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

Monday, November 16, 2020

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 23rd, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Open to BOTH U.S. and Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Fortune and Glory, by Janet Evanovich

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 18th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Museum of Forgotten Memories, by Anstey Harris

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, November 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified by email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Preserve, by Ariel S. Winter

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: You Can Go Home Now, by Michael Elias {ends 11/4}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The women in this sorority don’t go to classes, football games, have sex, drink alcohol, and smoke weed at parties with boys becoming men. Here in the shelter are women who, in different ways, have experienced men as people who abuse, batter, and sometimes try to kill them. In this sorority, I sleep in the basement. I wake up, climb the stairs, and emerge into another life: I have coffee with the women who have just seen their children off to school, or are assembling the ones who are being homeschooled because their lives are at risk from homicidal fathers or vulnerable to kidnapping by less-than-homicidal fathers. I learn that daddy and husband are often not terms of endearment. In this ordered and tremulous environment, we go over kitchen and housekeeping duties. There are schedules and timetables posted for whose turn it is to buy food, cook, or clean.

Nina Karim has made revenge the focus of her life. Can she ever achieve it? And if she does, what’s next?

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: You Can Go Home Now, by Michael Elias {ends 11/4}
“My name is Nina Karim. I am a single thirty-one-year-old woman who likes cats, Ryan Reynolds movies, beautiful sunsets, walking on a wintry beach holding hands with a tall, caring, lightly bearded third-wave feminist. Yeah, right.”

Nina is a tough Queens detective with a series of cold case homicides on her desk – men whose widows had the same alibi: they were living in Artemis, a battered women’s shelter, when their husbands were killed.

Nina goes undercover into Artemis. Though she is playing the victim, she’s anything but. Nina knows about violence and the bullies who rely on it because she’s experienced it in her own life.

In this heart-pounding thriller Nina confronts the violence of her own past in Artemis where she finds solidarity with a community of women who deal with abusive and lethal men in their own way.

For the women living in Artemis there is no absolute moral compass, there is the law and there is survival. And, for Nina, who became a cop so she could find the man who murdered her father, there is only revenge.

This book started out a little slow (besides the murder scene before chapter 1). The main character’s narration style was a little choppy with some hard-to-follow segues. But about halfway through, the readers knew everything we needed to know and the book took off!

While the relationship between Nina and her boyfriend, Bobby was amusing, several of the police department characters didn’t seem necessary. When an officer appeared later in the book after an introduction in the first half, it was hard to remember how they were involved. It didn’t change the excitement as the book progressed. Once the action started coming together, there was no turning away. The two seemingly independent story lines (Nina’s quest for avenging her father’s death, and the murders potentially linked to a domestic violence shelter) crashed together in a totally unexpected way.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. One thing that is always refreshing and makes a book feel completely rewarding is when justice prevails. This book brings the justice, in more ways than one. I’d recommend this for fans of police procedurals and vigilante justice.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who loves her husband, her kids, and her cats. She is registered to vote and will be completing her ballot any day now. Check out other book reviews by her at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of You Can Go Home Now!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 4th, at 11:59pm EST, and 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!

You Can Go Home Now, by Michael Elias

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Matrimony, Inc.: From Personal Ads to Swiping Right, a Story of America Looking for Love, by Francesca Beauman (10 winners, ends 11/2}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Marriage ads reached Ohio by the 1840s, and within a decade they were in evidence across the border in Indiana too. In 1852, James Hanes turned to the Richmond Palladium to find “a lady worth a few thousand dollars, of common sense, with a taste for the fine arts, a lover of science, about the medium size, with an open, cheerful countenance, affectionate in disposition, and capable of taking care of a large family.” In the Indiana Herald ten years later, “a young man of correct business habits” was looking for “any young lady of fair intellectual endowments, an ordinary share of beauty, who would not be averse to a personal superintendence of household matters.” He almost—almost—manages to make the offer of becoming his unpaid housekeeper sound appealing.

Whether they’ve been socially acceptable or not, personal ads have always been interesting! Several of the qualities people look for in mates never really seem to change too much.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Matrimony, Inc.: From Personal Ads to Swiping Right, a Story of America Looking for Love, by Francesca Beauman (10 winners, ends 11/2}
Have you ever used a dating app or website? Then you have more in common than you know with lonely homesteaders in 18th century New England. At once heartwarming and heartbreaking, Matrimony, Inc. reveals the unifying thread that weaves its way through not just marriage and relationships over the centuries, but American social history itself: advertising for love.

Amazingly, America’s first personal ad appeared in the Boston Evening Post as early as 1759. A “person who flatters himself that he shall not be thought disagreeable” was in search of a “young lady, between the age of eighteen and twenty-three, of a middling stature, brown hair, of good Morals…” As family-arranged marriages fell out of fashion, "Husband Wanted" or "Seeking Wife" ads were soon to be found in every state in the nation.

From the woman in a Wisconsin newspaper who wanted “no brainless dandy or foppish fool” to the man with a glass eye who placed an ad in the New York Times hoping to meet a woman with a glass eye, the many hundreds of personal ads that author Francesca Beauman has uncovered offer an extraordinary glimpse into the history of our hearts’ desires, as well as a unique insight into American life as the frontier was settled and the cities grew. Personal ads played a surprisingly vital role in the West: couple by couple, shy smile by shy smile, letter by letter from a dusty, exhausted miner in California to a bored, frustrated seamstress in Ohio. Get ready for a new perspective on the making of modern America, a hundred words of typesetter’s blurry black ink at a time.

“So anxious are our settlers for wives that they never ask a single lady her age. All they require is teeth,” declared the Dubuque Iowa News in 1838 in a state where men outnumbered women three to one. While the dating pools of 21st century New York, Chicago or San Francisco might not be quite so dentally-fixated, Matrimony Inc. will put idly swiping right on Tinder into fascinating and vividly fresh historical context. What do women look for in a man? What do men look for in a woman? And how has this changed over the past 250 years?

This was an entertaining examination of personal ads through the years. The author’s snark responding to some of the ads was quite amusing. The ads themselves were usually too small and blurry to read, but the excerpts she chose definitely brought the history to life.

Some favorite stories included from the history of personal ads were those of men, women, and couples sometimes using personal ads to target and attract particular victims—usually those with money and few contacts who would check up on them. The stories of some of the crimes they committed, and how they were finally caught, were interesting.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The history was a bit dry in parts, but the author’s voice and sassy humor lightened the tone. This would be a good book for those who enjoy non-fiction and social commentaries.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley has been married for 14 years, and originally met her husband when he attended college with her brother. She sometimes shares pictures of her family on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

10—yes, TEN!—of my lucky readers will win an Advance Reader Copy of Matrimony, Inc.!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 2nd, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted 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!

Matrimony, Inc., by Francesca Beaumont

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allen Wolf {ends 10/29}

Book review by: Becki Bayley

Tell me about…

a time when a friend surprised you with something.

OR

something you enjoy doing.

OR

someone you think is funny.


Imagine honestly responding to each of these prompts. Or, if the coin toss indicates, telling a convincing but untrue story about the same prompt.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allan Wolf {ends 10/29}
You’ll laugh out loud as you and your friends and family try to fool each other with hilarious stories from your lives. After you choose a question from a card, the secret flip of the coin tells you if your answer should be true or made up.

When you hear a story, vote points on if you think they’re telling the truth or pulling your leg. You’ll win points if you’re right but lose them if you’re wrong. Think you can bluff your friends and family? Don’t let them fool you! Score enough points, and you win!

This game was more fun than expected. Most of the prompts are about experiences or stories about other people in the storyteller’s life. Essentially, the storyteller picks a prompt from the card (one card shown above), then flips a coin to determine—for their knowledge only—if they’ll be telling the truth or making up a story (and the rules specify that the whole essence of the story must be false, not just a few key details changed to delete the "truth" of the story).

The kids who played this game with me LOVED it. They’re 9 and 13 years old, and were as entertained by guessing if other stories were true or false as by telling their own stories. In addition to the actual rules for the game, there were also alternatives offered for a timed game, a team game, or playing with coins instead of points, among other options.

Overall, we’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars, and the kids are excited to know when we can play again. Since there is no physical interaction between players, the game would also work well using video-conferencing for those who live far away or are unable to meet in person.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a mom of two and a school crossing guard. When she is not reading, she is snacking or posting at http://SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of You're Pulling My Leg! Junior. Winner can also choose if they'd like the Junior edition or the adults edition.

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 29th, 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!

You're Pulling My Leg! Junior: The Ultimate Storytelling Game, by Allen Wolf

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Prospects of a Woman, by Wendy Voorsanger {ends 10/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Show me how to use it,” she said.

From a stool in the pine grove, Nate explained how to stuff powder into the Hawken and ram a wad of grass down the barrel with a rod, like he’d been shooting his whole life, when she knew he’d spent his childhood in a Cambridge townhouse. His knowledge of rifles ended with stuffing the barrel, so she rolled up her sleeves, setting up targets of pine cones and stickers, imitating the shooting position she’d seen her father use when hunting deer back on the orchard in Concord. She’d grown strong in the West, and handling the shotgun proved easy, even with the kickback. She practiced shooting at the targets and reloading the barrel until her face smeared with gunpowder.

“We need some help,” said Nate, running a hand through his blond hair growing out long.

“I know,” she said, resetting the targets.

“Digging. The two of us won’t do.”

“I know!” she said, irritated at him for explaining like she was dim-witted. “That’s why I’m working on getting us something to eat.”

She threw the small sack of gunpowder over her shoulder and set off into the woods in search of food with Yellow Dog loping behind.

“Be careful, ‘Lizbeth!” he called out.

Historical fiction bringing out a woman’s perspective of the migration to the California gold rush? While there are certainly as many stories as there were prospectors, this one was definitely fascinating.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Prospects of a Woman, by Wendy Voorsanger {ends 10/28}
Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. But she soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought—and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious Californio. Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness. A gripping and illuminating window into life in the Old West, Prospects of a Woman is the story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy.


Elisabeth Parker honestly isn’t a very likable character. Sometimes that can make the whole book unenjoyable, but in this case, every time she made a choice, there was seldom an obvious better one. Surviving the western frontier in the mid-1800s was not a likable existence in many ways.

The story of Elisabeth Parker’s adventures out west is intriguing and well-written. She quickly has to put aside what she considers her role as a lady, and learn an entirely different skill set for survival. She learns not only how to shoot, how to dig for gold, and modification of her wardrobe to more effectively perform these tasks, she also perfects how to use her femininity to help turn the odds in her favor (without sacrificing her honor), and about the additional rights California provides a woman without the consent of her husband or father. One of the more amusing aspects of the book was the sharing of Miss Parker’s letters to Louisa May Alcott. In her letters, the reader sees what Miss Parker’s dream existence out West would have been (passed off as fact to keep her friend from worrying).

The Prospects of a Woman is a unique and interesting telling of a woman’s struggles to prosper in a whole new world that she previously knew nothing about. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for anyone with an interest in this time period, or historical fiction in general. 

{click here to purchase - only $9.49 for Kindle currently!}

Becki Bayley appreciates her heated mattress pad, caffeine in the morning, and the convenience of grocery delivery. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Prospects of a Woman!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and 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!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Interference, by Brad Parks {ends 10/25}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“So let me get this straight,” Emmett said, having hurried to Baker Tower at the urging of Beppe Valentino. “This woman and Professor Bronik, they’ve both been infected by this quantum virus, and now she has quantum ESP?”

“I wouldn’t call it ESP,” Beppe said. “She can’t tell what he’s thinking. It’s more, she can feel his presence.”

They were sitting on the sixth floor of the stacks, huddled in two chairs by the window, talking in low voices.

One floor above them, still ensconced in her study carrel, was Sheena Aiyagari, the young woman who wasn’t missing after all.

Reading about quantum physics feels smart. Sometimes something can be written so it is obviously over the reader’s head, or with the assumption that the reader is smart enough to get it. In this case, the descriptions about quantum physics were almost understandable.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Interference, by Brad Parks {ends 10/25}
Quantum physicist Matt Bronik is suffering from strange, violent seizures that medical science seems powerless to explain—much to the consternation of his wife, Brigid.

Matt doesn’t think these fits could be related to his research, which he has always described as benign and esoteric. That, it turns out, is not quite true: Matt has been prodding the mysteries of the quantum universe, with terrible repercussions for his health. And perhaps even for humanity as a whole.

Then, in the midst of another seizure, Matt disappears. When foul play is feared, there is no shortage of suspects. Matt’s research had gained the attention of Chinese competitors, an unscrupulous billionaire, and the Department of Defense, among others.

With Matt’s life in clear danger, Brigid sets out to find him. Will Matt be killed before she reaches him, or could the physics that endangered him actually be used to save his life?

What an unexpected book! While the whole "quantum physics" angle seemed to suggest a lot of sci-fi to the story line, there were several old-fashioned twists and turns from human interactions and motivations. Without spoiling any surprises, don’t think you need to enjoy scientific theories to enjoy this book.

The characters were multi-faceted and believable. A lot of interactions were influenced by the fact that the main character’s wife was hard of hearing. Imagine trying to find your way through crisis situations while relying on other people acknowledging your need for additional accommodations, or by reading their lips. Her stress was definitely understandable. The lead missing persons detective also seemed emotionally involved to a great degree, as his wife had recently died. His compassion for the situation of the main character and his wife came through vividly.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The plot and its developments were intricate and unexpected. The characters had a depth and dimension that really compelled the reader to keep going and find out how it all would end.

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

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading (of course), playing Candy Crush and Nonograms, and watching corny movies. She also enjoys keeping up with other book bloggers through her personal blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 25th, 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!


Interference, by Brad Parks

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith {ends 10/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

JuJu Davis had been located at another girlfriend’s home in Grand Crossing, a similarly tough neighborhood just north of Chatham. When the tactical unit had breached the small apartment, they’d found him stretched out on the sofa, eating deep dish and playing a video game. The girlfriend was taking a shower before her afternoon shirt at Walmart. He had been apprehended without incident and brought down to the Second District at Fifty-First and Wentworth. I stood with Burke as two of his men tag-teamed the interrogation. JuJu wore a black tracksuit with crisp white sneakers. His hair had been neatly braided tight to his scalp. He was a large man with wide shoulders and a massive head. The back of both of his hands had been tatted. He sat nonchalantly across from officers Novack and Adkins.

“How do you know Chopper McNair?” Officer Novack asked. He was the smaller of the two, with a muscular build that bulged out of his Kevlar vest. His dark hair had been boxed into a buzz cut. Typically, in these interrogations, the aggressive partner took the first round.

“I don’t know him,” JuJu said. “Never heard of ‘im. Never seen ‘im. Don’t know who the fuck you talkin’ about.”

There’s something to be said for doing the right thing. Ashe Cayne is now a private investigator instead of a detective with the Chicago Police Department so he can decide and act for what is right, instead of having to do what his bosses tell him.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith {ends 10/24}
Former Chicago detective Ashe Cayne is desperate for redemption. After refusing to participate in a police department cover-up involving the death of a young black man, Cayne is pushed out of the force. But he won’t sit quietly on the sidelines: he’s compelled to fight for justice as a private investigator…even if it means putting himself in jeopardy.

When a young woman, Tinsley Gerrigan, goes missing, her wealthy parents from the North Shore hire Cayne to find her. As Cayne looks into her life and past, he uncovers secrets Tinsley’s been hiding from her family. Cayne fears he may never find Tinsley alive.

His worries spike when Tinsley’s boyfriend is found dead—another black man murdered on the tough Chicago streets. Cayne must navigate his complicated relationships within the Chicago PD, leveraging his contacts and police skills to find the missing young woman, see justice done, and earn his redemption.

Ashe Cayne is a likable hero. He was a Chicago police detective and luckily still has a few friends with the department. They prove quite handy in his new role as a private investigator. But even working for himself, he still has an unquenchable desire for justice, even when he’s no longer getting paid. While he expects that the original case of finding the Gerrigan’s rich daughter is no longer really an issue, it’s already unraveled a few more threads, and he needs to fix those for his own peace of mind.

There was another random story line that didn’t seem to fit in as well. Cayne was previously aware of a case with an abusive Catholic priest with a trail of victims. While the Church told him he was no longer a Father, Cayne finds out he’s still preaching and up to his old tricks. His story line never really intersected with the missing person’s case, but it did show a bit more of Cayne’s thirst for justice.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and probably enjoy reading the next one. Sometimes a crime solved within a few hundred pages can be very satisfying in a world of chaos.

{click here to purchase - currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley remembers when Netflix mailed you DVDs and ATMs gave $10 bills. She is still able to walk up and down the stairs at her house, though. Check out more of her book reviews and other adventures at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Unspoken, by Ian K. Smith

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry {ends 10/22}

Sophie tugged the dangling string of her desk lamp until daylight faded. She kept working until, finally, deep in the black belly of night, she succeeded in converting every description of motion into one independent of time. She reclined against the straight back of her chair. She'd felt Jake with her for years. She'd seen them together every day. But right then, as she stared at the last page forming incontrovertible proof of block theory, Sophie saw all of him. She saw not just one moment, but all of their time together suspended around her because all of it was happening now. 

I haven't been reading a lot this summer (mostly just been watching TV, actually), but a new Madeleine Henry book crossed my desk (Kindle), I knew I definitely wanted to read it ASAP. I reviewed her first novel Breathe In, Cash Out last year, and really liked it, so it was unsurprising that I really liked this one as well.

Official synopsis:

<a class="e-widget no-button" href="https://gleam.io/YOsmE/the-love-proof-by-madeleine-henry" rel="nofollow">The Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry</a> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js" async="true"></script>
A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.

Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades,
The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

I literally whipped through this book in about 1 to 1.5 days, because I wanted to know what happened to the characters. Love stories that span decades are unusual; usually there is a meet-cute, happiness, then some sort of drama, and then the characters get back together again—this was not the exact case here.

Sophie meets Jake when they are both freshmen at Yale. Jake can tell that Sophie is unique, like him—they both have unique minds, and are able to fully concentrate on their studies. They date for four years, until graduation, and Sophie is thinking they will be together forever.

To say anymore would be to give spoilers, so I will leave my synopsis at that. Sophie now finds herself with a lot of time on her hands, and she delves back into her physics work, trying to prove something called "block theory" (basically that all time is relative, and things that happened in the past are happening concurrently as we speak). 

I really loved this book, except that I thought the ending could have been expanded a bit; otherwise, it would have been a 5 out of 5 star book for me, which I don't often give.

Movie version picks:
  • young Sophie Jones: Saiorse Ronan - it's mentioned that she's blonde, I believe.
  • young Jake Kristopher: Ansel Elgort, Daniel Radcliffe, Nicholas Hoult, or Logan Lerman. 
  • middle-aged Jake Kristopher: Sam Page (from The Bold Type), although they might have to age him a bit.
  • middle-aged Sophie Jones: Sandra Bullock or Marisa Tomei (but would have to dye their hair blonde).

4.5 stars out of 5.

{click here to pre-order - it will be out on February 9, 2021}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Love Proof!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 22nd, 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 Love Proof, by Madeleine Henry

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson {ends 10/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Berlin had fallen, but the fighting continued. As Api moved between the bunker and the clinic, he still saw plenty of violence. On Tuesday, May 1, he wrote hastily in his diary, often crossing out lines because he was too exhausted to find the right words. “Toward 1:30 a.m., terrible carpet bombing. Our quarter is burning on all sides and on all ends. Nowhere are the streets passable because of rubble, smoke, and flames. We are imprisoned by the fire.” A little later, he voiced his anger and frustration: “And the executioners in their bunkers,” as he called the Nazi leadership, “criminals!! Rome, Milano, and other foreign cities were given up to spare them, and they allow their own people to perish like dogs with hunger and fire and fratricide. The houses already are looted by civilians or tramps. Several times a day we have to destroy weapons and munitions, which our own troops drop off by our building, since we have no communication with any department.” Api was referring to one of the first orders the Soviets put out, that all weapons had to be turned in immediately. He even gave up his old ornamental sword from World War I.

When Gabrielle Robinson found her grandfather’s diaries from his time in Berlin at the end of World War II, she was excited to learn more about the kind man who helped raise her. She re-examined whether to share, and then how to share this information when she discovered he was also a member of the Nazi party.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson
After her mother’s death, Gabrielle Robinson found two diaries her grandfather had kept while serving as doctor during the fall of Berlin 1945. He recorded his daily struggle to survive in the ruined city where little could be done for the wounded without water, light, and medications. But then the diaries revealed something that hit Robinson like a punch to the gut: Api, her beloved grandfather, had been a Nazi.

Robinson juxtaposes her grandfather’s harrowing account with her memories of his loving protection after the war and raises disturbing questions about the political responsibility we all carry as individuals. Moving and provocative, Api’s Berlin Diaries offers a firsthand and personal perspective on the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.


As the author knew before she started writing her grandfather’s story, this book spent equal time answering questions about German’s lives at the end of the war, and causing everyone to question their thoughts on good vs evil and contemplating carefully if a German citizen who was a member of the Nazi party was complicit in party’s atrocities.

The story is told beautifully, including snippets from Api’s diaries, filling in the blanks with how Api probably spent his days, and quotes and excerpts from books researched about the same time period. The author presents a well-rounded emotional journey of Api’s likely experiences at the end of the war and during the occupation immediately following.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. So many stories have been told of people in their varied roles throughout World War II. This feels like a heartbreaking, average story of a man who joined the Nazi party as many of his contemporaries did, but never displayed anything but compassion and a desire to continue his contributions to those in the community around him. It is a unique story for those who enjoy World War II biographies and memoirs. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys reading, struggle snuggles with her two black cats, and consuming salty snack foods and Cherry Coke. She also posts on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Api's Berlin Diaries!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 21st, 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!

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, by Gabrielle Robinson

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne {ends 10/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Solar and I exchange few words as he navigates the canals to an older residential neighborhood in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. We pass a marine-patrol boat, and I casually wave and receive one in return. It would seem the arriving police never saw us leave.

I’m still trying to figure George Solar out. His interest in the case is suspicious. Either he’s after the money, or he’s really a retired lawman vigilante trying to right unfinished business.

The latter I find hard to believe. Sure, I could be looked upon as a vigilante of sorts, but that’s only because my life is on the line.

Or is it?

This is the first book in a new series about an Underwater Investigation Unit formed to solve the crimes in this book. Sloan McPherson and George Solar are ready to solve crimes, primarily with clues found deep underwater.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne {ends 10/12}
Coming from scandalous Florida treasure hunters and drug smugglers, Sloan McPherson is forging her own path, for herself and for her daughter, out from under her family’s shadow. An auxiliary officer for Lauderdale Shores PD, she’s the go-to diver for evidence recovery. Then Sloan finds a fresh kill floating in a canal—a woman whose murky history collides with Sloan’s. Their troubling ties are making Sloan less a potential witness than a suspect. And her colleagues aren’t the only ones following every move she makes. So is the killer.

Stalked by an assassin, pitted against a ruthless cartel searching for a lost fortune, and under watch within her ranks, Sloan has only one ally: the legendary DEA agent who put Sloan’s uncle behind bars. He knows just how deep corruption runs—and the kind of danger Sloan is in. To stay alive, Sloan must stay one step ahead of her enemies—both known and unknown—and a growing conspiracy designed to pull her under.


A good series really needs good characters. Sloan McPherson is quirky and likable from the start. She follows her own rules (while always putting her daughter first) and is independent even at her part-time job as a police diver. Add this to her family’s reputation of not always following the law and it means she sometimes clashes with those in authority. She also has learned that even those who are supposed to look out for her don’t always have her best interests at heart.

When she meets up with George Solar, all she can think about is watching him in a courtroom years ago, testifying against her uncle. She’ll have to learn more about his history and factor in her own experiences with him in order to decide whether to trust him for help with her situation. He seems like he may be the only one who can effectively help her navigate the chaotic case she’s stumbled into.

These two main characters, and their supporting cast, lead us into a whole new division of law enforcement - the Underwater Investigation Unit. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is a strong start for a potentially great series to follow. I’d recommend it for those who enjoy police procedurals and crime novels.

{click here to purchase - currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is getting through 2020 by immersing herself in fiction. Or even other peoples’ stories. Find more of what she’s read lately at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Girl Beneath the Sea!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, October 12th, 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 Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land {ends 10/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

There’s a certain entitlement that you carry with you when you have a little bit of age under your belt. People give you more grace to say and do what you want. You aren’t afraid to make decisions, others’ opinions of you carry less importance, and if you are lucky, you have a little bit of a nest egg to spend on yourself and others. I hope that my biggest goal isn’t vanity. Wasting time worrying about wrinkles instead of character. Why can’t we handle them both? Take care of our bodies so that we feel good but also focus on making others feel good. I don’t think it is one or the other. I think I will do both.

Heather Land has segued her "I ain’t doin it" viral video into music cds, a comedy tour, and now books. This is the second book she’s written.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land {ends 10/11}
A popular social media comedian, Heather Land’s reach includes more than 107 million engaged fans and followers who fill theaters at her stand-up events around the country, and who also fell in love with her first book
I Ain’t Doin’ It.

With her trademark Southern charm and sassy yet totally relatable tone, Heather shines a light on those ridiculous moments in our lives that also have the ability to teach us about ourselves. Whether she’s joking about her crafting habit, revealing the hard truths of divorce, ranting about the challenges of being a single parent of teenagers, or getting real at the class reunion, Heather’s message is that the more authentic we are, the more we connect with others. Heather hilariously encourages you to lighten up and focus on what’s really important in life. Like a laughter-filled conversation with an old friend, A Perfect 10 is a great gift to give to others or yourself.

Heather Land has a non-hurtful brand of comedy that is mostly pointing fun at herself and her life. She knows why she does some ridiculous things the same way they’ve always been done, but she plays along. Unfortunately, some of the names she dropped in regards to her retail therapy and other celebrities she knows were unfamiliar. Probably those in her regular audience would have understood the references.

Her life hasn’t been easy, and she’s not afraid to tell how her humor has helped her navigate these circumstances. Her positive attitude, Christian faith and no-nonsense advice sounded reasonable and most likely on point for those in similar situations. Overall, I’d give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend it for women in their late 30's or early 40's who may have similar life experiences to those of the author.

{click here to pre-order - will be released on Tuesday, October 6th)

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and reader. When she’s not working for those titles, she’s probably shaking trees and chasing bees on Animal Crossing - New Horizons. Check out other reviews she’s done at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Perfect 10!

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

A Perfect 10: The Truth About Things I'm Not and Never Will Be, by Heather Land

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Review: Strange Fire, by Tommy Wallach

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Whooee, but ya’ll gave me a fright! Thought I was about to meet my maker!”

His name was Harry Pardo, and once he’d gotten over the surprise of finding a whole Descendant ministry on his doorstep (and put his puny dagger away), he’d invited them inside. Apparently, this was his hunting cabin; there were a whole lot of nasty-looking traps hanging from hooks on the walls, and a small table near a thin tick mattress bore the remains of a hearty dinner: apple core, rind of cheese, strip of gristle. Against the back wall was an assortment of ramshackle cabinets and a large wardrobe, all shut. The place had a strange smell to it—cloying with a layer of toxicity beneath the sweetness, like a ripe red berry you knew was poisonous—but otherwise it was pretty cozy.


How much does the existence of a hero or villain depend on someone’s perspective? When survival is at stake, doing the right thing for one group may mean condemning another.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Strange Fire, by Tommy Walach
It only takes a spark.

They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.

The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.

Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother.

Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.


As the world starts over, the Descendancy has decided the advances of technology are what led to society’s initial demise. While those chosen to learn at the Library read about some evidence of the previous technology, their faith is strong and they are supposed to know that the simple way is better and safer. There are also missionaries from the Descendancy who travel to share their faith with those outside the safety of their city.

On a missionary trip, some teenagers and young adults learn of other viewpoints and begin to question their beliefs and their loyalty to the Descendancy. At the same time, another person joins their group, but with a real goal of seeking revenge for the death of their family at the hands of the Descendancy missionaries. Was it self-defense? Are people all good or all evil, and is this based on the way they believe the world should be? It’s teen angst, but the result of their questioning could mean life or death. The characters and their dilemmas felt reasonable and believable. Of course, teenagers also have to drop in a good dose of hormones with the rest of their troubles.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Luckily it is labeled as the first book in the Anchor & Sophia series, so more books will be available about these post-apocalyptic societies and their battles. Other books by this author may also be of interest, as they seem to deal with the end of the world as we know it, and what happens next.

{click here to purchase - only $9.99 for Kindle!} 

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading, counted cross-stitch, and wearing fun pajama pants. Find out more of what she’s up to at SweetlyBSquared.com.

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