Sunday, November 21, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Wolf Point, by Ian K. Smith {ends 11/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

My intel had been spot on, which was why I found Amy Bonnegan sitting alone at a back table in Randolph Tavern, a busy pub just a couple of blocks from city hall. She tore into a mountain of greens while tapping furiously on her phone. She didn’t notice me as I approached.

“This chair taken?” I asked.

She looked up. The disappointment registered immediately on her face. I took a seat.

“It’s been a while,” I said.

“Are you following me?” she said.

“What makes you say that?

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that of all the restaurants in Chicago you just happen to choose the one where I’m eating lunch.”

“I like salads,” I said. “I read a study where the average American eats only a third of the recommended amount of daily fiber. Leafy greens are loaded with fiber, but those chia seeds you have sprinkled on top...now that’s where the gold is. They are probably the single best food source of fiber on the planet.”

“Thanks for that nutritional tidbit,” she said. “But I’m sure you’re not here to talk about fiber.”

Ashe Cayne left his law enforcement career to be a private investigator, and pursue real justice.

Official synopsis:
A Cadillac, a pistol, and a corpse make for another morning in Chicago. The body belongs to Walter Griffin, a prominent Black Chicagoan insider hailing from the city’s West Side. He ascended to the upper echelons of the mayor’s office only to meet his end in a watery grave at Wolf Point. Forensics finds his prints on the gun; it’s ruled a suicide.

But grizzled private investigator Ashe Cayne knows better.

Griffin’s children plead with a reluctant Ashe to hunt their father’s killer. They know their dad wouldn’t have taken his own life without a goodbye. And Ashe knows this town’s dark secrets often mean murder is not too far away.

Ashe decides to take on the case and navigate a city rotting with corruption, racial tensions, and sketchy backroom deals. On the bleak streets of Chicago, it’s every man for himself—and that makes everyone a suspect.

Ashe Cayne’s previous experience working at the police department has given him all the connections he could need. Walter Griffin’s children are also convinced that he is the one to find out the truth about their father’s death. This time of year, he usually spends less time working so he can focus on his golf handicap, but he makes an exception to find the real story behind this previously high-profile case. Oh, what a tangled web Walter Griffin left. While he was certainly well-known, and everyone talked about how likable he was, no one gets to a position of power without making several enemies.

While he’s working this case by the light of day, Ashe Cayne is also exacting his own version of justice for another crime where no one else can see. Plenty of people may not have approved of his ideas and methods, but there was definitely something karmically satisfying about the good guys getting even.

The Ashe Cayne series is amusing. He’s a great character with a sharp mind, and his randomly dropped literature quotes are fun and shocking to some of the people he has to work with to get to the bottom of the street crimes he’s solving. This book would also stand alone fine, as you are always learning about Ashe Cayne through his adventures. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and look forward to reading what’s next in the series. 

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom who tries to hold her house together while working full time and reading/reviewing 100 books this year. Follow along and see if she makes it at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of Wolf Point!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, November 28th, 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!

Wolf Point, by Ian K. Smith

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson {ends 11/25}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

She scrolls back through all the texts she’s sent her mom, but they’re all unread. Now she thinks she knows why. Her mom’s phone was probably in her minivan with Jeanie when her mom ran away. 

So there’s no point in texting her at all.

And yet...there’s something comforting about it, too.

I’m scared, she types.

There’s no response to that, either.

Please help me.

As if by magic, the doorbell rings.

For the tiniest, briefest, stupidest moment, her heart lifts. Have her prayers been answered?

But then reality descends. No one should be here. No one should ring this doorbell.

This is not a good sign.

What if COVID is just the first pandemic? In The Violence, the next pandemic causes people to go crazy and kill one person they’ve decided is the enemy.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson {ends 11/25}
When Chelsea Martin kisses her husband hello at the door of their perfect home, a chilled bottle of beer in hand and dinner on the table, she may look like the ideal wife, mother, and homemaker—but in fact she’s following an unwritten rulebook, carefully navigating David’s stormy moods in a desperate nightly bid to avoid catastrophe. If family time doesn’t go exactly the way David wants, bad things happen—to Chelsea, and to the couple’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Ella. Cut off from all support, controlled and manipulated for years, Chelsea has no resources and no one to turn to. Her wealthy, narcissistic mother, Patricia, would rather focus on the dust on her chandelier than acknowledge Chelsea’s bruises. After all, Patricia’s life looks perfect on the surface, too.

But the façade crumbles when a mysterious condition overtakes the nation. Known as the Violence, it causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bursts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. The ensuing chaos brings opportunity for Chelsea—and inspires a plan to liberate herself and her family once and for all.

This was definitely a page-turner, and believable in a horrible way. It uniquely combines a pandemic after COVID, an intricate domestic violence situation and its influence on three generations of women, and society’s responses to violence in general. While these all summon strong emotions and reactions, they also send thoughts of possible options of what’s next in every direction. The big picture of the book had a few somewhat expected endings, but getting there was a suspenseful adventure.

Chelsea, her daughter Ella, and her mother Patricia all have their own conditioned responses to violence and power in their personal lives, but the violence pandemic gives everything a new perspective. Whether they were used to being in control, or thought they never could be, their interactions with the pandemic changed their ideas of what was possible repeatedly.

While it’s fair to warn of some, well, violent scenarios described in the book, personally the satisfaction of vigilante justice was worth it. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars. The characters and situations they dealt with felt realistic (if a bit choreographed for convenience near the end). I’d recommend this for those who enjoy contemporary fiction and family stories, but don’t mind some graphic depictions of violence. 

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a cat person and music lover. You’ll find her reading, puttering around her home office, and listening to a variety of 80s, holiday, the Chicks, Ke$ha, and Stevie Nicks. She posts about what she reads and other events in her life on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, November 25th, 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 Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson

Monday, November 15, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe {ends 11/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

BEFORE

The woman in the fur coat is the first to break our three-way stare down. Maybe she reads the determination on my face, a look that says I will not give up these items without a fight. I know I can do it, fight...until the death. Once you have killed your first, another may not be as difficult.

“Monsieur, it’s fine. She’s picking up items I asked for.”

“Madame? How so? You two did not come in together.”

She turns to me with a hint of a smile. “But darling, you need to get the new ones. Not the testers.” She steps to the shelf, picking up a box of Hugo, and holds it out to me.

“Madame, no. She is nothing but a misérable, a vagabonde. The police can handle her accordingly.”

Wretch and vagrant. Two more names to add to my growing list.

Aninyeh has many names through her life, but the one she chooses to go by ends up being the most important.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe {ends 11/22}
Stolen from her Ghanaian village as a child, Nena Knight has plenty of motives to kill. Now an elite assassin for a powerful business syndicate called the Tribe, she gets plenty of chances.
But while on assignment in Miami, Nena ends up saving a life, not taking one. She emerges from the experience a changed woman, finally hopeful for a life beyond rage and revenge. Tasked with killing a man she’s come to respect, Nena struggles to reconcile her loyalty to the Tribe with her new purpose.

Meanwhile, she learns a new Tribe council member is the same man who razed her village, murdered her family, and sold her into captivity. Nena can’t resist the temptation of vengeance—and she doesn’t want to. Before she can reclaim her life, she must leverage everything she was and everything she is to take him down and end the cycle of bloodshed for good.

This was quite a thriller, told in "before" and "after" storylines. Usually alternating timelines result in one being a more enjoyable read, but in this case, they were both intriguing stories with non-stop action. 

The "before" stories led from the destruction of her childhood village and family to her realization of having taken back her own power by becoming a trained assassin, helping her new family and Tribe right the wrongs of the world. The "after" story is when she suddenly knows more than the intel of the Tribe, and needs to personally right much older wrongs from her own destroyed world.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. The action and violence are a bit daunting in some parts of the story, but the only reason I wouldn’t re-read this is because I know what happens. The good news is that this is book one of a Nena Knight series, so there’s more action and vigilante justice to come!

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and Gemini. She enjoys Faygo Rock & Rye with Southern Comfort, and dinner cooked by someone else. Read more of her book reviews and info about local Detroit events on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Her Name is Knight!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 22nd, 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!

Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe

Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw, by Michelle Hodkin

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I’d never wanted to see the place before, and now that I stand here, looking up at it, nondescript and shuttered in a toxically ugly part of Brooklyn, I feel justified. There are windows stretching up for stories, boarded shut, crudely. Father always was good at hiding. 

“You’re serious?” Daniel asks, staring at the building.

“Deadly,” I say. I lift the metal shutter; it groans in protestation, and I feel my way for the lock. The rusted red door opens, and I slide my hand over the wall for the light switch.

The lights slam on at once, the sudden artificial brightness a bit shocking. “I don’t think we’re going to find anything in here that’s going to help prevent whatever’s going on,” I say, looking up at the towering shelves, “but you do. And I trust you with whatever might or might not be in here.”

Daniel’s quiet, staring ahead at the aisles that go on forever.

“So this is what’s happening today,” I go on. “Mara, Jamie, and Goose are at the brownstone with Leo—”

“And Sophie, probably,” Daniel mumbles.

I shrug a shoulder, as if it doesn’t matter. “Perhaps. No one’s texted yet, and I don’t much care, honestly. But listenthere was a map that I just barely got a glimpse ofI have a near-photographic memory, but the room was dark and I couldn’t make everything out. Now that we’re all on the same team

Daniels’s eyes drop, and he looks away.

“The same let’s-not-allow-innocent-people-to-die team,” I inhale, trying not to sound frustrated.

Noah, his love Mara, and their friends have Gifts, with a capital ‘G.’ Perspectives vary on if their Gifts are good or not, but they are what tie this group of friends together.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw, by Michelle Hodkin
In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

While these characters seem interesting, a lot of their background was surely explained in the previous Mara Dyer books. Having not read those, some parts of their characters or their relationships were unclear. 

In this book, Noah Shaw starts out in England for a family function, and his girlfriend Mara is around, but not directly with Noah and his family at first. They soon travel to the U.S., and are joined by Noah’s school friend, Goose, who has nowhere else to go at the moment.

In the U.S., Noah, Mara, and Goose meet up with some other young adults with Gifts who apparently Mara had been staying with at an earlier date. Since they all chose to separate at some point, no one is sure who to trust, especially when other kids like them have been disappearing or being found dead. Not a lot of the population knows about these unique kids and their Gifts—could it be one of them causing all the trouble? It’s never said for sure, but there are more books that follow in the Noah Shaw series.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The characters were definitely intriguing, but there was a large chunk of the story I was missing since I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the Mara Dyer series books. The Mara Dyer and Noah Shaw series would probably be enjoyable for those who enjoy teen series with a twist of paranormal mystery.

{Click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley still likes zombies, Christmas movies and music, and sitting close to her space heater in the office. Check out her other book reviews and Detroit area posts at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, by Kristy Woodson Harvey {ends 11/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

He was right. Adam and I might not have agreed one hundred percent of the time on things like where we should live and precisely what our future should hold. But it didn’t matter. I knew now that that didn’t mean I should just roll over and give in to anything he wanted, and that was growth for me. But I did know that something like a house didn’t matter at the end of the day. Not really.

I squeezed James’s knee and got up. “We are lucky. Let’s just hope our luck holds out.”

I left James and stood in the doorway of the stateroom I was sharing with my family, watching as my husband fluffed the comforter and spread it out over the top of the bed. I walked into the room and locked the door shut behind me. “Hey,” he said, smiling.

I put my finger to his mouth  and then kissed him. He pulled back and smiled at me. I kissed him again and lifted his shirt over his head, drawing him close enough that I could feel his heartbeat. My heart swelled with love for this man who was always there for me, who I knew was always on my team. As I lay back on the comforter, everything we’d been going through faded into the background. It was just Adam and me and a bright, shining future, stretched out into the distance like the eternal tide before us. And I knew James was right: we were, without a doubt, the lucky ones.

What a quaint, cozy town and charming cast of characters! The author’s note stated that she thought the Peachtree Bluff stories were done, til pandemic upheaval inspired one last holiday visit.

Official synopsis:
When the Murphy women are in trouble, they always know they can turn to their mother, Ansley. So when eldest daughter Caroline and her husband, James, announce they are divorcing—and fifteen-year-old daughter Vivi acts out in response—Caroline, at her wits end, can’t think of anything to do besides leave her with Ansley in Peachtree Bluff for the holidays. After all, how much trouble can one teenager get into on a tiny island?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

As the “storm of the century” heads toward Peachtree Bluff, Ansley and her husband, Jack, with Vivi in tow, are grateful they’re planning to leave for the trip of a lifetime. But Vivi’s recklessness forces the trio to shelter in place during the worst hurricane Peachtree has ever seen. With no power, no provisions, and the water rising, the circumstances become dire very quickly…and the Murphy sisters, who evacuated to New York, soon realize it’s up to them to conduct a rescue mission. With the bridges closed and no way to access Peachtree Bluff by land or air, they set sail on Caroline’s boat, The Starlite Sisters, determined to rebuild their beloved town—as well as their family.

This book was wonderful as a stand-alone. While there are three other Peachtree Bluff books (and some of their focal characters can probably be guessed based on references in the holiday book), Christmas in Peachtree Bluff was really about the Murphy family, with just a dash of romance on the side.

Viv, Caroline’s teenage daughter, started out as very unlikable. Her rage at her parents’ divorce was leading her to make some poor choices and act like quite a brat. While her introspection during her transformation seemed especially deep for a 15-year-old, it was acceptable to just have her as a more pleasant human being.

The author’s note made it sound like the series may be done, the holiday book did open up a couple more options for other books that could extend the series. The writing style was conversational, friendly, and engaging, and books about quaint towns and charming people are always a lovely escape.

That being said, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. While it may not be too memorable months from now (or maybe just a bit from the hurricane), it was a nice way to spend a few hours and start thinking about the Christmas-y time coming soon.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is ready for holiday music now. Find out what she’s listening to and reading in her infrequent Instagram posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Christmas in Peachtree Bluff!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 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!

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Litani, by Jess Lourey {ends 10/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I lifted my head slowly, expecting an emotional blow. I was shocked to meet both Crane’s eyes. Blue and sincere and bare to the world.

“I’m really sorry, Frankie,” he said.

I gripped my elbows.

“I’m sorry your dad didn’t tell you everything bad that ever happened to him, but that doesn’t make what he did tell you a lie. Did he tell you he loved you?”

“Yeah.” I sniffed.

“I bet that was true. Did he stick around?”

“For sure.”

“That’s true, too.”

We were both silent for a while. I liked that Crane didn’t try and touch me and make things weird.

There’s a whole lot not right in the town of Litani, Minnesota. Unfortunately, a lot of the truth is wrapped in secrets that 14-year-old Frankie is left to untangle on her own, or she may also fall victim to the evil in the town.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Litani, by Jess Lourey {ends 10/24}
In the summer of ’84, fourteen-year-old Frankie Jubilee is shuttled off to Litani, Minnesota, to live with her estranged mother, a county prosecutor she barely knows. From the start, Frankie senses something uneasy going on in the small town. The locals whisper about The Game, and her mother warns her to stay out of the woods and away from adults.

When a bullying gang of girls invites Frankie to The Game, she accepts, determined to find out what’s really going on in Litani. She’s not the only one becoming paranoid. Hysteria burns through the community. Dark secrets emerge. And Frankie fears that, even in the bright light of day, she might be living among monsters.

A book that isn’t written to be pleasant can still be written to be quite compelling. Reading the story of Litani, MN from Frankie’s perspective was mystifying. Everyone else in town seemed to think they knew exactly what was going on, but no one was willing to share. Frankie really just wants to keep to herself and grieve the loss of her father, but somehow the bad and good about the town engaged her anyway.

It was easy to see the shadow of guilt cast over each of the current and former town members at some point during the story. The author’s note goes a bit into the odd hysteria of child abductions, human sacrifices, and devil worship that made several headlines in the 1980s. Having lived through that time at about the same age as Frankie, there is a vague recollection of these horrifying news stories. 

While the story was not intended to be a "fun" read, it was definitely a page-turner. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The depictions of 1984 and life in a small-town in the midwest were definitely familiar. 

{click here to purchase - only $4.99 for Kindle as of this writing, and free for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a midwest girl who shares some of her life in photos on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 24th, at 11:59pm ET, 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!

Litani, by Jess Lourey

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Eight Perfect Hours, by Lia Louis {ends 10/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

You can see for miles up here. Stretches of houses and buildings, but just on the horizon, hills and lush green trees and blue sky. There’s a particular specific smell up here. The smell of other people’s houses; evidence of other people’s lives. Freshly cut grass of someone’s garden, the smell of frying onions from another flat. I grip the balcony rail and close my eyes. Daisy and I used to do this on her balcony, or at night at a sleepover, the night silent through the open window except for the distant whoosh of motorway traffic far in the distance.

“Where are you, Elle?” she’d ask sleepily, and I’d always make her go first, because she had the best ideas—the best imagination. It’s why she took art. It’s why she wrote the best short stories and poems, in English Lit.

“Oh, I’m in Italy with you,” she’d say, closing her eyes. “We’re celebrating. I just sold this movie script and they’re saying I’m the new Nora Ephron, so I have a shitload of money to spend. We’ll pick up some hot, tortured poets at some dive bar tonight. They’ll romance us.” She would always giggle, as if with glee at the glory of her own little stories. “Come on, Elle, close your eyes. Use your imagination. What do you see?”

Noelle just hasn’t been the same since Daisy died. She can give lots of reasons for putting the needs of other people first, but is she still hesitating from moving on without Daisy?

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Eight Perfect Hours, by Lia Louis {ends 10/16}
On a snowy evening in March, thirty-something Noelle Butterby is on her way back from an event at her old college when disaster strikes. With a blizzard closing off roads, she finds herself stranded, alone in her car, without food, drink, or a working charger for her phone.

All seems lost until Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger also trapped in a nearby car, knocks on her window and offers assistance. What follows is eight perfect hours together, until morning arrives and the roads finally clear. The two strangers part, positive they’ll never see each other again but fate, it seems, has a different plan. As the two keep serendipitously bumping into one another, they begin to realize that perhaps there truly is no such thing as coincidence.

While the amount of coincidence in this book is truly staggering, suspension of disbelief is worth it for the abundance of warm fuzzies that go along with just believing. Daisy is gone, and Noelle struggles to keep her life and her mother’s life on an even keel. They do what they do each day, without much fanfare. Noelle cleans houses on a schedule that lets her be home to help her mom, and her mom is so appreciative, even if her dependence isn’t understandable to others in Noelle’s life. 

Noelle’s charming best friends Charlie and Theo are super-strong believers in fate and true love. As Noelle thinks back to her night spent with the American stranger, Charlie is sure that every coincidence after that is another sign that they’re meant to be. Is she right? Or is rekindling things with her ex the best safe plan for Noelle?

This was such a charming book and reminiscent of the emotionally evocative writing from Lia Louis in her previous novel, Dear Emmie Blue. I’d give this one 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a great contemporary story of families, love, loss, and trusting your heart.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who likes feta cheese with olives, Cherry Coke with Southern Comfort, and a good book with a warm blanket. She also posts reviews on her own blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Eight Perfect Hours!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, October 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified 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!

Eight Perfect Hours, by Lia Louis

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