Cover Reveal: Finding God in Anime

I’m so excited to join in the #coverreveal and #bookrelease of Finding God in Anime: A Devotional for Otakus! It is NOW free to download on a variety of book retailer sites including Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. 

“Finally, otaku have a devotional to call their own, one that’s centered on scripture and as diverse thematically as it is with the anime it discusses . . .” – Twwk, Founder of Beneath the Tangles

Blurb:

Being a Christian can be tough. Being an otaku can be tough. But being both at once?

Sometimes it seems easier to become Hokage rather than explaining your faith and passions to others. That is why we otaku have united in this devotional: To encourage otaku like you spiritually and through a medium we all cherish.

In this devotional, you will find God in the animes you know and love. Each devotional presents spiritual lessons found in animes ranging from the world-famous Attack on Titan to fan-favorite Haikyu!! to beloved classics like Cowboy Bebop. Each piece will feature a different theme such as:

  • Human Will vs. The Holy Spirit in Yona of the Dawn
  • Choosing to be Free in Free! Swim Club
  • Not by My Might in My Hero Academia

…and many others! We believe that God can be seen throughout His creation—even in places where people might not intend! So pull out your cosplay and snuggle close with your plushies as you join us in Finding God in Anime.

Amazon Link is here!

Find it on other book retailers here!

I can’t wait to read this and share my review with you! What is your favorite anime? Tell me in the comments!

Author Interview: Ellen McGinty

Last week I shared my review of the wonderful The Water Child, and this week I get to share an interview with the author! Ellen McGinty is a mother, a homemaker, a writer, a curious nomad, and a pastor’s wife. She resides in Japan. When asked what her favorite thing about living in Japan is, she responded, “Ah, a single favorite thing!? If I had to pick one it would be onsen. There is something truly beautiful and unique about traditional public baths in Japan. I think every single book I write will have at least one onsen scene! But I also love the importance of season in Japan, riding my handy ‘dendo assist’ bicycle, the slow nature of friendships and the history of this island. And if I’m completely trivial I think gatchapon are pretty fun!” In her free time she enjoys hiking, reading outside, and exploring coffee shops. An interesting fact about McGinty is that she survived being struck by lightning at a firework festival! Continue reading below to learn more about McGinty and her writing.

Author Ellen McGinty.

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) I wrote my first picture book in kindergarten and tried to sell it in lieu of the traditional lemonade stand! But serious writing started after college.

Q) Why do you write?

A) I’ve always loved story. As a child I digested all the books I could get my
hands on and spent my spare time dreaming of new stories. Later I discovered that the stories I liked best were about redemption and transformation. I often get dreams or characters stuck in my mind that turn into stories and I just have to write them!

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

A) Books that have irrevocably inspired me:

  • Les Misérables: themes and incredible characters
  • Bleak House: gorgeous prose and family mystery
  • Shiokari Pass: beautiful story of redemption and priceless writing by an author who wrote through hardship.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) My grandfather. Growing up I thought he was a real life Indiana Jones and I wasn’t far off. He inspired me to live my dreams and always explore.

Q) What inspired The Water Child

A) A dream. A little girl and her mother walked through an old shrine on the mountainside. Water trickled in, tugging at their ankles. But the mother didn’t notice. As the water rose, the girl cried out for her mother to lift her from the water and save her. But the mother waded to the shrine altar, deaf to the daughter’s cries. The little girl refused to give up and swam after her mother until she drowned. I had no idea the tsunami had occurred until I trudged into the office that morning. At that time, my in-laws lived in Japan and I immediately had flashbacks to 9/11 when my father was in the Pentagon and I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. Phones stopped working. We waited, not knowing. To this day, I can still taste the dust in the air from the plane crash. It looked like snow. Were my in-laws alive? What could I do? I started writing some of the stories they told me, also things I’d experienced in Japan when I visited the previous year (like the first train scene in the book). Eventually I decided to turn that dream about the tsunami into a book.

Q) In the author’s note you say, “I hope this story is a way for you to listen.” Listening is
important for healing – how else can people help others? Are there still ways to contribute to the healing from the 2011 earthquake?  

A) Absolutely! Right now due to covid it’s difficult to travel, but supporting the tourism industry in Tohoku is a big step forward for the areas recovery. If you have a chance to visit Japan please make a stop in Tohoku! There are also businesses to support that directly impact the community such as Nozomi Project . Another way to help is to share the story, whether it’s a book like The Water Child or another book that educates the next generation about what happened on 3/11. You can also request books about 3/11 in your local library!

Q) Courage is a huge theme in your book. Was this something you planned to incorporate in the story or did it unfold as the story was written? 

A) I think it unfolded as I wrote, but it was also present in that very first dream I had about Tora. This girl searching for her mom, unmoved by the water pressing against her and the debris. Courage is single-focused like that, it moves toward its goal regardless of the obstacles. Even when you can’t feel, courage tells you to move forward, to not give up.

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

A) It’s a YA fantasy blend of Les Misérables and Demon Slayer about two sisters escaping an arctic prison only to find the outside world far more dangerous than they’d imagined. It’s still in the works but I absolutely love this world and the main characters!

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) I’d love to finish my WIP (which will most likely be a trilogy) and I have two other standalone projects begging to be written (one of them inspired by the lightning strike I survived). I’m a fairly slow writer so I think it’s a rather big goal for me! One reason I write slowly is that I have health issues that can be unpredictable and I’m
passionate about cheering on other authors who wrestle with time management and health. There are a lot of great authors in similar shoes and it’s encouraging to hear their stories of dealing with autoimmune illness, mental health, or whatever it may be while maintaining a writing career. But if no one speaks out about it, those stories will be buried. I think this is something the writing community is getting better about.

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

A) I set out to traditionally publish The Water Child, had a spectacular critique group, won several pitch contests, and found an agent. And although there was a lot of interest in my first book, it didn’t sell and I moved on to write something else. But The Water Child stuck with me as I book I wanted out in the world. When my mother had stage four cancer last year, I decided it was time to self-publish. I’m so grateful for a supportive writing community, literary agent, and the many people who helped me make this dream a reality. I worked really hard over the span of a few short months while taking care of my mom and The Water Child was born! Through this whole process, I learned that many traditionally published authors are actually hybrid authors with books in both markets. I also made new indie author friends and found more freedom in my writing.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) Find your writing tribe! Nothing can replace good writing friends who will critique pages, encourage, speak truth, and challenge you to keep going.

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

A) Thank you so much for having me!

Order your copy of The Water Child here! Also, be sure to follow Ellen McGinty on Instagram and Twitter, and checkout her website.

Book Review: The Water Child by Ellen McGinty

Every once and a while, you read a book that haunts you – that stays with you long after you turn the final page. Though I have read and enjoyed several books thus far this year, The Water Child by Ellen McGinty is the first book this year that has invaded my heart and left a clear mark on my soul. Touching on themes of family, courage, humanity, tragedy, and survival, this book has left me deep in thought about my life and the world at large – and has made me want to visit my mother, and hug her tight and never let go.

The Water Child is a work of historical fiction, following the life of the fictitious Tora Hayashi during and after the very real 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tora has always loved the water – she’s always been drawn to it. Her lifelong dream is to become a pearl diver, but her mother has barred her from diving. The strenuous mother-daughter relationship only grows more tense as Tora’s mother vanishes from their Tokyo home. Tora recruits her best friend and the two return to Tora’s coastal hometown in search of her mother. Here, Tora uncovers a horrible truth about her past that explains the distance between she and her mother. However, before there is any closure, any healing, the earthquake hits. Tora must now survive and help those she love survive the sea she loves – a sea that does not care about the damage it does or the lives it takes.

McGinty states in the Author’s Note, “So often humanity has a tendency to forget about disasters that don’t touch home for us – and understandably there are so many disasters all around the world. But there is healing found when we acknowledge another’s pain, when we touch it and then do something to help – even if that something is to only listen. I hope this story is a way for you to listen.”

My heart hurts – not just for fictional Tora and what she went through, but for the real people of Japan that are still trying to heal from the 2011 earthquake. I want to strive to be more aware of the world around me, and I want to do more to help people – I want to listen to their stories and do what I can to help them heal…

People are courageous – and some of my favorite quotes from the book deal with courage. Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

  • “That pearl began as a painful shard. But the abalone wrapped it with color, cradled it with smooth nacre, kneaded it into something beautiful.”
  • “It takes courage to be happy when life is not.”
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s taking one step forward in the midst of it.”
  • “I’m in the drowning stage. No matter how many times I tell myself I’m out of the flood, I know I am still drowning. It doesn’t matter that I’m breathing or feel the warmth of a kiss. It’s not my time yet. And I think I’m okay with that. It’s a part of life and I don’t need to run from it. The better parts will come; knowing that helps me.”

The last quote speaks to my soul, especially. I’ve felt like I’ve been drowning for quite some time, but I don’t need to run from it – it’s part of life and better things have yet to come. It reminds me of the Bible verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11

If you aren’t turned off by books that will leave you in a puddle of your own tears, then I suggest The Water Child. The raw emotion that emanates from McGinty’s poetic prose will leave you deep in thought and searching for ways to make the world better. The Water Child is easily a 5-star read for me.

Order your copy of The Water Child here!

Author Interview: V. Romas Burton

Last week I shared my review of the amazing YA fantasy, Heartmender. This week I have the honor of sharing an interview with the author of Heartmender, V. Romas Burton! And don’t just take my word that Heartmender is a must read – look at all the accolades Burton has won so far:

  • First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards
  • Tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards
  • Finalist in the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards

Besides being a wonderful award-winning author, Burton is a stay-at-home mom to a toddler and another little on the way. She and her family have lived multiple places where her husband is in the Air Force, but they consider Virginia their home. In her free time, Burton enjoys reading, writing, and watching cake making and decorating on YouTube. A fun fact about Burton is that her original career choice was to be a lawyer. Her bachelor’s degree was in Government with specialization in Politics and Policy. But instead of attending law school, she attended seminary and earned a master’s degree in Theological Studies. To learn more about Burton and her writing, read our full interview below!

Author V. R. Burton

Q)   How long have you been writing?

A) I have been writing for pleasure for about seven years. But I had to do A LOT of writing while in college!

Q)   Why do you write?

A) I originally started writing as a way to navigate through a difficult time in my life. It was a relaxing outlet that helped me find myself and what I wanted to do with my life.

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

A)   1) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – I’ve read Little Women as a child, teenager, and an adult and have learned something new each time. It’s a timeless classic that’s inspirational for any stage of life. 2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites because I never get tired of the story. I will always love Elizabeth’s courage to speak her mind and Mr. Darcy’s harsh, yet usually, correct assumption of others. 3) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – This is technically a series, but TLC is the series that reignited my love for reading after I was burned out on college textbooks. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) My mom! She was the first person to instill a love of reading in me at a young age and has constantly encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

Q) What inspired Heartmender? 

A) I fell in love with YA Fantasy, but I didn’t enjoy the sex and language added to them. I wanted to write a story that was an epic adventure, but also promoted strong morals.

One week, I heard a sermon where the pastor asked his congregation if they believed that God gave humans ideas, but we brushed them away, thinking we couldn’t achieve them. That thought stuck with me and a few days later, a scene from Heartmender came to me. I quickly wrote it down and thought I’d come back to it (I was working on a different book at the time). But the story of Heartmender kept calling to me, so I eventually stopped with the first book and dove into Heartmender.

Q) I love that Addie is pure of heart and determined, but she also has human moments and makes mistakes on her journey. How did you create the character of Addie? 

A) I wrote Addie when I was struggling in my own life. Her fears and weaknesses were all things I thought and struggled with at one time in my own life.

Q) What led you to create doors that led entrants to face a Choice (or one of the Seven Deadly sins)? 

A) I always pictured different choices as doors. This is partly due to Matthew 7:7-8, which states, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

As we grow in life, the answers aren’t always so black and white. In some Choices, Addie immediately knows what to do, in others, she doesn’t. I wanted to create a realistic main character who didn’t always get it right the first time but kept knocking on doors to find the right path.

Q)  Can you give readers a preview of what to expect in the next book?

A) In Heartbreaker, we see a lot more action, a lot more of Decim, and a lot more of Silas. ❤

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) I would like to continue to produce exciting, adventurous stories that promote Biblical values and don’t compromise on morals to entice readers.

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

A) Of course! My parents are the first Christians on both sides of our family, so we learned a lot together as my sisters and I grew up. I accepted Christ at a young age, but my faith wasn’t really tested until my teen years. At 14, I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to ministry. From there, I did my best to live a Godly life through high school, though I wasn’t always perfect. I went to a Christian university and learned many life lessons while there. Though many of them more painful than others, I’m now thankful for how they brought me closer to God.

Q) Can you explain how your religion influences your writing?

A) My faith is a part of who I am, I can’t separate from it. When I started writing, I vowed to glorify God in everything I wrote. If I couldn’t teach others about Christ and His Word through my writing, then what was the point? I’ve really enjoyed hearing from my readers about how much they enjoyed the different Biblical themes woven throughout my stories.

Q) What is your favorite Bible verse? 

A) Proverbs 31: 8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) Write about what’s important to you. Your natural passion and love for the subject will shine through your words and make your story come alive.

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

A) Thank you so much for having me on your blog! The epic conclusion to the Heartmender trilogy releases this September, so be sure to read Heartmender and Heartbreaker before then to find out what happens! 

Order Heartmender here and Heartbreaker here!

Also, be sure to follow V. Romas Burton on Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to check out her website!

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: Emily Cromwell Designs

Happy Saturday! Today, I get to share one of my favorite shops I discovered through my friend Peggy on Instagram (@starryworld_). Emily Cromwell Designs (@emilycromwelldesigns) has the most adorable bright and beautiful shop! She carries bookmarks, magnets, coffee mugs, planners, keychains, and more! In awe of not only Emily’s shop but her overall presence on social media and how open and honest she is, I knew I wanted to learn more about Emily! Read our fill interview below to learn more about this wonderful soul and her ah-mazing designs!

1) What inspired you to create your small business, Emily Cromwell Designs?
Ever since I was a little girl I always was wanting to have my own business. When I was a young kid I would design a catalog of products I would make for people such as hand drawn bookmarks or handmade notepads, etc…I was always doing something crafty.

When I was a senior in high school at 17, I spent my free period reading books about running your own creative small business, exhibiting at craft shows, selling online, etc…it fascinated me to no end and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I got a business license that Fall and everything started from there!

2) What goals do you have for your business?
Oh gosh where do I begin!! I have small attainable goals and then I have large goals that I don’t know if they will ever happen, but still hope for! Some of the small ones include to continue to build my newly released monthly bookmark and sticker clubs, to release a new planner that I’m working on, and to launch a fun project I have in the works that currently only one other person knows about!

As far as my big goals, I’d love to have my own studio office space someday. Somewhere that isn’t in my home that I can drive to everyday to work. I envision it having an entire room just for shipping, a room for stickers and keychains and other fun things, a room for me to hang out in and draw in a comfy chair, and lastly a room with great lighting for product photography!

3) How long have you been drawing/illustrating?
Technically I’ve been drawing since I learned to talk. Even though I was just making lines on paper at that age, my parents told me I was always drawing on anything I could get my hands on.

4) Do you have any training in art and design or are you self-taught?
I took art class any chance I got during school. In middle school, our school was low on funding so they cut the art program and I signed up for afternoon weekly art lessons. Then in high school I took art class every year, and I went to college for Studio Art with a concentration in Illustration. However I am self-taught when it comes to illustrating digitally, they didn’t teach that at my college unfortunately.

5) What would you say are some of your biggest achievements?
I always say my biggest achievement was when I started my business at 17. I’m proud of my younger self for believing in me enough to do that.

Some other achievements include having my artwork sold on garden flags in both Wegmans and Lowe’s.

6) Who is someone that inspires you?
I’ve always been inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. I think I’ve always resonated with him and felt this connection to him because he struggled with a lot of mental health issues and people didn’t always believe in him, and I have gone through a lot of that as well. I have pretty bad anxiety and depression, and have dealt with many people that never thought I was good enough. I always looked up to him because no matter how bad of a day he had, he kept creating, even when he thought no one cared or liked his paintings, he just kept painting because it was what brought him joy. And that’s something that I can really resonate with and am so inspired by.

7) Do you have a favorite design currently in your shop?
Yes! It’s actually one of the first bookish stickers I ever drew, it’s my floral bibliophile one with the open book.

8) Your items are so bright and positive! What would you say is your favorite color? 
Aqua is my all time favorite color! Followed by pink. 🙂

9) A lot of your items are for lovers of romance – what is your favorite romance trope?
Enemies to lovers will forever be my all time favorite trope! I live for the angst in those books!

10) What are your top three favorite reads right now?
Oh man talk about a tough question!!
Hmmm, okay so my absolute top 3 favorites right now are A Court of Mist and Fury, Rhapsodic, and A Court of Silver Flames.

11) Can you tell readers more about the Mitty Kitty Collection and what it means to you?
Yes absolutely! This collection is near and dear to my heart and is the most special thing I’ve ever done in my business. My cat, Misty, passed away on January 3rd of this year, and it is the hardest loss I have ever had to go through. I adopted her when she was a little 8 week old kitten when I was 10 years old, and we were together for all of her 16 years. We grew up together, and we were truly each other’s soulmates, I’ve never had a connection with another cat like I did with her, and I’m not sure I will again. We just got each other on a whole other level. A huge part of me left with her when she passed away, and I try and not talk about it all the time on social media because I don’t want to bring anyone down, but I’ve been struggling pretty badly behind the scenes and I haven’t been coping well with her loss. I started this collection in honor of her, to help keep her memory alive and also for me to feel closer to her by being able to draw her and bring to life her personality through art.

She passed away after a long fight with chronic kidney failure, and I wanted to also make this collection impactful, so a portion of the proceeds from each sale will be donated to the Foundation for Feline Renal Failure to help find a cure for this disease in cats, as currently there is none.

I’ve had to watch my sweet kitty waste away the past year and there was nothing I could do beyond changing her food and giving her medicine to put off the inevitable. It took a toll on me mentally and then with losing her so suddenly. It’s something that’s going to take me a very long time to cope with, but it’s my hope that with this collection it will feel like I’m just a little bit closer to her again.

12) Can you give readers any “sneaks” for future items yet to be released, such as possible themes for the Monthly Bookmark and Sticker Clubs this year? 
So I won’t say which month will be which theme…however a few of the themes I’m working on are elegant botanicals, whimsical animals, and bookstagrammer life. 🙂

13) As a person who struggles with anxiety and depression myself, I love your motivational stickers and your openness about mental health. What advice would you offer someone dealing with anxiety?
My biggest piece of advice is to talk to someone, whether it be a friend, a family member or a counselor. Keeping it all inside, at least in my own experience, seems to make my anxiety worse when I’m going through a really hard time…or even if you just want to write out your worries on a piece of paper, that helps with getting it out. A lot of times when you do that, you’ll feel like at least a little weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you might realize your worries are more irrational than you initially thought. A thought is just a thought, and just because you think it, it doesn’t make it true. My heart goes out to anyone currently struggling with anxiety, I know how debilitating it can be. My DMs are always open if you need a friend to listen!

14) What is the most rewarding thing about running your own small business?  
I’d have to say the most rewarding thing would be seeing how happy and overjoyed people are when they open up a package from you or use your product…that feeling never gets old and I don’t think it ever will, it truly makes me so happy and feel like I’m doing something right.

15) What advice would you give someone who wants to open up their own small business? 
I say go for it!! Start by getting a business license and all of your tax things together so you get the tough stuff out of the way, and then get into the fun part of designing products, setting up your shop and social media accounts. The biggest piece of advice I have would be to not compare yourself to others, don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and building a business takes a lot of time and effort, but it will be worth it if you keep at it.

16) Tell us a little about you, the heart and soul of Emily Cromwell Designs (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). 
What is this “not working” you speak of?? Haha, just kidding! Kind of 🙂 When I’m not working, more often than not you’ll find me in my reading chair reading a book or drawing. I’m a big homebody so I don’t really like to go out much, but when I do I like to go on drives just to enjoy the scenery as well as day trips!

The three words to best describe me would be creative, strong, and resilient

My favorite animal is a cat, my favorite movie is Interstellar, and my favorite song is Circles by Post Malone.

I just want to say thank you to anyone and everyone that supports me and my business, it truly means the world to me to have people actually interested in my products and to have such a supportive community at that. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d make it to where I’m at today, and I will never not be humbled by the amazing group of friends and supporters I’ve met along the way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You can check out Emily’s website here and her Etsy page here! Also, be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook!

Author Interview: S. H. Everly

Last week, I reviewed the wonderful YA fantasy Iridescent. This week, I have the honor of sharing an interview with the author S. H. Everly! When she isn’t writing or pursuing her MBA she enjoys painting, specifically landscapes and beach scenes, and baking gluten-free desserts. She is actually soon to be a Registered Dietician Nutritionist. Everly lives in Illinois, but she is close to Lake Michigan so she is still able to enjoy the beach. A fun fact about Everly is that she has surfed and snorkeled in Hawaii. To learn more about Everly and her writing, read our full interview below!

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) I used to write shorter stories as a kid, but I really began writing when I was a junior in college. This was back in 2017 and it’s when the idea for Iridescent began. I didn’t think when I first started writing it that it would one day be a published book—it was all just for fun at that point. And now that I have written Iridescent, I know that it’s something I always want to be able to do if I can. I think I’ll always write. I just love it!

Q) Why do you write?

A) Writing for me is self-expression. Not only can I travel to new places, dive for treasure
at the bottom of the ocean, or surf down a huge wave, writing helps me deal with some
of the things I’ve been through in my own life.

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

A) I love The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but I loved this
concept. Arguably, I enjoyed The Host more than Twilight. Twilight is good, but I
think this story is really beautiful, and it really captures the important and value in
relationships. (Genre: YA Sci-Fi)


I love The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. This book is actually amazing. I feel like I can
really relate to the main character Meghan a lot, and I think the romance is one of the
better romances I’ve read. (Genre: YA Fantasy)


I love Where the Crawdads Sing. This is a beautiful book about a young girl who has
to survive almost completely on her own. Nature seems to raise her, and it’s a beautiful
story about nature. I loved it. (Genre: Adult, Fiction)

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) I would have to say Bethany Hamilton. Her story has inspired me since I was probably
ten or eleven. What inspires me most about Bethany is how she stands up for her faith
and how it has made such an impact on the way she lives and who she is. She
continues to do what she loves and is passionate about and hasn’t let fear get in the
way of that.

Q) What inspired Iridescent, the first book of the Iridescent Series? 

A) My love for the sea and the ocean was the inspiration for Iridescent. I have always
loved the beach and the sea, and I am fascinated by the different fish and animals that
live in the ocean. It truly is another world there, and there is so much of it we don’t
know about and haven’t seen.

Something unique about my book is that every fish and animal in the book mentioned
are animals that really are found in Santa Cruz and Monterey. That was something that
was important to me while writing the book. I wanted people to be able to learn about
the different fish and animals in the water.

Q) Do you personally spend much time at aquariums and/or the beach? 

A) Yes. I grew up going to the Shedd Aquarium, and I loved it—I loved the belugas,
petting sting rays, and so it was fun to write about a girl who grew up volunteering at
an aquarium.

As a teenager, my friends and I spent a lot of time at the beach—doing bonfires,
swimming, playing beach volleyball. I don’t think people think of Chicago and its
suburbs as a place where people go to the beach, but there are actually miles and miles
of beachfront, and we went there all the time.

I still love to go now to the beach now, and when I can, I love vacationing in Florida.

Q) I love how you blended contemporary and fantasy in your book – how did
you create the character Katrina? 

A) Katrina is someone that I think a lot of people can relate to. She’s experienced grief,
loss, and heartbreak, and I wanted her story, her emotions to feel authentic. But I also
wanted Katrina to be strong, brave, and kind. I think she shows us that throughout
hardship, we can still be strong, be brave, forgive, and do the right thing.

Q) Katrina’s grief in the beginning of Iridescent is something I think many
people can relate to. Did you know beforehand that you wanted your story to
touch on topics of grief and healing, found families, faith, friendship, and
forgiveness, or did these themes emerge as the story was written?

A) When I picked my book up again to write in April of 2020, I knew that I wanted to put
my Christian faith in there. The themes sort of emerged as I was writing, and I
continued to develop them. I read somewhere once that when you read a book, that
it’s an investment in someone’s time, and I couldn’t agree more. I knew that my book
wasn’t going to just be for entertainment purposes. There needed to be themes,
lessons that could be taken away. For me personally, writing this story made me remember how important friendships are and the value that they can be in your life,
and I hope that people have had a similar experience to some of the themes in the
book.

Q)  Can you give readers a preview of what to expect in the next book? Do
you know when it might be available (I NEED to know what happens in
Alaska!)?

A) Yes! Here are some exciting updates.

Name: So first, the sequel of Iridescent is going to be called “Elle.”

The Book: It’s a dual-perspective book alternating between Katrina and Elle. I am
curious and excited to find out what this is going to be like as I continue to write it, but
so far, it’s exactly where I wanted to go with it, and I am excited about what’s been
written so far.

The story is still mainly about Katrina. She is still the main protagonist of the books, but
Elle plays an important role in the series and especially in the next book.
Timeline: The second book will be out sometime in 2022. However, I have some really
exciting things in development for this year regarding the Iridescent Series, and I’ll be
really excited to share them.

Q) What goals do you have for the Iridescent Series?

A) I want to make sure that the Iridescent Series covers what I want it to. I do not see the end nearing on this series at all. In fact, I feel that Katrina’s journey is just getting
started. I want to make sure that her story is not rushed, and I really want to fully
develop her as a character. I would say as of right now the book series will be between
3-5 books.

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

A) Yes! I love talking about my faith. When I was in college, that is when I my faith
journey really took off. In college, I was blessed with some amazing friendships that I
still have today, however, I was really lonely. My boyfriend and my parents were
hundreds of miles away, and there were times in college where I was living alone. I just
felt kind of lost, in general.

I grew up going to Church, and I grew up with faith, but I became a “born-again
Christian” in college. I learned what it was like to truly create a relationship with Christ,
and I learned the importance of reading the Bible and living out my faith in my life. The
Bible says in Jeremiah that “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Knowing that God
has specific plan for me really helped me when I was in a time where I was feeling lost.

Q) Can you explain how your religion influences your writing?

A) For me, faith is the most important part of my life. And if that is true, then it has to be
in my writing too. I feel that as a Christian, I want to lead others to Christ and his
saving grace. My hope is that my writing will lead others to Christ.

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

A) Being an indie published author is definitely an interesting journey. There is a large
learning curve to learning about how to self-publish as well as learning how to write,
how to have the right grammar, editing, and even putting up my book on Amazon was
a lot to learn. I think as an indie published author, it can be helpful to establish yourself
in some way. Whether that’s creating a blog or an Instagram or even a YouTube
channel. Regardless, I am grateful for what I have learned, the connections I’ve made, and for the process. It has been a lot of fun!

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) I think we all have a story to tell, and so tell that story. Be encouraged to follow your
dreams and be encouraged that you can do it. I believe that we all have talents,
interests, and hobbies that make each of us unique. Don’t ever let fear get in the way
of fulfilling your dream.

The cover of Iridescent.

Be sure to order your copy of Iridescent today here, and follow S. H. Everly on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with her and her writing!

Book Review: Iridescent by S. H. Everly

Do you love beach reads? What about YA fantasy? How about stories with themes of found families, faith, and friendship? Then Iridescent by S. H. Everly is the next book for you!

Growing up most of her life in Chicago, seventeen year old Katrina’s world is shattered when her Aunt Jan tells her they are moving back to California. Not only is she ripped from the only home she’s ever known, but Kate’s best friend Brandon vanishes from her life – not returning calls or messages. Kate’s grief is palpable and relatable as she navigates her new life in California. Things aren’t easy for Kate. There are many secrets including what really happened to her parents twelve years ago and who her mother truly was – a single map left by her mother is the only clue (at first). Kate is not alone as she adjusts to her new life as she befriends Matt, who volunteers at the aquarium, and Kristen, a competitive surfer. She also meets and falls for Jared, a boy who’s literally been dreaming of her since before she arrived. However, after a trip to Hawaii, Kate’s life takes an unexpected turn. Will Kate be able to accept the truth? Will Jared accept Kate for who she really is? Will faith, love, and friendship persevere?

This was a beautiful coming of age story with fantastic fantasy elements. I am so excited for the Iridescent Series to continue! I will say that I guessed a pretty big twist, but I was so hoping for it that guessing it didn’t spoil the read for me – it made me love the story even more! Overall, I give this story 4 out of 5 stars. There were a few moments the timeline was a bit confusing, and I’m still confused on how she got a diamond at one point – but the character development, overall storyline, and Christian themes are all exquisite! I highly recommend this clean YA fantasy to teen and adult readers alike!

Thank you Fictional Friends Tours for including me on the book tour! As a book tour participant, I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Photo from @theunicornwriter93

Be sure to order your copy of Iridescent today from Amazon! Also follow the author S. H. Everly on Instagram here.

Bookish Shop Feature: Book Nook Sleeves

Happy Saturday, friends! Today I have the privilege of interviewing Heather Orne, the creator and owner of Book Nook Sleeves (BNS). BNS is a shop I discovered on Instagram, and I am now obsessed with their fabric pin hoops and booksleeves! Read our full interview below to learn more.

Q) What inspired you to create Book Nook Sleeves? 

A) Ever since I was little, I have had a strong love for books and artwork.  Book Nook Sleeves was created as a way to combine both of those passions and share them with the rest of the world.

Q) How long has Book Nook Sleeves been in operation?

A) BNS celebrated its first birthday on January 1st! 

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

A) My husband and I have a scratch off map to see where our orders go around the world. Our goal is to share our products with as many people around the world as we can.

Q) How did you learn how to sew/make book sleeves?

A) In middle school and high school, I took a few home economics classes where I learned basic sewing skills.

Q) Do you have a personal favorite book sleeve and/or fabric hoop?

A) My favorite sleeve is yet to come!  There is an Alice in Wonderland release planned which includes a faux fur sleeve inspired by the Cheshire Cat.

Q) What has been your favorite fandom to design products for?

A) ACOTAR is one of my favorite book series so there have been several products inspired by SJM’s novels.

Q) What are your personal top fandoms?

A) Harry Potter, ACOTAR, and The Selection

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

A) When I started BNS it was more of a hobby, so I was hoping to sell 100 sleeves in 2020.  Much to my surprise there was an overwhelming support for our small business which allowed me to create over 700 sleeves and 200 fabric hoops for customers in 48/50 of the United States and 12 other countries around the world.

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

A) I haven’t had much time for reading lately, but when time allows, I enjoy a mix of romance and fantasy.

Q) Can you give readers any “sneaks” about prints yet to be released?

A) There are over 50 new prints on the way!  There will be several inspired by Harry Potter, Disney characters, classic novels, witches & magic, and other favorite book/movie fandoms.

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

A) The most rewarding thing about owning a small business is seeing that happiness that your creations bring to others.  I absolutely love when customers share photos using items from our shop.

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

A) Believe in yourself and your business.  There will probably be long hours and some negative experiences that will make you wonder why you chose to have your own business.  If you focus on your long-term goals and trust your gut, all of that will be worth it and you will find joy in doing what you love.

Q) Tell us a little about you, the face behind Book Nook Sleeves.

A) BNS actually isn’t my regular full time job!  I work as an administrative assistant at an optometry clinic during the week, and fill my evenings and weekends with work from the shop.   When I need a little break, I enjoy spending time at our family lake cabin, traveling with my husband, and snuggling with our rescue pup, Lucy. 

Be sure to follow BNS on Instagram here and check them out on Etsy here!

Author Interview: Stephanie Bwabwa

Last week I shared my review of the YA fantasy Seraphim Falling, and this week I am thrilled to be sharing an interview with the wonderful author Stephanie Bwabwa! Residing in Maryland, Bwabwa is the CEO and founder of Bwabs Collective LLC, a YA fantasy author, creator of the fantasy world: Elledelle, podcaster, and a web/graphic designer. An avid Disney lover, Bwabwa loves museums, national parks, and hiking. Fun fact about Bwabwa: she loves monkeys and hopes to one day have one in her life!

Learn more about Bwabwa and her writing in our full interview below!

Author Stephanie Bwabwa

Q)  How long have you been writing?

A) My entire life, but my journey to writing for publishing began in January of 2013.

Q) Why do you write?

A) Whew, for so many reasons. I write to think, to pray, to process, to understand, to influence, to impact, to give hope, to inspire, to disrupt, to usher in change.

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

A) These questions are always difficult for me to answer. Because every season in my life, sometimes this shifts. For right now, I’ll say:

The Bible by too many authors. Ha! Specifically: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Revelation. They’re bread, life, and all sustaining. I can always find hope, purpose, and new life from these particular books.

Beauty by Robin McKinley because I will NEVER not be in awe of her writing, her prose, the skill and finesse with which she intertwines words with emotion and transcends the story from literature to life.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer because the main character is inherently good. No ill motives, no selfishness, no greed, and her willingness to be everything but self-serving is refreshing, heart-warming, and breaks my heart. Every time I read this novel, I finish it with tears in my eyes. It is just beautiful!

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) My mom! But honestly, black women, period. Black women are intelligent, beautiful, relentless, determined, nurturing, loving, and world dominators. I watch as they build businesses, create legacies, and impact millions of lives and I stand in awe with wonder. I look at them and think to myself, “May I one day be just as influential and great as these women before me.”

Q) What inspired Seraphim Falling, the first book of the Seraphim Resistance prequels? 

A) Wow – SO many things. A very long story short, Seraphim Falling begins the journey of answering the question: “What happened after Lucifer was kicked out of heaven before he and his fallen angels reached the earth?”

I literally created all of Elledelle out of asking this one question.

From there, I saw a girl with my favorite magical power (fire). I got many ideals from the Bible. After playing around with everything unfolding in my head, the world was born.

Now, I had begun writing book 1 of The Seraphim Resistance Series, but a few friends who read the manuscript couldn’t connect to Titaia. So, I decided to write prequel books solely focused on her, to help readers who read the main series understand who she is, her background, and what will to do the character she’ll become once book 1 of the actual series rolls around.

That’s how I got to Seraphim Falling. It’s all with the intention of readers falling in love with Titaia and Cinder before all of the other books come to being.

Q) Cinder was one of my favorite characters with his protective nature. How did you create his character? 

A) Honestly, I got sick and tired of YA fantasy MC’s falling for the “sexy guy” with a bunch of issues in a toxic manner. Young adults are being exposed to relationships in books rooted in toxicity, and thinking it’s normal. It affects what they seek out in a relationship in real life, and causes them to grow into adults with relationship and trust issues.

I wanted my MC to be in love with her best friend. Someone she talks to, playfully fights with, adores and knows will always give up the entire world for her.

I wanted to write a beautiful, healthy, friendship, loving relationship. And I can’t wait to display how their love grows, how it was birthed, and how it will forever solidify as more books are written.

Q) Can you give readers a preview of what to expect in books 2 and 3? 

A) So, book 2 centers around the aftermath of the decision Titaia makes at the end of book 1. Book 2 follows her in a world where she doesn’t remember who she is, is heavily restricted, caged, and kept from all traces of who she once was. 

Book 3 will follow her as she begins finding that in this state of forced amnesia, everything she believes is real isn’t. She’ll begin to uncover plots that will affect angels from different realms, she’ll be exposed to darkness she never imagined, and she’ll be forced to make a radical choice that will change everything for her… again.

Q) What will come after the prequels? 

A) The main series! We’ll be exposed to more characters, the different worlds, all of the different kinds of magic, the legacy of the Saerels, the real agenda of the Raven, and everything in between. Angels, magic, adventures galore!

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

A) The main thing is I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the cross of Calvary. I believe in baptism. I believe in eternal life. And everything I do is interwoven with those beliefs.

I do my best to love the Lord, love myself, love people, and leave everything I touch better than I found it.

Q) Can you explain how your religion influences your writing?

A) Storytelling is my mission, and my mission is my ministry.

I don’t take what I do lightly. Every single thing has meaning. How I write my stories, who I know will read them, the generational impact they will have… All of it.

I pray over my craft everyday. I pray for the impact it will have everyday. I have long term visions and make sure to keep my partnership with Heaven at the forefront.

My stories are meant to share many themes: faith in a supernatural being who is always a step ahead guiding us along at each turn. They’re meant to inspire readers of color everywhere, especially those who are black and brown.

There’s purpose in me creating loving family units, wealth and royalty, powerful angels that have brown faces, black skin. To remind an entire people group, and make a statement for generations who will outlive me that they’re also part of the eternal family that is cherished and loved.

I pray my stories deliver hope, and joy, and allow readers to imagine so much more for themselves.

Q) What goals do you have for the world of Elledelle? 

A) Hmm… So what I can say is, I take a lot of inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

You can expect there will be ample stories, from multiple realms, all with crossovers. And, hey, maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll see them as blockbuster films, and on streaming platforms like Disney+ and Netflix one day soon. Who knows? God likes to prove our limitations wrong. 🙂

Q) Can you give readers more information about the Scripters Collective/Writer’s Readiness found on your website? 

A) The Scripters Collective is my community which can only be joined by being on my email list. I love to share in-depth writing insights for novel writing that I wouldn’t share elsewhere.

Also, Writer Readiness is a self-paced, virtual program, teaching writers how to conquer their mindset so they can actually complete their novels.

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

A) Whew! This is a very long story. However, in 2013 I started writing and wanted to have it in a physical book. I was lucky enough to know an editor in my former church who was in the indie realm and knew many self-published authors.

My journey includes so much trial and error. Mistakes and setbacks. But I’ve learned a ton and never gave up on desires to publish and change the lives of people through YA fantasy stories.

I learned to read a lot. I learned to test things out. I learned to try, try again…try again. 

I learned many days would be filled with tears, but they would also fortify my passion and persistence to succeed. It’s a lifelong journey that’ll never end. And I’ve signed up for life.

Publishing isn’t easy, but with community, resources, and the willingness to not quit, I’m still making it and any readers who wish to be self-published, can make it, too.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) Get started. There’s a story inside of you that needs to be told. Stop sitting on it. Imposter syndrome will not serve you. Giving in to fear will not serve you. Shying away from the gift inside of you will not serve you. Write the story! Put a word down, then another, and another, until you’re done. There’s a reader in this world, waiting right now, for your book to be published. Their salvation is interwoven between the pages of your book. Get writing! The world needs your story.

Image provided by Stephanie Bwabwa.

Be sure to follow Stephanie Bwabwa on Instagram here!

Order your own copy of Seraphim Falling and enter the world of Elledelle here!