Blogging Mama

Total Pageviews

Monday, April 24, 2017

5 Star Book Review of Michael French's "Once Upon a Lie"

Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Awesome storytelling can be found in the fast paced mystery Once Upon a Lie by Michael French! This book does not disappoint. I love how journaling plays such a special role in the story. I can't wait to read more books by Michael French.

The story of Once Upon a Lie is captivating from cover to cover. This is a very quick read because the characters draw you in from the very beginning. The plot is well developed and even though it is a work of fiction, there are many topics that readers can relate to (race relations, love, mother child relationships, etc...). The characters of Jaleel and Alex will stick with you long after you've finished the final pages of this thrilling novel.

The unlikely friendship of the two main characters isn't short lived and it's enjoyable to watch how that friendship grows and changes over the years. This is a book that will appeal to many, because just like real life, there are so many layers to the story and the characters. This book did not disappoint and I can absolutely say I have recommended it to friends and will continue to do so.


Official Book Summary

Twelve-year-old Jaleel Robeson is on the run after the police in his tiny Texas town try to frame him for the death of his father. A world away, Alexandra “Alex” Baten is growing up amid all the material comforts a wealthy Los Angeles lawyer can provide. One day, a simple cup of lemonade unites their lives, leading to a maze of adultery and murder that shatters Alex’s youthful innocence and Jaleel’s struggle to reshape his life.



While the forces of the law try to unravel the mysterious death―or at least find a scapegoat―the two youths see the trajectories of their lives entwine, unravel, and come together again. Justice, Alex learns, can be a strange and nebulous thing, easily enmeshed in webs of loyalty and betrayal. Justice, Jaleel finds, can be a powerful―but dangerous―rock on which to build a life of honor and courage. As their stories play out over the years in cities far apart, best-selling author Michael French fills the world of Alex and Jaleel with a cast of vivid characters both supporting and threatening their efforts to build a life that “works” amid the expectancies of others and their own conflicting drives.


Book Details:
Paperback: 388 pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (March 15, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1938288653
ISBN-13: 978-1938288654
Amazon Product Link - Click Here


About the Author

National best selling author Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, world traveler to developing countries, and is a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction.

He has published twenty two books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon's, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal.

The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder was released January 2013.
Mountains beyond Mountains was released April 2013.
Michael's latest novel, Once Upon A Lie, will be released on March 15, 2016.

5 Star Book Review for "The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) by David Castello

Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) by David Castello will grab you during the first few pages. More important, it will keep you guessing from cover to cover. Each character is well written with sufficient background information to help you understand them quite well. Just when the reader thinks they know what will happen next, there’s a plot twist. There are many twists and turns and you’ll stay engaged until the very end. Castello’s writing is descriptive, the characters are entertaining, and the story itself is engrossing.

The Diary of an Immortal is a quick read. Once you begin, you won’t want to put it down. Yes, the story is about a young U.S. Army combat medic Steven Ronson, a man who escapes the constant inundation and threat of death in World War Two after he discovers an immortality formula designed for Adolf Hitler during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in April of 1945. No, I am not generally a fan if war stories, BUT…I find myself hoping that Castello is in the process of writing a sequel to this fascinating tale. Even if this is not typically a book you would pick up, I would highly recommend giving it a read – you won’t be disappointed.


Official Book Summary

THE DIARY OF AN IMMORTAL (1945–1959) is the story of twenty-one-year-old U.S. Army combat medic Steven Ronson, a man who escapes the constant inundation and threat of death in World War Two after he discovers an immortality formula designed for Adolf Hitler during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in April of 1945.

Steven begins consuming the immortality formula and, after realizing that aging and death no longer control his life, travels to Manhattan to realize his childhood dream of becoming a jazz saxophonist on 52nd Street. The immortality formula gives him supernatural powers and fantastic musical abilities. His performance catches the attention of a disgraced British missionary and his adopted niece who knew the Buddhist monks in China that have guarded the original formula for thousands of years.

After a series of disturbing and prophetic visions, Steven accepts an invitation from the ex-missionary to journey to Xian. In a mountain monastery outside of the city, Steven discovers the incredible truth about the formula and the monks, and the interstellar origins of Jesus Christ and the human race. But time is running out−the German occultists who helped bring Hitler to power in the 1930s have selected another Aryan messiah, and this time he has the formula. Steven cannot allow the nightmare he experienced in Germany to happen again.


Book Details:

Print Length: 314 pages
Publisher: BookBaby; 1 edition (December 1, 2016)
Publication Date: December 1, 2016
Language: English
ASIN: B01LQX2GBU
Amazon Buy Link - Click Here


About the Author

David J Castello is the Editor-in-Chief
and COO for the CCIN network where
he has written hundreds of articles on a
variety of topics for Nashville.com,
Whisky.com, PalmSprings.com,
Bullion.com, Traveler.com and more.
On December 7, 2016, The Daily Beast
featured his story "The Man Who Tried
To Stop Pearl Harbor" for the 75th
anniversary of the attack.
The Diary Of An Immortal (1945-1959)
is his debut novel.
Born in New York City (Bronx), David J
Castello currently resides in Nashville.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Game Changing Baby Carrier - Free-To-Grow Tula Baby Carrier

For those of you I don't have the pleasure of knowing in real life, I'll give you a back story about our babywearing adventure and then introduce you to the game changing baby carrier by Tula.

First, let me introduce myself, I'm nearly 40 (feel free to send gifts now, or wait until July) and expecting my last child (#6 or baby E as we call him or her). I started baby wearing in 2007 after Carmen was born. I'm pretty sure it happened about the time I found out I was expecting Andre. These two lovable children are 14 months apart and I was a single mom living on the 2nd floor of an apartment building. I starting using a Sling-Ezee ring sling as a way to survive. I wouldn't have been able to carry groceries and 2 small children safely up the stairs had it not been for babywearing. 

Those first few months were awkward to say the least. Ring slings can be confusing at first. I had other mothers come over and try to help me, but ultimately, the best way to learn is by doing something often (and of course reading the instructions). As time went on, I added an Ergo soft structured carrier to arsenal as well as a mai-tai style carrier made by a local mom. I loved being able to carry one child at a time, but being able to carry both made me super-mom. 

Several years later, I was expecting Breccan and by then there were lots of different options for babywearing. I did my homework and then also decided to share my love of babywearing by starting a local parents group called Lakeshore Baby Love. By the time Breccan came along, I had a complete library of baby carriers. I still stick with my saying that baby carriers are like jeans, what works for one person may look like you know what on another. Similarly, each of my children seemed to prefer something different as well. 

Breccan loved the ring sling, woven wrap, and stretchy wrap as a new born but as time went on he seemed to prefer the Ergo Organic. Breccan was a hefty boy and as much as he preferred the Ergo, after time I preferred our Tula and it seemed to work quite well for both of us. Delphine who is our current youngest was a lillebaby lover when she was tiny (because it was easier to use than the Tula with an infant insert), then she graduated into the Tula Baby, MJ Baby Carrier, and now we most often reach for her Tula Toddler Carrier. She still enjoys a ring sling every now and then, or even a woven wrap. She is just over 2 and frequently still asks for "uppies". 

With Delphine, I felt that the Lillebaby complete was the only carrier we needed. In fact, at one point in time we had 8 of them. Once she was over 20lbs though, the Tula was less bulky. I kept a Lillebaby to use with our niece but still had trouble answering the question "if you could have just ONE carrier, what would it be?" and my problem with answering was the fact that you need an infant insert with a Tula...I just didn't have time to play around with the insert and a newborn, so I would tell people to buy a Lillebaby if they could only get one carrier, but my personal collection was really all about the Tula. 

Now we are getting to the game changing part - because Tula just came out with the Free-To-Grow Tula Baby Carrier that works from 7 to 45 pounds with NO need for an infant insert. Go ahead and ask me "if you could have just ONE carrier, what would it be?" I can say without hesitation "Free-To-Grow by Tula"! Here's a link to get one for yourself: 
http://prz.io/0z02OBsl

I'll add more to this article after October when we can really test out the squish-worthiness of this amazing carrier!

Hugs,
~Crystal


Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby E due in fall 2017), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at WOW! Women on Writing.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Those Farmers

There has been plenty in the news about farming - I'm not even going to get into it because it's truly something that has caused so much pain for me personally...but I just want you to know something about those farmers effected by the current economy. I didn't know anything about farming until 6 years ago when I fell in love with a farmer and 5 years ago we fulfilled his dream of buying a farm. I can't speak for 2nd and 3rd generation farmers, but I can shed some light into what it looks like to be first generation dairy farmers on a small family farm in 2017. This is partially in response to some of the hurtful comments on social media about "those greedy farmers", "those dumb farmers", "those people who rape cows", etc...

My husband had a dream as a little boy. He would play with his tractors and dream of being a farmer. He knows each of his cows and when they are sick he sits with them and provides comfort and care. He still drives the same truck he bought in highschool (that is, when it runs). His truck is rusted and falling apart, but it gets the job done and that's what matters. Most nights he sleeps on the couch because he's too tired to climb the stairs to our bedroom. Then there are those really rough days when I wake up and go down to check on him and he's asleep on the bathroom floor...unshowered, in his underwear, asleep sitting up. He hasn't taken a day off since our wedding. His glasses are scratched and need replacing, and he hasn't seen a dentist in decades because there's no time or money. His body aches, there are holes in his undewear, his pants, his socks, and his boots are held together with duct tape. He works from 6 in the morning until well past midnight - out in the cold, the sun, the rain, and he never complains. This is his dream. He does this so YOU don't have to. He works hard to provide for YOUR families so you can punch out at the end of the day and enjoy a swim meet or dance recital.

He misses church, swim meets, baseball games, and his wife takes herself to the hospital to have his children. His children try to understand. Last year we cashed in the last of my retirement fund to buy seed to plant crops to make food for our cows. The great thing about that was it's the first year in three years that we've had a positive tax return. I'm pretty sure most of you wouldn't work as hard as a farmer for does for absolutely no pay. The man isn't crazy though - he's passionate. He's passionate about his dream and he's passionate about his family and yours. The very people he helps feed are the same ones beeping and flipping him off when he's trying to get crops off the field. Most months he spends more feeding animals and fueling tractors than he makes shipping milk. Not only is it a thankless job, the farmer is not the one getting rich.

First generation farmers don't retire. They die...with dirty hands...hoping they've done well by God. Hoping they've left something for their own little boys who play with tractors. Hoping they've loved the land as they should. They don't retire and head for Florida, they stay and keep living the dream. That is, if they are lucky enough to make it. Some farmers die on the inside as they sell their cows, close up the barns that will eventually crumble, and look for some way to pass the time and pay the bills until they are lucky enough to die. Farmers wives hide the tears, bake the bread, keep the children happy, mend the clothes, and pray...they pray for the land, the cows, the children, their husband, the crops, and the weather. They pray for the dream that they see in their little boys eyes - shining just as brightly as it still does in their husband's. And they pray for God's strength to help their husbands. They pray they'll never find their husband holding the shotgun sitting on the bale of straw because the dream is over.

Before you make a quick judgment about "those farmers" please take a moment - get to know us. I
can't explain why my husband does what he does, but I know it's not due to greed, and it's not to get rich.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

5 Star Review for Mary Kelley's "The Weeping Angel"


Greetings!

We are excited to participate in two months of excitement for Mary Kelley’s book The Weeping Angel.


Book Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto:

The Weeping Angel is such a beautiful tribute to World War I France and to Hubert Williams Kelley. Mary Kelley has done such a lovely job of organizing the letters to share them with the world and future generations. History books cannot move you the way personal letters and accounts of war do. Hubert Williams Kelley's letters are moving, sometimes dark, and often raw in a way that will haunt you.

I cannot imagine what would have happened had Mary Kelley not put together The Weeping Angel. This personal account would have been lost forever. This also makes me wonder how many others have boxes of letters and photos from days long gone. How many of those precious memories will never be shared? The letters in The Weeping Angel were written between 1917 and 1919 and yet, when you begin reading it feels as though you yourself have been transported back in time 100 years and you won't want to return to the present until you've finished the last page.

This book is moving and emotional; an absolutely must read for anyone (regardless of their favorite genre).


About The Weeping Angel

Now, on the Centennial of World War I, Kelley’s wish is realized with the publication of The Weeping Angel, his account of the war in northern France as he lived it. Told through letters and poems, Kelley writes home to his Kansas City family with vivid descriptions of day to day life on the edge of the battlefield. Enlisting right after graduation from Central High, he claims to play the bugle in order to be accepted and proves to be a talented raconteur and observer. Although he could not play the bugle and never really learned, he became the regimental poet of Company D of the Twelfth Engineers and found his true vocation as a writer.

Mary Kelley, his daughter, edited and researched this special collection of her father’s letters over the past six years. With the help of Colonel John Laird’s History of the Twelfth Engineers and research at the National WWI Museum, she has annotated the letters to show the actual path of the unit as they repaired and built light gauge railways to carry ordnance and materiel to the front lines in Cambrai, St. Mihiel and other important battlegrounds in France. Pte. Kelley and the 12th were among the first American troops in Europe and they stayed to prepare for the Occupation for months after the Armistice of November 11, 1918. He returned to Kansas City to become a reporter for the Kansas City Star and later the editor of American Magazine in New York.

The Weeping Angel (L’Ange Pleurer) is a small statue poised over a tomb in Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral, carved by Nicolas Blasset in 1636. With one hand on an hourglass and the other on a skull, the angel came to symbolize the war to Kelley and the many soldiers who visited it during WW I. He wrote about it in his letters and in 1931 when he recalled one harrowing night lying in a field near Amiens with bombs falling around him. Life is brief, death is imminent.



Additional Appearances:


Tuesday, March 28th @ 5:30pm EST with Cyrus Webb
"Cyrus Webb Presents" is the place where host Cyrus Webb introduces topics and guests that matter to you and today he is chatting live with Mary Kelley about her book “The Weeping Angel; Letters and Poems from World War I France”. Don’t miss this show!
www.blogtalkradio.com/cyruswebbpresents.


Friday, March 31st with Madeline Sharples @ Choices
Author and memoirist Madeline Sharples shares her thoughts after reading “The Weeping Angel; Letters and Poems from World War I France” by Mary Kelley. This insightful review is one you won’t want to miss!
http://madelinesharples.com/




The Weeping Angel; Letters and Poems from World War I France

Genre
Memoir / Non Fiction / Historical
Paperback: 139 pages
Publisher: Willow Avenue Books (2016)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1940244709

Amazon Link


Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/The-Weeping-Angel-Letters-and-Poems-from-WWI-France-645728128920292/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf


Website
http://www.hwkletters.com/



Praise/Editorial Reviews

Posters in Kansas City adorned the army recruitment center: “Join up and be in France in 60 days.” Working as a soldier on the railroads in war-torn northern France during World War I, Hubert Kelley found his vocation as a poet and writer. This is the story of a boy’s journey into adulthood told through his vivid letters home written from 1917 to 1919. The Weeping Angel (L’Ange Pleureur) statue in the Amiens Cathedral came to symbolize the sadness of war to him and his fellow soldiers, and he visited it often. His poems and selected later writings are included in this volume.

“The Weeping Angel draws on one of the richest surviving collections of First World War letters to bring to life one of Uncle Sam’s most remarkable—and thoughtful—doughboys. In this compelling book, Mary Kelley restores the human story to one corner of an inhuman war. Whether they’ve read one book about the war or fifty, readers will be surprised and engaged by The Weeping Angel.”
—Christopher Capozzola, author of Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

“It’s a wonderful book with so much compelling material…Kelley’s essay, ‘A Memory of Amiens,’ is extraordinary. The Weeping Angel rescues a wonderful voice from the period, as well as the story of a remarkable regiment that is too little known.”
—Steven Trout, author of On the Battlefield of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919–1941



About Mary Kelley

Mary Kelley, editor of The Weeping Angel, is a former Broadway theater manager, non-profit arts administrator and consultant with The Field Organization, LLC. She has written in the genres of memoir and fiction. This is her first published book. She lives in Somerville MA.






About today’s reviewer:

Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby E due in fall 2017), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at WOW! Women on Writing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Perfect Family?

What's the perfect family? When I had a boy and a girl, people would stop and mention that we had 'one of each' and how perfect that was. Apparently we would have been less perfect if we had 2 girls or 2 boys, or maybe having just one child is the true sign of imperfection? I waited a long time to have children because they're so dang sticky (don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about...first it's sticky poop, then it's sticky spit up, then we move on to gummy snacks, suckers from the bank, and other unidentifiable things you as the mom find stuck in your vehicle, on your pants, and in your hair

Sorry - sort of went off a tangent there..

anyway - there is nothing perfect about parenting. Your house will never be as clean as it was before children. Your hair will never look the same, and let's not even talk about your body...

Then there's those of us with the truly imperfect families - because we have too many children, or the number of boys outnumbers the girls, or heaven forbid those parents who have all same sex children. Those are the families who need your pity, right? For the love of all things holy - stop commenting on the perfection or imperfection of other people's families.

I have several friends with families larger than ours and recently someone told me that it's not a competition. Well thank the Lord for that epiphany...I thought she who dies with the most children won a special whirlpool suite in eternity.

My family is not a particular size because I'm striving for perfection, because I want a football team, or because I'm competing with a friend to see which of us can have the highest percentage of Harvard graduates. I also am fully aware that I don't have to fill each and every seat in my 7 passenger mini-van. The truth is, God has blessed me with imperfection. He has blessed me with the ability to smile at the crayon on the floor. The ability to laugh at  the finger prints on the mirror without getting my undies in a bunch about the imperfection of my sagging boobies in the reflection. By most people's standards, not only is my family imperfect, but my house is a mess and my van is some sort of disgusting science project. To me, they are perfect because the little people who leave toothpaste in the sink, peanut butter on the counter, suckers stuck to the side of carseats, and goldfish crackers in the couch cushions are going to grow up and move away.

These little people who touch me all day long, break into the bathroom, use my lipstick to draw on the mirror...they are going to drive away in cars of their own someday. I'm going to be left with a clean vehicle, spotless furniture, a full bar of soap in the shower, and a heart so full because I played a part in their lives and launching them into adulthood. My hair will no longer smell like baby puke, the knees on my jeans will no longer have grass stains, and I won't have to wonder who used what on my toothbrush. I will continue to pray and thank God for my imperfect family. I will hope all my little imperfect humans can make it home at Christmas. No one will see me at the grocery store juggling a toddler on one hip and an infant on the other and make comments about how my hands are full...

So when you are feeling like your family isn't so perfect, please know that life is messy and it's supposed to be. Know that no family is perfect and it's the imperfections that really make life so wonderful. Strangers don't mean anything when they comment about the number of children we have, or the gender of those children...I think they just want to say something...and someday I may very well be that old woman who strikes up a conversation with a young mother - because she may just be bringing me so many delicious memories of my own days in the midst of the sticky fingers and dirty diapers.

Love those babies, no matter how many!

Hugs,
~Crystal

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and as many sticky hands as you can handle!



Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby E due in fall 2017), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at WOW! Women on Writing.