Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White

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Title: The Magnolia Duchess

Author: Beth White

Series: Gulf Coast Chronicles #3

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult


Fiona Lanier is the only woman in the tiny Gulf Coast settlement of Navy Cove. While her shipbuilding family races to fill the demand for American ships brought by the War of 1812, Fiona tries to rescue her brother who was forced into service by the British Navy.

Lieutenant Charlie Kincaid has been undercover for six months, obtaining information vital to the planned British invasion of New Orleans. When a summer storm south of Mobile Bay wrecks his ship and scatters the crew, Charlie suffers a head injury, ultimately collapsing in the arms of a beautiful mermaid who seems eerily familiar. As Charlie's memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political loyalties begin to collide, they'll each have to decide where their true heart lies.

**3.5 stars**

The Magnolia Duchess is the third and final book in the "Gulf Coast Chronicles" by Beth White. For the most part, I quite enjoyed this light, fresh historical story, and gave it a 3.5 star rating.

As the War of 1812 goes on, Fiona Lanier struggles between loyalty to her brothers and country, and love for a secretive man who has stolen her heart. Passions are high, and danger and adventure abound ... Fiona, Charlie, Sehoy, and Maddie will have to search deep for the right thing to do in the tumultuous times that are upon them.

I love reading book set during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. America's early history is simply so fascinating! So for historical setting and happenings, The Magnolia Duchess was really enjoyable. It was interesting seeing from Fiona's, and her cousins, Sehoy's (a native American) and Maddie's (daughter of Lyse, from the second book in series) views. They all had interesting stories. And of course the charming and rather rougish Charlie Kincaid. The only thing was that we only got to dive briefly into each of their stories. I felt each character and situation wasn't explored real deeply. The romance came on kind of without warning, and similar things like that. However, that does make for a light, fast, and still enjoyable read. So if you're looking for that kind of relaxing read, do pick up the "Gulf Coast Chronicles" series!

Another note on the romance, there were quite a few passionate/slightly heated scenes. Beth White did a fairly good job of not giving too much detail; but you still did get the gist. I felt some of the characters were taking the physical side of their relationship way too fast and far with all their kissing. So that was definitely a downer of The Magnolia Duchess. I really prefer the romances I read about to be serious, deep, and cautious when it comes to the physical aspect. So yes. There's that warning.

But other than that, I did like this fast-paced tale. The moments of patriotism and love and loyalty for America were especially thrilling. The brief parts about faith were also touching and beautiful. And some parts of the three romances going on were rather sweet! So explore a bit of the War of 1812 through the eyes of a young woman who loves her horses, her country, and her traitorous man; living in the Gulf Coast settlement of Navy Cove.

I received a copy of The Magnolia Duchess from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

For The Sake Of Love

I've met many a Christian person who is quite "religious". They go to church every Sunday; perhaps on Fridays as well. They pray at each meal. They give to the needy. They speak of God and the Bible with solemnity and reverence.

But something is missing. As I watch, these same individuals often treat people in their day-to-day lives badly. Sometimes, women are treated as less; possessions almost. In other instances, men are mocked. Children are viewed as burdens and nuisances. Unbelievers, as idiots. The authorities are scorned. Servers are ill-treated if they don't give them what they want. People who've made some big mistakes or had a rough past are looked down upon. The girl in the scanty clothes, or even the Christian rap singer, condemned.

And these are Christian people acting like this to others. If I asked them, "Do you love God?", I'm sure they would respond, "Of course!"

But there is another question. Do you obey His commands? It says in John 14:15: "If you love Me, keep My commandments."

And that is more than going to church and praying before a meal. John 13:34-35 says: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Galatians 5:14 solidifies it with these powerful words: "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." 
{Romans 13:8-10}

So if you are continually hurting those in your life (because of bitterness, insecurity, pride, fear, past wounds, selfishness, etc.), you are willfully living a lifestyle of disobeying God's commands.

Do you love God? Do you even really know Him?


"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." {1 John 4:8}

He is love, my friends. Do you think you can go about life being harsh, condemning, tearing down, bitter, grumbling, quick to lash out at others ... yet somehow claim to follow the Author of love?

Don't you see? All that religiousness, all those rules, "good deeds", eloquent talks about God - they mean nothing without love.

1 Corinthians 13 says: "1 If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I AM ONLY A RESOUNDING GONG OR CLANGING CYMBAL.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I AM NOTHING.

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I GAIN NOTHING.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

I have read this passage a hundred times. I even memorized it. But I think only recently did its meaning really sink in.

We are nothing without love.

Religion. Good work. Knowledge. Ability. Generosity. Fine words. They mean nothing without love.

You can be an upstanding citizen. A respected church member. An admired worker. 
But if you are going through life always treating your spouse, your children, your parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, in-laws, your fellow man, poorly, you've utterly missed the point. All your "righteousness" means nothing.

All those people you're hurting, they are God's creations. They're God's children. What right have you to claim to follow God and then abuse your fellow man?

God is love.

Can't you see? It's all about love! It's all because of love. Love is the most important. God loved us, and that is how we are offered redemption. Everything we do should be because of love.

Discipline your children because you love them; you care about their lives and for their eternal souls.

Dress and behave modestly because you love your brothers in Christ; because you love your future husband enough to save all for him; because you know God loves you and you should love yourself enough to protect your body and purity.

Go and talk to a friend who has fallen into sin because you love them; you care about their relationship with God.

Do good things, strive for righteousness and godliness because you love God! Because He loved you first and you want to follow Him, to be like Him, to please Him.

I write this blog post because of love. Because I know people who are trying to make things work without much love, and I love them. I fear for them. I sorrow over them because I know they're not who God made them to be, and surely their hearts are a bit sick.
I write this post because I love those who are being hurt by the unloving-ness of some people in their lives.
I write this post because I love God and His truth.

I write this post because my heart aches because of all the hurting in this world.

Darkness has crept into the Church. In a broken world where we are supposed to be shining a brilliant light, we are often only adding to the already intense pain.

What a wretched people are we!

But praise be to God! He can change a sinner from the inside out! He can heal a shattered heart. He can give us incredible strength to stand up and love selflessly. HE IS ABLE. Darkness has not won. Turn back to the Light!

Love is real. Love is powerful. Love is the greatest.

To those who have not yet chosen love, I will never stop praying for you. You might think you're at the top, angry with the world, clinging to your pride, your fear, your bitterness and hurt; but I believe, I know, that God can change your heart.

To those with pain and scars from people like mentioned above, I will never stop praying for healing. You can be different. You can choose love. And relationships can be healed and restored by the power of our mighty God.

It's time to let love win.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." 
{Galatians 5:22-23}

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Review: King's Folly by Jill Williamson

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Title: King's Folly

Author: Jill Williamson

Series: The Kinsman Chronicles #1

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Adult


The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers--everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father's superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

**5 stars**

Epic. This is the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of King's Folly by Jill Williamson. Fantastic, action-filled, diverse, brilliant. This book is the first in a new series called THE KINSMAN CHRONICLES; (it's actually a prequel series to Jill Williamson's other fantasy trilogy). And it's a tremendous start! I was captivated from the beginning.

In a world being torn apart by earthquakes, a grand cast of characters find mystery and meaning as doom approaches. Two sons of a king, Wilek and Trevn, must carefully navigate their lives of royalty, praying they don't get cast to Barthos as a sacrifice like their brother did. A girl, barely a young woman, seeks to be a companion to a princess's daughter. Another woman is lost in the grasp of darkness amidst a strange tribe where magicians rule. A burdened queen, a eunuch, a long-suffering friend, and a guard also have their tales told. Darkness reigns in the lands ... How will their people be broken from the bondage of wickedness?

I simply loved this book. (I got fangirly many times while reading it. My sister gave me an odd look when I hugged it and half-sighed, half-squealed after finishing it.) It starts full-force, capturing you with intrigue and its rich fantasy world. Jill Williamson and her ability to create such amazing worlds! She is an incredible writer! From the five lands, their traditions, histories, and their interesting peoples; to the epic plot; to the subtle Biblical retelling. It was fascinating. Colorful. Vivid. Tangible, like you're there, living this adventure. I mean, I was sucked into this book. (I think I vanished from earth altogether for a few days ... *winks and grins*)

The characters were amazing. Each one so real, and different from the next. It didn't bother me a bit that there were so many POV characters; each of their stories gripped me. Trevn is my favorite! He's so ambitious, fun-loving, and rebellious! *grins* (Rebellious in a good way ... like rebelling against the idea that grown princes must have a harem.) I also really liked Mielle. She was different than the average female character, yet overall relateable and loveable! ^_^ I quite like Wilek as well! And the rest of the main characters had interesting views to show that enriched King's Folly altogether.

I loved all the endearing relationships - the wonderful friendships. Mielle and Lady Zeroah have a lovely blossoming friendship that I hope to see more of! And the scenes of Wilek with his mother and grandmother ... those usually made me chuckle. *grins* Which leads me to another point: the humor. Despite having a fairly dark theme, King's Folly definitely had its humor as well! I love a book that makes you laugh; characters and personalities that bring a smile or giggle. Trevn and Mielle both did that for me. *smiles*

I think what makes this book such an epic fantasy for me is the combination of it's rich fantasy world, diverse cast of characters, and incredible plot. It sort of retells, in a fantastical way, Old Testament stories of when the lands turned away from God and got caught up in idolatry, sorcery, perverseness. King's Folly shows that darkness, yet it also reveals a mighty God (Arman, the "father god"; in truth, the only God) who has a mighty plan for the people who are wondering if there might be something more; something different than the wickedness their kingdom has fallen into. It's so very thought-provoking and intriguing, and I can't wait to read the next book and see where Jill Williamson goes with this Christian allegory.

On a cautionary note: I would probably recommend this book for 18 and up. At least late teens. There is many mentions of concubines, mistresses, fornication, and the like. Most are merely mentions and scenes that imply something happened afterwards. Wilek has a mistress at the start of the book, who's been with him since he was fifteen. In one scene, they are in his room, and he kisses her and then the scene ends. Trevn, though he has no concubines, meets a girl and they soon exchange some kisses. I felt these situations are both to kind of show what kind of kingdom they live in. What kind of example their father, the king, sets. Their land has long turned away from Arman, the true God, so they don't understand godly morals.
   There were a couple scenes that started making me uncomfortable. Both centering on a character named Charlon. She lives, not by her own doing, in a strange tribe. In one scene, she practices dark magic; and it just weirded me out, her chanting and whatnot. In another scene, she clearly intends to give herself to a man, deeming herself healed after years of fear of and abuse from men. I felt it was a little too sensual, though it ended before too much happened.
     So. Though there were many mentions of sordid lifestyles and whatnot, I felt all of them were appropriate, mostly implying; except for the two of Charlon I mentioned above. But yes, it simply calls for an older audience.

Overall, this book was thrilling. Such depth. Such epic-ness! I'm enthralled, my friends! If you're looking for rich fantasy, an astounding tale told by many wonderful characters, a story of life and love, adventure and mystery, danger and doom, look no further than King's Folly! It's truly a remarkable novel, and I eagerly await the second book, King's Blood!

I received a copy of King's Folly from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Songkeeper by Gillian Bronte Adams

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Title: Songkeeper

Author: Gillian Bronte Adams

Series: The Songkeeper Chronicles #2

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Young Adult - Adult


War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.

Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.

Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran's fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?

**3 stars**

Songkeeper, book two in THE SONGKEEPER CHRONICLES by Gillian Bronte Adams, had some epic scenes to match it's absolutely epic cover. But, overall, I didn't really get into it. I'm giving it a three-star rating because of the amazing parts, and because I loved the first book in the series (Orphan's Song).

Birdie and Ky wake up aboard a pirate's ship - captives. Amos and the griffon desperately search for their kidnapped young friends. And darkness is ever on the move. At loss of how to get the Song back, Birdie struggles with her calling as the Songkeeper. Struggles to have faith. Struggles to be strong. Amidst battles and desert adventures, Birdie searches for answers ... and for the elusive Song.

In short, I was disappointed in this book. And I hate saying that ... especially when I loved Orphan's Song. But that's how it was for me. I never fully got into the story; didn't really connect with the characters; and felt the story was building up and building up, only to have no questions answered - no satisfying or conclusive enough ending. HOWEVER, this is simply my opinion and my taste. If you aren't like me, you may love Songkeeper; in fact, I can picture my younger sister loving everything I didn't like about it. XD

I did have a wonderful time laughing at Amos and the superb griffon (always forget his name ... it's kind of long and fantasy-ish). They are forever grumbling at each other, haha! It was also cool journeying and meeting the desert folk and their lions! I mean, how cool is that, to ride lions?? Utterly epic. And Birdie talking with animals is the best. ^_^ Love when that happens in fantasy books!
     So yes, Songkeeper definitely had it's great parts.
     Despite the ending not being satisfying to me, I did love the very last line, and how that whole scene felt. Very poignant. Powerful. Yet gentle. Humbling. Awesome. I have a feeling Birdie is about to learn a soul-altering lesson and find out what real faith is. Find out who really created the Song. I look forward to reading the third book and exploring more of this Christian allegory.

A caution. Though Orphan's Song (book one) got pretty violent toward the end, it does not compare to the intensity of Songkeeper. This book is dark. There's a lot of violence, and especially gruesomeness, toward the end. So I would be very careful about letting a younger audience read it. Speaking to my fairly sensitive family, I would probably say wait until your late teens to read Songkeeper.

So yes. Griffons and history about songkeepers. Dark villains. Epic rescues and crazy battles. Treacherous journeys. Struggling with faith. Though Songkeeper wasn't a favorite for me, I still recommend this series to fantasy lovers, and am excited to read Book Three! *smiles*

I received a copy of Songkeeper from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren

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Title: Season of Glory

Author: Lisa T. Bergren

Series: The Remnants #3

Genre: Dystopian/Speculative

Audience: Young Adult


The power of the Remnants and their people are growing, threatening Pacifica’s careful plans for domination. Among the Trading Union, village after village, outpost after outpost, and city after city are drawn to people of the Way, and agree to stand against those who hunt them. But Pacifica intends to ferret out and annihilate the Remnants—as well as everyone who hasn’t sworn allegiance to the empire—setting the stage for an epic showdown that will change the course of a world on the brink … forever.

**2 stars**

Season of Glory is the third and final installment to THE REMNANTS series by Lisa T. Bergren. It was interesting enough, but I just didn't get into it, overall.

Andriana and Ronan, and their fellow Remnants, are hoping to travel back home after Ronan's fatal injury ... and miraculous recovery. Their battle is far from won, but they wish for a brief rest. Meanwhile, Keallach struggles between the pull of darkness and light, and his desire to marry Andriana. In this intense spiritual, and physical, war, will the Ailith be able to stand strong together and bring light and righteousness back to the world?

As much as I have been loving Christian dystopian, this book, unfortunately, is probably my least favorite of Lisa Bergren's YA dystopian trilogy. Season of Wonder had me enthralled; Season of Fire fell a bit flat; and Season of Glory left me feeling pretty much nothing at the end. I suppose, as the series went on, I just didn't feel connected with the characters. Didn't care much about the story. Obviously, these are just my personal thoughts, and you may feel very differently about this book!

There was a lot of violence, darkness, and gruesomeness in this book. One battle after another. (It could feel a little repetitive). I'm not really big on lots and lots of battle scenes and war stuff. It's simply not my thing. But anyway, caution in regards to the violence!

Romance. There was some sweetness between Andriana and Ronan. But she still struggles a bit with attraction toward Keallach, which I just find difficult to read about. Please guard your heart, girl. What on earth are you trying to do?? On that note, there was a scene between the two that was particularly disturbing, and much too sensual in my opinion. It was completely unnecessary to add that much detail to an inappropriate encounter.

There were some thought-provoking lessons here and there, in this tale of light vs. darkness. But at times I felt there was too much emphasis on "the Ailith", and not enough on the Maker Himself! Take this one character, for example; he basically returns to the Ailith and the "good side" because he feels drawn to his "family". He feels the pull of the light inside them. He knows that, together, the Ailith can be so powerful, and toward a good cause! I felt he returned to the good side because of his "brothers" and "sisters", and not because of the Maker at all. Which is a big problem. We don't become Christians because we love other believers ... we become Christians because God loved us, and we want to love Him! We don't become Christians because we're "chosen" or part of some special group, but because Jesus Christ died for our sins, and we accept that sacrifice and accept Him as Lord! I don't know; I just felt the spiritual message of Season of Glory was quite confusing at times. Despite it blatant theme of spiritual warfare, it didn't feel all that deep, Biblically.

So yes. I don't really know what else to say. I liked POV characters Andriana and Ronan well enough; but the other main character, Keallach, was frustrating, confusing, and just altogether infuriating. I don't know what he wanted or who he is, really. There's lots of action and battles, some romance, and overall a good vs. evil story. Season of Glory might be your thing; but all in all, it just didn't end up being mine.

I received a copy of Season of Glory from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Faithful Fridays: To Be Complete

Some days, I just want to go home. I’m not talking about my beautiful childhood home, though I do want to go there too. I’m talking about heaven.

Because some days are simply hard.

I’m incredibly blessed in many ways – not in lacking food, or shelter, or material things. But that’s not to say that I haven’t had a share of emotional and mental trials.

I’ve had days of emotional pain, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness. Where my deepest fears and hurts seem magnified into life-sized foes. When, after an exhausting battle with irrational terror, I just want to curl up in a dark corner and fade away in non-existence.

I’ve experienced being thrust into confusing and difficult times … where hope is dashed … And my joy in life suddenly wanes. One day I wake up and realize I can’t see a future for myself.

Even after the intense hurt diminishes, I’m still left with a frustrating listlessness. A lack of excitement for life.

I feel purposeless. What is the point of my life? I feel hopeless. I’m can’t change things. I can’t make it better.

Sometimes I struggle to trust God. God, do You really, really care? I mean, how could someone like me have Your love? You who created galaxies and conquered death and reign for eternity. There are so many people who serve You so much better than I do.
     So do You really see me, God, down here, afraid of everything?

Other days, I think I get a glimpse of His glory, and suddenly my soul longs for heaven, the place it was surely created for!

There, I will know and be fully known. There, I will know that I am utterly and completely loved. There, my doubts, fears, and struggles will be entirely gone. There, I will see Jesus face to face! There, I will run to His arms and feel love, security, and peace. –And awe. Awe for my King.

There, I will be complete.

And here on earth, where the heart is burdened, it sounds particularly beautiful, the thought of being complete. The thought of resting in Jesus’ presence. Of praising His holy name in abandon.

"For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life." 2 Corinthians 5:4

But, I suppose there’s still work for me to do here. And as hopeless and bleak as I sometimes feel my future is, God must have a plan. Because I’m still here. The world is still turning.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

So. I need to choose to trust God. To surrender to Him. Even in the hurt and the fear, I need to reach out and cling to Him, where He’s waiting for me.

"Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:7-8

I must stop letting the darkness surround me and the Enemy’s lies cloud my thinking. Deep down, I know I’m letting darkness win when I stay in the hopeless place, afraid. Afraid of life. Afraid to reach out to the Lord.

No more. Because Satan does not claim the victory. I do. Through Jesus Christ and His awesome sacrifice and love! Because I am a Daughter of Light. And I can take my God’s Word and speak truth over myself.

"Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8

"For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness." 2 Samuel 22:29

Speak truth! Always, always, speak truth. Cling to hope. Dive into love with abandon. God is love. And He loves me. He loves you. Even when we don’t believe it, He loves us absolutely, unconditionally.

"My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him." Psalm 62:5

My dear friends, if you understand how I feel, if you’re afraid, if you’re feeling hopeless, please don’t struggle alone. I’m here for you, a sister in Christ. Let me know if you want me to pray for you, or if you need someone to talk to.

Speak truth, brothers and sisters. Live for Jesus. And look forward to heaven. –Where we will be complete.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you," 1 Peter 1:3-4

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

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