Friday, April 27, 2018

The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg (Political thriller by New York Times bestselling author)

ISBN: 9781496406170
Hardcover $27.99
Tyndale House Publishers
My thoughts: The stakes can't get much higher than this political thriller set in Russia.

The story runs with two parallel story lines set in two vastly different countries and political atmospheres. Following the youth to maturity of a rising Soviet man and an American who serves in the military and secret service, Rosenberg brings the two together in averting a catastrophe of world shattering magnitude.

The scenario is such that it is mind-boggling to conceive that such action could actually occur or be conspired into actual being.

With veiled shadows of currently living major players in the world scene, it is a piece of fiction. But could it happen? Let's prayerfully hope not.

Rosenberg has previously written stories of political intrigue and events that, though fiction, seemed to be ripped straight from the newspaper or evening news broadcast. This is no exception and you almost feel like turning on the news to see if it has really happened.

The building story is a fast paced read that climaxes with such intensity that you hold your breath as you turn page after page. Landing on the last page you wonder, where next? Surely this doesn't end here?

I found this a fascinating book to read and highly recommend it. I look with anticipation toward a sequel to The Kremlin Conspiracy and resolution of these uncharted and strange waters.

About the book: Everything he learned to protect our president, he must use to take out theirs.

With an American president distracted by growing tensions in North Korea and Iran, an ominous new threat is emerging in Moscow. A czar is rising in the Kremlin, a Russian president feverishly consolidating power, silencing his opposition, and plotting a brazen and lightning-fast military strike that could rupture the NATO alliance and bring Washington and Moscow to the brink of nuclear war. But in his blind spot is the former U.S. Secret Service agent, Marcus Ryker, trained to protect but ready to kill to save his country.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher to read and review. Opinions are solely my own and are freely given.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tealyra Stove-Top Safe Borosilicate Glass Teapot / Kettle

If you are a lover of well brewed tea, you most likely have a favorite teapot. You might even have an assortment of teapots. I know I do. I have a lovely English Bone China teapot, and a couple of porcelain teapots. I have a simple kitchen-ware-clay type and a beautiful clear glass teapot. I also have one designed like a little English Tea Shop. I'm not a true collector, I just have a few.

The promise of good things to come! New teapot!Fresh blend of rooibos tea!
Out of the box and ready 
The pictured teapot is my newest and it is a wonderful high quality heat-resistant borosilicate glass teapot that has a very lovely and highly utilitarian design.

Stainless steel hinged lid fits snugly in opening.
Basket for tea is deep for brewing a little or a lot.
The lines are simple with a short spout that is situated near the top of the pot which I really like. You see, if the spout is long and low then the liquid in the pot seeks its own level which means the liquid goes right on up into the spout. This gets pretty dicey when you have a pot that you heat the water in. As it begins to heat it expands and bubbles right out of the spout. This does not happen with the Tealyra pot unless you tend to overfill the pot.
You may use glass teapot directly on the stove top.
I recommend medium heat. It comes to a boil fairly quickly.
As you can see, movement has begun so it is nearly ready
immerse tea basket.
I like that the lid to the teapot is stainless steel metal. You know it is so easy to break those delicate glass lids! So with this lovely teapot the lid is metal and is hinged to the ring that snaps into the top of the teapot. And the basket is removable.

A picture is worth a thousand words and I just want to show you a bit......

Tealyra Lemon Lime Sage Rooibos Tea
And quality tea is what I aim for when I drink tea. I tried the Lemon Lime Sage Rooibos tea with lemon. Simply wonderful.

Tealyra has a discount code you can use on their website to discount any purchase you make for tea or products on the website. Use GET-25-USA4 on  or you can purchase it on

What Tealyra says about this delightful teapot

We are excited to introduce you to our new and updated Lyra Teapot! Modern functionality and a sleek look meet in our newly updated Lyra Teapot. Lyra Teapot is ideal for either loose tea, your favorite bagged tea or blooming teas. Lyra Teapot makes enjoying your tea effortless- whether hot, iced or cold-steeping tea! It is made with the highest quality heat-resistant borosilicate glass and is stove-top safe, which makes it ideal to boil water for steeping your favorite teas. Lyra features a comfortable rounded handle and a drip-proof spout. Lyra’s stainless-steel lid keeps your beverage fresh longer. The design of our tall filter basket means that you can steep one cup, or a whole pot full! The large-capacity basket infuser is ultra-fine, it is a wonderful choice for your all your favorite loose leaf teas, and herbal teas. Our Lyra Teapot is the answer to all your steeping needs, the perfect tea top for daily use! Design features: - Gas and Electric Stove top safe - Heat-Resistant Borosilicate Glass - Dishwasher safe - Tall Stainless Steel Infuser - Drip-proof spout - 37oz / 1.1L capacity

Product Details

  • STOVE TOP SAFE - A SIMPLE & LOVELY DESIGN TO ADD TO YOUR KITCHEN. - Made of Borosilicate Glass, a lightweight, durable glass that can withstand high temperatures and low temperatures. Designed with a narrow pitcher style to save valuable kitchen counter space, this teapot naturally becomes an elegant addition to your kitchen. Serve your tea in style for your friends, your colleagues and your family.
  • THE PERFECT SIZE & CONFIGURATION FOR YOUR TEA DELIGHTS. - Great for 5-6 cups of standard cups of to last you through your day in office.The infuser makes it easy to brew cold and hot tea configurations. For cold brew, simply put your tea leaves in the infuser and let it brew overnight. Awaken to a delightful pot of fresh cold brew tea.
  • REMOVABLE STAINLESS STEEL INFUSER FOR EASY HANDLING. - Enhance your tea drinking experience by steeping loose leaf tea exactly as you need it. With a removable stainless steel infuser and a large sized teapot, steep loose leaf as long as necessary and remove the infuser; Thereafter, remove all components for easy cleaning and reassemble them without hassle.
  • EASY TO HOLD, POURS LIKE A DREAM. - Ergonomically designed handle remains cool to touch and easy to hold
DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post and review for which I received products to facilitate the review. Opinions are my own and are given after using the products in my daily life under normal household living. Pictures used in this review are my personal property and may only be used if I grant permission in writing.©

LISTEN UP: Ten-Minute Family Devotions on the Parables by Marty Machowski [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: My perception of this new devotional release by Marty Machowski is that it is on target theologically. I see the family grouping to use this book to include upper elementary and upwards to adults. Though conceived and written for parental lead devotions, it can be used as a personal devotional for older teens though it is obviously a "guided" study.

The first take-away I got from Listen Up is that when instructions are given in the Bible for us to hear ("he that hath ears to hear.....") is not simply an act of hearing. But we are to hear what is being said, listen to  our heart, and act on what we hear. True hearing involves doing or acting on what we hear. This is in the first week's lesson where the action word is "listen."

Each week has a focus..... listen, build, treasure, follow, etc.

The first parable addressed in the study is that of the sower as presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In this five day lesson plan, we learn that the parables are given to explain Christ's teachings to those with open hearts and yet some interpretation is hidden to those with closed hearts.

Each five day plan has a Get Ready and Get Set introduction that can be read on Sunday in preparation for the other five days lessons. Having a five day plan seems to allow for the busyness of Sunday and Wednesday (usually quite busy days for chuch folks) and using the five non-church days or evenings to have family devotions.

Several versions of the Bible are utilized throughout Listen Up. The passages are not lengthy so you can read your preferred version (mine is the KJV) or you can use that printed in the book itself.

As with other materials I have had the opportunity to review for New Growth Press and the author, Marty Machowski, I am quite impressed and pleased to recommend this devotional book. There is a lot of good, sound information to be gleaned from Listen Up. This is not a cute devotional book for young children and there are no illustrations or cute activities. This is straight-forward teaching that is interesting and valuable.

About the book: After teaching a parable Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.” In other words, “This is important, so you better listen up” and what could be more important than the good news of the kingdom of God? This family devotional provides a unique opportunity for parents to help their children “listen up” and hear the gospel as Jesus himself shared it. Jesus told simple stories using everyday activities and objects that point to surprising spiritual truths about life in his kingdom. In the parables children (and adults!) will learn to treasure the gospel.

Children love stories and the parables provide a wonderful opportunity to engage their imaginations and help them understand and live out the good news of the kingdom of God. This thirteen-week family devotional is designed to help families explore the parables that Jesus taught through reading selected parables, activities, discussion questions, and “fun facts.” Each five-day session includes Bible reading, discussion questions, a fun activity, and songs.
The publisher and author are graciously providing a copy for this giveaway.
Begins April 25
ENDS May 9 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Voibella Advanced Anti-Aging Vitamin C Facial Serum - A Wonderful Natural Anti-Wrinkle Face Serum for Women: Hydrating, Smoothing, Tightening, Firming

Have you ever looked at a product and just enthused over the beauty of the packaging? Have you thought, "Oh! I'd just love to have the luxury of using such a nice product"?

I have, and I have purchased products in lovely packaging that thrilled me to use. But I've also had products that make a promise by the outward appearance that it will be beautiful to use as well and then been so disappointed.
Beautiful silver pump dispenser is lovely on counter or vanity.

With Voibella Advanced Anti-Aging Serum I loved the package. So beautiful! And then when I used it the first time...... WOW! So nice. But time is the truth teller, isn't it?

So after using it for a week I am happy to share that I absolutely love this thin, easy to apply serum. It has my skin feeling so nice. But most of all, I love the way my face skin looks. It looks smoother. The pores seem smaller. There is a healthy, youthful glow that I just love. And after applying my makeup, I think, "This stuff is good!"
Decision to reach for this beautification product is a good choice.

How did I use the Voibella serum?

I used the serum morning and evening on my freshly cleansed face. I used three pumps and applied all over my face, neck, and chest but concentrating mostly on my face. Once evenly applied to the skin, I use light, rotating with my fingertips all over the face using upward sweeping and rotating movements.  This lightly massages the skin aiding in the deeper penetration of the serum. Light massage is also good to stimulate the skin and underlying facial muscles and ligaments that support.

After the skin dries, I pat moisturizer all over and gently massage it into the skin similar to that just done with the serum.

It is recommended by Voibella that during the day a SPF be used to protect the skin from sunlight.

I have used several face skin serums previously and I believe the Voibella Vitamin C Anti-Aging Serum is top of the line.

Where can you find it? Amazon  and the Voibella website.

Product information

  • VITAMIN C 20% (Optimal concentration for absorption) – Potent antioxidant effective for brightening dull skin, correcting uneven skin tone, reducing blemishes, sun damage, dark spots, appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and keeping pores healthy. We use Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which is most stable, effective, gentle and not irritating, unlike other types of vitamin C.
  • ALOE VERA – Used for it's skin healing, anti-inflammatory and rejuvenating properties.
  • MSM – This wonder of nature is essential for collagen and keratin production to keep skin smooth and youthful.
  • BOTANICAL HYALURONIC ACID (Cassia Angustifolia Seed) – Has skin  conditioning and hydrating properties that moisturize and soften your skin. It also helps plump wrinkles and fine lines, improves elasticity & promotes skin restoration.
  • WITCH HAZEL – Anti-inflammatory, astringent and antioxidant properties that is good for acne, soothing, pore minimizing, toning and tightening.
  • JOJOBA OIL – Well-known for enhancing skin's restorative properties.
  • VITAMIN E – Natural skin-conditioning antioxidant. Reduces the formation of free radicals from exposure to UV rays, strengthens your skin's barrier function, promotes healing and prevents moisture loss.
  • GOTU KOLA – Used for stimulating skin repair and firmness. It also helps with collagen synthesis and promotes the improvement of skin complexion.
  • HORSETAIL PLANT EXTRACT – Strengthens and regenerates skin tissue. Promotes collagen and elastin production which are very important for healthy plump skin.
  • Vitamin C is sensitive to air; Unlike most other brands using droppers, our facial serum is protected from air exposure in an airless pump bottle to keep it fresh, effective and safe
  • Made with a 98% Natural formula and lots of LOVE right here in the USA, in FDA-registered and GMP-certified facilities; 
  • Cruelty Free, paraben free, Vegan & tested for safety and effectiveness
DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post and review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and only after actually using the product for the stated time. #voibellabeauty 

Two early learning board books for little ones with rubber duckies and sweet owls [Review & Giveaway - USA/CANADA]

Studio Fun $11.99 - 12 pgs
ISBN: 9780794441197

Sesame Street: 5 Little Rubber Duckies 

My thoughts: This is a bright, cheerful counting book that will appeal to little ones. Not only are they counting in reverse (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) but they also have an oversized numeral on each page that they can trace within the outline. Then at the top of the book they can move the little duckies to show how many are on the page they are counting.

This is "hands on" and "manipulated" learning that surely implants the lesson in the little one's mind.

The story is a bit of rhyming words though not quite poetry. It is cute in that the rubber duckies are out having fun-time adventures and not all like to go when called.

A cute counting book with the added functionality of tracing and hands-on counting. The is a durable board book sure to survive much love.

About the book: This is educational fun for little ones 2 and up, as they learn their numbers with Elmo and friends!

Join Ernie and his friends on Sesame Street as they try to find five little rubber duckies in this fun, hands-on board book! With touch and trace elements perfect for little hands and plastic duckies to push and count along, this book is the perfect story time activity for early learners. Also available in Spanish (5 Patitos de Hule)!

10, 9, 8…Owls Up Late! 

Silver Dolphin $9.99
 26 pgs - Ages 3-5
ISBN: 9781684121847
My thoughts:  Some of these little owls have an "I don't want to go to sleep yet" attitude. Not bad, just something mama Owl needs to deal with.

This charming little counting book has cut out spots that are two-fold. First, you see it highlighting an owl or so with each page turn. Secondly, when you turn the page the right side's cut outs now become the left side and they reveal little critters that your little one can identify.

The little purple owl is the social owl and he flits from one branch or one critter to another socializing. Mama owl finally has them all tucked in the nest.

You'll notice as you read that the deep blue of night lightens a bit with each page until it is sunshiny bright. This is an opportunity to teach that owls are nocturnal.

Not only are there owls to take note of, there is a host of other critters from a tiny snail to a frisky squirrel that scamper around the tree, too. A little grey mouse also scampers about collecting the fruit on the tree and has it all piled up by the end of the story. Don't miss the tiny snail that creeps upward on the tree trunk only to fall near the end and have to begin his journey anew.

This is a delightful counting book with the end pages providing an opportunity to see the owls all in rows to be counted all over again. The book is durable board book that will survive the love and attention a small child gives.

About the book: 
"Ten little owls are playing in a tree, 
hopping and hooting happily. 
But Mama Owl calls from down in the nest, 
“It’s bedtime now; it’s time to rest.” 

Peek through the pages and spot the mischievous owls in this fun counting book, perfect for bedtime! Featuring fun rhyming text, funny illustrations and peek-through die-cut pages. Ten cheeky, bouncy, noisy owls are playing in a tree. It's bedtime, but they're having far too much fun to go to sleep! Uh-oh. Will Mummy Owl ever convince all her little owlets to fly down to the nest?

1 Winner Receives a Copy of Both Books
Begins April 23
Ends May 14 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA  and CANADA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given. Winner's copies will be sent by publicist or publisher directly to the winner.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told By His Loyal Dog by Ralph Hardy [Spotlight the book & giveaway]

Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told By His Loyal Dog by Ralph Hardy (HarperCollins; 3/27/2018; ISBN: 978-0062396792; Paperback $6.99; Ages 8-12, 400 pages) 

A middle grade reimagining of Homer’s The Odyssey told from the point of view of Odysseus’s loyal dog, Argos.

Now available in paperback, this rousing story of devotion and determination is an original take on one of the most beloved myths of all time.

For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to home on Ithaka. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He does whatever it takes to reunite with his family.

And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure whether they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master.

Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s epic voyage. These tales bring hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos the loyal dog watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.will be swept away by this enchanting debut as they hurry to unlock the terrible truth of the Tombs.
Begins April 20
ENDS May 12 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

DISCLOSURE: This is solely a book "spotlight" and does not indicate that I have read nor can endorse the contents of the book. I believe it would be a good story for middle-school students. Giveaway copy is provided by MMPublicity to the winner selected randomly using the Rafflecopter sysem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

My thoughts: Everyone has a mother and a father. Everyone ha a grandmother and a grandfather. And on down the line it goes. Whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not, we are part of who they are or were. It is how we're made up physically.

In Alma and How She Got Her Name an adorable little girl in pink stripped clothes delights the heart visually and in the actual story. But this is so much more than the tale of a sweet little girl traipsing across the pages of a picture book. It is a story of how each part of her name means something and is linked to someone.

The author's birth home is the land of Peru and this sweet book definitely has a Peruvian or Spanish flavor especially when you look closely at the illustrations. I absolutely love little Alma. Her personality shines as one of sweetness and precocious intuition. The drawings are deftly conceived using soft pencils or perhaps charcoal and pastels. The blacks and shades of grey with touches of pinks and red are executed beautifully and tell the story visually in a sweetly unique manner.

I love how it ends with the telling of just what "Alma" means and the goal for living a story it invokes.

A sweet book that readers in English or Spanish will enjoy and they can get a copy in either language. My review copy was in English.

About the book: What's in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Juana Martinez-Neal’s  has been one of the most highly anticipated new picture books this Spring! This is a great book to encourage a child’s interest in genealogy and family history. Juana Martinez-Neal recently received the Pura Belpré award for her book La Princesa and the Pea.
Winner's choice: English or Spanish
Begins April 19
Ends May 11 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA and CANADA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway 
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press on behalf of the author to faiclitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

The Beginner's Bible Bedtime Collection: 20 Favorite Bible Stories and Prayers from Zonderekidz

ISBN: 9780310763284
Hardcover $12.99
My thoughts:  With a slightly softened cover, this perfectly sized collection of Bible stories is written with the 3 to 8 year old child in mind. It is a good cross between a picture book and a chapter book. Complete with a Table of Contents at the beginning, it is separated into Old Testament and New Testament with 20 favorite stories from the Bible.

Written in a flowing story-telling text that briefly tells the story for young listeners and young readers alike is sure to capture their attention with it's cute illustrations.

It features a brief prayer and a Bible verse at the conclusion of each story. Scripture quotes are primarily from the NIrV. I prefer the tried and true KJV yet find this quite acceptable.

I just love the way the New Testament account of Jesus stilling the storm while his disciples were in the boat is written and illustrated in an especially appealing way. And as the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and these pictures and text tell the value of this Bedtime Collection of Bible Stories from The Beginner's Bible.

I think this little book would be a super addition to a family collection of books for their little ones to grow with.

About the book: The beloved The Beginner’s Bible® brand is the bestselling Bible storybook of our time, with more than 25 million products sold. The Beginner’s Bible Bedtime Collection: 20 Favorite Bible Stories and Prayers is the first-ever bedtime book to come from this trusted brand. The book features a padded, glow-in-the-dark cover as well as 20 favorite Bible stories. Little ones will love the vibrant, 3-D art, and parents will love sharing the good night prayers with their children. The perfect addition to your nighttime routine, The Beginner’s Bible Bedtime Collection will bring children closer to God as they get ready for sleep.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blogger Review program on behalf of ZonderKidz/Zondervan Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

If your mother is a "natural" then treat her to a natural gift from Good Earth Beauty for Mother's Day [Review and Giveaway]

Have you considered what a treasure your mother is?

When you were a baby or a small child, she held and lovingly caressed you with her capable hands.

After you grew up and had little ones of your own, or perhaps pursued a single life, her loving and capable hands that once held you have grown older, work-worn, weathered, wrinkled. Now she holds you with her heart.

And what are you going to do for her on May 13th - Mother's Day? That will be the day we celebrate our mothers. If you still have your mother in your life (Mine has been gone for many years now and I miss her so much!), do something for her.

Caress her with a gift that shows a bit of love and care. If she is near you or if she is afar off, you can order from Good Earth Beauty  selecting from a wonderful assortment of skin care and bath products that are all natural and made in the USA.

The fragrant essential oils and lubricating oils that Good Earth Beauty uses encompass a wide range and you can surely find products that your own mother or a mother you wish to honor would absolutely love!
Good Earth Beauty's natural shampoos and conditioners are superb! Right now I am using the Pumpkin Chai Shampoo and love it. I have used the Strawberry and Cherry shampoos pictured above and they, too, are wonderful! The Rose Petal Hand Cream is light and so very lady like!

Good Earth Beauty has such a broad range of individual products from which you may choose, and they have quite an assortment of premade "boxes" or "custom made" as shown above. There are lovelies from which to choose.

They sent me a "Custom Box" which shows a sampling of what you can choose from to custom select your boxed gift or you may select from their great assortment of boxes.

Featured in my "Custom Box" was a full sized Lavender Body Balm. This is a lovely and soothing balm to rub onto your hands and body. Let's look at it.....
LAVENDER BODY BALM NATURAL - Super moisturizing balm - great for extra dry, chapped skin. All natural and Pure.  Hand made in the USA.  Ingredients: Organic sunflower oil, organic shea butter, beeswax, organic cocoa butter, organic jojoba oil, essential oil blend - (Scent choices: Lavender, Geranium Rose, Tea Tree Patchouli, Lemongrass, or Unscented) Price: $16.00 2 oz tin Find it online click here
Rub onto your skin just before bed for a relaxing feel to your skin and a sensory experience that will relax and aid as your sleep. This allows it to penetrate and enrich your skin for the hours you sleep.

As you can see from the opened container, the balm has a waxy appearance. It is firm but is easy to retrieve the desired amount. Then rub the product between your hands to dissolve and warm it. Gently massage it onto the skin as you desire. Then simply enjoy the feel and fragrance. There is just a hint of fragrance but it is enough to enjoy.

So what will it be for Mother this year? A lovely handcream, a body balm, special shampoo? Or perhaps an assortment.

Good Earth Beauty has graciously provided a tin of the Natural Body Balm as pictured above for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. Use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter. Return daily for easy entries. Win it for yourself or perhaps for that special mother in your life.
Winner may select choice of scent from list
Begins April 15
Ends May 6 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresss only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary package of products as pictured above to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and are freely given.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Land Lord by Cheryl Colwell (Political Suspense)

My thoughts:  This is my first occasion to read Cheryl Colwell's work. She writes an interesting story and weaves suspense and intrigue that is mind-consuming and perplexing.

Firstly, using names of Chinese individuals past and present made the read a bit difficult for me to follow. My problem, I am sure, since I'm not familiar with these names. Also, it seems some of the characters actually have two different names which further complicated my ability to follow the thread of who is doing what and where.

This is a multi-layered story involving political scenarios past and present, scientific achievement both past and present, complications within a specific political ideology, etc.

Basically, it is a conflict between two superpowers - The United States of America and China. But not actually governmental - more underlying currents of political ideas and movements.

The "Land Lord" concept is quite interesting and the revelation at the end of "The Land Lord" is intriguing. Land and the possession of it is complex across the globe and this book brings this to the reader in an intriguing and somewhat baffling way.

The book is published by Inspired Fiction Books which I assume is self-publishing for Ms. Colwell. Well published though it did contain a few editorial missteps. I will most likely read future books by this author if given the opportunity for another interesting political read.

About the book:  Land lords: China’s most threatening export yet. Incensed at the economic takeover, America’s ethnic populations are killing each other. Bombs are blowing up buildings, buses and businesses. The President knows someone in his White House is manipulating the hatred. But who?

He recruits Secret Service agent Dain Ryder, who served under him in the Marines, and Lian Chen, the mysterious woman from the People’s Republic of China, to join a covert team in a race against his enemies to find the answers. The winner will determine the fate of the President, and the fate of his nation.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookCrash Reviewers program on behalf of the author to facilitate this review. Opinions are solely my own and are freely given.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Rabbit and the Shadow by Mélanie Rutten from Eerdmans Publishing [Review and Giveaway]

My thoughts: This is a charming "chapter" book for early readers. It is also a picture book. I like that publishers and authors are beginning to divide picture book stories into segments or "chapters" which enable a child to learn to break out the story into prescribed sections or portions. 

Mélanie Rutten uses her dual talents of drawing and painting coupled with top notch storytelling to share a woodlands creatures story of growing up and all that it encompasses. Originally published in France under the title of L'ombre de chacun, the story explores the complexities of growing up, meeting others, dreaming of things to come, overcoming problems, and simply adjusting to life as it comes at us.

Rabbit is left at the door of Stag and become parent and child. The story is tender and flows with a gentle beauty. As Rabbit grows he branches out and discovers new acquaintances - Soldier and Cat. They sort of band together and begin their meanderings and discoveries. This branching out to have friendships outside the parental bond is primary to ultimate maturity and departure from the security of the home. The necessity of understanding the differences of others and their and your goals in life is also part of the maturation process.

This journey of Rabbit with his friends explores the volcanoes of life that explode upon the scene and of which we are afraid, and the darkness of the nights of our existence. All are fears to be overcome.

The illustrations are done in sweeping line drawings and vivid water colors. Strong yet somewhat whimsical.

While there are complexities to the story, it can be read as simply a sweet story of Rabbit venturing forth. No need to explain the deeper thoughts and intent of the author. Just read it and enjoy. Or..... peruse some philosophical musings.

About the book: An imaginative story about growing up and growing together

Three strangers meet in the forest, each on their own quest: the cat is looking for his ball, the angry soldier is searching for peace, and the rabbit is learning how to grow up. They decide to hike to the top of a volcano together, and along the journey they help each other confront their own fears and insecurities. Though the paths they take are bumpy and tangled, eventually they all man-age to find just what they’re looking for.

Perfect for fans of the Frog and the Toad series, this stunning ensemble book offers a coming-of-age tale about fear, dreams, journeys, and family.

Begins April 12
Ends May 4 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Eerdmans Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Herodotus the Hedgehog by Jean-Luc Buquet from Eerdmans Publishing [Review]

My thoughts:  Herodotus is a curious young hedgehog who meanders through the forest encountering a plethora of forest critters from insects to huge animals. It all begins with a simple wandering and observation of bear's behavior. Then Herodotus questions the bear's behavior and wonders if other critters have a spirit to whom they give praise and gifts.

The story flows gently through the book and is nicely told. It makes for a good read-aloud book. There is, however, subtle teaching of subject matter that some would find difficulty with having it presented in the mask of a children's picture book.

Namely, the thought that there is only one great spirit and we all worship our own choice of spirits but they are all representative of the one great spirit. This smacks of the One God One Universe theory. But perhaps I read too much into this children's book.

The story can show differences in individuals so that a young child can learn that we are not all alike, but that we think, live, love, and worship in different ways. This can be used to show tolerance of the beliefs of others.

Or perhaps we can just simply read this as a sweet children's book about a hedgehog that meanders through the forest meeting critters along the way and having a chat with them. We can think, too, about the choice of the hedgehog's name, "Herodotus." Herodotus is considered the father of history as he was the first to document the facts of historic events. I don't see a connection between the two but surely the author has some intent in naming the little hedgehog after such a giant of a historic figure.

About the book: A philosophical story that celebrates diversity

Herodotus is a curious little hedgehog who loves exploring the woods. One day he sees a bear leaving an offering of fruit and honey to the Great Spirit Bear, and he wonders if other animals worship the Great Spirit Bear too. So he decides to talk to the other animals in the forest, and discovers that they each believe something different. Herodotus is fascinated by their ideas, but eventually he’ll have to decide what he believes in himself.

This thoughtful, engaging book will prompt readers to ponder their own beliefs and ideas about life’s big questions.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Eerdmans Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Re-launch of Judy Moody 13-book collection and a new book #14 "Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party" [Review & 2-Winner Giveaway]

Let's face it. Judy Moody and all of her adventures or escapades came along after my own children were grown. Did any of my "grands" read the book? I really don't know. I do know that the opinion is mixed on liking and not liking Judy Moody. She is, after all, a bit of a conundrum - quirky, moody. testy, sassy, and more. But she is the embodiment of that which makes many kids "tick" whether it is good or bad.

Often it is the kid that exhibits Judy's traits that learns how to manage themselves and have the sheer guts to go forth and make a success out of themselves utilizing their individual talents. The key word here is manage.  Parents can guide the reading and interpretation of read materials so that the child grows and learns to manage their abilities.

Now what does Chat With Vera think?  I think Judy Moody is a girl that wears her feelings mostly on the outside. That means she sometimes blurts out things that make one cringe and she sometimes gets ramped up and sometimes gets her mood ramped down. She is energetic and full of creative juices and instinct.

Judy Moody is a one-of-a-kind extraordinary extrovert that sits between the pages of each an every Judy Moody book. On Amazon, there is an audio introduction of the first book. Click here and enter her delightful world (the audio link is under the cover image). Hey! While at Amazon, take a look at all the titles.

In April all 13 paperbacks are re-launched with new animal print covers and book #14 launches this September. And the companion Judy Moody website! has been updated. Check it out for so much fun and activities.

Book #14 Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party has this capricious 8 year old ramped up because she grasps onto the information that one of her ancestors was British and rescued someone from the Tower of London. She jumps from that information to the idea of having royal blood flowing through her veins and onto the regal perch of Queen. This is the mood of her day and the goal is to make everything royal purple.

Her purple queenly fascination follows her into her third grade classroom and the family tree project. The story is cute. Judy Moody is a lively little girl who gets an idea and "runs with it" where it totally encompasss her life.

Download Judy Moody Day Activity Kit - click here
Book #14 will be purblished in September and is a brand new story of this delightful girl.                                                                                                             

So if you want to get in on a re-launch of Judy Moody books, here is your chance. You can run to your nearest book store or go to your favorite on-line site and get the whole set of 13 books. You do have to wait until April 10th. And a brand new book, Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party  book #14, releases in September.

Meanwhile, enter this #giveaway - two super winners! 1st place winner - A collection of  13 Judy Moody titles and a specially designed Judy Moody tote bag. And 2nd  place winner - the first 3 Judy Moody titles.
Isn't this just the grooviest tote bag you've ever seen?
Win this with 13 Judy Moody titles! WOW
And note the cover to book #14 releasing in September,

1st place: 13 Judy Moody titles and a specially designed Judy Moody tote bag
2nd  place: The first 3 Judy Moody titles
Begins April 8
Ends April 30 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA and CANADA addresses only.
NO P.O. BOXES, please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Discosure:  I was provided the same products mentioned in this review by the publisher to facilitate this promotion and review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

High Cotton: Bucklin Family Reunion series: Book 1 by Debby Mayne (Southern Fiction from Gilead Publishing) [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts:  From the first page, High Cotton has you jumping into the family with both feet and before you know it you're knee deep in characters with their quirks, smirks, roses and thorns, and pure southern goodness. Be prepared because there are stories within the story and you have to have your bonnet tied on tight to keep them all straight as you switch from one point of view to another.

What I like about some of the characters.......
"Shay" is a strong young Southern woman who is successful in business. She is single, but recently having encountered former high school crush has the date scene looking a bit promising. She is smart. She is successful. She is considerate and loving. 
"The Twins: Sara and Sally" are in their early 20's and are highly successful (think large bank balances) with their Etsy business of making large bows! I totally love these two energetic, sentence sharing sweeties! 
"Puddin'" is the middle aged wife and mother who is hiding a secret and who feels unappreciated and unloved. Nothing bad or sinister here, just simple middle age stuff that some sweet women experience.
Lots of other characters, but these hit the spot of favoritism with me. And they and all the others prepare for some southern living that really isn't too much different from northern or western living.

This is a delightfully fun book to read full of charm, quirkiness, sweetness, and humor that is a good book to share. Who knows? You just might find yourself written in as one of the characters. Will you find yourself in the pages of High Cotton?

About the book: Some families are filled with so much love they can't help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family's next reunion. On the one hand, she'll get to see everyone in her mama's family---folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there'll be more drama than you can shake a stick at.

The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law's deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunion . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay's teen self, but the woman she's become doesn't know what to make of this.

Shay's contentment is challenged, and she's determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she's looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet and predictable life?
Begins March 21
Ends April 9 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Meet the Author: Debby Mayne writes family and faith-based romances, cozy mysteries, and women's fiction and is the author of more than 60 novels and novellas-plus more than 1,000 short stories, articles, and devotions for busy women. Debby is currently an etiquette writer for The Spruce.

Debby grew up in a military family, which meant moving every few years throughout her childhood. She was born in Alaska, and she has lived in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Japan. Her parents were both from the Deep South, so Debby enjoys featuring characters with Southern drawls, plenty of down-home cooking, and folks with quirky mannerisms. High Cotton is the first book in the Bucklin Family Reunion series.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions expressed by me are mine, alone, and are freely given. Giveaway copy is provided directly to the winner by Gilead Publishing.

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts:  This  story set in Victorian England runs the gamut of the genre with its tried and true storylines of nobility and  class struggle. The conflict between the wealthy, noble class and the poor, servant class and the chasm that divides them is clearly shown by the author in the characters Edward, Earl of Stainsby, father of Noland who is Edward's newly revealed son. And then you have the older, longserving man and his wife in the servants' quarters that comfort, advise, and care for both the noble Earl and the hurting servants.

There is a wealth of excitement and danger that surround the young couple. Noland Price, who newly discovered he is the son of the Earl, and his sweetheart Hannah marry in a quiet ceremony just as they planned prior to discovering that he was the son of the Earl. This is not acceptable to the haughty Earl so the conflict begins.

Throughout the book there is a steady ebb and flow of tension  as Noland grows into the noble heritage that is truly his and still keeps his heart melded to the sweet kitchen maid that is his wife. When the strain become too great, Hannah flees. She finds sanctuary with an aunt who proves to be a star character in this book.

I found the various characters interesting and well developed. The writing style of Susan Anne Mason is easy to follow and thoroughly well constructed. I enjoyed reading A Most Noble Heir,

Who is a good reading audience for this book? I would recommend this be kept for ages 18 the mature reader. I  base this recommendation on the fact that there is a strong romance between the lead characters; and while it is not sexually explicit, it is not something I would acquire for the younger reader. Then, too, there is the birthing scene which is pretty intense. Please note that this is a clean, Christian book and the characters are people of faith.

About the book: When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl's heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope--believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father's demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan's new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.
Begins March 23
Ends April 10 at 12:01 a.m EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given,

Monday, April 2, 2018

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby's Prospects by Janice Thompson

My thoughts:  Having read two contemporary novels by the author Janice Thompson, I didn't know what to expect from her historical novel of San Francisco California during the Gold Rush years. I found that in this book as with her contemporary books, she has a sense of humor and writes a light and easy-to-read story  that satisfies the need for relaxed reading.

When aristocratic Abigail Effingham and her butler journey by train and stage coach from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania toward the Oregon Territory in search for her wandering and adventurous mother, they find themselves, however, landed in lawless, boisterous San Francisco and soon discover that it isn't what they expected.

Abby (Abigail) isn't what I would expect, either. A refined young lady who is escorted by lifelong servant, the family butler, soon virtually sheds her cultured bearing and fits right in taking on chores and work definitely unbecoming a lady of culture and class. She and the butler accept jobs as cook, waiter/waitress, dishwasher, etc. in exchange for a bed in which to sleep and not pay a fortune.

Their benefactor is "Cookie" who is a Scripture quoting woman that cooks in the restaurant and inn and who is diligently watchful of these newcomers. While the character "Cookie" was a bit heavy handed with the Scriptures, the story did present the need for lives to be changed and for the city of San Francisco to be cleaned up.

The story is a light read that has plenty of comedic moments. The historical element basically states the already well known that gambling, drinking, price gouging, loose women, rioting, and other vices were rampant in California during the Gold Rush.

Predictable romance but sweet none-the-less. A comfortable read.

About the Book: Journey now to San Francisco, California, of 1853 where... An English socialite finds more treasure than expected on her trip to the American West.

When Abby Effingham becomes stranded in the middle of the California gold rush, her money depletes quickly even while her prospects for marriage increase daily. But Abby is on a mission to find her mother—not romance. Will a ridiculous scandal keep her from traveling on, or will it wake up an aloof innkeeper to the treasure right under his roof?

Samuel Harris runs a moderately priced hotel where Abby and her family’s elderly butler find shelter. He is looking forward to when she—and her parade of suitors—move on, though he concedes to let her work in his restaurant. When the sassy socialite is in trouble, will Samuel come to her rescue or find himself alone?

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Anna and Johanna by Geraldine Elschner & illlustrated by Florence Koenig [Review & Giveaway - USA/CANADA]

ISBN: 9783791373454
Hardcover $14.95
Ages 4 and up
My thoughts:  I always like to see children introduced to arts, sciences, and history in their books even at a young age. In Anna and Johanna the author astutely drafts an engaging tale based on a real painting by a master artist.

Perhaps this will encourage children to view masterpieces of art from the ages looking at the minute detail that tells the story. Then perhaps they, too, will draft a beautiful tale based on a wonderful work of artistry.

And this book is lovely. It is has an "old World" charm capturing the essence of life in 1660. (Printed in Slovakia and translated from the French, the book has a definite European sense to the reading. Quite enjoyable!)

The story flows well and recounts the friendship between two young ladies who grew up in families of different circumstances but who were dear friends. As they celebrate their shared birthdays, they discover a note written by one of the girl's father. It is revealing and sets the stage for the outcome of this gracious story of friendship.

The illustrations are quite charming and in a sense are taken from the European and/or Dutch school - particularly Vermeer.

A delightful book that would be grand addition to libraries of every type and on the personal book shelves of families who love art.
Left: The Milkmaid - Right: The Lacemaker - both by Jan Vermeer

About this book: This delightful tale about two young friends in 17th-century Holland is inspired by Vermeer's two masterpieces, The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker.

Although one is the daughter of a wealthy Dutch family and the other a household servant, Anna and Johanna become friends. Born on the same day, they celebrate their joint birthdays by making gifts for each other. But then a letter arrives that changes their lives forever. Told against the backdrop of the 17th-century Dutch city of Delft and its thriving commercial and artistic culture, this story of an unlikely friendship echoes the themes of Vermeer's luminous depiction of domestic life. Florence Koenig's brightly colored illustrations evoke Vermeer's style through the city's multifaceted landscapes, from misty mornings by the canals to busy households preparing for a special day. Young readers will be fascinated by this uplifting story of friendship inspired by Jan Vermeer.

About the Author: GÉRALDINE ELSCHNER is the author of numerous books, including The Cat and the Bird and Where Is the Frog? (both by Prestel). She lives in Heidelberg, Germany.

About the Illustrator: FLORENCE KOENIG is an illustrator and art teacher living in Paris.
Begins April 2
Ends April 23 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA and CANADA addresses only
PrestelDISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from MMPublicity on behalf of the publisher and author to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own alone and are freely given.

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, we examine.... "What is autism?"

What is autism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Even though there are so many families facing similar circumstances, many still fill isolated and alone. For those whose families aren’t directly impacted, there are many misconceptions and questions surrounding autism.

As the mother of twin sons with autism, Karla Akins, author of A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting (Kregel Publications), hopes to help create a greater awareness and understanding of what autism is and offer encouragement and reassurance for families living with the effects of autism firsthand.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter “What is Autism?” from A Pair of Miracles by Karla Akins ©2017 by Kregel Publications.

When the doctors first diagnosed my twin boys with autism in 1998, the only thing I knew about it was the character Dustin Hoffman played in the movie Rain Man. It sounds incredible, but I honestly wasn’t aware that there was a diagnosis for people with developmental disabilities who acted as my boys did. Society was just beginning to be more aware of a growing group of behavioral characteristics called autism. Looking back on people I knew growing up, I can now understand that they may have had autism, when I thought they were intellectually disabled. I didn’t understand that, just because someone couldn’t express themselves, it didn’t mean they weren’t intelligent.

Defining Autism

When my boys turned two, I realized that something wasn’t “right” with them. They spent most of their time biting themselves and each other, screaming, and hitting me. They didn’t play with toys and were just learning to walk. They didn’t babble and only cried. It was a constant guessing game trying to figure out what they wanted. They were simply miserable.

So was I.

All I had at my fingertips for support was a rickety, 1980s-era IBM personal computer. As a pastor’s wife, isolation was an issue for me. Because of my husband’s church position, I couldn’t openly share what we were going through as a family (I’ll share more about that later).

That’s how I wound up in an AOL autism chat room, filled to the brim with mamas and grandmas who had children with autism. In those days, proper citizens didn’t post selfies and Facebook was nonexistent. (Founder Mark Zuckerberg was then only thirteen years old.) Most people protected their privacy, so it was easy to remain anonymous. I spent hours every evening sharing my struggles and reading about others who fought the same battles. It was truly a blessing from the Lord to make these new friends. I don’t know how I would have managed otherwise.

What I learned from my desperate search for answers is that autism was, and continues to be, a complex condition not easily understood by researchers. Even though they had gathered and studied data, it was fragmented. There were (and continue to be) as many disagreements on how to interpret the data as there were ideas about how to treat it.

Since the twins were born in 1995, technology has advanced from landlines to cell phones and wireless computing. NASA has landed a rover on Mars. We’ve seen the invention of the artificial heart, YouTube, and iPads. You’d think there would be more progress regarding how science perceives autism, but there isn’t. Experts are still puzzled about the disorder and there are no one-size-fits-all answers.

However, the signs to look for in a young child have remained consistent. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, a toddler with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) might:

• not look at what a parent points to
• not notice or point to unusual objects, such as an airplane flying overhead
• avoid eye contact
• play alone
• not be aware when people talk to them
• repeat or echo words instead of answering questions appropriately
• repeat actions over and over again
• have trouble with transitions
• be oversensitive to smells, tastes, textures, or water that touches the skin
• lose skills they once had (such as language)
• not play “pretend” games, such as feeding a doll or playing house
• prefer not to be cuddled or held, except on their own terms

If your child or grandchild has any of these symptoms, I urge you to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral to a developmental pediatrician or developmental psychiatrist. The earlier your child begins appropriate therapies, the better the chance of “rewiring” their brain.

A Neurological Condition

People with autism vary in IQ. They are not all cognitively impaired. In fact, some have quite high IQs. Autism has nothing to do with intelligence. It is a brain-based, neurological condition. It has less to do with psychology and more to do with biology. It is not a mental illness. It is a developmental disability that appears during the first three years of life, is five times more prevalent in boys than in girls, and respects no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, or education levels have no effect on its occurrence.

Autism is often referred to as an “invisible disease” because you can’t see autism by just looking at a person. But if you watch someone with autism, you may see that they interact, behave, and learn differently than most people. This spectrum is extremely broad and ranges from those with giftedness to the severely challenged. Some adults with autism can live independently, while others need constant supervision and support.

This brain disorder affects a person’s ability to communicate, reason, and interact with others. The fact that it’s a spectrum disorder (meaning it affects a wide range of conditions) makes it even more difficult to treat and understand because it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees of severity. As with my adopted twins—who were also diagnosed with fetal alcohol disorder, apraxia (an inability to manage coordinated movements, including their speech), and intellectual disability—autism is often found in combination with other disabilities.

Karla Akins is the mother of five, including twin sons with autism. She has a bachelor’s in special education from Western Governors University and a doctorate in Christian education from Kingsway Theological Seminary. She has nearly four decades of teaching experience in homeschooling, private school and public education.

Akins has also served in ministry for more than 30 years and is co-minister at Christian Fellowship Church in North Manchester, Indiana, with her husband, Eddie. She is also a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. In addition to A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting, Akins is the author of four other books.

Akins loves hearing from her readers. Her online home is, and she is also on Facebook (KarlaKAkins) and Twitter (@KarlaAkins).