#MilitaryMonday – Meeting the Second Lady and reading her book *bookreview*

Before I share this MIlitary Monday post, I wanted to share with you that I have been nominated for Circle of Mom’s Top Military Mom Blogs for 2013!  It is such an honor and surprise.  I really hope that being a part of this group of ladies will provide some wonderful opportunities to share the military life story and advocate for all of us.  If you think I’m worthy of a vote I would be honored if you would.  You can actually vote for me every day until July 4th.  There are so many wonderful ladies on the list, so if you think they are awesome too please vote for them.  Thank you for stopping by.

I’ve probably said this about one million times (yes, literally), but I am so beyond blessed to be living in this city.  Blessed to know the people that I know and to feel the blessing from them for inviting, telling me, emailing me and calling me about so many wonderful things.  Having spent the majority of our military career, DC is almost overwhelming at times.


One of my milspouse friends sent us the info about a great event with Dr. Jill Biden at the Library of
Congress.  The event was to share her book with us, “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” written about her granddaughter Natalie and the deployment of her son Beau.”  The event was also an important event for the Library of Congress in that it was the launch of a wonderful program Books and Beyond for Young People, at the Young Readers Center, which was started three years ago.  Dr. John Cole, Director for the Center of the Book, shared that Dr. Biden was chosen because supporting the children of military families was so important for the Library of Congress.  The Library of Congress has taken special of note of the trials and  uniqueness of life in the military, with the creation of The Military Voices Initiative, which a recorded history of military troops and their families, post 9/11.  It is amazing project that you can check out at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

For this special day I chose to take my daughter, for some special mommy and me time.  Ami had her copy of the book and we read along as Jill and her granddaughter read the book to us.  If you get a chance to pick up this book I would recommend it.  It is a beautifully written story that provides encouragement for children with a military parent.  The drawings are soft and sweet.  It is the perfect length and includes so much of life that each child who has experienced a deployment can relate to.  Even my four-year-old daughter understood that the little girl in the book was going through what she was going through.  At one point she said, “I have to be brave too mommy!”  Let the water work commence people.

Cammo Style Love gives this book five out of five stars.  I also want to give the experience five out five stars as well.  If you ever are in the DC area please make the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, a stop on your tour.  The inside is absolutely gorgeous.  We didn’t have time to do a full tour, but Ami and I walked around and checked out some of the interactive stations and looked at the beautiful ceiling in the center.  Even the elevators are cool looking.   All in all it was a fun little date with my girl.

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Rhe’s Bookshelf – ‘Grace’s Pictures’ Blog Tour

I am so excited to be taking part in Tyndale Publishing’s blog tour for Grace’s Pictures, by Cindy Thomson.  Please visit Cindy’s blog to find out more about her and the other books she’s written.

Let’s learn a bit more about Cindy and her book
1. What was your inspiration for this book, Grace’s Pictures?
When the Brownie Camera was introduced, it changed photography forever. What
was before expensive and not very portable, suddenly became available for the
average person. I read a contemporary commentary that expressed the concern that
with everyone carrying a camera, someone could have his/her photograph taken without permission, and what an invasion of privacy that would be
. That got me thinking…what if that happened, and at a time before there were very many mug shots available of criminals.
I love writing about immigrants because their stories are a part of who we are today. If not for their bravery and ingenuity, our lives would be much different today, and probably more difficult.

2. Tell me about your main character, Grace McCaffery. Was her character based upon anyone in particular?
Grace comes to America wounded by her experiences of having an abusive father, being evicted from her home by the police, and then having to survive in a workhouse. When her mother gets remarried, to a policeman no less, Grace is horrified. In her mind, avoiding the kind of people who hurt you is the only way to stay safe. When she is sent to America to start a new life, she is not certain she wants to go. She wishes for the confidence and joy she sees in others around her, and she tries to capture it in drawings and snapshots so she can better study it. I know a lot of people, me for one, who would rather observe for a while before stepping out and trying something new. But historically, immigrants could not do that. They were thrust into change and had to adapt and endure.
Grace, like most fictional characters, is not based on any particular person. She is a conglomeration of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who came to this country seeking a better life, but without many options to support themselves. They must have been frightened at first by this vast new country, but somehow they overcame that fear and founded our American families. 

3. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
A lesson that I hope is learned in this story is that God provides what we need, but many times it requires us to put aside our preconceived ideas. No matter what disadvantages we start with, we can turn things around, with God’s help. 

4. How do you expect Grace’s story to resonate with women?
Grace, a young woman who was not nurtured much as a child, becomes a nurturer. She is a nanny with a role that becomes essential for the children she cares for. I think most women are nurturers. Unfortunately, Grace had a far from ideal childhood. I think many women struggle with not having been nurtured themselves. Grace’s story illustrates the hope that God can turn that around, and even in unexpected ways. Grace meets someone who cares for her, who just happens to work in that dreaded occupationa policeman. 

5. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved learning about Ellis Island, visiting New York City, and imagining those immigrants of the early 20th century moving along the same paths I was exploring. I loved writing about how the children Grace cared for helped to change her. History is fascinating to me, and it’s a privilege to be able to write about it. 

6. What is your hope for this story? How would you like it to impact readers?
I hope readers will be transported to a time in history when everything was changing at a rapid pace and experience a bit of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I would like readers, through Grace’s Pictures, to not only appreciate the sacrifices their ancestors made, but also find the courage to meet their own challengeseveryone has them. 

7. How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?
Grace was at first a difficult character to figure out. I had a loving father who passed away a few months before I started working on this book. Grace, who did not have a loving father, stretched me a bit, but it was good to explore what life was like for her and try to imagine how someone like her could not only survive but thrive. 
8. What is it about this time period in history that made you want to write about it?
New inventions were constantly popping up, things that we take for granted today. For instance, telephones were becoming more widely available, but immigrants were not familiar with them. Same with electricity. There was a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and the middle class was the minority. Monopolies were not yet forbidden. The rich were extremely rich. The poor were extremely poor, and the conditions in the tenements were disgraceful. And yet, this was not overlooked. There were gangs and corrupt police, but also scores of charities working hard to protect, educate, and care for immigrants. And it was also a time period of huge numbers of immigrants coming to the country, most through Ellis Island, so in that way this time period has impacted a great many Americans today. 

9. What lessons can we learn from the pages of historical fiction?
The Bible tells us, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT). Historical fiction uses the power of story to help us find those old ways. We deceive ourselves if we think no one has experienced the struggles we have. Someone has. Why not learn those stories and be led by them?

10. What is one of the best pieces of advice or encouragement you have received?
I’m always open to sound advice. Here is one that has encouraged me. It’s from a tea bag quote. 

What I thought:

I love a good historical novel.  It can be a tricky thing because you’re messing with history.  It is stuff that has already happened, so you have to be careful.  Whenever I read one it has to be able to transform me to that time and place.  I need to be able to imagine that this is something that could have actually happened.  Perhaps my favorite part about this book is the inclusion of the Brownie Camera.  It was such a revolutionary item, and something that gave just about everyone access to pictures and a way to preserve memories.  In a time where memory was the only way to preserve the past, being able to take pictures was pretty much life-changing.  This fact alone made the story so great.  
The character of Grace was an interesting one for me.  I really liked her, but as the story went on I felt it was harder to keep that going  There were maybe a couple chpters there where the story seemed to be dragging a bit.  There was a lot of stuff going on, several different stories and I really didn’t feel like they were explored to the fullest.  At times it was difficult to also fully take in the reality of the times.  Communication was difficult, people’s experiences were rough and sometimes down right horrible.  As a result there were times I found myself frustrated with the character of Grace and her attitudes toward the police and her step-father.  I kept having to remind myself that there is so much unsaid history that you can’t fit into a book.  Our world and reality is so vastly different then the very real one portrayed in this book.  Sometimes its hard to put yourself in the position of those during this time.  
3 out of 5 Stars

**I received this book in partnership with Tyndale Blogging Network, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  My opinions are my own.
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Rhe’s Bookshelf – “A Season for Tending,” by Cindy Woodsmall

A Season for Tending (Amish Vines and Orchids #1)



Old Order Amish Rhoda Byler’s unusual gift and her remarkable abilities to grow herbs and berries have caused many to think her odd. As rumors mount that Rhoda’s “gift” is a detriment to the community, she chooses isolation, spending her time in her fruit garden and on her thriving canning business. 

Miles away in Harvest Mills, Samuel King struggles to keep his family’s apple orchard profitable. As the eldest son, Samuel farms with his brothers, the irrepressible Jacob and brash Eli, while his longtime girlfriend Catherine remains hopeful that Samuel will marry her when he feels financially stable. 

Meanwhile, Samuel’s younger sister Leah is testing all the boundaries during her rumschpringe, and finds herself far from home in Rhoda’s garden after a night of partying gone badly. But Leah’s poor choices serve as a bridge between Rhoda and the King family when a tragic mistake in the orchard leaves Samuel searching for solutions.
Rhoda’s expertise in canning could be the answer, but she struggles with guilt over the tragic death of her sister and doesn’t trust herself outside her garden walls. As the lines between business, love, and family begin to blur, can Rhoda finally open up to a new life? And what effect will this odd, amazing woman have on the entire King family?

What I Thought:

This was the first time I have ever read an Amish book.  It wasn’t that I particularly shied away from them, I just never really found one that I wanted to buy.  When the opportunity came to read one I jumped on it.  I feel really lame in same, “oh my goodness I loved it so much,” but that’s sort of what i feel like saying.   I really really did.  The characters were really endearing, real, and complex.  They didn’t come off as stuffy or unrelatable.  What they experienced and how they handled those experiences was something that I could see in my own life; and anyone else’s for that matter.  That is important thing for me when I’m reading a book.  I generally like books where I am drawn into the story in such a way, that I feel for the characters on a personal level.  Like, maybe I could be in their world.  Much to my happiness it is the first book in a series, and I can’t wait to get my hand on “The Winnowing Season”.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Where can you get it:

$11.99 kindle version (which I read on the Kindle App on my iPhone)

you can snag a paperback version for around $11.00 on Amazon

**Disclaimer – I received this book in my partnership with Blogging for Books and Multnomah Publishing.  I was not compensated in any other way.

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Rhe’s Bookshelf – ‘Take a Chance on Me’ by Susan May Warren



Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near.

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case.

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

**Read the first chapter of Take A Chance on Me, here

Author Q & A:

1. This is the first installment in a brand new six book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?
I love stories about families, watching the members interact and grow together through challenges and victories and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when those collide with real life.

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to escape for a vacation

What I Thought:

Take A Chance on Me was not what I expected when I started reading it.  After doing so many reviews of Christian novels I was beginning to notice a pattern among them.  I didn’t feel as challenged by the reading perse.  The stories seemed to be lost in the attempt to portray God and the reasons to have faith in Him, or seek out a relationship with Him.  The characters and what they were going through seemed to be secondary to the faith parts of the book.  There have obviously been exceptions to this, but as someone who considered herself to be absolutely obsessed with books, I wasn’t finding satisfaction in the stories.  All that being said, let me take a second to praise Susan Warren’s book!  The characters were wonderful, deep, complex and relatable.  The story was also all of those things.  There was real emotion of love, anger, hatred, all honestly laid out, which I had found to be a unique trait in this genre of novel.  All of those involved in the book with real and they made mistakes.  They didn’t claim to be perfect and they weren’t trying to be.  That’s what I loved, loved, loved about this book.

5 out 5 Stars

I received this book in partnership with the Tyndale Blogging Network, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way.

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Rhe’s (Children’s) Bookshelf – The Last Bully

About the Hugo books:

Meet HUGO – a little starfish with a BIG HEART. His passion is to make others happy but he still has many things to learn.
Fortunately he has more than just a big heart, he also has a CURIOUS MIND.
Through his adventures, Hugo learns many valuable lessons of character, life skills, and ecological alertness — all against the colorful backdrop of a magical underwater world and mystical islands.
Join Hugo on his journey as he discovers that having the right attitude is the best way to be — and the only way to be truly happy.

The Hugo books are a series of books covering different topics for children, making them easier to understand even at a young age.  I was able to take a look at The Last Bully.  Hugo learns that just because someone is different then you doesn’t make them any less special.   Hugo decides to form his very own club with some of his fellow undersea friends, to share the importance of not being a bulky!  

What I Thought: 

I love the whole Hugo series!  These books are wonderful topical books, that would be easy for parents searching for something that would touch on a topic for their own unique situations.  With bullying being a hot-topic currently, this would be great to illustrate this subject with your younge children.  I personally would recommend this book for the younger, elementary school-age set.  The Hugo books also include several Spanish words and phrases.   There are also interactive pages at the end of the book, where children are asked to draw and express their feelings on the topic of bullying. You can also find games and worksheets on the Hugo website.

5 out 5 Stars

Hugo the Happy Starfish
Hugo’s Facebook
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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