Category Archives: Christian

Review: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix

Title: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”

It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.


Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix is a poignant, heartrending exploration of the devastating effect missionary work can sometimes have on families.

Living in the midst of poverty-stricken Nepal, Lauren Coventry and her thirteen year old son, Ryan, are struggling to cope with the difficulties of day to day life.  Lauren is trying to be supportive of her husband Sam, who is off for weeks at a time fulfilling his dream (and self-proclaimed calling) to spread the word of God while trying to improve conditions in outlying communities.  Although Lauren has a strong faith of her own, the isolation and growing distance in their family leads her to question Sam’s zealous pursuit of his ministry and his lack of conern for its effect on their family.  When a childhood friend reaches out to her on social media, Lauren’s viewpoint of her family’s sacrifice for her husband’s dreams begins to change and she grows increasingly concerned over the disconnect between her and Ryan.  When tragedy strikes, will Lauren find the strength and courage to do what is best for her family?

Lauren fully admits she is partially to blame for her current situation but she cannot help but resent Sam’s intractable beliefs and decisions.  She wants to honor her marriage vows and support Sam’s dreams, but at what cost?  The changes in Ryan were immediate and despite Sam’s pleas to give him time to adjust, two years after their move, he is growing more distant and unwilling to communicate.  Lauren is fed up with Sam’s edicts and she is frustrated with living without any conveniences that would make their life more bearable.  Unable to reach her son as he grows more despondent, Lauren is sinking under the weight of living a life that is not of her choosing.  But how can she reconcile her desire to put the needs of herself and her son ahead of Sam’s calling to do God’s work?

Sam’s need to do missionary work is admirable but his zealotry blinds him to the effect his work is having on his family.  He does not take Lauren’s needs or objections into consideration as he blindly follows his path.  His complete and utter disregard for his son’s downward spiral is incredibly frustrating as he puts his efforts into bettering the lives of others while ignoring the pain his family is experiencing.  Sam’s devotion to his cause, his fervent belief in God’s will and his expectation that Lauren submit to his will makes it impossible for her to have productive discussions with him about their fraying family.  His reactions and edicts are counterproductive to Ryan’s increasing despair and Sam absolutely refuses to take Lauren’s concerns seriously.

Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix is an emotionally compelling and often times, heartbreaking, novel about the difficulties of balancing a family’s needs with missionary work.  This thought-provoking portrayal of family in crisis shows how easy it is to put service to God before family and the destruction such a decision can have when conviction blinds them to the needs of their immediate family.  An absolutely outstanding cautionary tale that is deeply affecting and will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Michèle Phoenix, Of Stillness and Storm, Rated B+, Review, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne

Title: Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne
Double S Ranch Series Book Three
Publisher: Multnomah
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 322 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books


Can the brother left behind and a woman without hope work together for the good of two precious children?

Nick Stafford stayed in central Washington, working his family’s large ranch after his brothers left to pursue other passions—but his toughest job is being a single dad. As a child he watched his father fail at marriage and parenting, so Nick was determined to show him up. He’d be a better husband, father, and ranch manager than Sam Stafford ever was. Despite that commitment, three years after Nick’s wife left him, he has a daughter in trouble at school and both of his girls are facing issues that force him to rethink his stubborn plans.

For Dr. Elsa Andreas, life fell apart when tragedy caused her to abandon her family therapy practice and retreat to the backwoods of Gray’s Glen. Her school principal sister believes Elsa can guide the Stafford girls and that working with kids will draw Elsa out of her protective bubble.

Summer on the Double S teems with life and adventure. Amid the bounty of God and land, will Nick and Elsa find the courage to build futures based on faith rather than fear?


Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne is an incredibly heartfelt novel of healing and renewed faith.  This second installment in the Double S Ranch series features a pair of adorable little girls, a divorced single dad and a somewhat fragile yet surprisingly resilient psychologist.  Although this latest release can be read as a standalone, I HIGHLY recommend the first book in the series as well.

For months, middle brother Nick Stafford has stubbornly resisted all efforts to take his daughters, six year old Dakota and eight year old Cheyenne, to a counselor to help them deal with the abandonment of their mother.  However, with Cheyenne putting herself into dangerous situations and on the verge of failing school, he knows it is time to put aside his reservations and seek professional assistance.  While Dakota is refreshingly open with an upbeat personality, Cheyenne is rebellious, stubborn and lashing out at everyone around her.  Nick is a little leery of entrusting his girls to reclusive therapist Dr. Elsa Andreas but he is determined to do right by his daughters.  Gratified to see Cheyenne slowly but surely improving with each session, he is pleasantly surprised by the realization that he is also benefiting from talking to Elsa.  When Nick and Elsa realize there is more to their relationship than their mutual concern for the girls, will they take a chance on love?

Nick is the only one of his brothers to remain in Washington to work on their family ranch.  His relationship with his father, Sam, is contentious and emotionally distant.  He has never come to terms with his mother’s long ago abandonment but he always dreamed of having a family of his own.  His marriage to his now ex-wife Whitney ended when she walked out on him and their daughters and then left town with another man.  Although he only wants to keep his girls safe and make them happy, he has been stubbornly resisting Cheyenne’s efforts to become more involved with the ranch that his ex-wife hated.  However events in the past several months have escalated to the point that Nick finally realizes that something needs to change before he completely alienates Cheyenne.  Taking his daughters to therapy is just the first step in fixing the problems wrought by Whitney’s desertion but just as Nick is making positive changes in their lives, their progress is threatened by his ex-wife’s sudden return.

Leaving behind a lucrative practice in the aftermath of tragedy, Elsa has been living a solitary life in seclusion.  Despite her initial reluctance to counsel the girls, she is surprised by how easily Nick’s daughters slip past her defenses. As she becomes more engaged in helping the girls cope with their problems, Elsa finally begins to heal from the wounds from the traumatic events that sent her into a downward spiral.  The changes are gradual but significant as she begins to fully participate in life and she is stunned by her sudden interest in Nick.  Fully committed to providing Cheyenne and Dakota with the counseling they need, Elsa is also open to exploring her unexpected relationship with Nick.  What, if any, impact will Whitney’s return have on their fledgling romance?

The situation with Whitney is realistically portrayed and it is absolutely heartbreaking watching her careless and sometimes, indifferent, treatment of her daughters. While Dakota keeps her distance from her mother, Cheyenne is thrilled to see her again.  However, reality does not exactly match up to Cheyenne’s dreams of their reunion and she is soon dealing with fresh disappointment as Whitney fails to follow through with promises.  Nick is fairly certain he knows the real reason his ex-wife has come back into their lives, but despite his reservations, he is willing to give to her chance to fix her relationship with their daughters.  He remains firm with her despite her bitterness over perceived slights and although he gives her some leeway as she repeats past mistakes, Nick continues to try protect them from further heartache from their mother.

The relationship between Nick and Elsa begins  as friendship and gradually turns to love as they spend time together.  Although their initial interactions are related to the girls, they soon discover they share common interests outside of their mutual concern for Dakota and Cheyenne.  As their lives become more closely intertwined, their feelings for each other quickly evolve into something much deeper.  However, Elsa’s hesitation in revealing the truth about her past leads to trouble and Nick cannot help but feel betrayed once he discovers she has been less than honest with him.

Home on the Range is an incredible journey of healing and faith that will resonate with readers who have struggled to put their complete trust in God.  The characters are multi-faceted and beautifully rendered with relatable imperfections, strengths and desires.  The storyline is endearing and believable with each of the characters undergoing tremendous growth as they overcome adversity. This newest addition to Ruth Logan Herne’s delightful Double S Ranch series is an emotionally compelling story that old and new fans are going to love.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Double S Ranch Series, Home on the Range, Multnomah Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Ruth Logan Herne

Review: The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

Title: The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.


Set against the South Carolina wilderness in 1770, The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep is a captivating romance between trapper and scout Samuel Heath and prim English governess Eleanor Morgan.

After fighting off the advances of her lecherous employer, Eleanor has no choice but to relocate to the Colonies where she is promised a job as a governess in Charles Towne.  Upon her arrival, her letter of reference and meager funds have gone missing and her prospective employer is a no show.  With no way to reimburse the ship’s captain for  her passage from England, Eleanor enters into a marriage of convenience with Samuel who needs someone to care for his daughter, Grace.  Finding herself far from town with her taciturn husband, Eleanor must find the inner strength to survive her new circumstances with a stranger.

Eleanor has impeccable manners but plenty of fortitude and while she is completely ill prepared for life in the wild and untamed backwoods, she faces adversity with grace.  Completely at ease taking care of young Grace, she has many challenges to overcome as she begins setting the crude cabin she now calls home to rights.  Eleanor is surprisingly resilient as she learns to survive the dangers that now surround her and slowly but surely, she begins to fall in love with her new home and most surprisingly, her new husband.

Samuel is gruff and hardened by tragedy but he wants the best for his motherless daughter.   He has endured much heartache in his life and he is a rather enigmatic man whose unexpected tenderness and patience catches Eleanor off guard.  Samuel does not talk about his past but there are definite hints that something dark is plaguing him.  Half Cherokee and half white, he is an honorable man who walks a fine line between both of his worlds and he remains fiercely loyal to his tribe while embracing his newfound faith.

In the midst of forging her new life, Eleanor clings tightly to propriety and her deep-seated faith as she struggles to overcome her fears of her new life. While she has a strong determination to make the best of her unexpected circumstances, Eleanor is haunted by insecurities that make her ashamed of her confusing feelings for Samuel.  Shocked to find comfort from her reserved husband, will Eleanor allow her perceived failings and unexpected jealousy to destroy her chance at happiness?

Samuel does little to dispel the rumors that swirl around him and he carries an almost unbearable amount of guilt for the events from his past.  He is also caught up in a dangerous situation with people in positions of power and although he tries to distance himself from them, he is sometimes forced to work with them.  An already tense relationship becomes even more acrimonious after his marriage to Eleanor but Samuel does his best to keep her out of harm’s way.  He is taken off guard by the realization that his new bride is slipping into his heart, but he is afraid his secrets will frighten her away.  Will Samuel risk his heart and confess the truth about his past?

The Captive Heart is an absolutely breathtaking historical romance that is impeccably  researched.  Samuel and Eleanor are multi-faceted characters that are richly developed with relatable strengths and weaknesses.  Michelle Griep brings the time period vibrantly to life with a compelling storyline that combines fact with fiction.  Gently underscored with faith and set against an incredible backdrop, this marvelous novel is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre.

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Filed under Christian, Historical, Michelle Griep, Rated B, Review, Romance, Shiloh Run Press, The Captive Heart

Review: Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

Title: Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter
Summer Harbor Series Book Three
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are ruined when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.

Watching the love of his life falling for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.

But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.

Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances he’s adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. He has nightmares and mood swings, and his unwavering independence keeps him from accepting help from anyone, including her. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up the money needed to save it.

As the weeks wear on with the two in such close proximity, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into unchartered territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his corded arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?


The final installment in Denise Hunter’s heartwarming Summer Harbor series, Just a Kiss is a sweet yet realistic romance between two longtime friends.

Riley Callahan is finally planning on telling his best gal pal Paige Warren he is in love with her when he returns from his tour in Afghanistan.  However, his homecoming is nothing like anyone expects when he is injured in an IED attack and he comes home with part of his leg amputated.  Trying to put on a happy face for his family and friends, Riley is dismayed to discover he must live with Paige during his recovery. Despite his best efforts to fool everyone, Paige is quick to realize that Riley is struggling and she grows increasingly concerned over his nightmares, mood swings and all around frustration. Needing someone to fill in temporarily at the animal shelter where she works, Paige convinces Riley to take the position.  Spending so much time in close proximity does little to help the growing tension between them since Riley is trying to ignore his feelings for her and Paige is confused by her sudden romantic interest in her best friend. When their emotions are too strong to ignore, Paige and Riley decide to date but will Riley’s unresolved issues from his wartime experiences ruin their chance at happiness?

Despite his plans to tell Paige how he feels about her, Riley no longer feels like he is capable of taking care of the woman he loves. His daily struggles to accomplish everyday tasks is taking a toll on him and he does not want to be a burden to any woman, including Paige. Frustrated and angry over his circumstances, Riley is barely getting through each day and his nights are plagued by recurring nightmares of the IED attack. Getting his prosthesis bolsters his flagging confidence, but it does not take much to send him plunging back into despair. Instead of facing his problems, Riley makes another impetuous decision that shatters their burgeoning romance.

Paige is no stranger to heartbreak or betrayal but Riley’s friendship is the one thing she can always count on no matter what. Hurt by his decision to join the Marines, she has faithfully kept in touch with him during his deployment and she is eager for him to return home. Dismayed yet not surprised by the changes in him, she is a little hover-y as he adjusts to his new circumstances. Paige has complete confidence he will emerge stronger than ever, but she cannot help but be concerned over his lack of progress in some areas. Her sudden awareness of Riley as a man rather than just as a friend takes her off guard and initially, she keeps her feelings to herself since she is afraid to lose their friendship. But when it becomes apparent to her that Riley is attracted to her as well, Paige is ready to take their relationship to the next level.  She is completely stunned when Riley pulls away from her just as their romance is beginning and Paige is thoroughly brokenhearted by his shocking announcement.

The relationship between Paige and Riley is slow growing but their longstanding friendship provides a firm foundation for their fledgling romance. Both Paige and Riley have plenty of emotional baggage from traumatic events in their lives and neither of them have worked through these issues. Due to her somewhat dysfunctional childhood, Paige longs for family and although she is very close to the Callahan’s, she never quite feels like she fits in.  She has a giving heart and she is sometimes just a bit too trusting of people who have hurt her in the past.  Riley’s feelings of inadequacy due to his war injury cause him to back away from relationships.  He is also struggling to find a new career since he is convinced he cannot return to his previous job as a lobsterman. However, his biggest problem is his refusal to get treatment for his PTSD and his underlying depression. Reverting to past behavior,  Riley runs from his troubles instead of facing them head on and only time will tell whether his kneejerk reaction will help or hinder him in the long run.

With a gentle undercurrent of faith and a realistic storyline, Just a Kiss is a moving story of healing and love that is fast-paced and engaging with a wonderful cast of characters. Denise Hunter saved the best for last and this highly anticipated romance is an emotional conclusion to the Summer Harbor series.  Riley and Paige have to overcome some seemingly insurmountable obstacles but this just makes their romance that much more believable.  Longtime fans will be delighted with the outcome of a storyline that has played out in all three books while newcomers  will find it very easy to jump right in with this installment.  A beautiful end to a fabulous series that I highly recommend.


Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Just a Kiss, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Summer Harbor Series, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: The Things We Knew by Catherine West

Title: The Things We Knew by Catherine West
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.


With a gentle undercurrent of faith, The Things We Knew by Catherine West is a heartwarming novel of family, forgiveness and redemption .

After her mother passed away twelve years earlier and her older siblings left home, youngest daughter Lynette Carlisle has shouldered the burden of caring for their aging father and the family estate.  With her father’s health worsening and the home falling into disrepair, Lynette is becoming desperate for help from her long absent siblings.  Following the advice of close family friend and her longtime crush, Nick Cooper, Lynette knows it is time for her brothers and sister to return to Nantucket so they can discuss selling the family home.

Lynette is emotionally and physically exhausted as she tries to take care of her father when she realizes that their financial situation is at a crisis point.  At the same time, she is haunted by nightmares about the accident that claimed her mother’s life.  Unable to remember the events of that day, Lynette’s memories are slowly returning but the most important details surrounding her mother’s death remain elusive.  She is delighted when her siblings return to help out but she is troubled to learn they have all been keeping secrets from her.  As the youngest, Lynette’s siblings have always tried to protect her, but she finally finds the courage to stand up for herself as they try to come to an agreement about what to do about the family’s financial problems.

With only four of the five Carlisle children present, they cannot finalize any plans about selling the family estate.  Their concerns over the future of their home often take a backseat to the individual issues facing Lynette’s siblings Gray, Liz and David.  Gray is a rock star who is on the verge of success when his demons get the best of him.  Coming home might be an answer to his prayers but will he revert to old habits when things get tough?  David is married with two young children and he is currently going through a rough patch with his wife.  He is quick to begin repairs on their home, but will a more than generous offer on the house persuade him to vote for selling? Liz is a workaholic lawyer who is hiding a terrible secret about her wealthy boyfriend.  Although not a blood relative, the Carlisles have always treated Nick like family and his once close friendship with Gray is on very rocky ground.  He is also burdened with a secret  that could destroy the other family  members if the truth were to be revealed.  At the same time, Nick is working with his father but their relationship is strained.

The Things We Knew is a captivating novel that deals with difficult subject but Catherine West handles these delicate matters with sensitivity and ease.  The various story arcs are seamlessly woven together into a heartfelt story of healing for each of the characters. Beautifully written with relevant issues that are realistically portrayed, this touching novel of faith is sure to be a hit with readers of contemporary fiction.

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Filed under Catherine West, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, The Things We Knew, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo

Title: Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo
Finding Healing in the Arms of Your Savior
Publisher: NavPress
Genre: Non-Fiction, Christian
Length: 239 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In Return to Joy, Bev DeSalvo shares her own story of healing from past pain to draw other women along a journey toward intimacy with their Savior. The road to healing is arduous and long. But when we bow our pain in worship, this broken road leads to the heart of God, where all masks are removed and divine comfort can be experienced.

On this journey, understanding the true nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit brings healing and restoration to all father, relational, and mother wounds. Learning to aggressively fight against Satan, who is devious but not creative, replaces his evil lies with the truth of God so that they no longer define the person. Recognizing that God is always “with me” leads to a place of rest where there is no fear of being rejected or abandoned. As a result of these new insights, the reader can finally return to joy and experience emotional and spiritual balance. Out of the overflow of intimate worship, God becomes their refuge, provider, and protector, enabling them to move toward others in forgiveness and true community.

Includes a ten-week Bible study.


With Return to Joy, Bev DeSalvo uses her personal experiences, Bible verses and several discussion questions to illustrate how readers can heal their pain through Christ.

Despite a happy marriage, several friends and an abiding faith, Ms. DeSalvo continued to feel deep emotional pain, shame, loneliness and low self-worth from her dysfunctional and abusive childhood.  Her healing journey finally began in her forties when her long repressed memories began haunting her.  Her struggle to gain control over the pain of her past was long and arduous and she now shares her experiences in an effort to help other women heal their emotional wounds.

This ten week course provides in depth analysis of Scripture that will help readers begin then complete the necessary steps to heal their pain by deepening their Spiritual relationship with Christ.  The various chapters break down each of the stages of healing and at the end of each chapter, relevant Scripture, various discussion questions and prayer suggestions help readers move onto the next phase of healing.  Ms. DeSalvo also uses utilizes other women’s personal experiences to illustrate how they found peace through their relationships with their Savior.

Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo is a short, informative book that is designed to be used with discussion groups. Highly recommend to devout Christians or readers with strong faith.

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Filed under Bev DeSalvo, Christian, NavPress, Non-Fiction, Rated B, Return to Joy, Review