Saturday, September 9, 2023

Book Review: The Queen and the Knave by Sarah M. Eden

Book Description:

London, 1866

Móirín Donnelly has spent the last five years working in the shadows for the Dread Penny Society, but spending so much of her life in secret is taking a toll on her soul―and her heart.

When members of the Dread Penny Society begin disappearing, Móirín turns to 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 hunting down criminals, which is why he’s recently been transferred to the Detective Department at Scotland Yard. But when red tape keeps 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 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.

Rorie's Review:

What a wonderful conclusion to the Dread Penny Society series! (I'm assuming it's the conclusion. The author can certainly continue on with these stories if she has more of them.) I remember my shock at the revelations we were given at the end of the last book in this series, and have been very much looking forward to reading this book to see how everything all played out. I was not disappointed. There was a lot going on, but not so much that it became difficult to keep track of what was happening. Plus, we get to see all of our past favorite characters from the other books, something I always enjoy with this author's stories.

As per usual, I also found myself getting caught up in the penny dreadful stories that were included in this book. The Queen and the Knave reminded me a lot of a movie that my mom really enjoyed back when I was a kid - something about one of the characters turning into a hawk during the day (or maybe it was the night. I'm old. Childhood was a long time ago for me!) 

I highly recommend this book. I don't know how well it would work as a stand-alone, because I think you miss a lot if you haven't read the previous books in the series. But you won't regret reading all of them.

Andrea’s Review:

This was the best book in the series. It tied everything together nicely, and was very action packed. I didn’t want to put it down! Lots of questions were answered and some issues from the past were addressed so people could find their happily ever afters. A very good story with likable, selfless characters.

Title: The Queen and the Knave
Author: Sarah M. Eden
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Published: September 2023
ISBN: 163993152X
Source: We received review copies from the publisher. All opinions expressed are our own.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Book Review: Under the Java Moon by Heather B. Moore

Book Description:

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.

Java Island, 1941

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 Tjident 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. 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 Island would be a miracle. Focusing on 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.

Rorie's Review:

When you read books about WWII, they typically focus on American, British, Japanese, and German people. This is the first time I've read a book about someone's experience in other countries. Having recently read "Unbroken," I expected to read about the brutality of the internment camps, and while it was indeed horrific, there seemed to be a bit more decency from some of the guards in Tjideng. 

Being an adult in an internment camp would have been horrible enough, but I can't even imagine being a child in a horrible place like that. Children are naturally curious, exuberant, and trusting. It's difficult to imagine the lifelong trials that child have come from living your formative years like that. 

At the same time, I was impressed by the resilience and determination that Mary and her children possessed. They took one day at a time, and constantly adapted as best as they could, in order to survive. 

If you are fascinated by history, this is a story you need to read.

Andrea’s Review:

This book was very eye opening. I was not familiar with the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies. What a horrific experience for the Dutch prisoners. I was grateful it didn’t seem to be as brutal as some other experiences I’ve read about, but being told from a child’s perspective may have made it seem more tame. It was noted the parents often took punishments for things the children did. 

This wasn’t a fast read for me, but I’m very grateful that Marie Vischer Elliott allowed her heartbreaking story to be told. It’s important to learn about the past to prevent these awful things from happening again.
Title: Under the Java Moon
Author: Heather B. Moore
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Published: September 2023
ISBN: 1639931538
Source: We received review copies from the publisher. All opinions expressed are our own. 
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Book Review: Janitors School of Garbage by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors School of Garbage by Tyler Whitesides

Book Description:

Ordinary trash becomes extraordinary at the magical school of garbage—a summer school for young garbologists.

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.

Collin's Review:

As it has been many years since the last story in this series, I had forgotten much of what had happened in the series up to this point. However, as I read this excellent story, I quickly got back into the story.  In this story, we get to know the next generation of young garbologists. The protagonist, Landon, and his "soon-to-be step-sister" Jade Shu have secretly joined the school of garbage, which is taught by some of the protagonists in the original series. Together they team up try to save the world from new garbage creatures out in the world attacking with garbage, called Junklets, as well as rogue Thingamajunks who are causing all sorts of havoc. This is a great story, and I learned a lot about the importance of teamwork. I highly recommend this book--especially to anyone who enjoyed the original series.

Rorie's Review:

I haven't read any of the Janitors series, but my kids all have, and loved them. I was a bit concerned that I might be lost, but thankfully this story does well as a stand- alone. I do think that reading the original series would be good though. 

Sometimes I have a hard time starting middle-grade fiction, but I'm not sure why, because I've rarely been disappointed when I do read that genre. This story grabbed my attention right away, and I took every opportunity I had to sit down and read. 

The characters were all well-written, and the story line was engaging. I think the idea of hanging out in garbage is brilliant, although extremely gross... which makes it perfect for the middle grade reader. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Title: Janitors School of Garbage
Author: Tyler Whitesides
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Published: September 2023
ISBN: 1639931686
Source: We received review copies from the publisher. All opinions expressed are our own. 
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Blog Tour: Crown and Serpent by Heather Frost

Book Description:

All she wanted . . .

Seventeen-year-old Iris Winn loves her quiet life with her father, studying the poisons that fascinate them both. But after his sudden death, Iris is now the ward of her estranged aunt and uncle. In order to claim her inheritance, she must live in the capital city of Lenzen for one year. While there, she must attend parties, balls, and participate in every other vapid thing the elite of Ryden value. Iris doesn’t care about learning their rules or joining their ranks–her only goal is to endure the next year. Then she meets Prince Henri Kaelin.

Everything they demanded . . .

Every young woman in Lenzen wants Henri–except for Iris. Unfortunately, the prince only has eyes for her. The king has decreed that Henri must choose a bride before his birthday, and Iris is determined it won’t be her. Dodging a prince’s focused attention while placating her relatives and the rest of Ryden’s high society is exhausting–and more dangerous than Iris could have ever imagined. She is about to learn that not all games are innocent, and some smiles are more lethal than poison. Luckily, Iris is a quick study, and this is a game she is determined to win.

She would take it all.


Iris stood on the cushioned pedestal in the center of the dressmaker’s workspace, which was located in the back of the dress shop. Incense burned in the corner, smothering the room with the scent of roses and making Iris’s nose itch.

She’d been in Lenzen for a week now, and already it felt like an eternity. Her first dinner with Lady Griffin went as expected, and though her uncle gave her a sympathetic look, he said nothing as the haughty woman proceeded to pick Iris apart.

Since that night, Iris had had the misfortune of having tea with Lady Griffin, and she was at the dress shop with the woman now. Thank the fates Lady Griffin had wandered to the front of the shop to gossip with some other ladies who had entered. Anora had gone with her, leaving Iris alone with the seamstress.

Lillin had a music lesson, so they’d left her at home. Frankly, Iris was grateful for the break. Her cousin was always close and her smiles were so sharp they hurt to look at. Every night, Iris fell into bed utterly drained. She missed having time alone with her thoughts. She missed her home, and her father’s gardens, and his workroom. She missed Zev.

She missed her father.

Her heart clenched. She must have stiffened, because the seamstress shot her a concerned look. The woman was on her knees before Iris, pinning the hem of a dark blue gown. Something in the submissiveness of the pose reminded Iris of the way the servants at home had always deferred to her, even when she was a child.

She missed that quiet deference. No one at home had ever tried to control her. Her father had raised her with freedom, and she’d never realized what a gift that was. The man may have had his failings—especially when it came to his obsession for his wife—but he had raised Iris to be strong and independent. And, perhaps in some ways, his occasional distant manner had made her even stronger. She had always relied on herself and no other.

In the end, she supposed that was the point of parents; to create children strong enough to survive a harsh world. To set them on the path they were destined to walk, and arm them with the skills they needed to excel.

“Continue,” Iris told the seamstress, who still looked questioningly up at her.

The woman returned to her pinning without a word.

Iris looked beyond the woman, toward her aunt and Lady Griffin. They were too far away to make out their words, but she could hear their tone. They were jovial as they spoke to the other ladies. The only time Anora’s pleasant mask faltered was when she pointed out Iris. Curious eyes raked over Iris, assessing and calculative.

It wasn’t long before the women dismissed themselves and the group parted ways. While Anora and Lady Griffin moved to the corner to inspect more fabrics, the other three women drifted farther into the shop, which brought them closer to Iris.

Their heads were ducked toward each other and their voices were pitched low, but the furtive glances sent Iris’s way made it all too clear they were talking about her.

She strained her ears without looking at them, hoping they would come a little closer.

“. . . such a shame she took after her father. Her mother was so beautiful, and she had a vibrant personality.”

“You knew her mother?”

“Yes, we were childhood friends. But then she left Lenzen and never returned. Some have claimed Thelin Winn locked her up.”


“I’ve heard the same,” a new voice chimed in. “I also heard Verity was a troubled child.”

“She had her moods, certainly,” the first woman said at once. “But she was always a good friend to me.”

“It’s a shame she died so young,” the second woman whispered. “She didn’t have time to raise her own child. And you heard Lady Griffin—the girl isn’t prepared for entering society. It wasn’t right of her father to keep her locked up in Rew, with no proper education, and no woman’s attention.”

Iris’s hands fisted at her sides. She wanted to say something—defend her father, and denounce any kind thing they tried to say about her mother—but she held her tongue. Better to listen and learn what sorts of people she would be living around for the next year, and know what they thought about her.

“It is a shame,” the first woman agreed. “Iris Winn won’t survive long in court. Not if she’s as bad off as Lady Griffin said.”

“She certainly looks severe, doesn’t she? I’ve never seen a young woman look so somber.”

“She did just bury her father,” the one with the deepest voice said. She hadn’t spoken as much, but Iris didn’t consider her any sort of ally.

“Of course,” the first woman was quick to acknowledge. “But that won’t give her an excuse at her first ball when she’s unable to dance properly.”

“If she’s even asked,” the second one snorted. “She’s nothing like the girls the young men here are used to. She’s . . . odd. I can see it at a glance, and the young men will, too.”

“Well, at least we can tell Lady Rine not to worry; her twins are of age, and when she heard Iris was coming to Lenzen, she feared none of the young men in court would look at her girls because of the novelty of someone new.”

“Oh yes, I don’t think Lady Rine—or anyone else—should worry on that score. Iris Winn won’t be stealing any eligible young man’s attention.”


Possible slight spoiler alert for this review, so just be aware...

I have to admit, when I started this book, I was kind of hesitant, because I really didn't want to feel bad for Iris, or find out that she is the way she is because of how she was treated as a child. She is completely psychotic, and I didn't want my feelings for her to change. 

Well, I'm happy to say that my feelings are still the same. She is still the same ruthless, evil person we love to hate. But I did enjoy getting to know her back story. 

And I was, in a little way, rooting for things to go her way. (In the beginning.) But that would have completely changed this entire series, and we can't have that, because this series is excellent!

So, if you love to hate Iris and Henri like I do, don't be afraid to read this book. It is just as captivating as all the other books in the series, and the author does a great job at bringing all of the characters to life, even the minor ones.

To celebrate Crown
& Serpent coming out, Heather is giving away a signed
paperback of Royal Decoy +
collectible bookmarks and postcard! 

Get all the details and enter here:

Tour Schedule:
Title: Crown and Serpent
Author: Heather Frost
Publisher: Self Published
Published: August 2023
Source: I received an e-copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. 
Purchase: Here