Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall & illustrated by Benji Davies [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: At first glance upon picking up Also An Octopus one thinks, "Oh! Another adorable kiddie picture book." But then upon delving into this first-time author's debut (redundant, huh!) book, there is a bit more meat to the story than cutsie octopuses and kiddies and fantastic folks in unreal places.

Now we don't want to overthink a kid's book because that might just take away from the fun of reading. But what is the harm in discovering that the "rest of the story" is the beginning of the story or the making of the story.

We start with a character - like a kid. We add in others - also an Octopus and that makes for fun - and as they say, "...a little bit of nothing." And then if you struggle through the making of the story and it flops, then you can take that and a little bit of nothing and go again for another try.

So it is cute story line that encourages and gives a basic story structure beginning with "..a little bit of nothing." And it is also simply a cute kid's picture book with delightful characters, smiles, happiness, and positive thoughts.

About the book: Even the most totally awesome story starts with a little bit of nothing. What happens next is up to you! A delightfully meta picture book that will set imaginations soaring.

It begins with an octopus who plays the ukulele. Since this is a story, the octopus has to want something—maybe to travel to faraway galaxies in a totally awesome purple spaceship. Then the octopus sets out to build a spaceship out of soda cans, glue, umbrellas, glitter, and waffles. OK, maybe the octopus needs some help, like from an adorable bunny friend, and maybe that bunny turns out to be . . . a rocket scientist? (Probably not.) But could something even more amazing come to pass?
GIVEAWAY - 2 winners each win a copy
Begins December 1
ENDS December 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to US/CANADA. No PO Boxes
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press to failitate a review of my honest opinions which are freely given. Giveaway copy is provided and mailed directly to winner by Candlewick.

The Lion Picture Puzzle Bible by Peter Martin & illustrated by Len Epstein

My thoughts: Children love picture puzzle books because they are fun, intriguing, and provide more to do than just read a story. In The Lion Picture Puzzle Bible the author Peter Martin tells short stories beginning in the Old Testament with Noah and ending in the New Testament after the Cross with telling the good news. To these short re-tells, Len Epstein brings his delightfully humorous drawings that show a two--page spread image jammed full of people and activities that tell the story.

Factor into this the opportunity to find specific images that are hiding in the maze that is the whole illustration, and you have fun combined with learning a little more about those wonderful events and people that are in our Bible.

Some might say that these types of books make too much jest of such serious topics and happenings. I can agree with that but I also see it as an opportunity that lets the kids know that Christians do have a sense of humor and can see a bit of fun in much of life.

So I think Bible Picture Puzzle books have a place, albeit limited, in the homes of Christians.

About the book: Are you a super sleuth? Have you got an eagle eye? This book is a treasure trove of wonderfully detailed pictures from the world of the Bible. You will have hours of fun trying to find people and objects from ancient times. As you exercise your brain solving the puzzles, you will also become a real expert on the fascinating setting of some of the Bible’s greatest stories. Watch out for the wily fox. He’s hiding somewhere on every page.

DISCLOSURE; I was provided a complimentary copy by Kregel on behalf of Lion Hudson Publishing to facilitate a review of my honest opinion which is freely given.

A Clhristmas greeting - "Let There Be Light"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Read and Share Look, I'm Reading! Bible Storybook By Gwen Ellis Published by Thomas Nelson

ISBN: 9780718088699
Hardcover $12.99
My thoughts: Bible storybooks have a distinct place in helping young children embrace the stories, concepts, and faith that is contained in a real Bible. A Bible storybook does not attempt to give the entirety of the Biblical text, it seeks to engage the young mind and heart to a basic understanding of the who, what, when, and where of that which is in the Bible.

In Gwen Ellis' retelling of these stories, the text flows well so that it can easily be read to two, three, and four year olds with their enjoying their interaction by pointing out the three words shown as images (featured at the top of the story page) throughout the story replacing the actual word or name.

Kids love to take part in the telling of the story. This also provides a tool for keeping them focused during the reading.

I see that this little book has value to families with young children who will be read to and then for those a bit older to read aloud with Mom and Dad.

I love the Table of Contents in the front as it will help seek out that special story that worms itself into your child's heart for lots of re-readings. Extra value in the Table of Contents is the Biblical reference for finding the story in the Bible.

About the book: Your family will love this Bible storybook in the popular rebus style with pictures sprinkled between words, allowing your little ones to read along with you! Kids will love to engage with the Bible stories by pointing out the pictures among the words to tell the story. This is a proven way to help children learn and retain the stories through interaction. In the rebus format, children see the picture key, learn the word, and then complete the sentence using the correct picture. This gives children positive learning and interactive reading time.

Stories include: Adam and Eve and the Sneaky Snake, Noah and the Big Boat, Moses and the Ten Commandments, David and the Giant, Mary’s Big Surprise, Jesus Stops a Storm, Jesus Goes to Heaven, and A Promise to All God’s Children.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blogger Review Program on behalf of Tommy Nelson a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers to facilitate my review. Opinions are my own and freely given.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Vera's Reviews & Gift Suggestions

Click image to find my review of item:
Sugar & Spice Gifts & Spa TreatsThe Christmas Story popup book m.o.d.PerfumeMy Advent Activity Pack Say & Pray Devotional In the NightGood Earth Beauty Exfoliating Shower Whip Devera Natural Multi Vitamin Serum
Valentia Night Revive Serum The Radical Book for KidsThe Christmas Horse and the Three Wise MenThe Nutcracker
The Book of Heroines The Book of HeroesDay By Day Walk With Jesus Candle Day By Day Bible Look, I'm Reading My BibleLittle One by Jo WeaverMy Very First Mother Goose Science Encyclopedia How Things Work How Things Work

Forgotten Bible Stories by Margaret McAllister & illustrated by Alida Massari

Grade Level: 2 - 4
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Lion Hudson
ISBN: 978-0745965208
My thoughts: This is a beautiful book by Margaret McAllister who seems to have a true story-teller gift as she verbally draws word pictures of the events of the often neglected people in the Bible. Having been a long time attendee to worship services with good, indepth preaching, I learned about many often overlooked Biblical people. But as time progresses, we do tend to forget. So this book is a treat because it is a reminder to those older (well, mature) readers as well as for youngsters who have not yet heard about Balaam, Mephibosheth, Naaman's Servant, and many more (even new to me).

Illustrated by Alida Massari whose books I have previously reviwed, Forgotten Bible Stories comes alive in gentle hues rich with reds and blues and designs particular to ancient times and the lands in which these stories took place.

I love the story of the "The Widow" whose cruse of oil kept filling the many large vessels or jugs. She had nothing but ended up with much. And then the story of the "Naboth's Vineyard" is wonderful because it teaches the greed consumes the greedy.

The stories encompass both the Old Testament and New Testament.
As with any retelling for children the wonderful truths from the Bible, care must always be taken to not embellish with additional people, words, or actions. I did feel license was taken in some, but essentially the book is a delight and a wonderful opportunity to share these stories with the young.

My rating: 5-stars for illustrations and writing; 2-stars because I think the stories incorporated people, words, and actions not Biblical.

About the book: An elegantly illustrated collection of 13 lesser-known Bible stories. Margaret McAllister imaginatively retells these tales of often-forgotten people, specially chosen for their care and compassion towards the vulnerable, and their (sometimes unexpected) strength of character.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel and Lion Hudson Publishing to facilitate a review of my opinion which is freely given.

Candle Day by Day Walk with Jesus & Candle Day by Day Bible from Kregel Publications

ISBN: 9781781282915 | $9.99
Candle Day by Day Walk with Jesus
The Story of Jesus Retold in 40 Days
By Juliet David & Jane Heyes

About the book: beautiful gift book makes a wonderful addition to the award-winning Candle Day by Day collection. The story of Jesus' life is told over forty days, and presented in the elegant day-by-day styling with page borders and richly colored pictures. Includes an introductory note to suggest how the book could be used.

My thoughts: Such a treasure of a little book. Comprised of 40 stories about Jesus from His conception to his ascension. Each page is designated for a day - Day 1, Day 2..... Day 40. Each day has a side bar with a verse.. "All who heard Jesus were amazed at his understanding and his answers." Then there is a "thought" question... "What did Jesus' answer to Mary mean?" On the page there is a picture illustrating the simply told story.... 
Nobody seemed to have seen Jesus since they had left Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph felt worried. "We need to go back," said Joseph. So back they went to Jerusalem..........
This little book will make a great story book for the child to tuck away in his treasured spot or in a backpack to travel (or just ride in the car about town).

While varied versions of the Bible are used for the Scripture text, the meat of the story is present. It is wise to always remember that these are Bible story books prepared to be entry level studies for the young child. I love how this book ends....
Then a cloud took Jesus away,
Suddenly, two angels appeared.
"Why are you staring at the sky?" asked the angels.
"Jesus is with God in heaven. One day he will return. Now do as Jesus told you."
A clear message that Jesus is with God in heaven and He will return to us. Also, a clear admonition to do as Jesus has told us.
I highly recommend the Candle Day by Day Walk with Jesus as it will give the child the opportunity to walk with Jesus throughout his Earthly ministry.

ISBN: 9781781282816 | $16.99
Candle Day by Day Bible
In a Year
By Juliet David & Jane Heyes

About the book: The award-winning Candle Day by Day Bible is now available in a spiral-bound desk calendar format. All of a child's favorite stories and illustrations are easily accessible and on view all day long. One story per day. 

My thoughts: What a great design and presentation style for this children's 365-day Bible story book. Bible verses rephrased and explained in short format tell the story just as though you were reading "through the Bible in a year" style. The difference? It is in child-format for easy understanding and in a desk or table top style that can remain standing throughout the year. 

The child can pick it up and easily flip through to re-read the stories. This is another example of the fine quality and dependable Bible story books from Candle that are authentic. 

The illustrations are vivid with a sense of realism and yet have a slight modern or abstract feel to them. Children will love them. I just love Noah on the cover with the two zebras. 

I can easily and heartily recommend this for your child or to gift to another during this special season.

DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies from Kregel Publishing on behalf of Candle and Lion Hudson to facilitate this review of my own opinions.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Heroes & Heroines - National Geographic Kids packs a lot into 2 books [Review & 2-book set Giveaway]

Hardcover: 176 pages
Grade level: 3 - 7
ISBN-13: 978-1426325571

The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals by Stephanie Warren Drimmer

About the book: Everybody needs a role model! Discover true stories of superstars, war heroes, world leaders, gusty gals, and everyday women who changed the world. From Sacagawea to Mother Teresa, Annie Oakley to Malala Yousafzai, these famous women hiked up their pants and petticoats and charged full-speed ahead to prove girls are just as tough as boys...maybe even tougher. Complete with amazing images and a fun design, this is the book that every kid with a goal, hope, or dream will want to own.

My thoughts: The concept of an explosively interesting, eye-catching, mind-engaging book of women who have achieved much in spite of societal difficulties is fabulous and National Geographic Kids books has done a great job of compiling  this collection of short biographic sketches replete with photographs and grapics.

I personally think that inclusion of Wonder Woman in this collection is an error in judgment by the author and editor. Fantasy and imaginary characters play a role in exciting fiction, but super heroes from comic books are not the stuff of quality writing to encourage children to strive for high achievement.

Real life is better and more exciting than fiction any day.

Included in this collection of fabulous ladies of achievement are legendary women of ancient times venerated by generations of peoples and history itself. Women in battle, women in science, women at work. Women can - they have and still do, achieve great accomplishment despite many obstacles.

At the end of the book is a section on animals who have been great achievers as well. Very interesting.

What do I think of the book? I think it presents a lot of super information about heroines and is a really good book for perusing that will most likely lead to additional investigative research. I love the short biographic sketches of individuals. There is a fantastic amount of information to be gleaned from this fun book.

Hardcover: 176 pages
Grade level: 3 - 7
ISBN-13: 978-1426325533

The Book of Heroes: Tales of History's Most Daring Guys by Crispin Boyer

About the book: Everybody needs a role model! Discover the true stories of superheroes, rebels, world leaders, action heroes, sports legends, and many more daring dudes, all of whom played their part to make their mark, make a contribution, and make the world a better place.

From Abraham Lincoln to Sitting Bull, Stephen Hawking to Galileo, these cool guys had the boldness, bravery, and brains to meet the challenges of their day. With a fun design, engaging text, and high-quality photographs, this is ultimate hero guide and keepsake for 21st century kids.

My thoughts: I was quite impressed with the selection of men heroes featured in The Book of Heroes and believe that the short biographies of each will entice the young reader to further investigate just who these intelligent, daring, and innovative men actually where and how they contributed to our World.

Featuring men from ancient times as well as recent history and from today's news, the assortment of heroes covers a broad spectrum of attributes these men held that made them a true leader or hero.

I recommend this book as well as the other in the series, The Book of Heroines, for gifting to a young person who you would rather not give another toy and also for inclusion in various libraries. 

1 copy of each book: Heroes & Heroines
Begins November 27
ENDS December 11 @ 12:01 a.m ET
Open to USA addresses only
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book to facilitate a review giving my honest opinion. These are freely given without compensation or requirement. Giveaway copies are provided directly to the winner by the publicist or publisher.

Friday, November 25, 2016

As the Leaves Kiss the Stream by Terry Barnes

My thoughts: Occasionally one is given the opportunity to delve into the pages of a story that grips the heart, angers, encourages, blesses, and leaves you in awe. I felt as though I was reading a true, biographical novel of a father and daughter. Based on truth? I don't know, but it rings true with the depth of love, frustration, anger that is revealed in the persons of the father and daughter.

I admit that I'm simply not someone who knows a whit about fishing - especially fly fishing. There is a lot about the art and skill and actions involved in fly fishing. The writer uses this quite aptly and ingeniously as a descriptive tool that digs deep into the emotion, spiritual, and physical angst of the time and place.

Well written and worth sharing with friends. Caution though..... there is a lot of anger on the part of the teen daughter as she lashes out at her mother and father, against life in general, and especially against all things religious.

This is a clean read and one I can easily recommend to my readers. A short 116 pages rich in wisdom.

About the book: ... a story about a father and his seventeen-year-old daughter. He is a missionary; she is a problem.

Together they go camping and fly fishing in the Ozarks. Together they clash and argue.

Then one cold, October morning as they fly fished beside the pure water of the stream, together they learned something about grace.

For the tears of a father ... are as the tears of God ... that fall silently and caress the one beloved, much as the autumn leaves that gently fall and kiss the stream.
Begins November 26
ENDS December 10 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway 
DISCLOSURE: I was given a complimentary copy by the author to facilitate a review of my own opinions which are freely given.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Thanksgiving "Poem" for a bit of charming fun

The butter was softened, 
the eggs beat just right.
The sugar, the cloves, 
and the cinnamon bite.

The pumpkin was scraped from the can
with much care,
in hopes that a treat would soon
appear there.

The house – it’s quite cozy
and full of fall charm,
awaiting the kids with their honey
On their arm.

Betty Crocker is tired –
she worked nursing all day.
She’d rather write poems
and go hit the hay!

--By my first-born daughter who is a a nurse.......

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post

My thoughts: To begin with I'll share my "take away" thoughts from this book. It seems to focus mainly on trust and lies. Relationships are built on truth and trust and when lies are present the foundational trust is lost.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review a book set in my beloved state of North Carolina. Tucked away in the mountainous area of Western North Carolina, the areas surrounding and in Murphy conjur up beautiful sites that travelers and native North Carolinians totally love. Mountains, streams, rivers with white water rafting, picnics, beautiful trees and wonderful fresh air and great folks to get to know.

Trust My Heart involves a young successful though "burned out" attorney visiting his deceased grandparents' home and estate which he has inherited. True, he could handle the disposition of this property without going there; but he wanted to see the place his father grew up. The father he never knew. The father who was estranged from his parents and therefore the son, Grant, was kept from a relationship with the grandparents.

Upon arriving there, he meets a sweet, young lady who is a newspaper journalist and Grant detests journalists. So even though their association seems frought with mindfields from the onset, it seems that they are drawn together despite their differences.

I enjoyed the story and the book. I found Grant's reactions to some situations a bit over-the-top when a bit of time and explanation would have cleared the air and made for better outcomes. However, the author was presenting Grant with all his flaws, so that's o.k., too.

There was a bit of romance which was safe and clean and also predictable. Well, with a title like "Trust My Heart" you'd expect a bit of falling in love. Grant though a believer, did not seem to be a Christian - at least not a commited or faithful Christian. Jami is a devoted Christian.

This is a new author and a new publishing group for me. I look forward to reading more from Carol J. Post and more publications from Waterfall Press.

About the book: Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible.

The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.

After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore---much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant's fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.

The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there's healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what's needed to finally guide him home...

 Learn more & purchase a copy

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author and publisher to facilitate this review. I was not compensated.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christmas gifts from Sugar and Spice Gifts and Treats Spa provide comfort and sparkle [Review & Giveaway]

Christmas is just an eye-blink away. A short month filled with activities, color, sounds, joy, anxiety, busyness, cold, music, laughter, good food, sweets, and family. It is a time of gifting and a time of looking at the bank balance to see if there is enough for all those gifts you wish to give to those you care about.

Sugar  and Spice Gifts and Treats has beautifully appointed bath items and here at Christmas time they have pulled out all the stops and created baubles to sparkle and glisten your gifting.
Decide how many and "who" you want to give some little treats to and place an order
for a grand assortment of spa treats for the little ladies and the moms and grandmas on
your list. Then find some cute gift bags, ribbons, and bows and spread the joy!

Looking a little closer, I see a little rubber duckie perched atop a cake of soap and isn't that a sweet little squirrel encased in glycerin gel soap? Bath salts, bath bombs, scrubs....
such fun and pleasantness.

I spy three tree ornament balls with ribbons attached to place on the tree.
Who will find one on the tree, hidden in the boughs, and run to the bath
for a wonderful spa treat?
We "think" and desire chocolate and minty sweets during the holiday season, but we NEED the relaxation of lavendar. Sugar and Spice can meet both of these needs and desires. Get the idea? Also, think of these items as small gifts for co-workers, friends one might wish to give a small treat, etc. There is even a set of shaving items for the man you want to give a gift. And not to forget the kiddies - something cute.

At Sugar and Spice Gifts and Treats, products are handmade, natural and chemical free, come in a wide variety of colours & scents, and custom orders are encouraged!  Find some lovely items by clicking here

The owner of Sugar and spice Gifts and Treats is Canada based and has developed a line of lovely bath products and even a few other items such as laundry needs. She also packages her items beautifully. Bath salts, bath fizzies, and such are in canning jars such as you would put your prize home made jams and jellies. The she decorates these with lovely "jewels" and fabric cutouts on the lids. The effect is charming. Bath Bombs are thoroughly wrapped in a plastic container and then placed in a frou-frou bag with netting and tied with a pretty ribbon. Soaps are wrapped and placed in a lovely bag and have added bling or glitz.
Prize will be an "owner selected"
assortment of seasonal items to delight
the senses and are lovely to look upon.
Begins November 22
Ends December 11 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA only. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Etsy stores or shops online are primarily owned by people who had small home businesses and who made crafty items to sell. I have been quite impressed by the talents that are fueling this cottage industry. I love the entrepreneurial spirit of these Etsy businesses - many of them the dreams of moms, sisters, aunts, friends. We should support their efforts - especially when they merit it by producing something as lovely as these products.

DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary products from Sugar & Spice Gifts & Treats to facilitate this review. I was not compensated and opinions are my very own.

The Nutcracker illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat Novelty/Gift Edition from Candlewick Press [Review & Giveaway - US/CANADA]

ISBN13: 9780763681258
My thoughts: Loved by generations of theater goers and dancers alike, The Nutcracker is a beautiful and endearing story of enhantment and holiday excitement. The music of Tchaikovsky takes one on mind blowing journeys into fantasy land.

This edition of The Nutcracker is a stunning black silloutte version told in a few pages. The finale is a beautifully intricate scene that you will look at in awe over the intricies displayed in the lavish scene.

A superb picture book to charm that lover of ballet and of The Nutcracker.

I recommend it for homes and lovers of "The Nutcracker."

About the book: An exquisite gift edition of The Nutcracker captures the spirit of the Christmas ballet in elegant illustrations—and delivers a glorious pop-up finale.

The Nutcracker is one of the world’s most popular ballets, telling the captivating story of Clara and the Nutcracker prince as they journey into a land of fantasy. Inspired by Marius Petipa’s sets for the original production of the ballet, Niroot Puttapipat’s delicate silhouette illustrations dance across pale, watercolor-washed backgrounds in a unique interpretation. Starkly beautiful, this keepsake edition evokes all the magic and anticipation of Christmas Eve as Clara and the prince waltz between worlds—and culminates in a 3-D spread bringing the dreamlike Land of Sweets to life.
Begins November 21
ENDS December 7 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA addresses. NO P.O.BOXES
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press to facilitate a review. I was not compensated. Giveaway prize is provided by and shipped by Candlewick directly to the winner.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

ISBN-13: 978-1406369557
My thoughts: Exquisite! Stunning! Beautiful! This is a treasure book that makes a memorable gift to a child that caring parents, aunts, and uncles will choose. Parents will love it as will the children. Care will be taken to preserve it for future generations to handle and love with awe.

I highly recommend my readers to gift a copy to some child and family during this holiday season.

Check out the beautiful video below and be sure you have the sound turned on!

Then check out the giveaway which Candlewick Press has so graciously provided so that one of Chat With Vera's readers can also enjoy!

About the book: The Nativity is brought to life by master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six gorgeously imagined 3-D scenes, making this a Christmas gift book to treasure. Long ago, in a stable in Bethlehem, a baby was born on a bright and starry night. This child was the Son of God and he would be the saviour of all mankind. The wondrous story of the birth of Jesus - born in a stable, laid in a manger, visited by shepherds and the three wise men - is exquisitely imagined by pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six scenes. Glinting with touches of gold and pearlescent foil, The Christmas Story is a visual delight and a book for whole family to treasure at Christmas.


Begins November 20
ENDS December 6 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA/CANADA addresses - NO P.O. BOXES
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Candlewick Press to facilitate this review of my honest opinions which are freely given. The winner's giveaway copy is provided by and shipped by Candlewick Press directly to the winner.