Book Review: Heartmender by V. Romas Burton

“I needed to be scared and broken to be able to see my choice to the end.” – Heartmender by V. Romas Burton

OMGoodness, y’all – there’s a reason why Heartmender is an award winning book! Published by Monster Ivy Publishing, I purchased a copy of Heartmender due to bookstagram, and I am so glad I did – it is a story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Set in the fictional world of Barracks, little Addie accompanies her older brother and caretaker, Lyle, to Heart Reign, an event where citizens trade their most valuable possession – their heart. One important thing to note: the average person’s heart is gray and pretty lifeless. While at Heart Reign, a mysterious man, Schism, offers traders a choice – two red doors where the destination is unknown. Despite her pleas, Lyle trades his gray heart and walks through one of the red doors, accepting an unknown fate. For seven years, Lyle has been missing, and for seven years, Addie has despised Heart Reign. When she is of age, she endures her Extraction but finds that her heart is red and beating with life. She is warned to run, and run is what she does – straight through Schism’s door to find her brother. However, the destination is worse than one could imagine and Addie is faced with choice after choice – will she find Lyle alive and, if so, will she be able to save him or will she succumb to the dark temptations and tricks around her?

Each choice Addie faces represents one of the seven deadly sins: sloth, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony, envy, and pride. What I love about Addie is even though her heart is pure and it is in the right place – she is still tempted with each choice. She is still human and flawed. She is skeptical of the existence of the Mender, a man who can heal missing and broken hearts – but she has hope. Burton’s story reminds readers that there is always hope because of Jesus Christ and that light always comes after darkness. I opened this post with my favorite quote from the book, “I needed to be scared and broken to be able to see my choice to the end.” I think that is so relevant to real life – often I have found that in my most broken, is when I lean on God and find the strength to make the right choices – even if the right choice is tough. And I think that sometimes we may question our choices, but if we make a choice for the right reasons, then it was the right choice.

Burton’s allegory is beautifully woven and her world is intricately crafted. I highly recommend Heartmender to lovers of clean YA fantasy, and I cannot wait to read the sequel!

Purchase your copy of Heartmender today here!

Bookish Shop Feature: Fablebands

Happy Saturday! This morning I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with one of my favorite shops: Fablebands! Fablebands is a shop providing people with beautiful bookish headbands and scrunchies! See my interview below with the shop owner, Mylene to learn more.

Mylene with the Fablebandits inspired faux knot headband.

Q) What inspired you to create your small business, Fablebands?

A) I’ve always liked headbands. When my second child was born, my hair in the front (baby hair) started growing again and I needed something  quick to hide those short hairs on days when I didn’t have time to fix it. I also needed some type of distraction, so I sewed my own headband. I had been in bookstagram for a few years and I thought it’d be cute to wear headbands based on books; the rest, you all know it 🙂

Q) What goals do you have for your business?

A) My goal is to grow Fablebands enough that I’m able to run it full time. That will allow me to spend more time with my family at home. 

Q) How long has Fablebands been in operation?

A) I officially opened the shop September 2019.

Q) How long have you been sewing/creating?

A) I grew up with my great-grandmother who loved to sew, and I was always very happy to help her since I was able to handle scissors (about 9 y/o?). She used to make me skirts, and with fabric scraps I would hand sew clothes for my dolls. Fast forward many years, I started making my own laundry baskets, a very comfy bed for my dog Max, makeup bags for my friends, bibs and burp cloths for my children, and now Fablebands for you all.

Q) What would you say are some of your biggest achievements?

A) Coming up with the idea of Fablebands while my youngest child was 5 months old, and being focused and committed enough to create and sew while on a crazy sleeping schedule and a full time engineering job. 

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) My great grandmother, she would do anything with a grain of sugar. Nothing was challenging enough for her not to do it.

Q) Do you have a favorite design to date?

A) hmmm…. That’s difficult.. But I can say that the Strong Badass Mama is the one I wear the most 🙂

Q) What would you say is your favorite color?

A) Pink!

Q) How do you come up with the designs for your products?

A) The Fablebands community is the number one source of ideas! We have a team of Fablebandits that are always bringing ideas for future designs. 

Q) What is your favorite genre to read?

A) Romance! 

Q) What inspired the Fablebands Read Along? Will that take place every month moving forward?

A) We are always talking about reading books together, but we didn’t have an organized way of doing it.  By creating the Book Club, we have a better opportunity to chat about the books we love. It’s also a great opportunity to promote diverse and latinx authors.

Q) Can you give readers any “sneaks” for future designs yet to be released? Can customers submit ideas they have?

A) Well, I can say we’ll have all the Sailor Scouts scheduled to be released this year!

Q) What is the most rewarding thing about running your own small business?

A) The love that I receive from everyone that tries Fablebands is so rewarding! Having the opportunity to provide for my family while working on what I’m truly passionate about: all things handmade.

Q) What advice would you give someone who wants to open up their own small business?

A) Focus on what you love, on a product that brings you joy. Never compare to other shops that are well established and feel less. Listen to your audience. Accept constructive criticism. Be patient and enjoy the process. Always keep trying! Family always comes first.

Q) Tell us a little about you, the heart and soul of Fablebands (ie. what do you do when you aren’t working? What three words best describe you? What’s your favorite song/movie/animal/etc. — anything you want to share with readers).

A) Mother. Optimistic. Traveler.  When I’m not working on Fablebands or doing something for/with my children and husband, you can most certainly find me planning our next vacation. There’s something about that planning stage that makes me really happy. I also love to listen to latinx music (mainly salsa and merengue) and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, there’s so much joy captured there!  My favorite animals are butterflies, they’re so delicate, yet so strong and imprescindible! My favorite movies are Amadeus and Pretty Woman. MY favorite books of all times are “La Catedral del Mar” and Pride and Prejudice (also the first book I read in English).

Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?

A) I’d like to thank with all the strength and power of my heart every person that has supported Fablebands in any way! Your support means the world to me and my family and for that I’ll be forever thankful! 

Visit Fablebands online here and be sure to follow Fablebands on Instagram here!

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo

So far this year, my reviews have centered around fantasy and Biblical fiction. This week, I am changing things up by sharing a review of the The #1 New York Times Bestseller YA Mystery Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo.

I was excited to read this because of all the hype it received, but, to be perfectly honest, I was also hesitant. I’ve never been a huge James Patterson fan – but to be fair, it has been a few years since I read once of his books (Along Came a Spider just wasn’t my cup of tea). However, despite my hesitancies, this book did not disappoint.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a respectable lady of polite society – or so her father wishes. In truth, Audrey Rose spends her time with her uncle dissecting cadavers and studying science (how dreadful) in secret – activity not suitable for her delicate feminine disposition. Yet, Audrey Rose becomes more focused than ever on her scientific work when mayhem strikes the streets of London in the form of ghastly murders. Things become more complicated as Audrey Rose develops feelings for her fellow apprentice Thomas Cresswell, and even more complicated still when her uncle is accused of the very murders he is attempting to solve. Will Audrey Rose be able to separate her emotion from fact as her search for Jack the Ripper creeps closer and closer to home?

There was adequate tension and suspense throughout, and I absolutely adored the banter between Audrey Rose and Thomas. I also adored Audrey Rose’s cousin, Liza. Though she only made a brief appearance, she stated one of my favorite quotes in the book: “Let them think they rule the world. It’s a queen who sits on that throne.”

Another quote that has stayed with me since turning the final page is, “Science never abandoned me the way religion had that night.” You see, Audrey Rose has turned away from religion since the death of her mother because her prayers failed to save her mother. But how can one doubt the God they blame for their suffering? Just food for thought here; I digress from the review.

I do feel that there were parts that were grotesque due to the sensitive nature of autopsies and murder scenes, and sometimes forgot I was reading a novel intended for YA readers – I would suggest the book for older YA readers (at least 15, if not 16).

Overall, I enjoyed the book and do plan to read Hunting Prince Dracula – the next book in the series – at some point (my to be read pile is never-ending), and I give the book a 3.5 star rating.

Photo from @theunicornwriter93.

You can read Stalking Jack the Ripper from your local library (as I did), or order your own copy here.

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Author Interview: Kristiana Sfirlea

Last week I shared my review of the whimsical Middle Grade fantasy Legend of the Storm Sneezer. Today I have the honor of interviewing the talented author Kristiana Sfirlea! Sfirlea resides in Michigan. A fun fact about her is that she is double jointed and can walk on top of her toes (like on the knuckles)! She also told me she can do a killer Gollum impression…I really want to see that! Read the full interview below!

Author Kristiana Sfirlea.

Q)  What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

A) Most of my hobbies are book-related in some way, from the 50 or so books I read a year to Bookstagram! Funky socks, tulle, and Beanie Babies—I love creating Instagram posts that promote my favorite books. Another way I support the authors I enjoy and their stories is through my bimonthly blog series called “Bite-Size Book Reviews,” which also supports gastroparesis awareness, a rare and serious digestive disease that I struggle with. I also have a variety of crafts that I like doing, from creating duct tape rose pens to storm cloud hats and storm cloud squishies. These are all related to my novel Legend of the Storm Sneezer, and I sell some of them at book signings and Comic Con events, which are more ways I like to spend my free time.

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) I’ve been seriously writing for 10 years now, but I started writing for fun (fanfiction) when I was 8 or 9.

Q) Why do you write?

A) I write because I fell in love with the beauty of creating and how it helps me process everything that is going on in my life. I love putting words and characters to my passions and convictions. Somehow fiction makes them more real to me.

Q) What is your favorite genre?

A) My favorite genre to read is fantasy. But not just any fantasy. Fantasy that pops with humor and banter like Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant. Fantasy that is shivering with spooks like Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. Fantasy that tries daring new storytelling formats like James Riley’s Story Thieves. Fantasy that is driven by special relationships like Sophie and Monster in Sarah Beth Durst’s The Girl Who Could Not Dream. And if you mix all of these together? Well, you might just have a book like Legend of the Storm Sneezer.

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Passionate, funny, perfectionist.

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) Either Superchick’s “It’s On” or Children 18:3’s “Bravo.” The first is a powerful anthem to pressing on and the second is a poignant reminder to do my best for the only audience that matters: my heavenly Father. I’m easily discouraged sometimes, and music—Christian rock music, especially—has a way of giving me the perspective I need to get back up and try again.

Q) What inspired Legend of the Storm Sneezer

A) I started writing this book a decade ago, and the inspiration came in big and little things all along the way. I think it started with a love for thunderstorms, but the sneezing and Stormy didn’t come till years later. I get that question a lot: “How did you come up with sneezing a magical storm cloud?” And the truth? Not a clue. It just came to me one day, as most of my ideas do. When I’m coming up with story ideas, I’ll often ask myself, “What’s the most random, creative thing I can do in this situation?” And then I run with it.

Q) Rose was such an energetic and refreshing character to read! If Rose was to describe herself, what would she say? What about if Marek was to describe Rose?  

A) Rose would describe herself as a loveable, formidable goofball with a penchant for bringing out the best in the worst. Marek would describe Rose as a girl after his own heart, full of compassion, faith, and good humor.  

Q) Can you give readers a hint to what they can expect in book 2? 

A) Readers can look forward to some fun Five Nights at Freddy’s vibes. I had a fantastic time playing with my childhood phobia of animatronics, and there are a couple seriously creeptacular automatons in this book. Also, get ready for all the Rose-and-Marek feels! These two are a joy to write, and their unshakable friendship kicks it up a notch in Legend of the Rainbow Eater!

Q)  Can you tell readers about your current WIP (Writing in Progress)? 

A) I am currently working on Book 3 of The Stormwatch Diaries, and it’s a doozy. There isn’t much to tell yet, but I will say that before writing each of my books, I try to set a challenge for myself, a way to stretch and grow as a writer. For this book, I decided my challenge would be writing dual POVs, something I’ve never done before. It’s been, well, a challenge! Rose is, of course, still the main character who takes up most of the narrating, but she is now teaching her good friend Sephone how to write in her and Marek’s special diary. These two girls are so opposite each other, and I think it makes for a really engaging story!

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) To make readers laugh. To inspire faith. To tell stories in a way that no one has ever read before.

Q)  You are an indie published author. Will you tell us a little about your experience?

A) I didn’t set out to be with an indie publisher, but now that I am, I’m grateful for all the perks that come with it, like a personal relationship with my publisher (the ladies at Monster Ivy Publishing are the sweetest!) and having so much say in the editing process and things like cover art. One of the best things about being with an indie publisher, I think, is how daring and creative they allow me to be with my stories. They aren’t concerned so much with appealing to the masses as they are serving their niche well. And for that, I am so happy to be an indie author.

Q) May I ask how your religion and your writing intersect? 

A) My faith and relationship with God are the most important things to me, and I knew going into my career as a writer that I wanted my stories to bring truth to life in the lives and relationships of my characters. I love exploring the questions I have through the voice of Rose, and Marek always seems to have the answers that God is whispering in my heart. When I was first coming up with their soul signias (magical powers), I wanted to take a different approach to the tired light vs. dark, sun vs. storm tropes. Because of the hard things I’ve experienced in my own life (more on that below) and knowing the beauty that God has brought out of those circumstances, I wanted my two main characters to have shadows and storms as their soul signias, even though those particular powers usually represent evil. To me, this symbolizes how God uses the hardest, most painful parts of our lives for our good and His glory. While I fully believe that both Christian and non-Christian readers can enjoy my books, my prayer is still to spark faith in my readers as they dive into the lives of two protagonists whose faith in each other fills the pages.

Q) Will you tell us a little about your own faith journey? 

A) Absolutely! I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents and siblings really modeled their faith to me through a lot of hard stuff my family went through—namely, a car accident that injured my mom and turned our world upside down. I was also very sick for most of my childhood and teenage years, going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out an unknown illness that was becoming progressively worse. There was so much fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and I really feel this was where my faith and my relationship with Jesus became real to me. I was finally diagnosed at age 18 with a very rare digestive disorder known as gastroparesis—a paralyzed stomach. I am now on a kind of tube nutrition that bypasses my digestive system completely, and I rely on God’s grace every day. This disease, which is one of the worst things in my life is also one of the best because, if I let the Holy Spirit have His way with me, it brings me close to my Savior through the struggle.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) I’ve answered this question multiple ways since becoming a published author, but I think I have my new and perhaps final answer: Don’t follow every bit of writing advice you hear. In fact, you can ignore this writing advice if you’d like, except by ignoring it you’ll be following it, and…did I mention I write paradoxes for a living? 😉

But seriously. Every writer is unique, and writing advice is not a “one size fits all.” Listen to the authors you respect and consider what they have to say. But in the end, only you can know what works for you. Don’t try to be something you’re not just because it works for someone else. You be you. The most important part of being an author in community is not our similarities but in the way we cheer each other on!

Q) Is there anything else you would like to add? 

A) Book 2 of The Stormwatch Diaries, Legend of the Rainbow Eater, is coming out August 3rd this year! It’s available for preorder on Amazon and almost anywhere books are sold. Feel free to reach out to me on my website, www.KristianasQuill.com, or on social media @KristianasQuill on Instagram and Twitter and @KristianasQuillBooks on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!

And thank you, Kayla, for having me on your wonderful blog. ❤

Be sure to follow Sfirlea on social media!

Remember to request copies of Sfirlea’s books at your local library, and if you want your own copy of Legend of the Storm Sneezer you can order it here. If you want your own copy of Legend of the Rainbow Eater you can pre-order it here.

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Book Review: Legend of the Storm Sneezer by Kristiana Sfirlea

I recently finished Legend of the Storm Sneezer, book one of The Stormwatch Diaries by Kristiana Sfirlea and there is a reason this is an award winning book! Published by Monster Ivy (I have now determined I must read their entire catalog),this middle grade fantasy was easily a 5-star read from me. I firmly believe this book can ignite a passion for reading in even the most reluctant young reader with its high energy, unique and excellent world building, and creative cast of characters.

Professional legend seeker, part-time ghost hunter, and time traveler – Rose Skylar has big goals for her future. But she’s destined to follow in her father’s footsteps and train to become the next Dame Commander of Chunter Woods. Yet, there’s a small problem. Rose sneezed out a magical storm cloud at birth, Stormy, who has followed her around ever since – the two have been involved in too many disasters, and on Rose’s 13th birthday, she is taken away to an asylum for angels with unstable magic.

The asylum – Heartstone Asylum to be exact – has many secrets that Rose is itching to uncover. What caused the trees in the forest to turn to stone? Why are ghosts that are supposedly bound to the forest drifting outside the windows? Better yet, why aren’t the ghosts allowed into the graveyard (ghosts in graveyards make sense, doesn’t it)? And what was with that giant snake being brought through the window on her first night at Heartstone?

Armed with her best friend and guardian angel, Marek, a goggle-wearing Sonorific Husky pup named Beta, knowledge of Blackout’s Tales (a book about legends), and notes from her future selves, Rose must save Heartstone and everyone there – after all, everyone deserves to be saved, right?

Y’all, this book has my heart! Rose was such a joy to read about – her soul so pure. Sfirlea did an amazing job building Rose’s character and building suspense as the story progressed – I constantly wanted to find out what happened next AND now I CANNOT wait for book two to be released later this year!

Themes of sacrifice, friendship, found families, second chances, the power of prayer, and believing in one’s self fill the pages. Not only will young readers discover a love for reading through Legend of the Storm Sneezer, but they will walk away deep in thought about these important themes. Even older readers can appreciate Sfirlea’s delightfully quirky writing through Rose’s narration and the story that unfolds (And if you are prone to crying, get the tissues ready BUT be ready to laugh out loud as well).

I cannot recommend this book enough to lovers of middle grade fantasy, and fantasy in general. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would!

Photo by @theunicornwriter93.

Order your copy of Legend of the Storm Sneezer here!

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Author Interview: Laura L. Zimmerman

Last week I reviewed Keen by Laura L. Zimmerman, and this week I have the pleasure to interview her! In addition to being a talented writer, Zimmerman is a full-time mom and home educator to her youngest child located in North Carolina. Some fun facts about Zimmerman are that she has no self-control when it comes to buying books and she is always learning something new! Read our full interview below to learn more!

Laura L. Zimmerman

Q)  What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

A) Other than reading and writing (tee-hee), I’m learning to crochet and knit, and I take ASL classes. You can usually find me watching a movie with my daughters or hanging at the coffee shop.

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) My first book I wrote was around age seven, and I used my Fashion Plates art kit to make the illustrations for “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Throughout school I continued to write short stories but always looked at it as just a hobby. It wasn’t until after I had my third child that my husband encouraged me to “do something” with the books I write. I never imagined this would become my career!

Q) Why do you write?

A) I come from a family of storytellers. There’s never been a time when I haven’t been dreaming up a story or telling others about the ideas I have. I write to stay sane. It’s not only a way for me to let my creativity flow, but it’s also a form of therapy for me. Every time I finish writing a novel, I see my brain working out things that I’ve been dealing with and coming to a point of healing.

Q) What are your top three favorite books and why?

A) My favorite books are To Kill A Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice. Two completely different novels, but they appeal to different parts of my personality! I enjoy the old school romance and snark of Pride and Prejudice, but I’m also drawn to the growth of innocence and the subject of injustice within the pages of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Eccentric, loyal, adventurous

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) (Only one?! Eep! Lol.) It depends on my mood. “Footloose” for when I want to dance and I’m in a goofy mood. “A Million Dreams” inspires me and makes me happy. And “Let it Be” reflects a meditative mood for when I just need to be still.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) A lot of others in the bookstagram community on Instagram. I’ve enjoyed getting to know authentic women who share their struggles and support those around them. To be accepted for who I am and know there are others who will have my back is an amazing support. Some of my closest friends come from bookstagram!

Q) What inspired Keen? 

A) This was a mixture of both of my teenagers. The idea for the story came from my middle daughter, because she was watching Teen Wolf at the time, which is where I came up with writing about a teenage banshee. Caoine herself is based on my oldest daughter’s personality.

Q) I’ve never discovered a book about a banshee before. What reading and/or lore helped you write your story about Caoine?

A) I researched a number of books and online sources regarding faeries and banshees. Each culture has varied lore about faeries so I decided to combine a few different basic myths to create my own fantasy world. In some cultures banshees are considered faeries and in others they aren’t. But I liked the idea of including faeries and having the Unseelie and Seelie Realms open for exploration in my books.

Q) Can you give readers a hint to what they can expect in Lament, book 2 of the Banshee Song Series?

A) Yes! Keen takes place in the Mortal Realm in a high school. Lament takes the reader on a journey into the Unseelie Realm where they’ll get to meet a variety of colorful characters! While Caoine makes this journey on her own, she makes new friends (and enemies) that will return for book three in the series, Silence!

Q)  Can you tell readers about your current WIP (Writing in Progress)?

A) Aside from revising Silence, I’m also working on a middle grade mystery book that I hope to release in late fall. And I’m revising a young adult historical fantasy that takes place in 19th century Germany about a boy with no memory that stumbles into the town of Nuremberg. 

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) My goal is to write what is on my heart. Like I said, it’s a form of therapy for me. If others read my books and enjoy them, then I’m even happier! I also hope to inspire young people to love themselves for how God made them, and to know that they can make a difference in this world. 

Q)  You are an indie published author. Will you tell us a little about your experience?

A) I’m published through L2L2 Publishing, which is a small indie press. I’ve loved this experience because the press is small enough that I’m very much involved in picking the cover and the editing process of the manuscript, which isn’t always the case with a bigger publisher. And it’s been nice having a publisher to help guide me through the process of releasing a book, especially when I didn’t know what to expect! For my middle grade series, I’ll be self-publishing that myself this fall. So far I’m enjoying the process of having total control and being able to choose who I want to work with creatively on this project. And I love that I can set my own timeframe for deadlines!

Q) May I ask how your religion and your writing intersect?

A) I’m a Christian, which heavily influences what I write. Although I don’t write traditional Christian stories that revolve around God, His thumbprint will always be in my work, because it’s already on my heart. Most themes that appear in my books are biblical but also include the struggles we face in our current world. I don’t do this on purpose, but my Christian perspective always bleeds through into my writing. I especially love using the creativity God gave me to write fantasy and sci-fi. Our God is a creative God who made a beautiful world and I’m overjoyed that He gave us that same creativity when it comes to our passions!

Q) Will you tell us a little about your own faith journey?

A) Although I grew up in church, I didn’t have a solid Christian influence in my life until I was 11 years old. My Sunday School teacher really encouraged me on my journey to know Jesus. My faith only grew stronger throughout high school and college. I met my husband in YWAM (Youth With A Mission), a missionary organization that I was part of for 2 1/2 years in my early twenties. Since that time we’ve attended churches of many different denominations, from large churches to house churches. We’ve settled in a small non-denominational church for now but are always open to a new adventure from God! 

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) Don’t stop writing! We all hit writing slumps and can get down at times (especially when it comes to rejections!) But do your best to stop the comparison game and focus on the “why” of your writing. You’ll have good days and bad days, but in the end, your writing is yours. Nobody can take that away from you.

Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?

A) Only to say thank you for having me on your blog today! I’d love to answer any questions any of your readers might have. Feel free to drop me a line!

You can always request Keen and Lament from your local library, or you can order Keen here and Lament here!

Be sure to follow Zimmerman on social media:

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Book Review: Keen by Laura L. Zimmerman

“…My destiny is what I make it.” – Keen, Laura L. Zimmerman

If you are looking for a captivating YA contemporary fantasy, then look no further than the Banshee Song Series by Laura L. Zimmerman (published by L2L2 Publishing)! Book 1, Keen, follows Caoine (pronounced like sugar cane) in her last year of high school. But Caoine is different than her peers; she is half-faerie.

Caoine is a banshee. Cursed at birth (or was she gifted?) she sings a song predicting death. To protect her true identity, she and her father move around often. She has never had any friends due to her unique appearance, and so she has gotten used to being alone. Upon landing in a new town once again and becoming a student at West Lincoln High School, things begin to change for Caoine as she actually meets people who want to befriend her AND she meets Oliver and develops her first crush. But can she let anyone get close to her and risk revealing who she is – what she does? While trying to navigate high school, she learns she is being stalked by an evil faerie – the Unseelie Prince who has a sinister plan. Will Caoine be able to discover his true identity and save those she loves – can a banshee, a harbinger of death, save a life?

The first-person prose had me hooked from chapter one. The tension is palatable and I really connected with Caoine and her insecurities. I loved the genuine love between Caoine and Oliver, the strained yet solid relationship between Caoine and her father, and the addition of the typical mean girl made me feel I was back in high school myself. Though I wish she hadn’t been the editor of the paper (I was the editor of my school paper back in the day, LOL). Themes of self-discovery, life being what you make it, and family love and sacrifice were the cherry on top of this wonderful YA book.

Overall, I give this book 4/5 stars. The only reason I am unable to give this book a full five stars is because of what happened to my favorite character – I can say nothing more without potential spoilers. Any reader who enjoys fantasy books with a real-life twist, and anyone who is looking for a unique book (I mean, this is the first book I’ve found about a banshee!), will fall in love with Zimmerman’s world. 10/10 would recommend.

Order your copy of Keen here today!

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Book Review: Starganauts by C. E. Stone

Happy Book Birthday to Starganauts by C. E. Stone!

Star Trek meets the Power Rangers is how I would describe the debut novel of author C. E. Stone. Starganauts, a Christian space opera novel, is a book lovers of science fiction are sure to enjoy!

Book Blurb: The end of Earth was their beginning. When an alien gunship shatters their lives forever, a prophetess and a newlywed are hurled to a distant galaxy. Crash-landing on an alien world, they face a dwindling water supply and pursuit by the master of the gunship. Yet the discovery of eight mysterious orbs may prove their salvation. It could also change the destiny of galaxies.

First, this book is action-packed right from the beginning. And once those mysterious orbs are discovered, I literally had to sit up I was so enthralled! The characters and character development were well executed, but what I loved even more were the themes woven throughout the novel. Specific lessons of trusting God even in times of darkness, relying on your spouse and turning to God together, and how greatest growth often comes from difficult or challenging times. In addition, one is reminded of the need to listen to God and use God-given talents to glorify the Creator, and one is reminded of the freedom and salvation that rests in the name of Jesus.

Some of my favorite quotes that connect to the themes of Starganauts are as follows:

  • “Fantasy can give us hope when the real world seems dismal.”
  • “But when God gives you a gift and tells you to use it, only the faithless walk away.”
  • “Sometimes, healing carries a cost. But if we endure, the bliss we experience afterwards far outweighs it.”
  • “As a pot had no right telling the potter how to shape it, so she must submit to God’s role in shaping her life.”
  • “We’re weighed down heavily by our sins, yet in an instant, Jesus lifts them from our shoulders. We are free from their bondage, and it is a wonderful feeling indeed.” 

There were some parts of the book where I felt there was more telling than showing (ie. a paragraph references a fight between Sharko and Kaity; when the survivors test out the mysterious orbs). However, there is still a LOT of showing and action in the book.

I will admit that I struggled with the beginning of the book – but more for personal reasons than anything with the writing. The decimation of Earth, for some reason, made me think of the Left Behind book series (which caused me great anxiety as a child). However, Stone’s writing quickly reminded me that God has a purpose in all things – this book is a great story of faith, hope, and perseverance.

Overall, I give Starganauts a 4.5/5 star rating. I highly recommend it to adult readers of science fiction, lovers of space operas, and fans of Christian fiction. It is clean so young adult readers may enjoy this book as well.

Instagram photo by @theunicornwriter93.

Be sure to order your copy of Starganauts TODAY here! And follow C. E. Stone on Instagram, and check out her website. Also, get a FREE book from C. E. stone by visiting here.

*I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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Author Interview: C. E. Stone

Next Saturday, June 19, is the day – it is the release of the highly anticipated Christian space opera Starganauts by C. E. Stone!

Book Blurb:

Kaity Anderson was a new bride on her wedding day. Samantha Harris was an engineer who had given up all to follow God. 

Kaity’s reception is ruined when an alien gunship incinerates the surface of Earth. Rescued from the apocalypse by a strange prophetess, Kaity, her husband, and five others are drawn across the galaxy. While the prophetess promises God has a plan, Kaity grows increasingly desperate as their chances of survival—and water supply—dwindle.

Samantha didn’t ask to be God’s prophetess. Yet once she answers the call, the Spirit leads her to an inhospitable world with Kaity and several of Earth’s survivors. Hounded by the master of the gunship, the Earthlings search for water as their alien pursuers and dehydration close in. Only God’s promise of a future in a distant city gives Samantha any hope of survival. But could the answer to all their problems lie in eight, mysterious orbs? The discovery of these crystals will change their lives—and the destiny of galaxies—forever.

Thus begins Starganauts, a clean, compelling Christian space opera adventure by C.E. Stone. Fans of Star Wars and Star Trek will enjoy this series that explores how God’s plan prevails, even against impossible odds. 


To celebrate the countdown of this epic release, I had the privilege of interviewing C. E. Stone. In addition to being a wonderful writer, Stone is a self-employed private tutor. Stone lives in California with her husband. Though she rarely has free time, she does enjoy editing, web design, and sketching – she’s also always up for a long conversation. A fun fact about Stone is that her husband was the first person to ever publish her work! Back when they were just friends, he published one of her short stories in his homeschool group’s creative newsletter. Stone says, “He was one the first and biggest fans of my stories, and it’s a fun aspect of being married to him. He’s also more than happy to be my science editor.” Read our full interview below to learn more about Stone and her writing!

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) Since I was 10. My friends got me into this book series called Redwall, by Brian Jacques, and it inspired me to write medieval fantasy stories about goblins. Later, I wrote a sort of fantasy with aliens, and that led to “The Sorcerer’s Realm,” my first space opera. It was also my first explicitly Christian story.

Q) Why do you write?

A) It is a natural extension of who I am. Stories have always poured out of me, so it made sense when I began putting them on paper. I also write to glorify God and edify believers. More details on that later!

Q) What are your top three favorite books and why?

A) Fellowship of the Ring, The Silver Chair, and Beyond the Summerland by L.B. Graham. The Fellowship of the Ring was the first book by Tolkien that I loved. The locations, quest story, depth, and characters opened my mind to the scope of epic fantasy, influencing my sci-fi worldbuilding. The Silver Chair is second because I identify so much with Jill and feel like the other characters are very relatable. Puddleglum is the best! Also, as a reader with aphantasia, I struggle to see anything that I’m reading. For whatever reason, I can visualize almost all of the Silver Chair vividly.

Beyond the Summerland has a special place in my heart. I spent most of my early writing years absolutely discouraged and feeling like I couldn’t write. A friend had just told me my characters were super flat, and I was about to give up when my mom found “Beyond the Summerland” in a Christian bookstore. It had a sword-wielding woman on the cover. She knew that was my kind of book, and she was right. I absolutely devoured it, and it reignited my passion for writing. Graham is a master at character development, and I learned how to craft more dynamic characters by reading his works.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) Several people inspire me. One is my adopted grandma Audrey. I recently lost her to cancer, but she was a delightful, godly, and super sweet lady. Audrey took me on as her granddaughter because I’d lost all of my own grandparents and she didn’t have any biological children. She inspired me to make the most of every day God gives me, and that includes writing for Him.

Other people who inspire me are my dad and my best friend. My dad’s courage taught me to face my fears and overcome them, while his faith has been an example. My best friend M.H. Elrich inspires me because she’s so much bolder than I am and we’re both authors. She encourages me when the going gets rough and when my timidity is holding me back.

Q) What inspired Starganauts?

A) The desire to play out my own sci-fi TV show with Legos. I grew up watching Star Trek, the Star Wars movies, and playing the video games. Starcraft, a movie called Titan A.E., and many other sci-fi franchises influenced this as well. Starganauts began as Lego play, though I feel like God took it and shaped it into something greater.

Q) What do you hope readers take away from your book?

A) For Christians, that God is at work even in the most painful situations. Starganauts is very much about suffering, hope, and finding a new purpose in Jesus…even when the life you knew falls apart. For non-Christians or those on the fence, I hope my book serves to get them thinking about faith, Eternity, and salvation.

Q)  Are you willing to tell us about your personal faith journey?

A) Sure! I grew up in a Christian home and prayed the prayer to accept Jesus when I was 7. But I don’t think I understood what that meant. I fell into a sin when I was 12, and realized I wasn’t sure I really believed in Jesus. I also lost a biological grandma at this time and we didn’t know whether she was a believer. In addition, the Left Behind Series was popular and the thought of the Rapture terrified me. These things led me to my knees. I read Revelation in one sitting and prayed the prayer to truly accept Jesus. My life turned around and I was on fire for Him. Five years later, God called me to write faith-filled stories.

Q) Does your faith influence your writing? If so, how does your faith align with Starganauts?

A) ABSOLUTELY!!! Starganauts is about real people facing real issues in a fictional setting. Most of the team are Christians or those who think they are. I interweave things God has taught me or issues I’ve been studying about in the Bible. Sunday sermons, musical worship, or the Spirit’s leading often inspire my plot points. There’s a great scene where a non-believer has an encounter with God, and that was 100% unplanned and Holy Spirit-inspired.

My faith aligns with Starganauts in that I try to write about the Lord Scripturally. I seek to avoid denominational issues, instead presenting the Biblical Jesus and imagining how He might work in a fictional/alternate galaxy with aliens He created. I personally don’t believe aliens exist. But that’s the beauty of fiction, isn’t it? You can let your imagination run wild while still presenting Jesus as the Savior of the Universe. Even if that universe might include a few dozen aliens who, like us, are also in need of salvation.

Q) You are an indie published author – can you tell readers about your experience?

A) It’s been crazy but, honestly, kind of nice. Traditional publishing always scared the heck out of me. I tend to feel very nervous when experts or authorities look over my work, and I hate promoting myself. Indie publishing has been freeing in that I’m able to be my own boss, work at my own pace, and not worry about rejections. I’ve also had a very unusual experience, which resulted in me being given a publishing budget and having a marketer for free. More on that below.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) Invite God into your creative process. Pray about your stories. Follow His leading, whether He wants you to write explicitly Christian stories or general market. Don’t let others pressure you. Also, find a writer’s group that will be both honest and encouraging. I struggled mightily with confidence for 15 years. It wasn’t until M.H. Elrich and I formed our own writing group that I ran into others authors, and finally learned that yes, I can write. My stories weren’t the worthless trash I had believed them to be.

Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?

A) Up until a year ago, I was planning to be a traditional author. Lol! The more I researched, the more I realized that I would need to do massive amounts of work either way. God led me to publish independently, and my authorly journey is almost as crazy as the Starganauts’! Lack of confidence has been my Achille’s Heel all my life. I prayed years ago about publishing and, at the time, I told God, “Lord, you’d better send me a miracle, because that’s what it will take to get timid, scared, un-confident me to publish!”

Three years later, I felt God nudging me to edit Starganauts because “it was time.” Despite having no budget, no publishing plan, being insanely busy, and loathing marketing, I did so. Within 10 months, I had a fully-edited manuscript. A relative gifted me with my entire publishing budget, and M.H. excitedly agreed to be my marketer in exchange for editing. God worked that miracle, so now, I’m publishing! Nothing is too impossible for Him. That’s the message of Starganauts and, ultimately, of my own journey.

Starganauts will be released NEXT SATURDAY (I’ll share my full review then, too)! Preorder your copy today using the link here. Also, be sure to follow C. E. Stone on Instagram and Goodreads, and check out her website.

Bookish Shop Feature: Muggin & Co.

So today I’m not just featuring a bookish shop but a shop that loves connecting with pet lovers! Muggin & Co. is a small business that specializes in drinkware. Monica, the face behind Muggin & Co., creates beautiful designs and she accepts custom orders. Monica can be described as ambitious, calm, and friendly. When she’s not working on Muggin’ & Co., she likes to spend time outdoors, adventure seeking with her pups, and spending time with her son and husband. Read our interview below to learn more about this fun pet-friendly business!

Q) What inspired you to create Muggin & Co?

A) I enjoy the creativity of mug making. I had been making mugs for friends and family for fun when I decided to open my shop.

Q) How long has Muggin & Co been in operation?

A) March 2018

Q) What goals do you have for your small business?

A) Connect with other per lovers and bring a smile to someone’s face with the custom designs. 

Q) Do you have a personal favorite mug/cup you have designed?

A) I thoroughly enjoy the custom photo orders and the color changing mugs.

Q) What would you say are some of your biggest achievements?

A) Starting the shop was a big step since I do this part time and have a full time ‘real’ job. It has been so fun connecting with others through the shop and seeing how they use their mugs. 

Q) What are your top three favorite reads right now?

A) I’m a new mom so reading is non existent at this time. I enjoy both fiction and non fiction. 

Q) Do you have any new designs you are working on?

A) Not currently, but hoping to design some more soon. 

Q) What is the most rewarding thing about running your own small business?

A) The flexibility and connecting with others. 

Q) What advice would you give someone who wants to open their own small business?

A) Just do it- not a Nike ad! Take the leap and enjoy the process of it all!

Be sure to check out Muggin & Co. here – use the code UNICORN15 to save on your order!

Book Review: The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson is described as a “realistic, fast-paced reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale….” Though there is a “true love’s kiss,” I wouldn’t describe the book as such – the parallel to Sleeping Beauty is such a miniscule portion of the book. However, it is a delightful (and clean) historical romance that both YA and adult readers will enjoy.

Set in the 14th century, Rose is the new apprentice of the healer Frau Geruscha at Hagenheim Castle, a wonderful and rare opportunity for someone of Rose’s class. Being the healer’s apprentice opens a new door for Rose as opposed to marrying a man of her parents’ choosing. While serving as apprentice, Lord Wilhelm Hamlin, the future duke, comes in after a hunting accident. Rose is the one who treats Lord Hamlin’s injury, and Rose begins to fall for the young and handsome lord. However, Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a young maiden in hiding from an evil conjurer who has threatened her for years – Rose can’t fall in love with Lord Hamlin. But unbeknownst to Rose, Lord Hamlin has feelings for her; yet, he tries to fight them in order to fulfill his responsibilities. Lord Hamlin tries to convince Rose, and himself, that his brother would be a good match for her in part because marrying Rupert would raise Rose’s social standing and ensure she will always be provided for. While Rupert attempts to woo Rose, she finds herself greatly conflicted.

The love story is inevitable, but there are many obstacles and setbacks for the young couple to be. There were parts in the book that seemed to be filler – such as the plot of Hildi and Gunther who just sort of disappear after a certain point. And then there’s the man that stalks Rose after she rejects his proposal – he accosts her three times. The second time he sprinkles powder on her head, but nothing happens – why tell us about the powder and the odd incantation he said if it doesn’t do anything? Maybe it was just meant to be a clue to the man’s identity, but I was a bit disappointed here.

Despite this, I absolutely adore Rose and her journey to discover who she is. I love her devotion to God, and even when she falters in judgement, she turns back to God for guidance. The entire story is a reminder that God is in control, that God knows what is best, and that the name of Jesus is powerful. Readers of Christian fiction as well as clean historical romance will enjoy this book.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5/5 stars. I plan to read more works by Melanie Dickerson in the future.

Image from Amazon.

Order your copy of The Healer’s Apprentice here.