Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today is all about contemporary fiction! On my list you’ll find light hearted contemporary romance, women’s fiction, a thriller, and a bit of a mystery, and some more serious drama.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | Review

Friendship. Trust. Appalachian humor.

After the Rain by Brandy Bruce | Review

Growing. Emotional complexity. Unconditional love.

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig | Review

Adrenaline. Brotherhood. Globe-trotting spy stuff.

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano | Review

Heart-friendship. Foodie environment. Hope.

The Waves by Amy Matayo | Review

Romantic chemistry. Sarcasm. Contrast of hope and loss.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim | Review

Surrender. Emotional twists. Compelling retelling of Ruth.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | Review

Story for booknerds. Faith. Magnetic romance.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner | Review

Resonating candor. Authentic faith. Classic movies.

Sweet On You by Becky Wade | Review

Sweet – the chocolate & romance. Mystery to solve. Wonderful family dynamics.

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh | Review

Rekindled love. Small town charm. The “whys”.

Review: “Storm Rising” by Ronie Kendig

Action, adventure, and secrets that just might set off a world-altering chain of events — that’s what you can expect from page 1 of Ronie Kendig’s latest paramilitary thriller, Storm Rising. I am thrilled (pun intended) to be on her launch team and to be sharing my review of this epic story today!

About the Book

Once lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold ancient secrets and dangers. Former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe has been tasked with capturing the ancient text, but a Bulgarian operative snatches it, determined to secure her freedom. When a series of strange storms erupt, they must form an alliance to thwart impending disaster.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I’ve compared Ronie Kendig’s style and stories to fav movies (like Act of Valor and the A-Team). Storm Rising gets a little more Bourne and Indiana Jones-esque, with some other globe-trotting spy stuff thrown in! Fans of paramilitary thrillers and suspense will love this introduction to a series and in the modern world where history influences current events more than the characters anticipate.

For Leif’s whole team, the stakes are high and the adrenaline-laced action sequences are plenty. Just when you think Leif and the team are getting a break, a twist or adversary comes out of nowhere to change the game. A light humor and typical snarky banter are still present, just as I hoped. Along with a tiny start of a romantic relationship in the pauses of the gunfire and chase scenes. 🙂

Fans of Kendig’s recent “Tox Files” series will delight over familiar faces. We readers get a “look behind the curtain” to just what drives Leif, and it’s eye-opening. His dichotomous strength and fallibility, along with his skillset, combine to make him one heroic and enigmatic character.

And Iskra (the operative)! What a mystery, still, after “the end”. I really had fun reading the unfolding of her character, what motivates her and the secrets she was keeping. This thrill ride is just the start, I think, of the epic and mind-bending mission in store for this gang!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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.)

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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.

Goodreads | Amazon

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.