Thursday, September 14, 2017

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Re:View

Riveting and thrilling, Ronie Kendig delivers a truly epic adventure with Crown of Souls.


I eagerly awaited this book after finishing Conspiracy of Silence and I was definitely not disappointed!

I really enjoyed this second installment of the Tox Files and getting to know more about Cole “Tox” Russell. I think one of my favorite things was the fact that we got to see a bit more of the depth of his character in this book. He was already a fully-fleshed character in Conspiracy of Silence but even more so in this book you could see sides of him that he’d kept hidden in book one.

I also loved the blossoming and deepening of his relationship with Haven, whom I love. She's such a sweet and steady character and creates a perfect foil to Tox's internal turmoil. I loved that there was still a lot of tension present as well as a greater depth that can only be found in the midst of dire circumstances.

Ronie is so good at creating emotionally charged situations as well as increasing the intensity of any (and all) relationships whether that be romantic or those based on the brotherhood of the team. We see a lot of this in Crown of Souls, but in the context of an overarching plot that barely lets you breathe. It all makes for a wild and thrilling ride.

Speaking of wild and thrilling, the search for the Crown of Souls artifact is so fantastic. It was such a intriguing yet complex idea (very Indiana Jones) which made for a lot of questions asked and guesses made leading to a good bit of misdirection. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat through the whole book, just waiting for something else to happen – which it always did!

I highly recommend this book to any and all who love suspense, thrillers, military action, tension-filled romance, and excellent writing!

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Crown of Souls

Book Description 
(from Amazon)
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.
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shelly Roark {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Shelly...

Hello! My name is Shelly Roark—wife, mom, sweet tea aficionado, lover of old wives’ tales and writer. My husband Geoff and I have been married 26 years. We have three kiddos—all teens now. Katie is 17, Ethan is 15, and Gracie is 13. Our family also includes a black lab named Rosie and a kitten named Tigger.

Connect with Shelly...


Purchase: The Bubble Who Would Not POP! 

Get to know Shelly...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing…

I loved writing stories as a child. But when I joined the newspaper staff in high school, I was hooked! Out of college, I worked for a local newspaper. After about 10 years, I began writing for ministries and nonprofits. I have been blessed to share the stories of so many absolutely incredible ministries that feed the hungry, save babies, shelter children, distribute Bibles and more. Today, I’m a senior writer for Focus on the Family. I absolutely love telling stories of people and for people . . . people are so interesting!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book…

My debut children’s book combines two of my loves—storytelling and children’s ministry. The Bubble Who Would Not POP! was originally written to share a simple message about prayer with kids in children’s church. I told it to my own children when they were very young before I even wrote it down. Some of the parts I made up as I went along. When all three were still, quiet and paying attention during the story, I knew it was a winner! I quickly wrote the early version down before I forgot it!

I love the character Billy Bubble—he’s brave and shows compassion toward the little girl who asks him to take her prayer up to God in heaven. He faces challenges but learns some very important lessons about the power of prayer on his journey, including that God ALWAYS hears our prayers. In fact, God knows our needs before we even pray about them! We are never told what the prayer need of the little girl is in the story . . . but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t want to put boundaries on what children might need to pray about and thought the kiddos might just insert their own needs into the story. God hears our prayers no matter what they are. Now, that doesn’t mean that we always get the answer we want when we pray for something. But the first step in living a life of prayer is to believe that God will hear you when you talk to Him. He really does! It is as simple as that. One of the Scriptures that inspired this simple lesson is “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24 NIV).


Let’s talk about your writing life…

How long did you write before you got published? 
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. But, professionally, I’ve written for about 26 years. The first decade, I wrote for a newspaper. Since then, I’ve been a ghostwriter for nonprofits and ministries. I write fund-raising copy, newsletters, articles, and even some books. For much of that time, I’ve helped out with children’s ministry at church just for fun. In that capacity, I’ve written little stories here and there, puppet scripts, skits, etc. One day a friend of mine encouraged me to send one of my kid stories to a new publisher. I did and God took it from there!

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
From a faith perspective, just know that God has your plan. He knows the desires of your heart, your giftings and talents . . . He gave them to you! So, be patient with His timing. Maybe you need to have some specific life experiences before He gives the green flag on your writing career in order to share lessons and encouragement with others. Just keep following your heart, ask His guidance and He will work out the details.

What does your writing process look like? 
The writing process for a children’s book is a little different than for an adult book I think. The message, setting and plot must be simple and easy to digest. They must work together with the visual to capture and keep small attention spans. So . . . when I get a thought, I let it bounce around in my head for a while before I write it out. I start with a simple lesson that I want to share and try to imagine it from a child’s point of view. It is also fun to start with a silly title and work from there.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 
I do love to listen to music when I write . . . especially Christmas music. I listen to Christmas music off and on all year long!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Hmmmm. Well, something I’ve learned is that a great story doesn’t go very far if no one knows about it! Ha! Because I’ve always been a ghostwriter, I had no audience of my own to talk to . . . it’s been a little challenging to try and cultivate that. I would recommend anyone who wants to be published eventually to start developing a social media presence now by blogging/posting/tweeting.


September is Classical Music Month (who knew?). In keeping with that theme, do you have a favorite character from a classical novel?
Since we are talking about children’s books, can I use The Grinch? It is from a classic children’s book. Hee! Hee! OR, Winnie the Pooh . . . love that little round bear!

What is your favorite fall snack food? 
This sounds so typical, but I LOVE anything pumpkin-flavored or cinnamon-flavored in the fall—pumpkin break, pumpkin muffins, spice bread, pumpkin-flavored coffee.

What are you currently reading? 
Well, my daughter just got Wuthering Heights to read. I haven’t read it since high school so I told her I would read it with her. It’s great because I have forgotten a lot of it (or maybe I just didn’t read it very thoroughly at the time).

Shelly has graciously offered up a copy of her book to one lucky winner! Enter below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jeanne M. Dickson {Writer Friday}

A little bit about Jeanne...

Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four brothers. Her grandmother lived with them and was a constant source of stories about life in Ireland and the saints and ancestors long gone from this earth. She credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother with her love of storytelling.

Connect with Jeanne...

Purchase: Grounded Hearts

Get to know Jeanne...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

I was born into an Irish-American family. I have four brothers and no sisters. My Irish grandmother lived with us, and she had a way of telling stories that could either make us laugh or scare the daylights out of us. I started writing in sixth grade because I was so angry with my brothers that I wanted to kill them off in a murder mystery. It only took one page. But it was satisfying.

After a brief career as a ballet dancer, I returned to college and earned an undergraduate and masters degree in business administration. I worked in the high-tech industry until I got the writing bug. Once I started my family, I put writing on hold to enjoy motherhood—actually, I was too done-in at the end of the day to write. I admire women who can do both! Once the girls were in grade school, I started working on my writing again. And here I am, finally a published writer.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Why did you write it?
My father was stationed in England during WWII. Issued with a weekend pass, he decided to fly to the U.S. Army base in Northern Ireland, and then visit family who lived nearby. Once there, he borrowed a bicycle and peddled across the border into Eire, “Free Ireland.” A few minutes into his ride, a member of the Garda, the Irish National Police, stopped him. The officer told him to turn his army jacket inside out, or he’d have to arrest him as a combatant and send him to the K-Lines internment camp. My father did as directed and continued on his way without further incident, which was fortunate because 240 soldiers from both sides of the conflict faced internment in Ireland during the war.

Remembering the story, I started the “what if” game. The more I researched the period the Irish called “The Emergency,” the more fascinated I became, and a WWII romance between a downed RAF pilot and a feisty midwife emerged.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
When we receive forgiveness from God for our sins, we need to accept His amazing grace and not keep punishing ourselves.

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?
You have turned my mourning into dance. Psalms 30:11. When my heroine Nan opened the door to flyboy Dutch, she had no idea he would help her escape her mourning.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
There are many books set in Ireland, but not many set during WWII. It was a fascinating time for a newly formed country.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? We hear this a lot, but dig deeper. Is there something else that helped you?
Connect with other writers. Find a supportive writing community. Other writers know what you’re going through. I write romance, so I joined RWA and ACFW. Both organizations proved a place to learn and meet wonderful mentors and lifelong friends.

Go to conferences. Listen to what agents and editors are seeking for their lists, and then ask questions. Meet authors and hear their stories.

Above all, learn your craft and trust in the Lord.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I lost count after twenty. It took me seven full manuscripts before I sold Grounded Hearts. I was in for the long game.

What does your writing process look like?
In my first draft, I allow myself to write junk. I’m the only one who will see it (thank goodness). My second draft is the hardest. It’s where I narrow down character arcs and emotions and plot points, and then I start refining the writing. The next drafts—there can be up to six—I continue to refine and define and improve how the story flows.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
Family stories and research, plus photographs of people and places.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?

I usually need music in the background so that I can concentrate on writing. Instrumentals only though or I’ll start listening to the words. My go-to is Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Besides finding a writing community and going to conferences, enter writing contests. It’s a thrill to final and/or win, plus the comments will toughen you up. There’s a lot of rejection in the writing world. Set a goal that’s realistic such as “I’ll finish this scene” or “I’ll write 1,000 words.” Don’t set yourself up for failure with goals that are impossible to meet or you’ll give up and get discouraged.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
Join RWA and ACFW. Both organizations offer online classes and depending on where you live, these organizations have chapters that meet on a regular basis with outstanding speakers.

How do you grow in your writing craft?

Reading and listening to audio books, I attend workshops from the masters. Margie Lawson comes to mind along with James Scott Bell. And writing is like any other art form. Practice, practice, practice—I show up. Breakthroughs only come to those who work.


Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it?

I’ve attended many conferences, but two stand out-- Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. Both conferences offer excellent opportunities to meet editors and agents, learn more about the craft of writing, and how to tackle social media. Plus, it’s fun to meet up with fellow writers.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
I’m going to pull a Californian reply—Acai Roots Sorbet. See you in yoga class.

What are you currently reading?
I’m listening to In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’m reading When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin.

Emilie here: Thank you so much for being on my blog again Jeanne! Reader friends, don't miss out on getting to know Jeanne better in her Author Chat interview as well. You can read it here. 

PLUS the Kindle edition of Grounded Hearts is currently on SALE for just $1.99 for the month of September! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Out on Epic Adventures

Hello friends! I am, as the title suggests, about to head out on epic adventures! I just packed up everything (all my books *sad face*) and just said "see ya later" to the trailer hauling all of my stuff to California. What now? Well,  I'm headed on one massively epic road trip!

I've been so blessed by my time here in Ohio. My church, Apex, welcomed me with open arms and I am SO thankful for the Springhill House Church for taking me in and making feel like family immediately. I will miss them all so much!

I wish I had time to tell you all of the amazing ways I've seen God work in my life here in Ohio, but for now, I'll share one of the things I've learned:

God is a trustworthy God. 

He is faithful. Always. In any circumstance, whether good or bad, He will see me (and you) through. I've had both good and bad times here in Dayton, and the same can be said for the rest of my life, but ultimately--no matter what happens--I know He will be with me.

All my stuff!
I'll try and keep you all updated here (along with my regular blog posts) but make sure to check out my Instagram stories (in the app under @createexploreread) to follow my adventrues. I promise to share silly faces and random things!

Prayers appreciated for my travels - they are rather extensive and take me through Texas!