Friday, May 30, 2014

Duke by Kirby Larson

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About the book:  A poignant World War II story about a boy and his dog and his dad, and the many meanings of bravery, from Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson.

With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to lend their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again?

With powerful storytelling and gripping emotion, critically acclaimed author Kirby Larson explores the many ways bravery and love help us to weather the most difficult times.

Review: The book, Duke, is about a little boy, his dog, and his dad. His dad was leaving to go fight in WWII.  He encouraged his son to be brave and get ready for anything.

Hobie wanted to help do whatever he could to make the war end as quick as it could. So he decided to give his dog to "Dogs for Defense."  He regretted donating him until he learned his father had been taken prisoner by the Germans. Hobie realized he had to be brave. (student review)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Duke was given to us in exchange for our honest review. Opinions are the reviewers. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blood Moons Rising by Mark Hitchcock

My thoughts:  When I first saw Blood Moons Rising offered as a book to review, I really thought it was an end-time novel. I had never heard about the blood moons, though I had heard about the moon turning to blood as an end sign. But I am neither a theologian nor a Biblical scholar and am not even well versed in debating or discussing Biblical prophecy. I’m just a lady that has attended church all her life and heard some really good preaching. I am a Christian and I take my Christianity seriously. So when I received the book and saw that it was a non-fiction treatise by Mark Hitchcock on the subject of the four Blood Moons and the theory of blood moons previously and prophetically affecting the Jewish peoples, I decided to do a bit of research prior to delving into the pages of Blood Moons Rising.

As I found in my own research and saw in Mr. Hitchcock’s book, there is theory that John Hagee adheres to based on the premise that since these blood moons centuries ago occurred when major events also occurred impacting the Jewish peoples, that during the years 2014-15 when there would be four of the blood moons occurring the events would serve as a sign of end times.  Mr. Hitchcock disagrees with the reading of signs into these occurrences. Mr. Hitchcock also disputes the methods of interpretation used by these theorists.

Blood Moons Rising is not a heavy read, but it certainly is not light reading either. I believe Mr. Hitchcock has stated it concisely in this statement referring to Mr. Hagee and other theroists …. “speculation and a misinterpretation of Scripture.”  We are to be careful in our interpretation of the Bible and especially in assigning signs in the sky and earth as prophetic to the coming of Christ and the end of time.
Points of interest:
  • John Hagee published a book called "Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change," which suggesta a link between the new lunar tetrad and a biblical prophecy about the apocalypse.
  • Joel 2:31 KJV states: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
  • Revelations 6:12: "There was a great earthquake. The Sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair. The whole Moon turned blood red."
  • Tetrad dates coincide with Passover (April 15, 2014 and April 4, 2015) and the Jewish observance of Sukkot (Oct. 8, 2014 and Sept. 28, 2015)
DISCLOSURE:  I received a complimentary copy of Blood Moons Rising: Biblical Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are solely my own and I received no compensation for this review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Prarie Evers by Ellen Airgood

About the book:  A sweet, spirited ten-year-old embarks upon the adventure of first friendship in this sparkling debut

Prairie Evers is finding that socialization isn't all it's cracked up to be. She's been homeschooled by her granny and has learned the most from traipsing through nature. But now she has to attend public school, and feels just like her chickens--cooped up and subject to the pecking order. School is a jolt for Prairie until she meets Ivy, her first true friend. But while raising chickens and the great outdoors have given Prairie wisdom and perspective, nothing has prepared her for the give and take of friendship. When Prairie finds out that Ivy's home may not be the best place for Ivy, Prairie must corral all her optimism and determination to hatch a plan to help.

Fabulous writing and a narrator full of personality distinguish this lively middle-grade novel.
Review:  Highpoints of the story:
  • Moves to New York from North Carolina with Dad, Mom, and Grandma
  • Was homeschooled and then put in public school
  • Makes friends with Ivy Blake
  • Ivy's Mom has new boyfriend, George
  • Her Mom hits her
Prairie Evers is a book about a young lady names Prarie and her family. Prairie's family - Mom, Dad, and Grammy - lived in New York. Grammy homeschooled Prairie all of her life. Then one night while they were playing Monopoly, Grammy told Prairie that she was moving back to North Carolina becaused she missed North Carolina. After Grammy moved, Prairie had to go to public school for the first time in her life. At first it was not fun at all. Then she met a girl named Ivy. They became best friends. Prairie decided she would like to try to raise chickens. So she went to the library to read up on how to take care of them.

Ivy and Prairie both learned a lot about life while raising chickens. This was a cute book and I would suggest ages 8 to 12 read this book.  (Student review by Meredith W.)

DISCLOSURE: The author provided a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for our review. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Christmas Eve Blizzard by Andrea Vlahakis and illustrated by manuel (Manny) Schongut (Review and Giveaway)

ISBN: 9780976494331
Ages 5-9, Grades K-4
Hardcover $15.95
About the book: Christmas Eve Blizzard is the tender story of a beautiful cardinal who is trapped in the snow until a young boy rescues him. Nicholas places more importance on caring for the injured bird than in decorating the Christmas tree or opening his gifts on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve Blizzard will truly touch your heart. The "Creative Minds" section contains information on how to make your backyard into a bird-happy habitat, several simple bird-feeder crafts, "cardinal numbers," math games, and information on what to do if you find an injured bird.
Review:  This is a lovely picture book reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s books for children. The illustrations are soft, sweet, charming and beautifully drawn. The story is somewhat bilingual in that the characters, Nicholas and his Abuelo (grandpa) use Spanish words here and there. The story is in English.

It is Winter and there is a blizzard raging and it is Christmas Eve. There is a small, young apple tree in the yard which Nicholas and Aubelo have planted. Nicholas is worried about his little tree. Looking out the window he spies a fallen Cardinal and rushes out to rescue the little bird. They feed, shelter, and water the bird and the following day - Christmas - they release the bird.Then a bit of folklore style magic takes place - for many following years the apple tree is covered with Cardinals on Christmas Day.

In the back of the book, Arbordale lives up to its reputation for educational stories by factoring in some "Creative Minds" activities - Spanish and English Glossary, Teaching Trivia about birds and especially Cardinals, Making a Bird-Happy Backyard Habitat, and then a couple of pages dedicated to bird feeders.

A super book to entertain and educate. (rev. V.G)

About the author: Andrea Vlahakis (Christmas Eve Blizzard) is a busy children's author, having been published in Highlights for Children, Turtle, Ladybug and Appleseeds. In addition to her own writing, Andrea is an instructor at the Institute of Children's Literature. A large portion of Andrea's work revolves around nature and birds. The inspiration for this book comes from her childhood home. When she was eight, her father hung a cardinal-red birdfeeder from their old apple tree and her love of bird watching was born. It also comes from her own rescue of a bird during a blizzard a few years ago, with the help of an equally snowbound wildlife rescue person on the other end of the phone. Andrea lives in Connecticut surrounded by woods, streams, and lots of birds to watch. For more information, visit her website at

About the illustrator: Emanuel (Manny) Schongut (Christmas Eve Blizzard and Turtles in my Sandbox) is a prolific, multi-faceted freelance illustrator who works in children's books, book covers, textbook illustration, editorial art, posters, and advertising art - essentially he does it all!. Some of his numerous clients include Masterpiece and Mystery Theater, Public Television, New York Magazine, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. His cover art and/or illustrations grace books from a wide variety of book publishers including Harper & Row, MacMillan, Doubleday, Morrow, Green Willow Books, and now Arbordale. In addition to his own artwork, Manny taught reportorial art and figure drawing at Pratt Institute in New York for several years. He now illustrates and teaches in the San Francisco Bay area. Visit Manny's Website.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Shark Whisperer (Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians) by Ellen Prager (Author), Antonio Javier Caparo (Illustrator)

Grade Level: 3 - 7
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Scarletta Junior Readers
ISBN-13: 978-1938063442
About the book: After his most klutzy move ever, falling into a pool of sharks, things for Tristan Hunt begin to look up. Tristan is invited to an ocean-themed summer camp in the Florida Keys where he discovers that he and the other young teens there have very special and rare talents when it comes to the ocean. After the camp receives a distress call from ocean animals, Tristan and his new friends get pulled into a daring rescue in the Bahamas. With the help of sharks, dolphins, a quick-escape artist octopus, and some seabird bombers, the campers must use their young talents in an attempt to outwit an evil shark-finning, reef-blasting billionaire.

Review: This is a really good book. The first in a new series, The Shark Whisperer is fun, quirky, and educational all at the same time. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and found them very relatable to teens today. What teen wouldn’t want to swim with sharks without getting eaten!

The author, Ellen Prager, is a marine scientist and was the chief scientist at the world’s only undersea research station located in the Florida Keys. Her ability to weave “science” throughout the storyline is awesome and not all boring. The target reading age of 9 to 12 years for this book is spot on. I could easily see a teacher reading this to a younger age class and the kids enjoying it just as much. The Shark Whisperer is a fantasy book, but a really good one. I look forward to the next book release in this series! (rev. P.Howard)

GIVEAWAY: The kind folks at Scarletta have generously provided a copy of this same book for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. So use the entry form below and let's see who gets a neat book. Begins May 17 & ENDS June 10 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open to those at USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Shark Whisperer was provided in exchange for this review. Reviews expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Candle Bible Handbook by Terry Jean Day & Carol J. Smith; edited and revised by Dr. Tim Dowley

Ages 7 & up
Paperback $17.99
ISBN:  978-1-85985-586-7 
About the book:   The best book to have  beside your Bible!  Packed full with facts about every book in the Bible. FAQs explain some mysteries of the Bible.  Find out who wrote the Bible and why.  Discover the purpose of each book of the Bible. 

Lavishly illustrated with maps, time charts, photographs and panoramic illustrations.  Lots of background information on people and places of Bible times.  Study questions in every section.

Review:  This is an excellent Bible reference book.  It is beautifully illustrated with actual photographs of Israel and drawings of the temple and maps, to mention just a couple. 

Each book of the Bible has an outline of events, a brief summary of the book, frequently asked questions, study questions, and a “look out for” section.

This Handbook is clear, concise, and simple.  It is not overwhelming with information and could easily be used by teachers in a classroom setting regardless of the age.  It can be used during family devotion times and by individuals during their personal Bible study.   

I would highly recommend this handbook for new believers because of the simplicity of the information. (rev. P.Howard, Pastor's Wife)

DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Candle Buible Handbook was provided by Kregel Publications in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer and no compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hitler’s Secret by William Osborne

ISBN:  978-0545496469
About the book:  They’re refugees.  They’re spies and they’re out for revenge!Otto and Leni thought they were safe.  They escaped -- barely -- from war-torn Europe and are living as refugees in England.  But now the Crown has recruited them.  Great Britain wants them to go back. As spies!

Dropped behind enemy lines, Otto and Leni embark on a top-secret operation.   Code name: Wolfsangel. Their mission?  Capture the one person who can defeat the ultimate evil of Nazism!  Will Hitler’s final legacy lie in their hands? (inside jacket cover)

Review:  This was an excellent book.  Typically I am not a fan of WWII fiction, but “Hitler’s Secret” is well written with very real characters and a plot that is never dull or slow.  Although Otto and Leni are fictional characters, the author has chosen to incorporate into the story actual individuals who were very prominent during WWII such as Winston Churchhill, prime minister of Great Britain; Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party; Reinhard Heydrich, Lieutenant General of the SS and regarded as one of the cruelest men of the Nazi regime. 

The author’s inclusion of these individuals as characters within the book only enhanced the historical aspect.  While the author himself states in the book of this book that he “does not claim to be historically accurate or portray factual events or relationships,” There was not one thing in this book that I could not see actually happening during this time in history.  

This book has a target audience of 12 years old and up (7th grade and up).  There are a few violent and graphic scenes within the book and therefore may not be entirely appropriate for the younger end of the target audience.  There is a murder-suicide that caught me by surprise and also a torture scene that includes Otto and Heydrich that was a somewhat intense.   But at the same time, these scenes give credibility to the historical time-frame.  As a parent, if you are considering this book for your younger child, just be aware.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Hitler’s Secret.”  If the author chose to develop this into a series, I would welcome the opportunity to read any future stories about Otto and Leni! (rev. P.Howard)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Hitler's Secret was provided by Scholastic Books in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.