Are you really a unicorn? (A book review)

I’ve been following author Jess Hernandez on Twitter for a while and was so excited to see her debut picture book, First Day of Unicorn School (available for pre-order now!), is out on NetGalley. Sooo I logged in for the first time in two years (yikes), requested the book, and was thrilled to be approved within the hour. I sat down to read it with my four-year-old this afternoon and I was NOT disappointed.

First of all, look at that gorgeous cover! The whole book is full of bright, fun illustrations just like the cover art. My daughter loved them, and we spent a while just looking at the pictures and talking about the animals.

So, does the content live up to the expectation set by the cover? Yes! Milly is a donkey with a party hat (NOT a Unicorn), but gets accepted to Unicorn School anyway. She’s so nervous on her first day that her classmates are going to discover she’s not actually a unicorn and she won’t fit in, but it turns out her classmates all have a secret of their own . . . My four-year-old caught on quickly to what was happening (“Mom, she’s not a unicorn!”), and had a great time pointing out all the different “unicorn horns” throughout the book.

Ultimately, it’s a feel-good picture book showing kids that everyone has something they’re worried about, something they fear will keep them from fitting in — which actually means we’re all more similar than we thought, and really have nothing to fear. It’s about accepting ourselves and each other, and gets that message across in a totally kid-friendly, non-preachy way. I think it’s fabulous!

The book is actually geared for kids in grades K-2, so I’m looking forward to reading it to my first grader, too, and seeing how well she picks up the message. I give this one five stars, and recommend it to everyone with little kids at home.

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy!

Cover Reveal: More Than We Bargained For by Fiona West

I’m SO excited to be part of Fiona West’s cover reveal for her newest book, More Than We Bargained For. Check out this awesome cover, get hooked by the blurb, and then pre-order the book! You know you want to 🙂 I haven’t read a book by Fiona that disappoints, so I expect great things from this one as well!

Wanted: renter for rural Oregon mountain lodge. Single mom divorcees named Starla preferred. 

Starla Moore despises a mystery, and there’s no bigger mystery than Sawyer Devereaux. He comes into the library on Thursdays like clockwork, but rarely talks to anyone else. Not that she despises him; after all, he’s easy on the eyes, quick-witted, and that Southern accent makes her swoon. But in the midst of a divorce, her only romance is the bookish kind. Worst of all, crashing with her bestie won’t be an option soon, especially since her final fling with her husband had one very specific unintended consequence…

Regaining consciousness with his head in the cute librarian’s lap was a rude awakening; Sawyer thought his health problems were under control. Sans driver’s license, there’s no way he can live in his little cabin alone…or keep up with the anonymous book donations he’s been leaving to make Starla smile. When he finds out she’s struggling financially, he proposes a trade: his housing for her driving. Surely he can keep his feelings a secret for a few more months…

He’s given up on his dreams; she’s just figuring hers out. When the rumors start, will it push these two misfits together…or drive one of them out of Timber Falls for good? More Than We Bargained For is the fourth book in the Timber Falls romantic comedy series. If you like town meeting rants, neighborly concerns that become something more, and water fights that heat things up instead of cooling them down, buy this book now. This book contains no open-door sex scenes, no cheating, and a happily ever after.

(PS – I’m copy editing this one, and I’M SO EXCITED to be working with Fiona again!)

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Indie Author Spotlight #16: Catherine Downen

Indie Author SpotlightSo I haven’t had much time for reading or blogging lately, with our first year of homeschooling starting up. I, will, however, be keeping this up because I have really come to love indie authors and their books. Some of my favorite authors are self-published, and most of my editing clients are as well. It’s a really fun part of the publishing industry to be a part of, and I hope this series can benefit both the authors presented and you all as readers as you learn about new, great people to check out! Right now my reading is kind of intermittent, but my current indie fiction read is The Markings by Catherine Downen, who is joining me here this week. I’m impressed by Catherine’s professionalism, and I’m enjoying learning about the world she created in The Markings. I’ve barely gotten into the meat of the story, but I can’t wait to see how Adaline develops on her journey and I hope you’ll consider giving the book a read!

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Welcome, Catherine, and thank you for joining me at The Edifying Word. Let’s start with genre – do you write in a particular genre?

I write in Young Adult fantasy currently, and it’s also the genre I prefer to read in. I find my books tend to have a lot of dystopian elements as well.

So I mentioned already that I’m currently reading and enjoying The Markings, between books for homeschool. Please tell us about it!

My very first book, The Markings, just came out in April 2020! It’s a Young Adult Fantasy novel that follows 16 year old Adaline on her journey to find freedom on the island of Libertas. She is being hunted for her unique powers by the evil King Renon. On her journey she discovers more about herself and her family’s past that makes her journey to freedom not as easy as it sounds. You can find the paperback on Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The ebook is exclusively sold on Amazon. It’s free for Amazon Prime users and Kindle Unlimited members.

You recently released the cover of book two in the series, which I’m excited to share here! Can you tell us a little about book two?

I can! Currently I am working on book two in the series. I am SO excited about the second book, perhaps even more than I was for the first! You can expect that Crowning Keys will be about the same length as book one. We’ll have the same structure, 30 chapters with ten in each part. I can tell you that the part titles are Part One: the Arrival, Part Two: The Royals, and Part Three: The Storm. There are lots of new characters coming into the story. Book one leaves off with the new island of Libertas coming into play and with a new island comes new people, ideas, and plot lines. It’s a very fast paced book. I think the whole book spans over just 9 or 10 days, very similar to book one. Adaline and Alexander will remain our lead characters in book two, but I promise the biggest surprise of their characters has yet to be told. Another thing you can look forward to in Crowning Keys is some more history on Libertas and how it came to be. Also, we’ll get to learn more about who Alexander is and what his childhood was like.

Well I’ll look forward to its release in January! Tell us – have you always been a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. If I had to pick a time I’d say 6th grade. That’s the furthest back I can remember writing stories. I grew up reading all the time, and that’s definitely where my love for writing started. Now I write as a release of creativity. I work as a mechanical engineer, so writing is definitely my escape. It’s just something I love to do and it feels like it’s something I’m supposed to do.

I think I know the answer to this already, because you seem very organized and you’re so well prepared for your January release, but I’ll ask anyway – do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?

I am 100% a plotter. I plan out every single detail of everything! I love planning. I have a planner for work and a calendar board for writing. I think I have to operate this way because I keep myself so busy. I work as a full time engineer and balancing being a published writer is hard. On top of that I also coach my high school speech team for half the year. Because I stay so busy I have no other choice than to plan everything out. I also really like having things planned when it comes to books because it helps me keep all my launches organized and on time.

You sound so much like I was in my early twenties! Now I’m NOT very well-organized . . . though homeschooling is forcing me back into organization. There’s just no other way to fit everything in! Speaking of that, where does writing fit into your busy schedule?

For me, the easiest way for me to fit writing into my life is to carry a notebook with me everywhere. That way I can always write when free time presents itself. I also have to write by hand first anyways. I also try and set aside at least one hour every evening for writing. My writing/work balance has shifted a little with the lockdown. Some days I get to write more and some days I get to write less. I think what I struggle most with right now is actually finding time to read. I wish I could work that into my schedule as well.

Ah, yes, I get it! I am struggling lately to find time for my personal reading. I still read a ton, but these days its mostly whatever I’ve assigned my kids for school or whatever book I’m fortunate enough to be editing! You mentioned enjoying YA Fantasy – so I’m guessing that’s what you pick up when you DO get a chance to read?

Yes! I love to read YA Fantasy! My favorite book, right now anyway, is the Red Queen series. That book series really inspired me and picked me back up when I doubted my own writing.

I noticed you participated in PITMAD last week. Are you pursuing traditional publishing in addition to your independently published series?

I am! Right now I’m working on an entirely new project that I was pitching in PITMAD. It’s a YA portal fantasy, and I’m very excited about its future. My author dream would definitely be to land a publishing deal with a top 5 publishing house, like Penguin or Harper Lee. I’d love to have a Young Adult series that could one day be made into a movie and have people start fan accounts about my work. That would be so cool!

That would be pretty cool! Is there anything else you want readers to know about you? 

I’m 22 years old and just graduated college last year with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I live in southern Illinois and have been writing all my life. The Markings is my debut novel, but there are so many more books in the works. I love cats, Taylor Swift, the beach, and the color pink. Top favorite books of all time are The Hunger Games series, the Red Queen series, and Paper Towns. That’s about all there is to know.

Please help me thank Catherine for joining us here by visiting her site, checking her out on social media, and buying her book! 

Website   —   Amazon   —   Barnes & Noble   —   Goodreads   —   Twitter  Instragram (The Markings)   —   Instagram (Catherine)   —   Facebook

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Would you like to be featured, too? Please contact me at kristin@theedifyingword.com!