Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson {Book Review}



~ Description

Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked. It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.


~ My Review

Oh my goodness, this book! I went into it unsure what to expect, but I was certainly not disappointed. It's an engaging story, chocked with side-splitting humor. The small town vibes, the delightfully funny writing style, the main character's voice, this book is a gem.

Since reading, I had the privilege of attending a live performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, produced by a local theatre group. They did a fabulous job of bringing the story to life! <3

Four angel wings out of five! 


I'll be doing a mini book review here nearly every day leading up to Christmas, in participation with the 12 Days of Christmas blog party. Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ilyon & Acktar blog tour {Spotlights + Review}


Welcome to another epic stop on the combined Ilyon and Acktar blog tour! Fantasy series written and published by indie authors, these are much-loved books. I've been an honorary Acktarian for a few years, and I'm planning my first visit to Ilyon in the new year. ;) 


ACKTAR

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



About 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.




My Review

Rather than try to combine all my feelings for this darling book in a coherent paragraph or two, I'll briefly go over each story and novella included—a total of ten. I so enjoyed my journey back to Acktar this week! <3

(Contains spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the previous four books in The Blades of Acktar series!)

Meeting Martin — a short story — 4 stars 
This was a nice little story, and an insightful look into Martyn's backstory, including his introduction to Harrison Vane and Leith. The long division conversation made me smile. <3

A Blizzard for Brandi — a short story— 4 stars 
Well, that was sweet. A bit predictable, by the title, but it was sweet to see Leith, Renna, Brandi, and their makeshift family.

The Blades as They Should Have Been — a novella— 4 stars
I was...kinda bored at first?? *wince* The feels were fabulous, as well as seeing everyone again and the intro to the Blade Marshals, but all the politics kind of bored me. It got more engaging toward the end, though.

The First Mission — a novella — 5 stars
Um, excuse me while I smirk over how adorable Martyn and Kayleigh are together. All this brother relationship thing with Owen? #allthehearts  The hatred vs. forgiveness thread with Lord Norton was AMAZE—feelsy and so well done. Also, when Martyn was trying to comfort the girl and asking Kayleigh for advice...golly, who wouldn't grin over that? <3

Honeymoon Holdup — a short story— 4 stars
Cute and humorous, with it's serious moments. I'll always love Leith and Renna together. My only "complaint" would be that the can't-kill-even-in-the-line-of-duty-because-everyone-knows-I-was-an-assassin thing felt like a bit of a repeat of Martyn's struggles. Not that they both wouldn't be facing those thoughts in the given situations, it just felt redundant?

The Wedding — a short story — 4 stars
Basically, ten–twenty pages of Shad and Jolene being so darn cute. xD (I think I'd read this one before? Maybe during a blog tour special for street team members or something... I don't know, but it was familiar.)

To the Far Great Mountains — a novella — 5 stars
A mission that throws Leith and Marytn together on their own for a month + a wedding + a Torren baby?! YES PLEASE. The guys' escapade in Verden had me grinning and adoring their brothers-relationship, and the two of them talking about fatherhood made me so happy. My children are growing up. *sniffs*

The Healer and the Clerk — a novella — 4 stars
At first, I wasn't sure I'd like this one—I previously haven't been a fan of Michelle Allen and Ranson isn't a favorite of mine—but this ended up being a really sweet story. <3

The Perfect Plan — a short story — 4 stars
A funny and sweet story of Renna and Brandi's parents, Lord Laurance Faythe and Princess Annita Eirdon. From this one, you can see where Brandi got her spunk. ;)  (I’d definitely read this one before, a shorter version. Again, probably from some sort of blog tour special or something.)

The Treaty — a short story — 5 stars
*grinning like a dork* So the rest of it was dandy, but gracious, that ending was ADORABLE. I always knew Leith would make a precious dad. <333

4/4.5 stars! 

**I received this ebook free from the author for blog tour/promotional purposes. No reviews, positive or otherwise, were required. All opinions expressed are purely my own.** 


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.




ILYON

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



About 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.






About 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





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.




GIVEAWAY




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Are you an Acktar fan? A Ilyon fan? Are you ready for some fabulous new reads? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hope Your Heart Needs by Holley Gerth {Book Review}



~ Description 

Understanding more of God's character and how he loves us changed bestselling author Holley Gerth's life in beautiful, powerful ways. She realized that she didn't have to settle for "I'm fine" when there was someone whispering to her in every moment, "You're mine." The hope, joy, peace, and purpose she longed for were already there, in the heart of God.

Now in 52 devotional readings, Holley shares with women the answer to the restlessness they feel in their hearts that keeps them hurrying, striving, pushing. She shows them that "the God who scattered stars like diamonds across the velvet of the universe, the keeper of every sparrow, the maker of us all, is inviting us to draw closer to him. He is the place where our hearts can go on the hard days and the happy ones, in the highs and lows, when we are sad or frustrated or downright giddy. He is what we've been searching for all along."


~ My Rating 

4 stars


~ My Review 

Holley Gerth presents a book of fifty-two devotionals, each focusing on a different aspect of God's character. The writing style is personal and comforting. It's like sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good friend, and pouring your heart out until you feel clean, emptied of your pain and struggles, filled with God's grace. 

At first, I wasn't too impressed with this book. The first handful of readings weren't very "deep," with nothing special about them. The second half, though, contained many chapters and passages that spoke to me. 

Recommended to anyone who enjoys devotionals designed for women of any age, needing some hope for their hearts. <3 


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from B&H/Lifeway in exchange for my honest review.**

Saturday, December 8, 2018

You have a Purpose. // The Carpenter



Jesus likely would have begun his work as a carpenter while still a teenager. When we consider this, it seems like a decade or more of his time on earth could have been used differently. Only 10 percent of Jesus's life was spent in public ministry.  
I think we need to know this because we will all have "carpenter years." Times when we don't feel like we're living up to our potential. We feel like we could be doing something more, something bigger. We can resist the smallness. We, like the questioning crowd around Jesus, can become disappointed and disillusioned by what doesn't seem as grand as we'd imagined.  
// Hope Your Heart Needs by Holley Gerth, page 140


I'm not even exaggerating when I say that these lines jumped off the page at me as I read them. Wait...Jesus had a season of "smallness"? Yes, yes, He did.

His ministry, covered in the four Gospels, all happened in about three years—around 10% of His earthly life! The average life span in the US is about 78 years. (Yes, I just googled it.) Ten percent of that is less than 8 years.


Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. 
// Mark 6:3 kjv


It is not at all my intention to insinuate that you only need to serve God for 7.8 years and then you can do what you want. Nope, not at all.

But if, right now, you feel like you're not doing anything. Like you're not fulfilling your purpose. You ache to be doing something more, something bigger, have a larger impact, but the opportunities just aren't there....don't despair.

There is a purpose in the place and season you're in at this very moment. Maybe God is preparing you for something larger. Maybe He's working out the details of your future, as you sit in the darkness, unable to see what comes next or why you're even on this earth.

But you have a purpose. Be patient as you wait for His timing. It's always perfect.

The One who died to wash away the sins of the entire world, to reach your broken heart and mine, He too had a season of waiting. A season of, in the eyes of some, not fulfilling His potential, His purpose.


even when you think you don't 
even when you can't see what it is
even when you feel worthless
even when you're confused 
hurting 
scared 
even when nothing makes sense

you. have. a. purpose. 



That's all for now... I pray this touched someone as it did me. <3 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Christmas Duet {blog tour}



Happy Saturday, readers! Welcome to the Christmas Duet blog tour, featuring His Law is Love by Rebekah A. Morris and O Come All Ye Faithful by Faith Blum. Both of these darling works of fiction feature Christmas song references, which makes them especially fun. :D 



Synopsis

Will hate and fear drown the song of Christmas love?

Amelia is eagerly anticipating her first Christmas in the west, but she soon finds that her brother-in-law's worry and her sister's exhaustion reach far deeper than the cares of a ranch and a family. A rash of fires and cattle thefts is plaguing the area, and the three young orphans they've sheltered are under suspicion from their prejudiced neighbors.

As hostilities mount, Amelia seizes every opportunity to help and encourage, but how much can one girl do? Will Reverend Brown win the community over to the true spirit of love? And will help arrive before everything they hold dear is destroyed?


My Review

His Law is Love was such a lovely story! 

Full of Christmas spirit and song references from the season, this story of a family in the west was so endearing. I adored the symbolism of choosing love over hatred, joy over fear. All of the characters were an enjoyment to read about—particularly that herd of children. 

I'd never heard of the Arizona Rangers of the early 1900s, so learning that tidbit from history was especially interesting. 

Oh, and they called Phoebe "Sissy"—I loved that! Having been called 'sissy' by my brother (and then parents and grandparents and anyone else who heard it...) for as long as I can remember, that was fun. :)


**I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.** 



Rebekah A. Morris is a homeschool graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include, among others, Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, Gift from the Storm, the Christmas Collection series, and her best selling Triple Creek Ranch series. Some of her favorite pastimes, when she isn’t writing, include reading, playing with her seven nieces and nephews, and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. (Sometimes with the nieces and nephews!) The Show-Me state is where she calls home. 



~*~





Synopsis

O Come All Ye Faithful
Edwin wanted to be home, but instead he crouched in a trench. The English on one side of No Man’s Land and Germans on the other. What a way to spend Christmas. Could anything make it better?

Peace on Earth
Emmie and Elana are estranged sisters, torn apart by an old boyfriend five years earlier. Will they survive a night in the same hotel room after a blizzard forces them together or will peace on earth go out the window?

Silent Night
Christmas decorating had never gone this wrong. Jenna had just started when a crazy, gun-waving woman, walks right in the front door and ties her up in her own Christmas lights. Will Jenna even see her family this Christmas?

The Gift Goes On
Four friends and a year to reflect on. The year had been good for Carlotta, but Priscilla, Remus, and Newton all had at least one trial through the year. A mysterious giver the previous year had helped them all out, though. What would this year’s gifts bring?

O Christmas Tree
Gareth loves Christmas. But more than that, he loves Christmas tree hunting. As the family prepares for their annual trip, Gareth can barely contain his excitement. But what are all the spray bottles for?


My Review

This was a sweet collection of Christmas stories! Since there are five individual stories tucked inside these pages, I'll review and rate each one. 

O Come All Ye Faithful // 5 stars 
This was definitely my favorite story! I love the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, and this was a personal look into the life and heart of one of the soldiers present. 

Peace on Earth // 3.5 stars 
The longest story in the book, this wasn't quite what I expected. I found that I couldn't connect well with either sister or their broken-home background. The theme of forgiveness was nicely done, though.

Silent Night // 4 stars 
I snickered and smiled my way through this story, which dealt well with the reality of mental illness. I would've liked more of Fay's backstory, but it was otherwise a sweet read. 

The Gift Goes On // 3.5 stars
Though sweet, this story felt like a chapter out of something longer. The group of friends were fun to read about, but I kept expecting more more about the mysterious gifts mentioned near the beginning. 

O Christmas Tree // 3 stars 
A cute story of a family going out to a farm to get their Christmas. While I enjoyed this one, I was confused by the spray bottles and the sister's attitude. The farm parts were fun though! 

**I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.** 



Faith Blum is a small-town Wisconsin girl. She’s lived in, or outside of, small towns her whole life. The thought of living in a city with more than 60,000 people in it scares her, especially after some interesting adventures driving through big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Faith currently resides in the middle of the state of Wisconsin with her husband and their cat, Smokey. She is blessed to be able to have writing as her full-time career with household work and cooking to do on the side. She loves to paint walls as long as she doesn’t have to do hallways or ceilings.

When not writing, you can find her cooking food from scratch due to food allergies (fun), doing dishes (meh), knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her husband (yay!). She is also a Community Assistant for the Young Writers Workshop and loves her work there. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her on her website.




Just like Rebekah and Faith teamed up for this tour, they have also teamed up on the giveaway!

Grand Prize: Paperback of each (US only)
1st Prize: eBook of each (International and US)
2nd Prize: eBook of choice (International and US)

Enter here!




Are you looking forward to these new Christmas stories? Have you read any of these sweet authors' previous books? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

There was Always Laughter in our House by Sarah Holman {Book Review}


~ Description

What do you get when you mix two parents who grew up in the city, six kids who have always lived in the country, and add homeschooling? You get a whole lot of laughter!

Homeschool graduate and author Sarah Holman shares stories about her family that range from thought-provoking to side-splitting. She shares both hilarious mistakes and heartbreaking moments in her family. In this collection of stories, she endeavors capture some of the answers to the questions people have often asked her about growing up in a conservative homeschool family as well as some of the wisdom she has gleaned along the way. Sarah invites you to open up this scrapbook of memories. She hopes that you come away encouraged, inspired…and laughing.


~ My Rating 

5 stars


~ My Review

Oh my, what a lovely look into the life of a sweet, caring homeschool family!

I picked this book up, expecting some smiles and laughs and challenging lines, and I was not disappointed in the least.

Going in, I was somewhat familiar with the Holman family from following three of the sisters' blogs (Sarah, Rose, and Mikayla), all of which I love. Learning more about their family and background—and dozens of inside jokes—was so much fun.

Sarah delves into the ups and downs of living in a house of eight, of being homeschooled before homeschooling was 'cool', of living fully or Christ even when misunderstood and criticized. Although my family's approach to homeschooling is/was a bit different than that of the Holmans, this book was such an encouragement. While reading, I found myself thinking along the lines of—"Hey, someone else really does get those weird questions..." or "Oh, we did that too!"

I love 'real' stories, and I adored the ones inside these pages. The truth and the honesty. The love, the compassion, the beauty, the faith. It was an encouraging and inspiring read.

If you want a true story that will warm your heart and make you laugh, give There was Always Laughter in Our House a try. <3

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful. {2018}



I'm thankful for memories...

...and I'm thankful for moments. 


I'm thankful for experience...

...and I'm thankful for innocence. 


I'm thankful for words...

...and I'm thankful for the things that words can't describe. 


I'm thankful for color...

...and I'm thankful for black & white. 


I'm thankful for noise...

...and I'm thankful for quiet. 


I'm thankful for sunshine...

...and I'm thankful for moonlight. 


I'm thankful for answers...

...and I'm thankful for questions. 


I'm thankful for people who laugh with me...

...and I'm thankful for people who cry with me. 


I'm thankful for eighteen years of life and love...

...and I'm thankful for many more to come. 



Happy Thanksgiving, lovelies. <3