Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review for Deliver by Tricia Mingerink

Have you ever wondered about your role in society? Have you ever felt doubts about your ability to fulfill that role? These are the questions plaguing our heroes in Deliver, the final installment of The Blades of Acktar Series, by Tricia Mingerink.
Martyn and Leith have been offered clemency by King Keevan and are allowed to continue living in Acktar. Leith returns to Stetterly with Renna and Brandi, and his fellow Blade brothers, to help rebuild the town. Eventually, he hopes to marry Renna and begin a new life with her, but what does he know about life as a farmer, much less a husband? Will the people of Stetterly accept him once they know his past? Meanwhile, Renna, never comfortable in the spotlight, must take leadership of her town as they work together to rebuild its ruins.  Martyn, still bitter and plagued with guilt, does not know how to be anything but a Blade. He accepts the job of a scout for King Keevan to protect the land from Rovers, wandering criminals without a leader, and supporters of Respen who were defeated in the war. Each of them must face the question, “What is my place?” Each of them will be tested to their limits as they discover a strength, and a peace, which comes from outside of themselves.
This is, without a doubt, the best book in The Blades of Acktar series, however, it would not be so without all the characters’ journeys and growth in the previous books.  From the beginning, I have related to Renna’s quiet introvertedness and her hesitancy to step into the limelight. Interestingly enough, since beginning this series a few years ago, I have increasingly found myself in situations at work in which I have been forced out of my comfort zone and into the leadership role. In this way, I feel as if Renna and I have grown together, and I have enjoyed cheering on my fellow introvert as we both learned to come out of our shells.
Leith’s growth throughout the series has been satisfying as well, and in this book, we are allowed to catch glimpses of him beginning to actually enjoy his life.  Granted, he is still recovering from his injuries and keeping an eye out for enemies, but he seems to finally accept the gift he has been given: a second chance in life, and a relationship with Renna. This adds a new dynamic to his character when we watch him fight to protect his family.
Martyn’s character arc was my favorite in this book. He has serious trust issues, for valid reasons, but once he decides to commit to something he becomes fully invested, even when it does not work in his favor. At the beginning of the book, he is bitter and hurt, over what he still considers a betrayal when Leith left the Blades. He struggles with guilt over the decisions he made in Defy. Not wanting to get close to anyone, he leaves his friends to become a scout for King Keevan.  In spite of this, we notice glimpses of his inner softness begin to emerge as he encounters grace, and even when he faces hypocrisy. I loved watching his shell crack throughout the story.
The title of the book is Deliver, and it was named appropriately. The author’s decision to add a fourth book to the series, allows the reader to fully appreciate how the characters have been delivered from their trials and gain closure. Even so, it is bittersweet to leave these fictional people who have become my friends. There are still stories that could be told. What happens to Jamie, and Ranson, and Brandi in the following years? I want to know what happens as government and order are rebuilt.  I want to see Leith and Renna grow their family. I would love to read a sequel series (just planting that seed in your mind, Tricia. ;-). There is plenty left to build on, but the ending was still satisfying. Thank you, Tricia Mingerink for a wonderful series. I have been so blessed by these books. Blessings to you in your future writing endeavors.

The Facebook Party for Deliver takes place this Friday from 6-9pm Central Standard Time. You can attend this party from the comfort of your own home!  Click Here to RSVP to the party:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review for A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Die (Out of Time, #1)A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The following will serve as part review, part confessional. I started this book two years ago this month. I began reading A Time to Die after reading a recommendation from a friend of mine. I began reading it, hoping for a book that would immediately hold me captive and not release me from its powers until I had finished the journey.


The book held me captive, however, it was not in the way I was expecting. I recognized much of Parvin in myself. Reading this book, written in first-person present-tense, was like experiencing a dream. Parvin was convinced her life had no meaning, that she had wasted her life. She wanted her life to mean something, but when she was presented with opportunities to create meaning, she pushed back and tried to find an easier way. I often find myself in the same situation: wanting to be brave, wanting to stand up for what is right, wanting to make a difference, act as someone with integrity, etc. However, when I realize what that will mean for me, giving up my selfish desires and choosing to work outside my comfort zone, I dig in my heals.

The reader will experience some intense moments as she reads about Parvin's journey. For someone who is very much a feeler, it was difficult to read at times. I will confess, I dug in my heels, put it down for an emotional breather, thus escaping from its captivating hold, and left it for two years.

I followed the author on Facebook and her blog during these past two years and she impressed me with her intentionality in the way she interacts with her readers and followers. Her posts are a shining light in the cynical, angry world of Facebook. One of the central themes in A Time to Die is the idea of bringing God’s “Shalom” or a peace that comes from living the way God intended. This is not simply something she wrote about for the purpose of her story. It is something she intentionally, and actively, lives out in her everyday writing.

I was blessed by this author’s shining light, and it was because of this that I eventually decided to finish the book. There were some challenging moments, as I felt my own character developing right alongside Parvin’s. This book contains some perplexing characters with very flawed thinking. I understood her frustration as she struggled to reason with them, to share the Shalom of God with them. There were also beautiful moments, as the events and interactions which pushed at Parvin's (and my own) comfort and worldview gave way to show God's incredible love for His people.

This is NOT a light read, and you will want to take some breathers. However, there were also some lighter moments, and I appreciated Parvin's inner dialogue with herself whenever she tried to problem-solve or understand a situation. She is an eighteen-year-old girl that has been, quite literally, pushed out of her world. She is experiencing everything for the first time, by herself, which leads to some amusing moments as she tries to figure out how to respond. The writing was beautiful, and the ending perfectly sets up the sequels.

As difficult as it was to read, I can only imagine how difficult it was to write. Well done, and thank you, Nadine Brandes for sharing this story with us. Forgive me for taking such a long time. I will be reading the other two books, hopefully in less than two years. ;-)

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

King's Blood (The Kinsman Chronicles, #2)King's Blood by Jill Williamson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Kinsman trilogy by Jill Williamson continues in King’s Blood. After leaving the Five Realms and barely escaping with their lives, Trevn and Wilek, along with what is left of their kingdom and the other realms, search for a new land to call home. They know nothing of the world beyond the Five Realms, but they must find a place for their people to settle before they run out of food. Meanwhile, Wilek struggles with his newfound faith in Arman as he counters treasonous plots on all sides to take over the throne before he can officially be crowned king. Can he learn to put his trust in Arman, even when it seems to work against the safety and welfare of his kingdom?

There is such a wealth of plot, character, and world development in this story that it will be a struggle to do justice to the book without writing a novel-length review. Recognizing that no review can do King’s Blood justice, I will attempt to tell you about my favorite aspects and characters. To begin with, Jill Williamson has once again proven she is a genius when it comes to building storyworld. When last we left our heroes in King’s Folly, they were sailing off into the unknown world, after escaping the destruction of their homeland. The majority of King’s Blood takes place on the water so the plot moves from ship to ship as it follows different characters. Each ship has a different personality because of the varying cultures on board, but they all have the same problems: how to find land before supplies ran out, and with no knowledge of where they are headed. It was interesting to see the various plots and agendas of the different nations continue to play out even though they were on ships and were limited in what they could do to further their goals.

Trevn takes it upon himself to learn everything there is to know about running a ship, from the cabin-boy’s duties to the navigator’s. These were some of my favorite parts to read, mostly because Trevn is my favorite character, but I also found the navigational lessons intriguing, especially the way they factored into the plot. When they do find land, Trevn throws himself fully into exploration. New territory, land and sea, means new geography, new creatures, and new people, all of which were fascinating to read about, especially when I could make connections to the Blood of Kings series.

Bless Wilek’s heart, I could feel the heaviness of his burden during the course of this book. As heir to the throne, he takes his responsibility to his people very seriously, but as his father is still alive, he is still limited in what he is able to do. He wants to do the right thing and he wants to steer his people toward the Armanite faith, knowing firsthand that the pagan religion of his father only leads to destruction. However, he still has to defer to his father, which becomes more and more difficult as the king’s health and mind continues to deteriorate. Making the right decision also proves difficult because trusting Arman means he makes decisions others tell him are foolish. I felt the weight on his shoulders as he walked the lines of diplomacy and faith. He faces some very difficult choices in this book, and even as I knew certain choices were wrong, I could sympathize with the temptation to make them. It reminded me of the verses in the Bible about leaders and teachers being judged more harshly than others. I loved Wilek’s character because he never shies away from his duties or takes his position lightly.

Hinck’s storyline was my favorite of the supporting characters. When I first met him in King’s Folly, he seemed like a weak character who just did what he was told. In King’s Blood, I gained a new respect for him as he took ownership of his role of a spy to actively work towards the good of the throne. Even when his role held no benefit for him, and even when it asked too much of him, he chooses self-sacrifice. There was much to admire about him in this book and I enjoyed reading his story. I look forward to what the author will do with his character in the next book!

Jill Williamson created another epic masterpiece in the continuation of her Kinsman Chronicles. I enjoyed King’s Blood even more than King’s Folly, as all the characters were already established and I could jump straight into the story. My only regret is that I had to finish the book at some point and now I must wait to see what will happen to these beloved characters next. Warning: you might want to have a stash of chocolate handy as you read this book, especially as you near the ending. However, as the author so beautifully points out, the final pages of this book are “Not The End”, and I will wait with eager anticipation for the final installment of The Kinsman Chronicles. In the meantime, I will be revisiting my favorite moments of King’s Blood and encouraging others to read this fantastic series! Enjoy!

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Review for Destroy by Tricia Mingerink

Have you ever been haunted by a less-than-stellar moment in your past? Have you ever been given a responsibility you knew you were not qualified to carry out? So have Keevan and Addie, the main characters of Tricia Mingerink’s novella, Destroy.

Prince Keevan, second son of the King of Acktar (in the days before it was taken over by a tyrant) is quite the ladies man, with handsome looks and a smooth-talking voice. He takes these gifts for granted and they get him into trouble.  One day, his handsome looks and smooth voice are stolen from him when he nearly dies from a knife wound in an attack on the castle.  As he lays dying from the wound, a servant girl saves his life and helps him to flee.
Addie is a scullery maid who comes from a long line of scullery maids. When the castle is besieged and she finds Prince Keevan gagging in his bed from a knife wound to the throat, she does not stop to think if she is qualified for the job, but immediately tries to save his life.  Prince Keevan has no choice but to put his life in her hands over the next several months as they go into hiding from the evil Blades. As the prince recovers from his physical and emotional wounds, he has to face the terrifying truth that he is the rightful king and will one day have to take back his throne for the good of his people.

When I read the last book, Defy, and first met Prince Keevan, I was immediately dying to know his backstory, so I was ecstatic when I found out that his was the next story to be told. As usual, Tricia did a wonderful job of making me love her characters, Keevan and Addie. I appreciated the different personalities of both Keevan and Addie, and their chemistry together. Though Keevan’s past and his wounds make him a gruff and closed-off person at first, he protects a very tender heart. I loved seeing that come out. Addie is quirky, nervous, and talks to herself, especially when she is stressed out about something, which I love because I do that too. She also does not hesitate to go above and beyond the call of duty, regardless of how qualified she feels for the job.  I felt for her as she faced each new situation and struggled over what to do next.  I admired her as she did not let her lack of experience deter her from what needed to be done.
I loved the parallels between Keevan’s inner turmoil and Leith’s from the other books.  Keevan struggles with insecurities about himself because of his poor choices in the past, his father’s failures as a king, and the scars he bears from the attack that killed his family.  Re-reading the scenes between Keevan and Leith from a new perspective made me ache all over again for different reasons. I love it when I can sympathize with both characters' plights in a conflict!
My only complaint is that it was a novella, which I knew.   While the author did a fantastic job in telling so much in such a short amount of time, I really wish it had been a full-length novel.  I wanted more time to experience certain aspects of the plot and the characters (which is really a testament to how much I loved them!). For instance, Keevan’s “former self”. When we first meet him, he immediately regrets his mistakes and vows to be a better person. Which is great, but I felt that I would have more appreciation for his struggle to be different if I had seen just a little bit more of who he was beforehand. I realize this would have been tricky business, given the audience and the nature of his former self, so it is easily forgivable.  I also really, really loved the relationship between Keevan and Addie.  I loved the way they supported each other and looked out for each other.  However, I wanted to see more of the development of their relationship. There was enough that it was still believable, but I wanted to more interactions as they got to know each other, and experience more milestones as their forced acquaintance turned into friendship and then into something else.  Such is the struggle with novellas: having to tell so much in so short a time. It is like having ONE fantastic cookie and really wanting a second so you can fully appreciate the taste.
If you love the Blades of Acktar books and want to know more about Prince Keevan and how he escaped the attempt on his life, you will very much enjoy reading this book. You will enjoy falling in love with these new characters and experiencing your favorite characters through new eyes.  For my part, reading this book made me want to go back and re-read Defy. If you have not read the other books, stop what you are doing right now and return when you have finished all three. Shame on you for reading spoilers. I loved the characters, I loved the backstory, and I loved the writing.  I look forward to seeing more of Keevan and Addie in Book 4 alongside Leith and Renna.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Lost Heiress - Review

**Back again after a long absence! I've had a bit of a dry spell with books lately (very sad!), but thankfully, I think I am coming out of that spell! Just in time, too! Only one month left to the end of the year, and I have four books to read in order to make my goal of 25 in a year. Enjoy this review for my latest read!

The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor, #1)The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love books that surprise me!

Having read a lot of regency/victorian era books I was not expecting this one to be so different.

What I expected:
*Another sweet, cheesy regency/victorian era romance. I usually know what I'm getting. A light read in which a sweet/semi-complicated heroine and a knight in shining armor find each other and live happily ever after. There is some character development but not usually very deep (with some exceptions).

What I got:
*Complex characters (both main and supporting) with MANY layers! I found myself wanting to know more about the chef, and Hiram, and the housekeeper, and the butler. In the case of one of the main characters I began by feeling sorry for her, then moved to hating her, then loving her. Each of the main characters was brought to a low point and back up again, which allowed me to really get to know them and feel for them. I LOVE it when an author can make me feel for all the characters!
*A romance that was made even better by NOT being the main attraction, that took its time, and allowed me to fully get to know both people, see their faults, and watch them work through their conflicts.
*An ending that makes me frantic for the next book!

Brook has lived her whole life as the adoptive daughter of a singer in Monaco. When her adoptive mother died she was taken in by the father of one of her mother's friends. Her best friend Justin, Duke of Stafford, finds her real family and brings her back to England where her father has been waiting for her for years.

Nice little beginning to a story, right? Sounds like it's going to be the same old Cinderella type thing we've always heard?

But then there are the mysterious circumstances of how she got separated from her family in the first place.

And then there's the fact that Justin has his own family history that he has to deal with, responsibilities of being a Duke, and his own feelings for Brook that he has never been allowed to pursue before.

And then there are Brook's real mother's letters that allude to something called "fire eyes", the servants who aren't sure whether or not they are ready to welcome Brook yet, her fear of love and disappointment, and the rest of her new family to win over.

And then there's the housemaid who gets caught up with a jealous Duke in order to send money to her family back in Ireland, the footman who has always loved her, and her feelings of resentment for the new Lady.

Each chapter gently unfolds a little bit more about each character and their backstory, without giving too much away at once. There were things I did not find out until the very end of the book!

I have found a new author to love and I cannot wait to read the rest of the Ladies of the Manor series!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Defy Blog Tour Post -- Author Interview and Book Review

Defy Blog Tour Header

The Back Cover! Click on the picture for a Sneak Peek of Defy!

Defy Back Cover

The Interview

Everyone, please welcome back Tricia Mingerink, author of The Blades of Acktar series!  Tricia is releasing the third book in this s series, Defy, which picks up immediately where Deny left off. If you have not read the first two books, Dare and Deny, the Kindle version of these books will be on sale June 2nd-4th.  Join us for the Facebook Party on the 2nd. There will be prizes, character interviews (my favorite), and lots of fun activities. I hope you will check it out.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog again, Tricia.
Let the questioning begin!

In this book, you added Brandi’s perspective to the storytelling. I loved how this enabled us not only to learn more about her but to appreciate Leith and Renna on a different level.  Did anything surprise you about any of these three characters by writing from her perspective?

Actually, I wasn’t too surprised. I’d been planning Defy ever since I began Dare. I already knew Brandi could be a little snarky and manipulative when she put her mind to it, though that might surprise some readers. I already knew she and Leith shared a bond, and I knew Brandi was purposefully cheerful because Renna was always fearful.

The character that surprised me the most was Jamie. After writing the first draft of Deny, I actually thought I was going to cut his character. In the early version of that book, he really didn’t do anything and the role I had intended for him never materialized. Then I wrote Defy and discovered that he was essential to Brandi’s story. Armed with that knowledge, I re-wrote a bunch of Deny to fit what I learned in Defy.

Who was the most difficult perspective to write from, Brandi’s, Leith’s, or Renna’s, and why?

Renna’s, as always. Her thoughts are always the hardest to get on the page. It has become easier as she has become a stronger character, but she still tries to hide more than Leith or Brandi.

Brandi’s perspective was the easier. I pretty much turned her loose on the page and let her blurt out everything.

Which was your favorite and why?

Ahh! Don’t you know it’s downright cruel to make an author pick a favorite? ;)

I love them all for different reasons. I struggle with Renna’s perspective, but it is always satisfying when it finally comes together. I adore Leith’s POV because, well, he’s Leith. He’s the character that started this whole idea, and he’ll always have a special place in my heart. Then there’s Brandi who made writing her scenes and this book so easy I got a little spoiled.

In this book, Renna has finally found her courage and works hard not to allow her fear to overcome her. There is a definite shift in her attitude, from self-preservation to trying to serve a purpose in captivity.  What was it like, as a writer, trying to get her to this place?  

When I first got the idea for the series, I didn’t have much of a role for Renna besides love interest. That changed as I got to know her while writing Dare, and some of her final scenes didn’t get added to Defy until the re-write.
Still, her growth is slow, and that makes it hard to write. It’s a big no-no in writing to write a passive, helpless character, but that’s exactly what I set out to write in Renna. It took a lot of struggle and whining to my sister-in-law about how I’m never writing a character like Renna ever again because it’s just so hard, but Renna got there eventually.

In your mind, what is the main message of this book that you want readers to take away?
Strength comes from God, and that manifests in each person in different ways, especially as Godly women. Hollywood bombards us with one form of strength—the fighting, Katniss Everdeen style of girlhood. Yes, there are some women out there who are fighters, but there is also strength in waiting. In not fighting. In kindness.

That right there sums up what I most appreciate about your characters. The fact that each of them is strong even in their weaknesses. It definitely makes them more relatable, especially to a younger audience who is so frequently unsure of themselves.

Thank-you for the interview, Tricia. Blessings on the release of Defy!

My Review
The most important element of a story, to me, is character development.  Digging into the layers of their personality and background, and uncovering whatever it is that drives their decisions is one of the most thrilling aspects of reading a new book.  In The Blades of Acktar series we have seen a lot of character growth, so far. In Defy, we begin to understand a bit more about each of the characters, as they face new challenges.
This third episode allows us to spend some time in Brandi's point of view and understand her on a deeper level.  The fearless younger sister has been torn away from her older sister, Renna.  In the past, she has been the brave one, adding a balance to Renna’s fearful personality.  Now that the two sisters are no longer together, she is forced to face certain realities that she can no longer ignore. Her carefree nature is challenged now that she is no longer able to let her sister do the worrying for both of them.  In this book, we watch her having to deal with harsh truths and come out stronger because of it. It is one thing to profess faith, it is another to need it.  Through Brandi’s eyes, we also gain more of an appreciation for Renna’s character and the strength she has shown in the years since her parents’ deaths.
Speaking of Renna, she definitely shines in this book! She has come so far since Dare when she spent the majority of the book in a constant state of fear.  In Deny, having experienced a moment of bravery once, she tries to move outside of herself and project a courage she does not feel. In Defy, she has come to grips with the fact that her life is not in her own hands and embraced the freedom of that knowledge. Though she still struggles with fear, we see her constantly reminding herself that God is in control. The scripture, “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) came to mind several times.  She truly seeks to find a purpose in her captivity, and minister to her captors.  At times, she does let her fear take hold, and when that happens she makes poor decisions.  But she recognizes them and finds the courage to correct them.
I don't Fear You QuoteLeith is wonderful, as always.  He never thinks about himself.  Even when others hurt him, his first thought is about them.  He demonstrates unconditional love at all costs, and it is beautiful. I enjoyed getting to watch him and Renna interact on an honest level, with no guardedness, for the first time. At first, the progression of their relationship from too-shy-to-speak-to-you, to ….not that… though it was not unexpected, seemed rather quick.  However, I have decided there is a certain beauty in the way it all worked out.  They have given each other hope, and the courage to fulfill their individual roles as members of the Resistance.  They have grown as individuals, as well as in their respect for each other. I cannot help but be happy for them. They have the most tender scenes!!! I look forward to watching their relationship progress even more in Book 4.
We were also introduced to some new characters which I cannot tell you about because it would be too much of a spoiler, so…..yeah, sorry. You'll have to read the book! ;-) 
Defy is a beautiful book which ties up some ends while leaving some untied just to taunt us! The author purposefully left room for more character and plot development in the big story. I got chills reading the scene which sets up more conflict for the next book. I cannot wait to see where she will go next. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful job Tricia. Thank you once again for sharing your beautiful storytelling, tender scenes, and lovable characters with the world. Blessings on the release of Defy!

May 26
May 27
May 30
May 31 – Release Day!
June 1
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June 3
Facebook Party Announcement

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What to do with negativity?

I can handle people who are discouraged. I know what to do. I encourage them. I build them up. I remind them of truths they know but don't feel. I help them. I brighten their day.

I have trouble with negative people.

Negative people don't want to be encouraged, they want to complain. Nothing I say to them makes any difference and they just want to bask in the unfairness of life. I can't do anything to help them and instead I find myself retreating with a white flag.

People who give up. People who are apathetic. People who show up and only do the bare minimum and make it known that is ALL they are willing to do.

What can I do with that?

I want to be encouraging and bring their day up, but I will not participate in their negativity. Yes, life stinks and things are unfair. I guess I've just learned to get over it. Or have I?

Surely, I have days when I'm stuck in a negative rut. There's usually a reason. I have a headache, my morning started off wrong, all of my students checked their brains in at the door. I'm premenstrual.

These may seem like no big deal to other people, but they are all a big deal to me at that moment.  Even worse, I am aware that my bad mood makes me less than likeable to others, which only makes me feel worse.

What do I want from others when I am stuck in that downward spiral?

I want forgiveness. I want grace. I want people to remember my true self, and not hold this ugly monster I have become against me. I want someone to make it better and help me out, even though I know I'm being unreasonable.

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1-2

This is SOOO hard, yet it's the very thing we want (if not expect) others to do for us, though we know it's ridiculous to even ask such a thing. Restore the person caught in a transgression (in this case, negativity). In a spirit of gentleness, no less! What if that person is not gentle?

Doesn't matter.

"Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

You cannot restore them if you get caught in the same downward spiral. Take the necessary precautions: Pray to God, retreat and regroup, read some scriptures, talk to someone who can encourage you. Do whatever it takes to take care of yourself....

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

...and then go help them carry whatever weight it is that is making them cranky. Pray for them. Ask for insight to understand. Go out of your way to do something kind for them. They'll snap out of it eventually.

Whether you are struggling with negativity yourself, or a person who is negative, this is my prayer for you: That you will remember God loves you.

"That according to the riches of His glory, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."  
Ephesians 3:16-21