Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Return to the Big Valley - 3 Novellas by by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter, & Richelle Brunstetter

My thoughts:
This edition of three novellas by authors who all have the same last name, Brunstetter, is a sweet, relaxing read that showcases the manner that Amish folks live on a daily basis. The stories are not interconnected and can each be read as stand-alone novellas.

I believe my most enjoyable story of the three is that by Richelle Brunstetter who is a new author for me. I found the main character, Alma, an interesting individual who as a young widow handles her grief in unexpected ways.

Friday, June 25, 2021

National Geographic Kids Books for Land AND Sea Lovers (4-book #giveaway USA)

National Geographic Kids Books offers new, fascinating nonfiction for kids who love to learn more about the natural world around them. These titles are perfectly paired with summer adventures and back to school prep.  

Weird But True!: Ocean (ages 8-12, paperback, June 2021) 

My thoughts: This is a small book that packs a punch presenting scores of interesting and weird facts about the World's oceans.   Interesting....
  • The Blue Whale's heart beats only 10 times per minute.
  • Hammerhead Shark can move it's head up and down (to pin stingrays to ocean floor) as well as sideways.
  • The Pacific Ocean is 5 times wider than the Moon.
So many that the young reader will shout out to Mom and Dad, "Hey, did you know......"

Great take-along book for trips!

About the book: Dive into these fishy facts: Did you know that the prehistoric shark, megalodon, had jaws so big that it could swallow a car? Or that goats, pigs, dogs, cats, and even an alpaca have all learned how to surf? And if that's not weird enough for you, one man even rowed solo across the Pacific Ocean for 312 days!  In this book filled with 300 facts and pictures, you'll glimpse the ocean's weirdest wildlife, uncover shocking shipwrecks, and meet sensational seafarers, from pirates and sailors to ground-breaking marine scientists. Perfect for ocean enthusiasts and trivia-loving landlubbers alike!

New Series Alert!  "Go Wild!"  for curious kids ages 4-8 -  Go Wild! Pandas & Go Wild! Sea Turtles (hardcover, June 2021)

My thoughts:  In Go Wild! Sea Turtles the author gives nuggets of information about the variety of turtles that live in the sea. About their shells, where they live, what they eat, their dangers. A lot of really good information and, of course, those wonderful National Geographic pictures.

In Go Wild! Pandas these adorable bears grace the pages as they frolic or rolly polly along.  Again, National Geographic's pictures are adorable and fascinating. This children's book goes beyond the usual "cute" Panda book and allows children to really learn about this unusual bear. With only about 1,800 in existence today, they are worthy of study and preservation. 

About the books: Welcome to the wild world of pandas and sea turtles! In these intros to the species, youngsters discover where on Earth these animals live, what they eat, how big they grow, and how they communicate. Cool photos of all the different kinds of sea turtles and panda relatives and just-hatched turtle babies and panda cubs bring the creatures into full focus. After learning the basics, young readers will discover why pandas and sea turtles need our help and what people around the world are doing to help save them. Filled with fun facts, games, and an activity focused on making a difference in the panda and sea turtle world, both titles in the new Go Wild! series will inspire kids to care about these adorable animals.

Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals and Shells (ages 4-8, hardcover, July 2021) #1 New Release in Children's Rock & Mineral Books (on Amazon)

My thoughts:  A new "Little Kids First Big Book" loaded with fascinating information. This time it's all about the "hard things on Earth" - Rocks, Minerals, and Shells. There is so much to explore in this book. Children can see the mundane as well as the exotic types of minerals and rocks along with the beauty of shells along the seashore.

A good book to include for homes and libraries everywhere.

About the book: Get ready to be dazzled! This new addition to the wildly popular Little Kids First Big Book series introduces a fascinating variety of Earth’s rocks, minerals, gemstones, fossils, and shells -- from granite to gold, marble to malachite, and conchs to clams. Discover how rocks are formed, the three kinds of rocks, and the difference between rocks and minerals. Learn how rocks and minerals are used in art, architecture, industry, and science. Then journey to the oceans to explore seashells and the amazing animals that once inhabited them. Packed with more than 200 stunning photos, including closeups of each specimen, this colorful book showcases breathtaking natural sites such as the Giant’s Causeway and human-built structures such as the Great Wall of China. Filled with fun facts and designed for interactive learning, the Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals, and Shells is sure to become a favorite with young rock and shell collectors and their parents.
All 4 books from National Geographic $56 Value
Begins June 25
Ends July 21 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. @NationalGeokids @MMPublicity

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Atticus Caticus, How to Apologize, and Wild Is the Wind picture books entertain young readers [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

Atticus Caticus by Sarah Maizes & illustrated by Kara Kramer (Candlewick Press ISBN: 9781536208405 Ages 3-7)

My thoughts:
They rhythmic, snappy cadence of this cute book with its plethora of "at" rhymes is enjoyable to read. It is a story of a cat and a boy going about their day. 

A fun read but parents may get their tongues twisted around all the rat-a-tat-rat and atti-cati-at sounds. Have fun! 

About the book: Snap your fingers to the beat as a boy introduces us to his beloved (and oh-so-recognizably feline) cat. Whether Atticus is lying in the sun or stealing a sip from a water glass, sharpening his nails on a favorite chair or settling in for the night on his boy’s head, this cat will win your heart—and maybe inspire you to improvise a few riffs of poetry about your own animal friends.

How to Apologize by David LaRochelle & illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Candlewick Press ISBN: 9781536209440 Ages 3-7)

My thoughts:
This is such a cute book and a very much needed lesson in how to apologize. I just love this this social skill is so aptly illustrated and told in this cute story.

I highly recommend it to homes and all types of libraries.

About the book: Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone knew how to apologize? Luckily, this humorous guidebook is full of practical tips about when, why, and how to say you’re sorry. From a porcupine who accidentally popped his friend’s balloon to a snail who was running so fast he stepped on a sloth’s toes, hilarious examples and sweet illustrations abound. For both listeners who are just learning and older readers who need a refresher, this book will come as a welcome reminder that even though apologizing can be hard, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Wild is the Wind by Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Books, ISBN: 9781536217926 Ages 4-8)

My thoughts:
This is a beautifully illustrated book that creatively tells a story of  the might and power of the wind to exert massive changes on Earth. It is told as a swift (small bird) makes its journey across over 8,000 miles to find it's place to nest and lay eggs.

A gently and beautifully told story that is a joy to read. I like, too, that the author/illustrator did this as a project during his "Covid lockdown" and dedicated it to the multitude of individuals who did so much during the pandemic.

About the book: Cassi watches a little swift dive and swoop in the still air. In the rising sun the world seems to be holding its breath. Then a small breeze stirs the leaves in the trees, and as the wind grows bolder, a whiff of danger sends small creatures running for cover. Across the ocean, the wind awakes with a fury, whipping the waves and cresting each one with wild white horses. And further on, around the still eye of a hurricane, clouds are carved into a great spiral, howling with stormy power. All this is witnessed by the swift as it finally comes to nest on the other side of the world, where the great wind has abated. Follow the amazing path of a swift in Kate Greenaway Award–winning illustrator Grahame Baker-Smith's follow-up to The Rhythm of the Rain.

Begins June 24
Ends July 20 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA/CANADA addresses
NO P.O. Boxes. Phone # required for Canada winners
DISCLOUSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winners' prizes are provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Reflections on a father's love and steadfastness


As I reflect on today - Father's Day, I think of my father and some of the things he did for me. As a young child (under 6 years) I was very sickly, anemic, and had double-pneumonia 5 times. This required hospitalization in the "Babies' Hospital" in Wilmington, NC. This was a forward-thinking hospital in those days. Consider that this was very early 1940s. One of those hospitalizations I ran a fever that just wouldn't break so the treatment was a bathtub filled with water and ice. My mother helped the nurses hold me down in the icy bath. Another time more desperate measures had to be made to build up my sick body. It called for a blood transfusion.

My father's blood was transfused directly from his body into mine. We were on adjacent tables and the tubes ran from him to me. Yes, it was successful. And yes, my father saved my life.

There was no penicillin back then. Only sulfur drugs and injections to build up the blood.

But dad's doing things for me didn't end with saving my life as a small child. No, he influenced me with his steadfast determination to do all he could and do it the best he could. He took correspondence courses in Biblical Theology becoming a respected and knowledgeable lay preacher. He also took a correspondence course in accounting qualifying him to do the accounting for businesses around town. He studied nights after working a long, hard day. He did his bookkeeping for businesses at night after a long hard day. Yes, he was a hard working, intelligent, steadfast man.

He had a love for swimming and as a young single man had participated in swimming and gymnastics at the local YMCA. When summer came he took his family of 3 children, plus mother, to the beach as frequently as possible during the summer months in North Carolina. We lived just a few miles from the beach so it was convenient. One beach trip, he became frustrated at me when I wouldn't just dive head first into the crashing waves. So he laughingly took hold of me and led me out into the deeper waves, past the breakers, over my head. The he grasped me, lifted me up, and toward shore gave a toss that drove me to swim with all my might. From then on, I loved swimming beyond the breakers where the water rolled over you, lifting, lowering you in peaceful joy.

Yes, he sometimes drove me to be more, do more, go further than I thought I could. Strive to swim. Push for an "A."

He was a good father and on my wedding day he gave me away with joyfulness to the man that would become the father of his grandchildren.

I was always the "apple of his eye" and his "pride and joy."

I love you, Dad, and thank you so much for everything.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sleep Like Me By Written and Illustrated by Tatia Nadareishvili

ISBN: 9780802855664
Eerdmans Publishing
Hardcover $17.99

My thoughts: 
The young boy can't fall asleep so he takes a walk. While out and about he encounters a variety of animals and tells them he can't sleep. So they tell him how they sleep. Attempting to position himself as the various animals doesn't aid him in his sleep difficulties. 

Eventually, he tires and returns home. Gets into his bed. And...... falls asleep.

A cute story about getting oneself tired enough to actually fall asleep. I like that it actually teaches how various animals do sleep.

About the book: A little boy can’t fall asleep, so he asks the animals how they do it. Will he doze off if he floats on his back like an otter? If he keeps one eye open like a duck? If he hangs upside down like a bat? Nothing seems to help, but all this trying is getting tiring…

This whimsically illustrated book features the real sleeping habits of ten different animals. Whether you snooze like a whale or nod off like a giraffe, Sleep Like Me is the perfect bedtime story for restless nights.

Begins June 20
Ends July 15 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine alone, and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by Eerdmans' Young Readers. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Children's Board & Interactive Books Delight [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

Sophie’s Seashell Scramble illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti, Candlewick Entertainment (ISBN: 9781536218480, Ages 0-3)

My thoughts: Such a cutie and so much fun! Each page has the reader looking under three flaps to find a certain shell with designs on them. The "oops" and "not here" add to the fun under the flaps. 

At the end of the book there is a turning option to find the shells again. 

Book is cute and the interactive options add to pleasure.

About the book: Down on the ocean floor, Sophie the otter is collecting pairs of seashells. She’s hoping to find two of each kind—purple shells covered in triangles, green shells with squiggles, red shells with squares, and yellow shells with dots—and she needs little readers’ help! Inspired by a popular game, and with plenty of flaps to explore, this fun, sturdy board book in the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel series strengthens matching skills as well as color and shape recognition.

My thoughts: These are the "Cat's Meow" since they both feature lythe cats meandering all over the ABC's and the 123's in these joyful books.

ABC Cats uses more complex words as letter identifiers which I think is a splendid method to expand a young child's vocabulary.

In 123 Cats the author isn't simply adding a cat to each page, personality traits are being explored as well as going beyond the usual "10" to a "12" or "cats are better by the dozen."

The primary colors, basic alphabet and numbers teaching concepts along with climbing, slithering, peeking cats is so much fun for grown ups and kiddies.

Especially appealing to families of young children who have cats as well. Get both books as they are a delight!

123 Cats: A Cat Counting Book by Leslea Newman & Illustrated by Isabella Kung (ISBN: 9781536209952, Ages 2-5)

Count on cats as a fun way to learn numbers—in rhyming spreads with expressive appeal for animal lovers of all ages.

ABC Cats: An Alpha-Cat Book by Leslea Newman & Illustrated by Isabella Kung (ISBN: 9781536209945, Ages 2-5)

A beguiling array of felines from A to Z makes learning the alphabet the cat’s pajamas.

Begins June 17
Ends July 9 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA & CANADA addresses
NO P.O. Boxes. 
Canadian winners must provide phone number.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's copies are provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Dusks Darkest Shores (Regency Wallflowers #1) by Carolyn Miller

My thoughts:
  I thoroughly enjoy author Carolyn Miller's books. From her very first published book, The Elusive Miss Ellison, she has captured the beauty of a Regency novel with her character development and sheer reading pleasure.

This new series of "Regency Wallflowers" with the unfolding blossom that is the sweet and caring Mary Bloomfield who is beloved in the village as her medical doctor's gifted assistant.

But this story is not just about Mary and her blooming recognition by young Adam Edgerton who returns badly damaged from the war, it is rich with the unfolding care of a man whose new blindness plunges him into a darkness deep with despair and total lack of future.

But Mary has ideas and brings him out of this dark shore upon which Adam has landed.

A sweet story and totally enjoyable. 

About the book: How can a meek wallflower help a returning war hero whose dreams are plunged into darkness?

Mary Bloomfield has no illusions. Her chances for matrimony have long since passed her by. Still, her circumstances are pleasant enough, especially now that she has found purpose in assisting her father with his medical practice in England's beautiful Lake District. Even without love, it's a peaceful life.

That is until Adam Edgerton returns to the sleepy district. This decorated war hero did not arrive home to acclaim and rest, but to a new battle against the repercussions of an insidious disease. Mary's caring nature cannot stand to see someone suffer--but how can she help this man see any brightness in his future when he's plunged into melancholic darkness, his dreams laid waste by his condition?

Adam wants no charity, but he's also no coward. If this gentle woman can work hard, how can he do less? Together they struggle to find a way forward for him. Frustration and antipathy slowly develop into friendship and esteem. Then a summer storm atop a mountain peak leads to scandal--and both Mary and Adam must search the depths of their closed hearts for answers if they hope to find any future path with happiness at its end.

Best-selling author Carolyn Miller is back with a fresh series that will not only thrill readers eager for more of her work, but bring in new fans looking for beautiful writing, fascinating research, deftly woven love stories, and real faith lived out in the Regency period.

About the Author: Carolyn Miller is an inspirational romance author who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia with her husband and four children.

A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. She enjoys music, films, gardens, art, travel and food.

A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Learn more about Carolyn at or find her on Facebook (Carolyn Miller Author), Instagram (@CarolynMillerAuthor), and Twitter (@CarolynMAuthor). 

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WHOLLY® Avocado makes meal prep fast for everyone.

The product is good, all natural, just avocado and would really save a lot of time in preparing dishes where you need several avocados at a time. I really like that the prepared avocado lasts longer in the unopened package than an unused whole avocado. Once the package is open, though, they do turn brown just as a freshly prepared avocado would. There are NO preservatives. It is so special that it does not include ANY additives. Really makes food prep a breeze. I don't use a lot of avocados and the 8 oz package is probably the best option for me.

I purchased 3 of the packages of the prepared WHOLLY® Avocado as a #WhollyAvocadoInsiders reviewer and it is more than I can use in the freshness period, I shared a couple of the packs with my neighbor. They are Hispanic and I thought they'd enjoy. The eyes of the young lady really lit up when she saw the Wholly Avocado products. She said, "Yes, they could use them. We use lots of Avocado!" I loved sharing and it introduced my neighbor to this delightful new product!

Such a treat to not have to prepare an avocado. And a double treat for me since as I got to sample these for free via @theinsidersus group featuring #WhollyAvocadoInsiders. Super treat!

 #avocado #avocadopieces @eatwholly #founditatWalmart @theinsidersus

Tuesday, June 8, 2021


Searching the shelves of stores or the internet for skin care products can be a daunting, perplexing experience. You almost never know what the spend your hard-earned money on and fear it will be the wrong product for you.

If you're searching for natural products, you don't know if they are well-done, safe, pure, or will do the job you want - cleanse, protect, and help you avoid those awful signs of aging. So is it give and take, search and seek, hit and miss? Yep! A bit of all of that. However, there is hope.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Story of Bodri by Hédi Fried & illustrated by Stina Wirsén [Review & Giveaway]

 My thoughts: The inclusion of the horrors of WWII in the world of children's picture books is a daunting task to effectively bring to remembrance the terrible conditions of that period of history in our World and yet not traumatize the young reader. In The Story of Bodri the author in terse text and the illustrator's bold black ink and watercolor art has especially revealed the upheaval, heartbreak, dire circumstances of the times. 

Bridge of Gold (Doors to the Past #3) by Kimberley Woodhouse (from Barbour Publishing)

My thoughts: 
Set in the present day, the story involves a crew of underwater divers who are assigned the task of repairing the Gold Gate Bridge and an archeologist who is assigned the responsibility of retrieval of a sunken ship's treasures and archeological items. 

As the divers work together in the turbulent waters of the California bay emptying into the Pacific Ocean, their safety concerns as undersea divers becomes more treacherous as a dual mystery unfolds regarding their findings on the sunken ship.