Category Archives: Thomas Nelson Publishing

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

Summary:

“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.

Review:

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: 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

Summary:

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?

Review:

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.

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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

Summary:

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.

Review:

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: Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

Title: Sister Dear by Laura McNeill
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 396 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

Review:

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill is an intriguing whodunit that has plenty of unexpected twists and turns.

Granted an early release after serving ten years for voluntary manslaughter of high school football coach Boyd Thomas, Allie Marshall is looking forward to two things: clearing her name and most important, getting to know her now fifteen year old daughter, Caroline.  Neither task is easily accomplished nor is settling back into life in her small hometown but Allie bides her time while waiting for things to settle down.  Hoping her younger sister, Emma, who has been caring for Caroline, will help smooth the way for the much anticipated reunion, Allie is confused by her sister’s sudden withdrawal and overall lack of support.  When she begins looking into Boyd’s murder, she runs into interference from Sheriff Lee Gaines who warns her to leave the past alone.  Convinced Sheriff Gaines is somehow involved in Thomas’s murder, Allie keeps searching for answers, but are some secrets better left buried?

Despite the unplanned pregnancy that slightly derailed her plans, when Allie is arrested for Thomas’s murder, she finally has her life in order.  She has just been accepted to medical school, she is engaged to be married and five year old Caroline is thriving.  However, Allie is greatly troubled by some of the changes in some of the high school football players’ behavior and her recent letter in the newspaper angered many of town’s residents.  With the football team standing a good chance of winning the championship, no one wants to hear anything negative about the coach who turned the team around. Lacking irrefutable proof about her suspicions, Allie is accelerating her plans to leave town when she stumbles onto Boyd immediately after he is attacked and despite her assertions of innocence, she is quickly arrested, tried and convicted of his murder.  Her time in prison does not break her and now older, wiser and more patient, Allie is more than ready to reclaim her life and her daughter but she has no intention of giving up on her plans to find the information that will exonerate her.

Emma is the only person who stood by Allie once she began serving her sentence.  She willingly became her niece’s guardian and she is extremely protective of Caroline.  While Emma initially appears concerned and supportive of Allie, it quickly becomes apparent that she will go to any lengths to maintain the life she has made for herself in Allie’s absence.  She is quite manipulative, calculating and vindictive as she plots and schemes to hold onto Caroline’s affections.  Emma’s motives for undermining Caroline and Allie’s relationship quickly become suspect as she reminisces about the months leading up to Boyd’s death.

Sheriff Gaines is nearing retirement and he has no intention of letting anything mar his spotless career.  He is less than enthusiastic about Allie’s return and he makes no effort to hide his animosity towards her.  Allie has never given up her theory that he was somehow involved in Boyd’s death and when Gaines pays her visit after her release, she grows more certain he is hiding something.  Determined to uncover the truth, Allie ignores his threats and keeps digging for the truth but she is unprepared for the shocking secrets she is about to unearth.

Written from multiple points of view, Sister Dear by Laura McNeill is an interesting mystery that, while impossible to put down, falls a bit flat due to the rather obvious suspect, unsympathetic characters and a somewhat implausible plot. Despite these issues, the storyline is engaging and while the killer’s identity is very easy to predict, the motive for the crime remains unclear until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Laura McNeill, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Sister Dear, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart

five timesTitle: The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 398 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

Review:

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart is an intriguing novel with a very unique premise. When a middle aged man tries to understand a recurring dream, he learns of a method to control his dreams. With this newfound knowledge, he is provided the opportunity to give his younger self advice which will hopefully change the past.

Just as Brock Matthews learns the family owned business is in trouble, his twenty six year marriage also begins to fall apart. Hoping to convince his younger self to take a different path in hopes of changing the events occurring in the present, Brock uses his newly discovered knowledge about lucid dreaming to impart suggestions about career, love and family. He is also thrilled to learn he can also talk to his friends, family and wife while he is dreaming as well. When he discovers he has successfully changed the course of his life, Brock is hoping to save his marriage and business. However some of these changes have unintended and sometimes, disastrous consequences and he is dismayed when his efforts to fix things continues to make everything worse. Although Brock has a reawakened appreciation for his wife and brother, he wants nothing more than to change things back to the way they were before he embarked on his quest to fix things in the past. Will Brock be able to make that happen before he loses everything he holds dear?

Brock’s relationship with his brother and business partner Ron is fraught with tension. Their once close bond began to disintegrate after their father’s breakdown when they were kids. Brock’s relationship with their father never recovered and he greatly resented the fact that Ron inherited the controlling shares in their company. The truce between them is fragile and instead of running the company together, Ron is in charge the business end of things while Brock takes care of publicity and new product development. With such a vast separation of duties, it comes as a complete shock when Ron announces they are on the verge of losing everything and he expects Brock to agree to his plans to sell off their business.

Just as Brock becomes aware of the looming financial disaster, he realizes that his devotion to the business has taken a toll on his relationships with his wife and son. His attempts to save the company also lead to inadvertent changes in their history and he is growing increasingly alarmed by the terrible toll his actions are taking on his family. Increasingly desperate to stop the downward spiral, Brock continues to use lucid dreaming to convince his younger self to make different choices, but he begins to despair he can fix what he has set into motion.

The Five Times I Met Myself by is a thought-provoking novel with a spiritual aspect that is sure to appeal to fans of Christian fiction.  It is a fascinating and uplifting journey of reconciliation and healing that also contains a hint of  a mystical element.  James L. Rubart brings the story to an emotional yet heartwarming conclusion that is sure to resonant with readers.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, James L Rubart, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Five Times I Met Myself, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

falling snowflakesTitle: Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter
Summer Harbor Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 346 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Eden Martelli is too busy fleeing the clutches of danger to realize she’s running straight into the arms of a new love.

Speeding north through rural Maine, Eden Martelli wonders how her life came to this—on the run with her mute five-year-old son dozing fitfully in the passenger seat. When a breakdown leaves them stranded in Summer Harbor, Eden has no choice but to stay put through Christmas . . . even though they have no place to lay their heads.

Beau Callahan is a habitual problem solver—for other people anyway. He left the sheriff’s department to take over his family’s Christmas tree farm, but he’s still haunted by the loss of his parents and struggling to handle his first Christmas alone.

When Eden shows up looking for work just as Beau’s feisty aunt gets out of the hospital, Beau thinks he’s finally caught a break. Eden is competent and dedicated—if a little guarded—and a knockout to boot. But, as he soon finds out, she also comes with a boatload of secrets.

Eden has been through too much to trust her heart to another man, but Beau is impossible to resist, and the feeling seems to be mutual. As Christmas Eve approaches, Eden’s past catches up to her.

Beau will go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe. But who’s going to protect his heart from a woman who can’t seem to trust again?

Review:

With Falling Like Snowflakes, Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series is off to a delightful beginning. Centered around the Callahan brothers, this first novel in the series perfectly blends romance and intrigue when Beau hires mysterious newcomer Eden Martelli to help out around the house while his aunt recovers from a broken leg.

Eden and her young son, Micah, are fleeing for their lives when her car breaks down in Summer Harbor. When they become stranded after her money is stolen, she is desperate for a place to stay and although she is out of her element, she gratefully accepts Beau’s job offer. With their lives at risk, she is afraid to trust anyone but herself and she skillfully dodges Beau’s questions about herself. Eden’s stubbornness puts everyone at risk when Beau begins secretly looking for answers about her past.

Finding out the truth about Eden is just one of the problems Beau is facing. His relationship with his girlfriend Paige is a little unsettled and things between them become even more strained after he meets Eden. A shocking announcement from his brother, Riley, adds to his stress and the rift between them continues to widen.

The romance between Eden and Beau is slow growing and there are many obstacles for them to overcome when they unexpectedly fall in love. It takes a while for Beau to work through his emotions and arrive at a decision about his relationship with Paige. Eden’s tumultuous past has left her with little desire to enter into a relationship of any kind and her trust issues make it nearly impossible for her to discuss what happened prior to her arrival in town. Resolving her immediate problems is just the beginning of the healing process for Eden and much to Beau’s dismay, a future together remains far from certain.

Falling Like Snowflakes is a charming romance with appealing characters and a gentle undercurrent of faith. Denise Hunter skillfully weaves all of the various elements into a realistic story that is fast-paced and quite engaging. A wonderful introduction to the Callahan brothers that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next novel in the Summer Harbor series.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Falling Like Snowflakes, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Summer Harbor Series, Thomas Nelson Publishing