Book Review: Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

In search of comparative titles for my own manuscript, Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe was recommended to me by a friend. I listened to the audiobook read by Caitlin Kelly who does a fantastic job making the characters come to life! Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book.

Eva Evergreen is a middle grade fantasy that follows 12-year old Eva as she sets out on her novice witch quest; however, Eva is at a disadvantage because she only has a pinch of magic and her spells usually go awry. For example, she gets a sunburn instead of summoning rain. In addition, using magic drains her and after casting a simple spell or enchantment, she falls asleep. Yet, Eva is determined. She sets out on her quest to earn her license as a novice witch, but things are not easy for a young witch with only a pinch of magic.

Eva finds herself in the seaside town of Auteri. Many people, including the town mayor who is needed to sign off on her paperwork, doubt her. But, she is able to secure a Guardian and make some friends, including a flame fox whom she names Ember. Though she at times even doubts herself, she never gives up.

Truly a heartwarming story about perseverance, friendship, and learning to embrace who you are, Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch is a story children, young adults, and adults alike may enjoy. Readers who favor coming of age stories with likable, determined protagonists will greatly like Eva Evergreen.

The book is an easy 4 star read for me. It didn’t get a full 5 stars because over halfway into the book, there is an automobile and mention of airplanes – it took me out of the world that had been built up until that point.

Furthermore, the book seems to promote hope, but then in Chapter 18 it states, “…Because hope was a cruel sorcery of its own. The power of hope was always tainted with the sharp sorrow of unfulfillment.” I can’t get this out of my head. It is difficult to say sometimes what is hope compared to false hope, but isn’t the purpose of hope to trust that something will be fulfilled? And once it is fulfilled, the hope changes into something else like gratitude? I understand the line in context of the character it referenced; however, I feel that it is misplaced in the story overall – it just doesn’t fit if that makes sense.

Overall, I’m excited to have discovered Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch. Not only is it a cute, heartwarming story, but the epilogue sets up future books. Further, I think it is a great comparative title to my own manuscript (more information on it will be shared soon)!

Picture from Amazon.

You can order your own copy of Eva Evergreen from Amazon here OR you can request a copy at your local library!

Author Interview: Cassandra Hamm

Today, I have the privilege of interviewing Cassandra Hamm, guest judge for the Unicorn Writer’s third flash fiction contest! Cassandra is an author, public librarian, and a part-time editor for SnowRidge Press. When asked what she enjoys doing in her spare time, Cassandra stated, “In my free time, I love to read and write, of course, as well as put together jigsaw puzzles and hang out with my cats, Keefe and Chase, though usually not at the same time. The two habits aren’t particularly compatible.” Learn more about her with the full interview below!

Cassandra Hamm (photo provided by Cassandra)

Q) What mythical creature would you like to have as a pet?

A) Perhaps this is cliché, but it seems fitting because of the subject matter I write about–I would love to have a tiny dragon as a pet. Yes, they’d be annoying, but they’d also be adorable, and, hello, dragons.

Q) Which location in a book would you most like to visit and why?

A) I would love to have attended Hogwarts. Alas, I am too old now. But I can dream of learning magic and hanging out with magical creatures and playing quidditch!

Q) How do you select what books you want to read?

A) I am a mood reader. I often go through book binges where I read a lot of one genre and then move to another genre. I also like to finish book series in a relatively quick fashion unless it’s a series I’m not particularly enjoying, in which case I might wait a year or more to read the next book).

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? Least favorite?

A) I love a good enemies-to-lovers and, if it’s done well, friends-to-lovers (I know people usually like one or the other, but here I am), as well as fake-dating and magical boarding school (Hogwarts, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Nevermoor). I tend to hate love triangles, especially if they’re totally unnecessary to the story, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the “chosen one” trope. I also get really frustrated by the miscommunication trope where if people just talked to each other, this whole problem would be avoided.

Q) What was your most recent 5 star read?

A) I just finished How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. It’s completely different from the movie and just as fantastic. Also, David Tennant does an amazing job with narrating. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Q) Where is your favorite location to read? To write?

A) To be honest, I usually just read and write in my room, though I can read pretty much anywhere. I should probably have some sort of designated writing space, though.

Q) Can you tell us about what books/stories you have currently available?

A) My work appears in several anthologies, including collections from Havok Publishing, Ye Olde Dragon Books, Dragon Bone Publishing, and Twenty Hills Publishing. They range from flash fiction to short stories to poetry in various genres and styles, though my preference is fantasy written in third person limited (with a deep POV). I also have many stories published on Havok Publishing’s website, though those are only available to the public for a few days out of the year. Check out my website to see more about each anthology.

Q) Can you tell us about your current writing project(s)?

A) My current WIP is a middle grade fantasy novel in which only people under the age of thirteen can see magical creatures. My main character, Drew, just wants to get rid of the tiny dragon living under his bed and ruining his life, but as he starts to care for the dragon, he has to decide what lengths he’s willing to go to in order to remember her. It’s full of shenanigans, family problems, and the struggles of pet parenthood.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) Your writing is separate from who you are. It might be very important to you, but it is not you. When people give you criticism, they are not criticizing you, just your work, which can always be improved. 

Be sure to follow Cassandra on Instagram and Facebook!

Annnnnd, be sure to check out the flash fiction contest happening now here! Comment below with any questions about the contest.

The Unicorn Writer Announces Third Flash Fiction Contest!

Happy Saturday friends! 

It is my pleasure to announce the Unicorn Writer’s third flash fiction contest! The contest is open to both new and experienced writers. Submissions are open NOW through Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 11:59pm.

*Cue confetti and happy dancing!* 

Some of you may be wondering: what is flash fiction? Flash fiction is short fiction. Different publications and contests have varying definitions, but for this contest, flash fiction  constitutes as fiction 1000 words or less as determined by Google Docs. 

Any and all genres are welcome, but writers must provide CLEAN and family-friendly content (No erotica, explicit language, graphic violence, etc.). Magic is acceptable (and encouraged – the Unicorn Writer greatly enjoys fantasy)! However, your story could be fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, Christian fiction, mystery, humor, or something else! Just have fun with your story! 🙂

Prompt: Write a story in which the setting is a desert AND the following words appear: moon, sapphire, and love.

Exciting News: Author Cassandra Hamm will be the guest judge for this contest! Next week, I will have the privilege of interviewing Cassandra here on the blog. In the meantime, be sure to check out my first interview with Cassandra when she won the first flash fiction contest here!

Flash Fiction Contest Details: 

For the judging process there will be three categories: Content, Technical, and Overall Impression.

The content category is not just whether you followed the guidelines and provided clean, family-friendly content; it looks at the story as a whole. Is it impactful? Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end? Is there a clear theme(s) that resonates with readers? 

Be sure to send quality, proof-read work when you submit to do well in the technical category! 

The last category, Overall Impression, will include the judges’ impressions of the piece. Is it memorable? Is it unique? Is it enjoyable? 

Please note that with all writing, some subjectivity plays a role. Just because you do not win does NOT mean your story isn’t well-done. We expect some outstanding entries, and know you all will make our job difficult! (Due to the expected number of entries, feedback will NOT be provided on individual stories.) 

The WINNING story of the Unicorn Writer’s first flash fiction contest will be announced and featured on the blog on Saturday, June 4, 2022. The winning author will also be invited to be interviewed. **By submitting an entry, you consent to having your story published on the blog indefinitely. All story rights remain with the author, but the winning story will remain published on the blog for the foreseeable future.**

Now that we’ve reviewed the ins and outs of the contest, we can’t wait to see what you all write!

To submit, please follow this link: https://forms.gle/DXpe9GzEJGqJSppz8

Author Interview: Elyzabeth Trickey

Last week I shared my review of The Final Rider and this week I have the privilege of interviewing the author Elyzabeth Trickey! Trickey is an author and receptionist in Northern Illinois. Aside from reading and writing, Trickey enjoys video games, music, and alt fashion. A fun fact about her is that she had 8 years of classical voice training. In fact, it got her a scholarship in college though she studied anthropology!

Read the full interview below to learn more!

Elyzabeth Trickey. Photo provided by Trickey.

Q) How long have you been writing?

A) My very first story was written when I was 8. It was a silly little thing, but I feel like it really started a couple of years later when I started reading high fantasy and it made me daydream until my imagination spilled onto the page.

Q) Why do you write?

A) This may be a cliché answer, but I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t write. It makes me happy, and I can hardly stop thinking about the stories in my head.

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? What about least favorite? 

A) I know it’s super overused, but I’ve always been a fan of the Chosen One trope. I’m also a sucker for enemies-to-lovers and forbidden magic plot devices. The only one I actually dislike is the love triangle.

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Distracted, nutty, and romantic.

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

A) “Fortune” by Heather Dale

Q) Who is someone (real or fictional) that inspires you?

A) Even if I’ve never successfully completed one of his books, J R R Tolkien is very inspiring to me. He told the story he wanted to tell, expressed his sincere regrets about making orcs irredeemably evil later in life, and even if The Lord of the Rings is considered “cliché” now, it was the birthing place of some of the most famous fantasy tropes. He wrote a story about hope, friendship, and love that impacted thousands of people, even after his death. You can’t help but admire someone like that.

Q) Can you tell us what inspired The Final Rider?

A) Funny story! I was helping my mom move rocks out of the sheep pasture. We had to throw them over the fence, and I looked at her and mentioned how crazy it would be if one of these rocks split open to reveal a dragon. She understandably looked at me like I was nuts, but that’s when the seeds were planted!

Q) Can you tell readers about any of your current writing projects and/or plans for the sequel to The Final Rider?

A) The sequel to The Final Rider is in one of its late drafts now and only has two or three more rounds of edits left! The third book’s first draft is almost done. Aside from that, I have a couple more major projects I’m writing on and off, both with very different vibes from The Final Rider but they’re both still high fantasy!

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) I’d like to get to a point where I can live off of writing so I can focus on it during everyday life.

Q) Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as an indie author?

A) It has its upsides and downsides. The downside is that you of course don’t get a publishing house’s advertising budget, so you rely on smaller ads on social media and Amazon, and on the help of influencers who are kind enough to feature your book. The upside is that you get to choose everything! I designed everything about the interior of my book, and even the hidden art on the hardcover. I got to choose my own cover artist and got to work with the amazing Christiana Leon, an Italian artist who truly made Hazel and Resgal come to life.

Q) What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

A) The best thing to do is to finish what you write. Finish that first draft, and don’t worry if it’s bad. When asked the same question, Sarah J Maas said to allow yourself to suck, and I agree. The feeling that your first draft needs to be perfect is what can hold you back the most, and it’s something I continue to struggle with. Just remember that everything can be fixed. Nothing is set in stone until you release it into the world. Also, don’t worry about people not liking what you write. There’ll always be people who won’t enjoy it for whatever reason but as long as you love it, someone else will as well.

Cover of The Final Rider. Image provided by Trickey.

Be sure to follow Trickey on Instagram here, and you can order your own copy of The Final Rider from Amazon here! Remember, you can also request a copy of the book at your local library.

Book Review: The Final Rider by Elyzabeth Trickey

The New Adult book The Final Rider by Elyzabeth Trickey should be added to your TBR (to be read) list if you enjoy…

  • Dragons
  • Slow-burn romance
  • Multiple POVs (points of view)
  • Morally grey princesses
  • A reluctant hero/chosen one
  • Human-animal bonds

There are two main characters, Hazel and Alastriona, though chapters cover other POVs at times.

Eighteen year-old Hazel is guarded and keeps her head down working in the mines. Her secrets and guilt prevent her from socializing or making friends, but being alone and left to herself is how she prefers it. Yet, that all changes when she not only finds a dragon egg – which is supposed to be an impossible feat on its own – but it chooses to hatch for her! Hazel goes from being a nobody to being a somebody, and she initially loathes the idea of being chosen as a Rider as her simple life becomes anything but. She’s whisked away to the castle in the capitol of Euphopha with her bonded dragon where she must decide who she wants to be while accepting a fate she never wanted. During this time, she becomes the target of the Witch Queen, who has offered an alliance with the Wasteland Queen Alastriona, crown princess of Gaelin.

Alastriona is believed by the world at large to be dead since the Morvands usurped the throne and killed most of the Ashcovens, the royal family of Gaelin. After much torture, Alastriona was released. She’s been living in the monster-infested Wastelands with fifty-odd followers. When the Witch Queen offers her a chance to reclaim her rightful throne, Alastriona is intrigued, but an alliance with witches is a dangerous game. The Witch Queen has her sights set on Hazel’s dragon’s blood, and she wants Alastriona to retrieve it.

I really did enjoy The Final Rider. I think Trickey does a wonderful job building the world and the lore, and having us discover things as Hazel does is effective – the reader isn’t bombarded with too much information too fast, which I appreciate. I also loved loved loved the dragon and its bond with Hazel…I won’t say much more than that to avoid spoilers!

To be honest, based on the cover alone (which is stunning!), I thought this was going to be a YA book. It is definitely NEW ADULT with profane language, some violence, and innuendo.

I am a bit disappointed in Hazel’s decisions near the end of the book, though I understand her reasonings. Overall, I give The Final Rider 3.5 stars as I did enjoy it! I think this being a debut novel is extremely well executed, and I look forward to reading more works by Trickey in the future. I think fantasy fans, especially fans of dragons, will enjoy this book.

Photo by @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.

Thank you to NBB Book Tours and author Elyzabeth Trickey for gifting me a copy of The Final Rider in exchange for an honest review!

You can order your copy of The Final Rider from Amazon here, and remember you can always request a copy at your local library. Happy reading!

Book Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

After reading and falling in love with Romanov in 2021, I knew I wanted to read more by author Nadine Brandes this year. Using Audible, I listened to Fawkes, a YA historical fantasy. Though clearly a different story with its own characters and world, Fawkes made an impact on me just like Romanov. A coming of age story full of unconditional love, redemption, and self-discovery through faith, Fawkes is a book I highly recommend.

Thomas Fawkes, son of Guy Fawkes, is mere minutes from his color test where he will bond with a color and learn to manipulate that color through color speech. For example, black controls the night, blue controls water, red controls blood, and grey…grey potentially could control the stone plague lying dormant in Thomas’ eye. Yet, his father doesn’t show up; he refused Thomas his mask. Thomas is expelled from school and thrown out on his own as a societal outcast. Thomas makes his way to London where he finds his father by chance and is thrown into the midst of a plot to kill King James. Thomas must decide if he is loyal to his father and the Keepers, those who believe in only bonding with one color, or if he will listen to white light – a voice the Keepers say should be ignored.

While Thomas tries to navigate loyalty, the stone plague, and finding purpose, an unexpected friendship blooms with a former classmate. Can Emma learn to see past his faults and love him? Better yet, can she help him be a better man?

What really struck me about Fawkes is the underlying theme of discovering what is true for yourself rather than accepting what is true from others. If you believe and have faith because of what you have experienced and understand – from hearing the voice of white light (God) – your faith will be stronger, your convictions more sound, than if you blindly follow others. There are many people who believe to know the truths of life, even claim to know the truth of God, but have you sat in silence with God for yourself? Have you prayed and asked God to guide you, to lead you, to send you where He needs you rather than follow man?

And then the redemption story – I won’t say too much because of spoilers; however, know that if you’ve followed lies, if you’ve gone astray, or if you’ve been misguided, it isn’t too late to be redeemed in Christ.

Like Romanov, Fawkes brought tears to my eyes in the end. Brandes is now an auto-buy author for me. You can order your own copy of Fawkes from Amazon here or request a copy at your local library. If you have read or do read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Cover Reveal for Aivan: The One Truth by Kayla E. Green

The cover for Aivan: The One Truth is here! *cue confetti and happy dancing*

The ebook releases July 26, 2022 BUT you can PRE-ORDER NOW HERE: https://amzn.to/3wwoGqC

Pre-Ordering will help me SO much…as a THANK YOU the first 50 people who pre-order and send me confirmation through this Google Form will receive some BEAUTIFUL character art inspired by the main characters from my novella!

You can also add the novella to your “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads!

So, what’s the YA fantasy novella about?

Book Blurb:

Two young people from opposite sides of the Great Continent must make sense of their life.

Rune has grown up all of her life in the mountainous northern nation of Kansanai. As granddaughter of the Senior Elder, she has been a devout believer of the Vihishki gods her whole life. Yet, when a prophet challenges the Vihishki gods against his Aivan, the One Truth, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. Will she be able to let go of the life she thought she deserved for something far greater than what she could have ever imagined?

Rolf goes through the motions of everyday life in the southern nation of Etalentin. Yet, his routine is disrupted when a voice claiming to be the one true God speaks to him. Listening to his heart, he follows Aivan, but he is thrown temptation after temptation on his journey. Will Rolf be able to resist the temptations in order to fulfill Aivan’s plan for him?

Aivan: The One Truth is a story about self-discovery, identity, and faith.

PRE-ORDER NOW HERE: https://amzn.to/3wwoGqC

Updates from The Unicorn Writer

Happy Saturday, friends!

My YA fantasy novella, Aivan the One Truth, finally has a release date! *cue confetti* It will be released July 26, 2022 by Ambassador International in ebook format. This Tuesday, April 5, I will be sharing the beautiful cover and the pre-order link here on my blog 🙂

Also in my world of writing, we have a cover for the anthology The Heights We’ll Fly To organized by Alex Silvius! My short story “Stairway to the Stars” will be featured. The book will release May 31, but you can add to your Goodreads account today!

The cover of The Heights We’ll Fly To on a bed of pastel colored roses.

In other news, I am completing a Bible study with my twin sister and mother. We are working through Max Lucado’s 3:16 The Numbers of Hope study. I LOVE it so far–chapters 3 and 4 especially spoke to me–and I will have a full review to share when we complete it.

Outside of the realm of writing and reading, I am now an Usborne Books and More consultant. UBAM has wonderful children’s books (babies through teens), and I love their love of literacy! You won’t see me post more about this here on the blog, but I will be occasionally sharing the wonderful UBAM books on my Instagram. If you want more information on the books, please leave a comment or you can email me at kayla@theunicornwriter.com!

Kayla poses with the UBAM book “Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls” in front of her bookshelf.

Book Review: When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

I told myself, “I’m in a period of waiting, but I don’t want to be. When will all this waiting be over?” Literal days later, the book When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson appeared while I was scrolling on social media. I immediately ordered a copy, and I’m so glad I did!

When God Says Wait is written for women, no matter what they’re waiting for. A job, true love, a baby, a friend, a home–we’re all waiting for something. For me, personally, the waiting weighs so heavy on my shoulders that I have often found myself ignoring my many blessings and answered prayers. I’m utterly consumed by the waiting. Just like the book explains, when God says “wait,” we don’t know for how long. And waiting is a form of suffering. BUT Thompson beautifully articulates that though there is much out of our control while we wait, we can control HOW we wait and who we become along the way.

Each chapter begins with a Biblical narrative centered around waiting. In the book, we see such Biblical figures as David, Miriam, Sarah, and Joseph, Naomi, and Mary and Martha, who had to wait on God in their own time. We also here Thompson’s personal struggles with waiting in her own life. The chapters end with recommended scripture reading for further study, recommended journal prompts, and a prayer prompt.

Reading Thompson’s own struggles and how though some waiting is over, she still endures waiting in other avenues of life, was eye-opening for me. Everyone is waiting for something. I can’t keep telling myself I’ll be happy WHEN…I’ve got to learn to be happy even in the waiting. I don’t want my life to pass me by, while I’m waiting. I don’t want to grow bitter while I’m waiting. I want to recognize all the answered prayers (both yes and no) that have shaped my life to date. I want to glorify God for all that He has done, and I want to hope that my waiting will be rewarded, even if it is not how I imagine it.

The story of Lazurus as appeared in Thompson’s book, struck me in a way it never had before. Mary and Martha wanted a healing, but instead, they got a resurrection. Think about that: they wanted a healing, but instead, they got a resurrection! How magnificent is that? It is true, I don’t know if my waiting will turn into nos or more not-right-nows or yeses or yes but even better. But how comforting is it to know that God hears our prayers, every prayer, and that through our waiting, we better grow into the people God needs us to be!

Whatever you are waiting for right now, don’t wait to read this book. This book has uplifted my spirit, and I will never stop recommending it.

From @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.

Order your copy of When God Says Wait here!

Book Review: Whispers From Before – Tales of Myth and Legend by SR Press

Whispers from Before: Tales of Myth and Legend is an anthology inspired by mythology and legend. The collection features 5 stories, all of which I sincerely enjoyed. Keep reading to see a snapshot of each story!

  1. “It was very different to fight a monster when it was someone you loved…”

The first story, “The Gumiho of Dragon River” by Rosie Grymm, follows Choi Minjun who accidentally allows a dangerous fox spirit to possess the body of someone close to him. Minjun is faced with denial when he reveals the identity of the Gumiho to his father. It is up to him to save his loved one as well as the entire village.

I enjoyed this story, and found myself wanting more of this world and these characters. I’m looking forward to reading more work by Grymm!

2. “If society is ever going to collapse, I’d probably be the Underwood to blame.”

The second story, “Of Underwoods and Underworlds” by Hannah Carter, is a gender-bent Hades and Persephone retelling. When Haddie Underwood lets a spell go awry, her classmate and the headmistress’ son Percy is sent to the Underworld. Haddie is sent after him and must face temptations and herself to get him back home safely.

I loved loved loved this story! Haddie is absolutely hysterical, but oh so relatable. And I really liked that this was a story about friendship rather than a romance which one might expect from a Hades and Persephone retelling. Carter did a wonderful job – I will read anything and everything she writes!

3. “The sky was clear, moonlight washing the town in silver. It was a beautiful night to chase a monster.”

Next, “Breakriver Banshee” by Abigail McKenna, follows Zeke Taylor in the Arizona Territory. The new deputy sheriff Zeke is thrown into the deep end as people are dying in the mining town of Breakriver. His childhood friend, and the girl who holds his heart, uncovers information that points to someone corrupted and altered by abusing magic; however, things aren’t what they seem.

I absolutely adored the love between Zeke and Annie, and I loved how this story ends…no spoilers here!

4. “I asked her once if she feared Qati. She said, ghosts do not leave footprints.”

The fourth story, “Namakaokahai’s Treasure” by Mariella Taylor, is my absolute favorite story from this collection. Kai is thrown into the river by his mother for being empty, but the Great River raises him as her own. Kai, known as Qati by the villagers, must find a way to heal his new mother’s heart, or lose the only thing that fills his emptiness.

Taylor’s writing is exquisite – she makes me want to write more and be a better writer. Her story resonated with me as someone who has found love and protection after being abandoned. Tears prickled my eyes at several points during the story and that’s a win in my book.

5. “‘The stars,’ Dysis said. ‘Were they for me?’ Cepheus looked up. ‘All of them.'”

The final story, “When the Night Left” by Savannah Roberts,” is an enemies-to-lovers story that follows Dysis, the girl who paints sunsets, and Cepheus, the man who brings the night. For centuries the two despise one another, but as loneliness impacts them both, Fate intervenes.

I have found that often enemies-to-lovers can be problematic, but this one is done eloquently! I enjoyed the love story that also reminds us that we can often take what others do for granted.

Overall, I give this anthology 5 stars easy! I HIGHLY recommend this clean, YA friendly book to lovers of mythological retellings and stories born of lore and legend. You can order your copy here from Amazon or request a copy at your local library!

Photo by @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.