Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Matrimony, Inc.: From Personal Ads to Swiping Right, a Story of America Looking for Love, by Francesca Beauman (10 winners, ends 11/2}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Marriage ads reached Ohio by the 1840s, and within a decade they were in evidence across the border in Indiana too. In 1852, James Hanes turned to the Richmond Palladium to find “a lady worth a few thousand dollars, of common sense, with a taste for the fine arts, a lover of science, about the medium size, with an open, cheerful countenance, affectionate in disposition, and capable of taking care of a large family.” In the Indiana Herald ten years later, “a young man of correct business habits” was looking for “any young lady of fair intellectual endowments, an ordinary share of beauty, who would not be averse to a personal superintendence of household matters.” He almost—almost—manages to make the offer of becoming his unpaid housekeeper sound appealing.

Whether they’ve been socially acceptable or not, personal ads have always been interesting! Several of the qualities people look for in mates never really seem to change too much.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Matrimony, Inc.: From Personal Ads to Swiping Right, a Story of America Looking for Love, by Francesca Beauman (10 winners, ends 11/2}
Have you ever used a dating app or website? Then you have more in common than you know with lonely homesteaders in 18th century New England. At once heartwarming and heartbreaking, Matrimony, Inc. reveals the unifying thread that weaves its way through not just marriage and relationships over the centuries, but American social history itself: advertising for love.

Amazingly, America’s first personal ad appeared in the Boston Evening Post as early as 1759. A “person who flatters himself that he shall not be thought disagreeable” was in search of a “young lady, between the age of eighteen and twenty-three, of a middling stature, brown hair, of good Morals…” As family-arranged marriages fell out of fashion, "Husband Wanted" or "Seeking Wife" ads were soon to be found in every state in the nation.

From the woman in a Wisconsin newspaper who wanted “no brainless dandy or foppish fool” to the man with a glass eye who placed an ad in the New York Times hoping to meet a woman with a glass eye, the many hundreds of personal ads that author Francesca Beauman has uncovered offer an extraordinary glimpse into the history of our hearts’ desires, as well as a unique insight into American life as the frontier was settled and the cities grew. Personal ads played a surprisingly vital role in the West: couple by couple, shy smile by shy smile, letter by letter from a dusty, exhausted miner in California to a bored, frustrated seamstress in Ohio. Get ready for a new perspective on the making of modern America, a hundred words of typesetter’s blurry black ink at a time.

“So anxious are our settlers for wives that they never ask a single lady her age. All they require is teeth,” declared the Dubuque Iowa News in 1838 in a state where men outnumbered women three to one. While the dating pools of 21st century New York, Chicago or San Francisco might not be quite so dentally-fixated, Matrimony Inc. will put idly swiping right on Tinder into fascinating and vividly fresh historical context. What do women look for in a man? What do men look for in a woman? And how has this changed over the past 250 years?

This was an entertaining examination of personal ads through the years. The author’s snark responding to some of the ads was quite amusing. The ads themselves were usually too small and blurry to read, but the excerpts she chose definitely brought the history to life.

Some favorite stories included from the history of personal ads were those of men, women, and couples sometimes using personal ads to target and attract particular victims—usually those with money and few contacts who would check up on them. The stories of some of the crimes they committed, and how they were finally caught, were interesting.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The history was a bit dry in parts, but the author’s voice and sassy humor lightened the tone. This would be a good book for those who enjoy non-fiction and social commentaries.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley has been married for 14 years, and originally met her husband when he attended college with her brother. She sometimes shares pictures of her family on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

10—yes, TEN!—of my lucky readers will win an Advance Reader Copy of Matrimony, Inc.!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 2nd, 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!

Matrimony, Inc., by Francesca Beaumont

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allen Wolf {ends 10/29}

Book review by: Becki Bayley

Tell me about…

a time when a friend surprised you with something.

OR

something you enjoy doing.

OR

someone you think is funny.


Imagine honestly responding to each of these prompts. Or, if the coin toss indicates, telling a convincing but untrue story about the same prompt.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allan Wolf {ends 10/29}
You’ll laugh out loud as you and your friends and family try to fool each other with hilarious stories from your lives. After you choose a question from a card, the secret flip of the coin tells you if your answer should be true or made up.

When you hear a story, vote points on if you think they’re telling the truth or pulling your leg. You’ll win points if you’re right but lose them if you’re wrong. Think you can bluff your friends and family? Don’t let them fool you! Score enough points, and you win!

This game was more fun than expected. Most of the prompts are about experiences or stories about other people in the storyteller’s life. Essentially, the storyteller picks a prompt from the card (one card shown above), then flips a coin to determine—for their knowledge only—if they’ll be telling the truth or making up a story (and the rules specify that the whole essence of the story must be false, not just a few key details changed to delete the "truth" of the story).

The kids who played this game with me LOVED it. They’re 9 and 13 years old, and were as entertained by guessing if other stories were true or false as by telling their own stories. In addition to the actual rules for the game, there were also alternatives offered for a timed game, a team game, or playing with coins instead of points, among other options.

Overall, we’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars, and the kids are excited to know when we can play again. Since there is no physical interaction between players, the game would also work well using video-conferencing for those who live far away or are unable to meet in person.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a mom of two and a school crossing guard. When she is not reading, she is snacking or posting at http://SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of You're Pulling My Leg! Junior. Winner can also choose if they'd like the Junior edition or the adults edition.

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 29th, 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!

You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allen Wolf

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Prospects of a Woman, by Wendy Voorsanger {ends 10/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Show me how to use it,” she said.

From a stool in the pine grove, Nate explained how to stuff powder into the Hawken and ram a wad of grass down the barrel with a rod, like he’d been shooting his whole life, when she knew he’d spent his childhood in a Cambridge townhouse. His knowledge of rifles ended with stuffing the barrel, so she rolled up her sleeves, setting up targets of pine cones and stickers, imitating the shooting position she’d seen her father use when hunting deer back on the orchard in Concord. She’d grown strong in the West, and handling the shotgun proved easy, even with the kickback. She practiced shooting at the targets and reloading the barrel until her face smeared with gunpowder.

“We need some help,” said Nate, running a hand through his blond hair growing out long.

“I know,” she said, resetting the targets.

“Digging. The two of us won’t do.”

“I know!” she said, irritated at him for explaining like she was dim-witted. “That’s why I’m working on getting us something to eat.”

She threw the small sack of gunpowder over her shoulder and set off into the woods in search of food with Yellow Dog loping behind.

“Be careful, ‘Lizbeth!” he called out.

Historical fiction bringing out a woman’s perspective of the migration to the California gold rush? While there are certainly as many stories as there were prospectors, this one was definitely fascinating.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Prospects of a Woman, by Wendy Voorsanger {ends 10/28}
Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. But she soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought—and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious Californio. Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness. A gripping and illuminating window into life in the Old West, Prospects of a Woman is the story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy.


Elisabeth Parker honestly isn’t a very likable character. Sometimes that can make the whole book unenjoyable, but in this case, every time she made a choice, there was seldom an obvious better one. Surviving the western frontier in the mid-1800s was not a likable existence in many ways.

The story of Elisabeth Parker’s adventures out west is intriguing and well-written. She quickly has to put aside what she considers her role as a lady, and learn an entirely different skill set for survival. She learns not only how to shoot, how to dig for gold, and modification of her wardrobe to more effectively perform these tasks, she also perfects how to use her femininity to help turn the odds in her favor (without sacrificing her honor), and about the additional rights California provides a woman without the consent of her husband or father. One of the more amusing aspects of the book was the sharing of Miss Parker’s letters to Louisa May Alcott. In her letters, the reader sees what Miss Parker’s dream existence out West would have been (passed off as fact to keep her friend from worrying).

The Prospects of a Woman is a unique and interesting telling of a woman’s struggles to prosper in a whole new world that she previously knew nothing about. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for anyone with an interest in this time period, or historical fiction in general. 

{click here to purchase - only $9.49 for Kindle currently!}

Becki Bayley appreciates her heated mattress pad, caffeine in the morning, and the convenience of grocery delivery. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Prospects of a Woman!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 28th, 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!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Interference, by Brad Parks {ends 10/25}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“So let me get this straight,” Emmett said, having hurried to Baker Tower at the urging of Beppe Valentino. “This woman and Professor Bronik, they’ve both been infected by this quantum virus, and now she has quantum ESP?”

“I wouldn’t call it ESP,” Beppe said. “She can’t tell what he’s thinking. It’s more, she can feel his presence.”

They were sitting on the sixth floor of the stacks, huddled in two chairs by the window, talking in low voices.

One floor above them, still ensconced in her study carrel, was Sheena Aiyagari, the young woman who wasn’t missing after all.

Reading about quantum physics feels smart. Sometimes something can be written so it is obviously over the reader’s head, or with the assumption that the reader is smart enough to get it. In this case, the descriptions about quantum physics were almost understandable.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Interference, by Brad Parks {ends 10/25}
Quantum physicist Matt Bronik is suffering from strange, violent seizures that medical science seems powerless to explain—much to the consternation of his wife, Brigid.

Matt doesn’t think these fits could be related to his research, which he has always described as benign and esoteric. That, it turns out, is not quite true: Matt has been prodding the mysteries of the quantum universe, with terrible repercussions for his health. And perhaps even for humanity as a whole.

Then, in the midst of another seizure, Matt disappears. When foul play is feared, there is no shortage of suspects. Matt’s research had gained the attention of Chinese competitors, an unscrupulous billionaire, and the Department of Defense, among others.

With Matt’s life in clear danger, Brigid sets out to find him. Will Matt be killed before she reaches him, or could the physics that endangered him actually be used to save his life?

What an unexpected book! While the whole "quantum physics" angle seemed to suggest a lot of sci-fi to the story line, there were several old-fashioned twists and turns from human interactions and motivations. Without spoiling any surprises, don’t think you need to enjoy scientific theories to enjoy this book.

The characters were multi-faceted and believable. A lot of interactions were influenced by the fact that the main character’s wife was hard of hearing. Imagine trying to find your way through crisis situations while relying on other people acknowledging your need for additional accommodations, or by reading their lips. Her stress was definitely understandable. The lead missing persons detective also seemed emotionally involved to a great degree, as his wife had recently died. His compassion for the situation of the main character and his wife came through vividly.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The plot and its developments were intricate and unexpected. The characters had a depth and dimension that really compelled the reader to keep going and find out how it all would end.

{click here to purchase - currently free for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading (of course), playing Candy Crush and Nonograms, and watching corny movies. She also enjoys keeping up with other book bloggers through her personal blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Interference!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 25th, at 11:59pm EST, and 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!


Interference, by Brad Parks

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith {ends 10/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

JuJu Davis had been located at another girlfriend’s home in Grand Crossing, a similarly tough neighborhood just north of Chatham. When the tactical unit had breached the small apartment, they’d found him stretched out on the sofa, eating deep dish and playing a video game. The girlfriend was taking a shower before her afternoon shirt at Walmart. He had been apprehended without incident and brought down to the Second District at Fifty-First and Wentworth. I stood with Burke as two of his men tag-teamed the interrogation. JuJu wore a black tracksuit with crisp white sneakers. His hair had been neatly braided tight to his scalp. He was a large man with wide shoulders and a massive head. The back of both of his hands had been tatted. He sat nonchalantly across from officers Novack and Adkins.

“How do you know Chopper McNair?” Officer Novack asked. He was the smaller of the two, with a muscular build that bulged out of his Kevlar vest. His dark hair had been boxed into a buzz cut. Typically, in these interrogations, the aggressive partner took the first round.

“I don’t know him,” JuJu said. “Never heard of ‘im. Never seen ‘im. Don’t know who the fuck you talkin’ about.”

There’s something to be said for doing the right thing. Ashe Cayne is now a private investigator instead of a detective with the Chicago Police Department so he can decide and act for what is right, instead of having to do what his bosses tell him.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith {ends 10/24}
Former Chicago detective Ashe Cayne is desperate for redemption. After refusing to participate in a police department cover-up involving the death of a young black man, Cayne is pushed out of the force. But he won’t sit quietly on the sidelines: he’s compelled to fight for justice as a private investigator…even if it means putting himself in jeopardy.

When a young woman, Tinsley Gerrigan, goes missing, her wealthy parents from the North Shore hire Cayne to find her. As Cayne looks into her life and past, he uncovers secrets Tinsley’s been hiding from her family. Cayne fears he may never find Tinsley alive.

His worries spike when Tinsley’s boyfriend is found dead—another black man murdered on the tough Chicago streets. Cayne must navigate his complicated relationships within the Chicago PD, leveraging his contacts and police skills to find the missing young woman, see justice done, and earn his redemption.

Ashe Cayne is a likable hero. He was a Chicago police detective and luckily still has a few friends with the department. They prove quite handy in his new role as a private investigator. But even working for himself, he still has an unquenchable desire for justice, even when he’s no longer getting paid. While he expects that the original case of finding the Gerrigan’s rich daughter is no longer really an issue, it’s already unraveled a few more threads, and he needs to fix those for his own peace of mind.

There was another random story line that didn’t seem to fit in as well. Cayne was previously aware of a case with an abusive Catholic priest with a trail of victims. While the Church told him he was no longer a Father, Cayne finds out he’s still preaching and up to his old tricks. His story line never really intersected with the missing person’s case, but it did show a bit more of Cayne’s thirst for justice.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and probably enjoy reading the next one. Sometimes a crime solved within a few hundred pages can be very satisfying in a world of chaos.

{click here to purchase - currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley remembers when Netflix mailed you DVDs and ATMs gave $10 bills. She is still able to walk up and down the stairs at her house, though. Check out more of her book reviews and other adventures at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry {ends 10/22}

Sophie tugged the dangling string of her desk lamp until daylight faded. She kept working until, finally, deep in the black belly of night, she succeeded in converting every description of motion into one independent of time. She reclined against the straight back of her chair. She'd felt Jake with her for years. She'd seen them together every day. But right then, as she stared at the last page forming incontrovertible proof of block theory, Sophie saw all of him. She saw not just one moment, but all of their time together suspended around her because all of it was happening now. 

I haven't been reading a lot this summer (mostly just been watching TV, actually), but a new Madeleine Henry book crossed my desk (Kindle), I knew I definitely wanted to read it ASAP. I reviewed her first novel Breathe In, Cash Out last year, and really liked it, so it was unsurprising that I really liked this one as well.

Official synopsis:

<a class="e-widget no-button" href="https://gleam.io/YOsmE/the-love-proof-by-madeleine-henry" rel="nofollow">The Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry</a> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js" async="true"></script>
A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.

Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades,
The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

I literally whipped through this book in about 1 to 1.5 days, because I wanted to know what happened to the characters. Love stories that span decades are unusual; usually there is a meet-cute, happiness, then some sort of drama, and then the characters get back together again—this was not the exact case here.

Sophie meets Jake when they are both freshmen at Yale. Jake can tell that Sophie is unique, like him—they both have unique minds, and are able to fully concentrate on their studies. They date for four years, until graduation, and Sophie is thinking they will be together forever.

To say anymore would be to give spoilers, so I will leave my synopsis at that. Sophie now finds herself with a lot of time on her hands, and she delves back into her physics work, trying to prove something called "block theory" (basically that all time is relative, and things that happened in the past are happening concurrently as we speak). 

I really loved this book, except that I thought the ending could have been expanded a bit; otherwise, it would have been a 5 out of 5 star book for me, which I don't often give.

Movie version picks:
  • young Sophie Jones: Saiorse Ronan - it's mentioned that she's blonde, I believe.
  • young Jake Kristopher: Ansel Elgort, Daniel Radcliffe, Nicholas Hoult, or Logan Lerman. 
  • middle-aged Jake Kristopher: Sam Page (from The Bold Type), although they might have to age him a bit.
  • middle-aged Sophie Jones: Sandra Bullock or Marisa Tomei (but would have to dye their hair blonde).

4.5 stars out of 5.

{click here to pre-order - it will be out on February 9, 2021}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Love Proof!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 22nd, at 11:59pm EST, and 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 Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson {ends 10/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Berlin had fallen, but the fighting continued. As Api moved between the bunker and the clinic, he still saw plenty of violence. On Tuesday, May 1, he wrote hastily in his diary, often crossing out lines because he was too exhausted to find the right words. “Toward 1:30 a.m., terrible carpet bombing. Our quarter is burning on all sides and on all ends. Nowhere are the streets passable because of rubble, smoke, and flames. We are imprisoned by the fire.” A little later, he voiced his anger and frustration: “And the executioners in their bunkers,” as he called the Nazi leadership, “criminals!! Rome, Milano, and other foreign cities were given up to spare them, and they allow their own people to perish like dogs with hunger and fire and fratricide. The houses already are looted by civilians or tramps. Several times a day we have to destroy weapons and munitions, which our own troops drop off by our building, since we have no communication with any department.” Api was referring to one of the first orders the Soviets put out, that all weapons had to be turned in immediately. He even gave up his old ornamental sword from World War I.

When Gabrielle Robinson found her grandfather’s diaries from his time in Berlin at the end of World War II, she was excited to learn more about the kind man who helped raise her. She re-examined whether to share, and then how to share this information when she discovered he was also a member of the Nazi party.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson
After her mother’s death, Gabrielle Robinson found two diaries her grandfather had kept while serving as doctor during the fall of Berlin 1945. He recorded his daily struggle to survive in the ruined city where little could be done for the wounded without water, light, and medications. But then the diaries revealed something that hit Robinson like a punch to the gut: Api, her beloved grandfather, had been a Nazi.

Robinson juxtaposes her grandfather’s harrowing account with her memories of his loving protection after the war and raises disturbing questions about the political responsibility we all carry as individuals. Moving and provocative, Api’s Berlin Diaries offers a firsthand and personal perspective on the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.


As the author knew before she started writing her grandfather’s story, this book spent equal time answering questions about German’s lives at the end of the war, and causing everyone to question their thoughts on good vs evil and contemplating carefully if a German citizen who was a member of the Nazi party was complicit in party’s atrocities.

The story is told beautifully, including snippets from Api’s diaries, filling in the blanks with how Api probably spent his days, and quotes and excerpts from books researched about the same time period. The author presents a well-rounded emotional journey of Api’s likely experiences at the end of the war and during the occupation immediately following.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. So many stories have been told of people in their varied roles throughout World War II. This feels like a heartbreaking, average story of a man who joined the Nazi party as many of his contemporaries did, but never displayed anything but compassion and a desire to continue his contributions to those in the community around him. It is a unique story for those who enjoy World War II biographies and memoirs. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys reading, struggle snuggles with her two black cats, and consuming salty snack foods and Cherry Coke. She also posts on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Api's Berlin Diaries!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 21st, 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!

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne {ends 10/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Solar and I exchange few words as he navigates the canals to an older residential neighborhood in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. We pass a marine-patrol boat, and I casually wave and receive one in return. It would seem the arriving police never saw us leave.

I’m still trying to figure George Solar out. His interest in the case is suspicious. Either he’s after the money, or he’s really a retired lawman vigilante trying to right unfinished business.

The latter I find hard to believe. Sure, I could be looked upon as a vigilante of sorts, but that’s only because my life is on the line.

Or is it?

This is the first book in a new series about an Underwater Investigation Unit formed to solve the crimes in this book. Sloan McPherson and George Solar are ready to solve crimes, primarily with clues found deep underwater.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne {ends 10/12}
Coming from scandalous Florida treasure hunters and drug smugglers, Sloan McPherson is forging her own path, for herself and for her daughter, out from under her family’s shadow. An auxiliary officer for Lauderdale Shores PD, she’s the go-to diver for evidence recovery. Then Sloan finds a fresh kill floating in a canal—a woman whose murky history collides with Sloan’s. Their troubling ties are making Sloan less a potential witness than a suspect. And her colleagues aren’t the only ones following every move she makes. So is the killer.

Stalked by an assassin, pitted against a ruthless cartel searching for a lost fortune, and under watch within her ranks, Sloan has only one ally: the legendary DEA agent who put Sloan’s uncle behind bars. He knows just how deep corruption runs—and the kind of danger Sloan is in. To stay alive, Sloan must stay one step ahead of her enemies—both known and unknown—and a growing conspiracy designed to pull her under.


A good series really needs good characters. Sloan McPherson is quirky and likable from the start. She follows her own rules (while always putting her daughter first) and is independent even at her part-time job as a police diver. Add this to her family’s reputation of not always following the law and it means she sometimes clashes with those in authority. She also has learned that even those who are supposed to look out for her don’t always have her best interests at heart.

When she meets up with George Solar, all she can think about is watching him in a courtroom years ago, testifying against her uncle. She’ll have to learn more about his history and factor in her own experiences with him in order to decide whether to trust him for help with her situation. He seems like he may be the only one who can effectively help her navigate the chaotic case she’s stumbled into.

These two main characters, and their supporting cast, lead us into a whole new division of law enforcement - the Underwater Investigation Unit. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is a strong start for a potentially great series to follow. I’d recommend it for those who enjoy police procedurals and crime novels.

{click here to purchase - currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is getting through 2020 by immersing herself in fiction. Or even other peoples’ stories. Find more of what she’s read lately at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Girl Beneath the Sea!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, October 12th, 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 Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land {ends 10/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

There’s a certain entitlement that you carry with you when you have a little bit of age under your belt. People give you more grace to say and do what you want. You aren’t afraid to make decisions, others’ opinions of you carry less importance, and if you are lucky, you have a little bit of a nest egg to spend on yourself and others. I hope that my biggest goal isn’t vanity. Wasting time worrying about wrinkles instead of character. Why can’t we handle them both? Take care of our bodies so that we feel good but also focus on making others feel good. I don’t think it is one or the other. I think I will do both.

Heather Land has segued her "I ain’t doin it" viral video into music cds, a comedy tour, and now books. This is the second book she’s written.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land {ends 10/11}
A popular social media comedian, Heather Land’s reach includes more than 107 million engaged fans and followers who fill theaters at her stand-up events around the country, and who also fell in love with her first book
I Ain’t Doin’ It.

With her trademark Southern charm and sassy yet totally relatable tone, Heather shines a light on those ridiculous moments in our lives that also have the ability to teach us about ourselves. Whether she’s joking about her crafting habit, revealing the hard truths of divorce, ranting about the challenges of being a single parent of teenagers, or getting real at the class reunion, Heather’s message is that the more authentic we are, the more we connect with others. Heather hilariously encourages you to lighten up and focus on what’s really important in life. Like a laughter-filled conversation with an old friend, A Perfect 10 is a great gift to give to others or yourself.

Heather Land has a non-hurtful brand of comedy that is mostly pointing fun at herself and her life. She knows why she does some ridiculous things the same way they’ve always been done, but she plays along. Unfortunately, some of the names she dropped in regards to her retail therapy and other celebrities she knows were unfamiliar. Probably those in her regular audience would have understood the references.

Her life hasn’t been easy, and she’s not afraid to tell how her humor has helped her navigate these circumstances. Her positive attitude, Christian faith and no-nonsense advice sounded reasonable and most likely on point for those in similar situations. Overall, I’d give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend it for women in their late 30's or early 40's who may have similar life experiences to those of the author.

{click here to pre-order - will be released on Tuesday, October 6th)

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and reader. When she’s not working for those titles, she’s probably shaking trees and chasing bees on Animal Crossing - New Horizons. Check out other reviews she’s done at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Perfect 10!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 11th, 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!

A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Review: Strange Fire, by Tommy Wallach

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Whooee, but ya’ll gave me a fright! Thought I was about to meet my maker!”

His name was Harry Pardo, and once he’d gotten over the surprise of finding a whole Descendant ministry on his doorstep (and put his puny dagger away), he’d invited them inside. Apparently, this was his hunting cabin; there were a whole lot of nasty-looking traps hanging from hooks on the walls, and a small table near a thin tick mattress bore the remains of a hearty dinner: apple core, rind of cheese, strip of gristle. Against the back wall was an assortment of ramshackle cabinets and a large wardrobe, all shut. The place had a strange smell to it—cloying with a layer of toxicity beneath the sweetness, like a ripe red berry you knew was poisonous—but otherwise it was pretty cozy.


How much does the existence of a hero or villain depend on someone’s perspective? When survival is at stake, doing the right thing for one group may mean condemning another.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Strange Fire, by Tommy Walach
It only takes a spark.

They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.

The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.

Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother.

Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.


As the world starts over, the Descendancy has decided the advances of technology are what led to society’s initial demise. While those chosen to learn at the Library read about some evidence of the previous technology, their faith is strong and they are supposed to know that the simple way is better and safer. There are also missionaries from the Descendancy who travel to share their faith with those outside the safety of their city.

On a missionary trip, some teenagers and young adults learn of other viewpoints and begin to question their beliefs and their loyalty to the Descendancy. At the same time, another person joins their group, but with a real goal of seeking revenge for the death of their family at the hands of the Descendancy missionaries. Was it self-defense? Are people all good or all evil, and is this based on the way they believe the world should be? It’s teen angst, but the result of their questioning could mean life or death. The characters and their dilemmas felt reasonable and believable. Of course, teenagers also have to drop in a good dose of hormones with the rest of their troubles.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Luckily it is labeled as the first book in the Anchor & Sophia series, so more books will be available about these post-apocalyptic societies and their battles. Other books by this author may also be of interest, as they seem to deal with the end of the world as we know it, and what happens next.

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

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading, counted cross-stitch, and wearing fun pajama pants. Find out more of what she’s up to at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Book Review - The President Factor: The Reality Show That Rocked a Nation, by Pat Obermeier

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The sun had set. Clusters of people lined the road, making everyone in the convoy of four U.S. military Humvees nervous. They streaked toward a group of low, spread-out, nondescript buildings two miles ahead: the airport. General Sykes wanted a safer mode of return transportation for Adhemar than the transports they arrived in. The general was right. The buzz was on. But whether it was benevolent buzz as in Let’s go see if we can catch a glimpse of the guy running for president of the United States or a Let’s run into the road and stop the convoy and then rob them crowd no one knew. The drivers weren’t slowing down to ask.

What if presidential candidates auditioned for their job? With carefully scripted situations that don’t have obvious solutions, the most important part may be keeping the "reality" out of reality TV.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - The President Factor: The Reality Show That Rocked a Nation, by Pat Obermeier
Fed up with the lack of credentials in an ever growing field of candidates, Democratic hopeful, Senator Adhemar Reyes spouts off on C-Span, “I’m tired of the I can see Russia from my porch candidates! I propose all presidential candidates be required to participate in a reality show to show how they handle crisis situations before we put them in the White House!” Uh-oh. Congress buys onto the idea and Reyes is sucked into the mother of all reality shows, The President Factor. As Reyes and his Republican counterpart tackle the challenges, the TV networks go about misusing the show's footage to satisfy their own political agendas, the slanted cable talk shows ratchet it up a notch and the current president spies on the team from the opposite party. Kinda like business as usual in DC today. Will the charismatic Hispanic candidate win? Why is one team getting Malaria shots? Can Washington politics be even more absurd? Yes...to the last question. The rest is inside.

While Senator Reyes originally proposes a reality-show-style presidential contest as a sort of joking comment, he is very charismatic, and the right (or wrong) people take him seriously. Before he knows it, he’s picked his VP and a couple cabinet members to compete alongside him on The President Factor. On paper, this may have seemed like a way to really see how the major party’s presidential candidates handle the proposed catastrophe. In the actual playing of the game, they also have to deal with spies, cheating, and major world players misinterpreting the fiction of the show.

Overall, this was an entertaining read that may seem to be hitting close to home in parts. I did appreciate the final chapter, with a check-in to find out what happened to key candidates after the reality show. I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy political fiction and humor.

{click here to purchase - currently free for Kindle Unlimited members!}

Becki Bayley obviously enjoys reading. She also likes drinking Southern Comfort and Cherry Coke, munching on Chewy Sprees, and lounging in new PJ pants and sweatshirts. See some pictures of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review - Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter, by Lan Cao

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Almost all of my teachers in the department saw Vietnam as their experience, their rite of passage, the trigger to their disillusionment, the portal to their identity and worldview. They wanted their Vietnam to be my inheritance. I already had my own inheritance of loss, which came from my parents. My teachers told me those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But what they wanted was for me to remember their past, to accept and ventriloquize their memories, even though I was still trying to make sense of mine.

Like always remembering that my father had taken part in fifty-three airborne assault landings in Long An Province, almost all of which he commanded. I did not know this from him; my father did not talk to me about the war unless I asked him very specific questions. I knew this only because I found his Legion of Merit documents in a box that Papa Fritz gave me. Like remembering my mother’s multiple lives, each one sifted and rebuilt from the ashes of the prior ones: first, life in a village risen from the emerald fields of Sóc Trăng, burned down by insurgents; then fleeing from another hamlet pillaged by Japanese soldiers; and then escaping the French by floating corpselike, eyes closed, arms and legs outstretched, down a river bloated with decapitated heads and swollen bodies. Moving to the North before partition and then fleeing back to the South after 1954. Building a life in Saigon and then leaving in 1975.


This memoir was told in alternating chapters by Lan, an attorney and author who came to the U.S. as a young refugee girl in 1975, and Harlan, an American teenager and the daughter of Lan.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter, by Lan Cao
In 1975, thirteen-year-old Lan Cao boarded an airplane in Saigon and got off in a world where she faced hosts she had not met before, a language she didn't speak, and food she didn't recognize, with the faint hope that she would be able to go home soon. Lan fought her way through confusion, and racism, to become a successful lawyer and novelist. Four decades later, she faced the biggest challenge in her life: raising her daughter Harlan—half Vietnamese by birth and 100 percent American teenager by inclination. In their lyrical joint memoir, told in alternating voices, mother and daughter cross ages and ethnicities to tackle the hardest questions about assimilation, aspiration, and family.

Lan wrestles with her identities as not merely an immigrant but a refugee from an unpopular war. She has bigoted teachers who undermine her in the classroom and tormenting inner demons, but she does achieve—either despite or because of the work ethic and tight support of a traditional Vietnamese family struggling to get by in a small American town. Lan has ambitions, for herself, and for her daughter, but even as an adult feels tentative about her place in her adoptive country, and ventures through motherhood as if it is a foreign landscape.

Reflecting and refracting her mother's narrative, Harlan fiercely describes the rites of passage of childhood and adolescence, filtered through the aftereffects of her family's history of war, tragedy, and migration. Harlan's struggle to make friends in high school challenges her mother to step back and let her daughter find her own way.


Family in Six Tones speaks both to the unique struggles of refugees and to the universal tug-of-war between mothers and daughters. The journey of an immigrant—away from war and loss toward peace and a new life—and the journey of a mother raising a child to be secure and happy are both steep paths filled with detours and stumbling blocks. Through explosive fights and painful setbacks, mother and daughter search for a way to accept the past and face the future together.

Lan and Harlan struggle with different aspects of their heritage and life in America. Lan wants to preserve her memories of the Vietnam of her youth, and pass down some of the important (to her) societal norms of Vietnam to her daughter. At the same time, she also wants to forget the horrible memories of the war she grew up during, and the battleground that was realistically the Vietnam of her youth. Harlan just wants to be a normal American teen, which is difficult with her mother’s Vietnamese expectations and the background of the Vietnamese community. She understands her mother has struggled, but she just wants normalcy.

Both women shared their lives and hardships eloquently and clearly, but the same event can be perceived quite differently from two different people who experienced it. Lan and Harlan definitely had different takeaways from the same experiences. They held nothing back while describing the full impact of events on them physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Lan’s viewpoint was a unique presentation of life in a war zone and as a refugee. Harlan told the interesting story of a teenager who doesn’t want to ignore her heritage, but also doesn’t want to be held to standards from a world that is not reality for her.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother. In her spare time she enjoys reading, washing dishes and laundry, playing the flute, and drinking Southern Comfort and Cherry Coke. More of her book reviews and adventures are available at SweetlyBSquared.com.

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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2020 Reading Challenge
Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 50 books.
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