Books & Memories

In life, certain objects or sensory things can bring to mind an association with a person, place, memory, etc. I’m sure there is a psychological term for this, but I just consider it a happy memory trigger. (Or a word association thing?)

Like when a certain chocolate cake recipe makes me think of my grandma and the countless birthdays she has made me (or my cousins) that cake. Or the way turtles make me think of my sister because she went through a phase. (Ok, she still loves turtles.) Or the cool smell of a certain period of fall reminds me of family vacations in Colorado.

Books have this kind of association, too.

Certain things make me instantly think about authors or specific book characters.

I can’t see a lemon without thinking of Ray DeLuca (or many more lemon-loving characters penned by Rachel McMillan).

Peppermint at Christmas time has a whole new meaning because of Pepper Basham (and Dr. David Ross).

Every time I encounter a reference to the giant redwoods in California I think of The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist.

I can’t watch Indiana Jones without considering the parallels to Ronie Kendig’s “Tox Files” series.

And I can’t hear John Mayer without fondly thinking about Amy Matayo and her obsession love for him.

I could go on, but I’d rather hear from YOU! What objects or people remind you of your favorite authors/books? Or do you have something that makes you think of a fond memory?

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today is about CONTEMPORARY BOOKS, AKA the category with the most favorites. I read more contemporary stories this year… and there several on this list! Maybe that means I know what I like?! I think so. Like my historical list, most are from this year, but a few were released prior to 2018.

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac | Review

Laughter. Living. Chemistry.

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano | Review

Culinary dream. Delightful complexity. Relationships.

Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Redemption. Raw emotions.

The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce | Review

Friendship. Dreams. True selflessness.

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Review

Epic action. Brotherhood. Sacrifice.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert | Review

Empathy. Call to love. Relevant.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Amy Matayo | Review

Power of words. Choices. Connection.

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham | Review

Music. Trust. Home.

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh | Review

Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Homecoming.

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren | Review to come

Adventure. Love worth the risk. Timing.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson | Review

Heritage. Romance. Worth.

Your turn! What were your favorite contemporary reads of 2018? Have you read any of these?

Review: “Thirst of Steel” by Ronie Kendig (The Tox Files #3)

FB_IMG_1533072528397.jpgIt’s no secret I’ve loved the previous books in this series for all their Indiana Jones and military valor incidents. But this Thirst of Steel, the third and final book in the “Tox Files” series EXPLODES onto the scene and takes beloved characters on a journey that changes everything. Ronie Kendig has established herself as one of my favorite authors with this series alone. It’s now one of my absolute favorites! (I highly recommend reading this series in order for the best experience.)

The Warrior’s Seal | Conspiracy of SilenceCrown of Souls

About the Book

The Final Conflict Will Hinge on One of History’s Most Dangerous Blades

Thirst of Steel

Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell wants only to put the dangers of his past behind him and begin his new life with Haven Cortes. First, though, he’s called to complete a final mission: retrieve the sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to reunite the sword. Threatening the life of Ram and Tzivia’s father, they jeopardize Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the blade. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the artifact is tied to both Ram’s secret and a string of unsolved serial murders.

Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to target the true enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must destroy the AFO . . . or join them in the flames.

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Review

To say it in one word: BRILLIANT! A few more: the plot, ancient mystery, secrets, and twists are perfectly executed.

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In Thirst of Steel, secrets, friendships, loyalties, and fortitudes are tested as the challenge of a lifetime faces the Wraith team — and especially Tox, Haven, Ram, and Tzivia. With more POVs, details about team members, and TWISTS you will never see coming, this story is one that will have you turning pages late into the night to see just what happens next! And, you’ll need to be prepared for action, adrenaline rushes, and around-the-world locations.

The Wraith TEAM is as funny, precise, and cohesive as ever. Tox and Haven are ALL THE FEELS and a big part of the emotional upheaval of the story (Ram is attributed the rest of the emotions and tears). A particular favorite of mine was Haven’s involvement in ancestry research… and the way Tzi Tzaddik and Chiji work with her.

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Readers will be ecstatic that we get a few more perspectives in this story, especially more time with Ram and Tzivia. RAM. His loyalty, sacrifices, ties to Mossad, and even his romantic life are front and center this time — further complicating the mission and forever changing the team dynamic. And Tzi? She’s as gorgeous and fierce as ever — especially when it comes to her efforts for her family and even in her blindness about her own self-worth. Her growth and arc in this book are impressive. AND, a lady named Mercy shows up as an important part of the story — and she brings to light the incredible symbolism and meaning behind some of the character names.

Thirst of Steel is more than a thriller. More than an undercover paramilitary black ops story or an ancient mystery-turned-international threat plot. It’s a story of humanity, of sacrifice and integrity, of family and brotherhood, of the true character revealed by a person’s actions, and of spiritual warfare, the very real fight against evil, and a powerful and all-knowing God we can choose to serve. This fictional story points to truth, light, and the salvation found in the greatest sacrificial Love humanity has ever known. Read it, friends. It’s quite the adventure.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All opinions are honest and my own.

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First Line Fridays #5 Special Military Edition: Conspiracy of Silence

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Today is a special edition of First Line Friday with a book theme of military/patriotic/Veteran’s Day!!! Sincerest thank you to all who have served in our armed forces. May you be blessed for your sacrifice.

I have chosen to share the first line from Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig because this action/adventure book takes a serious look at the sacrifice and hard work of one awesome paramilitary/Special Forces team. Plus, I’ll welcome any excuse to talk about this series!

 

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The first line (of chapter 1):

Ten Days Ago-

Jebel-Al-Lawz, Tabuk Province, Saudi Arabia

Vindication tasted like sweat.

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Review: “Crown of Souls” by Ronie Kendig

Crown of Souls, book 2 in Ronie Kendig’s “Tox Files” series, has been called an Indiana Jones-type adventure by other bloggers AND by the characters themselves (ahem, Cell and his crazy sense of humor!). I’m going one step further and saying it’s a potent combination of National Treasure, Act of Valor, and The A-Team (high-five if you are familiar with all those movie references!). It’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, accompanying a brave team on a quest to bring justice and stability to a tumultuous situation—- one increasingly relevant today with all of the current events actually worked into the storyline.

Though this book *could* be read on its own, it will be enjoyed infinitely more read in sequence with the prequel novella (The Warrior’s Seal) and book 1 (Conspiracy of Silence),

About the Book

Crown of Souls

Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator. 

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier. 

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

Review

Oh my goodness!! This is a riveting action-filled thriller like no other. From the first line, I was hooked into the whirlwind mission of Tox and company as they worked to thwart calamity and solve an ancient puzzle of sorts. The crazy adventure of traveling the globe like they do is fascinating in itself! Oh, and there’s a romance and family secrets entwined, too!

IMG_20170917_153621_807.jpgOn top of the location changes, the team is dealing with the mental fallout of betrayal and uncanny parallels with the motives of a friend-turned-enemy. Who can Tox believe? Is he lying to himself about his true nature?!! Ah! He grapples with reconciling motives of good vs. evil vs. justice. The perilous situations and tasks Tox and the team are up against are the perfect catalyst for showing subtle lessons of forgiveness, justice, and trust —- a faith element often missing in today’s portrayals of the military or government personnel in pop culture. Bravo, Ronie!

Speaking of the romantic relationship…. I like Haven even more in this second book. She’s not afraid to stand firm in her opinions or actions. Her personality lends a grounding to Tox’s character and serves as a reality check for the whole team— especially in bringing Tox down a notch or two, when needed. 🙂 And the moments of interaction between them are so fun to read! They range from banter to protectiveness to almost-hostile to wonderfully swoony and real. There’s a connection between them that’s visceral and even plays out in stressful situations. Tox’s tactical precision is impressive on its own, but when he applies that same skillset to his romantic relationship with Haven…. let’s just say it’s wonderfully executed ;).

I CANNOT WAIT to see what’s next for this team in Thirst of Steel (book 3).

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

Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic this week is “read in one sitting”. With the open-ended nature of this, I decided to go with 10 different novellas or novella collections. Specifically, a novella is longer than a short story but not as long as a novel, so think 70-150 pages. Most of them can be read in 1-2 hours, I think!

10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Standalone Novellas

…for when you want to read a delightful story and be happily satisfied at the end.

this-quiet-sky1. This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

A touching and deeply emotional story, this one will give you a taste of Joanne’s prose-like style. Oh, and its poignancy might just leave you in tears.

HowaStarFalls-new2. How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes

This story makes you question the story world’s reality in the sweetest of ways. Is it real? Is it a modern fairy tale?

Novella Collections

…for when you want to read just 1 or several shorter stories with a related theme or element.

With This Ring3. With This Ring? collection by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jaegars

This is a cute collection of 4 marriage proposal stories…  but the proposals are anything but traditional! Oh, and they are all western rom-coms! Fans of these authors might recognize the story settings or characters as minor ones from previous series.

Love at First Laugh4. Love at First Laugh collection by Pepper Basham, Chrinstina Coryell, Heather Gray, Elizabeth Maddrey, Jessica R. Patch, Krista Phillips, Laurie Tomlinson, and Marion Ueckermann

This humorous little collection is one I’m currently reading. It promises many laughs, romance, and fun banter!

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection5. The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by Joanne Bischof, Amanda Dykes, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green, and Maureen Lang

I recently finished this unique collection of stories all connected with a bronze keepsake bottle and a theme of hope. I enjoyed all of the different historical settings and time periods this collection spans.

Series Start Novellas

…for when you want to try out a new series or author. These wonderfully introduce the characters and establish the setting. Plus, series start novellas are often free ebooks!

If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren6. If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren

Setting up the Montana Rescue series, this novella introduces us to key characters and to a main conflict that carries on through the series. Plus, it establishes a certain relationship dynamic that I love and still want to see resolved!

Three Little Words7. Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

If you’ve never read anything by Melissa, this is a perfect place to start! This is really more of a standalone, too, because the main characters’ story is wrapped up nicely by the end. There are letters, people! But if you want more, the setting and family are featured in the Walker Family series.

 

A Singular and Whimsical Problem8. A Singular and Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

This is a little mystery to introduce you to Jem, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper with their quirky habits and penchant for crime solving. It’s the start of a must-read historical mystery & romance series, Herringford and Watts Mysteries.

the-warriors-seal9. The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig

This sets up the Tox Files series very nicely with plenty of action and intrigue in itself. It’s the backstory, if you will, of this special team and the events that lead up to a predicament which carries on into book 1.

 

The Boden Birthright10. The Boden Birthright by Mary Connealy

You just can’t go wrong with a single-dad-turned-cowboy, a ranch in the middle of a land dispute, and a beautiful rancher’s daughter thrown together with the humor and wit of Mary’s storytelling. This is a “family history” story, if you will, that sets up Mary’s The Cimmaron Legacy series.

Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? Do you enjoy novellas or short stories? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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.