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.

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!