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.
GIVEAWAY
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.
GIVEAWAY - 4 WINNERS
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.
NO P.O. BOXES
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 deire. 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.
~ GIVEAWAY ~
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.

~ GIVEAWAY ~
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.