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READ: Review, Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Take the classic story (boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy goes to war, tough times ensue, all live happily ever after) and turn it on its head. Take its passion and drive and twist until it hurts—again and again. Include bold-but-believable characters and enough plot twists to keep the pages turning on their own. Put together an ending that redeems without negating the pain, and there you have it: the recipe for an amazing novel. Kristin Hannah’s new release, Home Front (St. Martin’s Press) is anything but formulaic. Her protagonist, Jolene, rises from a background of brokenness to create what she considers the perfect life: a husband, two children, and a successful career as a military helicopter pilot. But is the secure wall she builds around herself and her loved ones as impenetrable as it seems?  When Jolene’s husband, Michael, reveals his dissatisfaction with their marriage, it shakes. And when an unexpected deployment sends her to the Persian Gulf, it crumbles. Or does it? The best books inspire personal change. I already had a certain level of insight and compassion for military families. Home Front gave me more. The author’s extensive research allowed her to write this book with accuracy in place, event, and technical detail. More important than that, however, is the accuracy with which she brings her characters—and their challenges—to life. Read it. Love it. And find yourself giving honor to those who defend the Home Front. They’re worthy. And so is this heart-breaking, inspiring novel.   My grandfather served in the Marines, and my husband’s father was a career Marine. During our California pastorate, we served a church that contained many military families. I don’t think I’ll ever take these defenders of the home front for granted.  How has military service — yours or someone else’s — affected your life? Does this sound like a book you’d enjoy? I’d love to have your response.  Watch the book trailer here: Find this book on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble (FTC disclaimer: I received an electronic advance reading copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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READ: Review, Called to Serve by Lt. Col. Tony Monetti & Penny Monetti

Military families hold a special place in my heart. As a child, my husband attended 27 different schools before his dad retired from the Marine Corps. He says this helped him learn how to make friends quickly, important skills for a future pastor and teacher. But I can’t help but think about the little boy who went to three different schools in second grade alone. I can’t help but contemplate the struggles of his mother, home with three children—one with severe learning disabilities—while her husband served in Vietnam. My appreciation for military families only increased after we spent almost seven years serving a church close to the Camp Pendleton (California) military base. I loved having Marines in our church. We considered these military members our own extended family, hosting them for holiday meals and doing our best to serve their unique needs. My heart broke for some of the young couples who were barely equipped to deal with marriage, much less the stresses of the military life. That’s why I’m so thankful Tony and Penny Monetti have penned Called to Serve: Encouragement, Support, and Inspiration for Military Families, a small but thoughtful book designed for their fellow warriors. No academic tome, this power-packed guide disarms the reader with transparent stories of the authors’ own struggles. You name it, they’ve encountered it in their twenty-plus years of military life: deployment, problem pregnancy, TDYs (Temporary Duty Assignments), depression, marital struggles, and more. Each of the thirty-one brief (three to four pages) chapters covers one of the concerns either the authors or a military acquaintance has faced. The dual authorship give readers the blessing of both military and military spouse perspectives. I loved the way each chapter opened with a well-chosen Scripture and ended with questions that personalized the content. But what I especially loved were the resources mentioned throughout the book and compiled at its close. These include organizations and websites specific to the many issues the authors address.   Although the Monettis are an Air Force couple, they take care to make their book accessible to any branch of the military. I recommend it for active duty, reserve, or retired members of our Armed Forces as well as pastors, churches, and others who want a better understanding of the stresses these families of sacrifice encounter. I salute the Monettis as I thank them for a wonderful contribution to the arsenal every military family needs. If you know a military family, I encourage you to share this book as your special gift. And if you are a military family, it makes a great stocking stuffer for you or your spouse. I intend to share my review copy with my new friend Charlsie, whom I met on one of...

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