Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren {ends 5/8}

It doesn't set off alarm bells in my head, sure, but it doesn't send goose bumps across my skin, either. It doesn't make my chest ache so deliciously I'm nearly breathless. I don't feel urgent, or desperate, or too hot in my own skin because I'm so hungry for him. And in a tight gasp that Sean reads as pleasure, I worry that Elliot is right and I'm wrong andlike alwayshe's taking care of both of our hearts while I flop around, trying to figure it all out. 

I feel my thoughts circling something, the same thing over and over, how Elliot went home after seeing me and broke up with Rachel.

He only had to see me to know, whereas I can barely trust a single feeling I have. 

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Christina Lauren's books—I've reviewed most, if not all, of them. This is their first foray into fiction, since their other books are probably classified as more "New Adult," and it's a great read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren
Love, loss, friendship, and the betrayals of the past all collide in this first fiction novel from New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Autoboyography, Dating You / Hating You).

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother...only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

We all have that one person from our high school years that we either had a crush on, or whom was our "first love"in Macy's case, that boy was Elliot. She was very close with him when she was in high school, even though she didn't attend the same school as him, but in the present, she hasn't seen nor spoken to him for eleven years. When she sees him at a local coffee shop and realizes that they now live in the same town, her distance is immediately shattered, and her memories cause her to evaluate all of the relationships in her life, including the one with her fiancee, Sean, whom she's only been dating for a few months.

I loved this book—the ending is predictable-ish but how they get there is surprising. The novel is told from two time periods: the present, where Macy is a doctor and about to marry Sean, and the past, where we see Macy growing up with just her dad—her mother died of cancer when she was younger—and where her best friend is Elliot.

Fans of Christina Lauren will definitely enjoy this book, and I'd recommend it for anyone who likes a good love story, as well.

5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Love and Other Words!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, May 8th, 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!

Paperback copy of Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Quick Pick book review: You Think It, I'll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Opening lines: (Gender Studies)
    Nell and Henry always said that they would wait until marriage was legal for everyone in America, and now this is the case—it's August 2015—but earlier in the week Henry eloped with his graduate student Bridget. Bridget is twenty-three, moderately but not dramatically attractive (one of the few nonstereotypical aspects of the situation, Nell thinks, is Bridget's lack of dramatic attractiveness), and Henry and Bridget had been dating for six months. They began having an affair last winter, when Henry and Nell were still together; then in April, Henry moved out of the house he and Nell own and directly into Bridget's apartment. Nell and Henry had been a couple for eleven years.
  • Reason I picked up the book: Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors - even though I don't usually read short stories, I knew if she was the author of them then the collection had to be good. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Now, with this first collection of short fiction, her “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads” (The Washington Post) is showcased like never before.

    Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided. In “The World Has Many Butterflies,” married acquaintances play a strangely intimate game with devastating consequences. In “Vox Clamantis in Deserto,” a shy Ivy League student learns the truth about a classmate’s seemingly enviable life. In “A Regular Couple,” a high-powered lawyer honeymooning with her husband is caught off guard by the appearance of the girl who tormented her in high school. And in “The Prairie Wife,” a suburban mother of two fantasizes about the downfall of an old friend whose wholesome lifestyle empire may or may not be built on a lie.

    With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we’re all thinking—if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.

  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes short stories, also anyone who enjoys a good stor(ies) in general.
  • Favorite paragraph: There was a rule Clay's mother had about dessert, which was that she couldn't seek it out but if it landed in front of her, she could indulge; not that it would have made his mother proud, but Clay had the same rule about Jenny.
  • Something to know: I'm a huge fan of Sittenfeld's other books - I reviewed Eligible, and both American Wife and Prep were great.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing.
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon - it was just released yesterday, on April 24th.
*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley, for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke


"The past year’s been insane. Sam and I purchased the diner two months after we bought our home. Sam’s eyes, unsullied by my gloomier point of view, unlocked a world of opportunities to me. Through the prism of her vision, I came to imagine the decrepit diner as a canvas on which to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood, our decaying home as a palace of potential delight…We divided the two-story house into separate living quarters. Sam lives on the first level, and I’ve set up house on the second. Each floor is about 1,500 square feet. Enough space so we each have a kitchen, living-dining room area, and a bedroom.

…We purchased the house for three thousand dollars in a land-grab auction, sight unseen, and it’s in dire need of repair. But everything’s relative. All that remains of several other houses on our block – as well as those in the vicinity of the diner – are burned wooden beams to suggest there was once a home, a pile of rubble in front to remind us it has a porch.

…It’s amazing how cheap it is to live in Detroit. We’re betting our dwindling start-up capital will tide us over until we can make an income. We couldn’t have opened the diner without Kickstarter, which is an online way of soliciting folks who may be interested in patronizing entrepreneurial ventures. What a godsend, that money.”


This story pulled me in right away. Not only is the writing style fun and easy, but the story revolves around Detroit and Michigan in general (I live in Michigan), and it takes place in a diner, so there is a lot of food talk which I also love.

Official synopsis:
Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification – and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Honestly, the synopsis on the back of the book (above) makes the book sound cheesy to me. This book was an easy and fun story without much conflict. The conflict and struggle it is trying to suggest isn’t very prevalent in the book and in my mind, a slight misrepresentation of the book. It’s as if the story "must" have conflict.

This story is about two cousins from Michigan who move to Detroit, buy a decrepit house, and open an old-school diner. Throughout the story they mention numerous Detroit and Michigan references (Techno Fest, Belle Isle, and Shinola to name a few) which for me, made the story much more relatable, interesting, and fun. The story is about their journey making a name and a home for themselves in a part of town that hasn’t seen any revitalization yet and detailing the ways they are trying to help the neighborhood, the neighbors, and the city as a whole. It is a nice story and I liked the comradery of all of the characters. It even included many recipes in the back of the book for items mentioned being served at the diner which I thought was fun. In fact, I plan on making the Heartbreaker cookies this weekend. In a way, the story reminded me of a love letter to Detroit.

“I am Detroit. My city is me. Shaped by the grit of our ancestry, we roll onward, rubber burning asphalt, always driving forward. Yesterday we spun out of control. We crashed and we burned, blind to the faces in our rearview mirror, broken glass in the street. But that was then. This is now. And we’re back at the wheel. Time to hustle our jam, here’s my ode, dear D. It’s time for us to shine.” 

Fun Fact: The more I read this story, the more it reminded me of Rose’s Fine Food in Detroit. I contacted the author, and it turns out, that was in fact the inspiration for the story. So after you read it, go check out the diner! Rose’s Fine Food: 10551 E Jefferson Ave, Detroit, MI 48214.

Star rating: 5/5 stars
{click here to purchase}


Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. On a recent trip to Thailand, she discovered the joy of mango sticky rice, the bliss of butterfly pea tea, and the misery of ascertaining a cashew allergy while on a 13 hour flight.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Quick Pick book review: The Good Liar, by Catherine McKenzie

  • Opening lines: (Cecily)
    I was late. That's why I wasn't there when it happened.

    Not in the building, not even that close. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I have read books by Catherine McKenzie in the past and enjoyed them; also, the synopsis was intriguing. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Can you hide a secret with the whole world watching?

    When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered. A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

    Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes books that have a lot of twists and turns. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Kate let her down against her pillows gently and stroked her damp hair. It was silky and thin. No one told her, before she had children, that being a mother would be like reliving her own childhood, only worse. That she'd have to re-feel all the slights and worries a hundredfold. 
  • Something to know: Pay close attention to the characters in this book because some are not who they appear to be. Also, the book focuses on a 9/11-esque tragedy, that takes place in Chicago, but 9/11 is mentioned once or twice so that still exists in this world too.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing.
  • Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars. (yes, it was THAT good!) 
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon - it's currently free for Kindle Unlimited users, also.
*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley, for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Guilt, by Amanda Robson {ends 4/15}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“How’s your week been?” he asks, interrupting her daydream. He asks this with concern, as if she is a friend, not a client. As if he really cares.

“Not too bad,” she replies. “And yours?”

“The same.” They laugh. “Well, I don’t suppose they can have been that similar,” he admits.

“Not unless you locked yourself in your house all week, unplugged the internet, and ate the most tasteless ready meals on the planet.”

“No.” His grin continues. “That didn’t happen.”

“What did happen?” she asks.

He leans back in his chair. “Not a lot. I’ve been in chambers trying to research your case. I’ve a couple of questions I need to ask”

She sighs inside. “About Sebastian again?” she asks, trying to keep her voice light.

“How did you guess?” he replies, laughing. “Well I’ll get straight to it then. Have you heard from him yet?”

His eyes are darker than usual – more serious now.

“No. And I don’t want to,” she tells him.

He scribbles in his pad, writing down her answer. “Is that because you’ve moved on from what happened between you?” he asks.

“It’s because I’ve accepted he doesn’t want to see me.” She pauses. “I will never accept what happened between us.”


Guilt was sometimes a bit hard to follow, as the viewpoints switched from each main character’s past and present. The confusion is intentional, and leaves the reader wondering who finally killed who, and why. And even that may not tell us who is the truly guilty party.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Guilt, by Amanda Robson
There is no bond greater than blood . . .

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars?

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

Guilt by Amanda Robson was quite intriguing, and I couldn’t wait to find out "whodunit." And once I figured that out, I still kept reading to figure out who would get the legal blame for it all.

Starting out, this book was a little hard to read and get into, because the author was purposely using a whole lot of pronouns so we couldn’t figure out who was up to what. I was actually worried it may be hard to finish, based on the beginning. As the story started revealing and developing more, I became more invested in the futures of the characters, and I kept reading. The viewpoint changed from Miranda’s past, to Zara’s past, to Sebastian’s past, and then to the present, and it was hard to sort out who was experiencing what until I became more familiar with all of them. The time in court really served to show a more objective view of the characters, and made the ending feel more conclusive.

Overall (can’t say too much about this book without giving away spoilers), I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The suspenseful style was a little hard to read initially, though I’m not sure how else it could be done and still maintain the surprises to come. I’d recommend this book as an interesting psychological thriller, but you may have to force a few chapters to be fully engaged in finding out the ending.

Guilt will be in stores and online on June 19, 2018.
{Click here to purchase}


Becki Bayley likes chocolate milk (possibly with alcohol?) and spring break. She tries to focus mainly on the things she likes at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Two lucky readers will win a paperback copy of Guilt!

Enter to win via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, April 15th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified 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!

Paperback copy of Guilt - 2 winners

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

UPCOMING: Bookstock - Metro Detroit's biggest and best used book & media sale, 4/22-4/29 at Laurel Park Place

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

I've written these past two years about Bookstock, a huge used book & media sale that takes place at Laurel Park Place, in Livonia, and it's returning again this year, from Sunday, 4/22 through Sunday, 4/29.

Read more about the event below! I was finally able to check it out last year, and they had a large mix of books and media (including DVDs, Blu-rays, and records).

About Bookstock:
Bookstock is back, offering unbelievable deals on used books and media Sunday, April 22 through Sunday, April 29 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 in metropolitan Detroit. Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley and Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin are Honorary Co-Chairs of Bookstock and the Mike Morse Law Firm is Bookstock’s 2018 Presenting Sponsor.

Bookstock’s Pre-Sale will kick-off on Sunday, April 22 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 bargains. Bookstock has over 300,000 donated used books, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, magazines and vinyl for sale at bargain basement prices. The sale will continue through Sunday, April 29, running Sundays, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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

Monday Madness – Monday, April 23: The first 1,000 shoppers will receive spectacular giveaways including a $50 VISA gift card every hour, and one lucky shopper will receive a $500 VISA gift card.

Teacher Appreciation Day – Tuesday, April 24: Bookstock is celebrating teachers by giving 50% off to all teachers with a valid ID from 3 – 9 p.m. 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.

Cookstock – Wednesday, April 25: Cookstock will feature the area’s largest collection of gently used cookbooks, and the winners of the Cookstock Cupcake Recipe Contest will be announced by local news Anchors Carolyn Clifford (WXYZ-Channel 7) Sherry Margolis (Fox 2) and TV host Tati Amare (WDIV- Local 4) at 5 .pm. at Bookstock. The winning cupcake will be featured at Good Cakes and Bakes, Detroit’s hottest new bakery, and appear on WDIV Local 4’s Live in the D.

• PLUS the $25 SNAG BAG, All the books you can snag in our bag for $25 (quantities limited – some exclusions apply)

Bookbuster Special Days – Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27: Buy three books and get the fourth book free (least expensive item) from 3 – 9 p.m.
Spend $25 or more either night and be entered in a special drawing for:
• A puck signed by Red Wings center Dylan Larkin
• 4 tickets to a 2018 Tigers game
• A round of golf and lunch for 4 at Plum Hollow Golf Course in Southfield

Children’s Day – Saturday, April 28: Special children’s activities from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. featuring Toyology, Arts and Scraps and Goldfish Swim School.

Half Price Finale, Sunday, April 29: All books and media will be sold for half price!

Marking 16 years of supporting the need to read, Bookstock has generated more than $1.8 million for literacy and education projects throughout Oakland County and Detroit. More than 800 volunteers work together throughout the year to organize and staff the weeklong Bookstock sale.

Bookstock is brought to the community by the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, and 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.


Bookstock, Michigan’s largest used book and media sale, invites amateur bakers across Michigan to submit their recipe to the Best Cupcake Ever Contest!

GRAND PRIZE
The winning cupcake will be featured at Good Cakes and Bakes, Detroit’s hottest new bakery and our contest sponsor, which is owned by Detroit natives April Anderson and Michelle Anderson, who have baked for Oprah Winfrey! In addition, the winner and chefs will make the Best Cupcake winner on WDIV Local 4’s “Live In the D.”

PANEL OF CELEBRITY JUDGES
A celebrity judging panel featuring Anderson, Detroit Free Press restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik and Detroit Free Press food writer Sue Selasky will judge the contest. Local news stars Carolyn Clifford (WXYZ-TV 7), Sherry Margolis (FOX2) and Tati Amare (WDIV Local 4) will join Bookstock sponsor Sue Morse and Bookstock Honorary Co-Chair Rochelle Riley to announce the winners at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 at Laurel Park Place in Livonia.

RECIPE ENTRIES
Complete Cookstock rules and an entry form can be downloaded from the Bookstock website: bookstockmi.org/cookstock. Send your recipe and the entry form to cookstock18@gmail.com by midnight April 8. Cookstock is a part of Bookstock, which runs April 22-29 at Livonia’s Laurel Park Place. Marking 15 years of supporting the need to read, Bookstock has generated nearly $2 million for literacy and education projects throughout Oakland County and Detroit.

For more information, contact Beverly Phillips, 248-203-1527 or phillips@jfmd.org.


Have you ever been to Bookstock, or a similar event? If so, what did you buy?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Review: True Fiction, by Lee Goldberg

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Ian was lying fully dressed on top of the bed, his back propped up with pillows, staring at the TV. Empty mini-bottles from the minibar were scattered on the bed, along with candy bar wrappers and crinkled empty bags of chips. He chewed on the last bit of his last Toblerone and wondered for perhaps the hundredth time if he was having a waking nightmare of if this was really happening.

Maybe it was all just a horrible coincidence.

Maybe he had nothing to do with it.

Then again, maybe he did.

Maybe it all began three years ago with a group of writers gathered in a mountain cabin, making up stories. He hadn’t seen the harm in it. It was all make-believe. A story never killed anyone.

Until now.


While it seems like several of the books I’ve read lately have been "firsts" from an author, Lee Goldberg has three whole pages of books already published! I don’t recall reading anything from him before, but True Fiction was great, and now I’ve got a long list of others that may be just as well-written.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: True Fiction, by Lee Goldberg
When a passenger jet crashes onto the beaches of Waikiki, bestselling thriller writer Ian Ludlow knows the horrific tragedy wasn’t an accident.

Years before, the CIA enlisted Ian to dream up terrorism scenarios to prepare the government for nightmares they couldn’t imagine. Now one of those schemes has come true, and Ian is the only person alive who knows how it was done…and who is behind the plot. That makes him too dangerous to live.

Ian goes on the run, sweeping up an innocent bystander in his plight—Margo French, a dog walker and aspiring singer. They are pursued by assassins and an all-seeing global-intelligence network that won’t stop until Ian and Margo are dead. Ian has written thrillers like this before, but this time he doesn’t know how it’s going to end—or if he will be alive to find out.

The first thing you need when reading True Fiction by Lee Goldberg is to set aside trying to tell someone about it. It’s a book about an author, who wrote some other books, but this isn’t mostly about his books. It’s something happening to him because of some book ideas. Yeah—confusing to try and spell out.

Ian Ludlow is an author who is watching a plot line he suggested come to life. Unfortunately, it’s a terrorist plot. Only a few other people heard it, and when he tries to contact them to point out the similarities between his idea and reality to them, he finds they’ve recently died. What are the odds? It turns out the odds may not be good for Ludlow.

Luckily for Ludlow, he has an author escort/dog-walker/aspiring singer and another friend who is a conspiracy theorist/former actor to help him predict the next moves of those who are trying to chase them down and kill them all. While the technology used by their stalkers sounds eerily possible, the writing style, jokes, and characters are purely entertaining.

This was a very fun and quick read. Overall, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. I usually save my 5th star for something I’ll re-read, and the suspense of this one won’t be there anymore since I know how it all ends. For everyone else, it would be a great read for the beach or anywhere else. The short chapters make it easy to turn to for a few minutes of enjoyment, then getting back to life. The plot twists will keep you coming back til the end.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is an elementary school breakfast lady by day, and a blogger by night at SweetlyBSquared.com.

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