Saturday, February 4, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Direction of the Wind, by Mansi Shah {ends 2/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Sophie - 2019

Naresh Uncle had been kind enough to give Sophie an advance on her wages, so she has been able to secure a room at Le Canard Volant beyond the couple nights that Cecile was able to help her with in the beginning. She is now sharing a room with five other girls and is surprised by how many people she’s met at the hostel who have come to Paris to pursue creative endeavors, whether they be art, writing, or food. She has never had such dreams or ideals and cannot recall her friends in India having those types of impractical ambitions either. Her friends enjoy dancing or cooking or art as hobbies, but none would consider stepping outside the confines of their prescribed lives to leave Ahmedabad and pursue such an uncertain career, giving up the comfortable and privileged lives into which they were born. This desire for a life beyond the one you were given seems far more Western than Eastern in her mind, and she does not fully understand it. It seems much simpler to fall in line with the life that is planned for you, especially when you are given so much as part of it, but she now realizes it is easy to be content when you are born into the upper caste. Clearly Nita felt differently and must have had some part of that Western idealism inside of her to have chosen the path she did. 

Not all beautiful stories have a happy ending. It felt warm and familiar getting to know Sophie, as she learned about her mother, Nita. 

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Direction of the Wind, by Mansi Shah {ends 2/11}
Sophie Shah was six when she learned her mother, Nita, had died. For twenty-two years, she shouldered the burden of that loss. But when her father passes away, Sophie discovers a cache of hidden letters revealing a shattering truth: her mother didn’t die. She left.

Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected.

Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew.

The stories are told in alternating viewpointsSophie in 2019, embarking on the search for her mother, and Nita in 1998, as she first goes to Paris. They are very different women. Neither quite fits into the traditional caste roles they were raised to follow, but their rebellions have been different. Sophie lives in a loophole. By taking care of her supposedly widowed father, she hasn’t had to enter an arranged marriage and take on a household of her own. While Nita knew all along that wasn’t the role she wanted, it takes years before she works up the nerve to escape, which also means leaving her young daughter behind.

The people both women meet along their journeys are never all good or all bad, of course. But while they both thought they knew what to expect in Ahmedabad, India, nothing in Paris turns out like their plans.

This was a wonderful book that earned 5 out of 5 stars from me. It could be recommended to those who enjoy family dramas, books about India and its culture, and stories with realistic female characters. 

{Click here to purchasecurrently free for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who would love to have a super-power ability to fix the world. You can find her @poshbecki on Instagram.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Direction of the Wind!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, February 11th, 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!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir {ends 2/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

This is a really unpleasant position to be in, repeats the commissioner, looking at Júlíus and me like we’re responsible for the whole thing. There’s really no way to say what will happen next?

We’re sitting around an oval meeting table in the coordination center, people clutch their coffee mugs, and a plate of grayish pastries and wan doughnuts is arranged in the middle. The tension is palpable.

If I’m understanding you correctly, there’s nothing to specifically indicate there will be another eruption, says Stefán, stroking his shiny tie. It’s vital that we don’t fuel unnecessary fears amongst the public.

I look at him – after our meeting in the spring, I felt like I got him. He’s barely thirty, but his hair’s already thinning, he’s got his initials embroidered onto the cuffs of his custom-made shirt, he looks at this stint on the Scientific Council as his ticket to advancing through the ranks of officialdom. He’s as methodical as Júlíus is temperamental, as starched as Júlíus is rumpled, and they seem to have a physical aversion to one another. The seismologist opens his mouth to answer the bureaucrat, but I send him a warning look and he thinks better of it, keeps his mouth shut.

So much conflict—men vs. women, science vs. business, the earth vs. its population.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir {ends 2/8}
After an eight-hundred-year slumber, the volcanoes in Iceland’s most populated region are showing signs of life. Earthquakes dominate the headlines. Echoes of the devastating eruptions in the past stir unease in the people.

Volcanologist Anna Arnardóttir has spent her entire life studying the volcanic powers under the earth’s crust, but even she cannot fathom the catastrophe at hand.

As a series of eruptions threaten most of Iceland’s population, she’s caught off her rational guard by the most terrible natural disaster of all—love. The world as she knows it is about to fall apart, and so is her heart.

Caught between the safety of a nation and her feelings for her children, her lover, and her past, Anna embarks on a dangerous journey to save the lives of the people she loves—and her soul.

The reader starts out seeing Anna primarily as her job title—she’s a geoscientist, an expert in volcanoes in an area built on volcanoes, but hasn’t seen substantial volcanic activity. She’s practical, and makes decisions about her job and her life based on the science, never on something as flighty as feelings.

When Anna finds herself suddenly overwhelmed by a passionate love, and the science of the volcano stops giving her straight answers, she doesn’t know how to respond to it all. Her choices begin to change the path of everything, as her life as she knew it quickly unravels.

The writing/translation style took a little bit of getting used to (as in the quotes above, no quotation marks are used), but the conversations were easy enough to discern from the main character’s internal dialogue.

While the ending may not be considered anyone’s happily-ever-after, this reader feels it was perfect for the book. This book was 5 out of 5 stars, and strongly recommended for those who enjoy family dramas, stories about Iceland, and those who don’t need a traditional happy ending. 

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

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, February 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted 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 Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Some Colored towns boasted of riches in their advertisements, offering want upon arrival. Not here, though. Folks coming here knew what they were getting into. Those wanting to work found a community willing to share down to their last. Willing to teach trades, offer a comfortable bed, keep bellies full. I come from a farming family, and we often had folks turning up like you, your kin. They worked, saved up to buy their own land if they wanted, or moved on, but our work was crucial. I like to think my family fed New Jessup so it could grow and grow.

“When the ones who left came back,” she continued, “they were floored by what we had done with the money. They came back, and they’re still coming back two, three generations later. New folks are still coming to stay here, too,” she said with a suggestion in her tone and the slight curve of her smile, though, until then, staying in New Jessup, particularly without Rosie, had never been a thought. My sister had been in Chicago for six years. She wrote of friends, and said she liked her job and that she missed me and wished me and Daddy would come. Those weeks, all I thought about was finding her doorstep. Finding, seeing Rosie was the journey, so I knew she would never just pick and move back to Alabama, to a place where we were both starting over. So stay? Without Rosie? I changed the subject.

Alice has left the life she knew in Rensler, and traveled only partway to her intended destination. Life was just too tempting to pass up in New Jessup—no Colored-only water fountains, or entry doorways. The whole town is Colored, and life feels perfect.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks
It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their “side of the woods.” In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup’s longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple’s expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup’s political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.

Alice is a woman who means business. While her original goal is to reach her sister, New Jessup goes from a stop on her bus route to Montgomery, to a city she just can’t stand to leave. This all-Black utopia leaves her without an abusive landlord or other white person to lord over her. At first glance, it may be all that’s needed for the town to be perfect for her.

Soon enough, Alice is no longer a newcomer to town. With two jobs and a nice apartment over the dress shop, she soon finds herself courted by the son of one of the founding fathers of the town. She assumes his goals for maintaining the status quo in town will be the same, but he and other young adults in town want to make sure the town is truly theirs.

Life is never as simple as black and white. There lies dissent even in Alice’s perfect town. Is segregation truly the best solution? As with almost everything, there seem to be acceptable degrees of integration to the different residents in and outside of New Jessup

This story was a beautiful coming-of-age story of Alice and those she adopted as her new family in 1957 New Jessup. The book was 4 out of 5 stars, with a few loose ends unanswered, but isn’t that life? This would be enjoyed by those who like family stories, strong female characters, and stories of race relations in the 1950s & 1960s.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes sleeping in, long weekends, and setting her own pace. When she’s not reading books for review or working with regulatory complaints, you’ll find her posting snapshots of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

IZZY

Ash and I arrive home. The apartment feels like a sauna. I can’t believe it’s March. I assume my mom is still at work since she’s not around. Dani, who came home at the same time we did, cranks up the window unit and we huddle around it like a campfire.

The front door opens. Mom.

She throws me a look. Uh-oh.

“Izzy, could you come in the kitchen, please?”

Not sure what’s going on, but I don’t like it. My mom, who’s normally pretty chill, looks like she’s trying to keep from wringing my neck.

The stories of Izzy and Brianna are told in parallel. Both girls have a connection to the school’s talent show, but their priorities about it all are very different.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson
Middle school is all about labels.

Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. 

The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of A's. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

This middle grade graphic novel is the second in a series of four books about characters who could know each other, but aren’t necessarily close. There were a few mentions of Emmie in this book, who was the main character in the first book. This read fine as a stand-alone, though.

Brianna has a reputation for her good grades and being smart. Her mom is the drama teacher, who she feels she has very little in common with, which may surprise people when they find out they’re related. 

Izzy could probably get better grades, if she cared about something at school besides drama. She sees her sisters getting better grades, and knows she’s probably smarter than her report card shows, but as everyone tells her, she just doesn’t focus on the rest of school.

Overall, this was a nice story with a good lesson. It was 3 out of 5 stars for this reader. The whole series is probably good for getting kids to read more, and the alternating style for the storylines in this book had comparatively more text than some graphic novels.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys BBQ chips, appetizers for dinner, Cherry Coke, and occasionally sharing pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

With our witchy saying, “as above, so below,” we understand that we are made up of the same stuff as the universe, and we are occupying space in this world and learning to work in harmony with its forces just as the cells of our bodies learn to adapt to our energetic environments. 

Working with this energy is truly a superpower. When you are comfortable interrogating your emotions, you become someone who knows how to understand what is important to you, what you want to nurture in your life, and what kind of energy you want to bring in. When you are someone who pays attention to the energy around you, you learn what exists in the present moment for you to work with, and how you can begin to manifest more of what makes you feel most alive and most in alignment. This does not come naturally to everyone, and if it is a part of who you are, consider it a gift, even in moments when that sensitivity can feel like a burden. 

Learning about who you are, and self-care, can come from many different tools and beliefs, and many of them are explored and explained briefly here.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}
Self-care is not only necessary, it’s magical! Your road to self-care can be a mystical journey that leaves you feeling more confident, determined, and ready to accomplish all those bucket-list items and dreams you have scribbled in your journal. So why not start that journey now?

Find both mystical and practical tools to help deal with stress, depression, and other challenges in this gorgeously illustrated and highly designed guide offering different creative ways of living a heart-centered, mindful, and magical life through concrete tools for self-care and advice from a diverse group of practitioners in areas like tarot, astrology, energy work, and much more.

Luminary is a book of practical magic that empowers you to pursue mental wellness with curiosity and confidence. But it’s also a book of possibility that pushes the boundaries of what self-help can be.

The author shares from her well-rounded knowledge of disciplines that help the reader get to know themself—which in turn can help one care for themself. She discusses tarot, astrology, palmistry, and other practices and talks with experts in each field. It really doesn’t matter much if the reader is a skeptic or not; this is just a presentation of information in the hopes that something will resonate and help you feel better about your life and yourself.

The path the book takes is described as similar to the path of the author, with introductions to those she met along her journey, and what she has found to help her in dealing with her own mental health and depression. A strong point made throughout the book is that your mental state should really be appreciated as a continuum—no mental state is entirely "good" or "bad," but instead triggers to examine your mental and physical health for what your body and mind may need. 

Overall, the book could be very helpful to many as a way to consider and cope with life and the world around us. The book is well-researched and earns 4 out of 5 stars. It could be recommended to those with an interest in mental well-being and self-care, with a willingness to seek answers from possibly unique sources.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes being warm and cozy, and enjoys listening to music, petting cats, and munching on appetizers while reading. Check out her other book reviews at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 10th, 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!

Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Den, by Cara Reinard {ends 1/1/23}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

On her drive home, Valerie phoned Luke. The flutters that erupted in her chest when her fingers scrolled over his number were annoying. Get it together.

“Hey, I was just going to call you,” he said, his voice gruff.

“Good. I was thinking we should probably get security for Father’s hospital room.” She remembered that she really needed to stop and see her mother soon. She wasn’t even sure if Mother knew about Christian’s accident yet. She should text Marian and find out. Lucy’s accusations about Mother revealing the changes in the trust early had rattled Valerie.

Who else could Mother have told? Valerie had known about the trust for a while, but back then it’d seemed insignificant because both of her parents had been relatively healthy, and in the old disclaimer, the children could collect on it only after both parents had passed. Even though she’d been the only one who usually visited Mother, the others could have stopped by to see her too.

The Fox siblings weren’t what anyone would call close to each other, but the time has come to find out if they actually hate each other enough to kill for a bigger inheritance.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Den, by Cara Reinard {ends 1/1/23}
Nothing brings the four Fox siblings together like their detestable father’s heart attack—and a hefty inheritance to be divided equally. At his deathbed is his oldest daughter, Valerie; her irresponsible sister, Lucy; and their two embattled brothers, Christian and Jeremy. Even the former housekeeper, Marian, who’s been with the family for forty years, is on watch. All Valerie hopes for is an amicable reunion, despite the damages of the past.

By punishing means, Stefan Fox raised his children to be competitors. The cruel lessons now serve them well in a game of life and death. When it comes to the family fortune, the rules are simple: fewer siblings means a bigger share.

After a suspicious accident, Valerie knows the worst is yet to come—and confiding in the wrong person could be the most dangerous thing she’s ever done.
 
The book opens with someone being dragged, already beaten and bloodied, through the woods. Before the reader finds out who it might be, the author flashes back to the family home, where all four siblings have reunited with their parentsand all of the family business’s clients. None of the siblings seem happy to be there, but they all accept it as one of the responsibilities in the wealthy family to which they belong.
 
The catastrophes follow quicklya heart attack, a car accident, and then suspicions of murder! An announcement at the attorney’s office of a new distribution of the family wealth in case the patriarch dies has everyone looking over their shoulder and wondering who the next victim might be.
 
The story moved quickly with lots of unexpected twists before the end. The book deserved 4 out of 5 stars as a thrilling family drama. It could be recommended to those who enjoy rich family stories with mysteries and complicated relationships and histories.

{click here to purchasecurrently free for Kindle Unlimited users!}
 
Becki Bayley enjoys reading, making plans, and spreading kindness. She tries to remember to post a few photos of life on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, January 1, 2023, 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 Den, by Cara Reinard

Monday, December 19, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Great Tree, by Able Barrett {ends 12/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Just as the sun was setting, Nicholas could see the outline of the Great Tree in the distance. He began to remember the nightmare he had been having since he was a young boy. It made him sad and angry, even without the knowledge of what was happening to Andrew inside the castle.

When he reached the castle, he parked the carriage and quickly entered the castle with the Great Black Wolf. He heard Andrew’s voice in the great hall.

Nicholas entered the great hall, worried about what he was going to find.

Andrew is in search of his brother Nicholas, who was taken when they were just young boys. He may not succeed, but he had to try to fulfill their mother’s dying wish.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Great Tree, by Able Barrett {ends 12/28}
A young man, Andrew and his older brother Nicholas were separated long ago. Andrew is now trying to find Nicholas even against his mother's wishes driven by her fears of what he will face in his quest. Andrew wants to tell Nicholas their mother is dying and he must see her one last time before she passes. Andrew and his dog Jenny begin a journey or even a better word would be crusade, which takes them well beyond their wildest imagination into the world of danger, evil protectors, giant wolves, dark magic, Sorcerers, Goblins, and the Prince of Darkness himself all centered around an enormous tree. This is story that blends the magic of how Christmas evolved for eternity. It is a story for the whole family including children, young people and adults of all ages will enjoy this fable in the same way we all have enjoyed other great Christmas stories of the past, but this is a thrilling and exciting story to how Christmas came to be today!

Andrew has been traveling for a while when he comes across a town with a view of the Great Tree and frightening evil sorcerer’s castle. He quickly makes friends with a young brother and sister who lead him to a room for the night, to rest for the final leg of his journey.

It doesn’t take long before Andrew is on the right path to finding the brother he has missed for most of his life. But there are still more battles for good to triumph over evil, happily-ever-after to win, and several Christmas traditions to be explained.

Overall, this story was a quick read, good for most ages. The story was 3 out of 5 stars, with likable characters and a satisfying ending. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not reading, she enjoys taking care of her family, cuddling with her cats, and indulging in chips and dip. Check out the photos she posts on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

*Five* of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Great Tree!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, December 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email on December 29th, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!


The Great Tree, by Able Barrett

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