Thursday, December 31, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Bone Canyon, by Lee Goldberg {ends 1/7}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The city of Calabasas had a split personality disorder. If you entered the city from the east end of Calabasas Road, the main thoroughfare, you went through Old Town, where the frontier storefronts and hitching posts presented Calabasas as part of California’s Wild West. But if you entered from the other end, you went past the Commons, an idealized re-creation of an old rural village in the hills of Tuscany.

Until tonight, Eve thought the Commons was supposed to be a faux French village, perhaps because the property was dotted with four eighteenth-century statues, each representing a season, that were imported from a ch√Ęteau in southern France. But as she was telling Daniel about the Commons, she was firmly corrected by the waiter serving them their entrees at Toscanova, the center’s Italian restaurant. Either way, the two radically different visions the city had of itself made no sense to her.

“It’s like dealing with an irrational person,” she said to Daniel. “They should choose to be one or the other, a western town or a Tuscan village. I don’t care which, just be consistent. It makes me anxious.”

“But you live here anyway.”


This is the author’s second book featuring Eve Ronin, the youngest homicide detective on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Her career path isn’t the same as the other detectives, and that doesn’t make her a lot of friends with the department.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Bone Canyon, by Lee Goldberg {ends 1/7}
A catastrophic wildfire scorches the Santa Monica Mountains, exposing the charred remains of a woman who disappeared years ago. The investigation is assigned to Eve Ronin, the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a position that forces her to prove herself again and again. This time, though, she has much more to prove.

Bones don’t lie, and these have a horrific story to tell. Eve tirelessly digs into the past, unearthing dark secrets that reveal nothing about the case is as it seems. With almost no one she can trust, her relentless pursuit of justice for the forgotten dead could put Eve’s own life in peril.


Eve Ronin has to prove herself again and again. While being a detective so close to Hollywood, there are too many people who think her headline cases are reaching for fame, instead of doing her job and solving homicide cases. Producers and writers showing up trying to talk Eve into her own tv series or movie are an annoyance and distraction to Eve—she wants to be a good detective and solve the murders of those with no one else to defend them.

The police procedurals featuring Detective Eve Ronin are a fun read. In addition to the interesting characters at the Lost Hills station, the details of the investigation are also researched and realistic. This book showed the facts that can be learned about identifying a victim just from burned old bones. While it was believable and compelling to read, there were articles shared that showed the info was accurate.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. There’s something to be said for a book that is not only entertaining, but also teaches the reader about something they probably don’t know much about before. I’d recommend this and the earlier Eve Ronin story for those who enjoy police procedurals and murder mysteries.

{click here to pre-order; it will be available on 1/5/21}

Becki Bayley can also be found at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Bone Canyon!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, January 7th, 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!

Bone Canyon, by Lee Goldberg

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Every Last Secret, by A.R. Torre {ends 12/19}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It was interesting to see the evolution in him over the last two months. He used to flinch when I touched him, and avoid prolonged eye contact. Vomited Cat’s name whenever the conversation turned away from work. Now, I noticed his eyes lingering on me, his gaze warmer when he smiled, his tongue looser to confess. He didn’t bring her up very often, and when he did, he rarely used her name. All tells. Little tiny arrows pointing in the right direction.

I bent at the waist over the low minifridge, keeping my legs straight, my butt out. “You don’t seem to want to walk away from the deal.”

“I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be back here crunching the numbers. I’d be screwing my wife on a beach in Hawaii.”


Neena has decided that all she needs to make her life wonderful is William—either his love, or his payoff. Her laser focus on reaching her own endgame blinds her to anyone else’s agenda.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Every Last Secret, by A.R. Torre {ends 12/19}
Cat Winthorpe has worked hard to get what she has: a gorgeous home; social standing; and William, her successful, handsome husband. Then a friendly new couple moves into the estate next door. While cautious, a good neighbor like Cat greets them with open arms and warm hospitality.

Neena Ryder isn’t a fellow lady of leisure. A life coach with off-the-rack dresses, personal issues, and a husband who hasn’t delivered, she’s anxious to move up in the world. This beautiful new town is a step in the right direction. It’s also making Neena aware of what she doesn’t have. Namely, William. When Neena’s infatuation escalates into obsession, it’s just a matter of eliminating a few obstacles to get the life she wants. The life next door.

As Neena’s secret fixation grows, so does her friendship with Cat. But beneath their cordial interactions is a wealth of temptations, secrets, and toxic jealousy. For both women, the desire for a perfect life can turn perfectly dangerous.


With the story told in alternating perspectives between Neena and Cat, there were a few hints that they both may have secrets in their pasts. By halfway through, it was pretty clear that this wasn’t a situation of good vs bad—the characters were both manipulative and deceitful.

The men seemed to be little more than pawns in the story. They reacted exactly as expected to each situation. Any memory of craziness in the past with their wife did not seem to trigger a warning for their future interactions. The female characters were always planning and trying to outsmart those around them, but the men just reacted blandly and reasonably to whatever happened.

While the crimes are pretty obvious by the time the reader reaches the epilogue, the observations of William about the women were interesting. As with many psychological thrillers, the epilogue really tied up a lot of loose ends. It wasn’t a happily-ever-after for everyone, but at least everyone knew where they stood, and who had put them there. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It was a quick, amusing psychological thriller.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes being cozy, reading, listening to music, and the smell of peppermint. She also posts from time to time on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Every Last Secret!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, December 19th, 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!

Every Last Secret, by A.R. Torre

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Book Review: Aunt Ivy's Cottage, by Kristin Harper

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Zoey’s aunt was consistently gracious to everyone, so she couldn’t imagine her saying or doing anything so offensive it would have caused an estrangement that lasted for years. For decades. Nor could she quite believe that a simple attempt to help her aunt get interested in a hobby, or something to get her out of the house, had led them down this path of reminiscences, and that Mr. Witherell had come up again for what seemed the dozenth time since she’d been on the island. But clearly something was troubling Ivy, so Zoey proceeded cautiously. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

Ivy hesitated, her eyes brimming. “You know I don’t like to speak ill of anyone.”

Zoey did know that; it was the reason Ivy never directly said Sylvia’s father was abusive. It was why she called her own father influential instead of opinionated or domineering. And said that Mark “isn’t good at demonstrating affection,” rather than admitting most of the time he was too self-centered to care about anyone else’s feelings. Her aunt’s tendency to sugarcoat the truth used to drive Zoey nuts.


What a charming story of life on the quaint town of Hope Haven, on Dune Island. Books like this give a whole new perspective on places that the rest of the country may only visit on vacation.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Aunt Ivy's Cottage, by Kristin Harper
All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, snuggling up with hot chocolate and hearing Ivy’s stories about being married to a sea captain. Now, heartbroken from a breakup, Zoey escapes back to the island, but is shocked to find her elderly aunt’s spark fading. Worse, her cousin—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the family clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when Nick, a local carpenter and Ivy’s neighbor, takes her side. As Zoey finds comfort in his sea-blue eyes and warm laugh, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. Nick’s urging her to share the discovery, which could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but when Zoey learns that Nick and her cousin go way back, she questions if the man she‘s starting to have feelings for really has Ivy’s best interests at heart. Will dredging up this old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

This book had a delightful setting with lots of its own background stories, and believable and interesting characters who acted out an engaging plot and mystery to unravel.

Zoey has reached a crossroads in her life. The library where she worked has closed, which happened to coincide with her Aunt Sylvia becoming ill. After Aunt Sylvia dies, Zoey stays on to help Aunt Ivy deal with her grief and get used to life without her sister-in-law and constant companion. Soon, Zoey’s teen-aged niece needs a change of scenery to help her make better choices. Sending Gabi to stay with Aunt Zoey on Dune Island is a perfect solution, but suddenly parenting a teenager may complicate Zoey’s life even more.

When it seems like everything is falling into place, the possible wrench in her plans is cousin Mark trying to control it all. Suddenly Zoey is pulled in many different directions at once, trying to manage a life she’s getting used to in Hope Haven, while she’s also supposed to be getting her ‘real’ life as a librarian back on track.

Overall I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a fun story with a little more depth in its genealogy mystery. I hope there are more stories around Hope Haven and Aunt Ivy’s cottage.

{Click HERE to purchase - only 99c for Kindle currently!}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and avid reader of almost anything. She blogs about books and the rest of her life at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Warm Heart in Winter, by J.R. Ward {ends 12/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Did I ever tell you about Seinfeld?” Qhuinn asked. “Or The Office?”

“The, ah, the TV shows, you mean?”

“Yeah.” Qhuinn took a deep breath. And then laughed a little. “Not The Sopranos, though. That I couldn’t resist.”

Blay put his parka aside and rubbed his eyes. “I’m so sorry, but I’m not following here?”

Qhuinn turned the letter over so that the flap that had been glued shut was face-up. “I have this weird thing about my favorite TV shows that have ended. I did it for Home Improvement, too, come to think about it. See, I refuse to watch the last season. It’s this weird thing. Like, back when we had DVDs? I always kept the last season in its wrapper.” His thumb went back and forth on the flap. “That way they’re never finished, you know? I can pretend in my mind that they go on forever, that they’re infinite—because the definition of infinity is no ending. And if I don’t watch the ending there hasn’t been one.” There was a pause and Qhuinn looked up. “That’s nuts, right?”

“Not at all.” Blay wanted to stroke the male’s back, but kept his hands clasped in front of him. “It makes all the sense in the world.”

“Now you’re just humoring me.”

“No, I’m really not.”


While the Black Dagger Brotherhood books are part of a rather extensive series, this read fine as a stand alone, and so much more. Vampires, Christmas, and romance?? What a great intersection of themes, not found very often.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Warm Heart in Winter, by J.R. Ward {ends 12/9}
Featuring one of the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s most iconic couples, Blay and Qhuinn find themselves looking forward to their official mating ceremony. When tragedy strikes just before the happy event, all hope seems lost—and everyone in the Black Dagger Brotherhood rallies around the two of them. Will a freak winter storm bring the unthinkable, or will a warm heart in winter ensure that true love is not lost?


While there is obviously a lot of history between Blay and Qhuinn, and the rest of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, this book gave enough background for the new developments in their story to make sense. 

When one of their nieces asks, Blay and Qhuinn realize they’ve never had a formal mating ceremony. They definitely love each other, already have two young, and no one questions their commitment to each other. But will an official mating ceremony be the statement that makes their love even stronger? Before they have much time to focus on that, the storm of centuries hits! There’s insane wind and cold temperatures, shattered windows, a tree making its way inside and most importantly, non-operational daylight shutters. As all the occupants of the house are taking care of repairs, is one of their own going to be lost forever?

This was a really good book. There was so much going on, and all of it ended up fitting together. Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who like their Christmas stories a bit less traditional. While this series is fantasy and vampires, the way the author tells it makes it feel natural.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley loves her family (including her cats), Christmas wishing, and her depleting Cherry Coke supply. Find her Christmas wishes and more book opinions at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Warm Heart in Winter!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, December 9th, 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!

A Warm Heart in Winter, by J.R. Ward

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