Get To Know Melissa AND Summer 2018 Books Revealed {Book Club}

I know it has been said, but it never gets old, so again: what a wonderful time we had by being Sustained by God this past weekend! Knowing that you might feel a bit more crunched getting ready for the retreat, today we are taking a short break from Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine. We will get to know Melissa, reveal the summer reading, and share book club announcement. Lots of goodness going on!

Melissa, please introduce yourself. If you can share . . . where are you living? How long have you been there? What do you give a majority of your time to? What passport country do you hale from?

My name is Melissa. I am originally from Michigan. After college, I lived three years in Japan, two years back in Michigan, and the last 12 years, I’ve lived with my husband in Vienna, Austria. Our two boys were born in Vienna and are growing up bi-lingual. At 8 & 9, they now like to correct ME in my German (come on, learning German at 30 years old was NOT easy!). We are involved in a local church planting ministry. My husband preaches and also teaches Bible classes in two local schools (as a side job). I am a stay-at-home mom, keeping track of everyone’s schedules. I also teach in the children’s Sunday School program.

How do you prefer to read your books? Physically or electronically? How has living overseas shaped your preference?

I LOVE to read…always have, always will. I prefer reading with a physical book in hand, especially when I want to dog-ear or highlight pages. In recent years, I also added a Kindle and do like that I can save the space and download books rather inexpensively (I look for the free Kindle deals, and I recently discovered that I could download books from our Stateside library account – check out Overdrive for that!).

I also enjoy listening to Audiobooks. I’ve found it easiest to listen to an Audiobook when I’m walking for exercise.

Do you tend to read one book at a time? Or have multiple books going at once?

I have multiple books going at once! Plus, I still like to read-aloud with my boys, so there are family books, too.

Which Velvet Ashes Book Club books stand out to you? In other words, which do you remember? What do you remember about them?

I learned a lot from Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. In that particular year, I was facing a lot of challenges, physically, in ministry and even emotionally. God used that book the help me face those challenges and move forward.

In the last year or so, which book or books that you have read would you recommend?

Adorned by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth (Audiobook)

The Quiet Place Daily Devotional by Nancy Leigh Demoss

One with the Shepherd by Mary Somerville

Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes

Rekindled by Tamera Alexander

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis (read with my boys)

Grandpa’s Box by Starr Meade (also reading with my boys)

Where do you do most of your reading?

In the warmer months, I read outside. Because we live in an apartment, I take my boys outside to play at local parks. Now that they’re a little older, I send them off to play while I sit on a park bench and read. In the winter months, I read inside at home – on the couch or in bed.

What book has changed you as a person other than the Bible :)? How did it change you?

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow—I have read this book as a single woman, as a married woman, and as a mom. I have read it in English & German, have studied it in English (questions at the back of the book) and translated the questions to use with a women’s Bible study in German. Pages are dog-eared, sentences are highlighted, my thoughts are written in the margins. At various stages of life, Dillow has spoken right to my heart and what I was going through. She encourages me to not worry, and have an anxious heart, but instead to “Cast my cares on the Lord, for He cares for me.”

What was a favorite book in childhood?

Nancy Drew Mysteries

What are you currently reading?

The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson
Unblinded Faith by Elisa Pullman
The Horse & His Boy by CS Lewis (read-aloud to my boys, ages 8 and 9)
Overall, do you tend to read more fiction or non-fiction? Are there any genres you just can’t get into?

In the past, I mainly read fiction. Now, I’d say it’s about half and half. It’s really easy for me to get into a fiction book and then I can’t put it down. Non-fiction books take more time and thinking to read. I can’t get into Fantasy or Sci-Fi.

What do you have on your “to read” list?

Brokenness, Surrender & Holiness by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth
Adorned by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth
It is Well by Mark Dever & Michael Lawrence
Revealed by Tamera Alexander
Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis (read-aloud to my boys, ages 8&9)

Thanks Melissa, it is fun to add to our to-read this and see old friends here!


And now for our Summer Reading

We will read a classic in June, a Young Adult novel in July,  a modern novel in August, and a memoir in September! Summaries from Amazon.

June—free on Amazon for Kindle

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (free on Kindle and voted on in Velvet Ashes Instastory, the people have spoken!): “This is a novel by the English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. The title refers to one of the themes of the novel: the contrast of lifestyles between the North and the South of England. The protagonist is the young Margaret Hale: her father has a crisis of conscience and leaves the Church. Margaret is forced to leave her comfortable home in Hampshire and move with her family in Northern England. Margareth arrives in Milton and she is initially reluctant to adapt because of the ugliness of the industrial town. She soon became aware of the suffering and poverty of the workers of the mill and begins to develop a keen sense of social justice. All this is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill owner John Tornton …..”

July —hosted by Sarah Hilkemann

Hope was here by Joan Bauer (Recommended by Amy’s sister and nieces): “When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope’s not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn’t quite ready to give up yet–in fact, he’s decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.’s campaign–particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times . . . even Hope herself.
Filled with heart, charm, and good old-fashioned fun, this is Joan Bauer at her best.”


My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (We read A Man Called Ove last summer and popular response was “Let’s read more by him! When Sarah’s aunt called it “Hilarious” the deal was sealed.): “Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.”


Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway: “In a remote corner of West Africa, Monique Dembele saved lives and dispensed hope every day in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of the author’s decade-long friendship with Monique, an extraordinary midwife in rural Mali. It is a tale of Monique’s unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work, as well as her tragic and ironic death. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse in village life and learn firsthand the rhythms of Monique’s world, they come to know her as a friend, as a mother, and as an inspired woman who struggled to find her place in a male-dominated world.”

Are you excited?

We are! Leave comment—either in response to Melissa or which book(s) you are looking forward to reading—and you will be entered to win one a copy of one of our summer reading. SIX of you will win :).

Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:

May 1—Chapter 7 in HR
May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know 

Photo by Natasha Brazil on Unsplash


  1. Kiera April 24, 2018

    Sounds like some good choices. 🙂 From the description, I think I’ve read Hope Was Here, but it’s been a long time and I can’t really remember when it was that I would have read it, so a re-read will be fun.

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Kiera 🙂 … me too. I think I read Hope Was Here years ago, but it will be fun to reread it :)!!!

  2. Holly B April 24, 2018

    Melissa, it looks like you are a prolific reader. I used to be, and need to get back into reading more. I enjoyed the Sustained by God retreat over the past weekend. Thank you Velvet Ashes for making that possible.
    Additionally, I plan to fly to Melissa’s great locale of Vienna on Thursday to lead a group of ladies to the Inspire Women’s conference there. If you are reading this post, please pray for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all the women coming from around the world for this conference. Thank you!!

    1. Melissa April 24, 2018

      Hi Holly! Yes, I do enjoy reading! I just recently heard of the Inspire Women’s Conference. My upcoming weekend is already booked with an outreach event in our church plant, so I won’t be at it. But I hope that you enjoy your visit to Vienna! It’s beautiful in Spring!

    2. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Holly, I’m grateful your Sustain retreat experience was rich and will pray for your time in Vienna!

  3. Michele April 24, 2018

    Is it weird that I looked at my email while waiting for my lunch on the way home, saw the subject for this one and got all excited to get home and see what we’re reading this summer? It seems especially weird given the fact that I have a bunch of books downloaded on my Kindle (I like to grab the deals too, Melissa)! I think all but one of the book club books are things I wouldn’t have known to pick out and, while I haven’t followed 100% of them, I always end up really enjoying what we read together, along with the discussions. I also love that you pick fiction for the summer months. I will be in the US taking over babysitting nieces for the third summer in a row (to give their grandparents a break). Another similarity with Melissa- as they are getting more able to play on their own, I love the accompaniment of a book on my bench and fiction is much easier for that kind of reading!

    1. Rachel April 24, 2018

      I was also excited to see what the summer books would be! And I agree – they are never books I would pick out on my own.

    2. Melissa April 24, 2018

      absolutely, Michele! Enjoy your summer reading! 🙂

    3. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Not weird at all :)(!! This makes me happy :). AND I understand . . . this is what I love about book club too — reading books I wouldn’t’t have picked. Out of these books, North and South is probably the one I would want to read but wouldn’t get around to :). Obviously, I will read it :). Ha, and yay!

      How wonderful to spend time with nieces and helping grandparents!! How old are your nieces?

  4. Lynn April 24, 2018

    Melissa, If you are enjoying reading the Chronicles of Narnia to your boys, then you are reading fantasy. 🙂 It is just a small step from there to C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy which would be considered sci-fi. I’m looking forward to reading the summer books. I have a few papers for a class to finish up in the summer too, though, so may not get to them when the club is reading them, but always happy to get some new suggestions for good books.

    1. Melissa April 24, 2018

      Hi Lynn! I realized the discrepancy in what I shared – LOL. It is a new step for me to read fantasy. I had read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in my school days (lo-o-n-g time ago!), but had heard good things about the whole series. It’s been quite fascinating to read through with my boys. I find that I pay attention better to the details by reading it aloud and my boys really enjoy listening to the books! Now, I’m off to read. 😉

  5. Rachel April 24, 2018

    Melissa – I’m also reading The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to my boys (ages 6 & 8)! We’ve read them before, a couple of years ago. We’re on Prince Caspian.

    1. Melissa April 24, 2018

      awesome, Rachel! I’m impressed that you’ve already read the series aloud to your boys! Have you also shown them the films? Hey, just as a tip, your boys may be interested in the Audio Adventure Series Jonathan Park. My boys LOVE the stories of adventures. Happy reading (and listening)! 🙂

      1. Rachel Kahindi April 24, 2018

        Hey cool. I haven’t heard of Audio Adventures. I’ll check that out.

        They have only seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the newish one, not the cartoon one I watched as a kid).We found it here in Kenya and few years ago, but haven’t found the others yet.

  6. Jennifer April 24, 2018

    I am very interested in the last book about the midwife in Mali. I currently live in sub-saharan Africa which is different but surely has similarities and I love hearing people’s stories. Lots of good reading here though!

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Jennifer, I love hearing people’s stories too!!! L(

  7. Kelley April 25, 2018

    Hi! First timer here. I love to read and am excited to read alongside some other expats. I just put North and South on my TBR two days ago so I’m happy to have a push to read that. I’ve loved A Man Called Ove and Beartown so super pumped for another Bachman. I love a good memoir also. But the one I’m most excited about is the YA novel Hope Was Here because I have four preteens and tweens and I’m always on the hunt for good lit to recommend to them. Thanks for hosting this!

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Kelley, welcome! It sounds like we are your people :). I agree about the push to read North and South . . . since it is a book club pick, I will! and I’m looking forward to it!

  8. Marie April 25, 2018

    I’ve never been able to join the VA book club before, but I was a lit major in college and taught English lit to jr highers and high schoolers before the motherhood and the mission field. Today, I’m homeschooling our two adopted kids and so we read plenty together! All of the summer books look appealing to me (I’ve watched North and South by the BBC, but haven’t read it … looking forward to reading it)! I feel like I read so much non-fiction for myself, that I need the fun of a book club to push me more towards fiction these days. =)

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Me too Marie :)! I’m a nonfiction consumer, but I know that fiction is good for me :). Glad you can join in 🙂

  9. Kathy Vaughan April 25, 2018

    The summer list sounds good! I loved, loved, loved A Man Called Ove (actually read it just before it became a book club choice), so I’m excited about My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. And Monique and the Mango Rains was already on my list. Looks like good summer reading!

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Yay, Kathy, isn’t it fun when a book you want to read is picked. I LOVE that 🙂

  10. Spring April 25, 2018

    I am so excited!!! I actually have read both Monique and the Mango rains (but don’t currently own a copy) and Hope was Here. Both are excellent books and I look forward to going through them again. I appreciate Fredrick Backman as an author. After finishing a Man called Ove, I read The Deal of a Lifetime. The book club books all look like interesting reads!

    1. Amy Young April 25, 2018

      Spring, I appreciate Fredrick Backman as an author too :)!!

  11. Melissa April 26, 2018

    Thanks, Amy, for the opportunity to share with the VA Community! The summer books sound interesting! I’m most interested in the September book!

  12. Phyllis April 27, 2018

    Wasn’t Calm My Anxious Heart the book I said changed my life?!? Now I don’t remember my answer, but I think that’s it. So funny. Melissa, you and I have that in common. 🙂

    1. Melissa April 29, 2018

      awesome, Phyllis! 🙂

  13. Stephanie April 27, 2018

    I haven’t done a VA book club before, but these choices all sound interesting! I love that they are fiction since I almost always read non-fiction…I’m hoping to join in on some of these this summer 🙂

    1. Kathy Vaughan May 1, 2018

      Thanks so much! How fun to be a winner! I am really looking forward to these!

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