Sunday, January 17, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin, by Patricia Cornwell {ends 1/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“All right, let’s see what we’ve got here,” I begin surveying what looks more like the cockpit of a military aircraft than any law enforcement vehicle I’ve seen up close and personal.

Barely 300 miles on the odometer, and I have a feeling my Secret Service-inspired chariot with its new-car smell is another prototype like almost everything else, including Carme and me. The mileage probably is from racetracks, test-driving ranges, and for sure I’ll never figure out and manage all the systems without AI assistance, starting with the dark-gray pleathery-looking upholstery.

Based on transmissions I’m picking up in my CUFF, the material is woven with sensors, reminding me of the formfitting skin Carme had on at the Point Comfort Inn. I’m pretty sure my SUV’s smart materials are interactive, that they probably can self-repair, change appearance and are electrically conductive.

Captain Calli Chase finds out that she and her twin sister Carme are scientific guinea pigs. After the first few chapters, they’re both pretty scientifically enhanced, with PEEPs, CUFFs, and ART (their constant AI companion).

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin, by Patricia Cornwell {ends 1/24}
In the aftermath of a NASA rocket launch gone terribly wrong, Captain Calli Chase comes face-to-face with her missing twin sister—as well as the startling truth of who they really are. Now, a top secret program put in motion years ago has spun out of control, and only Calli can redirect its course.

Aided by cutting-edge technologies, the NASA investigator and scientist turned Space Force pilot sets out on a frantic search for the missing link between the sabotaged rocket launch and her predetermined destiny…a search that someone else seems very interested in stopping.

From NASA to the Chase family farm, to the White House to distant orbits of space, Calli plays a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek with a cunning and ruthless adversary. One wrong move will unleash cataclysmic consequences reaching far beyond the boundaries of Earth.

This is the second book in the Captain Chase series. So far it’s been labeled as book 2 of 2, but it still ended with a cliffhanger. Calli and Carme Chase are twins who have been raised in and around NASA. Their parents both work there, and the girls have been raised to be scientists and astronauts.

In this book, the acronyms abound! Captain Calli is outfitted with lots of personal technology and artificial intelligence enhancements to report everything that she finds and experiences in her work. The technology developments and details are interesting. Unfortunately, the technology and Calli’s internal monologue regarding it all far outweigh the plot.

Overall, I found this book a little more engaging than the first one in the series, but still largely aimless and mostly filled with narration from inside the main character’s head. I’d give it 2.5 out of 5 stars. The scientific details of space exploration and equipment were the most interesting part of the book.

{Click here to purchase. Currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley reads for fun. She also blogs at


One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of Spin!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, January 24th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Spin, by Patricia Cornwell

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lana's War, by Anita Abriel {ends 1/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Lana sat across from Captain Von Harmon at the Hôtel Excelsior’s restaurant and listened to him describe his family’s apartment in Berlin. From the outside she was the picture of grace and calm: she had spent an hour in her dressing room fixing her hair and adjusting the neckline of her dress to show just a hint of cleavage. But ever since Guy had dropped her off near the hotel, she had been so nervous she could barely breathe.

“Joseph Goebbels invited my family to stay at his villa on the lake next summer,” Von Harmon was saying. “It’s only twenty-five kilometers from Berlin, but it’s like another world. There’s a private cinema and a park.”

“I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time,” Lana said, admiring the photo of a pretty blond woman and two small children he had handed to her. “Your wife is lovely, and such handsome children, you must be so proud.”

Life on the French Riviera sounds beautiful, but Lana is there living in constant risk as a member of the resistance.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lana's War, by Anita Abriel {ends 1/21}
Paris 1943: Lana Antanova is on her way to see her husband with the thrilling news that she is pregnant. But when she arrives at the convent where he teaches music, she’s horrified to see Gestapo officers execute him for hiding a Jewish girl in the piano.

A few months later, grieving both her husband and her lost pregnancy, Lana is shocked when she’s approached to join the resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialize with German officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy Swiss industrialist and fellow resistance member, in whose villa in Cap Ferrat she lives. Together, they gather information on upcoming raids and help members of the Jewish community escape. Consumed by her work, she doesn’t expect to become attached to a young Jewish girl or wonder about the secrets held by the man whose house she shares. And as the Nazis’ deadly efforts intensify, her intention to protect those around her may put them all at risk instead.

Lana leaves Paris after the death of her husband and the miscarriage of her baby. She was recruited for the resistance to move to the French Riviera and join the party circuit to get secrets from the German officers and Gestap, and try to help the Jewish residents escape the area instead of being sent to the camps and put to death.

The newly relocated Countess Lana Antanova plays her part perfectly. She may be doing it just a bit too well, with little regard for her safety and that of her co-workers in the resistance. While there are certainly a lot of WWII books and stories of the resistance, this one did have a unique ending.

Overall, I’d give this interesting story 3 out of 5 stars. The characters were a little flat. While we were given their back stories and reasons for joining the resistance, they lacked an emotional depth. Luckily the development of the end of the story compensated for some of that. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy WWII stories, and be able to say it doesn’t read as sad or tragic as a lot of stories about that period.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom and homemaker. Someone once said that adulthood means always cleaning your kitchen. They’re not wrong. See some of her activities besides cleaning the kitchen on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Lana's War!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, January 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be contacted.

Open to both U.S. *and* Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Lana's War, by Anita Abriel

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz {ends 1/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It was abruptly obvious to Laura, what she and everyone usually managed to forget: Life was a sucking cornucopia of loss, everyone teetered unwittingly on its edge all the time. All the precious things at risk every moment, childhoods and pink pigs and best friends, lovers and brothers and parents and children, whole lives and histories perpetually rushing into the ravenous funnel of oblivion. It wasn’t possible to cherish them enough before they were taken away.

The Preston family was never what they thought they were. As all five members of the family changed, grew, disappeared, and came back, they all kept trying to define themselves and their relationships to the world, but how much was really true, and how much was just what they tried to prove to everyone else?

Official synopsis:
Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Bea as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers.

Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers in a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand.

Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed,
What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty that can exist even in the midst of brokenness.

The Preston family could have been anyone. One year in Thailand sounded like an adventure for Genevieve and the three kids, while Robert built a dam. But the one year turned into two, then three, and they were all restless. How long did a dam take to build? Genevieve wanted to stop playing hostess to all the new Americans living in Thailand. Then suddenly they’re on their way home, because their son has disappeared, and she travels back to Thailand over and over, looking for the boy she hasn’t seen since he was 8 years old.

Decades later, Genevieve’s grasp with reality is tenuous as she slips into dementia. She’s followed leads that she hoped would lead to her son Philip again and again, but nothing has brought him back to her so far. Now she doesn’t look for him, but a woman has reached out to Philip’s youngest sister Laura to say that Philip is an adult with nowhere to go in Thailand.

In the process of alternating between 1972 and 2019 (with a little 1980 thrown in), this book also gave us differing viewpoints of the lives of the Prestons. Who Genevieve was in 1972 couldn’t have done anything different, and everything that happened in Thailand changed the whole relationship of Laura and oldest sister Bea, even when neither of them realized it. The most remarkable character of all was Philip, and his sense of peace with everything that had happened in the life that was never planned for him. Bringing him back into the fold really helped share that sense of peace (and sometimes clarity) with the rest of the remaining family.

Overall, this was a remarkable book, beautifully told. The author’s background info states that she as well spent part of her childhood in Thailand, and the sincerity and childhood impressions of that experience really come through. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars and will definitely seek out the author’s previous books. While I’d never call this a fast read, I would enthusiastically recommend it to those who enjoy literary fiction and stories about family relationships.

Liz's note: I believe this is Becki's first 5-star review!

Click here to purchase.

Becki Bayley is an adult, who just searched for what adulting means. Adulting, apparently, is just searching how to do stuff. This fits her experiences so far. Check out more adulting posts at


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of What Could Be Saved!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant

I recently saw the new HBO Max show The Flight Attendant, with Kaley Cuoco in the lead role, and really loved it ... so of course I had to read the book that the show is based on, of the same name, by Chris Bohjalian. 

Book synopsis:
The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Now a limited series on HBO Max! A powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man—and no idea what happened.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet,
The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

First off: I would give the book 3.5/5 stars, and the TV show 4.5/5. Maybe it's because I saw the show before I read the book ... but I found the show to be more dramatic and compelling. However, that's not to say I didn't like the book, because I did—but the showrunners definitely made a few changes.

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Changes from the book to the TV show, non-spoiler edition:
  • Book Cassie is around 40, I believe, and I think TV Cassie was supposed to be in her early 30's (Kaley Cuoco is 35 IRL though)
  • In the book, the murder at the beginning takes place in Dubai, and in the show, it's Bangkok—I just visited Bangkok in 2018, so I found that more compelling. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up NOT being Cassie's "friend," in the book edition
  • In the book, Cassie didn't have a lawyer, so she ends up with Ani; in the show, Ani is a friend of Cassie's who just happens to be a lawyer (played excellently by Zosia Mamet, from Girls
  • Both Book and TV show Cassie grew up in Kentucky; however, Book Cassie has a sister, who has a husband and children, and TV Cassie has a gay brother, who also has a husband and children. 

Changes from the book to TV show, SPOILER EDITION ... STOP READING NOW if you don't want spoilers:
  • TV show Cassie does more crazy stuff—she goes to Alex Sokolov's funeral, for example, then has to escape. Book Cassie briefly contemplates going to his funeral, but does not. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up trying to kill Cassie, upon orders from her superiors, in the book, but instead gets killed by the "real" bad guy, Buckley, in Cassie's hotel room in Rome. In the TV show, Miranda and Cassie worked together to apprehend Buckley, once they figured out he was the true bad guy.
  • Cassie's brother-in-law gets investigated because he's an agent, and they think Cassie and him might have been working together to kill or somehow maim Sokolov. 
  • The end of the book: Cassie now works as some sort of agent, but still does flight attendant stuff too (for the agency), and we learn that she has a daughter, Masha, which was the result of her and Alex Sokolov's 1-night stand ... I thought this was not really necessary, although it explains why her character has now quit drinking. 

Have you read The Flight Attendant book, and/or seen the TV show? If so, what did you think of it?

And you can find the book version here for purchase, on Amazon.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter {ends 1/18}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Rachel Marin watched the entire masquerade from her computer with a mixture of horror, anger, and perhaps the smallest twinge of amusement and pride. She debated putting an end to the silliness, then installing state-of-the-art motion sensors in Eric’s room that would let her know every time her son burped.

But she didn’t want her children to grow up afraid of her. The death of Rachel’s husband had locked Eric in an emotional prison, but rather than beat against the bars, he had retreated into a corner, sullenly living out his sentence with no possibility—or interest—in parole. She had tried to pull him out but instead had seen him recede further. Her once-buoyant son was drowning, and it tore her up. She’d wanted him to lash out, to flout the rules. Anything to prove he had some fight in him. So as Rachel watched her son slip out the window, leaving behind a bed full of fluffy animals like some sixth-rate illusionist, Rachel couldn’t muster the anger most mothers would have. For years she’d wanted Eric to act like a boy. To test her boundaries. To venture into the unknown, to take risks, just like she had. Well, Eric had finally called her bluff.

Like the first Rachel Marin book, this one was more non-stop action! One of the detectives Rachel works with called her ‘a magnet for violence,’ and they may be right.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter {ends 1/18}
Rachel Marin is in a good place. After years of struggle, the single mother has found both a stable, loving relationship and a new purpose: putting her investigative skills to work solving crimes for the local PD. But just as the pieces of her life are finally starting to fall into place, her teenaged son’s teacher is gruesomely murdered, starting a domino effect that shatters her peaceful existence.

When Rachel discovers an ominous email the teacher sent to her just before his death, she knows she must help bring his killer to justice. But soon a figure from her past reappears, threatening to expose Rachel’s darkest secrets if she doesn’t tread lightly. And when her son is recruited by a shadowy businessman who may be connected to the murder, Rachel knows this has just gotten very, very personal.

Someone out there is dead set on keeping this grisly cover-up good and buried, which means if Rachel’s not careful, it’s only a matter of time before her dream life becomes her worst nightmare.

What an exciting book! It opens with a horrific murder. While the reason the victim was killed is not clear, the details of the crime make it look like a warning to others. The only clue is a vague email to the heroine of this book series, Rachel Marin.

Rachel’s past has forced her to be strong both mentally and physically. When someone who knows some of what she’s been through shows up to tell her not to pursue justice in this case, she’s even more determined to figure out why. Having a character who played a much bigger role in the first book make a surprise appearance here let the reader know that Rachel’s past and present had gotten entangled, something she never wanted to happen.

The second installment in the Rachel Marin series was just as compelling to read as the first. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down until all the motives were uncovered and crimes were solved. It was satisfying to see that while Rachel’s thirst for justice sometimes required a bit of vigilante action, she was also willing to let some wrongs be forgotten in the interest of what is truly right.

{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


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Stranger at the Door!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, January 18th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/13}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“We’ve identified the Pōhakuloa victim. He’s Keneke Nakano. Age twenty-nine. An island native. Educated at UH-Honolulu and the University of California. Employed for the past nine months as a staff astronomer at the Alice Observatories. His grandfather, a master wood carver, made traditional furniture in a small workshop outside Hāwi.”

“Kawelo Nakano, the old wood carver...a legendary craftsman and a marvelous story talker,” the chief interrupted.

“You knew Keneke Nakano’s grandfather?” Koa’s voice betrayed his astonishment.

“Yes, and so did Prince Kamehameha. He and old Kawelo were both steeped in the old ways and very close. The prince should want to help avenge the death of Kawelo’s grandson.”

Each of the Koa Kane Hawaiian mysteries can be read independently. The Hawaiian backdrop and history for the stories is beautiful.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/13}
On Hawaii Island, an anonymous 911 caller reports a body at Pohakuloa, the Army's live-fire training area. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane, a cop with his own secret criminal past, finds a mutilated corpse—bearing all the hallmarks of ancient ritual sacrifice.

He encounters a host of obstacles as he pursues the murderer—an incompetent local medical examiner, hostility from both haoles (Westerners) and sovereignty advocates, and a myriad of lies. Koa races to discover whether the victim stumbled upon a gang of high-tech archaeological thieves, or learned a secret so shocking it cost him his life and put others in mortal danger.

Will Hilo's most respected detective stop this sadistic fiend—or will the Pohakuloa killer strike again, with even deadlier consequences?

Hawaii lends itself to totally different crimes and methods of murder, apparently. It is so interesting to observe Koa Kane and the rest of the characters unravel these crimes steeped in Hawaiin history and the unique landscape of volcanoes.

This book additionally looked at astronomy research being done on the island as an additional stage for competition and conflict. The scientific descriptions were detailed and sounded believable. The rich history of Hawaii was at the heart of each development in the story. Trying to discern who were the good guys and who were the bad guys was consuming and kept the pages turning in a race to get to the dramatic ending.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. This series would be easy to recommend to any reader who enjoys stories about Hawaii or police procedurals. I look forward to more books being released in this series.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom. She enjoys curling up with a good book, enjoying movies and tv with her family, and watching the birds. Check out more of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Death of a Messenger!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 13th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno {ends 1/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

A glimmer squeezes through the door, daylight finding its way in. Jimmy comes in from the heat, wiping the sweat from his forehead, making his way to the bar. He’s wearing a dark-blue t-shirt, a size too small. A band name, DIGISAURUS, is inscribed across a boom box with lightning bolts shooting out. The letters are stretched over his pecs, and the bolts curve over his gut, not quite reaching his belly button. This shirt is paired with old Levi’s and black-and-white Sambas—the same shoes kids wore for indoor soccer back in the nineties.

Sometimes I feel like I’m straddling where I came from—Wilton, Cambridge, San Francisco, New York —and where I am, this town, like they are two different worlds. Then the whiskey touches my lips and I realize no matter where I am it tastes just the same.

What a powerful examination of a life. Emma spends the night at the townie dive bar as one of the regulars comparing her life now to her life "before." 

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno {ends 1/12}
It’s 5pm on a Wednesday when Emma settles into her hometown bar with a motley crew of locals, all unaware that a series of decisions over the course of a single night is about to change their lives forever. As the evening unfolds, key details about Emma’s history emerge, and the past comes bearing down on her like a freight train.

Why has Emma, a powerhouse in the business world, ended up here? What is she running away from? And what is she willing to give up to recapture the love she once cherished? An exploration of contemporary love, guilt, and the place we call home, and in the tradition of
Ask Again, Yes and Little Fires Everywhere, Ordinary Hazards follows one woman’s epic journey back to a life worth living.

Emma spends a long evening at the local bar observing the locals, who she has known and spent time with for years. She’s comparing herself and her life to theirs, and recognizing both how they are the same, and how they are different. Her insights are interspersed with her previous experiences with some of the locals and others who have brought her to this point. The reader isn’t sure what the line is between "before" and "after" until much further along in the evening, and the story.

There’s something nostalgic about the beginning of the book. The image of a small-town bar and the sense of community there can apply as something that is familiar to many, or sounds quaint and cozy even if it hasn’t been experienced personally. Emma’s flashbacks to her own evolution to adulthood, and the quirks of the regulars who she may or may not consider friends are engaging. As events progress, it is revealed that the story is more unique to Emma and the lives of those hanging out at the bar.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The writing was compelling and relatable. The characters were interesting. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy contemporary fiction and complex emotional stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys contemplation paired with whiskey. She sometimes shares her own musings at, along with other book reviews.


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Ordinary Hazards!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 12th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Open to BOTH U.S. and Canada!

Good luck!

Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno


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