Crown of Souls (The Tox Files #2) by Ronie Kendig

Genre: Military Suspense
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: September 2017

Peaceful and tranquil lives elude Cole “Tox” Russell and his team. Six months after stopping a deadly plague, their much-deserved rest abruptly comes to an end when a sniper shot strikes Cole. The enemy turns out to be none other than a rogue Special Forces operator and possibly the only other person as skilled as Cole.

Alec King seeks to execute judgment on the people he deems responsible for the death of his men. To accomplish his mission, he gives Cole an ultimatum — join his ranks or pay the price. As Cole hunts his old friend, he must fight his own demons and the fear that he might be more like Alec than Cole cares to admit.

Ronie Kendig returns with another action-packed read as secrets are revealed and loyalties tested. In Crown of Souls, the team once again jets around the globe as it searches for ancient relics and a madman bent on inflicting pain and destruction. Indiana Jones with a military twist, the story delivers Kendig’s trademark high-octane suspense with a hint of romance and a supernatural element. Intriguing characters and vivid writing capture the reader’s attention.

The author seamlessly combines fact and fiction, making it hard to detect the line between them. Considering the havoc the Knights Templars wrecked in history, they were portrayed too kindly, making it a bit jarring when their historical footprints and purposes were compared with Cole’s modern-day role. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story and following the elite team across borders (including Israel!) as they strove to thwart evil.

Kendig leaks more hints into Ram’s past that have me salivating to learn what mysteries the Israeli American conceals. It goes without saying that I’m counting down the days for the release of Thirst of Steel, the conclusion in The Tox Files series. I recommend Crown of Souls to military suspense fans who enjoy tracking down ancient artifacts.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Thanks!

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Free Friday: Against All Odds by Irene Hannon

Against All Odds (Heroes of Quantico #1) by Irene Hannon

For FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Evan Cooper and his partner, dignitary protection duty should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, Monica Callahan isn’t making it easy. Estranged from her diplomat father–who is involved in a sensitive hostage situation in the Middle East–she refuses to be intimidated by a related terrorist threat back in the States. That is, until a chilling warning convinces her that the danger is very real–and escalating.

As Coop and his partner do their best to keep her safe, Monica’s father triggers an abduction that puts his daughter’s life at risk. And with every second that ticks by, Coop knows that the odds of saving the only woman who has ever breached the walls around his heart are dropping. After all, terrorists aren’t known for their patience–or their mercy.

**Disclaimer: Unfortunately, time doesn’t allow me to read every book I share on Free Friday, so I can’t guarantee they’ll all be good. But I’ll do my best to find authors/books I know, know of, or sound good. If I have read it, I’ll make sure to include the link to my review as well.

Guest Post: Writing from the Heart

Guest Blogger: Robin Patchen

They say write what you know. There are some things I’d rather not know, even if they lead to good stories. This is one of those things.

I have three children. The oldest, Nick, was my easiest to raise. He was compliant, helpful, and eager to please. And then he turned sixteen.

And started smoking pot.

Nick quickly graduated from marijuana to harder drugs. That school year was filled with one battle after another. And then in June, Nick met the Lord. Overnight, he quit using drugs and threw himself into working at the church. The transformation was amazing, and his Dad and I marveled at what God had done in his life.

And then, in April of his junior year, Nick decided he’d just smoke pot one more time.

That was the big lie.

By that summer, he’d become a full-blown addict. In August, his father and I gave him an ultimatum. We told him that if he wanted to live in our house, he couldn’t use drugs. My 18-year-old son set his phone and his car keys on the counter and walked out.

For six days, he lived in a tent, barely ate, never showered. But a friend of his convinced him to come home. He did, went to rehab, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, just over a month after he got there, he left rehab. He relapsed immediately and moved out of the house again.

Through it all, my life was walking, talking, eating, sleeping, and breathing prayers. Constant prayers, usually accompanied by tears and outbursts and recited Scriptures. God was so very gentle with me as I ranted and begged Him to intervene.

Throughout the journey, we learned about addiction, about the millions of Americans who suffer with substance abuse, about how the problem is growing every year, and about how so many people get lost in addiction and never get found again.

There was nothing we could do but pray.

God was so merciful. Nick came home on Thanksgiving morning two years ago. He told us he couldn’t live like that anymore. When I told him how many people had been praying for him, he said, “I know. God never left me alone.” 

This November marks two years since Nick quit using. It wasn’t easy. He had to go back to rehab, then spend months in sober living homes. But today, he’s free and serving as a missionary with Youth with a Mission, telling the world about Jesus, the Savior who rescued him and made him new.

Right after Nick agreed to go to rehab the first time, his father took him to his folks’ house in New Hampshire for a week to get him away from home until a bed became available in rehab. That week was a turning point in their relationship, and it sparked an idea for me—a father, a son, and an addiction. That idea became Generous Lies, the third book in the Hidden Truth series.

When you read the book, you’ll notice it’s dedicated to Nick. When I say I couldn’t be prouder, I mean it. The journey he’s traveled, the things he’s overcome—let’s just say a lot of adults couldn’t have handled it, and he did it all at 18 years old.

Do you have a similar story? I’m amazed at how many of us do. If you’re walking through something like this right now, please reach out for help. We were so blessed by the people who came alongside us, offered us advice, and walked us through this difficult time. You can find them at organizations like Al-Anon and Celebrate Recovery. If you just want someone to pray with you, reach out to me. I would be honored.

This is not a story I would have chosen to live, but my whole family is stronger as a result of it, especially Nick, whose testimony has already touched so many lives. On the Promised Land side of that terrible story, I can’t despise those months in the desert. God knew exactly what he was doing.

If you haven’t yet, pick up your copy of Generous Lies. The story is completely fabricated, of course, but the heart of it comes straight from our lives. I’ve already heard from so many readers who’ve been touched by it. Maybe it’ll speak to you, too.

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About the Author:

Aside from her family and her Savior, Robin Patchen has two loves—writing and traveling. If she could combine them, she’d spend a lot of time sitting in front of her laptop at sidewalk cafes and ski lodges and beachside burger joints. She’d visit every place in the entire world—twice, if possible—and craft stories and tell people about her Savior. Alas, time is too short and money is too scarce for Patchen to traipse all over the globe, even if her husband and kids wanted to go with her. So she stays in Oklahoma, shares the Good News when she can, and writes to illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Connect with Robin through her: website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor #3) by Dani Pettrey

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Publisher: Bethany House Publisher
Publication Date: October 2017

FBI agent Declan Grey is on the hunt of an unknown threat. A terrorist’s dying words, “the wrath is coming,” hasn’t given him much to go on, but Declan fears something terrifying is about to occur on American soil. When his investigation takes him to a wary immigrant community, Declan has no choice but to join forces with the one woman who can get under his skin like no other.

Tanner Shaw longs to obtain justice and freedom for the poor and oppressed. For that reason, she joins the FBI as a crisis counselor, but much to her chagrin, her boss partners her up with Mr. By-the-Book. Declan’s overprotectiveness annoys her to no end, but what irks her even more is the growing attraction toward him that she can’t seem to smother. Before she can sort out her feelings, they are launched into a race against time when evidence uncovers that a terror cell plots an attack that could cost thousands of lives.

Dani Pettrey’s Blind Spot delivers two mysteries in one, splitting the focus a bit from Declan and Tanner. While the pair tracks suspected arms smugglers and human traffickers, Griffin McCray (of Cold Shot fame) looks into the shocking suicide of their childhood Little League coach. Although I didn’t mind the simultaneous cases — I love mysteries! — I would have liked to delve a bit deeper into Declan and Tanner’s characters. I wanted to understand them and their backgrounds better — especially Tanner. I did not see her twist coming and loved it! But I had so many unanswered questions, like why non-American born Tanner had such an American name and why she didn’t act more foreign.

Readers will learn more about Luke, the friend who vanished seven years earlier. I’ve said it before, but that thread is lining up to be my favorite. I can’t wait for the next book when we finally get Luke and Kate’s story. I’ve been eagerly awaiting that moment ever since the Chesapeake Valor series started.

I would strongly recommend reading this series in its entirety and in order because the threads continue from one installment to the next and would make it extremely confusing otherwise. I got a little turned around a couple times as it was. Blind Spot returns to Pettrey’s trademark suspense style in that it’s not as dark as Still Life. Pettrey and mystery fans alike will enjoy this story.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Thanks!

Most-Anticipated Reads of 2018

A new year means new books. I’ve compiled a list of some upcoming releases I can’t wait to get my hands on this 2018.

The Saturday Night Supper Club (Supper Club #1) by Carla Laureano

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Look for Me (D.D. Warren #9) by Lisa Gardner*

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

If I Live (If I Run #3) by Terri Blackstock

Casey is hiding again—in Memphis this time—but it’s different now. She knows without a doubt that Dylan believes her and is doing all he can to help bring Brent’s killer to justice. He’s become an unexpected friend . . . and even, maybe, something more. Hope makes everything more bearable.

Casey makes a deal with the DA to turn over all the evidence she and Dylan have gathered against Keegan and Rollins—only to discover that the DA is in league with them too. After a desperate escape, who can they possibly turn to now?

Time is running out for Casey, but master suspense writer Terri Blackstock will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last, utterly satisfying page.

The House at Saltwater Point (Lavender Tides #2) by Colleen Coble

Ellie Blackmore is making a name for herself as a young house flipper. But when her sister disappears, she can’t focus on anything but finding out what really happened. Blood on the floor might indicate that MacKenzie was killed and her body was removed.

Ellie is at odds with Grayson Bradshaw, the handsome Coast Guard intelligence officer who thinks MacKenzie faked her own death and is off enjoying her ill-gotten gains: billions of dollars in cocaine.

They both want the truth, but truth—and family—is often more complex than it may first appear.

Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy #1) by Sarah Sundin

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

Thirst of Steel (The Tox Files #3) by Ronie Kendig

Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell only wants to begin his life with Haven Cortes, but he must first complete a final mission: retrieve that sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to claim the sword. Wielding their father’s life over Tzivia and Ram Khalon, they threaten to expose Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the sword. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things only worsen when Mercy Maddux, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the sword 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 focus only on the enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must stop or take the enemy down with them.

Troubled Waters (Montana Rescue #4) by Susan May Warren

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Despite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

What books are you looking forward to the most this 2018?

*All the books except the one marked with an (*) are Christian Fiction novels.