Jolene: Adventures of a Junk Food Queen Virtual Book Tour, Review, and Giveaway

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Jolene: Adventures of a Junk Food Queen

Created by Alexa Palmer and Catharine Kaufman

Illustrated by John Martinez and Hayden Mills

Ages 4-10 | 60 Pages

Publisher: Palmer and Kaufman | ISBN-13: 978-0-615136301

Publisher’s Book Summary: Jolene loves junk food. She loves it so much she wears red licorice in her hair–and pink taffy underwear! The Munch Bunch calls her “The Junk Food Queen.” Then, one night in her dreams, she meets a bunch of cool characters who take her on an incredible, edible journey into a world of juicy fruits, super salads, and yummy smoothies.

Available for purchase on: AmazonBookshop.orgBarnes and Noble, and Walmart.


Alexa Palmer resides in Rancho Mirage, California, where she has raised three daughters- Alexandra, Stephanie and Christina. A preschool teacher who has been passionate about writing since the age of 8, Alexa also has a background in performing arts from the University of London and Oxford University. She is a published songwriter formerly studying under the tutelage of the late Buddy Kaye and is excited about launching the musical version she created for Jolene.

Catharine Kaufman is a nationally syndicated food columnist, blogger, author, magazine writer and TV
chef. She credits her growing expertise in good nutrition for her survival and recovery from breast cancer and shares that expertise to help keep her family, friends and fans in good health. Writing her columns under the moniker “The Kitchen Shrink,” Catharine dispenses advice on topics that include smart grocery shopping, food facts and folklore, unforgettable dinners on a shoestring, solving cooking disasters and putting the skids on colds, flu and other ailments with healing ‘food chemistry.’

Showing off her humorous culinary savvy, Catharine was featured in a “Kitchen Shrink” mini series produced by Time-Warner, which included such segments as Kitchen Play Date with Kids, and Pantry Preparedness. She also did a stint as radio host and sidekick of restaurant reviewer and food guru Merrill Shindler on KLSX, Los Angeles. As a founder and partner of, the healthy gourmet cooking and food safety blog, Catharine has been garnering kudos from foodies around the world for her featured columns on that long-established site.

Through its offbeat humor, Catharine’s well-received children’s book with collaborator Alexa Palmer, “Jolene – Adventures of a Junk Food Queen,” motivated her two daughters and other children to participate in her cooking classes, as well as to acquire healthier eating habits than many of their peers. “Jolene…” has also been endorsed by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and is being sold on Amazon and other outlets. Ever since discovering her inner foodie, Catharine has been in her element, focusing her energy and passion on weaning as many people—but especially children and young adults—off toxic foods and guiding them on a fun journey to healthy living.

Jolene: Adventures of a Junk Food Queen shares a story of hard-core junk food queen that turns her life around to be more healthy-conscious. The story remined me of a cross between Candyland and Alice in Wonderland. The story draws in fun characters to teach children why it's important to eat healthy. My 6-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to this book and has reread it over and over again several times within the past few weeks. She liked the characters, the story, and the illustrations and it has quickly become a favorite of hers to read. My daughter wanted to discuss the story and share the lessons she learned. This story is a must for families trying to teach their children the importance of eating healthy balanced diets. The illustrations are fun, eye-catching, lively with a great use of bold colors. The story teaches kids about making healthy choices in a silly way that kids will understand and shares that eating healthy can be more beneficial to their health and can taste great. I liked that the story shared such an important lesson for kids in a way that kids will find relatable. For younger audiences, the story may need to be read in several sittings. For older children, they can read the book in one sitting. This was such a wonderful book with important lessons for children. I can see this book being used in homes, schools, and even in a dietician's office. 


Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Jolene: Adventures of a Junk Food Queen! 

 Two (2) winners receive: - A signed copy of Jolene: Adventures of a Junk Food Queen 

Jolene Adventures of a Junk Food Queen Book Giveaway

This post is in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Alexa Palmer. I received a free copy to review, however, I shared my honest opinion. 

Healing Hazel Review and Giveaway

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hazel Thornton has one great ambition: to help the sick and wounded as a nurse. But that dream can never become a reality. After a devastating childhood trauma, she has spent her life battling fits of panic that make it impossible to finish her studies. Everything changes, however, when a trip to Spain takes a perilous turn that derails her plans to visit her father for Christmas and immediately plunges her into the dangers of a brutal war.

With single-minded focus, she springs into action to help her fellow travelers. To ensure their continued care, she begins work at a Spanish hospital alongside Dr. Jim Jackson, a man whose only emotion seems to be wariness of his new assistant. Armed with gifts of support from each of her dearest friends, a group that dubs themselves the Blue Orchid Society, Hazel embarks on a journey of hope and healing to battle the demons of her past with the help of the doctor who has captured her heart.

Healing Hazel is the third book in The Blue Orchid Society Series. I felt like this book could almost be a standalone and you could read this book without reading the other two books in the series. Most of the action in the story doesn't take place around the other society members, but it takes place in Spain. It was interesting to learn more about Spain and the war that they had during this time period. The author takes great care to explain the conflict, show the different sides, and the brutalities of war. I felt like I could get a small sense of what people were going through during that time period and the uneasiness surrounding them. The character, Hazel, gets a chance to step out of her comfort zone, conquer challenges that held her back in the past, and get a real awareness of the conflicts and struggles of others around her. Her story is uplifting and positive. This book was really interesting, and I enjoyed the historical background information as much as the story. The author does a good job at painting the different characters and tugging on the readers' emotions. Overall, I found it to be a heart-warming and interesting read. To learn more, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note that this post is in cooperation with the publisher and the author, however, I shared my honest opinions. I also received a free book to review. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

An Autumn Kiss Review

Saturday, September 24, 2022


Will one kiss change their lives?

In this collection:
  • THE PLUCKY MISS RUTH by Laura Rollins:
    Miss Ruth Hughes is certain she’s caught in a time loop—every day she wakes to find it exactly as the one before. A thrilling prospect to be sure. If the many books she reads on time travel has taught her anything, it is that to break free she must complete an all-important task. For Ruth the task is straightforward: reunite a couple, once desperately in love but forced apart by society. Unfortunately, things are not always as easy as they first appear. Struggling, Ruth opens up to the handsome Lord Lambert and he readily agrees to help. With autumn on the brink of turning into winter, time is running out for Ruth to help the ones who need her most. And, with a bit of luck, perhaps she can even find a little time for her own happily ever after. 
  • MR. DOWLING'S REMEDY by Annette Lyon:
    Crandall Dowling’s aspirations of becoming a physician collapse when he develops symptoms that land him in an asylum. He’s been at Sherville Retreat long enough for autumn leaves to appear when Beverly Stanton arrives. She’s held under the dubious diagnosis of “hysteria” but seems perfectly sane, unlike Crandall, though his verbal and physical tics don’t seem to scare or even bother her. Beverly and Crandall develop a friendship fueled by an undeniable attraction that under other circumstances could become more. But in an asylum, one cannot plan a future, let alone one of love or marriage. Then tragedy strikes, testing staff and patients beyond anyone’s training. When the dust settles, Beverly’s diagnosis may be reversed, but if she leaves, what will become of her? What of Crandall? And what of their autumn-born love? 
  •  A RAILWAY THROUGH THE ROSES by Lisa H. Catmull:
    Mr. Adrian Everard has tried everything to keep his father’s factory open, but a single solution remains. Marry an heiress before Christmas to fund the desperately needed railway. The local landowner, Lady Anne Baxter, will not agree to sell her garden—or her heart. Indeed, his childhood friend is determined to sabotage all his efforts to find a wife. As the deadline for Adrian to choose a bride draws close, one thing becomes painfully obvious. Saving the factory will mean losing the woman he loves forever.
An Autumn Kiss shares clean romantic stories that vary from being a sweet romance, controversy romance and a romance with friends turned to romance. The authors' voices differ in a lot of ways, but they come together to bring a fun seasonal Victorian romance anthology that romance readers will find enjoyable and entertaining to read. Each of the stories has something to offer starting with The Plucky Miss Ruth where Ruth tries to break away her routine with something new. This story reminded me in some ways of a time loop that suddenly starts to fray and break apart. It was interesting and different but could have been written a little stronger with more descriptions. Mr. Dowling's Remedy was a sweet romance, but also very appropriately for the season gave off some Halloween vibes. It was more than a little disturbing to read about a sane person being committed without any rights I felt like this was an interesting breakaway from standard romance books and gave the reader something to think about. I enjoyed A Railway Through the Roses. The characters in this romance felt strong and was well-written. Overall, this anthology is an entertaining read that readers will enjoy. To learn more, click here.

Please note that I received a free ebook to review, however, this is my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

Secrets of the Looking Glass Blog Tour, Author Interview, and Review

Thursday, September 22, 2022

After returning from Wonderland, Celia and Tyrus journey to the Looking-Glass World to reclaim their mirror images and stop a war between two powerful queens.

When a dark creature called the Bandersnatch steals Lewis Carroll’s lost diaries, Celia and Tyrus try to get it back but are tricked into passing through a magic mirror into the Looking-Glass World, a place where everything—themselves included—are divided in two, like identical twins. Celia’s astute logic and Tyrus’s exceptional imagination now belong to their mirror images, Lia and Ty, who are generals in the Red Queen’s Army, which is at war against the White Kingdom.

Left without their greatest problem-solving skills, Celia and Tyrus must rely on each other more than ever as they play a massive game of chess to try to catch their mirror images, who always seem to be one step ahead of them. Along the way, they engage in a rhyming battle with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, seek advice from Humpty and Dumpty, and learn how to believe in the impossible from the White Queen, who remembers the future as if it were the past.

As the final battle draws near, Celia and Tyrus form an uneasy alliance with Lia and Ty in order to find the legendary vorpal sword—the only weapon powerful enough to stop the war. If they fail, not only will two kingdoms be destroyed, but Celia and Tyrus might never regain their stolen talents and be trapped in the Looking-Glass World forever.

I was a little hesitant to read Secrets of the Looking Glass. I've read other Alice in Wonderland retellings or series inspired by the classic and they were just not very good and dark. I decided to try this book because I was familiar with the author's other works, and I was looking for new series for my kids to read. I was pleasantly surprised by this series. It's really well written and the author does a good job at keeping the reader engaged with suspense, twists and turns, and unexpected surprises. There was also a lot of depth to this book and as a parent, I really liked the lessons that the author was teaching...looking at someone's actions rather than appearances and just because one talent is taken away doesn't diminish your other talents and the other wonderful things that make up who you are. The characters in the story were interesting and cleverly written. I felt like it was pretty true to Carroll's story, but yet more approachable for today's readers and audiences. The story was interesting, entertaining, and easy to read. I think readers will enjoy the action and adventure in this story. The story was also clean and age-appropriate for kids. I could also see this book used in the classroom. There were several parts of the story that could lead to an in-depth discussion. There was also a lot of great lines in this book..."In real life, kids didn't defeat dragons or save worlds. But, if there was one thing he'd taught me, it was that stories weren't just a way to hide from the hard things in life. They inspired us to face our troubles with courage and imagination." This book seemed to fulfill that quote in a lot of ways by inspiring kids to use their imaginations, find courage, and believe in themselves. This is a book that you'll want to add to your home library. To learn more about this book, click here.


Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write this series?

J. Scott Savage - Most people know that Lewis Carroll wrote two Alice in Wonderland books, but because a lot of the movies and TV shows combine characters from both worlds, we only get a small taste of The Looking Glass World with things like the Tweedle Twins, the Red and White chess pieces, and the Jabberwock. I really wanted to explore that world more while also getting a chance to learn more about Celia, Tyrus, and of course, Hatter.

Life Is What It's Called - What can readers expect from you next?

J. Scott Savage - I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more Wonderland Diaries books, but in the meantime, I have a new series about a fifth-grade treasure hunter told in a middle grade noir voice. Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard comes out spring of 2023. I also have a new project with one of my favorite illustrators that I hope to be able to announce soon.

Life Is What It's Called - How does this series differ from your other series and how is it similar? 

J. Scott Savage - It’s really important to me that all of my series have a unique voice and flow. The Wonderland Diaries books have more of whimsy and silliness than, say, my Mysteries of Cove books. But I also want all of my books to have a good combination of meat—character growth, plot elements that make you think, puzzles and mysteries to figure out—and dessert—jokes, surprises, and fun silliness.

As far as differences between book one and book two, book one had to visit a lot of familiar characters and places. In a way we were sort of revisiting a lot of things from the original Alice in Wonderland book. In this book, I had more room to explore and world-build on my own, while still retaining Carroll’s original framework. I loved unraveling the mythology of the battle, the Jabberwock, the Bandersnatch, and why mirrors are so powerful.

Life Is What It's Called - How do you see this being used in the classroom?

J. Scott Savage - As a kid who didn’t always fit in, stories were a real lifeline to me from the early grades up through high school. Because of that, I’ve tended to lean toward telling stories about kids who might feel like they don’t fit in. In the first book, Celia and Tyrus discover their logic and imagination. In this book, they have to learn that both of them have so much more to offer than just one thing. I hope that teachers can use this story to help their students discover how fun it can be to discover new talents—especially ones that kids might not feel they are very good at.

Life Is What It's Called - What will readers learn from this book?

J. Scott Savage - I had so much fun researching the depth of the Looking Glass World, chess moves, debates, riddles, and puns, and military strategy. I hope readers will enjoy those as well. But mostly I hope it will inspire them to explore new things they might have been afraid to try before.

Life Is What It's Called - Why do you think it's important to retell stories in new ways?

J. Scott Savage - Retellings of classic stories and fairy tales can go a lot of directions—from making the villain a hero to completely shaking everything up. I value Lewis Carroll’s genius so much that I didn’t want to try to turn it on its head. Instead, I wanted to dive deeper. I wanted to know why the world was a chess board, what the two queens were fighting about, who the mysterious knitting sheep was, and so much more. But I tried to do it in a way that I hope Lewis Carroll would enjoy, with word play, and clever insights from Hatter, and a genuine love for his world.

Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write middle grade fiction?

J. Scott Savage - I view middle grade as a time of discovery. Even the ordinary things are magical when you experience them for the first time. From friendships to going different places and meeting new people, to different emotions. Seeing things through the eyes a child makes us see them in new ways or ways that we might have forgotten about. Plus, I think that no matter how old we are, inside we still view ourselves as children setting off on an epic adventure.

For kids who struggle to make friends or fit the mold the world makes for them, stories can be a life-saving experience. And honestly, I don’t know how much that changes even when we are technically adults.

Life Is What It's Called - What will readers like most about this book?

J. Scott Savage - Some readers might be more into the battles and strategy, some will love the word play and riddles, and others will get into meeting some really fun new characters. Mostly, I just hope they enjoy rejoining Celia and Tyrus and a grand adventure to an amazing and unexpected world.

Life Is What It's Called - Why do you think it's important to encourage reading in kids?

J. Scott Savage - Oh, gosh. I could go on and on for hours about this. But in a nutshell, kids who read more make friends more easily, get better jobs, are healthier, are less likely to end up in prison, and are more successful in life. But even if all of that weren’t the case, readers are just generally nicer people because they are able to see the world from a different perspective than their own. I truly believe that if we could all read more stories about people who are different than ourselves, the world would be far less divided than it is. And that’s as good as a reason as you can find.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that help support this blog. This post is in cooperation with the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book; however, I shared my honest opinion.

Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex

Written by Carole P. Roman

Ages 8-18 | 243 Pages

Publisher: Chelshire, Inc. | ISBN-13: 9781950080434

Publisher’s Book Summary: Templeton Academy, the superhero high school, is finally open!

The prestigious academy is recruiting the best of the best to enroll in its student body. The school is as mysterious as it is exclusive. Grady Whill thinks there is nothing special about him to make the grade. However, his best friend, Aarush Patel has been selected and thinks Grady has the right stuff. Even school bully, Elwood Bledsoe is attending.

If Grady is fortunate enough to be picked, his guardian has forbidden him to attend. Will a family secret prevent Grady from becoming the superhero he was destined to be?

Available for purchase on Amazon and Audible.


Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of over fifty children’s books. Whether it’s pirates, princesses, spies, or discovering the world around us, her books have enchanted educators, parents, and her diverse audience of children of all ages.

Her best-selling book, The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids: 800+ Jokes! has reached number one on Amazon in March of 2020 and has remained in the top 200 books since then.

She published Mindfulness for Kids with J. Robin Albertson-Wren.

Carole has co-authored two self-help books. Navigating Indieworld: A Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing with Julie A. Gerber, and Marketing Indieworld with both Julie A. Gerber and Angela Hausman.

Roman is the CEO of a global transportation company, as well as a practicing medium.

She also writes adult fiction under the name Brit Lunden and has created an anthology of the mythical town of Bulwark, Georgia with a group of indie authors.

Writing is her passion and one of her favorite pastimes. Roman reinvents herself frequently, and her family calls her the ‘mother of reinvention.’ She resides on Long Island, near her children and grandchildren.

For more information, visit, Twitter, or Amazon.


Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write Grady Whill and the Templeton Code?

Carole P. Roman - It actually wasn't my initial idea. My son and I are both authors. We work together in a family business and were at a meeting one morning throwing around story ideas. We always do this, exchange ideas, test theories, and bounce a plot around. It's a beta reader's paradise. He wanted to write a book about a superhero. My other son suggested a story revolving around a school for superheroes. We all had very different concepts of what makes a hero.

He soon moved on to another subject, and I asked if he minded if I took the idea. I wanted to write a coming-of-age story that included daily challenges that many kids face. Confidence, learning disabilities, autism, and bullying are topics my family has faced over the years.

I wanted to incorporate them into a rousing adventure with the promise that you don't have to be super to be a superhero. Grady Whill had to be someone that everyone could identify with.

I think we've all been in his shoes at one time or another. Panic, insecurity, and the feeling that you're just not enough can stifle potential in so many people. Grady Whill is a book about hope. The goal was to have the reader grow alongside Grady and his friends, with the understanding that everyone has a superpower of sorts waiting to be discovered and developed.

Life Is What It's Called - How does your story stand apart from other middle grade books on the market?

Carole P. Roman - I like to think that it has something for every reader. My grandson complains that many books he reads in school are 'boring.' Keeping that in mind, I included adventure, fantasy, and enough tension to keep the most reluctant reader turning pages. I also pride myself that I never 'talk down' to my readers. The book is written in the first person, and early reviewers indicate the narrator is as entertaining as he is real.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you think readers will like most about this book?

Carole P. Roman - The characters. There is a diverse group of students, each learning about their potential. I think people will enjoy Grady and Aarush's camaraderie.

Grady lets us into his heart and head. He has not had it easy; despite that, he is not a victim. He champions Aarush, who is often picked on because of his autism. Yet, his character is real enough to admit and squash the envy when his best friend makes it into the school he's given up on attending.

Life Is What It's Called - How has your background helped you in developing this book?

Carole P. Roman - Every problem Grady encounters comes from personal experience. I have had learning disabilities, my brother is blind, and my children and grandchildren have dealt with issues mentioned in the book, from bullies to learning disorders. Building confidence in your child is just as important as teaching them math or literature.

Life Is What It's Called - How is this book similar and different from the other books you've written?

Carole P. Roman - I have several series in both fiction and nonfiction. My series, Oh Susannah, deals with issues children face in the earlier grades. They are short chapter books. Grady Whill is my first full-length novel.

Life Is What It's Called - How do you see this book being used in the classrooms, at home, or in libraries?

Carole P. Roman - My greatest wish to for parents to find their child reading this book in bed long after they were supposed to shut the lights. However, it's a great discussion book that works in a classroom or a library.

Life Is What It's Called - Do you have a similar personality to any of the characters in the book?

Carole P. Roman - I think not only there's a little bit of me in Grady, but several members of my family will also see themselves in the characters. Actually, I do identify mostly with a minor character, Lydia Cullen.

Life Is What It's Called - What should readers know about you?

Carole P. Roman - I started writing late in life, jumping into an entirely new career when most people are slowing down. I have worn so many interesting hats in my life; teacher, CEO, and author. I bring all of those experiences to my books.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you like about being an author?

Carole P. Roman - I love being an author. I enjoy reading the reviews that share how I impacted someone's life and that my words may have lifted their spirits, giving them an outlet when they felt alone. It's fun and exciting.

Life Is What It's Called - Are you working on any new writing projects you can tell us about?

Carole P. Roman - I just published a new joke book Giggles Galore that will make a gift for the reluctant reader. A book on Friendsgiving will be out for the holidays. Two more are in the works, and of course, Grady Whill is getting ready for his sophomore year.

Enter for a chance to win an awesome prize!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A signed copy of Grady Whill and the Templeton Code
  • A waxed canvas backpack

Nine (9) winners receive:
  • A signed copy of Grady Whill and the Templeton Code

Grady Whill and the Templeton Code Book Giveaway 

This post is in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Carole P. Roman.

The Opera Sisters Blog Tour, Review, and Author Interview

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England. British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers.

When Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins passing laws that restrict the rights and lives of German Jews. The sisters continue visiting the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country.

Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference?

Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?

The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion gave hope to many Jews desperate to escape Nazi persecution.


MARIANNE MONSON received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and primarily writes on topics related to women’s history. She has taught English and Creative Writing at the community college and university levels and is the author of twelve books for children and adults, including the novel Her Quiet Revolution and her nonfiction works Frontier Grit and Women of the Blue and Gray.

She is the founder of The Writer’s Guild, a literary nonprofit, and writes from a 100-year-old house in Astoria, Oregon.

Visit her at


The story of the Opera Sisters was very interesting. It hit on some lesser-known facts and history of World War II. I also felt like I could apply some of the fears and dilemmas that people were facing today, and it helped me to understand more about refugees and people that are stuck in countries that are facing a crisis. 

The sisters came alive through the storytelling. I felt like I got an understanding of who these women were and the risks that they were taking. I also enjoyed that it was overall a fresh take on World War II. The only downside to the book is that there were some parts that I felt like the author was trying to cram as much as she could about the other events that were going on in World War II and it distracted from the story. Most readers are familiar with the overall events of World War II, and I would have liked to see more detail on the sisters and the refugees. 

Overall, I felt like it was a worthwhile read. I've read a lot of different books on World War II, and it gave me new insight into the crisis that was happening in Germany and a different take on how refugees were fleeing the country. The author did a good job at painting a picture of the tragedies that occurred when refugees couldn't escape, the fear and danger during that time, and the joy when refugees made it safely out of the country and were able to restart their lives in safety. To learn more about this book, click here.


LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED - How did you learn about this true story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I learned about it when my editor sent me a magazine article about Ida and Louise Cook. I'd been wanting to write a World War 2 novel for sometime, and this seemed like a great opportunity. I fell in love with their sweet sister relationship and the way they drew strength from each other, which isn't a relationship that is often portrayed in fiction.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What did you find most inspiring when you researched this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I loved the way the Cook sisters came from a very ordinary background, but their passions and ability to care led them to do remarkable things. I was inspired by the way they leaned on each other, their community, and their art to survive the horrific events unfolding around them.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What do you want readers to gain from this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I hope they see clear parallels to the modern era we find ourselves in and feel inspired to follow the Cooks' lead and find a way to stay involved even when circumstances are dire.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What have you gained by writing this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - So much inspiration. I'd love to be like Ida Cook when I "grow up" someday. Her ability to truly love people is astounding. She used that love to change people's lives permanently--to change the lives and trajectories of whole families. She changed the course of history for a number of people, and she did it by being fully and only herself. I was also deeply inspired by the Jewish refugees, by their tenacity, their perseverance, their ability to reinvent themselves and rebuild their lives and communities in a completely different culture. Some of those who escaped turned around and enlisted--went back to Europe to take up arms against Hitler. That kind of resilience is remarkable.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What writing projects are you working on next?

MARIANNE MONSON - I'm working on a YA immigration novel that I'm co-writing with a colleague. I'm really excited about the project. It explores the Guatemalan Civil War and its impact, and is my first book that is set partially in Oregon, where I've lived for the last 25 years.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What is your background in writing?

MARIANNE MONSON - I decided to become a writer when I was seven, and I never changed my mind. I earned an English Lit degree and then worked at a publishing house, in order to understand the business aspect of it. I earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, which is where I worked with some remarkable mentors and truly got serious about the work. Since then, I've authored and edited fourteen published books as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles and poems. I'm still a regular journal writer. At the end of the day, I write because I love it, and I couldn't live without it. Books have been my best friends through the most difficult times in my life and it's an honor to think words I've written might be that for someone else.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What do you want readers to know about this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I'd like them to know that they can expect a World War 2 story that is different from those they've heard before and one that has remarkable parallels to today's world: rising inflation, the allure of populist leaders, mounting political strife, and rising numbers of refugees--it is easy to see our own era in these pages.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED - How does this book stand apart from other WWII historical fiction books?

MARIANNE MONSON - There are so many books about WW2 out there that it's daunting to attempt to contribute to the literature on the era. I feel that The Opera Sisters examines some of the lesser known events of the era (like the hyperinflation in the Weimar republic, the Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the origins behind Kristallnacht, and the battle of Warsaw), and shows the Cooks' work contextualized against this backdrop.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that help support this blog. This post was done in cooperation with the publisher. I received a free copy of the book to review, however, these are my honest opinions.

Sinister Secrets Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway

Monday, September 12, 2022


Prepare for heart-pounding danger in Sinister Secrets, featuring suspense novellas from three of your favorite writers. With all the thrills and chills you’ve come to expect from these best-selling authors, this must-have compilation will keep you at the edge of your seat until the very last page.
  • Traci Hunter Abramson: Secrets of St. Augustine: FBI Special Agent Doug Valdez is in France looking for money launderers. The last thing he expects is to find a young girl fleeing for her life or the deadly game of cat and mouse that ensues.
  • Clair M. Poulson: Hounded: Recently retired Army Ranger Renn Huitt has found the perfect job. Working for Bob, a private investigator nearing retirement, should be easy. But Bob has put a lot of people behind bars—people who hold a grudge. And now they are coming for him.
  • Paige Edwards: In Plain Sight: Jaclyn Girard was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now she’s caught in the middle of a deadly investigation. With danger mounting, she must work alongside FBI operative Cody Ackert if she hopes to survive.

Sinister Secrets involves three novellas that unravel a sinister secret. The novellas are action-packed, suspenseful, and full of adventure. I was surprised at how the level of danger escalated. With the story being so compact in a novella, the danger came quickly and was very gripping. The characters were put in very tricky situations, and it was interesting to see how the author wrote out the solutions. I liked seeing the different stories play out and enjoyed reading each of the author's voices and how they each created a unique story to uncover a sinister secret. Each of the stories felt very unique and different to me. The stories were clean, entertaining, and page-turners. Teenagers to adults will enjoy the stories and adventure in this book. There were some situations of violence, but it wasn't graphic or detailed. Overall, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy action, suspenseful reads. To learn more, click here.

Please note that I received a free ebook to read, however, this is my honest opinion. This post is in cooperation with the author and publisher. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

Squashed Virtual Book Tour, Review, and Giveaway

Thursday, September 8, 2022



Written and Illustrated by Meaghan Tosi

Based on a Story by Thomas Tosi

Ages 6-12 | 80 Pages

Publisher: Dooney Press | ISBN-13: 9781954782051

Publisher’s Book Summary: Aah! Dude! It moved!

Can the mysterious shuddering pumpkin the three kids found in the forest be alive? They’re going to find out when they lift it from its resting place and carry it home. But what happens if someone or something comes looking for it?

This evocative graphic novel is spooky yet ultimately gentle and charming. It presents a tale of unfounded fear of those who are different and the similarities we all share. Told in richly stylized full-color artwork from illustrator Meaghan Tosi whose previous work Kirkus Reviews praised as delightful.

Available for purchase on:


MEAGHAN TOSI, was born and raised in New Hampshire, earned a BFA from Laguna College of Art and Design, and illustrated this book and the middle-grade novel “Six Thousand Doughnuts” alongside author Thomas Tosi. She is also the author/illustrator of “Dweedy: The Imagined Adventures of My Deceased Cat.” She now lives with her partner Daniel and many plants in Portland, Oregon for the art scene, extraordinary hikes, and many neighborhood cats.

Squashed is a cute graphic novel with very little text, but it's a book kids can discuss in a book club, classroom discussion group, and leaves the reader with something to think about. The themes in book vary from Halloween, family, understanding others that are different from you, and making friends. I felt like the themes and the messaging in the book was very kid friendly and age appropriate. Young readers will love the illustrations. The illustrations are very cute, eye-catching, and attractive. The illustrations are really what makes the book special. It's not a "scary" or overly "creepy" Halloween book, so I think most readers will find it appealing. Since the book also has minimum words, it may also appeal to struggling readers and emerging readers especially if a caregiver is there and you can talk about it together. Overall, I think it's a fun book for Halloween that families will enjoy and want to have in their home libraries.


Enter for a chance to win an awesome Dooney Press Gift Pack of books and more fun goodies!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

Dooney Press Gift Pack:

  • ONE hardcover book "Squashed"
  • ONE paperback book "Six Thousand Doughnuts"
  • ONE paperback book "Dweedy: The Imagined Adventures of My Deceased Cat"
  • ONE DVD of the original family-produced short film "Squashed."

Four (4) winners receive:

  • ONE paperback book "Squashed"

Squashed Book Giveaway 

This post is in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Dooney Press. I received a free copy of the book to review, however, this is my honest opinion.

The Bachelor and the Bride Blog Tour and Review

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


London, 1866

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by secretly marrying her to protect her from her family of notorious grave robbers.

But six months after Gemma and Barnabus exchanged vows, she realized her love for her new husband was unrequited. To protect her heart, she left, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grew beyond a sense of duty.

When Barnabus sends a letter to Gemma inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But unfortunately, he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he'll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follows the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London's criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma's life might now save Barnabus—and his lonely heart.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they'll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.


Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner.

Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.


Bachelor and the Bride is the fourth installment of the Dread Penny Series. This series is best read in order since there's an overall plot that overarches the whole series. The author wrote two dread penny stories that mirror some of the action in the overall story. This book had many exciting twists and turns and unexpected developments. The characters were interesting and well-developed. After reading it, I messaged a few other bookstagrammers/bloggers that were set to review it to ask their opinion on a few characters. I also scanned the other books in the series to try and figure out what the author would write in the fifth book. The author's dropped a few clues and hints in the story and a few of the other books in the series from the very beginning, but it's hard to guess where she's going and figure out what are the misdirects. This book was really exciting to read, but also frustrating since I wanted to read the next book in the series right after this one. Overall, I liked how the story developed and it was exciting and entertaining to read. The next book in the series is on my must read for 2023. For proper romance fans, this series is a must read. I also enjoyed reading the resurrectionist part of this story. It reminded me of some of the research in Mary Roach's book Stiff. To learn more about the Bachelor and the Bride, click here


Life Is What It's Called - How many books can we expect in this series?

Sarah Eden - There will be five books in the Dread Penny Society series.

Life Is What It's Called - What character are you most like in this series so far?

Sarah Eden - I see a great deal of myself in both Elizabeth Black and Móirín Donnelly. I have that drive to work and see things through that is so much a part of Elizabeth. And, though I’m usually as mild mannered and quietly well behaved as Elizabeth generally is, when the situation calls for it, I can be forceful and focused like Móirín. I’ve even been told I can, at times, be intimidating, which is one of her defining traits. It’s a somewhat odd mixture, but I’m sometimes a rather odd person.

Life Is What It's Called - What will readers like most about The Bachelor and the Bride?

Sarah Eden - So many of the threads from earlier books come together in The Bachelor and the Bride, and the mystery deepens. I’ve been laying the groundwork for some of the things that happen in this book since the very beginning of the series. I think readers will also really enjoy watching our hero and heroine fall in love. They’re an adorable couple, with hidden strengths and a delightful connection.

Life Is What It's Called - What challenges have you discovered in writing this series?

Sarah Eden - Each book in the series contains chapters of two additional stories–Victorian Era penny dreadfuls, written by characters in the books. It is such a challenge to write them the way those characters would rather than doing so in my own voice or my own style. That aspect of this series has truly stretched me as an author.

Life Is What It's Called - What writing projects are you working on?

Sarah Eden - We are in the editing stages of the final installment in the Dread Penny Society series. I have another book also being edited. And I am drafting a fun and lighthearted early 19th-Century romance and am really enjoying it.

Life Is What It's Called - What's your favorite part about writing this particular novel?

Sarah Eden - I don’t know if I have a single “favorite,” but I found the research I did about the resurrectionist trade truly fascinating. Studying the how and why of that grim part of the London underworld was both chilling and riveting.

Life Is What It's Called -What is something that readers should know about you?

Sarah Eden - I find history so endlessly fascinating that I spend my free time studying simply out of curiosity. I am always eager to explore new places and new eras. The longer I write and the more books I pen, the more time periods I’ll likely write about. There are so many stories to be told that I couldn’t imagine confining myself to a single place and time.

Please note that I received a free copy to review, however, this is my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog. This post is in cooperation with the publisher, Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Critical Consequences Blog Review

Friday, September 2, 2022

About the Book - As a member of the coast guard, Mike Weaver is guided by a single objective: to locate and protect those in need. So when his cousin Martie and her new husband disappear, Mike has no doubt that he possesses the skills necessary to find answers. What he doesn’t anticipate is that the truth he seeks is buried deep within a tangled network of greed and deceit. When Mike’s past violently collides with his investigation, he is forced to accept help from virtual strangers—Angelia and her family anticipated a quiet family picnic in the mountains, but when they encounter a wounded Mike, Angelia and her father, with his military background, spring into action. When they discover that Mike’s search for his cousin has a surprising connection to their family, they join his dangerous hunt for answers. 

Search and rescue is in Mike’s blood, and with the help of his unconventional team of investigators, he’ll stop at nothing to bring his cousin home safely. When Mike’s past violently collides with his investigation, he is forced to accept help from virtual strangers—Angelia and her family anticipated a quiet family picnic in the mountains, but when they encounter a wounded Mike, Angelia and her father, with his military background, spring into action. When they discover that Mike’s search for his cousin has a surprising connection to their family, they join his dangerous hunt for answers. Search and rescue is in Mike’s blood, and with the help of his unconventional team of investigators, he’ll stop at nothing to bring his cousin home safely.

Review - Critical Consequences moves quickly with action paced scenes, drama, and intrigue. I had a little trouble with the main character at first.  Growing up with my father in the Coast Guard and being raised on stories from his experiences, the character didn't really match my perception with the Coast Guard and how he would interact with drug dealers. Other than that, the story was very interesting and suspenseful. The author did a good job at connecting scenes with different characters and the story moved along with different twists and turns that kept me guessing. He was also good at describing the scenes and characters. It's a clean read with some violence. Clair Poulson fans will enjoy the story and the intrigue. To learn more about this story, click here.

Please note that I received a free copy to review, however, this is my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs