An Engagement with the Enemy Book Review

Monday, September 25, 2023


Debutantes, debates, and disasters abound when two former enemies join forces to maintain their freedom. James Aldwick isn’t ready to settle down, but his father, Baron Retford, doesn’t give him a choice. The stigma of illegitimacy has haunted the baron his whole life, and it’s up to his son to reestablish their good name by marrying into a family with a perfect pedigree. A series of summer parties is the obvious course of action and the perfect opportunity to parade eligible ladies before the reluctant James.

Jessica Westcote, the only daughter of a gentleman, is the dearest friend of James’s sister. When an invitation to Amoret Castle’s long list of events arrives, Jessica accepts to spend time with her friend, not the infuriating James. Even if she does enjoy their spats. But when her father announces that she must betroth herself before the end of summer, she has more in common with James than she likes.

James is certain his former foe won’t lay down arms long enough for a truce, even if it means they both avoid matrimony. Battle lines are drawn, but it isn’t long before those lines begin to blur. Are they friends or foes? Enemies or allies? As the end of summer approaches and James must make his choice, can Jessica trust long enough to imagine a future with him?


Sally Britton is a wife, mother, and author who loves the world of romance, earned her BA in English in 2007, and reads voraciously. She started her writing journey at the tender age of fourteen on an electric typewriter, and she’s never looked back.

Sally lives in Oklahoma with her husband, four children, two Australian Shepherds, and a queenly cat. She loves researching, hiking, and reading YA Fantasy novels.

Follow Sally's adventures on Instagram and Facebook, and check out her website!

An Engagement with the Enemy shares the story of Jessica and James. Jessica is the best friend of James' sister, Catherine. Jessica and James are constantly at odds with each other. As both Jessica and James are being encouraged to find a spouse by their parents, they discover that they have more in common than they realized.

Sally Britton demonstrates her skills as an author from the witty dialogue to more combative dialogue between the characters including subtle barbs to outright arguments. Readers will enjoy seeing the characters change from enemies to lovers in this book. The author does a good job at shifting their relationship as the story progresses.  Along with the story, Sally delves into sharing how Jessica deals with anxiety. Jessica learns to deal with it as she opens up and shares with James. I love that the characters deal with multiple issues from scheming parents, to getting past childhood antics, dealing with their own issues, and more. The characters are layered with complexities. This is a character-driven novel that readers will find to be quite a page turner. This is a sweet, clean romance that would be appropriate for teens to adults. There is A Midsummer Night Dream reference in a scene that didn't seem to fit with the story since it wasn't a retelling, and I wasn't sure how or why it was there. Otherwise, I enjoyed the story and the relationship dynamic between the characters. This was a fun read, and I think Regency Romance readers will find it an enjoyable one to add to their collection. To learn more, click here.

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

Janitors School of Garbage Review

Thursday, September 21, 2023


Garbage has come to life as animated creatures called junklets and are wreaking havoc in elementary schools. Only the specially trained kids from the magical School of Garbage can stop the rise of the trash monsters. With the school’s magical janitorial supplies—brooms that can fly, toilet plungers that can reverse gravity, and mops that can capture anything in their strings—the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Landon Murphy discovers the undercover janitorial world when his soon-to-be-stepsister, Jade Shu, guides him through a magical portal at the bottom of a dumpster that leads to a fantastical landfill and the home of the School of Garbage, where she has secretly been a student for the last few years.

Problems at home with his family make it hard for Landon to feel like he belongs anywhere, but he is quickly welcomed as a student at the intriguing school for wizard-like janitors. His class on the science of garbology is like being a crime-scene investigator, and every student gets to bond with one of three Servites—small, magical animals who exhale enchanted dust to help kids focus or be creative or have energy.

Landon and Jade—along with allies from the original series—are tasked to take out the trash and figure out who—or what—is behind the mysterious garbage attacks and stop them before the entire world is literally trashed.


Tyler Whitesides was born in Washington state. The youngest of five siblings, he was raised in northern Utah where he still resides. Tyler spent much of his childhood outdoors, exploring the mountains near his house, and imagining many adventures with his neighborhood friends. He developed a love of books from a very young age, and with that came a desire to write his own stories.

In middle school, Tyler joined the school band and began learning to play percussion instruments. He had many opportunities to perform on stage as a soloist with concert bands and orchestras, as well as rehearsing and performing some of his own compositions. After high school, Tyler spent two years in Argentina where he learned to speak Spanish.

Upon returning home, Tyler attended Utah State University, where he received a bachelors in music, specifically, percussion performance. While attending the University, Tyler got a part time job at a middle school as a night custodian. Wandering the halls of the middle school each night sparked the ideas which eventually led to the JANITORS series. Tyler wrote the first draft of JANITORS in 2009, and after connecting with his first agent, Rubin Pfeffer, landed the series at Shadow Mountain Publishing. JANITORS was published in 2011.

Over the next five years, the JANITORS series was developed and published, with the fifth and final book hitting shelves in 2015. During the course of the series, Tyler had the opportunity to visit many states, presenting at more than 600 schools across the country. He is now represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Tyler lives in Northern Utah with his two sons. Tyler still enjoys spending time outdoors, fly fishing mountain streams, and exploring nature. He also enjoys acting and singing, performing musicals with local theater companies. But most of the time, you’ll find him hard at work on the thing he loves most – writing!

In Janitors School of Garbage, Landon and Jade learn about garbage, their own strengths, and the magic behind janitorial supplies at the School of Garbage. When the school becomes attacked, Landon and Jade pull together a team to come to the rescue. This is a spin-off of the Janitors series by Tyler Whiteside.

My kids got into the Janitors series books last winter after listening to the first book on audiobook. They loved it. My son was staying up late to read the books and was reading them non-stop one after the other until he finished the whole series within a few weeks. My daughter also read the series. When I got the email about the tour, I immediately signed up for it.

After reading the Janitors School of Garbage, I felt like you could read it read it first before the rest of the Janitor series, or after. There was enough explanation to understand the story's background. The world building was very impressively creative and original in this book. The fantasy elements felt fresh and unique from new creatures, new dangers, and new magical elements. I was very impressed with how creative the author was. The characters were likable and relatable. The action seemed to go by really fast in the book. As a reader, I felt like I wanted more time and more details on what was happening in the story. The book felt age-appropriate to me, and the scenes weren't too scary. I would like to see more books by this author, and it would be nice if he could also start another fantasy book series. With the level of excitement that he generated in my kids, I want more books and more series. To learn more, click here.

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

Revelation is My Flashlight Review and Giveaway

Monday, September 18, 2023


Using read-aloud rhyme and relatable analogies, Revelation Is My Flashlight is an engaging story and teaching tool all about how to seek and follow personal revelation. The story includes adorable illustrations and extra resources for further study.

Sometimes life feels like the night.

I can't see where to go.

But God gave me a special tool

to help me see and know.

The tool is revelation.

It's like a shining light.

The Holy Ghost points the way,

showing me what's right.


Sierra started talking early and has been a storyteller ever since. She loves to teach and work with children, and this love has shaped her life from working as a high school English and history teacher and children’s art teacher to serving as a church children’s leader and a mother. Sierra is passionate about writing, art, hiking, family, and eating entirely too much chocolate. She currently lives with her husband, four kids, two cats, two fish, and a bearded dragon in Alberta, Canada.

Keep in touch and learn more at or on social media.

Revelation is My Flashlight shares how the light of revelation can help guide you in your life. The story through metaphor and analogy compares revelation to a flashlight. Kids will enjoy the rhyming text and the fun illustrations. The illustrations are eye-catching with their use of color and attractive design. Revelation is a big idea for kids. I liked how the story shared what it feels like, how to get it, and why you need it in a way that kids find relatable. I wished the story explored more of what it is through the text. It is explained more in the resource page in the back of the book and parents can use this book as a steppingstone into deeper conversations. I could see this book as being a great learning tool for parents to use in their home studies and family home evening lessons. To learn more, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

The Snail and the Butterfly Virtual Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Friday, September 15, 2023


The Snail and the Butterfly

Written by Dougie Coop

Illustrated by CJ the Kid

Ages 4+ | 42 Pages

Publisher: Rare Bird Books | ISBN-13: 9781644283653

Publisher’s Book Summary: Have you ever wanted to do something great? Something no one else believed you could do? Well, here is your chance to learn how. Meet a little snail who wanted to fly and an old butterfly who questioned why. Travel with the little snail as he crawls up a mushroom determined to soar from the top. But every time, the same thing makes him stop: fear. Sound familiar?

Filled with inspiration and motivation, this magical conversation between an ambitious snail and a seasoned butterfly encourages us to pursue our dreams regardless of who we are or where we come from.

With words by award-winning author Doug Cooper aka Dougie Coop, and illustrations by acclaimed Australian artist CJ the Kid, the rhythmic verse and playful style remind us that we can all achieve the impossible as long as we believe, trust, and persevere.

Available for purchase on Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes and Noble.

For more information, visit


Author Dougie Coop, or better known under his award-winning literary fiction and thriller pen name Doug Cooper, is the author of the literary novels Outside In, The Investment Club, Focus Lost, and host of the podcast, The Store Next Door. Always searching, he has traveled to over twenty-five countries on five continents, exploring the contradictions between what we believe and how we act in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and love. The Snail And The Butterfly is his first children’s picture book.


Artist Christopher Jhureea, known as CJ the Kid in the creative world, has danced in television commercials, films, and theatrical productions from Australia to the United States, including three years in a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Sharing free-flowing imagination and color with the world is how he interprets and answers life’s complex questions and also as a reminder to himself and others that we should always have fun and keep the kid alive in ourselves. The Snail And The Butterfly is his first children’s picture book, too.


Life Is What It's Called - Why do you feel the theme is essential for young children?

Dougie Coop - When choosing books for young readers, the best are those that ignite curiosity, nurture imagination, and are visually appealing. The Snail And The Butterfly strives for all three, with a plot that encourages young readers to pursue dreams, commit and persevere to goals, and the importance of forming personal relationships. With its storytelling style and beautiful illustrations by artist CJ the Kid, it holds universal appeal, resonating with children and adults alike. The story presents us with numerous life lessons such as dealing with fear, nurturing friendships, and believing in ourselves, embedded in a context that young children can understand and appreciate.

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

Dougie Coop - The colors and whimsical style CJ the Kid created for the artwork are so beautiful. They really draw you in and are soothing and comforting at the same time. The snail & butterfly represent pure imagination, freedom, and playfulness. Children will relate to the hopes, dreams, and difficulties of the snail. They will enjoy the experience of reading and discussing the book with parents, grandparents, and siblings due to the lyrical style and messages and construct of the story. The friendship and trust formed between the snail and butterfly will also develop between the young and old readers who share the experience.

Life Is What It's Called - Can you share a little about your background and what led you to write for children?

Dougie Coop - Everything starts with an idea, an impulse, some vision of something we feel has value to share. From there it gestates, sometimes quickly and sometimes over a long period like with The Snail And The Butterfly, almost thirty years from ideation to publication. Much like a sculpture starts as an uncarved block and the artist works to reveal what he or she sees, a story is very much the same. I had an experience that taught me a universal message, and I believed it was worthy to be shared. Initially I wrote it as a poem, then a short story, then realized the core of the story was the relationship, and it would be best as a children’s book read together with children and adults. The challenge was I can’t draw. It wasn’t until I met CJ the Kid in Vegas in 2013 and saw his snail and mushroom drawing on the wall at a coffee shop called Makers & Finders where we both hung out that the idea crystallized. I pitched him the idea, and he was interested, so I rewrote the story with the snail and butterfly as the characters. We talked about it some, but for whatever reason, it never went anywhere. I eventually moved back to Ohio, and CJ went back to Australia. Another five years passed. I released my second novel The Investment Club, set in Las Vegas, and third, Focus Lost, based in LA. It was September 2021. I reached out to CJ via Instagram to check if he was still interested, which he was. I started sending him scenes one by one, basically just a description of the action and the words, and he would send me back the digital art. A few amazing aspects to this. One, we never once talked on the phone, video call or anything, and still haven’t. All work was done through the Instagram message app and email. Another cool characteristic of the process was how simple it was. Most of the time CJ nailed it on the first try. Not much iterating back and forth. A few months later we had the book done. So a lot of zigs and zags to get there, but when I look back and at the finished product, every single one needed to happen and required the time it took.

Life Is What It's Called - In what ways is The Snail and the Butterfly similar and different from your other literary ventures?

Dougie Coop - All my writing, regardless of form or genre, I craft in layers, thinking of it much like a chef does in creating a dish, incorporating as many of the senses as possible. What is the initial flavor, after-taste, and residual nutritional value? I want the story to have breadth and depth with a simple message that anyone will absorb but also deeper levels of meaning for those who want to dig in and chew on it more.

The high-level message of The Snail And The Butterfly is we can all do great, seemingly impossible things, regardless of who we are and where we come from, if we believe and persevere. The more sub-conscious, mythic meaning is something I really think is missing in our modern culture. We encourage everyone to dream big, and that anything is possible, but we’re not really equipped for what happens when we struggle or fail, which will happen to us all at some point. This is one of the reasons why escapism is so rampant, and we seek out comfort, often to excess, much to our own detriment whether it is food, alcohol, drugs, or whatever vice. The little snail wants to fly, is determined to fly, but gets scared, doubts itself, goes through all the questions we face in our daily lives. What am doing? Why am I doing this? Is this even possible? The easiest course when faced with these questions is to quit or hide, whether that is actual physical isolation or in other activities, healthy and unhealthy. So, the meaning here is that it’s ok to fail, to be scared, to question. Just take a pause, rest, refocus, and begin again.

The residual meaning, or nourishment, staying with the chef metaphor, is we need to push through our fears, trust and listen to the butterflies around use, believe in ourselves, and take the leap. It’s easy to get caught up in the solitary journey of life, that we are in this alone, and each need to forge our own paths. The reality is the journey is shared. We can learn from one another’s journeys and exist to help each other. We are both seeker and guide, student and teacher, snail and butterfly.

Life Is What It's Called - How do you feel this book stands apart from other books on the market? 

Dougie Coop - One of the great aspects of children’s literature is the diversity. Outside of maybe length, there really isn’t a common form. Maybe some similar themes and styles, but most books are so unique. I can’t say that I really tried differentiating Snail & Butterfly from other books. My main goal was to be true to the vision I had and get as close as possible to executing that.

Looking back from ideation thirty years ago to the book on the shelf, some of the things I am most proud of and reasons why I think it is a good book for children are the artwork, the structure, and the message. CJ the Kid is an accomplished artist in both US and Australia in different formats and mediums. His artwork brings playfulness and freedom to the story. Because of his broad talents and experience, he adds simplicity and depth at the same time. The colors, style, and forms simultaneously engage and comfort.

What I love about the structure is that it is a conversation between young and old, student and teacher, novice and expert. This construct is a universal relationship in our lives. We all begin as the little snail, but as we age, we fulfill the old butterfly role more and more. We must remember, however, the little snail is always in us and seek out new things and relationships to keep the role alive. Because children’s books are a shared reading experience between young and old, the actual reading of the book is what is happening on the pages.

The message of dream-believe-achieve is timely because we need to tweak our myths and archetypes to really emphasize fear and failure are all part of our journeys. We don’t need to escape or avoid them. If we dream of flying and get scared climbing up the mushroom, it’s perfectly fine to recoil and hide while recharging to push on. It’s terrifying to pursue our dreams. We must remember to be kind to ourselves. When the time is right, we’ll begin again and eventually push to the top. At some point, we’ll be at the precipice, the moment of truth, or crunch time, as it is known. This is the second part of the message. When we’re at the cusp, that exhilarating peak between success and failure, we must have the faith and belief to persevere. Taking the leap is the victory. Regardless of outcome, we have already won.

Life Is What It's Called - Will there be more snail and butterfly adventures?

Dougie Coop - I hadn’t really considered continuing the story, but one parent shared with me that his young reader finished it and was really excited about the snail being able to fly. He wanted to know what happened next. Where did the snail go after he could fly? What did he and the butterfly do? I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. Our journeys don’t end when we achieve our goals. They begin again in new directions. The snail and butterfly have formed this beautiful friendship and trust. They can go anywhere and do anything. So much possibility. Stay tuned. Definitely could be more on the horizon from these two lovable aviators.

Life Is What It's Called - What literary works are you working on right now?

Dougie Coop - I have a few more children’s book ideas in the pipeline. One has a male and female version of the same story: A Boy, A Ball, A Dream and A Girl, A Game, A Dream. For many of us, our first dreams and winning and losing experiences come from sports. The story is about the what, why, where, and how of having those dreams and what we do to achieve them. Another fun idea I have been noodling on is called the The Shaky Chef about someone who loves to cook and wants to be a chef but unfortunately cares so much about it and has such unsteady hands, he gets really nervous and always messes up the delivery. Others discourage the character from pursuing the dream because of the shakiness and how he always screws up the result. It's about pursuing what we love for the joy of it, not just because we are proficient, and others recognize our gifts. I also have another novel all plotted and planned called Nice To See Me about children disappearing from a lakeside park, but when one of them return, unharmed, and is willing to show only her father where she has been, will he and the others really be able to see and ever believe what is happening? I plan to finish that early next year so probably 2025.


Enter for the chance to win a personalized, signed copy of The Snail and the Butterfly, a Sticker Sheet, and a set of small and large Pins.

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A personalized, signed copy of The Snail and the Butterfly
  • A Sticker Sheet
  • A set of small and large Pins.

Nine (9) winners receive:
  • A personalized, signed copy of The Snail and the Butterfly

This post is sponsored by Dougie Coop. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

Under the Java Moon Book Review

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Based on a true story, this gripping WWII novel captures the resilience, hope, and courage of a Dutch family who is separated during the war when the Japanese occupy the Dutch East Indies.

Six-year-old Rita Vischer cowers in her family’s dug-out bomb shelter, listening to the sirens and waiting for a bomb to fall. Her charmed life on Java—living with other Dutch families—had always been peaceful, but when Holland declares war on Japan and the Japanese army invades Indonesia, Rita’s family is forced to relocate to a POW camp, and Rita must help care for her little brother, Georgie.

Mary Vischer is three months pregnant when she enters the Tjideng women’s camp with thousands of other women and children. Her husband, George, is somewhere on the Java Sea with the Dutch Navy, so she must care alone for her young children, Rita and Georgie, and her frail mother-in-law. The brutal conditions of the overcrowded camp make starvation, malaria, and dysentery a grim reality. Mary must do everything she can to keep her family alive.

George Vischer survives the bombing of his minesweeper but feels little hope floating on a small dinghy in the Java Sea. Reaching the northern tip of the Thousand Islands would be a miracle. Focusing on of the love of his life, Mary, and his two children, he battles against the sea and merciless sun. He’ll do whatever it takes to close the divide between him and his family, even if it means risking being captured by the Japanese.

Under the Java Moon highlights a little-known part of WWII history and the impact of war on Indonesia, its people, and the more than 100,000 Dutch men, women, and children who were funneled into prison camps and faced with the ultimate fight for survival.


Heather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than ninety publications. Heather writes primarily historical and #herstory fiction about the humanity and heroism of the everyday person. Publishing in a breadth of genres, Heather dives into the hearts and souls of her characters, meshing her love of research with her love of storytelling.

Her ancient era historicals and thrillers are written under pen name H.B. Moore. She writes historical women's fiction, romance and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore, and . . . speculative fiction under Jane Redd. This can all be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom. Heather attended Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. Despite failing her high school AP English exam, Heather persevered and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in something other than English.


Under the Java Moon follows a Dutch family living under Japanese occupied Java during World War II. This gripping historical-fiction book is based on a true story that often isn't shared about World War II. Readers will find the story compelling from discovering the horrors of war and families being separated to learning about the impact of colonialism on Java. Moore does a good job at describing what life was like for the family from sharing about their living conditions, food scarcity, and dealing with oftentimes cruel treatment. She also shares the story from different perspectives including a child, mother, and father. She does suggest that there may have been more terrible things or at least hints to it, but she doesn't necessarily share all of gruesome details. As a reader, I had mixed feelings about the hints and not sharing everything that had happened. Because Moore didn't share everything, it does make the book more appropriate for teen readers. It was a hard book to read at times due to learning about all the horrors these people lived through, but I think it was an important one to read. It shared a part of history that's not often talked about, and I think an understanding of history could help us learn to have more empathy and being willing to stand up for each other. The characters and the event stood out in the book, and it was really interesting to read about this time period. I liked that the author made a special note in the back and a note from Marie Elliott, who this book is based on. The author made a positive note at the end, and overall, I thought it was a good read. It spurred me on to google some more aspects about Java and the occupation. It would be an interesting book to talk about in a book club or classroom discussion. To learn more about this book, click here.

Please note that I received a copy of this book for free, however, this is my honest opinion. This post also contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

Forever Child: A Novel of The Future Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Thursday, September 7, 2023


ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future
Written by Mark Lavine
Ages: 13-18 | 315 Pages
Publisher: Mark Lavine (2022) | ISBN-13: 9798218130947

Publisher’s Book Summary: What if you could live hundreds of years – but never age?

In the year 2315 you can live for hundreds of years and never age past eleven. That is, if you’re one of the lucky ones. But the not-so-lucky ones are disturbingly close, and they’re threatening your safety, security, and even your deepest beliefs. Soon, it will be all-out war.

Among a chosen few, life expectancy is now hundreds of years; these are the forever children, and science has found a way to keep them in a nearly endless childhood state. Secure in their giant hives, they have left the outsiders, who must live natural lives, to fend for themselves.

This is the story of Kianno and Seelin, two youths who find themselves trading places in this strange new world, one leading the life of a forever child and the other growing up in the anarchy of the outside world.

Their lives come together in surprising and unexpected ways, as they both become involved in a fierce struggle between the two worlds.

Discover for yourself a future world of eternal childhood, and the nightmares and battles which erupt from this seemingly innocent society.

But the quest for endless youth comes at a cost.

How will Kianno and Seelin survive in this battle for eternal life?

Available for purchase on Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes and Noble.


Mark Lavine is the author of four novels: Dr. Prozac, ForeverChild, Victimless Crimes, and Windekind. He lives in the mountains of Vermont with his wife, daughter, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He loves to take long hikes through the nearby woods, and to cross-country ski in the winter. The dog likes to join in these adventures, but the dog mostly prefers long naps.

For more information, visit


Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future?

Mark Lavine - Science fiction can often be inspired by imagining a world where current social trends are followed to their extreme end-point. Our current society values youth and longevity. What would the world look like if we continued to place more and more value on these features, and if science were to support these ideals? ForeverChild was inspired by my own musings into what such a future might look like.

Life Is What It's Called - What are the main themes that run through this story?

Mark Lavine - Society’s hunger for eternal youth and where that might lead. The ambiguous feelings of wanting to grow up, while at the same time wanting to stay a child. There are many other issues of social engineering, but I’ll leave those to be discovered by the reader. 

Life Is What It's Called - Was there a scene you enjoyed writing the most?

Mark Lavine - The final scene is always very enjoyable to write, because there is so much satisfaction from seeing everything finally come together as I had envisioned. Aside from that, there is a scene early on when one of the boys is caught out in the wilderness during a tremendous earthquake. I was able to draw on my own experiences of being in the 1982 Loma Prieta Quake while walking on the beach only ten miles from the epicenter. When you think of the effects of an earthquake, it’s almost always in relation to the man-made world: buildings swaying and collapsing, stuff falling from shelves, etc. The effects on the natural world can be equally dramatic, but in entirely different ways.

Life Is What It's Called - Have you heard from readers? What do they enjoy the most about ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future?

Mark Lavine - The most common thing I hear is that they enjoyed the read itself, and had a hard time putting it down. That’s important to me, because I strongly believe that a book needs to be captivating and entertaining. That’s the starting point, but it’s an important starting point. Beyond that, many have taken away new thoughts and ideas, and some have become quite emotionally invested in one or more of the characters. Everyone seems to get something different from this book, and that’s a good thing.

Life Is What It's Called - What makes this book stand apart from what's on the market?

Mark Lavine - I believe it addresses certain social issues and questions directly and boldly. It is by no means a ‘safe’ book, and it can be more thought-provoking than much of the science fiction material currently available.

Life Is What It's Called - How is it similar and different from your other books?

Mark Lavine - It is my only science fiction novel, so it is quite different from my other works. Are you working on any new books? What should we expect to see from you next? I am working on a novel which is contemporary, and not science fiction. It involves a prisoner and his escape, so I have had to research some new areas, but I am enjoying working on it and I am excited about its possibilities.


Enter for the chance to win a personalized, signed copy of ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future, one signed poster, and a Kindle Paperwhite!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A personalized, signed copy of ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future
  • A signed poster
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
Three (3) winners receive:
  • A personalized, signed copy of ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future
  • A signed poster
Seven (7) winners receive:
  • A personalized, signed copy of ForeverChild: A Novel of the Future

ForeverChild Book Giveaway 

This post is sponsored by Mark Lavine. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

The Queen and the Knave Book Review and Author Interview

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

London, 1866
Móirín Donnelly has spent the last five years working in the shadows for the Dread Penny Society, a secret fraternity of penny dreadful authors who use their profits, influence, and street smarts to protect the poor and vulnerable of Victorian London. But spending so much of her life in secret is taking its toll on her soul—and her heart.

When members of the Dread Penny Society begin disappearing, Móirín turns to her friend Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington for help. The two have developed a friendly rapport, and Móirín feels like she can trust him, though perhaps not with all of her secrets.

Fitzgerald Parkington has a sixth sense when it comes to tracking down criminals, which is why he’s recently been transferred to the Detective Department at Scotland Yard. But when roadblocks and red tape keep him from tracking down the criminal mastermind known as “The Tempest,” he must rely on the one woman who has unexpectedly captured his heart—the brash, bold, and fiery Irish lass, Móirín Donnelly.

As the Tempest’s deadly reach threatens to overwhelm all of London, Móirín and Fitz are caught in an elaborate game of cat and mouse that leads down back alleys, through dark London buildings, and right to the gates of Kensington Palace. Móirín has one chance to save Fitz and the Dread Penny Society from the Tempest, and she might have to sacrifice her one chance at love to do so.


Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2020’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, "Forget Me Not," and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, "Healing Hearts." She is a three-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.


Life Is What It's Called - Before reading The Queen and the Knave, would it be beneficial for readers to revisit the previous books of this series? Or at least previous conversations between characters?

Sarah Eden - This book brings the series full circle. Characters from previous books play a significant role, and struggles from earlier installments come to a head with this one. While it could, technically, be read on its own, I do think there is a lot of benefit in being, at the very least, familiar with the first four books.

Life Is What It's Called - Did you leave hints throughout the series of what's to come in The Queen and the Knave? If so, do you think readers pick up on your hints?

Sarah Eden - There are hints woven into all of the books about what’s to come in this final installment. Some of them were obvious enough to not really be hints but rather straightforward information. Some are very, very subtle. Most fall somewhere in between. I love series that build that way, where I can go back and re-read and find new things that I missed on previous reads.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you think readers' reactions will be to The Queen and the Knave?

Sarah Eden - I think readers are going to love it. It is intense, funny, mysterious, high-stakes. The two lead characters are really incredible. Brave and clever, with tremendously impressive skills and abilities, while still being flawed and complicated people. And the dangers that the Dread Penny Society have faced for four books now come to an exciting conclusion in this final one.

Life Is What It's Called - What was the best part of writing this series?

Sarah Eden - The challenge of writing three books in one, and making certain two of those stories were written in the way they would have been by the character who is credited with them rather than by me, was probably my favorite part. It really stretched me as an author and was an exciting and satisfying challenge. It added a layer to this series that is really unique and exciting.

Life Is What It's Called - Was it complicated writing this series with the penny stories, the romance, and story arch that spanned the whole series? How did you keep track of all of the details?

Sarah Eden - It took a lot of spreadsheets and notes and notebooks filled with information. There are so many moving parts in this series, that I couldn’t have done it without extensive planning. The penny dreadfuls had to parallel the story they were found in as well as the life of the person writing them. The romance needed to build through each book, and grow in ways that made sense for people in the circumstances they were in. And I knew all of it had to build to a really enormous conclusion. It was a lot of pressure, but an awful lot of fun.

Life Is What It's Called - In the last interview you mentioned a secret project that you're neck deep in, when will you be able to reveal the details of the project? Can you give us any hints?

Sarah Eden - If all goes as planned, I should be able to make an enormous announcement before the end of the summer. At this point, all I can say is having this project come to fruition would be a fulfillment of a lifelong dream!

Life Is What It's Called - What has been the hardest part of the series?

Sarah Eden - This series really spans multiple genres, and that has been a challenge. There is a strong suspense plotline woven through each book and the series as a whole, so I had to really stretch my writing muscles to tiptoe into that new subgenre. The penny dreadfuls range from gothic romance to fantasy to horror to cozy mystery, which were all outside of my realm of experience before beginning this series. I really had to learn to write in a lot of new genres, and it was a lot of work.

Life Is What It's Called -What other time periods do you want to write about?

Sarah Eden - I have loved venturing into the 1700s in Europe and hope to write quite a few books set then and there. I also have pondered the possibility of jumping ahead to the late 1800s and early 1900s. And I am intrigued by the possibility of going further back into the 1600s as well. I love history, and the more I learn about different times and places the more I want to explore and learn.

Life Is What It's Called - What did you like most about writing about a secret organization?

Sarah Eden - I love the camaraderie that grows out of having a shared mission, goal, and focus, and I love how close those connections become when the efforts being made are made in secret. I really love writing about characters who are so close and who have such faith in each other that they have entrusted their lives to the others in their secret organization. And the secret nature of their activities lends itself to moments of tension and uncertainty and risk, which makes for really exciting adventures.

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

Sarah Eden - Many readers first discover my writing through a specific series, and I have so many series that are quite different from each other. I think, if I could share one thing about me as an author, it would be that I write a lot of different things and will continue to venture into new arenas and new eras and new stories. I hope that readers who have found me through a Georgian-era romance or a Victorian-era romantic suspense or a sweeping American West saga will take a chance on some of my books that fall into a different category. I like trying new things, and I love when readers are willing to take that leap with me.

The Queen and the Knave is the final installment of the Dread Penny Society series by Sarah Eden. Throughout the series, Móirín Donnelly works together with a secret society of dread penny authors to protect the vulnerable and defenseless in Victorian England. When her friends and society members start disappearing, Móirín turns to Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington for help. The characters go through many dangers and risks to try and stop the criminal mastermind "The Tempest." 

This series was full of adventures and intrigue. It was very action-driven and full of suspense. When I was reading the series, I had hoped the author would set Móirín up with a certain character, but it was completely different from the author's vision. I had to adjust a little to what my hopes were. I still enjoyed the romance in this book, and it felt like a good end to the series. The overall dilemmas from the previous books come to a high peak, and the characters have to figure out a solution.  The reader gets to revisit their favorite characters. It was an entertaining and a nail-biting read as the author pulls the characters into dangerous situations. You couldn't read any of these books in this series out-of-order. The author builds layers of hints throughout the series and the plot builds and thickens with each book. In this last book, the author intensified the stakes by putting all of the heroes in mortal danger. It seemed well-thought out and planned. I liked that the author had strong female leads in the book, but also, they were able to work together well with their male counterparts. If you like action-packed, suspenseful romance, then you will enjoy this book. To learn more, 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.
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