Thursday, December 27, 2018

Memoirs from National Geographic Kids Books for ages 12 and up are intense, page-turners [Giveaway US/CANADA]

National Geographic Kids Books kicks off their Spring 2019 list with two page-turning memoirs that reveal what it’s like to live, adapt, love and persevere under the most unusual — and often times dangerous — of circumstances.  Whether growing up during a revolution half way around the world in Tehran or spending years living with a wolf pack in the wilds of Idaho, these are stories that inspire, provoke thoughtful consideration and widen the horizons of those that read them.

Taking Cover (ages 12+, $18.99, January 2019) by Nioucha Homayoonfar, forward by New York Times best-selling author of Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas
This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the true story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran's history.

When five-year-old Nioucha Homayoonfar moves from the U.S. to Iran in 1979, its open society means a life with dancing, women's rights, and other freedoms. But soon the revolution erupts and the rules of life in Iran change. Religion classes become mandatory. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Opinions at school are not welcome. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in the midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who wants to play with her friends, please her parents, listen to pop music, and, eventually, have a boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new culture? Can she break the rules without consequences? Nioucha's story sheds light on the timely conversation about religious, political, and social freedom, publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

In the mid 1970’s Nioucha Homayoonfar’s French mother and Iranian father made a decision that would change her life forever. At the age of five, Nioucha and her parents moved from Pittsburgh to her father’s homeland of Iran, at the time a modern, bustling country where people from different religions co-existed peacefully and women and men alike pursued the highest level of education and professional opportunities. A new school, new language, and new friends took some time to get used to.  But none of that compared to the changes that Nioucha experienced during and after the Iranian revolution of 1979. Once the Ayatollah took control, full robes and head scarves were required, religion classes became mandatory and boys were no longer allowed to interact with girls.  Her life continued to be filled with family, friends, pop music and even her first boyfriend (although both the music and the boyfriend were strictly prohibited), but Tehran had become barely recognizable as bombs were dropped on her neighborhood, loved ones and even Nioucha herself were kidnapped, acquaintances were executed and day by day, their freedom was chipped away.     Publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Taking Cover reveals the extraordinary story of Nioucha’s struggle to adjust, to understand and to figure out her place in the world while unrest and oppression swirled around her.  Additionally, this title is a unique blend of coming-of-age storytelling and history. Coupled with a thought-provoking forward by New York Times best-selling author Firoozeh Dumas (Funny in Farsi) Taking Cover encourages readers to take a deeper look at the importance of protecting religious, political, and social freedoms while Nioucha's vivid descriptions of Iranian life — the food, the smells, and its customs — exposes readers to a country and culture rarely written about.

Running with Wolves: Our Story of Life with the Sawtooth Pack (ages 9-12, $16.99, hardcover) by Jim & Jamie Dutcher
Discover the wonder of wolves from Emmy-award winning filmmakers Jim and Jamie Dutcher as they tell their story of the six years they watched, learned about, and lived with the Sawtooth wolf pack.

Adventure, friendship, and family come together in this riveting memoir as two award-winning filmmakers take you through the experience of the years they spent living in the wild with a real-life wolf pack. Jim and Jamie set out to show the world that instead of fearsome beasts, wolves are social, complex, and incredible creatures that deserve our protection. Deep in the mountain wilderness of Idaho, they set up Wolf Camp, where they spent years capturing the emotional, exciting, and sometimes heartbreaking story of their pack.

Meet Kamots, the fearless leader. Learn from wise Matsi. Explore the forest with shy Lakota. And watch as adorable pups grow from silly siblings to a devoted pack. See how these brave wolves overcome all odds, battling mountain lions and frigid temperatures. Most of all, discover the surprising kindness, compassion, and devotion that Jim and Jamie discovered by living with wolves.

On a clear, cold morning, Jim and Jamie Dutcher emerged from their campsite to come face to face with their only neighbors: a pack of wolves.  The leader, Kamots, intently moved closer — close enough to touch.  He was enormous, with powerful muscles, intelligent eyes and startlingly sharp teeth. But the Dutchers weren’t afraid.  And neither was Kamots; he drew close and gave a quick lick, as he did every morning — a greeting reserved only for kin.  Adventure, friendship, and family come together in this riveting memoir as two Emmy award-winning filmmakers take young readers into the world of a real-life wolf pack.  Jim and Jamie set out to prove that instead of fearsome beasts, wolves are social, complex, and incredible creatures that deserve our protection. Deep in the mountain wilderness of Idaho, they set up Wolf Camp, where they spent years capturing the emotional, exciting, and sometimes heartbreaking story of this amazing pack.

Every chapter is filled with adventure of the highest order and Jim and Jamie weave a powerful and moving story — from the arrival of the first of the Sawtooth Pack to the tearful goodbye years later when Jim and Jamie knew their work was done, as painful a decision as that proved to be. Through first person narrative and an 8-page full color insert featuring the Dutcher’s photos, Jim and Jamie reveal how these brave wolves battled mountain lions, faced frigid temperatures and overcame all odds. Most of all, readers will discover the surprising kindness, compassion, and devotion that two humans experienced by living with wolves.


Both books: "Running With Wolves" & "Taking Cover"
Open to USA/Canada
Begins December 28, 2018
Ends January 21, 2019 at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies on behalf of National Geographic Kids Books to facilitate this post. Information is provided by publicist and/or public sources. Giveaway copies are provided and shipped directly to the winner by publicist or publisher.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Good Earth Beauty brings out the beauty of lavender in their natural soap and body balm

If you have a bit of cha-ching (fun talk for cash) left after your holiday spending..... OR if you were gifted with a bit of cash for yourself.....  Use it for yourself!

Grab some relaxation. Grab some calmness, de-Stress, and relieve yourself of that depression or anxiety that might have tried to take hold of you.

Just look at these lovelies! Think about what these lovelies can do for your skin, for your emotional well-being, for your very being. Imagine the gentle fragrance of lavender wafting around you as you lather during your bath.

Good Earth Beauty is a source of all #natural and #organic products that you use on a daily basis to take care of and to pamper your skin. 

Today we're looking at two NEW products using lavender essential oils in the soap and body balm and they are WONDERFUL!

Lavender soap $12/bar

I bathed with this luxurious soap and it feels so good. Looking at it one would think "old fashioned lye soap" that is harsh as this is not a "prettied up" soap and is just simple and plain. But it absolutely is NOT harsh. 

It lathers beautifully and my skin feels soft and clean. I'm quite impressed! I have been using a lavender soap from Provence of France (not a brand name) and love it for its fragrance and silky feel to my skin. This Lavender soap from Good Earth Beauty is certainly equal to my most favorite soap and perhaps surpasses it because of its pureness.

Find it at - Lavender Triple Butter Soap

Good Earth Beauty Lavender Body Balm

Super moisturizing balm - great for extra dry, chapped skin. All natural and Pure. 
Hand made in the USA.  2 oz tin. Ingredients: Organic sunflower oil,
organic shea butter, beeswax, organic cocoa butter, organic jojoba oil, essential oil blend

The Good Earth Beauty Lavender Body Balm comes in a nice size "tin" and is a firm, "waxy," type of product. This is not a cream or "whipped" product. This is not diluted. It is hefty and you simply get some out (a little spatula or "wooden ice cream spoon" works nicely for this) and then rub your hands together warming it a bit and then apply it to arms, legs, shoulders. This is a body balm and is good for your entire body. Enjoy!

Find it at Lavender Body Balm

You can order these products on They are so good to work with and shipping is FREE in the USA. They ship internationally, too, but do have to charge reasonable shipping fees for international.


DISCLOSURE: I received products to sample and evaluate and share my opinions in this review. They are mine alone and are freely given.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Center Stage Pop-Up Book by Courtney Acampora

Studio Fun International
 ISBN: 978-0794442033
 Hardcover $12.99; Ages 6-8
My thoughts:  The magic of the Nutcracker, Christmas, and a beautiful ballet captures the heart and mind of most every little girl. And the ferocious antics of characters in the beloved Nutcracker appeal to boisterous boys.

In the new (and I say new because at least to me it is a new rendering) "Nutcracker and the FOUR REALMS" the magic spans four fantastically fabulous, scary and beautiful realms or you might say divisions.

This beautiful picture book is a nice keepsake for the child who has experienced by watching or participating in the Nutcracker or viewing the newer Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie. Each two-page spread features one of the Realms and center stage is the beautiful cutout of the ballerina.

Beautifully rendered in sturdy hardcover and durable pages in the interior. The book springs to life with each page turn.

About the book:  The Ballerina of the Realms dances on every page of this magical book!

From Disney's all-new live action film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, follow the elegant Ballerina of the Realms as she dances center stage in this artistic pop-up book, celebrating each of the unique and picturesque Four Realms. This beautiful format is a perfect holiday gift for fans of this classic tale, full of colorful characters and no shortage of surprises.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from MMPublicity on behalf of the publisher to facilitate a review. Opinions are my own alone and are freely given.

When Do I Love You? By Tommy Nelson Books and Published by Thomas Nelson

Find it on Amazon -Click Here
My thoughts:  Sweet! Suitable for boys or girls. A little larger than some board books so the young toddlers might have a little difficult holding it. But they'll soon grow to it.

The book and the ideas expressed in words and pictures convey a sense that no matter where, no matter what, "I love you."

Each page is a different critter so we romp through pages of love in the animal kingdom. But it ends with a "you" page where a real human Mommy and child are pictured.

I absolutely love the opening page that pictures a red pickup truck. Perhaps it is because my son has had a red pickup for years and drove his family around in it. And now one of my grandsons has a red pickup and has a brand new grand-grandson who will ride around in the red pickup. So right off this book will become special  in the family.

So "When Do I Love You?" - why always......

Addorable and one I can highly recommend.

About the book:  
When do I love you, little lizard?
Would I love you in a blizzard?
Even if the snow reaches up to your eyes,
I will be here, standing right by your side.

Remind your little one of your unending love with the playful rhymes of When Do I Love You?,a silly and charming board book that will make you laugh as it warms your heart.

With supersilly pictures of lizards in blizzards, goats in boats, and ducks in trucks, When Do I Love You? maintains a classic emotive tone that parents will love. The perfect gift for baby showers, birthday parties, or as an extraspecial "just because!" gift, this sweet book will be a favorite in your family for years to come.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blogger Book Review Program on behalf of the publisher to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given. Purchase it here

Friday, December 21, 2018

Searching For You (Book #3 in the Orphan Train Series) by Jody Hedlund [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts:  My mother was born about 60 years after the setting of the Orphan Train Series, but her plight could easily have been that of one of the orphans of the time. Her father died leaving a widow and two very small children. In that time period, widows usually had an extremely difficult time raising small children alone. So my grandmother did surrender her two small children, quite reluctantly, into the care and keeping of a church orphanage.

In Jody Hedlund's series of three books about the plight of a few of the children whose fate was to begin life away from the city and move to the wilderness area of America - the country life, and be part of families who were suppose to provide love, care, food, shelter for them is beautifully and succinctly portrayed in the series. The culminating story of the youngest sister, Sophie, and her journey is heart rending.

The story opens with Sophia in New York and she is embroiled in the gang life believing she is fine. She then witnesses her boyfriend, head of a gang, murder someone. She flees for safety taking the two young children (not hers biologically, but hers emotionally) she cares for and joining an outgoing Orphan Train loaded with children of many ages being sent West to join new families.

The reader's heart is wrenched at the tearing scene when she is parted from the two young children as they are placed in a different home. And then later at an attempt when she tries to see them but their new "father" attacks her.

Her actions are definitely questionable. But the situation is heart breaking.

The book and the entire series is one I can heartily recommend.
[A note about book #3:It alludes to child abuse and sexual assault and also the intimate emotional feelings of newly weds. Because of this, I would hesitate to recommend the final book for younger than 18 years.]

About the book: Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

~~ Read a preview ~~

My reviews of Orphan Train Series:  With You Always #1     Together Forever #2
My review of "Searching For You" soon to come.

Begins December 8
Ends January 5 at 8:00 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
Disclosure: Prize for giveaway is provided by author and/or publisher who will send the book directly to the winner. I received a complimentary copy to facilitate my review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given. Purchase it on Amazon

A Texas Christmas (a look at what it might be like today) by Richard L. Mabry M.D.

One of my favorite authors wrote this piece some time ago and has shared it in his email. It is quite special and I wanted to share it with my readers. (Note: if you've not read Richard L. Mabry M.D.'s books you need to check them out!)

A Texas Christmas

The young couple knew the long trip would be difficult, but it was the Depression, and although there was no work in the small Texas town where they had started their married life, the husband had heard of work in California. So they packed up their car, praying that it would hold up for the trip. The wife’s father slipped a couple of crumpled bills into her hand and said, “In case of emergency, Honey.” Her mother stood nearby, twisting her apron, obviously worrying about her daughter but just as obviously trying not to show it.

The couple used up the last of the daylight driving. They had reached deep West Texas when they realized it was time to stop for the night. “We can’t spare the money for a hotel,” the husband said. “I’m going to see if the folks at one of these farms will put us up for the night.”

They pushed on between pastures marked by sagging barbed wire, the road a winding black ribbon in the flickering yellow headlights. At last the driver spied a cluster of lights in the distance. “I’ll try there.”

The man who came to the door wore overalls and a gray, long-sleeved undershirt. He didn’t seem to take to the idea of this couple spending the night, but his wife came up behind him and said, “Oh, can’t you see she’s pregnant. The hands are out in the north pasture with the herd, and the bunkhouse is empty. Let them stay there.”

In the middle of the night, the young husband was awakened by his wife’s cries. “I’m in labor.”

“But, you’re not due until—“

“Just get help. Please.”

He did. In a few minutes, the rancher’s wife bustled in, laden with towels and blankets. “Just put that down,” she said to her husband, who trailed her carrying a bucket of hot water in one hand. “Then you two men get out.”

Soon, the men tired of waiting outside and the rancher grudgingly invited the stranger into the kitchen. They’d almost exhausted a pot of extra strong coffee when they heard a faint cry. Then, “You men can come back now.”

The two men were halfway to the bunkhouse, following the faint light of a kerosene lantern, when three weary cowboys rode up and climbed off their mounts. “We saw lights on here. What’s going on?”
“Come and see,” the young husband said. And they did.

When he saw the mother holding a wrinkled, fussing newborn close to her, the gruff old rancher turned to his wife and said, “Well, Mother, I’m glad you talked me into letting these folks stay.”

“We had to,” she said. “It was a wonderful gift for me, seeing that little baby born. Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up to be someone special.”

Now imagine that the scene wasn’t West Texas, it was Bethlehem. It didn’t take place in a bunkhouse, it occurred in a stable. And it wasn’t just a baby—this was God’s own Son--the Christ child was God in blue jeans, as one of my friends puts it. Does that make it more real to you? I hope so.

During this season, as you think about Jesus’ birth, don’t put him in spotless white swaddling clothes in the middle of a Christmas card. Picture him in the most humble surroundings your imagination can conjure up, the Son of God Himself in a diaper, born to give each of us the best gift we could ever imagine.

Author bio: I'm a retired physician who, in addition to writing, is a husband and grandfather, plays (and enjoys) golf, and does the hundred-and-one other things that retired people do. I got into non-medical writing after the death of my first wife with my book, THE TENDER SCAR: LIFE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE.  Now I'm writing what I call "medical suspense with heart." My novels have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, Romantic Times' Best Inspirational Novel and their Reviewer's Choice Award, have won the Selah award, and been named by Christian Retailing as the best in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. My latest novel is GUARDED PROGNOSIS, releasing July 17. I've also published four novellas, the latest one SURGEON'S CHOICE. You can follow me on my blog ( and my web page (, as well as Facebook (rmabrybooks) and Twitter (RichardMabry).

Monday, December 17, 2018

When the voice can no longer sing, can the heart rise and soar?

My family knows how much music has meant to me throughout life. I have loved listening to beautiful music and I have loved to sing. This Christmas season is less bright than previous Christmases and the simple reason is that I can't sing.

No. The voice is no longer there. There has been an ongoing hoarsness made worse by speaking and definitely by singing. Doctors are trying to help and don't see any major problem such as a cancer. But the problem persists.

I was never an "accomplished" or "trained" vocalist. I just loved to sing and beautiful Christmas carols have filled my heart and throat for many seasons. But not this year.

So I feel sad. 

I feel void and somewhat empty. 

My moments of driving and singing along with the radio songs - gone. My lifting my heart and voice in congregational singing - gone.

I just read the lovely words of "Hark the Herals Angels Sing"..... and they are stunning. They are true revelations! They are so beautiful and speak of the majesty and beauty of our Lord. 

I knew that. I've read them for decades. But today I really READ them.

So whilst my voice is silent, my heart can surely soar.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new-born King! 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled." 
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With th' angelic host proclaim, 
"Christ is born in Bethlehem." 

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new-born King!
Christ, by highest heaven adored: 
Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
Late in time behold him come, 
Offspring of the favoured one. 
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; 
Hail, th'incarnate Deity: 
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, 
Jesus, our Emmanuel! 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of peace! 
Hail! the Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in his wings 
Mild he lays his glory by, 
Born that man no more may die: 
Born to raise the son of earth, 
Born to give them second birth. 
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King !"
(Songwriters: Paul Bateman)
--Vera G.

Hello Lilac, Good Morning Yellow by Judith Drews [Review & Giveaway US/CANADA]

My thoughts:  Using a colorful palette of pastels (perhaps oil pastels or chalks) the author/artist takes the young reader on a romp that involves the reader (or book's story) chatting with the colors. Greeting them in a variety of ways. Each color's page is a hodge-podge of words that the young reader can have read aloud to him or her and they can point to the object.

Curiously, to me at least, the words associated with a particular color are not necessarily usually seen in that color. So it is an exercise in word and object recognition at that point. On some pages objects could easily be the color emphasized on that page - crown for gold, sun for yellow, rose for red. Brown is pretty much a "color true" object recognition page, but not so the other pages.

A cute book with a nice approach to learning colors, word and object recognition, and a light cheery read, too.

About the book: Hello Lilac, Good Morning Yellow: Introducing children to colors and in the process expanding their vocabulary, this book will delight young readers, who will recognize the myriad of things that make their world colorful. A sunny morning introduces the color yellow and leads young readers to a light bulb, a fuzzy baby chick, a lemon, and a friendly lion. A snowman, a sheep, an egg, and a soccer ball reveal that white has endless variations. Green takes readers outside to look at a leaf, a frog, and a caterpillar while a brown bear is surrounded by a wooden spoon, a basket, a girl’s braid, and a broom. Gorgeously illustrated, this engaging book is sure to capture a child’s imagination and is perfect for young ones to read with their parents.

Begins December 18
Ends January 8 at 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA/CANADA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fly With me: A Celebration of Birds through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple - 5-stop blog tour from December 10 - 14 [Giveaway US/CANADA]

Welcome to Fly With Me Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of Fly With Me by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from the Yolen-Stemple family plus 5 chances to win a copy!

A Family Collaboration
by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple

Back (L to R): Jane, David
Front (L to R): Adam, Jason, Heidi
Heidi: It’s no surprise that when I put out the call for my mother and brothers, all the co-authors of our new book FLY WITH ME, to write something for this blog tour, everyone wrote about my Dad.  We all wish he was here to see it. He taught us to live peacefully in the world alongside nature. He taught us to watch and listen for birds. He taught us to respect and protect the environment. This book is about passing that passion on—to paying it forward. From him, to us, to you.

So, what was it like working on this book? How did we collaborate? Who did what?

Adam: Working with my family on this book was an amazing experience. We had already done one book together (Animal Stories), and we dove into this one already knowing that we worked well together.

Though we pared down our subject from all the animals to just birds, we still managed to expand the content exponentially. This meant a lot of extra work—mostly for my sister, who handled most of the editing duties. I mainly researched and wrote, two of my very favorite activities. I learned new things about creatures I'd been fascinated with my whole life, and got to write stories about them.

And as a bonus, I got to work with a group of clever, witty, and very talented writers who I just happened to be related to.

Jason: Photography is my career and long been one of my main passions. But coming from a family of writers, I always had a small (very small compared to my surrounding family members) talent for the written word.  It has come in handy over the years, especially as a way to sell more photography and break into different segments of the photo industry-many magazines only buy photography as part of a package deal with an article. For me, photography comes naturally, writing is much harder and a struggle at times. That being said, the opportunity to work with such an iconic brand like Nat Geo, especially as a nature photographer, is one I just couldn’t pass up. This was very much a family project, with my mother and sister, both amazing editors, divvying up the work and keeping my run-on sentences in line. And, sticking with the family theme I’m sure it is evident in almost all corners of this book that it is a tribute and a monument to the man who introduced us all to birds and fostered the journey that led us all here-thanks Dad!

Jane: I feel complimented every day when a book of mine written with one of my children gets published, and to great reviews. Each of them has well over 25 books out (not all with me!) Only the last two were National Geographic books with full family participation. But FLY WITH ME holds a special place in all our hearts as you can see. And I have no doubt, if he were still alive, my husband David Stemple--their father--would have written his share of it as well. Though he would have been the most difficult of the bunch to edit! I learned from him  to pay attention to the natural world. How to be attuned to nature. How to stay open to new surprises in the wild. Especially when looking at birds.

We have tried to put what he taught us into this book. Not only the information, but the love of birding. We hope it comes across to our readers. And that some day when we see a fellow birder—young or old—with binoculars raised, and we stop and say as birders do, “Anything interesting?” that we notice that there is a copy of FLY WITH ME in their car, or in the basket of a bike, or in a backpack at their feet. And maybe one of them will say. Hey, aren’t you one of the Yolen-Stemples who wrote that book on birds? And we’d grin and say, “Why yes, yes we are.”

Then, introductions satisfied, the one with the binoculars would point out the bird, which rare or not, we will tick off on our day’s list.

Heidi: Now you know a bit about how FLY WITH ME came to be, how we worked together, and why we are so passionate about it.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, no matter if you are a seasoned birder, a complete novice, or somewhere in between.

From our family, to yours.
The Yolen-Stemples


Blog Tour Schedule:

December 10th — A Dream Within a Dream
December 11th — Kid Lit Frenzy
December 12th — Christy's Cozy Corners
December 13th — Colorimetry
December 14th — Chat with Vera
Follow JaneWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Follow Heidi: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Follow Adam: Website

Follow Jason: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Follow National Geographic Kids: Website | Twitter | Books Twitter | Facebook | Youtube

Enchanting stories, lyrical poems, stunning photography, and fascinating science fill the pages of this treasury celebrating the amazing world of birds.

This thoughtful and beautifully curated collection of our flying, feathery friends highlights the role birds play in human life from centuries ago to present day. While it's beautiful, it's also full of valuable real science about these wondrous creatures. From history and behavior to spotting and photographing, there's sure to be something for every bird fan in your flock. Young birders will learn all about migration and the importance of habitat conservation. They'll find stories about bird rescues and fun facts about the fastest, strongest, and tiniest fliers. They'll also discover the best bird nests, sweet songs to sing, ways to listen for and identify the birds around them, and more. Paired with stunning art and photography and beautiful design, this treasury is sure to become a classic for bird enthusiasts of all ages.

Fly with Me was created to help celebrate Year of the Bird, National Geographic's 2018 initiative to bring awareness to the plight of birds around the world.

"Yolen and her three children celebrate birds with a lavishly illustrated compendium of facts, photographs, and poetry...As is characteristic of National Geographic publications, the plentiful photographs are well-chosen and beautifully reproduced. A treasure for browsers and bird lovers everywhere." 
Kirkus Starred Review

"With text that never talks down to its audience, this makes an ideal choice for family sharing or classroom browsing." 

L to R: Adam, Jane, Heidi, Jason

About the Authors: JANE YOLEN is an author of children's books, fantasy, and science fiction,
including Owl Moon, The Devil's Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children's literature.

HEIDI STEMPLE was 28 years old when she joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published 20 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.
Stemple, her two daughters, her mom, and a couple cats live in Massachusetts on a big old farm with two houses.

JASON STEMPLE is an author and photographer. He lives with his wife and children in Charleston, South Carolina.

ADAM STEMPLE is a novelist and musician. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of Fly With Me
  • US/Canada only
  • Begins December 14, Ends January 5 at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: Information for this post was provided by the publicist and author. Giveaway copy is provided by same and shipped dirctly to the winner. Giveaway is unique to Chat With Vera blog for its readers.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Tell Her No Lies by Kelly Irvin

My thoughts:  The reader jumps in with both feet and hits the ground running as the pages turn at the beginning of "Tell Her No Lies." The author doesn't, though, keep up the rapid fire pace as the story progresses. A bit of a lag. That doesn't, however,  deter the reader from pursing this who-dunnit.

This book doesn't just tell the tale of who killed the judge. There are multiple murders and a slew of suspects.

Underlying the multi-layered suspense is the heroin's involvement with her photographic art and poetry that draws attention to the "homeless experience." She is a volunteer and supporter of efforts to help the homeless.

But this is not a societal issues propaganda story. This is a suspense with a bit of romance (just enough to call it Romantic Suspense). The "homeless experience" is a force from horrific memories in Nina's own personal life. The thread is woven into her very thought and experiences on a daily basis. She was a homeless waif along with her younger sister until rescued by her Uncle - the Judge that was found murdered at the beginning of the story.

So while the story lagged a bit and whilst it had more "murders" than I care to have sprinkled in books I read, the story was good. The detectives did their work and the case or cases were solved.

About the book: Combining romance and suspense, bestselling author Kelly Irvin’s Tell Her No Lies is a high-stakes race for the truth.

“A moving and compelling tale about the power of grace and forgiveness that reminds us how we become strongest in our most broken moments.”—Library Journal review of Upon a Spring Breeze

Even the most admired families have secrets to hide . . .

Nina Fischer carries a camera wherever she goes—so she can view life through a filter. Safely. After her mother abandoned her to the streets, Nina has kept people at a distance, including her uncle, who adopted Nina and her sister. Wealthy and proud, he is a good man, a fair judge, and someone many in San Antonio admire.

But when he is murdered, and the detective assigned to the case accuses Nina of the crime, she knows she must act. She’s determined to use her journalism background to find the real killer. The two men in her life want to help, but can she trust them? She’s known Rick since they were children, but now he’s an attorney whose political aspirations seem more important than Nina’s tragic loss. And then there’s Aaron, a news videographer; using their friendship could break the biggest story of his career.

Following the evidence leads Nina on a journey of discovery into her father’s shocking masquerade as a law-abiding, family-loving Christian. Unlocking these secrets could prove fatal, but it’s the only way Nina will ever be able to trust love again.

Combining romance and suspense, bestselling author Kelly Irvin’s Tell Her No Lies is a high-stakes race for the truth.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Book Review program to facilitate a review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Christian Counseling in picture books for the young comes to life in the Good News for Little Hearts series

This a delightfully cute and sweetly illustrated series and children and parents will certainly love the illustrations by  Joe Hox. The critters that populate the pages of the stories are charming and beautifully drawn with a pallet of colors that delight the senses.

The text or story line is sweet and deeply infused with Biblical teaching that guides the critters through emotional mindfields helping them to understand reliance on God for help and control. The books are intentionally Scriptural and centered around Christian counseling.


Buster's Ears Trip Him Up (When You Fall) by Edward T. Welch and illustrated b Joe Hox

Buster is a bunny rabbit and he is a lively character that loves to run, race, and win. As he goes off to camp he looks forward to running the race and being the winner. But he fails and feels terrible about it. He is consoled and learns a lesson from failing to win.

Zoe's Hiding Place (When You are Anxious) by David Powlison and illustrated by Joe Hox

Zoe doesn't pay attention to the teacher and gets lost and is scared or anxious. Having done the same previously and been counseled by her parents to handle her anxiety or fears realizing God is with her, she gets through the situaiton.

Jax's Tail Twitches (When You Are Angry) by David Powlison and illustrated by Joe Hox

Most everyone has issues at some point in their life with anger and managing it. Jax's dead giveaway is his twitching tail.

The story is how Jax gets angry and how he learns to manage the anger with God's help.


The books are all a bit preachy but that is o.k. since the story line is intentionally designed to use children's story picture book venue to provide Christian Counseling. I think the books would be ideal for Christian school libraries, preschools, and Church libraries. Personally, I would take care about introducing these stories to children who do not exhibit these emotions or traits - anger, failing, and anxiety.

Find them at New Growth Press - click here 

DISCLOSURE: I was provided complimentary copies from New Growth Press to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

End-of-the-Garden Vegetable Mix, a treasure to savor

It's not the right time of the year to talk about gardens and the delicious goodies gleaned from those rows of veggies. But the thought of "end of the garden" pot of goodies came to my mind as I saw an advertisement from a major vegetable cannery touting their veggie and bean combinations.

During the gardening and harvest season, we cook our peas, butter beans, snaps, crowders, and corn separately. Even okra is stewed, fried, ,etc. But at the end of the season, a few of each of these plants refuses to completely die, still yielding a little bit of their goodness. Not enough for a pot of peas. Not enough for a pot of butter beans. Just an ear of corn. A few string beans.

You don't want to just let it those brave few stay on the vines or stalks to wither and die, yielding to the summer bugs that proliferate.

No. You pick them. Take them into the house. Shell, snap, cut. Wash. Rinse. And then....

You put them all into one single pot.

You season according to your preference. A bit of salt. A shake of pepper. Some fat - a ham bone, butter, or oil. And you cook until the flavors merge into a savory taste that you only get to enjoy once or twice a year.

It is that "End-of-the-garden" flavor rich vegetable medley that is so rich, so tasty, so undeniably good.

And it is a treasure to savor, indeed.

And that reminds me of life in general. When the summer of our youth and middle age is past. We lack the quantity of strength. We lack an abundance of activity and fruitfulness. Our yield is quite limited.

We have grown older. And are easily left to wither and fade into the existence of shadow keeping to the background.

But there is still wholesome goodness in us. We can still yield a savory goodness to the pot that is life. We are not all used up. So.....

Pick from the limited yield we have to offer and see if you can find there, too, .....

............ a treasure to savor.

Good Earth Beauty has lovely holiday products and offers a Discount Code when you order. Plus a Giveaway hosted here on Chat With Vera open to USA entries

The holidays are almost upon us and much gift shopping has already happened; and for many of us, there is much still to be done. The folks at Good Earth Beauty (online all natural beauty products shop) are working diligently to fill all orders in a timely manner. 

Holiday flavors warm vanilla, candy cane, cocoa and sugar cookie

It is a delight to cruise their pages to see the products available. They put together a little goodie box of samples and full sizes in products suited for the holidays and sent it along to me. It isn't really "on the market" as shown, but it gives you grand ideas for ordering for yourself or someone special.

Shop the Gift Shop on Good Earth Beauty - click here

And Good Earth Beauty has said we can treat one of Chat With Vera's  readers with the fantastic prize of a little burlap bag of five of their all natural, vegan lip balms. I use the Pumpkin Spice lip balm and it is absolutely fabulous. "Tastes" wonderful and the effect on my lips is wonderful. I can easily say this is probably the best lip balm I have EVER used

5 Delightful lip balms. My favorite..... Pumpkin Spice - Value at $28.00

Product information: HOLIDAY GIFT-LIP BALM NATURAL VEGAN SET OF 5: Vegan - natural -  soothing and moisturizing - helps heal chapped lips. Lip Balm Natural Vegan set of  5 fun, original scents - Candy cane mint, chocolate mint, vanilla mint, vanilla marshmallow or pumpkin pie! Comes in small burlap gift bag shown. Made by Good Earth Beauty - Ingredients: Meadowfoam oil, olive oil, avocado butter, candellia wax, vitamin E, natural flavor oil

Go ahead and shop right now and use this DISCOUNT CODE - HOLIDAY10 - which will discount your total order by 10% and there is always FREE SHIPPING in USA. Click here to shop

Little burlap bag of 5 lip balms, set value -$28 - Find it Here
Begins December 12
Ends January 7 at 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary products to facilitate my opinion review of these products. Opinions are my own and given only after using the product myself or a family member using it. I was not compensated for this product review. #sponsored

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

365-day devotional journals from Ellie Claire: Peace Begins With Me, The Earth is the Lord's and Everything In it, and Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Beautifully crafted devotionals / journals will help you turn your heart toward God on a daily basis.

Three beautiful journals that will take you through the entire year ahead. Each has a different "theme" or focus that allows the user to select the devotional journal that appeals visually but more importantly on the focus of the thoughts delivered.

Any of these would make cherished gifts for those on your list. Seek them out online or at your favorite store.

The Earth Is the Lord's, and Everything In It: 365-Day Devotional Journal (Devotional Journals) 

ISBN: 978-1633261709
My thoughts:  Each daily read begins with a Scripture selection and a titled devotional thought for that day. Beautifully written to lead our thinking and assist in our grasp of the Scripture, the text concludes with a prayerful thought asking for God's help to achieve the day's lesson.

These thoughts on our Lord's beautiful Earth and His being the Creator of it all are expressed so well.

After reading, thinking, and praying over that day's message the reader has an opportunity to use the few blank lines to record their thoughts, goals, and prayer.

This makes a beautiful (isn't the cover absolutely stunning?) gift for someone to use who loves God's creation - this beautiful world we live in.

About the book: A devotional journal exploring God's magnificent creation.

From the small whisper of a snowflake to the large circumference of a baobab tree, all of nature is the creative expression of God. When we embrace His creative nature by taking the time to stop, notice, and connect, our hearts are encouraged and souls refreshed. Respond to the devotions, add your own creative writing, or keep track of prayers on the journaling lines.

Peace Begins with Me Journal: A 365-Day Devotional Journal (365 Devotional Journals)  

ISBN: 978-1633262072
My thoughts:  A few years back there was a song "Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me....." A lovely song but really not expressive of the peace that is given to us by our Lord. In the Peace Begins With Me devotional journal the reader has the opportunity to mentally engage with Scripture and thoughts that lead to true peace.

The simple, uncluttered cover is peaceful and graceful and very classic. It exudes peace. There is such a lack of peace in the world and in our own lives. To seek peace and to find it is a gift from God.

This makes a wonderful gift for someone you know who wants to find peace.

About the book: We pray for peace. We beg for it from others. We make speeches about it. But in the end, the only peace most of us can control is that little portion we display for the world to see. If we are at peace, the chaos around us seems to calm down. Our peace affects others. And the Giver of peace awaits to give us the gift that can change our world. It begins with a prayer. It begins with me.

• Archive quality, non-bleed paper
• Acid-free paper and ink
• Daily devotional with lightly ruled space for responses, lists, or journaling
• Full-color interior design
• Presentation page for personalization
• Lay-flat binding
• Foil, ribbon
• Closure band


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (365-Day Devotional Journals) (Lifestyle Journals)    

ISBN: 978-1633261808
My thoughts:  In this beautifully crafted devotional journal, the goal is to direct one's attention, heart, thoughts to Jesus.  This journal uses well crafted text and Scripture to lead the reader in the goal of setting their sights on Jesus.

What better way to either begin one's day or to end the day than to turn your eyes upon Jesus. This sweet journal can help you do just that.

The lovely rose floral design of the cover is repeated as small decorative touches inside the book. Pleasant to your eyes just as the joy of turning your eyes to Jesus is pleasant.

A lovely gift for someone who wishes to pursue a closer walk with Jesus in their daily lives.

About the book: A 365-day devotional journal to help you spend time with Jesus through quiet time, prayers, and reflection.

When life gets busy, it's easy to forget to spend time with God. This 365-day devotional journal offers encouraging meditations to help you spend a few moments turning your eyes on Jesus before your hectic day begins. After short devotions and Scripture for each day of the year, you will also find light journaling lines and ample space to record your thoughts, hopes, and prayers -- just what you need to start each and every day with the reminder that God is always by your side.

In this "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" devotional, the reader learns about protection from the storms of life that Jesus provides. "God is our stronghold - our rock, fortress, and deliverer. No matter how fierce the storm appears, we can trust in Him."
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies of the three devotionals from the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Children of Jubilee by best selling author Margaret Peterson Haddix [3-Book Series Giveaway]

Welcome to the Children of Jubilee Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of The Children of Jubilee (Children of Exile #3) on December 4th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from author Margaret Peterson Haddix and 10 chances to win the complete trilogy!

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

One of the joys of being a writer is that it means I have a good excuse to do all sorts of random research that might otherwise look like a waste of time.

And… this is where the practical side of my personality kicks in and forces me to admit: Okay, actually, sometimes a lot of the research I do is a waste of time. But I usually don’t know beforehand what is and isn’t going to be useful, so most of the time I approach research the way a puppy might approach a mud puddle: I jump in and roll around, and some mud/information sticks and some doesn’t, and either way, I’m delighted to be there.

For the Children of Exile series—which is concluding this winter with the third and final book, Children of Jubilee—I cast a very wide net with my research. For past series and standalone books, I’ve gone into the research phase with specific historical or scientific questions I needed to answer. But for Children of Exile, I wanted to think more broadly: What makes humans the way they are? What factors shape civilization? Is violence an innate part of humanity, or only a learned response? How would somebody raise kids specifically to avoid violence? How would somebody design a culture specifically for the good of children, not adults?

Those are all deep questions, and ones that scholars spend entire careers pondering. I could have looked for my answers in any number of academic disciplines—theology? Philosophy? Sociology? Education and early-childhood development? Psychology? In the end, I found the most help in a field I’d somehow overlooked when I was in college: Anthropology.

Two books in particular made me think about the questions I was asking in new ways, and so now I’ve been telling lots of people, “You should read this, too! It’s really interesting!”

The first book was THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED, by Steven Pinker. His premise was that, despite the idea many of us get from recent news coverage, we may actually be living in the most peaceful time in history. Pinker’s approach partly was to remind us exactly how violent the past was, through examples such as 1950s advertisements for coffee that essentially endorsed domestic violence.

The second book was THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES? by Jared Diamond, which looks at lessons from societies that for various reasons have not modernized and/or have managed to stay totally disconnected from the rest of the world’s influences. The book did not make me want to live off the land in, say, the Amazon or the Kalahari—I appreciate modern plumbing, modern medicine, and WiFi access way too much for that--but it did make me re-examine a lot of my automatic assumptions. At times, reading both of these books, I felt like I was flipping my brain inside out, viewing the world in a completely new way.

I don’t think anyone reading the Children of Exile series would ever be able to proclaim, “Aha! I can tell exactly which books the author read while she was researching this!” At its best, writing fiction is alchemy—it’s more like trying to spin straw into gold than following a formula. It’s not “research plus plot plus character plus setting plus skillful writing plus lots of revision” as much as all that multiplied by a lot of intangible epiphanies that I can’t explain except to say, “It feels like magic.”

Once, years ago, I attended a literary dinner where I happened to sit next to a man who admitted from the very beginning that he knew almost nothing about fiction, and even less about books for kids. He made an effort, though, and began asking about the book I was there to represent, Among the Hidden. He asked what the book was about, and after I was finished giving a quick description, he mused, “Wow, it must be really nice, having your job. Writing something like that for kids, you wouldn’t have to do any research at all.”

And I was instantly furious. In actuality, I had done so much research for Among the Hidden that I kind of thought I deserved a graduate degree in Population Control Issues. I’d read everything I could find about the One-Child population control effort in China; I’d studied lesser-known programs in Africa and elsewhere in Asia. I’d examined graphs and charts showing population statistics across centuries. Did I cite a single one of those statistics in Among the Hidden? No, of course not. I was writing a book for kids, not a graduate thesis. But did I feel I owed it to my readers to know that background information? Absolutely. If anything, the fact that my book was for kids made me feel an even greater obligation to do the research and be as accurate as possible in my depictions. Adults bring both life experience and lots of previous reading experience to any book they pick up; for kids, one of my books might be their first exposure to a topic, and so I feel that responsibility intensely.

With the research I did for the Children of Exile series, I don’t feel that I deserved any sort of new graduate degree in anything. I didn’t feel that I gained knowledge as much as more questions to ask. At the end of my research, I was still wondering:  What makes humans the way they are? What factors shape civilization? Is violence an innate part of humanity, or only a learned response? How would somebody raise kids specifically to avoid violence? How would somebody design a culture specifically for the good of children, not adults?

But that was okay. The research gave me a foundation for passing those questions on. If readers finish the series also wondering about civilization and violence and the nature of humankind, that’s great.

My research will have been worth it. Sometimes wondering is an ends in and of itself.


Blog Tour Schedule:

December 3rd — Beach Bound Books
December 4th — Ms. Yingling Reads
December 5thChristy's Cozy Corners
December 6thCrossroad Reviews
December 7th — A Dream Within A Dream

December 10th — Book Briefs
December 11th — Chat with Vera
December 12th — Bookhounds
December 13th — Java John Z's
December 14th — Unleashing Readers

Follow Margaret: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Kiandra has to use her wits and tech-savvy ways to help rescue Edwy, Enu, and the others from the clutches of the Enforcers in the thrilling final novel of the Children of Exile series from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.

But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.

About the Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at


  • One (1) winner will receive the complete Children of Exile trilogy: Children of Exile, Children of Refuge, and Children of Jubilee
  • US/Canada only
  • Begins December 11 and Ends January 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLAIMER: Blog tour article material provided by the author and MMPublicity. Giveaway is hosted singularly here on Chat With Vera and books are provided by the author and MMPublicity and will be sent by them directly to the winner.