Tag Archives: contemporary ficiton

Mini Book Review: Finding Riley

26 Dec

By The Book read Finding Riley by Dan Walsh in December. Walsh is a great favorite of ours, so we were especially excited to read this book — a Christmas story and a dog! What could be better? Well as it turns out, a lot. All of us were disappointed with this book. We felt there were too many story lines and with none well-developed. The writing fell a bit flat for us and seemed somewhat juvenile. A homeless character was the highlight of the book, with Walsh shining a light on the reality of a homeless life. While we didn’t like this book, it will not keep us from reading Walsh in the future.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

unknownAn unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas of their lives. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right? Does this rich, handsome man’s interest in Kim go much deeper than her dog-training skills?


(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Of Stillness And Storm

16 Dec

of-stillness-and-stormIt 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.


mphoenix-406Born 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.

Find out more about Michèle at http://michelephoenix.com.


My Impressions:

Of Stillness And Storm is a difficult book — a book that is filled with hard things. Hard things beautifully expressed. There is much loss and sorrow and despair in Michele Phoenix’s book, but also a glimmer of hope and love that transcends the failings of men. This book is about relationships and would be a wonderful addition to a book club’s list. There is so much to talk about.

Lauren, Sam and Ryan are a family of three living in Nepal. As Sam brings God’s word to remote villages, Lauren and Sam struggle to survive the power outages, unrest, pollution and utter foreignness of Kathmandu. Called to live among its people, Nepal seems to require more than they can give. But is it God or Nepal that demands so much? Or a vision that is man-centered?

Of Stillness And Storm is told in Lauren’s first person voice. Present day events are set against past recollections allowing the reader to see the path that has led to the circumstances the family faces. Sam is remote, not really present in his family even when he returns from the field. Ryan is angry, more angry than a typical teenager. And Lauren tries to hold it all together, even as she slips into a forgotten life a world away. While the reader could spend time examining the wisdom of mission work or the toll it takes on the family, it is really the family’s own choices, not the purposes of God that impact this story. The family portrayed could live next door . . . or in your own home. As I stated above, this book is beautifully written. The language is exquisite and almost painful as it reveals sorrow and loss. The ending is not what I would have wanted; no fairy tale endings here. But it is gritty and above all real.

For those who want a book to challenge and expand their thinking, Of Stillness And Storm is a good choice. Not a quick or happy read, it is a recommended one.

Highly Recommended.

Great for book clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to LitFuse and Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



Take Michèle Phoenix’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:
A copy of Of Stillness and Storm
A Kindle Fire tablet
A Kindle Fire map cover
A passport holder
Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 31. The winner will be announced January 3 on Michèle’s blog.

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

3 Nov

41kqgsaqu6l-_sx332_bo1204203200_One moment, Olivia Kavanaugh is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after. The next, she learns that her fiancé, Wyatt Hammond, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was fifty miles away . . . with a baby gift in the backseat.

Her faith shaken, Olivia pores over the clues left behind, desperate to know where Wyatt was going that day and why. As she begins uncovering secrets, she also navigates a tense relationship with her judgmental mother and tries to ignore the attentions of a former boyfriend who’s moved back home. But when she starts receiving letters written by Wyatt before his death, she must confront a disturbing question: Can we ever know anyone fully, even someone we love?

When an unexpected path forward — though nothing like the life she once envisioned—offers the promise of a new beginning, will she be strong enough to let go of the past and move toward it?


31h5k4dnw1l-_ux250_A true Southern woman who knows any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa Allan writes women’s fiction with hope, humor, and heart.

Christa is the mother of five, and grandmother of three. She recently retired after twenty-five years of teaching high school English, so she doesn’t scare easily. She and her husband Ken and their three neurotic cats live in New Orleans in a 170-year-old home where the fans and the lights turn on and off without them. But, they love it because it’s in the quirky, artsy Bywater where they’re one of the few residents who don’t have piercings, purple hair and/or tattoos.


My Impressions:

Whew! I was an emotional mess as I finished Christa Allan’s latest book, Since You’ve Been Gone. Allan took me on a roller-coaster — sad, mad, tickled and hopeful. This novel is not for the feint of heart, but it is for the reader who wants an authentic story full of flawed characters, real-life happenings, and an unchanging God. So come prepared with a few tissues and a few hours to spend with this unputdownable book.

Olivia is hit with the unthinkable — her wedding day ends not with a happily-ever-after, but with grief and seemingly unanswerable questions. When she finds out she is not only a bride without a groom, but a soon to be mother, Olivia finds herself struggling to make sense of why God is silent.

As I stated above, Since You’ve Been Gone is not an easy read. It does have its moments of levity as only Allan can bring. That’s a relief, because Olivia faces loss upon loss within this book’s pages. I won’t spoil it for you, but while Olivia faces more than she thinks she can handle, it is not more than many real life people have to bear. As Olivia’s grandmother, Ruthie, puts it — life can be wonderful and also very, very hard. The story is told in Olivia’s first person voice which works well to see into her character and circumstances. Supporting characters are treated pretty fairly by Olivia, yet no one can truly know the hearts of others. I found myself really liking Ruthie and Evan, Olivia’s ex-boyfriend. Olivia’s mother, Scarlet, not so much. But the reader finds in the end everyone faces loss and grief and responds in many different ways. Wyatt, the one character who cannot speak for himself, is revealed in a very unique way. Well done, Ms. Allan!

While God is largely silent in Olivia’s life, He shows up in what Ruthie calls God-incidences. Olivia and the reader are reminded that while we may not understand what is going on, God is not really absent or not working in the midst of tragedy. He often sends just who we need just when we need them.

I really liked Since You’ve Been Gone. It is one of those books that will make you feel and think and then think again long after the last page is turned. This one is a highly recommended read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



Book Review: Saints And Sailors

3 Mar

UnknownFourth in the Dunbridge Chronicles series, Neil Fisher’s old and new congregations come together on a cruise round the British Isles

Three groups of people come together for a more-or-less godly cruise around the British Isles to visit Lindisfarne, the Loch Ness Monster Museum, the isles of Iona and Mull, Dublin, and the Scilly Isles. There are familiar faces from St Stephens, Dunbridge; some new folk from Neil’s new parish in Derbyshire; and the slightly long-suffering crew, not least its skipper.

A cruise is a great place to make new friends, with leisure for decent conversations. It can also be an awkward, confined space with those you would really rather avoid. Some of the party face tough decisions–not least of which is whether to say “yes” — and some tensions just cannot be left on land.


rhodespamFor many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world’s number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail’s Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.


My Impressions:

It is no secret that Christians across denominational and national lines disagree on many things. There wouldn’t be so many different churches if that was not true. Besides worship styles, doctrinal and social issues divide us. Some of the thoughts expressed in Pam Rhodes series, The Dunbridge Chronicles are counter to what I believe, but that has not stopped me from enjoying (for the most part) her tales of a young Anglican priest’s day to day experiences. Saints And Sailors is the fourth book in this series. Its cruise ship setting offers a unique perspective on the hurts and hopes of modern day people as it visits historical settings where faith has triumphed. Rhodes is ambitious in tackling a number of issues involving grief, shame, second chances, love and death, and in most cases handles them very well. Its wide cast of characters are engaging and fit the story.  I was really enjoying this book when the author inserted what I feel is a cliche take on an issue that many Christians are stuggling with. Two young, intelligent, charming, talented and handsome men are involved in a homosexual relationship. This story line is treated briefly with the attitude that love is the most important thing, certainly more important than whether mum will get those grandchildren. No matter where you stand on the issue of same-sex relationships, it is a disservice to ignore what God says on the matter. Rhodes didn’t ignore the Bible when tackling marital problems or the death of a child or restoring lost relationships. She did, however, treat this issue with a politically correct statement that suggests if you feel otherwise you are at fault. For me, the other messages the author tried to convey were drowned out by this.

I am in the minority on my opinion of this book, at least on Amazon, but that is okay. You can find out what others thought by clicking HERE.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

December Book Club Picks

1 Dec

Every December my two book clubs, By The Book and Page Turners, pick Christmas themed reads. This year we are reading Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh and A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Dan Walsh is a big favorite of By The Book — always heartwarming. And since we read To Kill A Mockingbird this year, Page Turners thought it was fitting to read a Christmas short story by the inspiration for Dill.

Have you read these stories?

Let us know what you thought.

UnknownFor the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it’s looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can’t bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure they were strange-looking–some could be called downright ugly–but they were tradition. A tradition she’s heartbroken to miss this year.

With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan knows something must be done. And his only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments.

Fan-favorite Dan Walsh invites readers to enjoy this nostalgic Christmas story that celebrates all of our most cherished seasonal traditions, especially the importance of family. Readers will join in remembering the things that make their own Christmas season so special.


UnknownSeven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: “It’s fruitcake weather!” Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls — one young and one old — and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.