Thursday, December 20, 2018

Blog Tour: Decree Review

As promised, I'm back with a review of the fifth book in the Blades of Acktar series by Tricia Mingerink. Decree is a collection of short stories and novellas based on the characters in the previous books.

To read my reviews of Jaye L. Knight's books that released on the 14th, click HERE.

~ Decree ~

The Adventure Continues.

Discover more of The Blades of Acktar in this collection of novellas and short stories.

The Blades as They Should’ve Been

A test and the Gathering of Nobles will decide Leith and Martyn’s futures. Can they fight to become more than the Blades they were? Will Keevan accept the man who attempted to kill him as family?

The First Mission

When Martyn visits Surgis, his past seems determined to haunt him. Can he figure out how to forgive, especially when confronted with an enemy in need of his help?

To the Far Great Mountains

A death sends Leith and Martyn far beyond the borders of Acktar. Will they be able to arrest their quarry before they are caught themselves?

From the story of how Leith and Martyn met to Ranson’s search for a life outside of the Blades, these stories will answer plaguing questions and expand the world of Acktar.

Available now on Amazon!


My Review:
As I mentioned in my review of Lacy, I'm not normally a huge fan of short stories and novellas, but Decree was well written and put together. While I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, the whole book was a fun read. Watching the various interactions between the characters left me smiling. Some stories were driven by action, while others were more about the characters. As in all the Acktar books, the characters truly shined. They have genuine personalities, fears, and dreams, that make readers fall in love with them and feel their same emotions. In the stories that were plot driven, the action was compelling. The setting contributed to the general plotlines, a subtle but well done aspect of the stories. The themes greatly added to the unique aspects of each story, both deep and real. Overall, I'd grant Decree four stars for the intriguing plots, believable (and loveable) characters, and important themes. I can definitely see rereading this at some point.

As a side note, Leith, the main character of the series, is the best assassin turned hero turned romantic I've ever seen. :) He's an incredible character. If for no other reason than Leith, you should read the series.

*I received a free ebook copy of this book for the purposes of the blog tour and in exchange for an honest review.

~ About the Author ~

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Haven’t discovered the The Blades of Acktar yet? Find out more at on the official Blades of Acktar page.

Be sure to enter the incredible giveaway they're having and visit a few of the other blogs on the tour!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Blog Tour: Bitter Winter & Lacy Reviews

I've been waiting a year and a half to do this post! Since I read Exiles, the fourth book in Jaye L. Knight's Ilyon Chronicles series, I've been counting down the days to the release of her next Christian fantasy novel. When Knight posted the release date for Bitter Winter, I also discovered that on the same day she was publishing book 5.5, Lacy. I'm honored to be part of the blog tour releasing them into the world, and happy to announce they both exceeded my expectations (which were already high).

[As a side note before I post the books' information and reviews, I should mention that this blog tour is particularly special to me because Knight (one of my top favorite authors) is teaming up with Tricia Mingerink (one of my other top favorite authors) for a dual book release and blog tour. Knight's books, Bitter Winter and Lacy released yesterday, December 14th, and Mingerink's book, Decree, releases on the 18th. I'll review Decree here on the 20th.]

Without further ado, I present part one of the Knight and Mingerink—Ilyon and Acktar blog tour!

~ Bitter Winter ~

Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country.

Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.

Available now on Amazon!


My Review:
I had an eager-nervousness as I began reading Bitter Winter. Would it be as good as the previous books? Was it possible to love the characters any more than I already did? I soon learned the answers to my questions—yes and yes. Bitter Winter went far beyond my hopes for the book. It was a breathtaking read. I simply could not put it down! At times I was fighting tears nearly as much as the characters themselves. Other times my heart raced with the same adrenaline that urged the characters on. Still more times I hung on every word to find out the fate of the Resistance.

While Bitter Winter was a bit slower paced than the others in the series, that didn't lessen the intensity or sense of danger closing in on the characters. The plot remained gripping all the way through. Even though I enjoy the fast action of the previous books, I was appreciative of the break from the heaviness of the persecution the characters are facing. They still endured trials and tragedy, but I wasn't left feeling quite as heavy-hearted.

Concerning the setting, it remained detailed, realistic, and intriguing. As implied by the title, the setting took on a semi-major role in this novel, to the point of becoming one of two main villains. I thought it was excellently portrayed in this role.

Regarding the characters, Knight has always done a wonderful job of creating realistic subjects that are extremely relateable. They have depth and true personalities, complete with wonderful strengths and genuine weaknesses. I have only one minor complaint—I feel that there are too many characters starting relationships. Even though it may be realistic, considering all the characters have similar backgrounds of persecution for their faith and are dwelling in a small hideout together, it seems that in the first few books there was no or very little romance, while now half the characters have a significant other. Don't get me wrong—I adore sweet romances and wouldn't mind a few, but it does seem like there has been a huge increase in the number of characters in relationships all of a sudden.

All taken into account, I still grant Bitter Winter five stars. Though I felt some areas fell slightly short, others went far above and beyond my hopes so I believe it evens out. :) It kept me flipping pages and very connected with the characters. I'm already eager to reread it. :) Congratulations, Jaye, on another outstanding addition to the Ilyon Chronicles!

~ Lacy ~

The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection.

When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom.

An Ilyon Chronicles novella.

Available now on Amazon!


My Review:
Lacy was a pleasant surprise for me. I hadn't been aware of its existence, and I'm normally not as much a fan of novellas as I am lengthy novels. However, Lacy swept me up and pulled me in. I was drawn toward the characters and their plight. The struggles they faced were not petty issues, but a topic that has always moved my own heart. Plot, setting, characters, themes, they were all beautiful in this story. Genuine and deep.

When I started to read, I anticipated Lacy would be a four star book, simply by the fact that it wasn't full length. Having finished, I've increased that to five stars for how it captivated me even in fewer pages than my usual preference. It's masterfully crafted—a true work of art. 

*I received free ebook copies of these books for the purposes of the blog tour and in exchange for an honest review.

~ About the Author ~
Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!

Be sure to enter the incredible giveaway they're having and visit a few of the other blogs on the tour!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Will You Stand?

Christians left, right, and center are compromising their beliefs—too afraid to take a firm stand. Peer pressure isn't something only youth face. From old to young, Christians are hesitant to stick up for their convictions. No one wants to be looked down upon, so it takes great courage to take a controversial stand. The "pressure" isn't even necessarily from peers—though it might be. It could also be a young adult desiring the respect of a grandparent, potential employer, or professor. Unfortunately, it is the rare Christian who is willing to risk everything to defend his beliefs.

Despite wanting to be liked or fit in, Christians should not fit into the world. Romans 12:2 tells Christians that they shouldn't conform to the world but rather have their minds transformed and renewed. Jesus explains the concept of being separated from the world in John 15.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
The first step to standing up for your beliefs is recognizing that even though you want to fit in with others, the reality is that by the very nature of being born again, you are not of this world. You are of the Kingdom of Heaven. You should be different.

Is losing favor with the world a sacrifice? Yes—and no. It is in the sense that since people want to be liked, they are choosing to give this up to honor God. However, in some aspects it isn't a sacrifice when considering the only reason Christians must be different from the world is because they are destined for eternity in heaven. They've chosen to make their home in another world, so it only makes sense that they would not fit in on this earth. "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:14). You wouldn't expect the Native Americans to understand the cultures of the Englishmen back in the 1600s? or the hobbits of Middle Earth to get along very well in the Star Wars galaxy, would you? Even the elves were different from all the other beings in Middle Earth, because they were destined for another place, separated from the rest of their present dwelling. So why hope that Christians could be friends with the world when they are different at the core of their beings?

However, in the sense that it is a sacrifice, is it worth it? I would have to say that it is. After all, our savior gave His life so that we could be different. The sacrifice of not being liked by the world is nothing compared to the sacrifice of His very life.

This is the conclusion that California college junior Isabella Chow came to when faced with supporting the LGBT agenda in late October. As a student senator at UC Berkeley, she was asked to vote pro-LGBT, but she refused, based on her Christian beliefs. She provided a five paragraph statement explaining her views, and clearly explained how she felt about people involved in the LGBT movement. “I have said, and will always say, that discrimination against or harassment of any person or people group is never, ever okay” (Lee). The onslaught of criticism Chow received for abstaining from the vote was tremendous. Sophia Lee, reporter for WORLD Magazine, describes it this way:
Heads turned when Chow walked across the campus, and her cell phone beeped with social media alerts. Disaffiliation notices piled into her email inbox. Online, people compared her to the KKK and called her “a terrible example of Christian hypocrisy.”
Despite the intense attacks from every direction she faced, thanks to the prayers and support of her fellow Christians, Chow remained steadfast in her conviction to not give in to the pressures. Her world was turned upside down, and she is still battling the results of her decision. Her sacrifice was great. Nevertheless, Chow refused to cave. She knew that she must stand for her beliefs, even if it meant losing her position in society.

Similarly, the American missionary, Andrew Brunson, who was recently released from 21 months in Turkish prisons, was willing to sacrifice everything—including his very life, to stand strong for Jesus. He was quoted as saying "Sometimes it's harder to live for God than to die for God. I would rather have been in heaven than in prison" (Belz). In fact, he considered himself a "living martyr" (Belz). While imprisoned, he remembered Richard Wurmbrand, who endured years of torture at the hands of the Romanian government, and later founded Voice of the Martyrs. Wurmbrand had praised God through his continued struggles, and Brunson imitated him by dancing before the Lord in his cell (Lee). Despite the extreme hardship he faced, he made the difficult choice to continue his stand for Christ.

Over the years, many Christians have chosen to defend what they know to be right and true, at great personal cost. But the majority of Christians often fail to honor their Lord in this manner. Their fear holds them back. Don't you think Jesus was afraid of the pain and separation from His father at the cross? Don't you appreciate His sacrifice made especially for you?

Maybe you're currently in a situation where you have to make that hard choice to stand for God or not. Maybe soon you'll find yourself in a place like that. Only you can decide what to do, but know this: there is no sacrifice you can make that even compares to Jesus' sacrifice for you. Christians are called to be a light in this world—to be different. The Christian life is anything but easy, but as Paul said in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Sacrifice now to honor your God. Make that hard choice to do what you know is right. Just as Brunson was encouraged by Wurmbrand's example, so Christians everywhere can draw strength from the stand of Isabella Chow. Will you be one of the few who will step up to the plate, prepared to be a "living martyr?"

Will you stand?

Belz, Mindy. "'A Living Martyr.'" WORLD Magazine. 24 Nov. 2018: 37-42. Print.
Lee, Sophia. "Convictions and Consequences." WORLD Magazine. 20 Nov. 2018. WORLD Magazine Web. 3 Dec. 2018.