The Best Fantasy Books to Reignite Your Sense of Wonder

I am so excited to be part of Shepherd, a fantastic website for readers that features authors, their books, and books they love!

I created a list of the best fantasy books to reignite your sense of wonder (after all, that’s what Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is all about 😊)

It would mean so much to me if you would check out the list! Some of my very favorite books are featured and it was so fun to share more about why these stories are so important to me.

One thing I want to mention! There is a purchase link for Penelope Grace in the list. If you’d like to buy a copy, click the button that says Direct! The story is only available on Etsy, not on Amazon or Bookshop!

And while you’re there, check out Shepherd’s bookshelf of magical realism!

Thank you to everyone who has bought and reviewed Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! I’m so grateful for each of you, and I’m praying that the story encourages you and anyone you share it with!

While you’re exploring the Etsy shop, check out the bookish treasures that would make for some lovely stocking stuffers 🎄

Keep an eye out this week for my review of Harvesting Hope by Lisa Howeler!

Alexandria

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A Winter Tale Told in Three Parts

Hi everyone! It’s been a little while, but I’m excited to get back to the blog with a little tour of my Christian fantasy novel, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Join me?

Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is a winter tale told in three parts 🎄❄🕯

Part One: Christmas begins just as the holiday season is starting. I chose to start there for two reasons.

First, my mom loves Christmastime, and the story is inspired by her, after all, so I wanted to fill it with things she loves!

I also chose it because the holidays, which are meant to be so full of light and hope, often feel dark for those who are suffering loss and loneliness.

My family knows the joy and sadness that can come with this time of year, and I wanted to write a story that acknowledges both.

Whatever your holiday season looks like this year, I hope this story inspires and encourages you in the midst of it ❤

“Fighting for Me” by Riley Clemmons is one of the songs that inspired me while I was writing Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, especially once I got to Part Two: Winter ❄

Winter is a dark time of year for most and it’s a season that many dread.

But I have seen God show up for me and my family on the darkest of winter nights, radiant in all His power and glory, and I wanted to write a story that celebrated His faithfulness in dark times.

Whether winter is a season you love or one you strive to get through, I hope that Penelope Grace’s adventures through the world of Ellura shed a little warmth and light for you 💙

Part Three: Apricity is so special to me. 🕯 When I was thinking of the three parts of the story, Christmas and Winter came instantly.

But I knew that God was leading me to something a little extra special for the final part of the story.

I Googled words related to winter and God brought me to an article featuring a word that is now obsolete (or was, until I wrote Penelope Grace!)

Apricity means, “the warmth of the sun in winter,” and I knew instantly that this was the title of Part Three. I remember being unable to believe that this word was obsolete. It’s so beautiful!

And when I think about the meaning of it – the warmth of the sun in winter – I think, “What a necessary thing!”

Isn’t the time of year that can feel so dark and hopeless the time when we need the warmth of the sun most? Isn’t that the time of year when we need powerful reminders of God’s radiance and faithfulness?

Isn’t that when we need to remember that the dark and cold, the grief and depression that can grip our hearts at this time of year, aren’t frightening to God at all?

This is why I wanted to bring this word, Apricity, into the story. I wanted this final part to be a fresh reminder for everyone who needs it that God is not overcome by darkness. He obliterates every shred of it and, as if that weren’t remarkable enough, He then gives us the eyes to see the radiance He brings to take darkness’s place.

More than anything, I pray that you get to see that radiance for yourself this winter.

If you’d like a copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, it’s available exclusively in my Etsy store!

You can get a regular copy, one that is signed, or bundle a signed copy with a handmade ornament!

You can also check out reviews of the story on Goodreads! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed the book so far! I’m really grateful.

Next week, I’ll be sharing my review of Harvesting Hope by Lisa Howeler!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria

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A Winter Tale of Wonder is Coming

A winter tale of wonder is coming, reader. The fire is crackling in the hearth and the melody of a winter carousel is softly playing as its frost-covered animals begin to turn. The tale invites you to set foot in the land of Ellura, but it begins on a snowy November night in London, where a young woman is holding tightly to wonder.

Here is the prologue for you to read and enjoy, and I hope you will join me for the whole adventure

Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Prologue

Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.

Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.

Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.

Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.

Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.

But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?

But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.

“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”

He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”

And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.

“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.

“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”

Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.

He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.

But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:

“Wonder.”

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Join me for the carousel ride and the fight for wonder. Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel releases this November!

Alexandria

Do You Hear It?

I recently started the book, Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table by Louie Giglio (by recently, I mean this morning!). I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but have always managed to get distracted by other books on my list.

But FaithGateway is hosting a study of this book, starting in September, so now seemed like the perfect time to set distractions – literary or otherwise – aside and finally pick up this book. I’m so glad I did.

My thoughts have been the enemy’s playground for far too long. It’s so simple to let thoughts of shame, defeat, or temptation lead the way. My emotions become my biggest focus, and he’s having a field day before I know what’s happening.

Have you ever been there?

It seems like, just when things are looking up, he chooses to attack. I don’t think that’s on accident. A new edition of my first book is releasing at the end of this year, I’m working on my next story, and things are falling into place. Naturally, the enemy wants nothing more than to derail those good things. And, for the most part, I’ve been letting him.

Discouragement and comparison have gotten the best of me often and, when I’m beginning to feel at my most content, I will scroll past something that threatens to make that contentment topple.

This book, though – Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table – has fallen into my hands at just the right time, and I’m guessing it might be just the right time for you, too. All those struggles and attacks I just mentioned? I know I’m not the only one experiencing them because I know that mine is not the only God-given purpose that the devil would love to destroy.

It feels overwhelming. Like this battle is an impossible one to fight, let alone win. But this quote from Louie Giglio’s book helped me to remember that it’s not actually up to us.

“My place at the table didn’t mean that my enemies would be removed from the equation. In fact, the table was set right in the midst of my enemies. That captivated my imagination and held my attention.

“I didn’t need to vindicate myself. I didn’t need to clear my name. I didn’t need to control this equation or work overtime to improve it. My task was to concentrate on the Good Shepherd, the One who owned the table.

“My invitation was to put my trust in the One who prompted me to lie down in green pastures, the One who led me beside quiet waters and restored my soul.”

Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table, Louie Giglio

Our job is not to win the battle. Our job is to fix our eyes on the One who already has, the One who invites us to sit at a table laid with grace and compassion. We’ve already been given everything we need to live in all the fullness of peace and clarity that God has offered us. We’ve already been assured of victory.

Our hearts can become hardened into rock by all of the attacks, by all the discouragement, defeat, and despair that we get bombarded with.

But do you hear it? It’s the sound of stone breaking, of hearts beating fully and freely for the first time, of thoughts being reclaimed by the truth of what Jesus accomplished for us. And I believe God is using the message of this book and the promise of Psalm 23 to do it.

You can sign up here for the study of Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table.

Have you read any books recently that have shifted your perspective and helped renew your mind?

Later this week, I’ll be sharing a little more about my launch team for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! Follow this link to join the fight for wonder.

Alexandria

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Book Review: Robbing Centaurs and Other Bad Ideas

Something dangerous threatens the land of Aro. The Scorch is returning, and if Aro’s people do not act now, the land will be ruined at its coming. But no one will see or accept it. All they know is that the pieces of the Heather Stone – the strongest of all magic – are being stolen one by one. A messenger named Wick is charged with the task of moving the remaining pieces to safety before the thief can claim them.

Determined and unwavering, Wick sets out to fulfill his duty, until an encounter with the thief, Archer, confuses everything. The pieces of the Heather Stone, Archer insists, are the land of Aro’s only hope against the returning evil. Wick must decide if there is something more to this seraph than petty theft and greed. And he is running out of time.

Robbing Centaurs and Other Bad Ideas is an absolutely delightful debut by Bethany Meyer, one that promises many more adventures to come in the world of Aro. Engaging and witty, the whole story is a hilarious romp that kept me turning the page and laughing at Wick and Archer’s antics. The dynamic between these two characters is so well-written and made me love them more and more as the story went on. I’m eagerly (OK, impatiently) waiting for the next book in this series, and I’m sure that my fellow readers will feel the same after reading book one.

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You can buy Robbing Centaurs and Other Bad Ideas on Amazon and follow Bethany Meyer’s writing journey on Instagram!

What have you been reading lately?

Alexandria

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Putting Holes in the Darkness

I recently read the most beautiful story about Robert Louis Stevenson.

One night, when Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy, his nanny called him to come to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he was staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny walked over, stood at his shoulder, and inquired patiently, “Robert, what are you looking at?”

The little boy, without taking his eyes away from the window, exclaimed in wonder as he pointed to the lamplighter who was lighting the streetlamps, “Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!”

You and I may not be able to change the world, but surely each of us can put a hole in the darkness!

The Joy of My Heart, Anne Graham Lotz

As soon as I read this story, I started thinking back on all of the remarkable books I’ve read over the last few years by my fellow authors and how much their stories matter.

In Anelthalien and Earth Quaking, H.A. Pruitt invites us into a world that is altogether different, where the characters reflect our own struggles and strengths and unexpectedly remind us that no part of our story can erase the purpose that God has uniquely prepared for us.

Whether you’re reading The Cottonwood Chronicles, Peregrine, or Astrid and the Marble Tower, Erica Richardson’s books are full of stunning and much-needed reminders that you never go unnoticed or unseen by God, no matter how small, insignificant, or different you might feel.

Lisa Howeler’s books, like A New Beginning or The Farmer’s Daughter, remind us that grace is real and that the insecurities we feel and the mistakes we make don’t disqualify us from receiving it.

M.H. Elrich’s Daughters of Tamnarae series reassures us that our worth is set in stone and showcases the delight God takes in weaving us into His grand story of love and redemption.

The first book in the Hope on the High Seas series, Free by Careena Campbell, reminds each reader who picks it up that pure faith, though it might be scoffed at, is true strength, and that the more we walk in step with God, the more fully we’ll get to know Him and the hope He offers.

Effie Joe Stock’s books, like Child of the Dragon Prophecy or Aphotic Love, confront the most intense emotions with a courage and boldness that can’t help but inspire her readers. Each page is a reminder that, just like her characters, you are brave enough to experience anger, grief, and pain without being defeated by them.

In Starganauts, C.E. Stone takes readers on a journey through the most crushing grief and uncertainty and displays God’s faithfulness in the midst of it. The whole story is a beautiful reminder that hope is possible even in the most intense battle and that victory and joy are waiting on the other side of it.

There are so many more authors and stories that have inspired me than I have room to share in one post, but I am so grateful for the chance to experience each and every one of these stories.

With every word you type, you are all putting holes in the darkness, reminding us how fragile the night really is when it comes up against God’s radiance.

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You can check out all of these wonderful stories at the links above! If you have any book recommendations, share them below. I’m always looking for an excuse to add another bookshelf to my library 🙂

Alexandria

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Book Review: Starganauts by C.E. Stone

Have you ever struggled to trust God’s plan?

Kaity Anderson knows this struggle all too well. All the world seemed radiant and full of hope as her wedding day dawned, until the unthinkable happened. During the reception — an event that should have been marked by joy — an alien gunship launched an attack against Earth, leaving the surface of the planet irrevocably destroyed.

They had been warned it was coming. A strange prophetess, Samantha, had spoken of the coming destruction, yet none had really believed her. Still, just before the attack arrived, she was there, ready and willing to take those willing to believe her in a space ship that would take them far from the imminent danger.

Choosing to do so, Kaity, her husband, and a few others watch in horror from the ship as their home, loved ones, and fellow humans are destroyed. Crippled by loss, they arrive on an unfamiliar planet, where greater challenges and victories await them than they could have ever imagined.

Up to this point, I have not been a big fan of sci-fi books, but after reading Starganauts, I consider myself officially converted. C.E. Stone has created such an expansive universe, full of characters whose strengths and weaknesses are so relatable and impactful.

The action scenes of the story are vivid and exciting, but also well-balanced with moments that make you think and challenge you in your walk with God right along with Kaity, Samantha, and the other characters. I am so excited to see where the rest of this series takes readers and am sure that more wonderful galactic adventures are in store!

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You can grab a copy of Starganauts here and follow C.E. Stone on Instagram!

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Adventures in Junk Journaling!

For the past few months, I’ve been exploring the world of junk journaling, and it’s become one of my favorite creative projects! I thought it would be fun to share my progress 🙂

One of the things I love about junk journaling is the way it takes items that people might otherwise consider to be trash.

Things like torn paper, old cardboard, bits of twine or lace.

Things that people take one look at and think, “Unusable. Past the point of usefulness or worth.”

These broken things become part of a bigger piece of art, and suddenly, they’re striking and beautiful and inspiring.

The more time I’ve spent making this junk journal, the more I’ve realized how the process mirrors God’s careful fashioning of us.

He takes these broken pieces that make up our lives, unafraid of their sharper edges, and He remakes them into something radiant and new.

Suddenly, we’re beautiful. Suddenly, we’re part of a bigger, God-fashioned work of art, and we get to see how those pieces we thought were useless come together to make the artwork precisely what it was meant to be all along.

When I discovered this craft, I never anticipated the way God would use it to help me know Him better, but I am so grateful He did.

What’s something unexpected that God’s shown you lately?

I’m heading back to junk journaling and writing for now, but I’ll be back here on Friday to share a writing update and my review of Starganauts by C.E. Stone!

Alexandria

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The Narrow Road of the Writing Journey

This morning, I sat still and listened.

That probably doesn’t sound too stupendous, does it? For me, it was a major victory. Over the last few months, I have fallen into the habit of reaching for my phone first thing in the morning. I check my email, look at the news, scroll for a long time on social media, check my email again, and by the end of this cycle, I’m left feeling exhausted and depleted before I ever get out of bed.

But this unhealthy habit also had another, unexpected (except in hindsight) consequence. I’ve written before about my struggle with discontentment and comparison. Naturally, spending my time on social media first thing gave me a full dose of both of those things, but I didn’t really realize it. While I was scrolling, I wasn’t actively thinking discontent thoughts, but that exhaustion that I was feeling afterwards should have been my first clue that that’s exactly what was going on.

I would go on with my day, get my writing done, and then feel so stymied, so lacking in passion or enthusiasm. There were things to do, but the energy just wasn’t there to do them. Have you ever been in a space like this?

Slowly but surely, I was caught up in thoughts that were so defeating. Things weren’t happening in the way that I hoped and the things that were happening, weren’t playing out in the specific way I thought they would.

All of this discontent was stewing, until, eventually, it turned into doubt. I began questioning if I were really meant to write, to start a publishing company. I wondered if all of this was really going to work out, or if I hadn’t heard God right all this time.

This isn’t exactly unusual in the writing journey, though, is it?

It’s a narrow road we tread. Sometimes, that road feels like a winding, twisting one. It disappears into a dark valley where we can’t see the next step forward. We’re stumbling and nothing seems straightforward or clear.

Other times, the road feels like a small path up a mountain. It leads you along a cliff edge, but it’s exhilarating and exciting, and the view at the end makes the peril and uncertainty so worth it.

I feel like I just came out of the valley this morning.

I sat down with my coffee, my phone remained far from my hands, and I spent time listening to the voice of my Savior. He led me to Psalm 23, and He reassured my long-exhausted heart that He sees what I don’t. He sees how all of this works out, how all of this is possible. He reminded me that He created me to be a writer, and He did it for a reason.

And we need reminders like this all the time, don’t we? We need reminders that we’re not crazy. That we were hand-crafted for this narrow road, to travel it with Him, and trust Him with the outcome.

So, here’s your reminder, my fellow word-slinging friend. You were made for this writing journey. You were given words that matter, and no moment of doubt, negative review, or roadblock can take that away from you.

We’ll take the narrow road of the writing journey together and follow our Creator’s lead. The view at the end is going to be breathtaking, isn’t it? 🙂

Alexandria

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Cover Reveal: The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy

Happy Cover Reveal Day to Kimberly Duffy and her upcoming novel, The Weight of Air. I have loved every book that Kimberly has written, and I’m sure this one will be no exception 🙂

Below, I’m sharing the book blurb, as well as links to fun pre-order goodies!

The Weight of Air releases on February 7th, 2023!

Book Blurb:

In 1911, Mabel MacGinnis is Europe’s strongest woman and has performed beside her father in the Manzo Brothers Circus her entire life. But at his unexpected death, she loses everything she’s ever known and sets off in the company of acrobat Jake Cunningham for America in hope of finding the mother she’s just discovered is still alive.

Isabella Moreau, the nation’s most feted aerialist, has given everything to the circus. But age and injury now threaten her security, and Isabella, stalked by old fears, makes a choice that risks everything. When her daughter Mabel appears alongside the man who never wanted to see Isabella again, Isabella is forced to face the truth of where, and in what, she derives her worth.

In this evocative novel from Kimberly Duffy, the meaning of strength takes center stage as the lives of three circus performers become entangled beneath the glittering lights and flying trapeze of Madison Square Garden.

Pre-Order Details:

You can pre-order The Weight of Air from Amazon and Baker Book House! When you pre-order from Baker Book House, you’ll receive some fun pre-order goodies!

I can’t wait to read this story! Have you ever read any books by Kimberly Duffy? She is one of my very favorite authors. Click the titles to read my reviews of A Tapestry of Light and A Mosaic of Wings.