emanating from the sound board interior of the piano is spot on to represent the mixture of sounds Satie incorporated into his music.

The author M.T.Anderson tells the story of Satie's sad and troubled life with an easy style in short lines of prose. He helps the reader garner a bit of an understanding that this troubled man who had a wealth of music stored inside him that was trying to be released and the difficulties he had in coping with the realities of his day.

A terrific children's biography and perhaps it could lead to a study of music styles and troubled artists.

About the book: Throughout his life, Erik Satie wanted to make a new kind of music, a kind of music both very young and very old, very bold and very shy, that followed no rules but its own.

At first glance, Erik Satie looked as normal as anyone else in Paris one hundred years ago. Beyond his shy smile, however, was a mind like no other. When Satie sat down at the piano to compose or play music, his tunes were strange and dreamlike, his melodies topsy-turvy and discordant. Many people hated his music. Few understood it. But to Erik Satie there was sense in nonsense, and the vibrant, surreal compositions of this eccentric man-child would go on to influence many artists.
In a brilliant performance worthy of the composer, M. T. Anderson and Petra Mathers present a picture-book biography of the singular Erik Satie.

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

Thinking back to an earlier time.... a button jar..... and tea towels from men's shirts

Sometimes it behooves us to pause and think back to an earlier time, a slower pace, a less privileged people, and a way of life almost lost to us.

Think back to when people didn't throw out worn out items or outgrown clothes. No, they utilized every bit that they could.

Take a man's shirt that is worn out at the collar - their neck has simply worn the fold of the collar threadbare. The same is true of the cuffs of his long sleeve shirts. In that "earlier time of make-do," ladies would carefully remove collar and cuffs and "turn" them. That means she put the outside on the inside. You couldn't simply turn the cuffs. I believe you had to replace or shorten them to hide the worn edges.

And then when nothing would work to make the shirt wearable anymore, you simply cut out the back of the shirt, squared off the edges, and hemmed it with a narrow hem. This could become a "dish towel," tea towel, a napkin, or an all-purpose cover for bread, cakes, etc. Just imagine everyone in the family having their own favorite "napkin" made from dad's shirt.

Then take the woman's coat. It has become a bit threadbare or doesn't fit anymore. Take it completely apart. Press the pieces. Then take a child's pattern for a coat or jacket and make it into a different outer wear coat.

You can remake any larger garment into something suitable for a child if you are careful in choosing your pattern and you have sufficient pieces from the larger garment.

Don't forget the "button jar." Save buttons from any discarded garment. These are real handy when you need to replace a lost button from another garment. And if it is kept through the years and passed down from one generation to the next...... well, there would be stories to tell about buttons found in the button jar.

Quilts of today are mostly made of brand new material in special patterns. However, in that earlier time, the basic patchwork quilt was made using scraps from any and every garment. As I said earlier about using the back of a man's shirt for a tea towel, the rest of the shirt would make quilt scraps. And then, of course, the buttons would be clipped and put into the treasured button jar.

So while we thoroughly enjoy the blessings and comforts and ease-of-life that today's world has enabled us to all have, it pays us to touch base from time to time and remind ourselves that some things from an "earlier time" are worth remembering and worth doing a bit of, perhaps.

Healthy, fresh food with #EVOO from Bellucci Premium - Fast Track to Italy Bellucci Olive Oil Giveaway

Cooking "Southern" is really a way of eating and today's cooking "Southern" differs a bit from what it was 50 years ago. As a Southern lady who has cooked "Southern" for a l-o-n-g time, I can say that it simply is not going to go away. It is here to stay and we Southerners like it.

Now that doesn't mean that other types of cooking are not just as good, it just means a difference. When I cook "Southern" I don't use animal fats the way we used to do. We used ham hocks (end shank of ham with lots of taste), streak-o-lean, bacon drippins, etc. But thanks to being more educated about our health and good nutrition, we "don't do that anymore"! I've been using Olive Oil for quite awhile now to season my Southern foods. I saute with light olive oil and season with extra virgin.

That is good for the heart and general health. I recently learned more really good facts about olive oil. Folks, there is a difference in olive oils. I thought purchasing the more expensive oils in the grocery store was doing good. But there is still a better way to determine what you're using and how good it is.

I'm learning that extra virgin doesn't always mean extra good. There is actual fraud in the olive oil market. The Bellucci olive oils can be traced to where the olives were harvested and when.  You can trace where grown and harvested and when. You can trace them to the bottle you hold in your hand. Grab the information on how you can do this. Lots of good information can be gleaned about these terrific olive oils from an App that you can download from their website.

Here are some things I've been doing as I "Cook Southern" using the Bellucci Premium Olive Oils..... 

(Keep in mind, that there is a plethora of cooking styles and in any cooking style, you can add quality and excellent taste.)

Cooking fresh salmon: I marinated it in lemon juice and Bellucci 100% Italian Organic EVOO with salt, pepper, and paprika.Then I baked it until done and nicely browned.

Dinner of fresh salmon, canned garden peas seasoned with basil,
chopped onion, and Bellucci EVOO. The bread is cheddar biscuits.

Another evening I prepared a couple dishes using Bellucci Toscano PGI EVOO. Oh, this is a wonderful EVOO. The fragrance and taste are superb!

Using Bellucci Toscano PGI EVOO: I cut Yukon Gold potatoes in 1/8 slices. Seasoned them with salt, pepper, basil, and thyme. After drizzling the Toscano EVOO generously over all, I tossed making sure all sides were liberally coated with oil and seasonings. Baked at 425 until they were toasty done. The Yukon Gold potato is my "go to" potato.
Now we're going to go with that "Southern cooking" and doing it really healthy and flavorful. Using the Bellucci Toscano PGI EVOO, I prepared turnip greens with diced turnip root (this is a frozen product). Seasoned simply with salt and pepper and a generous amount of the Toscano EVOO, I cooked it until soft and tender - truly Southern. This Toscano EVOO was truly wonderful with the greens.
In preparing tonight's dish of vegetables, I chose the Bellucci Premium with the red heart on the label. It is 100% Italian EVOO Primary cultivars: Coratina, Ogliarola and Carolea as cultivars; Origin: Puglia. Veggies chosen were sweet onion, yellow squash, and broccoli. I cut the onion and squash and seasoned with Mrs. Dash (yellow lid), an herbal seasoning, and salt. I liberally drizzled the 100% Italian from Puglia over the chopped veggies. Then I lidded the pot and placed it on a med-high burner (NO water). Allowing it to very lightly brown and create it's own juices as it slightly caramelized. 

As the squash and onions began to slightly brown on bottom and as onions began to take on a transparency, I placed the broccoli atop. I did not stir. Again, I lidded the pot and allowed to carmelize and tenderize. The broccoli simply steams in place.

Serving the carmelized and tender squash and onions separated from the broccoli on the serving platter. Very tasty and I absolute loved this 100% Italian EVOO from Puglia.

How to Recognize True Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Here are 5 Tips for recognizing REAL Extra Virgin Olive Oil: (source - click here)

  • Be suspicious of any extra virgin olive oil that costs less than $10 a liter.
  • Look for a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC).
  • Look for a harvesting date on the label
  • Anything labeled light, pure, or a blend isn’t virgin quality.
  • Shop for oils in dark bottles.  This protects the oil from oxidation.
  • Also, Extra virgin olive oil solidifies when it’s cold. You can put it in the refrigerator and it should become cloudy and thicken.  If it’s doesn’t then it’s not pure extra virgin.
3-bottle pack Bellucci Premium Olive Oils
Begins February 26
ENDS March 17  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
You may not win this same prize from another contest host.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided the 3-bottle pack of Bellucci Premium EVOO to facilitate this review. Opinions and review is solely my own. I was not compensated for the review. Giveaway set of three bottles is provided by Bellucci directly to the winner.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"One Big Family" by Marc Harshman, Sara Palacios (Illustrations)

About the book: A lovely celebration of family ties. When you have a big family, reunions can be loud and chaotic. But as this cheerful book demonstrates, they can also be tons of fun! From canoeing down the river to getting chased by bees to telling ghost stories around the campfire, the reunion is filled with adventures for the whole family, even the pets! But when the vacation comes to an end, will everyone be able to keep the memories they've shared? With sunny illustrations by Sara Palacios, Marc Harshman's winsome story evokes all the joys of summer vacation and family togetherness.

My thoughts: This is a warm tale of a family - extended family covering several generations and branches. It is easy to see from the illustrations that they all stem from the same DNA - hence the freckles, red hair, brown hair, and burnt seinna hair. Their faces are all quite similar. Yes, this is a family.

Not only are they linked by their DNA, they are linked by their joy of being together and doing stuff together - eating breakfast, swinging, swimming, picnicking. The story reminds me of a family reunion trip where they all come together from the four corners of their world and reunite as a family bringing opportunities for the young cousins and aunties and uncles to all get to know and fully embrace one another.

The non-rhyming prose (or verse) ends each stanza or thought with a key word in bold print. Opportunities galore for read-aloud sessions with youngsters joining in with the big bold word. I like that contrasts was used some as well... "When the sun stays hot and the water stays cold, little brother says let's swim."

This is a good book to read to youngsters preparing to go to a family reunion or already there with cousins, aunts, and uncles.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Eeerdman's Publishing Co. to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for the review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Snuggle Time Prayers by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Cee Biscoe, Published by Zondervan

ISBN: 9780310749325
Board Book $9.99
About the book: Snuggle Time Prayers, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Cee Biscoe, is a perfect bedtime collection of fifteen prayers for young children, intended to help them draw closer to God as they drift off to sleep.

My thoughts: Adorable! Simply adorable and sweet!

A perfectly sized little book of assorted prayers to help guide your little one on a path of Godly living knowing that God is always there for him or her.

The sweetness of these illustrations by Cee Biscoe will capture your heart and that of your little one as well.

Clenys Neellist has penned some lovely lines of prayerful thoughts that can be read to the child at any time of the day or evening. Well, after all, any time is a good time for Snuggle Time Prayers.

Where's God?

"You can be just as sure that my glory fills the whole earth" Numbers 14:21

God, you're in the sunshine.
God, you're in the breeze.
God, you're in the clouds above.
God, you're in the seas.

God, you're in the moonlight.
God, you're in the air.
God, you're in the stars that shine.
God, you're everywhere!

I highly recommend this sweet little book for shower gifts, grandma gifts, and just anytime or any occasion gifts for a mommy or a sweet little one to treasure.

I don't know what version of Scripture is being used and I am assuming it might be a paraphrase since I don't see acknowledgement of a version, The King James is my preferred version and the above verse would read..... "But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." Numbers 14:21 (KJV)

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blogger Review Program to facilitate this review for ZonderKidz. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

Monday, February 22, 2016

White (The Restoration Trilogy, #1) by Denise Weimer [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: As historic preservationist Jennifer and brooding bachelor Michael restore his ancestors’ historic doctor’s residence in a rural Georgia community, they uncover the 1920s-era prejudice and secrets that caused Michael’s branch to fall off the family tree. Recent graduate Jennifer is determined to fulfill her first professional position with integrity even if her employer lacks a proper appreciation of history.

With the restoration of each building, Michael, Jennifer and a cast of endearing characters uncover three lessons of heart healing from three different centuries (WHITE, 1920; WIDOW, 1870; and WITCH, 1790) that they learn to apply to their own lives and community. Far more challenging—and sinister—than the social landscape of Hermon are the strange accidents hinting that someone doesn’t want them on the Dunham property. Yet Michael’s and Jennifer’s own pasts pose the biggest obstacles to laying a fresh foundation of family and community. The Restoration Trilogy melds humor and heartache to show how only God, The Master Renovator, can heal our most broken places.

My thoughts:  This is a short novel in which the author plows the rocky fields of current and past people's lives turning furrows that reveal histories that are troubling.

The back story, though several generations before the current timeline, is the root of the current tale where Jennifer the historic restoration preservationist stumbles and sloshes through the mire of the troubled deep South's roots involving relationships between races.

I enjoyed the characters of Jennifer and Michael once the story got to rolling along. I felt the ending and their relationship were left hanging. Perhaps in the next book in this Restoration Trilogy, Widow, we'll see their relationship blossom.

Having grown up in the deep South myself and in a home built around 1860, I appreciated the romp through the historical elements of the home itself as they discussed the restoration project. (No, I didn't grow up on a plantation, just a simple city home in the historic section of a Southern city. Mantels and fire places in every room. Wide floor boards. Wainscoting. High ceilings. )

The spiritual elements of the book were very good but some might find the discussions a bit preachy. This is to be expected since it is Christian fiction.
Begins February 22
ENDS March 8 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I received an advance review copy from the author with a request to review it. I received no compensation for doing so. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tortoise and Hare's Amazing Race Written by Marianne Berkes & Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

ISBN 9781628556407
$9.95 Paperback
Ages 4-8, Grades K-3
A retelling of the classic story with a math twist. Henry Hare was always bragging about how fast he was. One day he challenges Tessie Tortoise to a mile-long race up the hill. Henry leaps ahead for the first eighth of a mile. As Tessie approaches, he bounds ahead again. Fractions and distance measurements mark their progress as Tessie and Henry race to the finish line.

Find it here on Arbordale Publishing

My thoughts: First of all, the illustrations by Cathy Morrison are simply charming. Realistic critters and yet captivatingly fun to look at and filled with character.

And then Marianne Berkes sets forth with her retelling of the old tried and true Aesop's Fable of the Tortoise's and the Hare's Race. Of course, we all know that the fast and furious pace of Henry Hare doesn't get the winning results in the end. It is the slow, methodical plodding of the Tortoise that wins the day.

But the story in this cute book is not simply that of which critter will get to the finish line. The story involves understanding measuring distance  and talking about it in different terms - yards in a mile, feet in a mile. But story also teaches the lessons of not playing around, not sleeping on the job, and being steadfast. Lots of fun and educational opportunities in this fun book.

I just love the "For Creative Minds Pages" that Arbordale puts at the back of these books. They aid teachers and parents in directing the children's minds for further knowledge. Taking them beyond the fun story and pictures to critical thinking and discovering of new ideas.

Take a look at these "For Creative Minds Pages" - the link is for that special section as shown on the Arbordale Publishing website. CLICK HERE

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

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Big Surprise for Little Card (Candlewick Press Picture Book) by Charise Mericle Harper and illustrated by Anna Raff

40 pages, Ages 4-8
Hardcover ISBN: 9780763674854
About the book: Fall in love with a disarming picture-book hero in this quirky ode to spirit, identity, and the joy of having (or being) a library card.

In the world of cards, each one has a special job to do. Big Card keeps important papers in order. Tiny Card can be exchanged for a prize in an arcade. Round Card hangs out in a glamorous boutique. But is any card as lucky as Little Card? He’s going to school to become a birthday card — in other words, to sing, play games, eat cake, and be happy all day long. But wait! On the day he’s supposed to take his talents into the world, Long Card tells him there’s been a mix-up and they need to trade jobs. How can Little Card bring his exuberance into a library, a quiet place of books and rules and hushing? Offbeat and utterly endearing, this tale of a little guy who gives it all he’s got is complete with a sweet twist and a surprise ending.

My thoughts: As a child growing up, I only used the school library as directed and required by my teachers. I don't recall the delightful world of children's picture books, and yet surely there were delightful picture books during that time. However, as my own children came along, I discovered and came to love this special world that engages, educates, and entertains the young child - from the time when my own children just looked at pictures and identified objects and people to where there are lots of words and even a "chapter" story within the colorful pages. My children and their children grew to have a great love and fondness for books and for the treat of "going to the library."

In A Big Surprise for Little Card the author and artist help the reader enter a world of whimsy and, yes, fantasy as they discover a variety of cards being manufactured and put to use through "training." As it turns out, "long card" and "little card" are trained as birthday cards. But little card is not needed and is sent instead to work as a "library card."

Once in the library, little card discovers that a library doesn't use the skills he learned as a birthday card. Birthday cards engage in loud games, excitement, and singing. Library cards don't do any of this. They work with the librarian to keep the library quiet and check out books.

The illustrations are quite cute and there are lots of fun details to look at. The illustrations are multicolored and yet soft. The drawings and "characters" bring a lot of vibrancy and excitement to the story.

This is a fun book and will help children learn a bit about their library and the library card though I see it mainly as a book to entertain the child.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Candlewick Press to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own, alone. I was not compensated for this review.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Introduction to Cultures: If You Were Me and Lived In Italy [Review & Giveaway 1 Grand prize = set of books, + 5 will win a copy of ITALY]

The last half of the school year is well underway and students may be studying various peoples, lands, continents, and cultures. It always helps for them to have previously been introduced to it even at a pretty young age. Carole P. Roman is a former teacher and knows how to introduce cultures to students. Let your imagination travel to far away lands and see just what it might be like if you lived in......
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Ms. Roman's book on ITALY is by far my most favorite of her culture books. She captures the essence of Italy in the illustrations consisting of photographic images as well as the usual drawings.

Did you know that Italy is in the shape of a boot? It is surrounded on three sides by water and is the home of one of history's largest conquering country - Rome.

Learn of popular names for boys and girls as well as what you would call your parents.

Ms. Roman touches on the rich history of Italy and this is definitely an asset to the book. (Tucked away in the corners along with page numbers is a tiny picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.)

The Mediterranean area - especially Italy, is well know for its food. A brief look at what the grandmother might serve you to eat in Italy is good.

At the end of the book there is are several pages of words with definitions that are good to know about Italy.

To date, Carole P. Roman has written and printed about 15 of the If You Were Me and Lived in…… books. Chat With Vera has reviewed most of these. I invite you to read my reviews and see if these might be good books to add to the library of that special child of yours. They are especially nice to have on hand in the home school library or school classroom library.
(1st) A complete set of the "If You Were Me...." books
(2nd) 5 winners will each win a copy of Italy
Begins February 18 & ENDS March 10  @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: The author provided a complimentary copy of  If You Were Me and Lived In Italy in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway prizes are provided by the author and sent directly to the winners.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FONUSLIGHT! by VODIY is Super Bright LED Lamp. Portable, Water Resistant and Shock Proof. Battery Powered Flashlight is Perfect for Camping, Hiking, Emergency and Outdoor Use [Review &Giveaway]

Find it online here at VOIDY

Review: This is quite a lamp/lantern. A terrific gadget to have along on an outdoors excursion or around the house for emergencies. It has a very bright light that will provide illumination for a good area.

The strobe feature is especially nice. It even is in SOS code. And the red light feature is nice if you're in an emergency - roadside, for example. The red light is in fixed mode or strobe as well (but not SOS mode).

The hangers on the end and the study flip up hanger are all especially nice. Constructed of stury, durable materials will make this lantern a lasting product for the user. Being waterproof makes it even more appealing for outdoors use. The on/off button lights up as well as being indicative of the status of the 3 "D" batteries required to operate the Lantern. If this terrific lantern has a down-side, in my opinion it would be that it runs solely on "D" batteries. If it included a solar cell as well, it would be virtually unstoppable.

 I showed this terrific lantern to my adult son who loves to hunt and fish and he is "wowed" by it. I think he just might be hinting for one to be wrapped for birthday or tucked under the Christmas tree next year. Or perhaps he is hinting that he'd like to have mine. Hmmm...., we'll have to see.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION Excellent Brightness at a Superior Value (from Vodiy website)

Fonuslight is the one solution for your ideal lantern. It is the brightest lantern on the market that is equipped with the leading innovative CREE XM- L U2 LED technology. When you purchase this lantern you will be well armed for camping, hiking, emergency and power outage. May purchase here

Fonuslight features

Fonuslight distinguishes itself with its versatility by offering six modes of lighting including 4 white and 2 red lights. Additionally, pressing down the on/off button for two seconds will turn the light off in any mode - a feature unique to Fonuslight. The removable outer globe cover reduces glare, delivers optimal light distribution and amply illuminates any work surfaces.
  • SUPERIOR QUALITY - military grade materials. Triple seal base makes it rain, moisture and condensation proof. Rubber coating of both top and the base resists drop impact.
  • ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY - innovative CREE LED for white light and 3030 SMD LED for red light. 3 D batteries (not included) that provide up to 6 days of power.
  • PRACTICAL USE - maximum of 350 lumens, 6 lighting modes include 4 white and 2 red light modes. Red LED for enhanced night vision. Waterproof level IPx-4.
Begins February 17
ENDS March 9  @ 12:01 a.m. ET.
 Open to USA addresses only.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor  in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received a complimentary or low-cost product to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated. Giveaway product is provided by Fonuslight Vodiy and will be sent by them directly to the winner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Joshua's Mission by Vannetta Chapman [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: Joshua's Mission is a new standalone novel in the Plain and Simple Miracles collection from popular author Vannetta Chapman. These stories of love and family and Amish community in Oklahoma tell of the miracles that can happen when lives are lived in service to God and to one another.

Joshua Kline travels from his farm in Oklahoma to offer aid to an Englisch town on the gulf coast of Texas after a category 4 hurricane has ravaged the area. He brings his brother with him, who needs a change of environment. The last thing he wants for Alton is another brush with the law. He is pleasantly surprised when he hears that Becca Troyer, the bishop's granddaughter, plans on joining their team.

What will Joshua find when he arrives in Texas? A lack of electricity, certainly, which poses little problem for the Amish volunteers as they help restore order from destruction. But a budding romance? A call from God? And a possible healing of his relationship with Alton?

Joshua's Mission is a story of love, forgiveness, and the grace of God that carries us through even the worst situations.
Vannetta Chapman writes fiction Full of Grace!
My thoughts: Cracking the spine of a new Vannetta Chapman book is always a pleasure and an adventure. I always know that I will be reading a satisfying story told within the bounds of Christian morals and priorities. Joshua's Mission was no exception.

Using a technique where two stories in two different locations are running along the same timeline with totally different themes and characters, Chapman tells about the coastal area of Texas bracing for a super horrendous hurricane and a quiet, unassuming community of Amish are going about their daily lives living plain and dealing with personal issues. As each community reaches a climatic event of either meteorologic proportions or Spiritual and family centric, their blending into one cohesive group ministering together becomes a reality.

I grew up in a North Carolina coastal city and we had some devastating hurricanes. Until you've truly experienced the massive destruction these huge and ferocious storms vent, you can not truly comprehend them. Chapman has written a revealing and realistic description of a hurricane impacting a beach community and the people who live there.

I found that the story revolving around a Mennonite Disaster Service organization to be an eye opener. I did not know this existed. It is a real service organization. Again Chapman brings realistic truth into the story.

This is a highly recommended book that you can offer early teens through grandma to read and feel comfortable about sharing with them. And I think you'll love Charlie's dog, Quitz.
Begins February 16
ENDS March 7 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the author to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own, alone. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway copy is provided by the author directly to the winner.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor #1) by Dani Pettrey from Bethany House Publishing

About the book: In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled.

After ending his career as a SWAT-team sniper, Griffin McCray is working as a park ranger when skeletal remains are unearthed. To Griffin’s shock, the FBI agent put on the case is Declan Gray, a friend he lost touch with after a tragic loss. With charming anthropologist Finley Scott’s help, can Griffin confront his past—and escape this web of murder alive?

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed Dani Pettrey's writing skills and the way she developed the characters in Cold Shot through conversation, description, and actions. The story begins with a rush of excitement and proceeds in an intriguing assortment of details and characters that kept this reader enthralled.

A hard to put down book that kept me wondering just who the villain was and if the quartet's missing friend was going to emerge in the story. 

I look forward to reading Chesapeake Valor #2 by Ms. Pettrey as Cold Shot has left me hankering for more of these folks lives and adventures.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Moisturizing Spa Socks - Gel Infused with Essential Oils Soften Feet, Lavender fragrance from Kilimanjaro Health & Beauty [Review & Giveaway]

Remembering the joy of many summers of running on the hot beach sand near my home and years of dance lessons which don't deal kindly with one's feet, I have feet with a few tough spots and thick skin that definitely needs a bit of care. 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.

These 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.

Using these treatment spa socks on a regular basis can lead to prettier, softer feet. I am thoroughly enjoying mine. Now you have an opportunity to try to win your own pair or you can click on the link below to purchase a pair right away.
GIVEAWAY - Lavender Scent Gel Spa Socks
Begins February 13
ENDS March 6  @ 12:01 a.m. ET 
Open to USA addresses only
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

  • MOISTURIZING SOCKS Lined with BEST GEL release vitamin E & essential oils, soften rough cracked dry feet.
  • Powerful mix of THERAPEUTIC OILS soothe, relieve pains, disinfect skin, enhance blood circulation.
  • BEST on the market with choice of 2 beautiful colors for you or offer as a gift to your loved ones.
  • Your satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, so buy with confidence start pampering your feet with soothing oils.
Available on Amazon - CLICK HERE 
DISCOUNT CODE: HQ6YZNBO for $3 off any pair of spa socks, valid until 3/31. 
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.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Amazing Neck Firming Cream from ANAITI - Advanced Dermatology Anti-Aging Skin Care

I try to regularly nourish my facial skin including under the chin, the neck, and upper chest area. Anaiti has a formula specifically for providing anti-aging, anti-wrinkle skin care for the neck and décolleté (upper chest).  I've been using it for a few days - twice daily, and I have found it to feel delightful on my skin. The scent is ever-so-slight and very pleasant.

Of course, a few days is not time enough to say if it works or not in preventing wrinkles and sagging. However, I firmly believe that keeping my skin moisturized with a quality lotion or cream is paramount to having good skin that appears to age less than it might for my age bracket.

So I believe that using the Anaiti Neck Firming Cream can benefit if regularly used in one's skin care regime. And please note that Chat With Vera firmly believes that men should care for their skin as well by using products such as this one. So men,..... Anaiti Neck Firming Cream will work for you, too, and it doesn't smell "girly."

Product information - from Anaiti

  • STATE OF THE ART FORMULA. Breakthrough ingredients MATRIXYL and SESAFLASHTM are highly effective at all major signs of aging. 
  • CUSTOMERS REPORT VISIBLE RESULTS: SESAFLASHTM promotes instant skin tightening so the benefits of a more youthful appearance can be yours very quickly. Continual application can result in an overall improvement in the condition of your skin.
  • ACHIEVE YOUR BEST YOU! This anti-aging, anti-wrinkle skin care product for neck and décolleté helps to lift, tighten and firm sagging skin. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and deeply moisturizes the skin, giving you more youthful looking skin.
  • RISK FREE SHOPPING: Made in certified facilities in Canada. Cruelty-free, non-toxic and paraben-free, using naturally-derived ingredients.

#AnaitiNeckCream DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary product from Anaiti to facilitate this review. I used the product and opinions are solely my own. I was not compensated for the review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kissed by a Cowboy (Four of Hearts Ranch #3) by Debra Clopton [Review & Giveaway]

About the book: Cassidy was looking for a home and a place to belong . . . not for a cowboy to steal her heart.

Having lived through her parents’ endless string of “matrimonial bliss gone wrong,” Cassidy Starr knows when the odds are not in her favor. Divorced and humiliated, her faith on rocky ground, Cassidy is through with love. She’s been bucked off that horse far too many times. Instead, she returns to Wishing Springs, Texas, and the rundown farm she’s inherited from her great aunt Roxie. She’ll reopen the strawberry farm and a bed & breakfast and follow in her aunt’s footsteps, remaining forever-independent, happy . . . and single.

Rancher Jarrod Monahan’s hands are full running the ranch, looking after his ailing grandfather, and chasing down a group of rustlers on the loose. He’s pushed his longing for a family to the bottom of his list of priorities. Besides, he was in love once but ran scared and lost his shot at happiness. But suddenly, the biggest regret of his life has moved in next door with a wounded heart, determined to become a spinster . . . and that’s a challenge that Jarrod can’t pass up.

Jarrod sets his mind to breaking down the walls around Cassidy’s stubborn heart. How can he show her that a cowboy’s kiss lasts forever?  For the good folks of Wishing Springs, falling in love has never been so much fun to witness.2/23

My thoughts: Debra Clopton writes an entertaining contemporary story, and this third in the series was awaited with anticipatory thoughts of fun and relaxed reading. I was not disappointed on that level. I knew with a title such as "Kissed by....." that it might entail more kissing than I like for my reading and reviewing. But I do enjoy Ms. Clopton's stories, so I dove into reading it.

The story is warm and entertaining and the characters realistic, charming, quirky, lovable.  The little town has a bit of everything and a heaping dose of friendliness and caring.

Cassidy has returned to the home of her beloved aunt deceased for several years. Seeking a new life in a new place following her divorce after eight years married to a man who has been grossly unfaithful to her, she desires to establish a Bed and Breakfast and small business on this inherited property she loves. It is close by the ranch of the man who previously broke her heart prior to her marriage.

So Cassidy is dealing with the aftermath of divorce, refurbishing and refitting the property to ready it for her dreamed future, and trying to convince everyone she is not interested in a new relationship with a man. But then there is a whole lot 'o kissing going on.

This is not a story I would particularly want to pass along to a teen. While it is not truly offensive, some things you just need to keep a bit low key.
Begins February 9
ENDS February 25  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Step by Step (Crisis Team #2) by Candace Calvert [Review & Giveaway]

ISBN: 978-1-4143-9034-5
Paperback $14.99
About the book: Three years after a tragic accident left her a widow, ER nurse Taylor Cabot is determined to move on, checking off one item after another on her survival list. Her relationship with a handsome plastic surgeon even gives her hope for the last point—“fall in love again.” At least until crisis chaplain Seth Donovan steps back into her life, reawakening unanswered questions about her husband’s death.

While in San Diego to train community volunteers, Seth hopes to learn why Taylor is backing away from the crisis team and from their friendship. But nothing prepares him for the feelings that arise when he sees Taylor again . . . and sees her moving on with another man.
When a community crisis hits home and puts lives at risk, emotions run high and buried truths are unearthed. Will hope make the survival list?

My thoughts: Candace Calvert does not disappoint. Again she has brought compassionate medical care rendered with the expertise about which only a medical professional could write. This time a new dimension is brought to the table of healing - crisis care by chaplains and caring volunteers. Just as there is a need for someone to patch up and mend broken bodies, there is a need for someone to nourish and gently care for the wounded spirit and soul of those broken by tragedy or who have to endure the loss of a loved one through tragedy.

As the characters are introduced and their flawed personalities or their own broken spirits are fleshed out, we step into scene after scene deftly described and detailed by the author. Forgiveness enters into the story. Tragedy. Healing. Revelation of past secrets. Hope for healed and mended futures. And yes, a sweet love story.

This is a good, clean read that is safe to hand over to any teen or grownup. This is Christian fiction and the thread of faith is delicately woven throughout.
Begins February 7
ENDS February 29  @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the author to facilitate a review. These are my own opinions and I was not compensated to review the book.

Giveaway: $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate

I am hosting a $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate giveaway in conjunction with my review of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Check it out.....

GIVEAWAY - 2 Winners
(1st) "All Things Bright and Beautiful"
(2nd) $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate
Begins February 2
ENDS February 16 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. 
 Open to USA addresses only.
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.
Disclosure: A copy of All Things Bright and Beautiful was provided by Worthy-Ideals Publishing to facilitate a review. Giveaway copy of book is provided by Ideals directly to the winner. A $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate is provided by and sent to winner directly by Family Christian. Only 1 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate per month is allowed to be won - discretion of Family Christian.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book by Daria Song

Korean artist Daria Song’s sequel to The Time Garden takes readers on a visual journey into a magical nighttime world seen through the eyes of a fairy.

This second book in the bestselling Time coloring series features the voyage of a fairy who, when the cuckoo clock chimes midnight, enters the human world. To the tiny fairy, everything seems enormous and magical, from the curtains to the chandelier to a mystical rowboat that takes her further into an inky adventure. With her she packs her favorite items, which one can find throughout the book’s pages: an owl-feathered pen, a star-scented spray, a time tape measure…even the key to the time chamber itself!

Filled with the imaginative, intricately detailed illustrations Song’s readers have come to love, The Time Chamber presents a view of our world made new—and ready for coloring.

The Time Chamber features extra-thick craft paper, ideal for non bleed-through coloring, and the jacketed cover with flaps is removable and colorable. Special gold-foil stamping on the cover and spine and a To/From page make it perfect for gifting to adults and kids alike.
My thoughts: This was my first excursion and experience with an adult coloring book. I found it interesting and certainly intriguing in the story and artistic line. Daria Song has created a sweet little fairy that lives in a clock. She leaves the clock - The Time Chamber - and visits the bedroom of a little girl while she sleeps.

The book provides opportunity to find repeated use of images. The very detailed drawings will provide opportunity for anyone that enjoys coloring with pencils or gel markers a tool with which they can let their imaginations run amok with splashes of color to fill in the black and white pages.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Blogging for Books review program on behalf of the publisher and author/artist to facilitate this review. I was not compensated.

Friday, February 5, 2016

GL-Sail(TM) Fine Art Oil Colored Pencil for Drawing and Sketching and Pencil Wrap (Set of 48 Assorted Colors)

It has been years since I've colored and most of the time it was with my young children using crayons, watercolor paints, or children's inexpensive coloring pencils. The new trend of adult coloring books and quality coloring pencils finally caught my attention and so here we are - Chat With Vera is coloring!

To do that you need a well designed coloring book (this is not your typical coloring book, folks) and a quality set of pencils with which to fill in those teeny, tiny artistic and fantasy style books. I had the opportunity to get a set of GL-Sail Fine Art Oil Colored Pencils to do this. The set of 48 arrived securely with not a point broken.

The range of colors is very nice and you can go from barely there to fairly intense color. Not strikingly intense, though. There is a strong leaning in this selection toward the neutrals and shades of blue - browns, beautiful greys, blues, slates, and a silver and a gold. I fully expected points to snap easily when applying pressure to deepen the color. This has not happened so far. I don't know if these are "artist grade," but I do know they are very nice and much better than the run-of-the-mill coloring pencils.

There is also a case that you can use to protect and carry the pencils around. It is heavy material with little pockets for each and every pencil. It will protect really well. And the design of the material is awesome!
Pencils are all spread out and I've begun to color this fantasy tale.

The case is beautiful, with vibrant colors and a striking design. It can be rolled to a compact size and tied securely with the rope/tie protecting your pencils as you carry them around with you.
Vera's first attempt at using the pencils and
experimenting with pressure and position.
So..... are you ready to begin the journey into adult coloring? There is plethora of styles of books available and these GL-Sail Fine Art Oil Colored Pencils will work very nicely for you.

Product information (from GL-Sail) - See it on Amazon - click here

  • 48 Exclusive Assorted Colors: You can vary the color of the pencil to achieve different effects. The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look, but using gradient color will make a soothing atmosphere of the drawing.
  • Practicability in Use: Ideal for Secret Garden Adult Coloring Books, Artist Sketch Scrapbooking&Sketching! Great pens to sketch, draw, doodle, write and get creative in a fun and skilled way. 
  • Ultra Quality: With stream-lined design of pencil holder and super fine tip ensure smooth and comfortable writing and drawing. The strong tip prevents from breaking, ensuring a longer life for your pencil.
  • Easy and Convenient to Carry-on: The pencil wrap helps keep your color pens always organized. And each pencil can be stored in its own individual insert.
  • Security Assurance: It is a lead-free and non-toxic oil colored pencil, which are made using wood from sustainable forests. Children or adults may use it safely. Perfect gift for painting lovers.

I received my pencils are a nicely discounted price to help facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated to do the review.