Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Forgotten Kingdom, by Signe Pike {ends 9/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The Selgovae were not like other Britons. They kept close to their gods and the beings of the old forest they tended. Those I’d met had little care for finery, though they possessed wealth in plenty, for they traded in furs—wolf, bear, rabbit, hind. Their huts were warm and dark, tight from weather. Their halls were modest and made entirely from wood, devoid of the rich outer carvings beloved by our people.

Soon we reached the foot of another small hill, and their huts appeared, hunched beneath the snow-covered branches of the forest. People peered from quickly opened doors, then disappeared behind them. I could not blame them, given the sight of us. At last we climbed an ice-slicked footpath through rusty spines of bracken, and my face was met with a gust of woodsmoke. The hall was long and narrow, with tidy thatching, a heavy set of oaken doors waiting beneath unadorned beams.

While this is the second book in a trilogy, it was understandable without having read the first book, and still a quite compelling story on its own.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Forgotten Kingdom, by Signe Pike {ends 9/22}
AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.

Wow. The beginning of this book was a little confusing. The names were unfamiliar, and there was a whole book before it—was there some fundamental knowledge that was needed to understand what was happening here? But the magic that is a well-written book soon took over. The pages kept turning in a desire to find out what happens next!

The basics of the story are covered in the summary, but the Author’s Note at the end was very interesting. What is the difference between historical fiction and historical fantasy? This book could be quite enjoyable for fans of historical fiction, or for fans of fantasy as well. The difference is hard to discern when based on a time period of which the reader has limited previous knowledge.

While following along with characters whose names are difficult to pronounce sometimes presents a challenge, the fates of Languoreth, Lailoken, and Angharad kept me engaged. I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and will definitely consider putting the other two books of the trilogy on my to-be-read list.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and remote-learning supervisor to a middle schooler and an elementary school student. She enjoys snacking, reading, and overcoming zoom challenges. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Forgotten Kingdom!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 22nd, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Forgotten Kingdom, by Signe Pike

Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, by Charlotte Markey {ends 9/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

There is evidence that people think they benefit from being hard on themselves. They think they’ll improve themselves if they bully themselves. However, people tend to benefit from self-compassion. Self-compassion is basically being kind to yourself and treating yourself like you would treat a friend. Scientists have found that people who are self-compassionate tend to experience success because they don’t waste energy getting upset with themselves; instead, they focus this energy toward motivating themselves to achieve self-acceptance and success.

The next time you want to tell yourself that you’re out of shape or unattractive, take a deep breath. Remember, this isn’t a good use of your energy. Think of a close friend. You’re as deserving as your friend, so don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a close friend.

With chapter headings like ‘Love your body,’ ‘Keep food fun,’ ‘Self-care,’ and ‘Be the Change,’ this book gives some great guidance for a happy life. What amazing lessons for human beings—especially pre-teen and teenage girls!

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, by Charlotte Markey {ends 9/21}
It is worrying to think that most girls feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and that this can lead to serious problems including depression and eating disorders. Can some of those body image worries be eased? Body image expert and psychology professor Dr Charlotte Markey helps girls aged 9-15 to understand, accept, and appreciate their bodies. She provides all the facts on puberty, mental health, self-care, why diets are bad news, dealing with social media, and everything in-between. Girls will find answers to questions they always wanted to ask, the truth behind many body image myths, and real-life stories from girls who share their own experiences. Through this easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated guide, Dr Markey teaches girls how to nurture both mental and physical health to improve their own body image, shows the positive impact they can have on others, and enables them to go out into the world feeling fearless!

This book really covers all the bases. In addition to graphic illustrations to show a girl what her anatomy usually looks like and what to expect during puberty for body changes, the author goes on to talk about how all these changes can make a girl feel. The book isn’t just about taking care of what you’ve got, it’s about appreciating what your body is and does inside and out. While giving some of the best options for appreciating and taking care of a girl's body, the author presents the information in a non-judgmental way. Choosing other options is not automatically wrong.

While the 13-year-old who helped me review this book admittedly skimmed over the more technical descriptions of body changes, she said her favorite part was the Q&As interspersed in all the chapters. The ‘My Story’ sections with real life experiences from real girls with their ages was also engaging. Her favorite chapters were Chapter 3: Love your body, and Chapter 9: Self-care.

Overall, this book contains invaluable information for girls ages 9 to 15 regarding how they are maturing and growing. We’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars and will keep our copy handy for a little while longer. The tone is reassuring about changes during these crazy years and offers comforting advice.

{click here to purchase - only $9.99 for Kindle!}

Becki Bayley is a wife, and mother to a 13-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. She believes a mother’s job is to give her children roots and wings. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Body Image Book for Girls!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, September 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, by Charlotte Markey

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book Review: The White Coat Diaries, by Madi Sinha

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The automatic computer readout --NORMAL STUDY-- is printed across the top of the pink-and-white graph paper.

“And? Is it normal?”

“It says ‘Normal Study.’”

“But does it look normal to you?” Ethan says.

I hesitate. Something isn’t right. The waves alternate in size: big wave, little wave, big wave, little wave.

“Shock him again!” Ethan says. “Norah? Norah?”

“No, it’s electrical alternans.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think so.”

“Norah, I’m going to tap him. Are you sure?”

My mouth goes dry. Ethan is preparing to put a needle into Dan’s chest to drain the fluid that, presumably, is compressing his heart. If I’m wrong, the needle could puncture Dan’s heart and kill him.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

I hear him take a breath. “Okay.”

Being a medical resident is definitely not easy. Being a medical resident and having a life sounds darn near impossible.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The White Coat Diaries, by Madi Sinha
Having spent the last twenty-something years with her nose in a textbook, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia has just landed the medical residency of her dreams. But after a disastrous first day, she's ready to quit. Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and her duty to be the "perfect Indian daughter" have her questioning her future as a doctor.

Enter chief resident Ethan Cantor. He's everything Norah aspires to be: respected by the attending physicians, calm during emergencies, and charismatic with his patients. And as he morphs from Norah’s mentor to something more, it seems her luck is finally changing.

But when a fatal medical mistake is made, pulling Norah into a cover-up, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the secret. What if “doing no harm” means putting herself at risk?

Oh, Norah. She’s not just a medical resident, she’s also the never-even-dated daughter of a well-known Indian pediatrician who passed away years ago in an auto accident. So no pressure, but she’s supposed to be an obedient, married Indian daughter to her mother, and a brilliant doctor to carry on her father’s legacy. For a few minutes, she thinks she’s on the right track. She graduated and got a coveted medical residency, and even thinks there’s romantic chemistry with the handsome and successful chief resident.

Norah does what she thinks she has to in order to ensure her success and that of the man she wants to fall in love with. Unfortunately, drastic actions taken for the wrong reasons don’t stay feeling good over time.

This book was interesting in its depiction of Norah’s medical residency, and the lives of the other residents. While this book was presented as fiction, the way the medical staff referred to some of the patients was a little disappointing. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It would be recommended for those who enjoy medical dramas or Indian fiction.

{click here to purchase - only $9.99 for Kindle!}

Becki Bayley is a remote-classroom-supervising mom and wife. She enjoys caffeine, running up and down stairs, and cleaning her glasses to see if that helps make things more clear. She also posts somewhat regularly at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Dear Emmie Blue, by Lia Louis {ends 9/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“You know what I think, Emmie?” he says. “I think you put too much onus on this man. You don’t give yourself enough credit. Who you are on your own.”

We walk back to the hotel, all three of us in a line, arms around one another, regardless of how reluctant Fox was to let Rosie’s hand hold on to his waist. And deep down, I know he is right.

But it’s hard for them to realize, I suppose—Rosie with her large and warm loving family; Fox with his dad who visits, and his postcard-sending mother—that over the last fourteen years, Lucas has been my only constant. And when I had nobody, he was right there.

Emmie Blue is watching her life-plan fall to pieces, but maybe it’s really just revealing the real path? As her best friend has told her, she’s made of strong stuff.

Official synopsis:
At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached address, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Despite Emmie’s unique life history and struggles, she felt universally relatable and easy to empathize with. As she turns 30 years old, she’s convinced her love for her best friend is all she’s had to rely on for years. She doesn’t know who her father is, her mother hasn’t been reliable or supportive since her mid-teens, and she never made any more close friends after an incident when she was 16-years-old left her on her own. She thinks all she has is the hope for her and Lucas to get their happily-ever-after.

Through the course of the book, Emmie learns that there’s a lot more depth and value to her life and her friendships than she’s been recognizing. Unfortunately the only way for her to learn all this is to have the security blanket that is her relationship with Lucas shaken loose. Watching Emmie realize who her true friends are and how much joy is really in her life is so emotionally rewarding.

Overall, I’d give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. Emmie’s character and relationships were so fulfilling and comfortable, once they were recognized; I wish they all could be my neighbors and friends.

{click here to purchase - only $11.99 for Kindle!}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, reader, and lunch lady. She loves making plans and checking off her to-do list. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Dear Emmie Blue!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Dear Emmie Blue, by Lia Louis

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: I Killed Zoe Spanos, by Kit Frick {ends 9/2}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Inside, Kaylee grabs a small shopping cart and takes off past the wine displays and toward the aisles of hard alcohol like she owns the place. By the time I catch up, she has our cart stocked with a bottle of Jose Cuervo, a bottle of Bacardi white, and a yellow-green jug of margarita mix.

“Have you been here before?”

Kaylee tilts her head to one side and squints at me. “It’s a liquor store, Anna. They’re all the same. See if you can find us some pineapple juice and seltzer in the back?”

I nod and do as instructed. While I’m pulling a six-pack of little pineapple juice cans from the cold case, I hear a throat clear behind me. I straighten up, prepared to move out of the way.

“Anna?”

I spin around. “Penguin guy.”

“I prefer penguin expert,” Max says, grinning. He brushes a piece of floppy brown hair out of his eyes, and it falls right back.

The mysterious disappearance of Zoe Spanos isn’t the only mystery revealed in this book, which is full of plot twists and emotional confusion and revelations.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: I Killed Zoe Spanos, by Kit Frick {ends 9/2}
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

This was definitely a page-turner. Anna, the new nanny, is mistaken on her first full day of work for a girl who has been missing for months. She quickly decides to wear her hair up instead of down, so hopefully she can have less awkward encounters with the locals. Matters only get more complicated as Anna can’t resist the thought that so much of Herron Mills feels familiar to her, although her mother and her best friend insist she’s never been there before.

Anna as an unreliable narrator was an excellent character. She takes the job in Herron Mills to remove herself from what she knows was an unhealthy lifestyle. Before nannying, she had finished up high school by just partying. Lots of drinking, a handful of drugs, a few blackouts. Life had been chaotic enough that she now questions her own memories of events in her life. She’s trying to be a good person, but she’s not entirely sure what kind of person she was before.

Could Anna and Zoe have been connected before? Why is Herron Mills so familiar to Anna? And most importantly, what actually happened to Zoe? Different characters want the answer to these questions either discovered, or hidden, for all different reasons. Who is telling the truth, and who is doing their best to hide the truth?

Overall, this book was a compelling read, and getting to the end to find the answers was an irresistible race. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to young adults and adults who enjoy a great, unpredictable mystery.

{click here to purchase - only $10.99 for Kindle}

Becki Bayley shares more of what she’s reading and other fun stuff on her Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of I Killed Zoe Spanos!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, September 2nd, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

I Killed Zoe Spanos, by Kit Frick

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: To Have and To Hoax, by Martha Waters {ends 9/1}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“What the devil do you think you’re about?” Jeremy continued, sitting up straighter behind his desk. His own glass of brandy was sitting untouched before him—a sure sign of how deadly serious he was. “Fawning all over Sophie like that—and in front of Violet, no less?”

“I was under the impression—from you yourself—that you and Lady Fitzwilliam were ending your liaison,” James murmured.

“That’s not the bloody point,” Jeremy replied, which was his standard response in any situation in which he didn’t want to acknowledge the truth of someone else’s words. “I still want to know what the deuce you thought you were doing."

James shoved his chair back and stood, suddenly unable to bear the thought of sitting still a moment longer. He’d been filled with a sort of frenzied energy ever since he and Violet had left the park. He’d been unable to settle to any single task at home, despite the numerous ones that demanded his attention, and hadn’t waited long before seizing his hat and gloves to visit Jeremy. Instead of calling for his horse or carriage, he’d walked to Jeremy’s house in Fitzroy Square, the exercise doing little to calm the jangle of his nerves.

Besting one’s wife, it seemed, was highly invigorating.

A "hoax" is defined as a humorous or malicious deception. Neither description fully fit the tricks these characters played on each other. They were just grasping for attention.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: To Have and To Hoax, by Martha Waters {ends 9/1}
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

While the period vernacular and costumes were amusing, the main characters were mostly just annoying. That would have been okay, if they’d learned their lessons and moved on. Instead, this book felt like it was ending at least four times before it actually did. It sounded like even their friends were getting tired of pointing out the obvious to them—“Did you try talking to him/her?”

Overall, the writing was good and the characters could have been redeemed, but the plot started feeling too loose to just wrap up. The best part of this was that they got steamy every time they almost made up, and those scenes were well done. A few of the characters also hinted at future conflicts—will there be a follow-up? I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy period fiction and romantic comedies.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes reading and enjoying fresh air. If she had any pull with a divine power, she’d hope for the continued good health and happiness of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Betty White. See what she’s reading and ranting about at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of To Have and To Hoax!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

To Have and To Hoax, by Martha Waters

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Jackal, by J.R. Ward {ends 8/29}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Just when she was about to lose it, when she was opening her mouth to tell him she couldn’t go another foot, the smell changed.

Is that fresh air? she wondered.

Jack stopped and had to force his head around. Or at least she assumed that was what he did, given that his voice suddenly reached her ears more directly.

“We’re heading to the left, and we’re going to have to move very fast. I don’t need to tell you how dangerous this is.”

“I got it.”

“Nyx, I’m serious --”

“Shut up. If this fails, it will not be because of me,” she vowed.

While this is not the first story of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, it was easy to catch up and get to know the characters.

Official synopsis:
The location of the glymera’s notorious prison camp was lost after the raids. When a freak accident provides Nyx clues to where her sister may still be doing time, she becomes determined to find the secret subterranean labyrinth. Embarking on a journey under the earth, she learns a terrible truth—and meets a male who changes everything forever.

The Jackal has been in the camp for so long he cannot recall anything of the freedom he once knew. Trapped by circumstances out of his control, he helps Nyx because he cannot help himself. After she discovers what happened to her sister, getting her back out becomes a deadly mission for them both.

United by a passion they can’t deny, they work together on an escape plan for Nyx—even though their destiny is to be forever apart. And as the Black Dagger Brotherhood is called upon for help, and Rhage discovers he has a half-brother who’s falsely imprisoned, a devious warden plots the deaths of them all…even the Brothers.

The book opens with a glossary. Luckily, most of the book was understandable through context clues, and referencing the glossary wasn’t usually necessary. Most of the characters in the story are vampires. While that can mean different things for different book series, the most important part of these vampires is that they live a really long time.

Nyx and her sister Posie unexpectedly receive a clue to where their sister Janelle may be serving her prison sentence - for the last 50 years. Nyx is initially convinced Janelle was wrongly convicted, and with the new information she makes it her goal to break into the prison and help her sister to escape. As soon as she gets into the prison, another inmate known as The Jackal (who has been in the prison for longer than a century) starts helping her, to both of their surprise.

Although the plot could have been confusing, the book was well written and engaging. Nyx and The Jackal had a little help from a few other inmates that The Jackal trusted, but their odds never seemed good. Despite it all, the reader couldn’t help but want things to turn out well for Nyx, The Jackal, and true love.

While this book was the first in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Prison Camp series, it was actually the fifth book in the Black Dagger Legacy. The other books may be worth checking into as well. Overall, I’d give The Jackal 4 out of 5 stars on its own. I’d recommend it to paranormal fans, and those who have previously enjoyed the books in the overlapping series. Please keep it to adults, though. Nyx and The Jackal somehow found plenty of private time during their life or death experiences.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and blogger at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Jackal!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, August 29th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Jackal, by J.R. Ward

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