Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner {ends 2/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

As we settle in for the night and just as the last light of day leaves us, National Guardsmen walk through the park to announce that a curfew has been set in the park and in the city. No one is to be out and about after sundown or before sunup. No one is allowed to return to areas where the fires have raged nor where the fires are headed. The mayor has declared that any looters will be shot on sight. No candles are allowed of any kind anywhere and no cooking fires inside any structure, as that very thing was the cause of one of the fires now burning out of control. No liquor is to be sold to anyone for any reason. We are also told army tents will arrive early tomorrow morning, but that tonight we must make do with whatever we can. We are not to worry about the fires approaching the park while we sleep. The army has positioned troops outside the park to watch for them.

The guardsmen move on to repeat their announcements over and over to the hundreds upon hundreds of us spread out on the park’s lawn.


The earthquake and subsequent fires make for an eventful story on their own. Add in multifaceted characters each with their own agenda and the book gets really exciting.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner
April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.


The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.


Drama and deceit seems to carry on regardless of whatever else is happening in the world. The historical setting for the realization of the evil deeds of one man against several women both multiplied and helped erase the coping and revenge that followed. A lot can be disguised during a major earthquake and the burning of most of a city.

This book had interesting characters from all walks of life. Sophie obviously had a past the reader didn’t know everything about. Martin was an adequate husband, but where did he go for a few days at a time, over and over? Poor nearly-orphaned Kat was the most tragic—a five-year-old who had already stopped talking over the loss of her mother—was there something more in her past she wasn’t telling? These were the only three main characters for the first half of the book, but on the night before the earthquake, a stranger shows up at their door and everyone’s stories start unraveling.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The historical part of the fiction was so revealing of what living through the earthquake and subsequent fires in 1906 may have been like. The intrigue and story of the women’s lives and their connections was also so interesting. The book was impossible to put down until all the storylines were untangled. I’d recommend this for any reader who enjoys historical fiction or drama stories. The epilogue was also quite tidy about wrapping up the loose ends. I love when that happens!

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley loves her uneventful life. She is a wife and mother who works and reads. Find more of her book reviews at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Nature of Fragile Things

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, February 24th, 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!

The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner

Monday, February 15, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Water Memory, by Daniel Pyne {ends 2/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The lips and crannies, flanges and straps of the shipping containers provide a slow, sore ascent for Sentro, who has clambered to the top of a short stack, where, in cover, she tries to catch her breath and discovers the mercenaries are heaving bodies of C-deck to plummet into the sea.

Awkward, angular dropping shadows are set off starkly against the slate-blue sky. One, two, three. A pink hoodie flutters away from the last of them; it floats down for a long time, like a dying bird.

Do I scare you, Aubrey?

Sentro looks away from it, eyes watering, resisting the hollow chill rising from her heart.

Say no, then. My feelings won’t be hurt.

People wink out all the time. It’s staying alive that’s hard.

When he was on death watch, she would slip away from the office and go to the hospice, curl up next to her husband on his bed, careful because just touching sometimes hurt, but watching him, counting his breaths, the pulse of his heart in his neck, wondering what her life would be without him, knowing that it would be the same. But without him.

Aubrey Sentro is very good at what she does. Now that she’s in trouble in her time away from work, she’s counting on her work instincts to keep her alive while her jumbled brain is making everything more confusing.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Water Memory, by Daniel Pyne {ends 2/22}
Black ops specialist Aubrey Sentro may be one concussion away from death. But when pirates seize the cargo ship she’s on, she must decide whether to risk her life to save her fellow passengers.

Sentro’s training takes over, and she’s able to elude her captors, leaving bodies in her wake. But her problems are just getting started. Her memory lapses are getting more frequent, symptoms of serial-concussion syndrome.

As she plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the pirates, she pushes herself to survive by focusing on thoughts of her children. She’s never told them what she really does for a living, and now she might not get the chance.

While her memories make her vulnerable, motherhood makes her dangerous.


A forced vacation never sounds like a good time, especially to a workaholic who really has nothing else to do with her time. But Aubrey Sento’s co-workers aren’t sure what else to do with her as her hesitations and confusion could be endangering them all. She’s definitely not like other women, so a cruise on a cargo ship with a lot less entertainment sounds like the right idea for time away to her.

While she’s definitely an impressively strong female character, several of the other characters in this story stood out too. Both of her children have a high level of self-awareness about their relationship with her. The crew and other guests on the ship had unique but believable backstories. Some favorites, though, were the heroin-riddled former doctor with an uncontrollable urge to do right, the orphan girl he inappropriately loves, and her brother.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. While it would qualify as contemporary fiction, the story also followed an unexpected path. These interesting characters telling an unpredictable story provided for an enjoyable read. I’ll look forward to the sequel scheduled for the Aubrey Sentro series.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom to humans and cats. She lives in the cold, cold north and always yearns for summer. Check out how she’s been amusing herself on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Water Memory!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, February 22nd, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Water Memory, by Daniel Pyne

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Swimmer, by Ann Turner

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

At least being injured had meant an end to mediation with Priscilla. She had cancelled further sessions on the pretense that I needed time to recuperate, but I suspected it was also because of the investigation and I couldn’t help thinking of that as one silver lining.

On my first day back, Rachel and I hurried across to the administration building to a full staff meeting called by Priscilla. I was short of breath from the exertion, but other than that, my body was stronger and I was definitely on the mend.

When we arrived in the airy room I glanced about. Since I had been away it was like a black hole had opened at Coastal and swallowed all the elderly professors. Old turtleneck McCall had taken early retirement, so too Oliver Yeats, who had never really coped with his downsized office. They’d both phoned me to say goodbye and the conversations were incalculably sad. There had been no official farewell and I’d been too unwell to fight Lisa Clements, who, to our collective horror, had been appointed Acting Head in my absence. And so the professors had just faded into the ether, sent off with their packages after thirty years of service without so much as a thank you.


Rebecca Wilding is convinced her husband is having an affair, but there’s no proof. She knows she’s doing her job and doing it well, but they’re investigating her for fraud. The truth is becoming more and more confusing.

Official synopsis:
Rebecca Wilding, an archaeology professor, traces the past for a living.

But suddenly, truth and certainty is turning against her. Rebecca is accused of serious fraud, and worse, she suspects – she knows – that her husband, Stephen, is having an affair.

Desperate to find answers, Rebecca leaves with Stephen for Greece, Italy and Paris, where she can uncover the conspiracy against her, and hopefully win Stephen back to her side, where he belongs. There’s too much at stake—her love, her work, her family.

But on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, Stephen goes swimming and doesn’t come back.

In a swirling daze of panic and fear, Rebecca is dealt with fresh allegations. And with time against her, she must uncover the dark secrets that stand between her and Stephen, and the deceit that has chased her halfway around the world.


This book read a lot like literary fiction. The story flowed through Rebecca’s life and contemplations about what it all might mean. In her personal life, she was dealing with her own suspicions and concerns without proof that any of it was really in crisis. In her professional life, she expected things to be rather uneventful, until she’s accused of a series of actions that could cost her all of the progress and existence of her career. Was it possible that some of her worries were just her own anxiety? On the other hand, is there something to worry about even when she knows she hasn’t done anything wrong?

The characters and pacing of the story were just right. While the kangaroo attack never seemed to fit a lot with the rest of the book (?), its results did influence the way it all progressed. And what would a book taking place in Australia really be without a good kangaroo attack?

Overall, I’d give this book a high 3.5 out of 5 stars. The ending was a bit anticlimactic after all the build up, but I’m not sure how it could have been different. I’d recommend this book for those who like contemporary fiction.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley works in finance and legal. She’s learning more every day. Find out what she’s doing in her relaxing hours on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Book Review: Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In the blindingly bright mornings before his first glass of bourbon ... 

Mick thought of his children. Nina, Jay, and Hud.

They would be fine, he figured. He had chosen a good mother for them. He had done that right. And he was paying the bills for all of them. He was keeping that roof over their head, sending child support payments that were sky high. They would be fine. After all, he'd been fine with far less than they had. He gave no thought to the idea that he might break his children just as someone had broken him. 

I'm a HUGE fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid's books, except I was really disappointed by Daisy Jones & the Sixher last novel—I'm not sure why I disliked it, but I actually didn't even finish it. I'm happy to report that Malibu Rising is more in the format of her older books, and I really enjoyed it. 

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From the New York Times bestselling author of
Daisy Jones & The Six . . . Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a fantastic writer (for Daisy Jones & the Six, I think I just didn't like the format of the book), and Malibu Rising was a great book. In her previous books, the author sometimes focused on romantic relationships; although this book did have some romance in it, it focused more on the relationship between Nina Riva and her three siblings, as well as their tumultuous relationship with their rockstar dad, Mick Riva, who left them—and then came back, at one point—when they were children. 

Most of TJR's books are heartbreaking, in some form or another, and this one was no exception; however, I always really enjoy them nonetheless. This novel bounced back and forth between the 1950s and 1960s, when June (their mother) meets Mick Riva, and the 1970's and 1980s, when Nina is helping to raise her brothers and sister. The end focuses on the Riva's annual end-of-summer-party, and the craziness that happens there.

4.5 stars out of 5.

{click HERE to pre-order; it will be online/in stores on June 1, 2021}

*Disclosure: I received a NetGalley copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Summer Breeze, by Shail Rajan {ends 2/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Callie closed her eyes, lay back on her sofa, and let her mind wander. Her thoughts drifted back to the day she first decided that she wanted to open her own bed and breakfast. She had been daydreaming on the garden swing in her parents’ backyard when the idea had first revealed itself to her.

Thinking back to that time in her life made Callie smile. She closed her eyes and imagined the gentle swaying of the garden swing and the warmth of the sun. Opening her eyes again, Callie looked out the window at the gray skies of late winter. She was eager for the change of seasons that would usher in springtime and bid farewell to the cold weather.

Suddenly, as if confirming her hopes, the winter sun peeked through the clouds and filtered through her window onto her face. Callie felt the brightness and the promise of the coming warmth. She inhaled deeply and was reminded of the warm summer breeze that had blown over her on that day so many months ago and the feelings that it had evoked in her. She felt surprisingly peaceful and contented, and that is when she knew exactly what to call her bed and breakfast: The Summer Breeze.


There’s something so freeing about following along with a main character who completely changes her life. Wondering how things could be if they were completely different can be quite an enjoyable escape from reality for a spell.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Summer Breeze, by Shail Rajan {ends 2/11}
Tired of her fast-paced life in New York City, Callie leaves it all behind to embark on an adventure that will bring her to a new town, a new home, a new career, and possibly, a new love.

Callie Williams loved the quaint upstate region of New York State where she grew up but left it behind to pursue her career in the Big Apple. After years of working long hours and climbing the corporate ladder, she finds herself unhappily engaged to a powerful politician’s son. All that changes in an unexpected instant and upends life as she knows it. Unsure of what to do, Callie finds herself back in her hometown, back in her childhood bedroom.

Surrounded by her family and the countryside she loves, Callie is more relaxed than she has been in years, yet she feels restless. She yearns to find a place for herself – a new career, a home of her own. A life changing idea presents itself, and Callie decides it is time to take the leap. She soon finds herself the owner of a new business and knee deep in a major home renovation. But that’s not all she finds….


It was such a joy to slip into Callie’s world. Her sister shows up one day and points out that Callie just isn’t happy in New York. She’s definitely successful, but she isn’t happy, like she was growing up with her beloved family in their beautiful home. Having been successful for long enough to have some savings, she walks away from it all and heads back home to her nurturing family.

The writing style of this book was conversational and made the reader feel like someone close to Callie. Her journey was not without regular obstacles, but starting out with enough money to do nothing and still survive definitely can make chasing dreams sound more reasonable. More of the book was spent on the real project of becoming a part of the Seneca Springs community and making the bed and breakfast successful than on romance for Callie, but patience brought her love too.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to readers who like contemporary fiction and strong female characters. It was a fun, relatable read that I sincerely enjoyed.

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

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who hopes to make more time in the new year for counted cross-stitch and papercrafts. See a few pictures of how she spends her time on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Summer Breeze!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, February 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! The author will be shipping the book to you. :) 

Good luck!

The Summer Breeze, by Shail Rajan

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: 365 Days, by Blanka Lipinska {ends 2/6}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Say something, Laura,” he hissed.

“I’m tired,” I replied, sitting in the other armchair. “Besides, it’s none of my business. I’m here because I have to be, and each day brings me closer to my birthday and my freedom.”

I knew that what I said wasn’t the whole truth, but I was in no mood to talk about it. The Man in Black kept his eyes on me for a long while, his jaw working rhythmically. I knew that my words had hurt and angered him. I just didn’t care.

He got up and headed to the door, grabbing the handle. He turned his head, sent me a cold look, and said impassively, “She told me she’ll kill you, to take away the thing that I cherish the most. Just as I have taken it away from her.”

“Excuse me!?” I called out, shocked. “And you’re just going to leave after telling me that?” I stormed in his direction. “You damned egomaniac…” I trailed off when I saw he was actually hanging the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. I stopped, my hands hanging limply at my sides, staring at him.


Laura is living a contented, relatively uneventful life in Warsaw until a trip to Sicily with some friends for her birthday. A man sees her arriving at the airport and swears she is the woman of his literal dreams. Now that he’s found her, it’s time for her to belong to him.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: 365 Days, by Blanka Lipinska {ends 2/6}
Laura Biel and her boyfriend are on a dream vacation in beautiful Sicily. On the second day of their trip, her twenty-ninth birthday, she is kidnapped. Her kidnapper is none other than the head of a powerful Sicilian crime family, the incredibly handsome, young Don Massimo Torricelli, who is determined to possess her at all costs. Massimo has his reasons. During an earlier attempt on his life, a vision appeared before his eyes: a beautiful woman, identical to Laura. After surviving the attack, he vows that he will find the woman in his vision and make her his own. No matter what.

For 365 days, Massimo will keep Laura captive in his palatial estate and attempt to win her heart. If she doesn’t fall in love with him during this time, he will let her go. But if she tries to escape at any point, he will track her down and kill her entire family.

Soon Laura develops a fascination with her handsome and powerful captor. But as a precarious, risky relationship forms between them, forces outside their control threaten to tear them apart…


If a man is obsessed with a woman, kidnaps her, stops others from coming to her rescue, and threatens to kill her family if she tries to escape, this is not romantic, no matter how rich he is. Someone wanting to be with a woman that much sounds like he may truly love her, but taking these actions to eliminate her choice in the matter makes it abuse instead of devotion.

That being said, the steamy scenes were definitely steamy, if a little repetitive. Hopefully Laura and Massimo can find that they have something in common besides chemistry as the series progresses. The cliffhanger at the end definitely left this book open to proceed in a variety of directions for books two and three in the trilogy.

Overall, I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. Those reading it should be under no illusions of it being a romance. Rape is depicted repeatedly, even if Laura claims to have changed her mind as the act progresses. A reader who understands what they’re getting into and likes similar fiction stories may enjoy this one as well.

{click here to pre-order; will be in stores/online on February 2, 2021}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys having painted fingernails, cold Cherry Coke available, and a variety of books to read. According to this brief list, her life is perfect. You can get a glimpse of this perfection from time to time on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a digital copy of 365 Days!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, February 6th, 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.

Winner will receive a link to download the book from NetGalley.com.

Open to international!

Good luck!
365 Days, by Blanka Lipinska

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Until It Was, by Melissa Brodsky {ends 1/31}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

VANESSA

I had never missed having a sibling because of how immersed in Donna’s family I had been. Her family would invite mine for the holidays, so we were never left alone and I was always with Donna, who had become more than a sister to me.

I missed her. More and more, the further we got from each other. I was stubborn, but then again, I was not the one who needed to apologize for the horrible words. That was on her, as was the distance between us. I didn’t know if I could ever fully pardon her from her sins, but I wasn’t confident I could find a way to move on.

Lance was snoring softly, and I was wide awake. I wanted to discuss Donna with him, get his thoughts on what I should do. I sighed loudly in hopes it would get him to open his eyes.

Vanessa, Lance, and Donna have been inseparable since their high school days. Now in their early 50s, is it too late for Vanessa and Lance to admit they’ve always wanted more?


Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Until It Was, by Melissa Brodsky {ends 1/31}
Single mom Vanessa Wilson is finally free. After eighteen tumultuous years, she can take a breath and focus on what matters most, her thirteen-year-old daughter, Sophia. Vanessa will do anything to protect her child, even if it means running from Lance, a love she had waited a lifetime for.

Lance Taylor has his exit plan. He’s ready to embrace life and live it to its fullest down in the Florida Keys. He’s commitment-free and sworn off any entanglements that may sway his bachelor’s heart—until Vanessa.

Best friends since high school, their undeniable attraction takes root and blossoms. When Vanessa’s ex-husband uses Sophia as an agent for revenge, Lance whisks them off to his bachelor pad in the Florida Keys. Flames ignite, and their relationship shifts on its axis. But, as things intensify, doubt erupts.

When a devastating secret is revealed that threatens to destroy the relationship they waited so long for, Vanessa and Lance must find a way back to each other. Or, any hope for a future together will remain forever in their dreams.


Vanessa married her ex-husband because it was time for her to get married. All of her friends were married, and dating wasn’t much fun. Without planning to, she ended up pregnant a few years later. Her daughter, Sophia, is the one bright spot from a bad marriage that still carried on for 13 more years. Vanessa is ready to move on from her marriage and make a good life for herself and Sophia.

But sometimes moving forward means moving back. Now spending all of her free time with her best friends from high school, Vanessa and Lance confess their long-held feelings for each other. Life is never as simple as we want it to be. Most of the story is the tumultuous path of Vanessa and Lance learning that sometimes telling the truth about feelings is the easy part—they still need to fight for themselves and their relationship with each other.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was an interesting contemporary romance with a few twists and turns along the way. Without spoiling too much, Vanessa and Lance do get their happy ending.

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

Becki Bayley likes quiet, cozy nights with a warm blanket and a good book. Sometimes she takes a minute to share her contentment on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

The author (a local metro Detroiter!) will be giving away TWO copies of this one to my lucky readers. Winners can choose Kindle copy (through Amazon) or a finished copy of the book.

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, January 31st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be published.

Open to international for this one, since it's a Kindle giveaway! (if you'd like a finished copy, you must be in the U.S., though)

Good luck!

Until It Was, by Melissa Brodsky

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Unchosen, by Katharyn Blair {ends 1/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

He sits up. “Because you understand how ridiculous it sounds. Like the hope invented by people who wanted to give their kids some sort of way to cope with the apocalypse. And the ‘Chosen One’ sounds like a trope from a C-list made-for-TV movie.”

His voice, that word, grates on me, and I feel the anger blooming through my bones.

“More ridiculous than red-eyed creatures? Wake up, Cap, we’ve been in a bad fantasy movie for a long time.”

Seth laughs then and sniffs against the cold. The tip of his nose is red, and for the first time since I sat down, I wonder how long he’s been out here. If he thought it was safe to sleep at all. “It’s nothing personal,” he says.

“You’re calling me a liar. That feels pretty personal.”


On paper, it may sound tricky to make a dystopian/zombie-ish/pirate fantasy book work, but this book somehow pulls all those things together for an entertaining read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Unchosen, by Katharyn Blair {ends 1/28}
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.

The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.

The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.

Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.

When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.

The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.

But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.

Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.


Charlotte has always felt like the odd one out. She had no outstanding talent like her older and younger sisters. Even after the essential end of the world, both of her sisters come shining through as valuable entities in the new world, but Charlotte resumes her supporting role. It’s only when she makes a grand gesture intended to save her younger sister that her true worth starts to be revealed.

The premise of the Crimson originally feels a bit like Bird Box (the novel by Josh Malerman, and followed up with the movie starring Sandra Bullock): they can only look strangers in the eye through mirrors, to prevent their tragic and horrifying human death. Sure, it’s an existence, but it feels like they’re just waiting for the attack they can’t stand against. Soon enough, their walled village is invaded and everything changes in a hurry.

The evolution of Charlotte as she struggles to survive, and maybe save the world, was a compelling read. Each interaction with another potential enemy forced her to change the story she was telling, and keep track of more lies to stay alive. While some of it may have leaned toward a bit far-fetched, the story-telling and unique characters were enjoyable and worth a bit of suspension of disbelief.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The pirate legend and mindless-diseased (zombie?) enemies had a fantasy flair, but being set in a recognizable world before the Crimson made it a bit more like speculative fiction. The plot was definitely imaginative, but not overly graphic, making it an acceptable YA read as well. With so many overlapping genres, I think it would be a good read for many people.

{click here to pre-order; it will be online/in stores on January 26, 2021}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, reader, and school crossing-guard. Check out more of what she’s reading at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of Unchosen!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, January 28th, 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!

Spin, by Patricia Cornwell

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Book Review: Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level, by Laura Tremaine

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I envision you reading this book by sharing it with a best friend or partner or with your group of girlfriends over margaritas, going through the chapters together and answering them from a place of truth. The things you've never talked about as well as the stories you've trotted out so many times you've memorized the punch lines. 

Let these questions spark conversations. Sharing is contagious, so I'm hoping that sharing my stuff with lead you to share yours. Our time on earth is short, and building connections with one another makes every season better. I want you to share your stuff. I'll go first.

I started this blog in 2009, when I graduated from college, and I started my then-film blog (now Yes/No Detroit) in 2010. One of the bloggers I first started following during that period was Laura Tremaine, who had a blog called Hollywood Housewife. I've kept up with Laura through Twitter and her Facebook page, and although the blog was shuttered in 2015, she now has a podcast and still has an enewsletter to which I subscribe. Therefore, I was excited to see that she now has written a book. 

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level, by Laura Tremaine
Part memoir and part guidebook,
Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First. is the invitation you've been waiting for to show up with your whole self and discover the intimate, meaningful relationships you long for.

In spite of the hyper-connected culture we live in today, women still feel shamed for oversharing and being publicly vulnerable. And no matter how many friends we seem to have, many of us are still desperately lonely.

Laura Tremaine says it's time for something better. Openness and vulnerability are the foundation for human growth and healthy relationships, and it all starts when we share our stuff, the nitty-gritty daily details about ourselves with others. Laura has led the way in her personal life with her popular blog and podcast, and now with lighthearted self-awareness, a sensitivity to the important things in life, and compelling storytelling, Laura gives you the tools to build and deepen the conversations happening in your life.

Laura's stories about her childhood in Oklahoma, her complicated shifts in faith and friendships, and her marriage to a Hollywood movie director will prompt you to identify the beautiful narrative and pivotal milestones of your own life. Each chapter offers intriguing and reflective questions that will reveal unique details and stories you've never thought to tell and will guide you into cultivating the authentic connection with others that only comes from sharing yourself.

This is probably not an unbiased review—this book comes off as 75% memoir and 25% a help/advice book, and I loved the memoir sections. Some of the memoir parts were things I had heard before, either through the author's Twitter or blog, and some were new to me: like how she met her husband (Jeff Tremaine, director of jackass: the movie and other films) and why she decided to move to L.A. from her native Oklahoma. 

I don't usually read a lot of nonfiction, but I do enjoy memoirs, and I really enjoyed this one. I've always enjoyed reading Laura's work online, and reading a book of hers was no different; she's a talented writer, and it made for easy reading. 

4.5 out of 5 stars. 

{click here to pre-order; will be in stores/online on February 2, 2021}

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I was lying on the dirt where we’d all passed out when I felt a slap on the bottom of my foot. A cop shined a long metal flashlight into my eyes and I reached for my shoes. Ash had forgotten to set the clock.

“Move on. No camping. You have ten seconds to get going.” He began counting out loud. “One. Two.” He smacked Ash’s foot with the back of his hand. “Three.” He moved on to Fleet and Hope. We hadn’t bothered to get into sleeping bags so we stood and staggered away from the trees. “Four. Five.” Hope started saying that we were hanging out, not camping, it was a public park and we had a right to be there, but Ash grabbed for her arm and she stopped. There was no point bullshitting him, except to wait for Fleet, who was still curled on her side, “Six,” he yelled. Tiny cuddled in her arm. The cop poked the bottom of her foot again, but she didn’t budge. “Seven!”


It’s no wonder that this book won an award for Socially Engaged Fiction. The portrayal of Maddy’s life on the streets is both touching and matter-of-fact.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman
Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It’s the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys’ parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance,
At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

Maddy was a character who evoked some sympathy for her plight, but at the same time she made it clear that this was her choice and she was being as smart as possible about it. Minding her own business and taking care of her dog, Root, were her primary goals. She knew her closest friends on the street would help look out for her and Root, but she also knew they were free to leave whenever they chose.

As a YA book, this presented a great overview of life in this makeshift community. It did not glamorize these kids living on their own. Their circumstances all varied in regards to how they ended up on the streets. The father of the murdered boy tried to make assumptions about why kids lived on the streets, but each kid’s story was truly unique, and usually unknown to the other kids. The kids shared their time with each other, but not their history.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It could really help a reader visualize a lifestyle probably different from their own. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy contemporary fiction and socially engaged stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader. She likes to go with the flow and sometimes post pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin, by Patricia Cornwell {ends 1/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“All right, let’s see what we’ve got here,” I begin surveying what looks more like the cockpit of a military aircraft than any law enforcement vehicle I’ve seen up close and personal.

Barely 300 miles on the odometer, and I have a feeling my Secret Service-inspired chariot with its new-car smell is another prototype like almost everything else, including Carme and me. The mileage probably is from racetracks, test-driving ranges, and for sure I’ll never figure out and manage all the systems without AI assistance, starting with the dark-gray pleathery-looking upholstery.

Based on transmissions I’m picking up in my CUFF, the material is woven with sensors, reminding me of the formfitting skin Carme had on at the Point Comfort Inn. I’m pretty sure my SUV’s smart materials are interactive, that they probably can self-repair, change appearance and are electrically conductive.


Captain Calli Chase finds out that she and her twin sister Carme are scientific guinea pigs. After the first few chapters, they’re both pretty scientifically enhanced, with PEEPs, CUFFs, and ART (their constant AI companion).

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin, by Patricia Cornwell {ends 1/24}
In the aftermath of a NASA rocket launch gone terribly wrong, Captain Calli Chase comes face-to-face with her missing twin sister—as well as the startling truth of who they really are. Now, a top secret program put in motion years ago has spun out of control, and only Calli can redirect its course.

Aided by cutting-edge technologies, the NASA investigator and scientist turned Space Force pilot sets out on a frantic search for the missing link between the sabotaged rocket launch and her predetermined destiny…a search that someone else seems very interested in stopping.

From NASA to the Chase family farm, to the White House to distant orbits of space, Calli plays a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek with a cunning and ruthless adversary. One wrong move will unleash cataclysmic consequences reaching far beyond the boundaries of Earth.


This is the second book in the Captain Chase series. So far it’s been labeled as book 2 of 2, but it still ended with a cliffhanger. Calli and Carme Chase are twins who have been raised in and around NASA. Their parents both work there, and the girls have been raised to be scientists and astronauts.

In this book, the acronyms abound! Captain Calli is outfitted with lots of personal technology and artificial intelligence enhancements to report everything that she finds and experiences in her work. The technology developments and details are interesting. Unfortunately, the technology and Calli’s internal monologue regarding it all far outweigh the plot.

Overall, I found this book a little more engaging than the first one in the series, but still largely aimless and mostly filled with narration from inside the main character’s head. I’d give it 2.5 out of 5 stars. The scientific details of space exploration and equipment were the most interesting part of the book.

{Click here to purchase. Currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley reads for fun. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of Spin!

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Spin, by Patricia Cornwell

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lana's War, by Anita Abriel {ends 1/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Lana sat across from Captain Von Harmon at the Hôtel Excelsior’s restaurant and listened to him describe his family’s apartment in Berlin. From the outside she was the picture of grace and calm: she had spent an hour in her dressing room fixing her hair and adjusting the neckline of her dress to show just a hint of cleavage. But ever since Guy had dropped her off near the hotel, she had been so nervous she could barely breathe.

“Joseph Goebbels invited my family to stay at his villa on the lake next summer,” Von Harmon was saying. “It’s only twenty-five kilometers from Berlin, but it’s like another world. There’s a private cinema and a park.”

“I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time,” Lana said, admiring the photo of a pretty blond woman and two small children he had handed to her. “Your wife is lovely, and such handsome children, you must be so proud.”


Life on the French Riviera sounds beautiful, but Lana is there living in constant risk as a member of the resistance.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lana's War, by Anita Abriel {ends 1/21}
Paris 1943: Lana Antanova is on her way to see her husband with the thrilling news that she is pregnant. But when she arrives at the convent where he teaches music, she’s horrified to see Gestapo officers execute him for hiding a Jewish girl in the piano.

A few months later, grieving both her husband and her lost pregnancy, Lana is shocked when she’s approached to join the resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialize with German officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy Swiss industrialist and fellow resistance member, in whose villa in Cap Ferrat she lives. Together, they gather information on upcoming raids and help members of the Jewish community escape. Consumed by her work, she doesn’t expect to become attached to a young Jewish girl or wonder about the secrets held by the man whose house she shares. And as the Nazis’ deadly efforts intensify, her intention to protect those around her may put them all at risk instead.


Lana leaves Paris after the death of her husband and the miscarriage of her baby. She was recruited for the resistance to move to the French Riviera and join the party circuit to get secrets from the German officers and Gestap, and try to help the Jewish residents escape the area instead of being sent to the camps and put to death.

The newly relocated Countess Lana Antanova plays her part perfectly. She may be doing it just a bit too well, with little regard for her safety and that of her co-workers in the resistance. While there are certainly a lot of WWII books and stories of the resistance, this one did have a unique ending.

Overall, I’d give this interesting story 3 out of 5 stars. The characters were a little flat. While we were given their back stories and reasons for joining the resistance, they lacked an emotional depth. Luckily the development of the end of the story compensated for some of that. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy WWII stories, and be able to say it doesn’t read as sad or tragic as a lot of stories about that period.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom and homemaker. Someone once said that adulthood means always cleaning your kitchen. They’re not wrong. See some of her activities besides cleaning the kitchen on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Lana's War!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, January 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be contacted.

Open to both U.S. *and* Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Lana's War, by Anita Abriel

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz {ends 1/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It was abruptly obvious to Laura, what she and everyone usually managed to forget: Life was a sucking cornucopia of loss, everyone teetered unwittingly on its edge all the time. All the precious things at risk every moment, childhoods and pink pigs and best friends, lovers and brothers and parents and children, whole lives and histories perpetually rushing into the ravenous funnel of oblivion. It wasn’t possible to cherish them enough before they were taken away.

The Preston family was never what they thought they were. As all five members of the family changed, grew, disappeared, and came back, they all kept trying to define themselves and their relationships to the world, but how much was really true, and how much was just what they tried to prove to everyone else?

Official synopsis:
Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Bea as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers.

Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers in a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand.

Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed,
What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty that can exist even in the midst of brokenness.

The Preston family could have been anyone. One year in Thailand sounded like an adventure for Genevieve and the three kids, while Robert built a dam. But the one year turned into two, then three, and they were all restless. How long did a dam take to build? Genevieve wanted to stop playing hostess to all the new Americans living in Thailand. Then suddenly they’re on their way home, because their son has disappeared, and she travels back to Thailand over and over, looking for the boy she hasn’t seen since he was 8 years old.

Decades later, Genevieve’s grasp with reality is tenuous as she slips into dementia. She’s followed leads that she hoped would lead to her son Philip again and again, but nothing has brought him back to her so far. Now she doesn’t look for him, but a woman has reached out to Philip’s youngest sister Laura to say that Philip is an adult with nowhere to go in Thailand.

In the process of alternating between 1972 and 2019 (with a little 1980 thrown in), this book also gave us differing viewpoints of the lives of the Prestons. Who Genevieve was in 1972 couldn’t have done anything different, and everything that happened in Thailand changed the whole relationship of Laura and oldest sister Bea, even when neither of them realized it. The most remarkable character of all was Philip, and his sense of peace with everything that had happened in the life that was never planned for him. Bringing him back into the fold really helped share that sense of peace (and sometimes clarity) with the rest of the remaining family.

Overall, this was a remarkable book, beautifully told. The author’s background info states that she as well spent part of her childhood in Thailand, and the sincerity and childhood impressions of that experience really come through. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars and will definitely seek out the author’s previous books. While I’d never call this a fast read, I would enthusiastically recommend it to those who enjoy literary fiction and stories about family relationships.

Liz's note: I believe this is Becki's first 5-star review!

Click here to purchase.

Becki Bayley is an adult, who just searched for what adulting means. Adulting, apparently, is just searching how to do stuff. This fits her experiences so far. Check out more adulting posts at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of What Could Be Saved!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 20th, 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!

What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant

I recently saw the new HBO Max show The Flight Attendant, with Kaley Cuoco in the lead role, and really loved it ... so of course I had to read the book that the show is based on, of the same name, by Chris Bohjalian. 

Book synopsis:
The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Now a limited series on HBO Max! A powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man—and no idea what happened.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet,
The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

First off: I would give the book 3.5/5 stars, and the TV show 4.5/5. Maybe it's because I saw the show before I read the book ... but I found the show to be more dramatic and compelling. However, that's not to say I didn't like the book, because I did—but the showrunners definitely made a few changes.

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Changes from the book to the TV show, non-spoiler edition:
  • Book Cassie is around 40, I believe, and I think TV Cassie was supposed to be in her early 30's (Kaley Cuoco is 35 IRL though)
  • In the book, the murder at the beginning takes place in Dubai, and in the show, it's Bangkok—I just visited Bangkok in 2018, so I found that more compelling. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up NOT being Cassie's "friend," in the book edition
  • In the book, Cassie didn't have a lawyer, so she ends up with Ani; in the show, Ani is a friend of Cassie's who just happens to be a lawyer (played excellently by Zosia Mamet, from Girls
  • Both Book and TV show Cassie grew up in Kentucky; however, Book Cassie has a sister, who has a husband and children, and TV Cassie has a gay brother, who also has a husband and children. 

Changes from the book to TV show, SPOILER EDITION ... STOP READING NOW if you don't want spoilers:
  • TV show Cassie does more crazy stuff—she goes to Alex Sokolov's funeral, for example, then has to escape. Book Cassie briefly contemplates going to his funeral, but does not. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up trying to kill Cassie, upon orders from her superiors, in the book, but instead gets killed by the "real" bad guy, Buckley, in Cassie's hotel room in Rome. In the TV show, Miranda and Cassie worked together to apprehend Buckley, once they figured out he was the true bad guy.
  • Cassie's brother-in-law gets investigated because he's an agent, and they think Cassie and him might have been working together to kill or somehow maim Sokolov. 
  • The end of the book: Cassie now works as some sort of agent, but still does flight attendant stuff too (for the agency), and we learn that she has a daughter, Masha, which was the result of her and Alex Sokolov's 1-night stand ... I thought this was not really necessary, although it explains why her character has now quit drinking. 

Have you read The Flight Attendant book, and/or seen the TV show? If so, what did you think of it?

And you can find the book version here for purchase, on Amazon.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter {ends 1/18}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Rachel Marin watched the entire masquerade from her computer with a mixture of horror, anger, and perhaps the smallest twinge of amusement and pride. She debated putting an end to the silliness, then installing state-of-the-art motion sensors in Eric’s room that would let her know every time her son burped.

But she didn’t want her children to grow up afraid of her. The death of Rachel’s husband had locked Eric in an emotional prison, but rather than beat against the bars, he had retreated into a corner, sullenly living out his sentence with no possibility—or interest—in parole. She had tried to pull him out but instead had seen him recede further. Her once-buoyant son was drowning, and it tore her up. She’d wanted him to lash out, to flout the rules. Anything to prove he had some fight in him. So as Rachel watched her son slip out the window, leaving behind a bed full of fluffy animals like some sixth-rate illusionist, Rachel couldn’t muster the anger most mothers would have. For years she’d wanted Eric to act like a boy. To test her boundaries. To venture into the unknown, to take risks, just like she had. Well, Eric had finally called her bluff.

Like the first Rachel Marin book, this one was more non-stop action! One of the detectives Rachel works with called her ‘a magnet for violence,’ and they may be right.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter {ends 1/18}
Rachel Marin is in a good place. After years of struggle, the single mother has found both a stable, loving relationship and a new purpose: putting her investigative skills to work solving crimes for the local PD. But just as the pieces of her life are finally starting to fall into place, her teenaged son’s teacher is gruesomely murdered, starting a domino effect that shatters her peaceful existence.

When Rachel discovers an ominous email the teacher sent to her just before his death, she knows she must help bring his killer to justice. But soon a figure from her past reappears, threatening to expose Rachel’s darkest secrets if she doesn’t tread lightly. And when her son is recruited by a shadowy businessman who may be connected to the murder, Rachel knows this has just gotten very, very personal.

Someone out there is dead set on keeping this grisly cover-up good and buried, which means if Rachel’s not careful, it’s only a matter of time before her dream life becomes her worst nightmare.

What an exciting book! It opens with a horrific murder. While the reason the victim was killed is not clear, the details of the crime make it look like a warning to others. The only clue is a vague email to the heroine of this book series, Rachel Marin.

Rachel’s past has forced her to be strong both mentally and physically. When someone who knows some of what she’s been through shows up to tell her not to pursue justice in this case, she’s even more determined to figure out why. Having a character who played a much bigger role in the first book make a surprise appearance here let the reader know that Rachel’s past and present had gotten entangled, something she never wanted to happen.

The second installment in the Rachel Marin series was just as compelling to read as the first. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down until all the motives were uncovered and crimes were solved. It was satisfying to see that while Rachel’s thirst for justice sometimes required a bit of vigilante action, she was also willing to let some wrongs be forgotten in the interest of what is truly right.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and remote-learning supervisor to a middle schooler and an elementary school student. She enjoys snacking, reading, and overcoming zoom challenges. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Stranger at the Door!

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/13}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“We’ve identified the Pōhakuloa victim. He’s Keneke Nakano. Age twenty-nine. An island native. Educated at UH-Honolulu and the University of California. Employed for the past nine months as a staff astronomer at the Alice Observatories. His grandfather, a master wood carver, made traditional furniture in a small workshop outside Hāwi.”

“Kawelo Nakano, the old wood carver...a legendary craftsman and a marvelous story talker,” the chief interrupted.

“You knew Keneke Nakano’s grandfather?” Koa’s voice betrayed his astonishment.

“Yes, and so did Prince Kamehameha. He and old Kawelo were both steeped in the old ways and very close. The prince should want to help avenge the death of Kawelo’s grandson.”


Each of the Koa Kane Hawaiian mysteries can be read independently. The Hawaiian backdrop and history for the stories is beautiful.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/13}
On Hawaii Island, an anonymous 911 caller reports a body at Pohakuloa, the Army's live-fire training area. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane, a cop with his own secret criminal past, finds a mutilated corpse—bearing all the hallmarks of ancient ritual sacrifice.

He encounters a host of obstacles as he pursues the murderer—an incompetent local medical examiner, hostility from both haoles (Westerners) and sovereignty advocates, and a myriad of lies. Koa races to discover whether the victim stumbled upon a gang of high-tech archaeological thieves, or learned a secret so shocking it cost him his life and put others in mortal danger.

Will Hilo's most respected detective stop this sadistic fiend—or will the Pohakuloa killer strike again, with even deadlier consequences?

Hawaii lends itself to totally different crimes and methods of murder, apparently. It is so interesting to observe Koa Kane and the rest of the characters unravel these crimes steeped in Hawaiin history and the unique landscape of volcanoes.

This book additionally looked at astronomy research being done on the island as an additional stage for competition and conflict. The scientific descriptions were detailed and sounded believable. The rich history of Hawaii was at the heart of each development in the story. Trying to discern who were the good guys and who were the bad guys was consuming and kept the pages turning in a race to get to the dramatic ending.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. This series would be easy to recommend to any reader who enjoys stories about Hawaii or police procedurals. I look forward to more books being released in this series.

{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Death of a Messenger!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 13th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!


Death of a Messenger, by Robert McCaw

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno {ends 1/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

A glimmer squeezes through the door, daylight finding its way in. Jimmy comes in from the heat, wiping the sweat from his forehead, making his way to the bar. He’s wearing a dark-blue t-shirt, a size too small. A band name, DIGISAURUS, is inscribed across a boom box with lightning bolts shooting out. The letters are stretched over his pecs, and the bolts curve over his gut, not quite reaching his belly button. This shirt is paired with old Levi’s and black-and-white Sambas—the same shoes kids wore for indoor soccer back in the nineties.

Sometimes I feel like I’m straddling where I came from—Wilton, Cambridge, San Francisco, New York —and where I am, this town, like they are two different worlds. Then the whiskey touches my lips and I realize no matter where I am it tastes just the same.


What a powerful examination of a life. Emma spends the night at the townie dive bar as one of the regulars comparing her life now to her life "before." 

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno {ends 1/12}
It’s 5pm on a Wednesday when Emma settles into her hometown bar with a motley crew of locals, all unaware that a series of decisions over the course of a single night is about to change their lives forever. As the evening unfolds, key details about Emma’s history emerge, and the past comes bearing down on her like a freight train.

Why has Emma, a powerhouse in the business world, ended up here? What is she running away from? And what is she willing to give up to recapture the love she once cherished? An exploration of contemporary love, guilt, and the place we call home, and in the tradition of
Ask Again, Yes and Little Fires Everywhere, Ordinary Hazards follows one woman’s epic journey back to a life worth living.

Emma spends a long evening at the local bar observing the locals, who she has known and spent time with for years. She’s comparing herself and her life to theirs, and recognizing both how they are the same, and how they are different. Her insights are interspersed with her previous experiences with some of the locals and others who have brought her to this point. The reader isn’t sure what the line is between "before" and "after" until much further along in the evening, and the story.

There’s something nostalgic about the beginning of the book. The image of a small-town bar and the sense of community there can apply as something that is familiar to many, or sounds quaint and cozy even if it hasn’t been experienced personally. Emma’s flashbacks to her own evolution to adulthood, and the quirks of the regulars who she may or may not consider friends are engaging. As events progress, it is revealed that the story is more unique to Emma and the lives of those hanging out at the bar.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The writing was compelling and relatable. The characters were interesting. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy contemporary fiction and complex emotional stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys contemplation paired with whiskey. She sometimes shares her own musings at SweetlyBSquared.com, along with other book reviews.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Ordinary Hazards!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 12th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Open to BOTH U.S. and Canada!

Good luck!

Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno

Monday, January 4, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Primal Calling, by Barry Eisenberg {ends 1/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Jack jumped to answer the pay phone. It was Wednesday. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the clock on his cell phone. 10.02a.m. “Hello,” he said, his voice bursting with eagerness and energy.

“Hi, it’s me. I have some news. How’s tomorrow?”

“I’ll make it work. Same time?” Jack asked.

“See you there,” Cathy said.

How quickly their communication had achieved high-level efficiency, like that of operating room team members. No waste, no imprecision. It was synchrony produced by urgency, repetition and common purpose.

Of all the outcomes Jack imagined when he started looking for his father, this was probably quite unexpected.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Primal Calling, by Barry Eisenberg
While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?


The beginning of this book was interesting and encouraged the reader to keep going - what would happen next? The story was unique. Everyone fancies themselves a fairly competent detective, with the help of all the information on social media and the internet. When Jack starts searching for his father, he ends up enlisting the help of a young woman who works at the university his father was supposed to have attended. After both of them hit mysterious dead-ends, they begin to suspect this is more than just a missing person—did he ever even exist?

A few secret government people show up to explain the precarious situation with his father. They ask that his search end immediately. But what if Jack isn’t the only one searching? The search could be dangerous to anyone involved. As the book progressed, a few more characters were introduced, and sometimes their level of knowledge and involvement seemed a little unclear.

Overall, I’d rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. It’s hard to say a lot more about the plot without spoiling it, but I was much happier with the setup and buildup than with the conclusion. The story of Jack and his search, and the mystery/thriller aspect were the most enjoyable parts of the book.

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

Becki Bayley is a searcher, a planner, a reader, and a writer at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Primal Calling!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, January 11th, 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!

Primal Calling, by Barry Eisenberg

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