Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Blades of Acktar (Book Reviews July 2017 Edition)

We are in the midst of rainy season.  Some days it rains all day.  Those days are perfect to curl up on the couch with a good series and cozy blanket.  This past month my husband and I came across a new-to-us author, Tricia Mingerink, who is only in her twenties but has written a fantasy series called the Blades of Acktar.  It was a great escape for those rainy days when we couldn't get outside. 

The Blades of Acktar:

Imagine a time and a place where Christianity is no longer allowed, and Blades (assassin) are sent out to find and kill those who defy the King's laws.  The resistance is growing but will it survive long enough for good to win.

The first book Dare begins with Leith, the third blade, wounded by an arrow and finding refuge in the home of two sisters who are believers.  Even though the blade could turn around and betray them, the sisters give him shelter and medical attention.  This starts the course of the story as Leith is challenged by the stories of Daniel and who God is.  What will he do when he returns to the King?

In the second book Dare, the two sisters, Renna and Brandi are challenged as they are confronted with how strong their faith really is.  Is there a compromise?  One sister is strong.  The other appears about to crumble, but don't forget God.  Things aren't always as they appear.

In the third book Defy, the resistance takes the battle to the King.  Will they prevail?  Will good win? Sacrifices are made, but will it be enough?

In the fourth book Deliver, the resistance has won, but the battle still remains for the kingdom to unify.   Can former blades be trusted to help the new kingdom rebuild? Is God big enough to change them?  What about those blades who are still working for those against the new king, wanting the power for themselves?

The characters made me cry, laugh, cheer, and reflect.  There is Shadrach the son of a Lord and warrior who becomes best friends with a blade turned spy. Then the two sisters: Renna who is a healer but also needs to be a leader, and her sister Brandi who is fearless.  There is Jamie, a blade in training who just wants to revenge against the King.  Don't forget the Lady who sleeps with a knife and isn't scared to kill a blade. These are just a few of the characters that make the story richer.

As the plot thickens, faith is challenged, characters are transformed, and forgiveness given.  It is a story of self sacrifice and good versus evil but also a story of seeking God in the hard places and believing God can work in those who once were enemies.  So if you like fantasy with faith mixed in, this might be a series for you. Just a note: this series is blatantly Christian but is not preachy.  Faith is woven into the story well where it adds to the story not detracts. 

What have you read this month?  Any good recommendations?  For more book review, check out Modern Ms. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup. 

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Never Unfriend Musing (A Book Review)

In Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, he helps us visualize what burdens are in our lives. Christian journeys to the Celestial City.  It is hard pilgrimage with many lessons learned along the way. At the beginning of section three there is a beautiful picture. Christian has a burden on his back that weighs him down. On the hill, he sees a cross and begins to run to the cross. There, his burden falls off and rolls into a sepulcher (a grave), never to be seen again. Now Christian continue his journey unburdened.

Sometimes a burden is obvious, it is weighing us down and we can barely function. Other times we are so used to the burden, we don't realize how much it is getting in the way of living life fully. In the book, Never Unfriend by Lisa Jo Baker,  she shared a story about how baggage from her past was getting in the way of her present friendships.  She viewed these new friendships through the lenses of her younger self who had been hurt.  Just like Christian, Lisa took that baggage to the cross.  This truth shone a light on the baggage that I carry around such as how I see a friendship through the lens of I am not enough or sabotage a relationship with my insecurities. This burden weighs me down whether I recognize it or not.

But God didn't stop there.  As I continued listening to the book, Lisa talked of being the friend we would want to have.  I was confronted with the selfishness and neediness that I bring to my friendships. God used her words to expose those lies and expectations that block me from being a true friend.  What would my friendships be like if my perspective changed from my needs to what my friend needs?  What would my friendships look like if instead of being easily offended, I believed the best and loved freely?  What if it wasn't about me but about what God could do through me?  How freeing  to leave those expectations behind.

What take aways do I have from the book?

  • First I need to look in...

What baggage do I keep carrying around that is getting in the way of me being a good friend?
What unrealistic expectations do I have about my relationships?  

  • Then I need to look up...
God is ready and willing to take that baggage off my hands.  All I have to do is ask.  He is more than able to meet me where I am at.  Once again, I find myself praying for God to show me who needs a friend and how can I be a better friend.  

  • Lastly I need to look out...
In faith, I am looking to see how God will answer my prayer.  Who do I see that needs a friend?  What can I do to serve the friends God has given me?  How can I bless them?  Instead of waiting around for someone to reach out to me, who do I need to reach out to?

I have a feeling this book will be one of my favorites for the year.  It would be a great book to read through with a friend.  Anyone interested? 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Fantasy Series, an Audiobook, and a Book by Tsh

One of my favorite things to do each month is head over to Modern Ms. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup to find what others are reading and recommending.  From these lists, I have been able to find books for my husband and I to read.  The lists have steered me towards books I might have otherwise not chosen and away from others that I was not sure about.  So after you get done reading my reviews, click here to find some other reviews that you might enjoy.

Here are my reviews for the month:

1. The Starlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

A few months back, one of my students found out that my husband and I enjoy reading some of the same books that she did such as Jill Williamson's fantasy series Kinsman Chronicles.   This led to her recommendation of the Way of Kings and a long wait for my turn to read it from my library.  Finally the book came in and my husband and I dove into hours of reading- literally hours of reading since the book was long.  The story took place in another time and space where a king was assassinated and a kingdom went to war in vengeance for his death.  The book was written from various viewpoints that at first seem random but as the book proceeds the story line converged to see how each character had their own part in how the story would end. The book was full of magical shards (swords), creatures that grew gemstones inside of them, and a history that had secrets waiting to be found.  The first book centered on the brother of the assassinated king who had visions during the high storms, a slave who should really be a soldier, and a young woman who wanted to be a scholar but also needed to save her family.  The second book, Words of Radiance relayed the continuing story of these characters as they battled the evil that was overtaking their land.  Now we are in waiting mode once again for the third book, Oathbringer, which is scheduled for release in November.

2. Never Unfriend by Lisa Jo Baker

This was a book recommended by one of the other bloggers on last month's link up.  I decided to go with the audio version  which was a great choice.  The author had a conversational writing style that translated well to an audiobook.  As I did my dishes, cleaned house, and walked, I was challenged about the baggage I carry into my friendships and if I am the kind of friend that I want to have.  I felt like Lisa Jo was speaking truth into my heart and changing my view of friendships and relationships.  Never Unfriend  is my favorite non-fiction book so far this year.  

3. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxereider

My husband and I are in the middle of reading this book out loud in the evenings.  I can totally relate to Tsh's wanting to travel and explore yet have a place to call home.  Some of the places Tsh's family visited we have also visited which brings back memories of that time with our family.  Other places we are putting on our to visit or maybe not to visit list.  It a great book about travel, family, and home. 

What are some books you read this month that you would recommend or not recommend?