Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Song of the Mountain" by Michelle Isenhoff (Review & e-Book World-Wide Giveaway)

About the book: Orphaned at a young age, thirteen-year-old Wei Song has grown up listening to his grandfather recite legends of the distant past. But it is his own history Song seeks to uncover to guide him toward the future, particularly the events surrounding his parents’ deaths. But that is a secret closely guarded by his grandfather. Then Song discovers an heirloom that links him to an ancient prophecy. His destiny lies within the old tales he has scorned. Song must follow the path that killed his father.  
Mud and mire shall birth a tree,
A sprout shall grow of ancient seed.
The five unite to break the one,
The curse of man shall be undone.
But brothers rise ere dragon’s bane.
The last shall smite the first again

My thoughts: With her beautiful use of words, Michelle Isenhoff has created a story whose text flows with imagery and words that incite the mind to create a picture of a world in a time long ago when the world was young, man lived harsh lives, evil abounded, and dragons lurked.

In Song of the Mountain one might think this is a story of a mountain and the song-story about it. Not so. This is a story set in a long ago oriental world. Song is a boy growing up in primitive surroundings and being raised by his grandfather, who is not who he seems to be. They live on the mountain and in the valley is a village. Nearby is the land the "Lord" who is over them all. 

But there is evil and that is in the form of a dragon who seeks to destroy.

This is a short middle-reader book that even adults can enjoy.  I do not typically read fantasy which this is somewhat akin to. But I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. The story of "beginnings" and of conquest over evil is timeless. I recommend this and other books by Michelle Isenhoff heartily for classroom use as well as personal reading enjoyment.

GIVEAWAY: Michelle Isenhoff will give away a digital copy of her Worlds of Magic collection, which includes Song of the Mountain, The Quill Pen, and her brand new one, Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul. Winner can choose it in mobi, epub, or pdf format.  Begins May 29 & ENDS June 12  @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open world wide.

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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary paperback copy of Song of the Mountain  was provided by Michelle Isenhoff to facilitate my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Ray of Light" by Shelley Shepard Gray a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author (Review & Giveaway)

About the book:  Best selling author Shelley Shepard Gray brings inspirational romance to life in this sweet tale of love in the Amish community, Ray of Light, the second installment of her Days of Redemption series.

Roman Keim just wants a break from the family drama at his snowy Ohio home when he heads to an Amish snowbird community in Florida. There he meets Amanda Yoder and her daughter Regina who soon are warming his heart. But will Roman return to Ohio or will he stay and help the young widow embrace a second chance at love?

The author of the series Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek, Shelley Shepard Gray delivers an honest, tender love story in Ray of Light, featuring the challenges of faith, family, and romance.

My thoughts: The opening pages of Ray of Light tended to be somewhat confusing and disappointing to me in that the characters were alluding to personalities and events undiscernible at that point in the story. However, eventually it all fit together like a good story should with all the pieces basically falling in place.

I think we "Englishers" tend to compartmentalize the Amish in nice little farming or village situations far removed from our world. However, the more one reads about them, the more like us they seem.  They have problems, disappointments, secrets which they hide, secrets which when revealed create major discord, joys, and pleasures in a variety of things. We learn, too, that they tire of the cold. Tire of sorrow. Tire of family problems. And they, too, must take refuge away from it all.

Our story opens with Roman Keim on the beach in Pinecraft, Florida, which is an Amish snowbird community. In the house next door, a lovely Amish widow and her young daughter, Regina, are also taking a few days of refuge.

It is soon revealed that Roman's world back in Ohio is not only cold in Winter, but there are problems, secrets, hurts which have caused him to need to get away and apart. And for the widow Amanda next door, she has been grieving for two years the loss of her dear husband and father of Regina after a long illness.

The demands, spoken and unspoken, of the Amish communities on each of these young adults must be addressed in how they individually will react. A sweet attraction develops quickly between Amanda, Roman, and the sweetie, Regina. But Amanda is criticized for not grieving longer.

I absolutely fell in love with the sweetie - little Regina. She steals Roman's heart as well.  And in the mix, Amanda finds her heart is reaching out to a new life.

A very good, clean read which I can heartily recommend to teens and adults alike.

GIVEAWAY: Our friends at Litfuse Publicity Group have graciously provided a giveaway copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers. All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins May 27  & ENDS June 12 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the Avon Inspire an Imprint of Harrper Collins Publisher and the author, Shelley Shepard Gray in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and no compensation was received for this review.

About the author: Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the "Sisters of the Heart", "Seasons of Sugarcreek", "Secrets of Crittenden County", and Families of Honor series. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.  Learn more at http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering: Clothes on the clothes line

Going back in my mind to an earlier day when the windows were open, there was no air conditioning, there were breezes stirring the curtains, you could hear children playing in the yard and birds singing.  The days awhile back when you picked up a basket filled with fragrant just washed clothes and headed out the back door.

You made your way down the stairs gingerly not wanting to fall and get hurt, but also because you had an armload of clean, wet clothes headed to the line.  The clothes line was strung wherever you could position it.  I remember as a child in old Wilmington, North Carolina, that the back stairs were steep - houses in the old section were built high off the ground.  That is the Southern way to keep things cool - allow lots of air flow underneath the house.  Well, back to the clothes line.  Mama's line was strung from the edge of the house to the garage standing at the back of the yard.  Mama had 3 lines.  Each was held up in the center by a board to keep the line from sagging under the weight of the clothes.

I remember Mama washing our clothes early in the mornings and getting them right out on the line. She wanted them dried, in the house, folded, and put away by mid-afternoon.  There was a schedule and rhythm to Mama's work around the house. Everything done and on a regular basis and everything in its rightful place.

But back to washing clothes and the clothes line.  I married young and began our family. No dryers. We first got a wringer washer (what a chore). When the clothes got washed (early in the day, just like Mama), I'd take them out to the clothes line. our clothes line was strung from the house to a storage shed and then another line strung between the Elm and the Cherry trees.

I can remember good things and bad things about those line-dried clothes.  They smelled so good. They were so bright-white. And sometimes, they were stiff. They were visited by birds who liked the wild cherry trees, sometimes. They got rained on, sometimes. And then sometimes they just didn't get quite dry and I had to spread them around the house to finish drying - hard to do in the hot, humid, South. And did I tell you that they smelled so good?

Hanging diapers, sheets, towels, jeans, shirts out when there was snow on the ground wasn't a bit of fun. It was hard on the hands. It was hard if you were prone to winter colds and coughs. But they would dry.

Your clothes on the line told a lot about you to your neighbors. They told a story of your organization - did you get them out early enough to dry. They told if you were alert to your surroundings - did you get them in before it rained on them? If you were clean living and did a good job of keeping your family clean, they told the neighbors your story. Because your whites were white and your darks were dark told stories of how you did your laundry and how much you cared for your family. Laundry was serious business to the lady of the house.

I remember when we got a dryer. We really couldn't afford to buy one.  Nor could we afford the cost of running it. But my husband felt I needed it. We had five children and I stayed sick a lot in the winter. So joy of joys, we got a dryer. After that I didn't get sick as much. I could wash and dry clothes any time of the day or night - didn't have to keep that special schedule and rhythm that my Mama did. But gone were the crisp sheets. The fresh outdoorsy smell of just brought in clothes.But mama never had a dryer and still was hanging her clothes on the clothes line in her mid-80s.  Mama was quite the lady, quite the lady of the house, quite the person to emulate.

I miss it.  But then again, I don't.


Readers:  Won't you share your stories about doing laundry or your mama's laundry chore? We'd all love to hear a bit of your tale, too.

"A Place for Turtles" by Melissa Steward & Illustrated by Higgins Bond (Review & Giveaway)

Hardcover: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-693-2
When raising my children in small-town-USA with a big backyard, it seemed inevitable that they would find turtles from time to time. When they did, they were allowed (by Mom and Dad) to pick them up carefully (being careful to avoid the reach of the turtles snapping mouth), and observe them for awhile. The turtles were never harmed and were ALWAYS placed back where they were found. This gave the kids the opportunity to see some of God's creation up close and observe their movements.

Of course, the kids didn't want to let the turtles go back where they belonged, and that is why Moms and Dads make decisions. You see, there is A Place for Turtles and it is not in a box in your house. Not in a terrarium on your shelf. And not away from their natural habitat.

This beautifully illustrated book about turtles gives a good introduction to young elementary children of the importance of preserving the natural habitats of wildlife and in particular turtles.  When plants foreign to a region are introduced, they can wreak havoc on the survival of wildlife. Each two page spread illustrates a turtle species or fact and there are interesting tidbits in a sidebar.

I especially like the two page spread in the front and the back of the book depicting the North America area with mapped distribution of each type of turtle. There are 12 illustrations for 12 different turtle types, including ocean dwelling turtles.

Now back to my kids and turtles..... I am pretty sure the turtles they always found were most probably Boxed Turtles, though there may have been a spotted turtle, too. Again, we knew it was best not to keep them as "pets" and quickly released them back to the area in which they were found.  Did the same turtles revisit us? Ah, who knows. I just know that we found right many turtles through the years though we didn't live near a pond or creek.  They just came and went. Such is our natural world. Fascinating and interesting and all God's creation.

GIVEAWAY: The kind folks at Peachtree Publishers is providing an opportunity for one Chat With Vera reader to have their very own copy of A Place for Turtles. Just use the entry form below and then we'll soon see who the winner is. Begins May 26 & ENDS June 12 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of A Place for Turtles was provided by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Muir Glen 2012 Reserve Fire Roasted Canned Tomatoes (Review & Giveaway)

Label from Can of 2012 Reserve Tomatoes
The kind folks at Muir Glen graciously sent me a surprise box that contained 2 cans of their special Muir Glen Organic 2012 Reserve Tomatoes - Halley Fire Roasted.  Also in the surprise box, was a really sturdy apron, wooden spoon and tongs by Jonathan's Wild Cherry Spoons, a natural fiber towel, some really nice California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a recipe card.

Today, I'm trying the recipe (with my own tweaks) for the creamy tomato soup using these superb canned tomatoes. When I opened the tomatoes, I had to taste them just because they are so special from your regular run-of-the-mill canned tomatoes. These tomatoes were grown by Muir on specially allotted 13 acres  and are the Halley tomatoes. Muir grows a specialty tomato each year and this is the 2012 Reserve. A limited amount is grown and a limited amount is processed and sold.

I'm not a gourmet cook - just a Southern lady that has cooked a long time. I have had ripe, fresh tomatoes when in season to cook with and I've used the canned variety of  many brands.  Some have lots of flavor and some not so much. I found these 2012 Reserve tomatoes to be excellent in flavor and they tasted like really good tomatoes - a bit sweet and a bit acidic. Which is what I like in tomatoes.

I found the soup to be delicious. I got interrupted a couple of times in the process of making it and in the end the cream kind-of curdled a little. It did not obscure the delicious flavor of the soup, though. Now was it worth making my own soup with these Reserve 2012 tomatoes rather than purchase a premium canned tomato soup?  I'll say it was and I'll most likely do it again, and again.  Not only was it great tasting, but I KNOW WHAT IS IN IT.  How healthy can something get - fresh onion, herbs, tomatoes, olive oil, cream, and a touch of table sugar.  I was out of our organic sugar, or I would have used it.

I served the soup to my husband with a sprinkling of shredded sharp cheddar cheese atop. I topped mine with  seasoned croutons.  The soup was served in vintage soup bowls/plates that belonged to my mother. A treasure. Yummy!

Thank you Muir Glenn for some good stuff!

GIVEAWAY: I want to share one of the coupons they sent me for a free Muir Glen product with up to a $5.15 value with 1 of Chat With Vera's readers. Easy peasy this time. Begins May 25 & ENDS June 11 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a gift package of Muir Glenn 2012 Reserve Fire Roasted canned tomatoes, apron, towel, Jonathan's Spoons  wooden spoon and wooden folding salad fork, samples of California Olive Ranch oil, 2 product coupons, and recipe card. I was not asked to write a review. This was a pleasure to review.

"Christian Alphabet Book" by Tracy Sands

Christianity has used symbols to represent their faith throughout the ages. Sometimes it was to beautify stories or the Bible. Sometimes it was to designate a meeting place when Christians were in hiding. The author of Christian Alphabet Book had a goal of teaching the English ABCs to children using symbology to structure the letters of the alphabet. Each letter is used to key into lessons to learn about faith and God. And each letter, consisting of a variety of symbols, tells a story from the Bible.

The author felt inspired while at a church gathering to develop this alphabet book for children to learn their ABCs as well as lessons from the Scriptures. A worthy goal, indeed.  The lessons and the stories are good and worth learning.

I do feel however that the book is too cluttered and too intense for the young child. I also believe that some of the connections between words, lessons, and imagery were a bit forced. The book is simply not suitable for young children to learn their ABCs. It could be used by families to teach Scripture lessons to older children and the ABCs connectivity could help in recollection of the lessons. But older children will not be too inclined to have a book teaching ABCs.

All that said, I value the authors hard work and the lessons that are presented and which can be taught via the use of the book.  The book will be suitable for some families, but other families will not find it suits.  There is an associated CD featuring the Christian Alphabet Song and several others which is nice. I would recommend the author and publisher sell the two as a unit and not separate entities.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy exchange for my honest review from the BookCrash on behalf of the author. Opinions expressed are solely my own.











Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Catch A Falling Star" by Beth K. Vogt (Review & Giveaway)

What does a girl do when life doesn't go according to her plan?
At 36, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She's a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives-a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But the feeling of being "the kid never picked" looms large when romance continues to evade her and yet another one of her closest friends gets engaged. Are Kendall's dreams of having it all-a career, a husband, children-nothing more than childish wishing upon a star? Should she hold out for her elusive Plan A? Dust off Plan B? Or is it time to settle? God says he knows the plans he has for her-why can't Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?
Griffin Walker prefers flying solo-both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of "flying a desk" are complicated by his parents' death-making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can God get his life back on track ... or has there been a divine plan all along?
Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn't just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your "wish I may, wish I might" dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you. 
My thoughts:   She's got a career as a respected pediatric physician in Colorado. Friends. Security. Just no husband. No kids of her own. And that is mostly fine. Then an emergency situation in a restaurant throws new options in her path.

There is teen who has lost Mom and Dad in a terrible accident and now he is living with his much older, single brother. Top it off, the teen was adopted from the foster system when only six years old. But his now guardian-brother is bothered and bewildered by the responsibilities of caring for a child or rather a teen.  The emergency restaurant episode is clear evidence of this. As it turns out, the emergency is right up Dr. Kendall's alley - allergies! But the big brother really doesn't want involvement with Dr. Kendall because they seemed to butt heads at every turn. But soon another emergency emerges.

Big brother, the grounded pilot, has a medical issue of his very own. One he hopes will go away on its own but cripples his flying future. The interaction and growth of friendship between Dr. Kendall and Air Force pilot Griffin Walker is riddled with twinkling fun, God's direction in ways they sometimes have trouble following, and attraction to each other that bewilders and annoys.

Throw a bit of suspense and intrigue into the mix and you have a delightful contemporary story that is a good weekend or beach read. Enjoy and then pass it along to a friend.

GIVEAWAY: The good folks at Litfuse Publicity Group are providing a giveaway copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers. Just use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins May 23 & ENDS JUNE 10 @ 12:01 EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of Catch A Falling Star by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher, Howard Books,  and author in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own. Information about the book was provided by Litfuse.
About the author:  Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she'd never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four, though she said she'd never have kids. She's discovered that God's best often waits behind the doors marked "Never." Her contemporary romance novel, "Wish You Were Here", debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and "Catch a Falling Star" releases May 2013. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. Find out more about Beth K. at http://bethvogt.com.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Undeniably Yours" book #1 in the Porter Family Series by Becky Wade (Review & Giveaway)


About the book:  When Meg Cole's father dies unexpectedly, she's forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of his empire. The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father's Thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo knows he ought to resent the woman who's determined to take from him the only job he ever wanted. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them and earn her love.

Just when Meg realizes she can no longer deny the depth of her feelings for Bo, their fragile bond is broken by a force from Meg's past. Can their relationship-and their belief that God can work through every circumstance-survive?

My  thoughts: A young woman who is extremely wealthy is thrust into the world she doesn't want - a high finance world of oil and racehorses. Major shareholder. Now major decision maker. And she suffers from major panic attacks in the mix. All the money in the world isn't easing those panic attacks, but soon she finds a source that calms her panicking mind and heart and soothes her.

A lot of stuff is big in Texas. Why even the land encompassing the state is big! The panic is big. The God is big. The wealth is big. The characters are major big in character. So hold onto your seat for a sweet ride through big country as you meet Bo, Meg, and a plethora of caring folks.

You'll get a bit of suspense thrown into the mix. A rough 'n tumble Texas fight. A sweet romance without all the graphics. A good read. I invite you to see for yourself how Meg overcomes her panic attacks and how this all plays out. Book #1 in the Porter Family Series portends many good reads to come.  Who will we meet in Becky Wade's Book #2?

GIVEAWAY:  The gracious folks at Litfuse are providing one of Chat With Vera's readers the opportunity to be the recipient of a copy of Undeniable Yours. Will it be you? Begins May 22 & ENDS June 6 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.

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Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of Undeniably Yours  by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of Bethany House a division of baker Publishing Group and the author, Becky Wade in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

About the author:  Becky Wade is a graduate of Baylor University. As a newlywed, she lived for three years in a home overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, as well as in Australia, before returning to the States. A mom of three young children, Becky and her family now live in Dallas, Texas.  Visit her website at www.beckywade.com.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Strolling down memory lane

I visited these memories back in 2008 in the early days of Chat with Vera, but thought it would be nice to share some of these memories with those of you who are more recent readers.  So let's take a mini stroll down memory lane.  Grab a cup of tea or java and remember with me......

Born just prior to the US entering WWII, I remember lots of things coming about. However, I really don't remember anything about the war. Mom showed me the ration stamps that she still had and shared stories, and Dad showed me a German Luger (sp) gun my uncle brought back. I lost an uncle in the war and 2 other uncles fought in Europe.

Great G'dad, G'dad, and Dad were all shoe repairmen until Dad went into sales in order to put food on the table. The name of their shoe repair shop was The Big Ike.  I remember running all over the neighborhood, playing with other kids, doors unlocked day and night, ice cream cones as a special treat at the corner drug store, five cent cokes in a bottle, five cent ice cream cones. Yes, we had a Bijou movie theater, but it was in the wrong end of town so I couldn't go. I did go to other movies in the "better" end of town. I remember when Technicolor came to the "silver screen." No, I don't remember silent films. That was prior to my time.

We walked to town and back carrying what we bought. Mom walked to and from the grocer and carried a bag groceries in each arm home. Groceries were usually bought for that particular day.  It was a corner grocery store and not a "supermarket."  If we rode the bus, it was five cents. I remember getting the seafood market deliver our fish on Fridays. The boy came on a bicycle and the fish was wrapped in newspaper and tied with a string. It was caught that morning. just off the coast of our city in North Carolina. So good! I remember a local milk company delivering milk to our home - in fact I remember farther back - a local farmer delivered his own cow's milk to our home. Whole milk and it was so good - cream floating on the top.

I remember an old lady coming to our back door fairly regularly and asking Mom if she had any work she could do. Mom would sometimes let her "damp mop" the kitchen for a little pay; but no matter what, she would always make a plate of food for Dot so she could have a decent meal - whether or not there was any work to be done - and give her a quarter (it went a long way then) for whatever. Keep in mind, that quarters were scarce in our home. Dot would show up at the shoe repair shop, too. Dad would make sure her shoes were wearable. We were poor. But Dot was poorer.

I can remember being a teenager when TV came to town. We couldn't afford one at the time and anyway, the reception was very poor. You had to get reception from the station that was 150 miles away. You had to have an antenna on top your home that was big and several feet tall. My brother got married and moved into our upstairs apartment. He and his wife got a TV! Wow! I can remember being invited to some watch some of the programs. There was "snow" on the screen - but not so much we couldn't enjoy it. Later when our town got a station, Dad found the money for a TV! We had arrived!

My wedding pictures were in black and white. Our escape vehicle was a Ford Fairlaine 500 '57. (I think that is how it was referred to.) Of course, it was my brother's. Our vehicle was a '54 Chevy that was bought used. Most of all I remember a childhood of ring-around-the-roses, birthday cakes, chasing each other all over the neighborhood, falling from my bike onto the brick paved street, swinging from a tree-rope in the neighbor's year, riding my bike good distances from home and not having to worry about anything, China-berry (tree berries) pee-shooter fights, Merthiolate on cuts, alcohol poured over scrapes, walks to the parks and swinging from the very high swings and sliding down the big slides, chasing fireflies in front of the house while my parents and grandparents sat rocking on the front porch. I remember happiness.

I remember the ice truck. So some in the neighborhood must have had ice boxes. We had a refrigerator! Mom bought sliced bread. She baked biscuits or corn bread daily. Sometimes she fried cornmeal in patties in the iron skillet.  That was very good.  She did not make yeast bread except for rolls on special occasions. There was Monopoly, and several other board games . The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger (I remember it coming on TV when we finally got one.), and other radio programs. We sat in my Grand Dad's bedroom around his radio to listen. Of course, we had to have already finished our homework. Sitting on the front porch in the summer after "supper." G'mama visiting from South Carolina and her giving me the "dimes" to go across the street to the corner store to get cups of chocolate ice cream. The "dime" cups were bigger than the "nickle" cups. Major treat!

I remember happiness.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Planting the Wild Garden" by Kathryn O. Galbraith & illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Review & Giveaway)


Hardcover: $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-563-8
About the book: Eloquent text and stunning illustrations combine to explore the many ways seeds are distributed.

A farmer and her son carefully plant seeds in their garden. In the wild garden, many seeds are planted too, but not by farmers' hands. Different kinds of animals transport all sorts of seeds, often without knowing it. Sometimes rain washes seeds away to a new and unexpected location. And sometimes something extraordinary occurs, as when the pods of Scotch broom burst open explosively in the summer heat, scattering seeds everywhere like popcorn.

Kathryn Galbraith's lyrical prose seamlessly combines with Wendy Halperin's elegant, crisp illustrations to show that many elements-some unexpected-work together through the seasons to create and sustain the wild meadow garden.

My thoughts: I love picture books for children. They are wonderful teaching tools and the opportunity they afford the child and parent to interact is tremendously rewarding to both the child and the adult. When you hold this lovely, large picture book you are immediately captivated by the illustrations reminiscent of an earlier gentler time when the illustrations of children's books were lovely, soft, gentle, and fine tuned. The beautiful watercolor and pen illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin are all these. Richly illustrating plants and seeds along side of the lovely critters in the wild.

A picture book is about words as well as pictures. The finely crafted text and story line that Kathryn O. Galbraith uses to tell in a simple yet powerful way the wonderful seeding of the world around us in nature by nature. Seeds exploding. Wind blowing seeds. Animals transferring seeds. It is all there. A well-crafted science lesson for the young child just beginning to grasp knowledge of the world around him.

A good combination - author Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrator Wendy Anderson Halperin. It is not a surprise that the book they developed won a Growing Good Kids Book Award and a 2010 Parents' Choice Approved Award. I recommend this book for libraries wherever children hunt for delectable books to read.
GIVEAWAY:  The generous folks at Peachtree Publishers is offering a giveaway copy to one of Chat With Vera's readers. Just enter below using the Rafflecopter form. Begins May 18 & ENDS June 3 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only. 
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Planting the Wild Garden was provided to me by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review. No compensation was provided for this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Author info: Kathryn O. Galbraith is an award-winning children's book author with more than a dozen picture books to her credit, including Boo, Bunny!; Arbor Day Square; Traveling Babies; and Laura Charlotte. She teaches writing for children at the University of Washington.

Illustrator info: Wendy Anderson Halperin is the illustrator of over twenty-five books, including Thank You, God, For Everything and Turn! Turn! Turn! She also created the award-winning project "Drawing Children into Reading." She lives in Michigan. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

"The Winnowing Season" by Cindy Woodsmall

Price: $14.99
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780307730046
The Winnowing Season is book 2 in the series and follows A Season for Tending. The main female character is Rhoda Byler who has a gift of being able to intuitively know what is about to happen. Some call this a hunch. Some call it "second sight." But some deem it witchcraft or evil. But Rhoda has lived with this gift virtually her entire life and has learned to suppress and hide it from the people around her. Because, you see, the Amish deem it evil. But Rhoda is a woman of God and one who seeks His will in all she does.

Next we have Jacob and Samuel King, owners of the fabled King Apple Orchards and brothers. Both men have begun to love Rhoda but Jacob seems to be winning the courtship.

The story begins in book two on the heels of a devastating tornado that brought ruin to Kings Orchard. A group of Amish from the community have sought out new land in Maine and are leaving to begin a totally new Amish community in Maine. Rhoda is especially looking forward to a new life in a new community freed from the whispers and seeming hatred of her current Amish community. Before they can leave, though, Rhoda is called before the controlling and governing body of Amish pastors regarding her "gift."

It is difficult to understand the concept of church government and judging as is followed in the Amish communities unless one has been exposed personally to such.  This meeting has strictly observed rules, regulations, and order peculiar to the Amish. It needs to be understood that there would be differences in communities of Amish believers so they would not all follow this plan. The matter for Rhoda is ultimately resolved and the group leaves for Maine.

This story line involves a lot of conflict between individuals and brings to light the possible harshness that can exist in the life of seemingly peaceful, plain folk.

As I have come to expect, Cindy Woodsmall has again produced a very good read that is clean and a joy to read.  But then, we would expect such from a New York Times Best-Selling Author of Christian fiction. I am looking forward to the September 2013 release of book 3 in the Amish Vines and Orchards Series - Every Season.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of The Winnowing Season from Blogging for Books on behalf of Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group and the author in exchange for my honest opinion. No other goods were exchanged. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Author info: Cindy Woodsmall is a best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction book Plain Wisdom whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline, in the Wall Street Journal, and throughout other Christian and general news outlets. She lives outside of Atlanta with her family.


Cascadian Farm Organic Crunchy Granola Bars (Review & Giveaway)

Wherever a person turns these days, it seems that we are being cajoled to "green it up."  Eat green. Drink green. Grow green. Light up green. Re-use green. You know. Don't eat, drink, live, breath, play, work at anything without observing green and save the planet ideals.

Is that bad? I say it is not.  I'm not a "tree hugger" by any means, but I do believe that if we each and every one of us try to eat food that is prepared with more naturally produced "green" ingredients, that we will be healthier.  I believe, too, that the less unnatural way our foods are grown - fertilized and treated against insects - the better for us they are.

Better air. Better water. Better food. Better us!

The folks at Small Planet Foods, home to Cascadian Farms Organic, Muir Glenn Organic, LĂ„RABAR®, and Food Should Taste Good are dedicated to bringing us good food, grown and processed in the most natural way possible using natural ingredients (that you can pronounce).

Today we're going to look at the Cascadian Farms Organic Crunchy Granola Bars. They sent a box each of oats and cocoa, oats and honey, and peanut butter crunchy granola bars for me to try. Well, they were kind enough to include a cute little T-shirt and sturdy tote bag with a lovely scene painted on the side. (see the picture). Can't you just see that lovely bag stuffed to the brim with fruits, veggies, and organic snack food such as the Cascadian Farm Organic Crunchy Granola Bars? Or perhaps stuffed with beach and picnic goodies on a warm, breezy summer day?
 
My thoughts on the crunchy granola bars: They have 7 or 9 organic ingredients.  They are crunchy and will satisfy your sweet tooth. Eat them alone or eat along with your favorite beverage. I enjoy them with a good cup of coffee. Each bar includes organic oats which is a real plus in my book! The three varieties include:
  • CRUNCHY OATS AND COCOA GRANOLA BARS (NEW!)
    INGREDIENTS: Rolled Oats*, Sugar*, Sunflower Oil*, Cracked Cacao*, Vanilla Extract*, Tapioca Syrup*, Cocoa Powder, Sea Salt, Molasses*. *Organic. MAY CONTAIN PEANUT, ALMOND AND PECAN INGREDIENTS.
  • CRUNCHY OATS AND HONEY GRANOLA BARS (NEW!)
    INGREDIENTS: Rolled Oats*, Sugar*, Sunflower Oil*, Honey*, Vanilla Extract*, Sea Salt, Molasses*. *Organic. MAY CONTAIN PEANUT, ALMOND AND PECAN INGREDIENTS . 
  • CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER GRANOLA BARS (NEW!) INGREDIENTS: Rolled Oats*, Sugar*, Sunflower Oil*, Peanut Butter* (Peanuts*,salt), Tapioca Syrup*, Salt, Molasses*. *Organic. MAY CONTAIN PEANUT, ALMOND AND PECAN INGREDIENTS.
There are two thin bars in each wrapped package.  These a really crunchy but not so hard you feel you're going to break your teeth like some crunchy granola bars are. After eating some of each, I find that I am really favoring the Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars. I thought that the chocolate would be my favorite, but no - peanut butter won hands down - in my opinion. Now everyone else be warned, keep your hands off my peanut butter crunchy.
GIVEAWAY: The generous folks at Cascadian Farm Organic are going to send one of Chat With Vera's readers a similar package of bars, bag, and t-shirt. Isn't that super???!!! Just enter using the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins May 13 and ENDS May 30 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE:I was provided the bag, t-shirt and 3 boxes of granola bars in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way other than these products. My winning reader will receive a package shipped directly to them from Cascadian Farm Organic. I was not obligated to render a positive review. Products have been taste tested by myself and any product information was gleaned from their website.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"The Deductive Detective" by Brian Rock & illustrated by Sherry Rogers (Review & Giveaway)

In conjunction with Sylvan Dell Publishing and for Children's Book Week, we are featuring books from their Spring 2013 collection of educational books about the environment, animals, birds, sea creatures. Each of these books written for the young child kindergartner to age 9 is written to be read aloud or by the child. The illustrations are beautifully drawn or photograph images. Activities are included in the back of each book which will aid the adult to readily direct learning more about the subject.  Enter to win a set of the books for your child's own personal library.
“The Deductive Detective”  is a very cute book to teach deductive reasoning to elementary children.  The author uses clever language to add humor and interest to the reading of the text.  The story is almost whimsical in nature as Detective Duck tries to eliminate those that could not have stolen the cake.

The illustrations are large and colorful to keep the interest of young students.  Older elementary students will enjoy the book as they will understand the humor.  This would be a good book to read to an elementary class that is learning how to subtract by ones.  Deductive reasoning helps are located in the back of the book and are very helpful to the teacher. (rev. by C.Delorge)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Deductive Detective was provided Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

GIVEAWAY: You may enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins May 12 & ENDS May 19 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open USA addresses only.
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Author info: Brian Rock received a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and Creative Writing from Hollins University. Brian’s short stories for children appear regularly in the regional magazine Kid’s World and his poems for children have appeared in Highlights for Children, Poetry Train, and various regional publications. His short story, The Frog Dad,was selected as one of the inaugural titles for iPulpFiction’s “Don’t Read This in the Dark” series. For six years Brian worked in the Chesterfield County public school system teaching at-risk students. Visit his website at http://www.brianrock.net/

Illustrator info: Sherry Rogers spent twelve years as a corporate graphic designer and artist before "leaving it all behind" for the freelance world. In addition to illustrating The Penguin Lady for Sylvan Dell, 

"Shark Baby" by Ann Downer & illustrated by Shennen Bersani (review & giveaway)

In conjunction with Sylvan Dell Publishing and for Children's Book Week, we are featuring books from their Spring 2013 collection of educational books about the environment, animals, birds, sea creatures. Each of these books written for the young child kindergartner to age 9 is written to be read aloud or by the child. The illustrations are beautifully drawn or photograph images. Activities are included in the back of each book which will aid the adult to readily direct learning more about the subject.  Enter to win a set of the books for your child's own personal library.


Review: A shark egg case (yes, sharks begin life in an egg just like a chicken or a reptile) is floating attached by a string to a piece of kelp. Then the egg case begins to cascade around the ocean. The baby shark is hatched and then must discover where he actually belongs in the ocean. And he faces the dangers of large preying creatures.

Colorfully illustrated with personable sea creatures little shark makes his journey along. The colors are indicative of the sea and the brush strokes depict agitated or flowing currents in the sea. In the back of the book the educational helps include some math, some biological information/questions about sharks, and identifying different sharks.

This is a good book in a good series of books that will enhance the educational experience of the young kindergarten through 9 year old. Recommended for personal, school, and public libraries.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review.

GIVEAWAY: You may enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins May 12 & ENDS May 19 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open USA addresses only.
Author information: Ann Downer has never lived very far from the ocean. When she was little, her uncle took her to a beach to see horseshoe crabs, and she has been interested in sea creatures ever since. She spent part of her childhood in and around the Pacific Ocean, living first in the Philippine Islands and then in Thailand. Now she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. With her husband and son, she likes to go looking for sea creatures in tide pools in Maine. She once had a chance to go out in a very small boat with some scientists who study whales, and got to listen to the whales coming up for air. She used to be scared of sharks (she still is, a little!) but mostly thinks they are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures on Earth. Ann helped edit two books about the ocean for grown-ups: Oceans: Heart of Our Blue Planet and Underwater Eden: Saving the Last Coral Wilderness on Earth. She is the author of five novels for young readers and Elephant Talk, a book about the ways elephants communicate.

About the illustrator: Award-winning children’s book illustrator Shennen Bersani has two million copies of her illustrated books cherished and read by families throughout the world. She has been a freelance illustrator since 1989. She works primarily with colored pencils, sometimes using a mixed-media technique of colored pencils, crayon, and paint. Her art delivers a unique blend of realism, heartfelt emotion, love of nature, and life lessons for children of all ages. In addition to Home in the Cave, The Glaciers are Melting!, and Astro:The Steller Sea Lion for Sylvan Dell, Shennen has illustrated a number of best-selling books, including, Snakes: Long, Longer, Longest; Sharks: Big, Bigger, Biggest; Ocean Counting: Odd Numbers; Icky Bug Shapes; and My Sister, Alicia May. Her art also appears in many magazines, newspapers, and publications. Shennen lives with her family near Boston. For more information, visit her website at http://www.shennenbersani.com/.

"On the Move: Mass Migrations" by Scotti Cohn & illustrated by Susan Detwiler

 In conjunction with Sylvan Dell Publishing and for Children's Book Week, we are featuring books from their Spring 2013 collection of educational books about the environment, animals, birds, sea creatures. Each of these books written for the young child kindergartner to age 9 is written to be read aloud or by the child. The illustrations are beautifully drawn or photograph images. Activities are included in the back of each book which will aid the adult to readily direct learning more about the subject.  Enter to win a set of the books for your child's own personal library.
Paperback $9.95
ISBN: 9781607186281
Review: “On the Move Mass Migrations” is an informative book with wonderful pictures depicting the migration of various animals.  I love the bold easy to read print and the delightful, colorful pictures that fill the page and give the eye much to take in.

This is a good book to introduce the concept of migration to young children.  I especially enjoy the teacher help pages at the end of the book presenting additional information and questions that can be used in a classroom setting.  This book would be appropriate to use with small preschool age children, that will love the colorful pictures, as well as older elementary children that will benefit from the text.  (rev.C.Delorge)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. 

GIVEAWAY: You may enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Begins May 12 & ENDS May 19 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open USA addresses only. 
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Remembering Mama

I have had the privilege of personally celebrating Mother's Day as a mother for 52 years. Yes, my oldest is older than most of you, my friends.   It is a joy to celebrate one's mother - and don't neglect to do it while you still have her.  Mine has been gone for almost 5 years and she was a treasure. She was 92 when she died after a living a beautiful life of love, sacrifice, and service to others. She always brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of those she was around.

I remember as a child growing up in Wilmington, NC that Mom regularly baked biscuits. These were so tender and soft. I really didn't appreciate them back then. They were simply Mom's biscuits. Often just before we ate lunch, she would give me a dish, warm and wrapped in a cloth towel, and say, "Run these down to Aunt Ella's for their lunch." Now Aunt Ella wasn't a family member. She and her husband lived at the other end of the block and were elderly.  You never knocked on the front door back then if your were "friend" or "family;" so I had to go down this narrow, overgrown, alley beside the house to get to the back door.

Aunt Ella met me at the back door with a smile after I had knocked and waited while she slowly made her way to the door. I said, "Mama sent me with these biscuits." And she would thank me. My legs would then take me rushing down the narrow alley and back home to our lunch and my biscuits.
Mama was kind to our neighbors - especially the elderly.

As she aged, Mama never ceased to be kind. I recall in her waning years when she was living in an assisted living facility, she helped those who couldn't recall the way back to their room to traverse the halls correctly. She helped them remember when it was time for a meal and guided them (even when she was using her own walker).  She would take out her mending kit (a cookie tin filled with scissors that had cut many miles of fabric and thread, needles, thread of a variety of colors, and an assortment of snaps, buttons, and eyelets) and repair a resident's sweater or blouse by hand. Her hand stitching was always a beauty to behold.

Yes, I remember Mama and hope that when I am in my waning years, my children will remember "Mama" as sweetly special as I remember my Mama.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Soft Scrub's NEW Mold & Mildew Stain Remover Gel Cleaner for cleaning bathrooms (Review & Giveaway)

What is it:  A specially formulated cleanser that helps you rid your home of mold and mildew and stains.  Ingredients: Water, Sodium Hypochlorite, Lauramine Oxide, Soap (Sodium Tallowate*, Sodium Cocoate*, Sodium Palm Kernelate*, Sodium Palmate*), Sodium Hydroxide, Myristamine Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Fragrance, Pigment Green 7.
*may contain one or more of these ingredients

Simply rotate nozzle to select a powerful stream or wide spray. Spray 6-8 inches from surface. Rinse thoroughly with a wet sponge or cloth, or rinse with water.  Enjoy the streak-free shine and pleasant scent. Use for:
  • Bathtubs - Gets rid of unsightly build-up caused by dirt, soap scum and mildew stains. No more bathtub rings!

    Sink Removes soap scum, toothpaste and other stains.
    Tile & Grout Makes grout cleaning easy and leaves tiles gleaming.
    Tiles Makes grout cleaning easy and leaves tiles gleaming.
My thoughts: Another quality product from the makers of Soft Scrub cleaners. The product does an effective cleaning job on the bathroom sink and bath tub - especially the whirlpool jet openings even without extra scrubbing. I do not have a mildew problem to attack but I think it would effectively work on them. I wish I had had this product years ago when I lived in an older house here in North Carolina where mold and mildew can be a tremendous problem.

A big PLUS:  I will say a big "thank you - shout out" to the creators. I DID NOT have a problem with any fumes that typically cause me to cough and have to cover my nose and mouth while spraying cleaners. This is absolutely wonderful for me.

A little negative remark: The spray nozzle seems to stream rather than spray (fan-type of spray) no matter how I rotate the nozzle or how quickly I try to work the trigger handle.

GIVEAWAY: The makers of Soft Scrub have provided 2 coupons which 1 of Chat With Vera's readers will receive from entering via the form below. Begins May 10 & ENDS May 20 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA mainland addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a free bottle of Soft Scrub Mold  Mildew Stain Remover Gel Cleaner and the giveaway coupons in exchange for my honest review. Opinions (My thoughts) are solely my own. Product information was provided the the manufacturer or was on the product website.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Thoughts for now and the end-of-the-year

I've worked as Executive Secretary in schools for over 35 years and I've seen holidays and Teacher Appreciation days come and go.  Some parents/kids give and some don't. Some create a big splash and some give a couple of cookies. Some teachers (favorites, most liked, etc.) get lots of stuff. Some get nothing. Elementary teachers really bring in the loot. High school less so.  Lots of "teacher" items such as cute little apples to put on the desk."I love my teacher" items in every shape and variety. Mugs of every size and description. Gifts appropriate and gifts inappropriate.

So what kind of gift REALLY is a winner?  First of all, if your child is young and WANTS to do something for his/her teacher, let the child help you decide. Mommy shouldn't be trying to win points of favor for her child with a nice gift.  It gives the wrong message to the child, the teacher, and the school (plus the other kids and their mommies). So child involvement is good.

Most teachers have "stuff" in abundance. But if you really feel that a special mug is the thing to give. Then by all means give it.

Knowing that teachers are people with needs, likes, dislikes, wants, etc. it is nice to think about some of the following:
  1. Grocery store gift card
  2. Department store gift card
  3. Walmart gift card
  4. Starbucks or Caribou (or similar) coffee shop gift card (teachers love their coffee - hot, frappe, etc)
  5. Gift card to Office Depot (or other) so they can restock teacher supplies
  6. Gift card to eat out
  7. A basket of fruit (child can help you decorate a box and use it instead of a basket).
  8. That mug we talked about? Why not put some instant speciality hot chocolate, a couple of nice tea bags, and wrap 2 or 3 home made cookies and place them in it, too? If you have several teachers you're remembering, you can do this for each and every one.
  9. Want to give a feminine item such as lotion? Well, why not opt for some nice foot cream that really refreshes those tired feet? (I personally like the Yves Roche Lavendar foot cream.)
Anyway, in case you wanted ideas, there are a few.  Remember, lots of gift cards can be loaded for $5 upward as high as you wish to go in value.

"It Happened At the Fair" by Deeanne Gist (Review & Giveaway)


About the book:  A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair's Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

My thoughts:  I have read and thoroughly enjoyed several of Deeanne Gist's books and was excited at the prospect of being able to again read, review, and rave. She has not disappointed! Ms. Gist thoroughly researches her books and you learn a bit about history while you're being taken on a delightful spin into the realm of realistic fiction.

Our male hero or lead in the story is straight off the farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He is thrust into the industrial and exciting realm of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Though raised on the farm and trained to farm, he has been off to school (college), been educated, and been encouraged to develop his creative and very real talent for engineering and inventing. His parents recognize his talent just as they recognize his severe allergies to all things farming - seeds, pollen, hay, dirt, insects - they all set his nose, eyes, skin rebelling against their affinity to him.

At the fair where he is positioned to hawk his invention of automatic sprinkling systems to prevent fires, his loss of hearing becomes a real hardship and handicaps him threatening to make his position at the fair a total failure.  But then he learns of our female lead character, Della, who is a teacher of the deaf. She teaches them to lip-read. He seeks her out and then the real story begins.

They go round-robin more than Mr. Ferris' Ferris Wheel (newly invented and exhibited at the fair) did. Their developing relationship is sweet and cautious and within the social mores of the time. 

Some parts of the book were like a bit of a travelog in describing the fair, the buildings, the landscaping to suit a novel. Though they were well written,  enjoyable and informative, I think a bit less would have been better. Then, too, in some ways the character Della was a bit over-the-top in her reactions even for the time and place and social restraints. I'm not saying anything should have been actually changed. These are just observations. I did very much enjoy reading It Happened At The Fair  and will be anxiously awaiting another of Deeanne Gist's delightful reads.

As I read the story it became personally interesting to me. I and most of my family have difficulty hearing. We can trace the consistent trait back to my father and his sibilings. All of my children have inherited it, too. So we understand Cullen's plight and frustration. Thankfully today there are quality hearing aids (which we utilize fully) that are wonderful blessings to us. Ms. Gist's funny looking words in the story's conversations were a bit perplexing at first and I wondered if they were intended to portray local dialect. Then I realized it was to illustrate how Cullen was hearing people speak and it was pretty accurate. Inability to clearly distinguish sounds in a hearing world is difficult at best. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GIVEAWAY:  The good folks at Litfuse Publicity Group are generously providing a copy for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win by using the entry form below. Begins May 8 & ENDS May 23 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA addresses only.

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About the author: Deeanne Gist---known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee---has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very fun, very original historicals. She has received numerous RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, and rave reviews. Deeanne has a background in education and journalism and a degree from Texas A&M. She has written for People, Parents, and Parenting. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and has four grown children. She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/DeesFriends.
 DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy of It Happened At The Fair in exchange for my honest review from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher and author. Opinions expressed are solely my own and I was under no obligation to render a positive review.

"Ring the Bell" (movie review & giveaway)

"Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one or more of the products or services mentioned below for free in hope that we would mention it on this blog. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will be good for our readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

DVD $19.99
About Ring the Bell:     Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life—and the faith of the people—stand in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

Ring The Bell features a host of well-known Christian music artists, such as Mark Hall along with his band Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West, all who play a role in this inspirational drama. Several former and current Major League Baseball all-stars are also featured in the film: ESPN analysts John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe (a former Cy Young Award winner), along with Ben Zobrist.
 

This family-friendly movie was produced by Mark Miller, Beach Street Records' founder and Casting Crowns’ producer. Miller, who is also the lead singer and founder of country music group Sawyer Brown, co-wrote the script with Thomas Weber and Weber directed the production.

Review:  “Ring the Bell” is a good family movie.  It has a good storyline and is awesome in its clear presentation of the gospel.  While I enjoyed the movie, I did feel that it was a bit slow at times – not a whole lot of action.  The story centers around Rod Decker, the owner of a sports agency, who wants to sign a high school baseball player from the small town of Middletown to a pro baseball contract.  Upon arrival in Middletown, Rod discovers that the people there have a very different life from his city life and they seem far more content than he ever has.  He encounters a brother and sister team who have opened their home to troubled youth.  On the farm, there is a dinner bell that only gets chimed when a person has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Rod sees something in these people that he knows he doesn’t have and wonders is it real. 

While there is not a lot of “action” in this movie, I really enjoyed “Ring the Bell” and can easily recommend it.  It is a family-friendly movie with absolutely no inappropriate language or situations.  So very refreshing to be able to sit down and watch with your family and children a movie that is clean. (rev. P.Howard)

GIVEAWAY: A giveaway copy has been provided on behalf of the producers and will be sent directly to one of Chat With Vera's readers who will be selected from entries in the Rafflecopter entry form below. Begins May 8 & ENDS May 20 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to USA address
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