Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard {ends 4/29}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Strange. Joshua Speed had assumed there would be some comfort in seeing Mrs. Francis’s agenda at last laid bare.

“Why do you not marry him yourself?” he murmured. “I think you would if you could.”

“You’re probably right,” she answered amiably. “Diamonds in the rough have always been my weakness. Oh, you should have seen Mr. Francis when I first got hold of him. Licking his knife, balling up his handkerchief, scratching himself at all times of day. He made our Lincoln look like Beau Brummell.”

“So,” he said, “in lieu of yourself, you propose some other candidate.”

“Not as yet,” she said equably. “I must first survey the field.”

“And in so doing, you will find what? A limp, lisping virgin of, what, seventeen? Eighteen? Just enough brain to fit in her own thimble?”

“Oh, for the first time, I believe you underestimate me, Mr. Speed. And him. Do you honestly think our Lincoln could attach his fortunes to someone he couldn’t talk with?”


I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from this intimate tale of Abraham Lincoln’s personal relationships before his political life reached its peak. I suppose I’d never really considered him – or his wife and other friends – as real people, as shallow as that may sound.

Official synopsis: 
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard
When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s short list to be president. A country lawyer living above a dry goods shop, he is lacking both money and manners, and his gift for oratory surprises those who meet him. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with an interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: an amiable, profound man who, despite his awkwardness, has a gentle wit to match his genius, and who respects her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. Louis Bayard, a master storyteller, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.


I don’t recall reading much fiction or historical fiction from this time period, so I found this book to be interesting from that perspective. The stories we hear about Lincoln are usually just surrounding his presidency and assassination. In this book I learned about the probable relationships he had before all this. Mary Todd comes to Springfield to stay with her sister’s family, and find a husband. While she passes on several suitable prospects, she seems almost more intrigued than attracted to Lincoln.

During Mary’s early days in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln and his roommate Joshua Speed are nearly a package deal. They arrive at all events together, telling stories together, and adding charm and entertainment on a regular basis. But can such a close friendship make choosing to take a wife even harder?

I liked how the book alternated between Mary Todd’s perspective and Joshua Speed’s perspective of the same events involving Lincoln. It made it feel like the reader knew the whole story, although Lincoln’s perspective was never given. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I’m glad I read it and learned more about that time period, but the fame of the characters is something that’s only recognized from a previous knowledge of history.


Becki Bayley is a wife, and mother of two who has been blogging for more than 15 years at SweetlyBSquared.com. She loves reading, building her Tiny Tower and crushing all the candy.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Courting Mr. Lincoln!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, April 29th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted 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!

Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

GIVEAWAY: David Sedaris, October 23, Fisher Theatre, Detroit {ends 4/24}


If you're a David Sedaris fan: head on over to my other blog, Yes/No Detroit, to enter to win two tickets to see him live at the Fisher Theatre (Detroit) on October 23rd! There will be two winners.

*Pre-sale code!*

If you'd like to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the general public, click here. Presale code is BOOK.

Head here to enter my giveaway, which ends on April 24, 2019.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Bookstock is back! April 7-14, at Laurel Park Place, Livonia

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Bookstock—I've written about it here for the past four years or so. It's an annual event that takes place at Livonia's Laurel Park Place, and is a great way to stock up on books or even other forms of media such as DVDs/Blu-rays, records, and audiobooks.

More about this year's event:

Metro Detroit's Biggest and Best Used Book and Media Sale Returns
Sunday, April 7 Through Sunday, April 14 at Laurel Park Place, Livonia

Bookstock is back, offering unbelievable deals on used books and media Sunday, April 7 through Sunday, April 14 at Livonia’s Laurel Park Place. Bargains abound at Bookstock, metro Detroit’s biggest and best used book and media sale, where proceeds benefit literacy and education projects throughout the City of Detroit and Oakland, Wayne, Benzie, Washtenaw and Grand Traverse Counties.

Bookstock is forming a new partnership with JVS Human Services, which serves as the institutional home of Bookstock. Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin is Honorary Chairperson of Bookstock, and Alycia Meriweather, Deputy Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is Bookstock's Honorary Chancellor. Bookstock 2019's Presenting Sponsor is the Mike Morse Law Firm.

Bookstock’s Pre-Sale will kick-off on Sunday, April 7 at 8:15 a.m. There is a $20 admission charge for the Pre-Sale only, which runs through 11 a.m. and offers savvy shoppers and collectors first crack at Bookstock’s treasure trove of deals. Bookstock has 300,000-plus gently used books, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, and vinyl for sale at bargain basement prices. The sale will continue through Sunday, April 14, running Sundays, 11 a.m.—6 p.m. and Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.—9 p.m. New stock is added to the floor daily.


This year, Bookstock will feature seven days of special sales:

• Monday Madness – Monday, April 8: The first 2,000 shoppers will receive spectacular giveaways plus a chance to win a $100 VISA gift card every hour!
• Teacher Appreciation Days – Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday April 10: Bookstock is celebrating teachers by giving 50% off to all teachers with a valid ID from 3 — 9 p.m. on both days. On Tuesday at 5 p.m., the Bookstock B.E.S.T. Awards, (Bookstock Extraordinary Student/School/Teacher) will be presented to fourth grade students from Detroit Public Schools Community District who write the top essays entitled, “My Favorite Book Character…and Why.” A WDIV TV personality will present the awards live, and cash prizes will be given to five students, their teachers and their schools.
• Bookbuster Special Days – Thursday, April 11 and Friday, April 12: Buy three books and get the fourth book *free (*least expensive item) from 3 – 9 p.m.

Spend $25 or more on either night and be entered in a special drawing for:
• Skates signed by Olympic Gold Medalist Meryl Davis
• 2 tickets to a Detroit Tigers game
• 2 grand stand tickets to the Detroit Grand Prix

• Cookstock – Saturday, April 13: Half price on the area's largest collection of used cookbooks plus incredible cooking and dining prizes given away throughout the day.

• Half Price Finale, Sunday, April 14: All books and media will be sold for half price!


Marking 17 years of supporting the need to read, Bookstock has generated more than $2 million for literacy and education projects in Michigan. Nearly 800 volunteers work together throughout the year to organize and staff the weeklong Bookstock sale.

Bookstock is brought to the community by a consortium of non-profit organizations that support education and literacy projects throughout metro Detroit. For more information about Bookstook, call the Bookstock hotline, (248) 645-7840, ext. 365, or visit bookstockmi.org. Laurel Park Place is located on 6 Mile Road east of I-275 in Livonia.

Follow Bookstock on the web here:
Bookstock website: http://www.bookstockmi.org
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BookstockMI
Twitter: @BookstockMI
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BookstockMI

Have you been to Bookstock before, if you live in the metro Detroit area? If so, did you pick up any good finds?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Quick Pick book review: This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, by Kheryn Callender

  • Opening lines: Riding a bike in the rain with a broken arm is never a good idea, but I'm the kind of guy who likes to make life more difficult, so that's exactly what I do. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a sucker for YA love stories. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • A fresh, charming rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Boy Meets Boy about Nathan Bird, who has sworn off happy endings but is sorely tested when his former best friend, Ollie, moves back to town. Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

    Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.

    After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a love story, a YA book, or LGBTQ-themed books. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Flo didn't say anything else. We sat there in quiet for a long time. I was afraid to speak. She'd hear my voice breaking. My breath was too ragged. I forced myself to say something. "I just don't want to get hurt."

    She frowned. "No one wants to be hurt. No one wants to risk that. But if we don't risk it ... then we don't give ourselves the chance to fall in love. Then we don't have anything."

    I don't really know what's worse: living without love so that you don't get hurt, or getting hurt repeatedly in an attempt to find it. 
    • Something to know: Nothing that I can think of. This would make a great movie a la Love, Simon style, though.
    • What I would have changed: Nothing.
    • Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
    • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    Book Review: The Murmur of Bees, by Sofia Segovia

    Guest review by: Becki Bayley

    "Do you want to come meet everyone?”

    Francisco was not surprised when Simonopio shook his head. In fact, he was amazed to see the boy there at all, not just because he had been absent for several days, but because Simonopio had never liked being present when strangers visited. Yet here he was, and the smile remained on his face.

    “You’re all right,” said Francisco.

    It was not a question.

    Simonopio nodded as he removed everything he was carrying from his knapsack.

    “What do you have there?”

    Simonopio took out his sleeping bag, placed it on the ground, and unrolled the tight bundle. He took out something wrapped in a rag and handed it to his godfather.

    “Shall I open it?”

    Simonopio nodded again, fixing his eyes intensely on Francisco’s. Whatever it was, the contents of the package were very important to his godson. Holding his breath, Francisco carefully undid the knot in the rag, remembering the day when he saw Simonopio for the first time, when he opened two similar, albeit larger, bundles, to find the boy and his beehive full of bees. So he thought that, in this case, he had better proceed with caution.


    The title of The Murmur of Bees just made me think of something soothing and enchanting. The lyrical prose in this story of a family over several generations was beautiful.

    Official synopsis:
    Book Review: The Murmur of Bees, by Sofia Segovia
    From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.

    Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.


    The Murmur of Bees
    is the story of the Morales Cortez family and their plantation over the course of at least two generations. It primarily surrounds the two boys of the familySimonopio (an infant found and raised by the family’s wet nurse when she’s very old) and Francisco Junior (the biological son who is born after the two daughters are adults). While Francisco Junior’s story is mostly autobiographical, he would never be the same man he is without his relationship with Simonopio, who is around ten years older than him.

    Simonopio is the boy the bees talk to. He is originally found covered in bees, without being stung by them at all. The bees tell Simonopio about things going on elsewhere, and things that will happen. Simonopio does his best to protect his godparents and the others in the Morales Cortez family with this information. To add to the challenge, Simonopio has a facial deformity which makes his language unintelligible to everyone but Francisco Junior.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but found it very wordy. There were a lot of detailed descriptions that were pleasant, but not necessarily always necessary to the story. The book felt like it took me a very long time to get through. The chapters were also told by different characters, which sometimes took me a bit to figure out. I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars.


    Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, lunch lady and blogger at SweetlyBSquared.com. When she’s not reading, she also enjoys doing laundry and dishes every day to keep her household running.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2019

    Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fever King, by Victoria Lee {ends 3/4}

    Guest review by: Becki Bayley

    Noam?” Dr. Howard zeroed in on him the second the other students had been ferried out the door. “It’s time for your aptitude testing.”

    Noam didn’t move. “What does this ‘aptitude testing’ entail, exactly?”

    She glared disapprovingly, but the carefully blank look on Noam’s face didn’t falter.

    “We need to know what you can do and how well you can do it,” she elaborated at last. “We need to know more about your magic – any special affinities, any boundary conditions. It’s standard operating procedure, Mr. Alvaro. There’s nothing to worry about. Now come with me.”

    Noam really, really didn’t want to go with her. He couldn’t imagine anything less appealing than being asked to make a fool of himself in front of a whole bunch of government officials.

    Still. He was admittedly interested in figuring out what kind of magic he could do.


    I do love a good dystopian novel. While characters are usually my biggest draw in a book, The Fever King had a stronger plot than characters for me. The interaction of the characters on the basis of their magical gifts was intriguing.

    Official synopsis:
    Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fever King, by Victoria Lee
    In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

    The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

    Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


    While political drama isn’t usually my thing, the politics of Carolinia and Atlantia somehow drew me in. Maybe it was Noam’s passion to help the refugees, but I think it was even more how everyone’s personal experiences with the virus and with magic defined them. The characters as individuals did not make as much of an impression on me as their magical gifts and how they used them. You knew who the "witchlings" were based on their place in society, but knowing what they were didn’t necessarily tell you what they could do or what their individual power was.

    All the main characters were using their powers—that we may or may not know about—to control or manipulate situations or other people secretly. Without spoiling the outcome for those who will read the book, not everyone is as they seem. Determining the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ is nearly impossible with so many secrets being kept for so many reasons. There was a very small romantic interlude, but it was really just to add depth to an interpersonal relationship.

    Overall, I found The Fever King to be a very complicated book. It was a little slow for me in the middle, but once the action started, it was consuming and I didn’t want to set the book down til I knew what was going to happen. I’m glad I kept going, because the ending plot twist was a surprise.

    I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend this book for those who enjoy dystopian fiction and military or political thrillers. I look forward to more books in this series, but I’m not really sure where the author will take it next.

    https://amzn.to/2Ex0lG6

    Becki Bayley has been a retail clerk, day-care worker, chocolatier, receptionist, debt management counselor, pampering specialist, reader, and collections advocate. She is currently a breakfast lady and blogger at SweetlyBSquared.com.

    GIVEAWAY:

    One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Fever King!

    Enter to win via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, March 4th, 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!

    The Fever King, by Victoria Lee

    Monday, February 18, 2019

    Quick Pick book review: The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren

    book review: The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
    • Opening lines: In the calm before the storm—in this case, the blessed quiet before the bridal suite is overrun by the wedding partymy twin sister stares critically down at a freshly painted shell-pink fingernail and says "I bet you're relieved I'm not a bridezilla. She glances across the room at me and smiles generously. "I bet you expected me to be impossible."

      It is a statement so perfectly dropped in the moment, I want to take a picture and frame it.
    • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge Christina Lauren fan and have reviewed most of, if not all, of their books.
    • And what's this book about?
    • Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

      Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

      Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.
    • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys an easy read and/or a good love story, or who enjoys "chick lit."
    • Favorite paragraph: Whereas Ami is a four-leave clover, I have always been unlucky. I don't say that to be theatrical or because I only seem unlucky in comparison: it is an objective truth. Google Olive Torres, Minnesota, and you'll find dozens of articles and comment threads dedicated to the time I climbed into one of those claw crane arcade games and got stuck. I was six, and when the stuffed animal I'd captured didn't drop directly into the chute, I decided to go in and get it.
      • Something to know: Nothing. I'd love to see this book made into a movie, though!
      • What I would have changed: Nothing I can think of.
      • Overall rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
      • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon - it will be online and in stores on May 14, 2019.
      *Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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