Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: Of Stillness and Storm

Of Stillness and Storm
By Michèle Phoenix
Thomas Nelson, 2016


"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.

Purchase a copy:

My thoughts

If I had a complaint, it would be that the time span between one Michèle Phoenix story and the next is too long by far. But I guess that’s really a compliment, in a roundabout way. Michèle’s previous novel, In Broken Places, is one of my all-time favorites (please click on title to see my review).

Of Stillness and Storm is a story that continues to linger in my mind. It’s about relationships, physical and spiritual. It is beautifully crafted in a style that skillfully blends exquisite narrative, literary quality, candid themes, and emotional depth. With rawness and honesty, it plumbs the depths of commitment to family and God. This is not a light or easy read – but it’s a haunting and thought-provoking one.

Of Stillness and Storm is the story of Sam, Lauren, and 13-year old Ryan, a missionary family dedicated to reaching the distant villages and tribes of Nepal – and of Aiden, a friend from Lauren’s past that she reconnects with online.  Backstory passages make us privy to all that has led them to this place in time.


“Though Sam felt called to the Nepali people,
I felt called to protecting our son.”
- Lauren

I loved the complexity of these characters. Sam had always had a vision of global impact and to him, deprivations were a badge of honor. I understood Sam’s passion and admired his drive to reach the Nepali people, yet I struggled to like him. I so badly wanted to reach out and shake some sense into him, yet I knew such effort would result in failure. Lauren’s heart is for her son, but she is bewildered and at a loss by the changes she sees in Ryan, and it’s not long before we witness a family in crisis.

There’s so much upon which to reflect in this story – for instance, God’s will or man’s desire, blurred lines between ministry and marriage, submission, the unwitting effect of parents’ decisions on children. I loved this quote by Lauren during a conversation with Sam: “I tend to think that who we become because of our faith is more important than what we do to prove it.” I was kind of taken aback by the ending, yet it reflected the gritty realness of this story, and I actually saw it coming.

Of Stillness and Storm speaks of something that Lauren discovered and that I take joy in every day … that out of darkness and loss emerges a “relentless, demanding, trustworthy, benevolent, and healing God.” Oh, for more stories like this in Christian fiction!

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle Phoenix is a consultant, writer and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michèle travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies and paths to healing.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Michèle Phoenix’s ‘Of Stillness and Storm’ Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack

A tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry—don't miss Michèle Phoenix's new intimate and bold release, Of Stillness and Storm. It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. When a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again, the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past might be too much. Will it be the family's undoing?

Take Michèle's new book with you on your winter vacation and enter to win her Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack (because you can't take a stack of books with you when you travel).


One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 31. The winner will be announced January 3 on Michèle's blog.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review: Waiting for Wonder

Waiting for Wonder
By Marlo Schalesky
Abingdon Press, 2016


What if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more?

It's easy to believe God when a promise is new. It's hard when the years pass and nothing changes. It's even harder when desperation strikes, your plans backfire, and still God does not fill the emptiness. But what if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more?

Join author Marlo Schalesky on a unique, contemplative journey to reveal the wonder that is often missed when we find ourselves struggling to wait well. Walking through the life of the biblical character Sarah, one who knows what it means to wait, you will discover a glimpse of God's character that will give you strength to keep hoping and praying for the desires of your heart.

Waiting for Wonder is a journey into the heart of God where you will wrestle with personal questions, think deeply about God's true character, and learn to appreciate His divine work as you discover your own path to the promised land. Recapture your hope, restore your soul, and renew your vision of a wondrous Savior when you learn to live on God's time.

Leader guide also available.

Purchase a copy:

My thoughts

I am impressed by Marlo Schalesky’s Waiting for Wonder, a moving and thought provoking study of Sarah and Abraham, with an emphasis on personal application. Each chapter covers a defining moment in Sarah’s life and consists of biblical teaching, personal experiences that were eye opening for the author, and creative vignettes written from Sarah’s perspective.

Historical detail of the culture in which Sarah lived brought out things I either didn’t know or had forgotten, and I came to realize how relevant Sarah’s struggles are to all of us. For instance, the first chapter focuses on the somewhat harsh biblical introduction of Sarah that emphasizes her barrenness. I loved this takeaway: “He is the God who calls us at the very place of our deepest shame, our deepest pain, and transforms that place into something with breathtaking beauty.”

Each chapter ends with a “Who Is This God?” section that really spoke to me, and I want to go back and delve into all the examples and Scripture references provided. How many of us could readily testify to vast amounts of time spent waiting for God to move, to deliver, to simply “show up”? Waiting for Wonder reminds us that not only is God in control, but His plans are being carried out in our times of waiting, when we’re in the dark – and that, rather than a place, what we’re really longing for is a Person.

Waiting for Wonder is perfect for personal study, but would also work well in a small group setting.


I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Marlo Schalesky is an award-winning author of ten books, including "Wrestling with Wonder: A Transformational Journey Through the Life of Mary." A regular speaker and columnist, she has also published nearly 1,000 articles in various Christian magazines, including "Focus on the Family," "Today's Christian Woman," "In Touch," and "Marriage Partnership."

Marlo lives with her husband, six young children, nine horses, two dogs, five cats, two parakeets, ten rabbits, two chinchillas, three hamsters, and a bunch of fish in a log home in Salinas, California.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community

Pray A to Z
By Amelia Rhodes
Worthy, 2016


Change the world one prayer at a time.

How would our community change if instead of absently saying, "I'll pray for you," we actually did pray---deeply, intensely, and purposefully?

Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Praying for Your Community will help you topically organize your prayer requests and lay the burdens of your community at the feet of our Heavenly Father.

With compassion and encouragement, Amelia Rhodes offers Bible verses and prayer prompts, organized topically for every letter of the alphabet. There are five topics per letter---three prayers of petition asking God to work in a certain area of need, and two more prayers of praise to reflect gratitude for God's presence in the daily issues and relationships of life. Through petition and praise, your specific, focused communion with God will lighten your heart as you place the heaviness of those prayer requests where they belong---on His strong shoulders.

Whether you are praying for a friend's adoption journey, a neighbor's bankruptcy, or a family member's cancer, this book will give you Bible verses, prayer prompts, and prayer starts to guide you through praying for even the most difficult issues that affect the people you know and love. Perfect for either individual or group prayer, Pray A to Z will help you experience the peace that comes from communicating with God.

Purchase a copy:

My thoughts

Pray A to Z by Amelia Rhodes is a gem of a book, one that packs a powerful punch and will undoubtedly enrich the prayer life of those who use it. Personally, I like prayer prompts. It’s not so much that I don’t know what to say, but prompts often guide and expand my thoughts. I have already prayed over a few of these topics and found the experience to be spiritually rewarding.

Five topics are ingeniously assigned to each letter of the alphabet – three prayers of petition, followed by two of praise. These topics are practical, relevant, and personal – and many aren’t areas I would normally think of on a daily basis. Many will touch some family member or person you know in the community. A few topical examples are: dementia and Alzheimer’s, law enforcement, infertility, overcoming addictions, refugees, unbelievers.

Pray A to Z is a simple, yet profound prayer guide. It would work well personally or in a small group setting, for the newer Christian as well as mature believer.



Amelia Rhodes is a speaker and author of Isn't It Time for a Coffee Break: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of World. Amelia's writing has also been featured in four Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, devotionals for the OneHope blog Undeterred and the international devotional Upper Room. Amelia has a growing speaking ministry and speaks regularly to women's groups on topics of spiritual growth, friendship, and community, offering practical tools for living our faith in the everyday. She lives in Lowell, Michigan.

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I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review (+ Tour Giveaway): The Amish Christmas Kitchen

The Christmas Bakery at Huckleberry Hill
(From The Amish Christmas Kitchen)
By Jennifer Beckstrand
Kensington, 2016


The Christmas Bakery at Huckleberry Hill

When shy Katie Rose Gingerich’s dat sends her to Huckleberry Hill to secure a marriage proposal, she never expects to long for carefree Titus Helmuth—or to hope that he might want to spend every Christmas with her . . .

To purchase your own copy, click here.

My thoughts

This review is for the second of three delightful novellas in The Amish Christmas Kitchen, “The Christmas Bakery at Huckleberry Hill” . . .

      “Our Christmas goat. It’s a family tradition.”
      “Family tradition?” Titus said, scratching his head. “I don’t remember that tradition.”
      “We’re starting a new one. There’s nothing like a goat to perk up the Christmas season.”
      “But, Mammi, you don’t have a goat.”
      “We will buy one. That’s why it’s called a Christmas goat, because we get it at Christmastime to fill our hearts with cheer.”
      Titus looked excessively concerned and even more confused. “I’ve never heard of a goat filling hearts with cheer.”
      “That’s why it’s important that we start this new tradition. You’ve been missing out on half the fun of Christmas for far too long.”
      “I had no idea,” Titus said.

A book by Jennifer Beckstrand keeps me reading with a smile on my face, and when that story involves Anna and Felty … well, that’s just icing on the cake! I also dare any reader not to fall in love with the two precious “Christmas” goats, Bethlehem and Judea (Beth and Judy for short).

This is a precious story, full of family caring and sweet romance. Katie starts out as shy, never having been appreciated for the talented and giving person that she is … until Titus, with his encouraging and selfless nature, brings out the best in Katie by helping her forget herself and turn her heart outward. I’ve always heard that it’s important to look at how a man treats his parents (or grandparents, in this case) – and if that’s true, then Titus is a keeper.

Jennifer Beckstrand’s story is Amish fiction, but it is also excellent storytelling that should appeal to any reader. Highly recommended.


Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in list of top ten inspirational books for 2014.

Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and four adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.



To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away three copies of Huckleberry Christmas. Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to earn 9 extra entries in the giveaway!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tanika Fitzgerald’s ‘Miscarried Joy’ Prize Pack Giveaway

Are you in a season of waiting—waiting for an answer from God, waiting for a change? Be encouraged by Tanika Fitzgerald's new book, Miscarried Joy. Tanika transparently shares her deeply personal and disappointing experiences of losing her babies due to miscarriage. There were times when she felt God was the cause of her pain. Miscarried Joy has something for anyone who needs help pushing through incredible pain to conquer discouragement, walk in faith and birth their purpose. God’s delay in your life could be a set up for your greatest calling to be fulfilled.

Conquer discouragement with the help of Miscarried Joy and enter to win Tanika's Hope Fulfilled Prize Pack.


One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 18. The winner will be announced December 19 on the Miscarried Joy blog.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Spotlight (+ Tour Giveaway): What Fresh Small (Mystery)

What Fresh Smell
By Jeffrey Marks
Self-published, 2016


There’s Murder in River City – Daycare that is.

When Marissa learns that a teacher at the daycare center has been murdered, she comes to the realization that she really didn’t know much about the people who worked there, especially the murdered woman. She’ll now have to manage her son, her mother, her mother’s Scottish terrier, and an ex-boyfriend as she tries to hunt down the people behind a robbery ring and the person who killed a daycare teacher. If she’s not careful, she might meet the same fate.


Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelancer.  After numerous mystery author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. His works include Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s, and a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled Anthony Boucher. It was nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony. He won a Malice Domestic Grant for The Scent of Murder, which has spurred the Marissa Scott series. What Fresh Smell is the third novel in the series.

His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his spouse and three dogs.


Purchase Link:  Amazon