Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar {ends 9/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

He had invited Gulnaz to lunch today and she, too, was wearing a sweater. At twenty-two degrees Celsius – seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit, Remy’s phone had told him – he was delighting in the weather, happy to be escaping the harsh Ohio winter. But Gulnaz looked at him in horror when he answered the door in a t-shirt. “Are you mad?” she said. “Aren’t you freezing? Or has living in America turned your brain into yogurt?”

“Welcome, Gulnaz,” he said. “And, no, I’m not cold. It’s a balmy seventy-two degrees here. It’s currently five degrees in Ohio.”

“Ae, forget this Fahrenheit nonsense. Talk in Celsius, na, like a normal person,” Gulnaz said as she walked into the living room. “Why must you Americans always be out of step with the rest of the world? You haven’t even embraced the metric system yet.”

Remy grinned. “The perks of being the world’s sole superpower, darling.”

Gulnaz looked around. “Where’s Mum?”

“In her room. Want to come say hello?”

“In a minute.” Gulnaz took Remy’s hand in hers. “Tell me. How are you? How are things since you brought her home?”

Remy’s visit home to India is expected to be a surprise, but he ends up the one most surprised.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar {ends 9/28}
When Remy Wadia left India for the United States, he carried his resentment of his cold and inscrutable mother with him and has kept his distance from her. Years later, he returns to Bombay, planning to adopt a baby from a young pregnant girl—and to see his elderly mother again before it is too late. She is in the hospital, has stopped talking, and seems to have given up on life.

Struck with guilt for not realizing just how ill she had become, Remy devotes himself to helping her recover and return home. But one day in her apartment he comes upon an old photograph that demands explanation. As shocking family secrets surface, Remy finds himself reevaluating his entire childhood and his relationship to his parents, just as he is on the cusp of becoming a parent himself. Can Remy learn to forgive others for their human frailties, or is he too wedded to his sorrow and anger over his parents’ long-ago decisions?

This book truly took family drama to the next level. The story is told from Remy’s viewpoint during his visit to India, with a few of his memories from his childhood in India and college years in the U.S. thrown in. Now married to a woman he met in Ohio in college and ready to start his family, he has pretty set memories of how his life and relationships were with his parents until his father’s passing a few years earlier. 

While visiting India in the hopes of starting a family, he finds out more than he ever thought there was to know about his family growing up, and his opinions and feelings about who his parents were and his role in the family could drastically change. When the untangling of Remy’s past came to fruition in the story, it was a surprise. 

The story was a beautiful and emotional one about family relationships and parental sacrifices. The book earned 3 out of 5 stars and would be enjoyed by those who enjoy family drama stories, and stories about life in India.

{click here to pre-order on Amazon; it will be out on Sept. 26)

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys reading, theater, and watching her kids enjoy their activities. Check out more of what she’s up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, Sept. 28th, 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 Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey {ends 9/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Small, one-of-everything stores used to be the heart of a town. Not any longer. Most of the neighborhood shops had dried up and disappeared, replaced with great, impersonal box stores, or even worse, grocery delivery where you didn’t need to exchange so much as a glance with the person who brought you the food you needed to survive.

He thought the disconnect might be at the root of what was wrong with the world.

The box stores had been a good development for him, of course. Once they arrived, it meant he didn’t have to drive so far to shop anonymously for female supplies. But in the rare occasions when he found himself in the local market, he felt a stab of righteous grief for an imagined better time. 

He watched Setzland drugstore across the street as he shopped. Comstock and the two BCA agents had gone upstairs to Rita Larsen’s apartment. He congratulated himself on placing the tracker on Van’s car, both her blue Toyota RAV4 and the silver Impala she checked out from work. It was shockingly easy to order the tiny black GPS with the magnetic strip, park next to someone, drop your keys, stick the tracker in a wheel well, grab your keys, and be on your way.

Van Reed is an interesting investigator with a traumatic history of her own. Maybe Harry Steinback also has more of a past than we know about so far?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey
Two girls vanished. A woman buried alive. Between two crimes lie decades of secrets yet to be unearthed in a pulse-pounding novel by the Edgar Award–nominated author of Unspeakable Things.

Summer 1980: Despite the local superstition that the Bendy Man haunts the woods, three girls go into a Minnesota forest. Only one comes out, dead silent, her memory gone. The mystery of the Taken Ones captures the nation.

Summer 2022: Cold case detective Van Reed and forensic scientist Harry Steinbeck are assigned a disturbing homicide—a woman buried alive, clutching a heart charm necklace belonging to one of the vanished girls. Van follows her gut. Harry trusts in facts. They’re both desperate to catch a killer before he kills again. They have something else in common: each has ties to the original case in ways they’re reluctant to share.

As Van and Harry connect the crimes of the past and the present, Van struggles with memories of her own nightmarish childhood—and the fear that uncovering the truth of the Taken Ones will lead her down a path from which she, too, may never return.

Van Reed doesn’t have any real friends. Since her previous work partner died, she’s been working alone, while being shunned and then chased out from her old job where her partner’s reputation was what had kept her safe until he was gone. 

At her new job with the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehensionit’s a real thing), Van is attempting to re-investigate and hopefully solve cold cases. When a new murder victim is found, she’s soon tied to a cold case. It leaves Van working with one of her former co-workers that she was glad to get away from at the Minneapolis police department.

Luckily Van has a new ally in Harry Steinback. He’s a science guy—primarily there to solve cases based on provable facts, but he seems willing to trust some of Van’s hunches - at least far enough to investigate them.

This book was so good! The investigation of the current murder and concurrent review of the cold case worked really well together, since the cases were clearly linked. The side stories were also engaging and surprisingly connected. The non-top action and intrigue earned 5 stars out of 5, and a strong recommendation for the books to come in this new series about Reed and Steinback. Worth mentioning as well, though, that the original crime and Van’s background story was directly against children, in case that’s something a reader would rather avoid.

{click here to purchase on Amazon; it will be released September 19 and is only $4.99 for Kindle at the time of this writing}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader of all the things. She enjoys snuggling with cozy blankets and a good book, or sitting in the sun surrounded by her flower garden to read. Yummy snacks are always a fun addition as well. Check out some of her favorite spots and books on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Taken Ones!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 26th, at 11:59pm EST, and the 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 Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood {ends 9/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

On a sunny Sunday at the end of March, Edith and Woodrow took a drive down to Mount Vernon. George Washington was Woodrow’s hero and most important role model, and he wanted to consult with his spirit.

“You have your Ouija board, I have this.” He opened his arms to encompass the wide view of the Potomac. They had toured the mansion and the burial crypt, but it was the sloping back lawn above the river that entranced Woodrow. “I feel him looking out there, determined to fight for freedom. I feel him envisioning how a peaceful nation will be formed from small states and large ones, all having a voice in the whole.” He sat on the grass, still stiff in its winter brown, and patted the spot next to him for her to join him.

She sat, the ground hard and cold under her bottom. “As you want for Europe.”

“It’s a good model for them, don’t you think?” He pulled up his long legs, tenting his knees, and tilted his head back to look into the sky. “I have to write the speech I had hoped would never be given.”

She knew the date had been set for an address to a joint session of Congress. He would ask them to declare war.

This was an interesting historical story told from a unique perspective.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood {ends 9/16}
Socialite Edith Bolling has been in no hurry to find a new husband since she was widowed, preferring to fill her days with good friends and travel. But the enchanting courting of President Woodrow Wilson wins Edith over and she becomes the First Lady of the United States. The position is uncomfortable for the fiercely independent Edith, but she's determined to rise to the challenges of her new marriage—from the bloodthirsty press to the shadows of the first World War.

Warming to her new role, Edith is soon indispensable to her husband's presidency. She replaces the staff that Woodrow finds distracting, and discusses policy with him daily. Throughout the war, she encrypts top-secret messages and despite lacking formal education becomes an important adviser. When peace talks begin in Europe, she attends at Woodrow's side. But just as the critical fight to ratify the treaty to end the war and create a League of Nations in order to prevent another, Woodrow's always-delicate health takes a dramatic turn for the worse. In her determination to preserve both his progress and his reputation, Edith all but assumes the presidency herself.

Now, Edith must contend with the demands of a tumultuous country, the secrets of Woodrow's true condition, and the potentially devastating consequences of her failure. At once sweeping and intimate,
The President's Wife is an astonishing portrait of a courageous First Lady and the sacrifices she made to protect her husband and her country at all costs.

Reading about Woodrow Wilson’s presidency along with his personal life from his second wife’s perspective was so enlightening! While they were portrayed as discussing and agreeing on many of his presidential policies, the points they did not agree on were even more interesting. With that said, when she was doing the most to assist in his presidency, the author made it sound like she really did try to continue making decisions in what President Wilson had told her were in the best interests of the country.

Edith Bolling Gait Wilson was also an engaging character on her own. Her reactions to the necessary appearances and wealth of experiences as the First Lady were amusing, especially while she stressed that this public life was never what she was after—she truly loved her second husband, who happened to be the President.

Overall, this was a great historical fiction with likable characters and stories that taught a lot. It earned 3 out of 5 stars, and this reader learned a great deal about this time and these important people from history.

{click here to purchase from Amazon}

Becki Bayley, like Edith Bolling Gait Wilson, is the second wife to her second husband. She enjoys hanging out at home alone reading with her cats and some good snacks (Becki, not Edith). Check out a few shots from her daily life on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The President's Wife!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 16th, 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 President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC, by Shout Mouse Press Young Writers {ends 9/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The Storm, The Rainbow, and Valentina - Back in the Day

My abuela taught us not to give up. She was born in the same pueblito as me. Her parents had nine babies and she was the only baby girl my bisabuelos had. We lived with her in Mexico and she always shared her stories with us. I still remember one of her stories, that when she was still very small, her mother taught her how to make tortillas and do laundry. Her mother would tell her, “Ya estás grande para que me ayudes con las labores de la casa.” And so, even as a little girl, she helped with the house chores.

My abuela didn’t go to school. She learned how to count, and one of her brothers taught her how to read a little bit, but her parents said girls should be at home. A woman’s responsibility was to take care of the house and the kids, while the men went out to work. I loved my abuela, but I’m glad I wasn’t raised like her, and I’m glad she didn’t raise my mom or Tía Gabriela like her either. My abuelita taught them how to be strong and brave. They are not the type to give up easily.

These stories brought back all the 2020 memories, with new perspectives of how it changed us all.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC {ends 9/9}
In this collaborative novel, ten diverse young writers from Washington, DC recreate the historic year 2020 from their perspectives, through fictional stories inspired by their own lived experiences. Told chronologically from the onset of the pandemic to the insurrection of January 6th, their stories of change and resilience are accompanied by maps, social media, original artwork, and real-life headlines to create an immersive experience of an unprecedented coming of age.

You’ll meet Faiza, a Muslim high school student, who struggles to celebrate Ramadan during the worst of the COVID-19 shutdowns. You’ll protest with Roman, the only Black student in his class, whose relationships are challenged in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. You’ll face the fraught 2020 election with Dennis, a young Nigerian immigrant, as he questions a democracy that seems to count him out.

By examining the shards of this shattered year, these authors explore “what it cost us” through stories that both acknowledge loss and celebrate what got us through.

While short stories usually aren’t a favorite of this reader, each of these unique and evocative stories vividly recounted specific 2020 memories. Watching the world shut down and the fear of COVID’s spread, virtual learning, the loss of contact with those we were comfortable with in everyday life, the BLM protests around George Floyd’s murder, developing a new normal, and the January 6 riots—as far apart and disconnected as we all sometimes felt, so much of what we were going through was nationwide. 

Knowing the stories were from true minority perspectives made them that much more powerful. Every generation has a before and after moment, and right now, 2020 is it for so many young adults. These short stories help people really remember and consider where they were when life changed for so many.

This book was a solid 5 stars. It is a recounting of vivid memories for so many, but should soon be required reading for anyone who was too young or doesn’t know what they were doing when the world stopped and our new normal was born. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley worked until the world shut down, while wondering in the final moments what was next, and if she should skip a work shift to buy groceries and toilet paper. While she probably didn’t remember to post much then, you can see what she’s up to now on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of What It Cost Us!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 9th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Book Review: Jane Doe, by Victoria Helen Stone

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I gasp as Steven pulls into his driveway. “Oh my God, what a beautiful yard!”

“Thank you.” The garage door rises and I see that the garage is perfectly clean, tools hung on walls and shelves neatly lined with boxes.

“Everything is so pretty. And it seems like such a great neighborhood.”

“It’s nice. There are a lot of older folks here, so there aren’t too many asshole kids around. But the school district is one of the best, so home values are solid.”

He’s so cold and practical that I have trouble imagining what free spirit Meg saw in him. She never thought about home values or school districts during her walks around town. She liked pretty trim and brightly painted porches. But opposites attract, I suppose. His serious and responsible nature must have felt like safety to her.

Sometimes it’s beautiful when karma has a name. This time, karma’s name is Jane, and Steven Hepsworth is about to pay for his bad treatment of another woman.

Official synopsis:
Jane Doe book review, Victoria Helen Stone
Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

This quick read introduces a unique character: Jane, who repeatedly recognizes herself as a sociopath and isn’t ashamed to keep telling the reader about how she’s getting through life by pretending to be like other people while not experiencing any real emotions of her own. 

Jane’s ability to read people and anticipate who they want her to be makes her the perfect woman to exact revenge on the man who broke her college best friend’s heart. She has no problem getting close to him so she can decide how to most efficiently and effectively ruin him. 

A really fun book (not sure what that says about this reader!), it could be recommended for those who enjoy contemporary psychological thrillers and stories of what may look like female empowerment. It earned 3 out of 5 stars, and Problem Child, the second book in the Jane series, has already received great reviews as well.

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

Becki Bayley is a mom and wife who enjoys reading, spending time with her family, and relaxing outside in her flower garden. Check out reviews of other books she’s read on her blog,

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland {ends 8/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Boston, June 1854
The guards gave Anthony a new suit that morning. After so many days wearing the same rank outfits all the time, he was glad for something clean to put on. And the clothes they gave him were fine. The only time he saw Black folk dressed so costly was when they were being sold at auction for house slaving. He took his time putting on the trousers and the sharp coat, and he found himself still hoping. If they gave him all those fine fabrics and even a top hat to wear, that maybe signified more good was to come.

But it turned out those clothes were meant just to show folks outside that he’d been treated well, that maybe the slave life wasn’t so bad after all.

When the commissioner announced his decision, Anthony could scarcely believe it, even though he heard it clear with his very own ears.

Life as a former slave in a divided country presented many challenges and conflicts for all of the country’s citizens.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland {ends 8/22}
A passionate advocate of abolition from her earliest years, Ann’s activism was derailed just before her twenty-fourth birthday, when she fell sick with a mysterious illness. In order to protect her fragile health, her husband, the famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips, forbade her from joining any further anti-slavery outings. Even so, when fugitive slave Anthony Burns is apprehended in Boston, Ann is determined to help him, no matter what it costs her.  

With a particular focus on the predicament of nineteenth-century women who wanted to effect change despite the restrictions society imposed on them, The Stockwell Letters takes a deep dive into the harrowing conditions of the antebellum South and the obstacles faced by abolitionists who fought tirelessly to eradicate slavery. A fast-paced, arresting recounting of America’s not-so-distant history, the story will stay with readers long after the final page.
Told from the viewpoints of Anthony Burns, Colette, and Ann Phillips, this story gave fascinating perspective on abolitionist activists in Boston in the 1830s through the 1850s (with one last follow-up in the mid-1880s). The title of the book wasn’t obvious, and didn’t really occur to this reader until the book was done, but when it made sense it was excellent.

Anthony Burns starts out the story as a slave who is being rented out by his owner to a business-owner in another town. His escape is what starts most of the action in the story. Colette lives in the city where Anthony is working. She likes to think that she has a progressive view of human rights, and is sneaking around to teach her maid, Adelia, to read. When they first meet Anthony, she wants to add him to their classes since he has expressed an interest in reading as well. Ann Phillips was raised in an abolitionist family and married famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips. 

The story of the three main characters and the commitment to and evolution of their ideals is fascinating. While the story is based on their common beliefs, why they believed what they did, or how they interpreted their actions based on these beliefs, varies. Overall, the book was enlightening and earned 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully told historical fiction, with some of the characters actually based in fact. There was more than average history available about what happened with Anthony Burns, and the author researched it well.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley enjoys writing, reading, and snuggling with her two cats. Catch a glimpse of what she’s up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Stockwell Letters!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 22nd at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen and 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 Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Fires, by Denise Mina {ends 8/15}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley 

This is how Savonarola knows that he has lost Florence: not one of the apartments overlooking the Piazza della Signoria has a candle flickering inside. The apartments seem deserted but they’re not. There’s nowhere to go any more: the inns are closed and the gambling dens are all shut. People must be home. In one room a figure is shifting, watching, looking straight at him. It’s a man, he thinks, a man with his arms crossed. At this same event last year all the windows were bright; a lot of them were open for people to watch the march come in for the big bonfire. Last year was better.

Savonarola is losing the city.

Of course we’ll never know what was really in Savonarola’s mind, but this story makes some pretty good guesses.

Official synopsis: 
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Fires, by Denise Mina {ends 8/15}
Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar living in Florence at the end of the fifteenth century. An anti-corruption campaigner, his hellfire preaching increasingly spilled over into tirades against all luxuries that tempted his followers toward sin. These sermons led to the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities”—a series of fires lit throughout Florence for the incineration of everything from books, extravagant clothing, playing cards, musical instruments, make-up, and mirrors to paintings, tapestries, and sculptures.

Railing against the vice and avarice of the ruling Medici family, he was instrumental in their removal from power—and for a short time became the puritanical leader of the city. After turning his attention to corruption within the Catholic Church, he was first excommunicated and then executed by a combination of hanging and being burned at the stake.

Just as in Rizzio—her latest novel with Pegasus Crime—Denise Mina brings a modern take to this fascinating historical story, drawing parallels between the febrile atmosphere of medieval Florence and the culture wars of the present day. In dramatizing the life and last days of Savonarola, she explores the downfall of the original architect of cancel culture and, in the process, explores the never-ending tensions between wealth, inequality, and freedom of speech that so dominate our modern world.

This enlightening and imaginative re-telling of the late fifteenth century really brought a not necessarily popular or well-known time in history to life. From a childhood that may have led to Savonarola’s passion for sharing his truth, to his actual practice preaching to get his message out, this book made the struggles in Savonarola’s life feel understandable and relevant.

While not a long book, the journeys, sermons, and confrontations of Savonarola as a force within the Church and outside of it were fascinating. No chapter or incident was too long to bore a reader, but instead just gave a hint at the surface of the characters’ lives that left the reader’s imagination open for more.

The book was quite enjoyable and earned 4 out of 5 stars while also teaching a lot about a time and place with which this reader was previously unfamiliar. Those who enjoy historical fiction, especially with a religious angle, would like this book.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who is married with two children. She loves the theater, her flower garden, and watching her kids enjoy their lives. Check out other book reviews and their activities on her blog,


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 15th, at 11:59pm ET, 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!

Three Fires, by Denise Mina

Share buttons


Welcome to Books I Think You Should Read, which focuses on book reviews, author interviews, giveaways, and more.
Get new posts by email:

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Liz has read 0 books toward her goal of 25 books.

Blog Archive