Review: “Conspiracy of Silence” by Ronie Kendig

Review: “Conspiracy of Silence” by Ronie Kendig

Conspiracy of Silence is the first novel I’ve read by military fiction author Ronie Kendig, but it certainly won’t be the last! It’s book 1 in her new “The Tox Files” series, a riveting thriller following a former US Army Special Forces team as it battles a plague, politics, terrorists, and plenty of personal drama. Read on for more + my review!

About the Book

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed at an archaeological dig where three Bronze-era censers are found, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist and an FBI agent who’s an expert in deception, Tox and his team are pitted against a secret society, a plague dubbed the New Black Death, and a revered codex—which may hold the key to stopping the deadly outbreak.

Review

This book is a thrill ride from start to finish! If you’re reading this soon, you should buckle up and secure your armor and weapon before page 1 because you won’t want to stop reading until the final conflict is over. The location changes and hand-to-hand combat situations remind me of a Jason Bourne movie. With all the action, there is suspense and intrigue with a political thriller element. And, a slight family drama and romance plays out in the middle of it all!

Kendig expertly weavconspiracy-of-silencees Biblical history and modern Middle Eastern/Jewish culture into the story with skill and style. The ties to a plague in the days of Moses interestingly work into a twist on a biological weapon, of sorts. With mysterious characters and a possible secret organization behind it all, Kendig kept me anxiously guessing just what would happen next! Just when you think you can catch your breath, a surprise comes your way.

With all of the action and traversing the globe, the characters still have a strong presence throughout. “Tox”, in particular, is a steadfast example of honor and leadership with a classic guilty conscience, blaming himself for past calamities completely out of his control. He is an instantly likable hero to root for… especially where a certain prominent female is concerned. The ladies of this story, Tzivia and Kasey, hold their own in sticky situations, too.

I appreciated the subtle thread of faith and Divine orchestration in the events of the story. I suspect (and hope) we will learn more behind the layers of Tox and his team in stories to come because I still have some lingering questions. The interesting and brotherhood-like supporting cast of this novel promise more surprises to come. I don’t think I can come up with any more adjectives to describe this story without giving away too much. So, I’ll just say this is a military thriller to rush headlong into with both eyes open!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

Prequel Novella Info

the-warriors-sealIf you’re interested in reading this series, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the prequel ebook novella, The Warrior’s Seal! It’s FREE! (click here for Amazon page)

It sets the series up very nicely with plenty of action and intrigue in itself. It’s the backstory, if you will, of this team and the events that lead up to Tox’s predicament.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Review: “Where Two Hearts Meet” by Liz Johnson

Revisiting the quaint setting of Prince Edward Island, Where Two Hearts Meet (Revell) by author Liz Johnson presents a story of realizing dreams, accepting grace, and the joy of love born of friendship. This contemporary romance encompasses serious themes while maintaining a bright bearing on life. Readers will be happy to see returning characters in this second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, though it can be read as a standalone title. (Book 1 was The Red Door Inn, click for my review).

At Rose’s Red Door Inn, chef Caden Holt has found a place to belong, turning out breakfasts and baked goods to treat guests vising the Island. Outside of her kitchen, however, she is less secure in her personal appearance and her accomplishments. When journalist Adam Jacobs arrives, Caden is challenged to leave her comfort zone and show him the wonders of the Island in hopes that his pending article will draw visitors to the Inn through the next season.

Where Two Hearts Meet.jpgAdam’s reasons for visiting the Island are not so simple. His time there is really a forced sabbatical instead of a leisurely vacation. And, his editor has high expectations for his next story – one that’s inexplicably connected to the Red Door Inn. When he begins to face the baggage leftover from the recent turmoil in his life, he finds respite in the beauty of his surroundings. Except maybe the peace he feels is more closely related to the cinnamon rolls, coffee, and unexpected friendship of Caden.

“Sweet” is an apt word to describe this story – from the setting, romance that grows from friendship, slight humorous moments, and to the various pastries Caden bakes up throughout. But Liz Johnson takes these characters much deeper than surface level with many layers to the story and nuances of emotion, dealing with themes such as guilt, bravery, and purpose.

Caden and Adam both face their own insecurities and consequently draw strength and encouragement from one another. While Adam thinks he might be falling in love with more than the island and its charming people, Caden starts to find a new freedom in pursuing her dreams with confidence. The setting itself proves to be an element of the story joining Caden and Adam with a lively cast of supporting characters who add humor and insight to the story.

While the drama and sweet moments unfold, a subtle message of grace shines through. Though none of these characters go through a prominent spiritual transformation, the growth of Adam and steadfast strength of Caden’s faith are key to the story. Each learns important lessons concerning trust and forgiveness.

The romance between Caden and Adam faces the requisite challenges and obstacles but is presented in a realistic manner, highlighting the way our lives intersect sometimes between personal and professional matters. When that definition blurs at the crux issue of the story, the consequences of a key choice show how deeply entwined these characters’ lives have become – a storytelling feat achieved admirably by Johnson. And I’ll leave you by saying the context of their first kiss and emotions of the moment made the scene one of the swooniest (is that a word?) of the year. I’m already looking forward to whatever Johnson has in store for more of this “family” of characters in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing a complimentary review copy.  My honest opinion is expressed in this review.

Review: “The Lady and the Lionheart” by Joanne Bischof

Review: “The Lady and the Lionheart” by Joanne Bischof

Today I’m writing a long and gushing review of a recent independent release (yay for #indieauthors!) from Joanne Bischof, The Lady and the Lionheart. Its setting alone is intriguing: a traveling circus in Victorian-era Virginia. Combine that with a colorful cast of characters, most prominent being the enchanting lion tamer, a nurse in training, and a precious baby who will steal your heart, and we have a stage for a dramatic story of heart with hints of Beauty & The Beast.

About the Book

Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.

the-lady-and-the-lionheart

This book cover!!! ❤ I absolutely adore it! (especially the hat in her hand after knowing its meaning)

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past,
awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

Just then a child in the row behind Ella cried out, “Look, Mama!”

Charlie, dressed in his center ring finery, strode into the arena, as strong and strapping as ever. Face powdered and painted with two jagged teardrops under his eyes, he walked with stoic authority, tall boots forging a fresh trail straight toward his audience. Ella didn’t know a single man could hush a packed house with no words, but…then there was Charlie Lionheart.Add to Goodreads

Review

This is one book I kept hearing exclaimed by fellow bloggers AND some favorite authors, so I knew I had to see what all the fuss was about as soon as I could. And WOW, was it all well-deserved!

Let me continue by saying this is now one of my absolute favorite books! This story is a beautiful picture of the Gospel, of the freely given sacrifice, the love of Christ for His bride, the constant call for us to have a relationship with Him.

The dynamic (and romance) of Charlie and Ella is wonderful! They perfectly complement each other. Both have pasts filled with pain, and through this story we see how Charlie has chosen to react — and his encouragement for Ella to do the same — to choose hope. Charlie finds strength in Ella, I think. A determination to press on, a reassurance that his life choices were right, even though he feels like he doesn’t have much to offer.

Ella is longing for home in more than one sense (both earthly and heavenly belonging), though she doesn’t realize it until Charlie’s discerning presence arrives in her life.  And Ella, in turn, sees the contrast of Charlie’s response to some damaging things that have happened to him with her own responses.

Joanne Bischof creates beautiful scenes with each turn of phrase, conveying feelings with just a simple description. There was so much raw emotion expressed by Ella and especially Charlie that I couldn’t help being caught up in it all, tugging my heart with moments both bittersweet and joyous. And little Holland! She is so important as a catalyst between these two and a ray of light.

I want to mention the supporting characters because they contribute so much to the story, even the lions. They are gracious, important, and colorful (it IS a circus, after all!). The lions and corresponding circus act is so unique and intriguing! They are really just overgrown cats, and I was happy to see them portrayed with a little humor.

The message of this story resounds long after reading it. It’s impactful in its display of a pure love with raw — and sometimes painful — honesty. The underlying theme of sacrifice is beautifully realized as secrets are slowly revealed regarding Charlie’s past. I believe it’s a story I will come back to multiple times and see new truths and joys with each reading.

Connect with author Joanne Bischof

 Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

What about you? Have you read a story lately that’s completely blown you away with its beautiful message or themes?

Review: “A Lesson in Love and Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Join me today as we return to early 20th century Toronto (and Chicago!) with the notable lady detectives, Jem and Merinda, subjects of Rachel McMillan’s latest novel, A Lesson in Love and Murder. A delightful (and somewhat short) read, it furthers the story of these two as they find another adventure amongst dangerous criminal activities and a couple very eligible bachelors.

About the Book

From political danger to personal drama, life is about to get explosive…

The legacy of literary icon Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in 1912 Canada, where best friends Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts continue to develop their skills as consulting detectives.
a-lesson-in-love-and-murderThe city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem’s flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent.

While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm’s way.

As Merinda and Jem close in on the danger they’ve tracked from Toronto to Chicago, they uncover a sinister plot to assassinate presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Will they be able to save the day and resolve the troubles threatening their future happiness before it’s too late?

Independence, love, and lives are at stake in A Lesson in Love and Murder, the gripping second installment of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series.

 

ReviewThis is another classic Jem and Merinda tale! We readers are slowly watching these two girls mature as they settle into private detective life. To elaborate on the adventure, action, and serious drama they traipse through during a case that takes them away from home and to bustling Chicago would be to reveal too much of the mystery and delight contained between the pages. Instead, I will outline a few observations of the growth of the characters themselves within this latest story.

Jem is coming into her own with more boldness and determination, which I think is a result of her now-married status, though Ray would scoff to think he’s encouraging her daring vocation in any way. Merinda has matured from her first ventures on the page, too, though hers is a slower and more subtle change. With this book, we glimpse her heart and deep caring friendship with Jem, though Merinda tries to hide the fact behind a toughened exterior. Merinda is at somewhat of a crossroads in her personal life, trying to hold on to her camaraderie with Jem while knowing the nature of their relationship is different now that Ray’s in the picture. And, a new maybe-love-interest for her is shifting her opinion on the possibility of a happily ever after.

For those of you reading this book just for Ray and Jasper, have no fear, they are back and just as stubborn as ever when it comes to their determination to be heroes. Jem and Merinda don’t put up with that for a second. Gladly, we do get to learn more about the both of them. And there’s a new man in town — also in uniform — a mountie, no less, of the Royal North-West Mounted Police. Benfield Citrone, or Benny, proves to be heroic in his own way, bringing a new contrast to the story in light of his wilderness background.

While it has its lighter and humorous moments, it still boasts a dramatic story dealing with real issues and hints at spiritual themes of trust. Rachel McMillan manages to capture the serious and enchanting moments of everyday life, the happiness and constant struggle, within the oppositions Jem and Merinda face in this story. While much is resolved by the story’s end, I am quite anxious to know how certain predicaments will be resolved in the upcoming novella and then series conclusion. Thankfully, they release in December and May, respectively, so I won’t have to wait long!

Sincere thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy.

See my thoughts on other books in this series:

#0.5 A Singular and Whimsical Problem

#1 The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (and author interview)

#1.5 Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

Series Review: Montana Fire by Susan May Warren

Unless you’re totally new around here, you have probably heard of my love of author Susan May Warren. When I heard she was independently releasing 1 ebook a MONTH this summer in a new romantic suspense trilogy, I was super excited! This new “Montana Fire” series is a prequel series, of sorts, to an upcoming series with Revell Publishers (the “Wild Montana Skies” series).

I have since read all 3 of these. They are quick reads, each one a little over 200 pages. Hence, this post with snippets of my opinion on all 3. For time’s sake, I have not included the plot synopsis of each book, but if you click each book cover it will take you to the Goodreads page for more info on each one.

This series is full of action and drama, like a hang-on-to-your-seat (or parachute, if you will), thrill ride from start to end. In the middle of the chaos, moments of slightly sizzling romance (while always remaining classy), deep emotion, and strong messages of faith unfold.

The setting and career featured are unique — the Cabinet Mountains near Glacier National Park in Montana, and a team of forest firefighters and smoke jumpers. (Yes, they jump out of planes into fires.) Definitely a new-to-me perspective, and profession unexplored in the genre to my knowledge. Susan has done her research and offers an eye-opening look at the danger and sacrifice of forest firefighters.

Just when you think the perilous situations these smoke jumpers get in can’t get more complicated, they do. Since I’ve read all 3 of these I feel like I actually survived a river rescue, aggressive grizzly attack, skydiving AND plane crashes, not to mention numerous forest fires and arson threats.

I referenced book 1 in that one Instagram #bookphotochallenge assignment pairing a book and song lyrics. I now say that NEEDTOBREATHE’s Hard Love could be a theme song for this whole series.

 

#1 Where There’s Smoke

~smoke jumpers Jed Ransom and Kate Burns~

“Complex” doesn’t begin to describe the tangle of history between Jed and Kate. It was established off page and opens this story with action and tension, with ties to fire and a mutual history, both deeply respectful of Jock Burns (Kate’s dad).

Susan works references to fire and parachuting all over the place, and it works so well! Like this quote: “He wasn’t sure how he’d gone from standing at the edge of her world to an all-out dive into what he’d been quietly longing for his entire life, but he wasn’t going to look up, see a possible tear in his canopy.” (from chapter 7)

Main theme/lesson: Learning to cling to faith, that God is always to sustain you.

 

Playing With Fire.jpg

(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#2 Playing With Fire

~smoke jumper Conner Young and artist Liza Beaumont~

Let me note here that Susan has been clever and insightful with her “heated” titles of this series, tying in with the theme and hinting at the drama and action of each.

This is my favorite of the series. For a few crazy pages, I thought I might be ok with the idea of skydiving (you’ll know what I mean when you meet Conner and read that scene). Thankfully, I’ve since had a reality check and can say I won’t plan on jumping out of a perfectly good plane unless my life depends on it.

Conner and Liza have a shared history, as well, which is briefly but thoroughly covered in the first few chapters. Fans of the Christiansen family series will be a happily familiar with the setting of their initial meeting, at a fire in Minnesota.

Main theme/lesson: Explores the meaning and implications of promises — that actions can speak as a promise even when words fail. That a promise is a display of hope.

 

burnin-for-you

(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#3 Burnin’ For You

~smoke jumper Reuben Marshall and bomber pilot Gilly Priest~

This story is the one where we *finally* get Reuben and Gilly’s story, an attraction that has been hinted in the previous books. They learn a lesson in teamwork and trust when their team’s lives depend on their abilities to battle the elements and find help (and all of this while realizing their chemistry and fighting an arsonist.)

One important line was delivered by Gilly’s sister, and if I may paraphrase, she encouraged Gilly to not letting her fears determine or failures dictate her choices or limit her potential.

The arc of a mystery arsonist is finally solved in this one. It was well threaded through the 3 different stories — I didn’t suspect who it was at all!

Main theme/lesson: Trusting God to handle your life is the only way to have true peace. And, illustrating how God waits for us to choose Him, seek Him.

 

Book Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell

Welcome to my blog! Today’s book review features a recent historical release from author Lawana Blackwell, A Haven on Orchard Lane. Read on for more about the book and my thoughts!About the Book

27066716In difficult circumstances, Charlotte Ward, once a famed stage actress, tries to restart her career–only to experience disaster. Against her better judgment, her estranged daughter, Rosalind, comes to her mother’s rescue and moves her to a quiet English coastal village.

Charlotte is grateful to get to know Rosalind after years apart. As one who has regrets about her own romantic past, it’s a joy for Charlotte to see love blossom for her daughter. For Rosalind, however, it’s time away from teaching–and now she must care for the mother who wasn’t there for her. And what could be more complicated than romance

Together, mother and daughter discover that healing is best accomplished when they focus less on themselves and more on the needs of others.

 

ReviewThis review has been a long time coming, and a bit difficult for me to explain. I *rarely* encounter a book which doesn’t click with me, so writing a review that’s not entirely positive is a challenge, especially when considering you all might not feel the same way. So, please don’t let my opinion sway you entirely, because I admit freely that I skipped large portions of the middle to get to the end once I realized it was not exactly my cup of tea.

While I am a die-hard fan of historical dramas, the Victorian era, and family-centered stories of reconciliation, something about this novel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It felt like the pace wondered a little instead of propelling the characters in a definite direction. While the beginning set up the backstory of Charlotte thoroughly, I thought it waited overlong to introduce some of the other characters who eventually played prominent roles in the story.

Now let’s talk about its positive elements! The detailed writing style painted a vivid setting, it has a darling cover, and it provides an interesting perspective on prejudices and stereotypical ideas in a small village. Overall, it had a clear spiritual theme of extending grace and emphasizes the importance of second chances.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “You’re The One That I Want” by Susan May Warren

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren is the sixth and final book in the Christiansen Family series, a contemporary drama and romance focused on the family of its namesake from Minnesota lake country. It’s a dramatic conclusion that draws together conflicts introduced in former books. While it’s not necessary to read the previous books to have an understanding of the history of these characters, it is recommended for a richer experience of the story arc.

You're the One that I Want.jpgHave I mentioned how much I love that the series titles are all songs? And fitting ones, too! They are worked into the story with little hints and mentions. Often, they are tied to a specific faith theme, too. So, they work on both a romantic and spiritual level! 🙂

The entire series has hinted at the tension between Owen Christiansen and the rest of his family, particularly with his brother, Casper. This story chronicles a parallel with the parable of the prodigal son and explores the emotions and jealously the other brother experienced. While Owen’s personal mistakes threaten Casper’s future happiness, Casper’s own choices propel him into a different conflict with the law.

Owen Christiansen finds himself adrift both emotionally and physically after a stint on a crabbing boat. While he hoped to advance his work relationship with the no-nonsense captain’s daughter, “Scotty” McFlynn, to something of a more personal and romantic nature, his rash decisions come back to haunt him when his brother Casper shows up to wrangle him home. Complicating the situation further, Scotty’s new position with the Anchorage police force inserts her in the middle of the brothers when Casper’s link to a crime is revealed.

While Owen had already contemplated the humbling act of returning home after an injury ended his NHL career, he never anticipated the circumstances that would bring him back to his family’s door. Nor did he expect a police escort in the form of the woman he’s come to care for. But proving himself to Scotty becomes even more of a challenge as her emotional wall and jaded past come to light. Perhaps the refuge of the Christiansen family is just what Scotty needs to heal and learn the power of love.

Susan has a knack for pushing a character to his or her limits, be it physically or emotionally, to test their character and response. And readers experience the ride with them. This story opens with the cold of the Bering Sea; book 5, with Amelia and the intrigue of foreign lands; book 4, with Casper and the adventure of treasure hunting. This story could have been a predictable, brown-paper-package type conclusion to the series, but it goes far beyond the expected in with suspense and surprises.

You're the One that I WantThe family camaraderie of this series is present once again. In particular, the banter between the brothers, Owen and Casper, is unforgettable with scenes of humor and a bluntness reserved for family. These brothers. I think I could read a whole book called “Confrontations Conversations with Owen and Casper”. They know just which buttons to push and how to get beneath each other’s skin, infuriating one another and spurring one another to consider their present situations with unsolicited advice.

This story conveys the importance of not giving up. Not giving up on faith, on a pursuit of purpose, on God’s plan and presence, or on family and its strength. It takes the prodigal son returning to a new level. It shows the viewpoints of both brothers, the bitterness on one side and repentance on the other, with a reconciliation found in grace and the support of family. The contemporary example of Owen makes the story of the prodigal more relatable by showing how all have fallen short of God’s standards, and many run from grace while God is waiting with open arms.

A version of this review also appears on FamilyFiction.com/reviews.

Reviews of previous books in this series

Book 1, Take a Chance on Me

Book 2, It Had to Be You

Book 3, When I Fall In Love

Book 4, Always on My Mind

Book 5, The Wonder of You