Monday, November 16, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Fortune and Glory, by Janet Evanovich {ends 11/23}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Benny dug in and made a lot of appreciative sounds while he ate.

“You want a beer with that?” Grandma asked him.

He stopped eating and looked at Grandma. “You got a beer?”

Grandma pulled a cold bottle of beer out of her purse. “I usually carry my gun in this purse, but I thought a bottle of beer would be better today.”

“After I observe the appropriate period of mourning, I’m going to marry you,” Benny said.

“It might be worth it just to get your clue,” Grandma said.


Some authors and characters give you just what you expect, which can frequently be exactly what you need. Stephanie Plum never disappoints.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Fortune and Glory, by Janet Evanovich {ends 11/23}
When Stephanie’s beloved Grandma Mazur's new husband died on their wedding night, the only thing he left her was a beat-up old easy chair…and the keys to a life-changing fortune.

But as Stephanie and Grandma Mazur search for Jimmy Rosolli’s treasure, they discover that they’re not the only ones on the hunt. Two dangerous enemies from the past stand in their way—along with a new adversary who’s even more formidable: Gabriela Rose, a dark-eyed beauty from Little Havana with a taste for designer clothes. She’s also a soldier of fortune, a gourmet cook, an expert in firearms and mixed martial arts—and someone who’s about to give Stephanie a real run for her money.

Stephanie may be in over her head, but she’s got two things that Gabriela doesn’t: an unbreakable bond with her family and a stubborn streak that will never let her quit.

She’ll need both to survive because this search for “fortune and glory” will turn into a desperate race against time with more on the line than ever before. Because even as she searches for the treasure and fights to protect her Grandma Mazur, her own deepest feelings will be tested—as Stephanie could finally be forced to choose between Joe Morelli and Ranger.


Stephanie Plum is at it again. This time, she and her Grandma are determined to find the treasure left behind by Grandma’s last husband. The search is not without risks—there are several old associates of the husband who want the treasure for themselves. Luckily Stephanie has her regular crew. With the rest of her uncle’s bail bonds office and her contact within and outside the law, how can they lose?

This book introduces a new character who it sounds like will continue with more appearances later in the series. Is Gabriela Rose a love interest for Stephanie’s on-again/off-again partner Morelli? That’s another mystery she’s determined to look at after she and Grandma find the treasure.

Overall, I really enjoyed this contribution (the 27th book) to the Stephanie Plum series. While I’m sure I’ve read a couple of these over the years, they stand alone just fine as well. I’d give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and lover of holiday carols. You can find her reading, crushing candy, stalking Facebook rumors and singing along to her holiday CDs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Fortune and Glory!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 23rd, 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.

Open to BOTH U.S. and Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Fortune and Glory, by Janet Evanovich

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Forgotten Memories, by Anstey Harris {ends 11/18}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It is an evening from a storybook. The peacock is strutting around nearby. It’s waggling its tail feathers in an effort to attract one of the three peahens that are pecking on the lawn, but none of them so much as glances up. The sun, though it is nowhere near setting, has turned golden and sends threads of light through the trees and dancing, dappled, across the top of the pond.

We choose to sit on the grass, despite the benches dotted around this part of the park. I don’t think I could sit right beside Patch without making a fool of myself; at least here on the lawn I can pick at daisies, keep my nervous fingers occupied.

“Cheers,” says Patch, and leans in toward me. He touches the edge of his glass—so gently
against mine and the antique glass rings round the flat lawn like a bell. “To being here,” he says, and drinks.

The wine is cold, crisp. Tiny beads of condensation smudge under my fingers as I hold the glass; they sparkle in the reflection of the evening sun.

“There are worse lives, I guess,” I say. Immediately, I remember all the other stuff, all the reasons I’m sitting here on the grass
even if this moment is idyllic.

While the story depended on their British lineage and ancestry, it also highlighted unique characters and interesting relationships.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Forgotten Memories, by Anstey Harris {ends 11/18}
At Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World, where the animals never age but time takes its toll, one woman must find the courage to overcome the greatest loss of her life.

Four years after her husband Richard’s death, Cate Morris is let go from her teaching job and unable to pay rent on the London flat she shares with her son, Leo. With nowhere else to turn, they pack up and venture to Richard’s ancestral Victorian museum in the small town of Crouch-on-Sea.

Despite growing pains and a grouchy caretaker, Cate begins to fall in love with the quirky taxidermy exhibits and sprawling grounds, and she makes it her mission to revive them. But threats from both inside and outside the museum derail her plans and send her spiraling into self-doubt.

As Cate becomes more invested in Hatters, she must finally confront the reality of Richard’s death—and the role she played in it—in order to reimagine her future.


This was a story that had some interesting plot points, but was mostly held together by the characters and their relationships. Cate and Leo are used to just relying on each other and their close community, but when they move away from London to Crouch-on-Sea, they need to make some changes in their lives and open their hearts to the new people they are surrounded by.

While these new relationships evolved, Cate also learned more about her deceased husband and his legacy. He had not spoken about his past with Hatters and its inhabitants. As Cate got to know the people she and Leo were now sharing their life with at Hatters, she was also learning how some of the same people were part of her husband’s past.

Overall, this was a touching book about dealing with the unexpected twists life can throw at everyone. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and am glad I got to know Cate and Leo and their new life at the Hatters Museum.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys listening to Handel’s flute sonatas and drinking grape-flavored water while she reads. Find out more of what she’s been up to at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 18th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified 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 Museum of Forgotten Memories, by Anstey Harris

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - 60 Stories About 30 Seconds: How I Got Away With Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (Or Maybe Just Part of It) by Bruce Van Dusen {ends 11/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I hate preproduction meetings. You hold one the day before a job shoots. They’re soul-killing exercises in asphyxia. Twenty or so people, agency creatives, account people, clients, people you’ve never seen before but who must be connected to the job somehow and who are now first in line for the catered lunch, sitting around a conference table, reading documents out loud. Documents that everyone’s staring at in the binders in front of them. It’s like kindergarten. My goal is to get them over and done with quick. I frequently fail.

What goes on behind the scenes in television commercials isn’t something most people think much about. These essays build a memoir about a man who may have directed more commercials than any other individual.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - 60 Stories about 30 Seconds: How I Got Away With Becoming a Pretty Big Commercial Director Without Losing My Soul (Or Maybe Just Part of It) by Bruce Van Dusen {ends
You’ve probably seen more movies made by Bruce Van Dusen than any other director alive.

1977. New York City. Cool and crime-ridden, cheap and wild. Bruce Van Dusen shows up in town with a film degree and $150 to his name. He wants to make movies. The only ones anyone will pay him to make? Little ones. Thirty seconds long. Commercials. He has no idea what he’s doing and the money sucks. But he’s a director.

He gets hired by a client on life support in the most depressing hospital in New York. Gets peed on by a lion. Explains peristalsis to a Tony winner. Makes a movie and goes to Sundance. Goes back to little movies when it bombs. Keeps hustling, shooting anything. Is an a**hole, pays the price, finally learns when and how to be an a**hole and becomes one of the industry’s stars.

Years go by and it’s not what he expected. It’s harder, weirder, and funnier. But it worked out. It worked out great, actually.


While the title sounds like the book would be a lot more about the commercial jobs, the stories actually read more like an engaging memoir. The commercial stuff was interesting from time to time, but human nature always brings its own entertaining quirks.

The essays evolve as it sounds like the man himself did—from an insecure but driven young man trying to force the results he sees in his head, to a more mature leader who has learned he can make anything into an acceptable result with his skills, the talents of those around him, and a little luck. Bruce Van Dusen sounds like someone who has aged somewhat gracefully as his life changed, all while participating in a career he usually found both challenging and satisfying.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. While it would definitely be fascinating for someone interested in behind-the-scenes film-making, anyone who enjoys memoirs would like reading about Bruce Van Dusen’s experiences throughout his life as a director.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, lunch lady, and crossing guard who sometimes only wakes up to see what happens next in the book she’s reading. She shares a few pictures of her life on Instagram as @PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of 60 Stories About 30 Seconds!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 11th, 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.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Preserve, by Ariel S. Winter {ends 11/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The drone led them back to the cemetery’s main entrance. Across the street, there was another small plot with much older gravestones of various shapes and sizes. Standing in the shadow of a tree in the midst of the graves was a white-haired woman, bone thin, collarbone showing over her argyle-patterned strapless sundress. She wore lightweight virtual reality goggles, and held a phone in one hand out in front of her, no doubt using it as a remote control for the drone. As it reached her, she took off the goggles, and plucked the copter from the air.

Laughton pulled the truck to the curb, and the partners got out.

“Excellent voice modulator,” Kir said as they approached the woman.

“Thank you,” she said. Her real voice was light and warm, suffused with amusement that showed at the corners of her eyes. She turned her attention to the chief. “Jesse Laughton,” she said, as though taking stock of him. It made Laughton long for his mother, which was not the best place from which to start an interview. He wondered why he hadn’t heard from Betty about her mother.

Crisper looked back at Kir, her eyebrows lower, her jaw set forward. “I don’t like having this one here.”


In a world where the robots created by humans now outnumber humans, the preserve is the one region only populated by humans. The Chief of Police of one of the towns in the preserve reunites with his old robot partner to try and solve the first human murder.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Preserve, by Ariel S. Winter {ends 11/8}
Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.

Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.

Usually the only crimes on the preserve are meaningless acts of boredom and drunkenness. Most of the humans don’t have much to do, since the robots are the majority of the population, and taking care of themselves. When a cyborg (still considered human) is found murdered on the preserve, the Chief of Police feels a little rusty in his policing skills. As he investigates the crime and finds a link to some crimes in the robot world, he calls for help from his former robot partner, and unfortunately many other robots in positions of authority follow. The robots question the wisdom of giving the humans their own area—the preserve—to live without robot interference.

While the appearance of many of the robots is close to human, they will never have the full range of emotions and empathy that the humans have. This is part of what makes Chief Laughton’s relationship with his former robot partner Kir so interesting. They never forget that they’re not the same (as the loving insults they say to each other prove—‘metal’ and ‘meathead’), but they’ve come to rely on each other in human-like ways, and Kir has developed relationships of a sort with the Chief’s wife and daughter.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. The evolving relationships between humans and robots was part of the point of the book, but it sometimes made understanding the plot a little confusing. This would be a great book for those who like this type of sci-fi or speculative fiction stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys reading, listening to a variety of music, and taking care of her family. She also blogs and reviews more books at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, November 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified by 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 Preserve, by Ariel S. Winter

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Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 50 books.
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