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!

View all my reviews

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Review for King's Folly by Jill Williamson

Greetings, Friends!

King's Folly, by Jill Williamson is finally complete and available to the masses on Amazon,, and! Read my full review below and mark your calendars for April 22nd and April 30th.

On April 22nd, the author will be hosting a read-along on her Readers of Jill Williamson Facebook Page. Make sure to join so you can participate in some great discussion!

On April 30th, Jill will be hosting a launch party with guest authors, virtual snacks, and prizes, including a pizza delivered right to one lucky winner's door! These parties are SO much fun, I really hope you'll be able to come. The party is from 5-9 Central Standard Time.

And now, for my full review of King's Folly.

King's Folly (The Kinsman Chronicles, #1)King's Folly by Jill Williamson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The kingdom of Armania experiences disaster after disaster. Earthquakes and sinkholes destroy entire villages. King Echad, believes that the gods are angry and require human sacrifices. But the offerings do not seem to appease the deities. Prince Wilek hopes to be named Heir to the throne soon so he can put an end to the ruthless executions and protect his people from the evil that is tearing his country apart. To appease his father and keep him from sacrificing more innocent victims, he plays the political games, but it is becoming more and more difficult to be diplomatic and follow his own conscience. When a concubine is murdered and found next to a forbidden ruin, he goes off in search of the meaning behind the ruin.

Prince Trevyn is an explorer and a scholar by nature and hates the political games of court. Like his brother, he cares nothing for the gods or his father’s superstitions. He seeks to distance himself from his father and brother Janek’s corrupt lifestyle, calling himself a renegade and freely speaking his opinions to whoever will listen. When he finds an old prophecy that speaks of a One True God, and prophecies about the end of the world, he finds himself in danger by people in the palace who would rather keep that prophecy hidden.
There are few books that captivate me like Jill Williamson’s. The way she crafts her complex plots, especially with so many characters, without losing her reader is nothing less than amazing. As with her other books, the characters in the King’s Folly go through a lot of development. Even as they move towards the truth, they remain very flawed individuals who make stupid mistakes. It was interesting to read about a heathen people in a world where the reader knows there is a True God, but the characters have not found Him yet.
Trevn is most definitely my favorite character. I loved watching him grow from renegade without a clear purpose, to someone who is growing into a leader. Though he is still far from comfortable with the idea, he stands up for what he believes in, even when it puts him in danger. He protects those he loves and goes to great lengths to find out the truth.
Wilek is well intentioned but is governed, to some extent, by his fears. This causes him to make decisions that will ultimately work against him and his goals. Still, he is good hearted and I look forward to seeing what the author will do with his character throughout the series.
The end of King’s Folly will leave you excited and frustrated and wanting more! You cannot help but feel for each of the characters and their individual storylines, which is remarkable because there are so many! I readily await the next installment of The Kinsman Chronicles, King’s Blood, and hope you will enjoy King’s Folly as much as I did!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New Cover Reveal -- Mardan's Mark

Christmas of 2014 I was blessed to be among the first to read Mardan's Mark, the first book in Kathrese McKee's epic fantasy adventure series about a princess, her siblings, and a band of runaway pirates. I was captivated by the characters and the storytelling and thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.  The story is written for young adults (which is a very relative term, but that's another blog post) but there is something everyone can relate to. If you are protective of your younger siblings, if you've ever felt the weight of responsibility press heavily on your shoulders, if you've ever wanted desperately to feel valued or show someone how valuable they are, or if you just love adventure with a side of romance, you will love this book. You can read my full review here.

In anticipation of the release of book two, Mardan's Anointed, the author has chosen to revamp the design of the cover to generate new interest and hopefully appeal to a teen audience.  I must admit, I am a little sad to see the deep, royal blue cover with the bright ivory moon go. *moment of silence for the passing of the blue cover* However, I find much to appreciate about this new cover, as well. And so, without further ado, I present to you the new cover for Mardan's Mark by Kathrese McKee.


Okay, things to love about this new cover:

Overall, I feel like this is a very fair representation of the book. I have always loved the original design with the castle and the water and the moon! It gave a sense of mystery. However, while there IS a bit of a mystery woven through this beautiful adventure, overall it is more of an adventure story than anything else. I love that the new cover features both the main characters AND shows us a little bit about who they are. For instance, Aldan is a pirate, and Srilani is skilled in archery. The scarf she is wearing is also important and hints at part of the story. If you haven't read the book yet, you will look forward to figuring out the significance to the elements of the cover as you read.

In conclusion, sad as I am to see the beautiful blue cover (I really do miss it!), I am excited for this new cover's potential to read new readers and hope that as a result even more people falling in love with this story!

Mardan's Mark is available on Kindle and in Paperback on

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review for Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin

Waking BeautyWaking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of what happens AFTER Sleeping Beauty wakes up. The only problem is, she's been dreaming for a hundred years and doesn't believe she is actually awake. Prince Arpien has his work cut out for him trying to convince her that she is in the waking world. Throw in tension between their two kingdoms, a dangerous fairy, hilarious dialogue, and you have an epic fantasy that will leave you with a major book hangover when you're done.

I read the five chapter preview on Amazon and knew I had to have this book because it was funny, original, and very different from other books I had read. Even so, I was not prepared for the roller coaster of a ride that ensued after I purchased this book. The story navigates the stormy waters of hilariously funny, deeply spiritual, and just plain weird, all while holding its readers captive and holding on for dear life. There is not much down time with this book. Though it starts off a tad bit slow, do not be deceived. Every time I thought I had figured out where the story was going, the author would completely throw me off guard.

The character development in this book is phenomenal! Brierly is totally convinced for the majority of the book that everyone and everything she sees are only figments of a dream. Arpien, though fully awake, continues to run into obstacles caused by his own delusions. I loved the fact that they were both very flawed and that the development of their individual characters took time. It made the ending all that more worth it.

I haven't even talked about the supporting characters, all of which were amazingly well-crafted. There was not a flat character in the bunch, no matter how minor their role. Nissa, though a supporting character, really deserves her own book someday. She provides a valuable outsider's perspective on Brierly's and Arpien's characters and their relationship.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reimagined fairy tales, hilarious dialogue, quirky characters, and epic fantasy. You will not be disappointed!

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review for Dancing Up A Storm

Dancing Up A Storm: 9 Christian Short StoriesDancing Up A Storm: 9 Christian Short Stories by Angela K. Couch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for my honest review. Dancing Up a Storm is a sweet anthology of short stories. Each of the stories contained dancing as a major or minor part of the plot. It was interesting to see how the different authors included this theme in their stories. There is a lot of variety in the stories, which I appreciated. In addition to the varied genres, it contains stories with characters you don't normally see. Dancing Hands is about a couple getting to know each other through sign language. Fred and Ginger features a widower in his 70's learning to make friends again.

However, my favorites, the ones that made me wish there were more to the story, were two of the speculative fictions: The Confession by Kathrese McKee, and Night Dance by Gretchen E.K. Engel.

In The Confession, a reporter on a mission to Earth writes to her husband on Mars colony. Christine has been captured by members of "The Holy Religion" who try to get her to renounce her Christianity. This was a futuristic sci-fi story, which normally is not my cup of tea. However, the setting, where Mars is the new world and Earth is the old world and both are inhabited by humans, intrigued me. I liked the way the author illustrated the spiritual parallels between clinging to an old world and clinging to an old life. The character development was believable, and beautifully unfolded, which is difficult to do in a short story.

The Night Dance is about a gnomish nurse who helps an adopted son of elves find out about his true heritage. The setting is an industrial fantasy world, which I found intriguing. I enjoyed the two main characters, though I would have liked to get to know them better, as well as some of the supporting characters. I would love to see this turned into a full-length novel.

Overall, this is an enjoyable anthology of very creative short stories that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a fun read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review for Heir War by Jill Williamson

Ladies and Gentleman, Part 2 of Jill Williamson's new book, King's Folly, is here and available on Kindle! If you haven't read Darkness Reigns yet, download it for free here, or read my review here. I am super blessed to be a part of Jill's launch team and to help introduce this series to the world. I received advanced copies of the books in exchange for my honest review of each individual part. Darkness Reigns, The Heir War, and The End of All Things (coming out March 29th) are all a part of Book 1 in her new series The Kinsman Chronicles, which is a prequel to the Blood of Kings trilogy. The worlds are very different, but if you loved Blood of Kings, you will love The Kinsman Chronicles. Read my review for Book 2 below. 

Have you ever been forced to take on a difficult responsibility to protect something that was important to you? Have you ever face a truth that was difficult to accept? Have you ever thought you were in control, only to realize you were under someone else’s control? These are the problems faced the characters in Heir War by Jill Williamson.
Wilek is captured by a Magonian Priestess with sinister designs on his future. She has been given the power of enchantment to control men, but why do her powers betray her at the most critical moments?  Wilek's shield Kal, unaware that his master is missing, searches for someone who can interpret the ruin found next to Wilek’s dead concubine. In his search he meets a prophet who claims to know the reason for the natural disasters which are tearing the world apart. Meanwhile, Trevn conducts his own search, hoping to find something that will help his brother.  When a priest is murdered, Trevn wonders if the ruin is somehow connected.
Part two of the King’s Folly story really picks up the action. More twists, more turns, more characters addin. I never wanted to leave one character's viewpoint until I read two or three lines into the next chapter. Then I would get sucked into the next story and would not want to leave that one. There are many viewpoints, but somehow it all fits together. I enjoyed watching Trevn's character develop more in this story and I would have liked to see more of him. Still, I enjoyed getting to learn more about the other “supporting” characters.  We also get to meet Wilek's sister in this episode. I look forward to seeing more of her in the next book.  Warning: if you thought Darkness Reigns ended on a cliffhanger, Heir War definitely does! I look forward with eager anticipation to The End of All Things.

Monday, January 4, 2016

6 Rules of Happy Communication

I have been told I am a good communicator. Sometimes this proves to be true. Other times, I feel like I am communicating to the best of my ability, but something is still getting lost in translation, no matter how many techniques I employ. A few months ago, I had an argument with my husband about something I can't even remember. Not long after that, I went to a staff development session where the speaker shared some of the concepts from the book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson. Equipped with some new tools under my belt I revisited the previous topic of argument with my husband again. The conversation which followed took much longer than our previous argument, but I learned so much more about my husband's point of view, and why he had been so irritated in our last conversation. Imagine my surprise when I learned that most of his irritation didn't actually stem from what we were arguing about. Like a broken record, or rather a computer voice which is only programmed to respond in a few ways, I diligently employed the same (new) responses over and over again. Through that second conversation, I learned 1. these things actually DO work, but you MUST employ them religiously. 2. They are REALLY difficult to employ when you are frustrated.

Today I will post 6 rules for happy communication.

1. Acknowledge the other person's thoughts and emotions. 
Ignoring the way someone feels about something, especially when you disagree with them, is a recipe for an unproductive and one-sided conversation.  Discussions can only take place if you are willing to recognize that the person with opposing views has come to those conclusions through experiences that are very personal. Try to understand why they believe what they believe. This does not mean you have to adopt those beliefs, but people will be much more willing to listen to your beliefs if you are first willing to listen to theirs.

2. Make sure you are both on the same page about what you are talking about.
Many times my husband and I have pushed our way through a long and frustrating argument only to find out that we were actually arguing about two different things. Even more astounding, we actually agreed with each other on the main issue. How embarrassing is that? Such a waste of energy. This can be avoided by doing two things.

a. active listening
"What I hear you saying is......" Warning: make sure you are repeating back the exact words of the other person. Try not to interpret beyond the literal meanings of the words they use.

b. questioning
"When you say_______, do you mean_______?"
"Can you explain what you mean by ___________"
"I wanted to make sure I understand________"

This shows that you have listened to their words and are trying to understand them in the best possible way.

3. Avoid judgement words and embrace comfort words.
Examples of judgment words: just, but, stupid, crazy, insane, ridiculous, bratty, etc. Think about your personal reaction when these words are applied to you and how willing it makes you to listen to the other party.

By contrast there are certain words and phrases you can use that will put other people at ease. Words like, "please", "thank-you" (always thank them for something, and try to be sincere!), "I want to put something on your radar", and "at your earliest convenience." Let them know that you care about them and their time.

4. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Ask questions more than you make statements. The goal is to understand their position. Asking questions puts them at ease and keeps them from feeling attacked. When people feel attacked they close up and attack back and the crazy cycle continues. Nobody learns anything when you communicate AT someone.

5. Don't play the pity card.
I have been guilty of this one several times. Remember, the argument is not about you, it is about effective communication. You may have had your feelings hurt, but making the argument about your feelings takes the focus away from the problem at hand. It delays problem-solving. Also, avoid making excuses, even if they are true. When you let the other person see you taking responsibility for something that may not have been entirely your fault, you communicate to them that you care more about solving the problem than you do about being right or "not wrong".

6. Stay on each other's team!
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best. The goal is not to be right or to win the argument. The goal is to understand each other. Recognize that there are times when you fail to communicate what you really meant. If you want someone to go the extra mile and try to understand you when words fail, make that effort for them. Help each other communicate effectively.

I hope these are helpful to someone. What advice for effective communication has served you well in your relationships?