Sunday, August 1, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Unthinkable, by Brad Parks {ends 8/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Without Jenny, CMR would drop the CP&L lawsuit. We could let some time pass, to make sure it was good and gone. And maybe then it would be safe to resurface, because Vanslow DeGange would no longer perceive her as a threat, and the Praesidium would have moved on to preventing other cataclysms that had nothing to do with us.

This, of course, was assuming I could convince Jenny to come with me.

A daunting task. Think about the proposition from her perspective: your husband, who has already been acting squirrelly, is now proposing you hastily pack up your young family and run off in the dead of night with no plan of where you’re going and little thought of when you might return.

Yeah, no chance.

What seemed like a totally unique and thought provoking thriller based on its original premise launched into exciting plot twists and developments that will surprise most readers.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Unthinkable, by Brad Parks {ends 8/8}
Nate Lovejoy is a self-proclaimed nobody, a stay-at-home dad who doesn’t believe he’s important to anyone but his wife and their two daughters. So it’s a shock when members of a powerful secret society kidnap and spirit Nate away to a mansion at the behest of their leader, Vanslow DeGange, who claims to know the future. He’s foreseen that a billion people could die—unless Nate acts.

It seems improbable, especially given what DeGange says will set this mass casualty incident in motion: a lawsuit against the biggest power company in Virginia, being brought by Nate’s wife, Jenny.

Nate quickly smells a scam being perpetrated by the power company. But at every turn, it becomes apparent there’s more to DeGange’s gift than Nate wants to acknowledge. A billion people really could die, and Nate might be the only one who can save them.

All he has to do is the unthinkable.


If you’re familiar with the trolley problem, this book is a great expansion on that. Nate is told by some mysterious men that if he doesn’t kill his wife, the world will essentially end. What a horrible position to be in! He forces the man who has told him all this to prove the ability of the secret society’s leader to see the future several times, until he sees very few options for himself and his family.

While the problem seems ludicrous, the characters are still believable and likable. The pacing of the story felt just right—as soon as one scenario or choice felt resolvable, another loomed in its place. The twists in the story were also completely unexpected from this reader’s perspective.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was definitely a thought-provoking mystery as it progressed. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary stories with intricate plots.

{click HERE to purchase—currently free for Kindle Unlimited customers!}

Becki Bayley is a fan of fairness, intelligence, and problem-solving. Check out what else she’s been reading at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 8th, 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!


Unthinkable, by Brad Parks

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Book Review: Dead Certain, by Adam Mitzner

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

In a police interrogation, when the suspect asks for a lawyer all questions must cease. The police are precluded from trying to talk someone out of invoking his right to counsel. If they do, anything that’s said after the request for counsel is inadmissible at trial.

But this isn’t a police interrogation.

“She’s giving you terrible legal advice, Zach. Trust me, I’m not some first-year law student trying to impress you. I was a prosecutor for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of people dig deep holes for themselves by keeping their mouths shut. But I’ll say this: If you did kill Charlotte, then your friend is absolutely right. One hundred percent. But if you didn’t, then all lawyering up does is cause reasonable people to conclude that you’re guilty. Because why else wouldn’t you cooperate? So, which one is it? Did you kill her? Because if you did, you should definitely tell me to leave. But if you’ve got nothing to hide, then all you’re doing by staying silent is making me think you murdered my baby sister. And if I think that, you bet your ass that I’m going to make it my mission in life to make you pay. So, which is it, Zach?”


Sometimes, life may imitate art, right? Charlotte Broden’s book may have come true, before it’s even published.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Dead Certain, by Adam Mitzner
Ella Broden is living a double life.

By day, Ella works as a buttoned-up attorney on some of the city’s most grueling cases. By night, she pursues her passion for singing in the darkest clubs of Manhattan.

No one knows her secret, not even Charlotte, the younger sister she practically raised. But it seems she’s not the only one in the family with something to hide. When Charlotte announces she’s sold her first novel, Ella couldn’t be more thrilled…until she gets a call that her sister’s gone missing.

Ella starts investigating with the help of Detective Gabriel Velasquez, an old flame in the NYPD, and what she finds is shocking. If art imitates life, then her sister’s novel may contain details of her real-life affairs. And any one of her lovers could be involved in her disappearance.

Desperate to bring Charlotte home, Ella works through her list of suspects, matching fictitious characters with flesh-and-blood men. But will it be too late to save the sister she only thought she knew?

Although there are a few years between Ella and Charlotte, the sisters are the best of friends, especially since their mother passed away when they were younger. Neither sister suspects that the other could be keeping secrets. But the secrets they’re keeping are about to change both of their lives!

The sisters’ relationship was really sweet. While it seemed they both hung out with other people more, when there was something important to them, they each turned to their sister first. As is usually the case, less secrets between them could have led to a happier ending for everyone.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The plot was kind of predictable, as Ella pointed out by knowing that her sister’s book would be a little more based in fact than just fiction (although there seems no way Charlotte could have known just how much truth was in her story). It was a fun/escape read, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend other books by this author, or read more if I had the chance.

{Click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a woman without a secret life, who lives vicariously through the books she reads. Read more of her book reviews and other observations at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story, by Peter Zheutlin {ends 8/4, three winners!}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

There are two versions, well many more, really, but two principal ones, of how I reached the eastern shores of China and then Japan from Marseille, and I told both of them, sometimes to different reporters on the same day in the same city, depending on how much time I had and what struck my fancy in the moment. There was the long story and the short one, but in truth the longer one was conjured during the shorter one. I can tell you this: I sailed from Marseille on the twentieth of January 1895, and arrived in Yokohama in early March of that year.

For those paying attention, this was a remarkably fast passage for a woman supposedly riding a bicycle across Europe, through Persia, Palestine, South Asia, and China, but it was filled with adventure. The ride from Bombay to Calcutta was made miserable by insects. I hitched myself to a royal hunting party and spent three days pursuing the great Bengal tiger. In the hinterlands of Asia, where many had never seen a bicycle, I was mistaken for a flying squirrel, an evil spirit, or, on one occasion, a visitor from Mars. Many times my life was in mortal danger, my escapes always narrow, and my courage, and my spirits always high.


When Mrs. Kopchovsky has a chance to see the world, and leave behind the drudgery of motherhood and housekeeping, she barely bats an eye before packing her bags and becoming the adventurous Annie Londonderry.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story, by Peter Zheutlin {ends 8/4, three winners!}
Who was Annie Londonderry? She captured the popular imagination with her daring ‘round the world trip on two wheels. It was, declared The New York World in October of 1895, “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.”

But beyond the headlines, Londonderry was really Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young, Jewish mother of three small children, who climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and pedaled away into history.

Reportedly set in motion by a wager between two wealthy Boston merchants, the bet required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months, but to earn $5,000 en route, as well. This was no mere test of a woman’s physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman’s ability to fend for herself in the world.

Often attired in a man’s riding suit, Annie turned every Victorian notion of female propriety on its head. Not only did she abandon, temporarily, her role of wife and mother (scandalous in the 1890s), she earned her way selling photographs of herself, appearing as an attraction in stores, and by turning herself into a mobile billboard.

Zheutlin, a descendent of Annie, brilliantly probes the inner life and seeming boundless courage of this outlandish, brash, and charismatic woman. In a time when women could not vote and few worked outside the home, Annie was a master of public relations, a consummate self-promoter, and a skillful creator of her own myth. Yet, for more than a century her remarkable story was lost to history. In SPIN, this remarkable heroine and her marvelous, stranger-than-fiction story is vividly brought to life for a new generation.


While inspired by a true story, the character of Annie Londonderry in this story sounds like she may be flattered for you to find her version of events to be unbelievable. Her goal was not only to make it around the world and be awarded the cash prize, but to build a story she could really run with to fame and fortune. She wanted to be so much more than a wife and mother.

It was her unwillingness to be just an average 1890s woman that got her into this unique situation. She originally heard about the wager and potential adventure and prize at one of the shops where she sold newspaper ads. Not many husbands of the time would have allowed their wife to hold her own job outside the home as Mrs. Kopchovsky did.

It wasn’t just her gender that put her at a disadvantage—even those willing to bet on a woman’s ability or lack thereof to navigate the world independently still wouldn’t sponsor a woman of Jewish background to do the same. That was why even her name was required to be changed before her adventure and recognition began.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I’d be somewhat curious how it compares to the author’s non-fiction of the same subject. Annie Londonderry’s narration of her real and imagined adventures grew a bit tedious in the exaggeration at times, but that’s almost certainly exactly the way a woman would need to be to push her way through a world that cleared no path for her at the time. This would be a great book for someone who enjoys historical adventure stories, and reading about steps toward womens’ rights.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a modern-day wife, mother, and employee. While she can see why an escape may be nice sometimes, she can’t imagine the energy it would require to take on a new life. See her real life in pictures from time to time on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of Spin!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, August 4th, 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!

Spin, by Peter Zheutlin

Monday, July 19, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: It Came From the Sky, by Chelsea Sedoti {ends 7/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Why are you saying everything you do?” Ishmael asked.

“We’ve been over this,” I replied absently. “I’m recording everything related to the hoax.”

“You must be blowing through your phone’s memory.”

I was. The hoax had taken over my life to the point where I was recording nearly every conversation I had.

Ishmael craned his neck to see what I was working on. “You sure I can’t help?”

“Considering that last time you ‘helped,’ you blew up the yard, so no thanks.”

Ishmel shrugged and spun in circles in the swivel chair. It made me dizzy just looking at him.

“So, he said. “We’re just gonna point this thing at cars and it’ll screw up their radios?”

“In theory.”


Two brothers have a plan that serves very different purposes for each of them. Gideon wants a brilliant social experiment for his MIT application. Ishmael wants to pull an epic prank that will never be forgotten.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: It Came From the Sky, by Chelsea Sedoti {ends 7/26}
This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only...there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town—it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon's obsession with their tale threatens his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?


It started as a simple experiment to test Gideon’s latest handmade scientific tool. But when Ishmael was left in charge of setting off the explosion necessary for the test, he wanted to make sure it was big enough to be appreciated. Mission accomplished!

Gideon and Ishmael Hofstadt are each typical teenaged boys, unique in their own ways. Gideon is the smart one—he doesn’t count on any one liking him, and just doesn’t let anyone close since he’s sure they won’t. Ishmael figures he’s smart enough to get by, and being a fun prankster surrounds him with lots of fans and friends. Neither one is sure what to do when their experiment and/or prank doesn’t wrap up neatly when they’re done with it. It’s taken on a life of its own.

When the FBI and a charismatic cult leader are among the national audience drawn to their town by its reputation of alien encounters, the boys start to realize things are out of their control. Now they just want to find a way to straighten it all out, without losing the respect of their friends, or ending up in jail.

This was an interesting story in which Gideon wanted to share every minute of the experience. By interviewing all of those involved, the author tried to present the viewpoints of the boys and many of those who thought they were having alien encounters as well. I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It was an interesting young adult read for boys or girls who enjoy a unique story.

{click here to purchase—currently only $1.99 for Kindle!}

Becki Bayley doesn’t rock the boat. Check out her book reviews and other observations at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of It Came from the Sky!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, July 26th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. 

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

It Came from the Sky, by Chelsea Sedoti

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Lockhart Women, by Mary Camarillo {ends 7/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Why don’t you stop by this afternoon?” Brenda tells Bill when he calls. “I have a business opportunity I’d like to talk to you about. Have you heard of network marketing?” She’s practiced the spiel from the handbook Tim left her and she’s sure she sounds convincing, but Bill’s not listening.

“I can’t get away this afternoon. Jack Bowen’s in town.”

She’s heard of Jack Bowen from the Pacific Area office in San Francisco. Frank was always worried about impressing him.

“How about after the Laker game tonight?” Bill says. “Maybe you could invite a friend for Jack to hang out with while we’re, you know, busy. You have any girlfriends who like to party?”

“Is that what we’re doing? Partying?”

“I thought we were having fun. He’ll be with me. I can’t get away otherwise.”

“Another time, then.”

“Oh, come on, Bren. Leave your front door unlocked. I’ll have him wait in the living room. You won’t even know he’s there.”

Brenda pulls the phone away from her ear and stares at it. Does he seriously expect her to have sex with him while Jack Bowen waits in the living room? Does he think she’s a whore? She doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment. She’s a free and independent woman with a new business to focus on.

“Bren? You still there?

She puts the phone back in her ear. “Don’t call me anymore. This party is over.”


The Lockhart women are stronger than they think, but does life have to keep making them prove it?

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Lockhart Women, by Mary Camarillo {ends 7/20}
Brenda Lockhart’s family has been living well beyond their means for too long when Brenda’s husband leaves them—for an older and less attractive woman than Brenda, no less. Brenda’s never worked outside the home, and the family’s economic situation quickly declines. Oldest daughter Peggy is certain she’s heading off to a university, until her father offers her a job sorting mail while she attends community college instead. Younger daughter Allison, a high school senior, can’t believe her luck that California golden boy Kevin has fallen in love with her.

Meanwhile, the chatter about the O. J. Simpson murder investigations is always on in the background, a media frenzy that underscores domestic violence against women and race and class divisions in Southern California. Brenda, increasingly obsessed with the case, is convinced O. J. is innocent and has been framed by the LAPD. Both daughters are more interested in their own lives—that is, until Peggy starts noticing bruises Allison can’t explain. For a while, it feels to everyone as if the family is falling apart; but in the end, they all come together again in unexpected ways.

The Lockhart women definitely make their share of bad choices, but somehow the results seem to turn out even more catastrophic for them. However, they’re willing and able to persevere. Eventually they learn from their mistakes, and learn to forgive others for the mistakes they’ve made as well. Their roles within their family are evolving, and as hard and cold as it seems, they really don’t have any choice than to play the role they’re now cast in.

Brenda knew only how to be a trophy wife and spend her husband’s money maintaining appearances. Peggy was the golden child, determined to go out and be successful, with completely different priorities than her parents. Allison knows she’s pretty, and figures she’ll continue using her charm and beauty to get what she wants out of life. They’re all in for big surprises, and figuring out how to make the most of the cards they are now dealt.

This book showed some great evolution of the characters. None of them were used to looking beyond their own life, even when their actions unintentionally affected others. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It could definitely have had a stronger ending. While I liked the ending, it felt like it was summed up at a much faster pace than the rest of the book.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys sweet drinks, salty snacks, and usually some noise in the background. See more of her life on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Lockhart Women!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, July 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and will have 24 hours to respond or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Lockhart Women, by Mary Camarillo

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Book Review: The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

They left the building and started down the hill. “So, where were you teaching before?” Caroline asked.”

“Florida,” he told her. “A small city school called Pine Beach College. Although I grew up in Minnesota. Where’s home for you two?”

“Chicago,” Caroline answered.

“I knew I recognized a couple of fellow Midwesterners. Do you live in the city?”

“No, about a half hour north.”

“Oh, nice. I mean, it sounds nice,” he said. “Not that I’ve ever been outside the city. But I do like Chicago.”

Caroline nodded. She could tell that Aaron was the kind of person who didn’t seem to worry about every little word he said, and that put her at ease. He fit in so well with the Lake Summers vibe. Back home, everyone was always intense, so even funny mistakes became calamities. Once Uncle Rich sent a message to a client saying that a salesperson “named Nancy Sanders would stop by—except he typed a k instead of an m, so the sentence read, “naked Nancy Sanders.” Caroline, who’d been cc’d on the memo, laughed out loud as she read it—but when she went down the hall to point it out to Uncle Rich, he became apoplectic. “Get it back!” he’d screamed at his assistant. “Get it back, now!”

Caroline has a whole lot going on all of a sudden. It has barely occurred to her how long she’s been away from the town where she was born, and she may have missed it more than she realized.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn
She held the letter that she had found in the garden, and noticed the distinctive curls of her father’s handwriting etched on the worn paper. Her life had already been turned upside down by one family secret, would his last words force her to leave her childhood home forever?

When Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago, she thought she’d never go back to the place where she lost her parents. But when she finds out that the town’s lily garden lovingly built by her mother is going to be destroyed, she knows fate is calling. Dropping everything at her office in Chicago, she knows she is the only person who can save the garden.

Caroline and her daughter Lee are welcomed home by the warm smile of her mother’s best friend Maxine, and piles of pancakes at her cozy little restaurant in town. And Caroline soon learns that she isn’t the only person invested in saving her mother’s legacy, when she meets handsome historian Aaron. As she gets to know him, strolling along the sparkling lakeshore, she can’t imagine anywhere else she’d rather be.

But then Caroline learns a terrible secret about the day her mother died. And soon the real reason Aaron is in Lake Summers comes to light. Will the truth about the people she loves force her to give up a future with Aaron, and the beautiful town that has always been in her heart?

Since Caroline moved in with her Aunt Risa when she was 12, she’s known exactly what was expected of her. When she had her daughter Lee, the baby was chosen to be the successor to Aunt Risa’s vast business empire. Now that Caroline is finally revisiting her hometown after almost 30 years, it occurs to her to question her place, and Lee’s place, in the world they never really made a choice to join.

There’s a lot going on in this feel-good summer story. Caroline is remembering how strong the ties can be to one’s chosen family. She’s also used to knowing exactly what her daughter wants, but as Lee gets ready to graduate from high school and embark on her own story, Caroline may not know her as well as she’s always assumed.

While I loved the beginning and middle of this book, the ending felt a bit rushed, so it overall gets 3 out of 5 stars. While I loved the characters, there were a few for which I wanted a little different ending. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy family stories, strong female characters, and contemporary fiction.

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

Becki Bayley is a Mean Girls fan who enjoys snack foods, bubbly drinks, and reading while cozy under her weighted blanket. Find out more of what she read at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Book Review - Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, by Hilary Levey Friedman

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

To many, pageant programs are simply pieces of paper tossed into a rubbish can shortly after the event. But they are more than ephemera; they contain the rich details of life showing what is worthy of remembering. For example, the physical measurements listed show how women’s bodies have changed over time. Moreover, what is absent or not listed—such as college major, GPA, or professional ambition —and when that information first appears, shows when the organization and society more generally began to care about those things for women. These historical sources open a window into women’s history to help us understand changing ideas about young women’s lives.

Popular culture events, especially women’s events, have a long history of producing brochures and souvenir books. Suffrage parades put out souvenir books in the 1910s. In 1940, Miss America issued its first souvenir program book. It was glossy, like a magazine, and contained information on all the contestants, events, advertisers, judges, organizers, and volunteers. The producers had previously released a pamphlet, but it had only scheduling information and nothing on the contestants.


While it’s easy for lots of people to turn up their noses at pageants, this history was enlightening. The author pointed out so much influence and reflection between pageants and the social and cultural evolution of the United States.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, by Hilary Levey Friedman
Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe’s bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul’s Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America’s ableist and racist history, Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenét Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what’s been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.


One thing that was obvious throughout this book was the staggering amount of research that was compiled in it. Pageants have continually reflected society and its values. Whether it was through what contestants were expected to wear, how they were expected to behave, or showing the contestants and spectators what was perceived as the most important features of those on stage. Whether the pageants were showcasing babies (and the mothers carrying them), women of many age groups, or members of different cultures celebrating what made them similar, pageants gave them all a way to take pride in their identity.

While there are many judgments about those participating in pageants (or those in charge of that decision for younger contestants), the author also explored the varied reasons contestants worked so hard to participate and potentially win their chosen pageants. Sometimes it was a tradition for the region they were from or the family they identified with, sometimes it was actually for the prizes, or even something as simple as bragging rights or the experience of participating.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Unlike some non-fiction books, this was entertainingly told across the timeline of pageants in the US, while also exploring different types of pageants and different participants. It was also interesting to see the different paths that pageant contestants seemed more prepared for after their participation, like very visible jobs in entertainment, broadcast journalism, or politics. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in what pageants are really about, and how they have changed over time, just like the societies they reflect.

{Click here to purchase—currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and problem-solver. When she can get all her ducks in a row for a few minutes, she enjoys unwinding with a book and a cocktail. Check out her summer reading views on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Act of Negligence, by John Bishop {ends 6/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

We both slept through the alarm and were awakened by the persistent whining of the Tipster, who desperately needed to relieve himself. My immediate response was panic, not for my dog, but for me. After all, rounds, patients, surgery --

“Mary Louise! Get up! We’ve overslept! It’s after seven!” I said running into the bathroom to quickly shower. “Please walk Tip! I don’t have time!”

As I was hurriedly soaping down and washing my hair, the shower door opened and in stepped the gorgeous woman that I slept with all night. She was nude, in all her glory.

“Mary Louise, any other time, I would be thrilled to see you like this, but—”

“Jim Bob. It’s Friday. What do you do on Friday?”

I stood there for a minute, water pummeling my face as it had the day before during my walk from my stalled truck, and looked at her.

“Isn’t Friday your day off? Normally?”

I nodded, enjoying the warm, controllable, indoor shower, and started to calm down a little.

“And do you know which particular Friday this is?”

I thought as hard as I could but did not remember. I shook my head.

“The Friday before the Saturday that you are to give your lecture. Remember?”

It was starting to dawn on me.

“Oh. With the flood and the deaths, I guess I forgot. New York.”

Dr. Jim Bob Brady and his wife Mary Louise are still a love story for the ages. Her unwavering support helps him chase his wild ideas and helps get him out of some sticky situations again, as in previous stories.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Act of Negligence, by John Bishop {ends 6/22}
Dr. Jim Bob Brady, Houston orthopedic surgeon and amateur sleuth, finds himself in the midst of a different type of medical mystery. His friend and colleague, Dr. James Morgenstern, refers him a series of dementia patients with orthopedic problems from Pleasant View Nursing Home. Each patient dies, irrespective of the treatment, a situation that Doc Brady is unaccustomed to.

Each death prompts an autopsy, performed by another Brady colleague, Dr. Jeff Clarke, who discovers unusual brain pathology in each patient. Some of the tissue samples show nerve regeneration, a finding unheard of in dementia patients.

Doc Brady, enraged by the loss of his patients and obsessively curious about the pathologic findings, begins to investigate the nursing home, as well as its owner and CEO, Dr. Theodore Frazier. This leads Brady and Clarke on an adventure to discover the happenings at Pleasant View—an adventure that sees them running for their lives.


Dr. Jim Bob Brady is an orthopedic surgeon who appreciates the fact that very few of his patients die on him. When four die within a week, he’s hoping they have something in common besides him. Since they’re also patients with dementia, he’s left feeling he really never knew much about them either. It’s a medical mystery not really suited to his skills as a surgeon, so luckily he has plenty of friends in other areas of medicine.

With input from nurses, doctors of pathology, and friends and family of the deceased, he starts putting together what sounds like a very unlikely case, but sometimes that’s exactly what can make it true. As he keeps thinking how unbelievable his findings are, more and more evidence is pointing to the impossible.

This was an engaging book from start to finish, and I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve enjoyed both of the Doc Brady mysteries I’ve ready, and either of them could also stand alone just fine. While it’s fun to know a bit about the characters, the author also gives us plenty of detail and background to understand the current book. I’d recommend any of the Doc Brady mysteries I’ve read to those who enjoy medical mysteries. They’ve been fun and distracting without the medical part being too graphic.

{click HERE to purchase—currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!} 

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

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Act of Negligence!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 22nd, at 11:59pm Eastern time, 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!

Act of Negligence, by John Bishop

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The North Face of the Heart, by Dolores Redondo {ends 6/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

New Orleans, Louisiana
Early morning, Monday, August 29, 2005


Amaia came awake slowly and listened carefully. She made out rhythmic breathing. Johnson and Charbou were sound asleep despite the roar of the storm and the constant ringing of telephones in the command center next door, which was only slightly muted by the walls. She assumed Dupree and Bull were still busy somewhere else in the fire station. Checking her watch, she found it was almost five in the morning. Dawn would arrive soon, though as yet the covered window admitted no light.

From the cot she could see some of the crime scene photos they’d sorted spread out across the conference table. Disorder, destruction, and chaos ruled each scene. Her impressions were jumbled. She was absolutely certain crucial clues were to be found at the crime scenes, and she hadn’t been able to get them out of her head. The answer lay in the killer’s staging, again and again, a desired outcome. Was it some sort of macabre therapy in which he took out his bitterness upon others? Or were these just rehearsals for an upcoming final act? If so, what was he waiting for, what permission did he need before murdering his entire family a second time? How many more times would he be driven to rehearse his final solution?

Usually a thriller is entertaining, and fine to pass the time. This thriller is so wonderfully written—the descriptions of the settings and characters are as compelling as the plot.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The North Face of the Heart, by Dolores Redondo {ends 6/8}
Amaia Salazar, a young detective from the north of Spain, has joined a group of trainees at the FBI Academy in Virginia. Haunted by her past and having already tracked down a predator on her own, Amaia is no typical rookie. And this is no ordinary student lecture at Quantico. FBI agent Aloisius Dupree is already well acquainted with Amaia’s skills, her intuition, and her ability to understand evil. He now needs her help in hunting an elusive serial killer dubbed “the Composer,” and in solving another case that’s been following him his whole life.

From New Jersey to Oklahoma to Texas, the Composer’s victims are entire families annihilated in the chaos of natural disasters, their bodies posed with chilling purpose amid the ruins. Dupree and Amaia follow his trail to New Orleans. The clock is ticking. It’s the eve of the worst hurricane in the city’s history. But a troubling call from Amaia’s aunt back home awakens in Amaia the ghosts from her childhood and sends her down a path as dark as that of the coming storm.


While Amaia is visiting the Quantico FBI Academy with other international inspectors and detectives, she’s especially looking forward to a seminar led by FBI agent Dupree. Imagine her shock and that of her mentor when Dupree seems to be singling her out during his presentation. He’s already recognized her as a "needle in a haystack" like him—a detective with nearly supernatural instincts.

Amaia goes overnight from a trainee to an integral part of the hunt for a serial killer. With the beautiful and tragic backdrop of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, what she thinks is just the hunt for the serial killer is also assisting Dupree with chasing monsters from his own past.

Usually thrillers are built heavily on the unexpected twists in their plot. This book was also poetic and inspiring in its descriptions of the historic city of New Orleans, the magic that lives there, and the tragedy brought so suddenly by Hurricane Katrina. I’d rate this book a high 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who like contemporary stories, thrillers, and drama with some old-school voodoo history.

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

Becki Bayley believes in ghosts, magic, and the power of caffeine. Find more about what she’s reading and where by following her Instagram posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The North Face of the Heart

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 8th, 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 North Face of the Heart, by Dolores Redondo

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Quick Pick Book Review: The Soulmate Equation, by Christina Lauren

Quick Pick Book Review: The Soulmate Equation, by Christina Lauren
  • Opening lines: Jessica Davis used to think it was an honest-to-God tragedy that only twenty-six percent of women believed in true love. Of course, that was nearly a decade ago, when she couldn't image what it felt like to be anything but deeply and passionately obsessed with the man who would one day be her ex. Tonight, though, on her third first date in seven years, she was astounded the number was even that high. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge Christina Lauren fan, and I pretty much love all of their books. 
  • And what's this book about? The New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners returns with a witty and effervescent novel about what happens when two people with everything on the line are thrown together by science—or is it fate? Perfect for fans of The Rosie Project and One Plus One.

  • Single mom Jessica Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.

    But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.

    At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: one of GeneticAlly’s founders, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond Match” that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

    Funny, warm, and full of heart,
    The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a love story with a bit of science thrown in. 
  • Something to know: I think this might actually be the first book by Christina Lauren that stars a mom! Usually they (I say "they" because "Christina Lauren" is actually two writers working together) write about single ladies with no kids. 
  • What I would have changed: This is going to sound a bit Neanderthal but ... normally Christina Lauren's books have more sex scenes. This one had one or two, and they were well-written, but ... books like Beautiful Bastard by them had hotter sex scenes! 
  • Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Across the Winding River, by Aimie K. Runyan {ends 5/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“We made good progress today, Dad,” I said, proudly marking our spot in the photo album. We were nearing the halfway point and would have it finished in another couple of sessions. I kept my eyes on my notes as I worked up the courage to ask the question I’d been burning to. “You kept one of the photos last time, Dad. Do you want to put it in the album, or should I look for a frame or something? It doesn’t seem smart to keep it unprotected.”

He produced the photo from his breast pocket as if he’d been waiting for me to ask.

“She belongs in the book,” he said. “On the last page. I’m just not ready to paste her in a book and put her on a shelf just yet.”

“I understand,” I said, though the words weren’t true. I couldn’t understand until I knew who she was.


This story told from three viewpoints in two timelines was more than your typical WWII book. Figuring out who the war characters were in the modern timeline made for a compelling narrative.

Original synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Across the Winding River, by Aimie K. Runyan {ends 5/26}
Beth Cohen wants to make the most of the months she has left with her elderly father, Max. His only request of his daughter is to go through the long-forgotten box of memorabilia from his days as a medic on the western front. Then, among his wartime souvenirs, Beth finds a photograph of her father with an adoring and beautiful stranger—a photograph worth a thousand questions.

It was 1944 when Max was drawn into the underground resistance by the fearless German wife of a Nazi officer. Together, she and Max were willing to risk everything for what they believed was right. Ahead of them lay a dangerous romance, a dream of escape, and a destiny over which neither had control.

But Max isn’t alone in his haunting remembrances of war. In a nearby private care home is a fragile German-born woman with her own past to share. Only when the two women meet does Beth realize how much more to her father there is to know, all the ways in which his heart still breaks, and the closure he needs to heal it.


While this reader feels there are quite a lot of World War II stories to choose from lately, this one was unique in its use of three narrators over two timelines—there was a contemporary timeline with Max’s daughter Beth, a WWII and modern timeline with Max, and a mostly WWII timeline with a woman named Johanna. The variety gave the story a different cast than other WWII novels, and the contemporary angle made it more relatable for a modern reader.

This was a beautiful recounting of a WWII love story that ended with a search and unanswered questions. While Max didn’t know Margarethe well, he knew they loved each other in a soul-deep way that would surely carry over into their lives when the war was over. That being said, and without spoiling the ending, it was satisfying to find out the rest of the story years later.

Overall, this was a charming book that blended a contemporary story with a WWII story quite well. I’d give it a high 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy family stories or WWII historical stories.

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

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys reading in the sun and waiting for the spring flowers to make their appearance. Hopefully she’ll be sharing some spring sights from her yard soon along with book reviews on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Across the Winding River!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, May 26th, 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!

Across the Winding River, by Aimie K. Runyan

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Book Review: The Atmospherians, by Alex McElroy

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

My relationship history was littered with jelly-brained lunks: men who quoted Joe Rogan at dinner, who blew their savings on collectible knives, men who brewed IPAs in their best friends’ basements, who proposed marriage at basketball games and would fight anyone who didn’t think the first Lethal Weapon was a classic. I fucked them because I liked predictable men, the guarded and repressed. Sensitive men couldn’t be trusted; they assumed their sensitivity made them special, deserving of praise. Most sensitive men were, at their cores, narcissists who constructed elaborate expectations for how relationships were meant to evolve. When those expectations weren’t met, the facade of sensitivity deteriorated into a petulant rage.

This unique story of a disgraced social influencer and her childhood friend from New Jersey looked at what happiness and success may be, from different viewpoints.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Atmospherians, by Alex McElroy
Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she’s at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men’s rights protestors rage outside. All that once glittered now condemns.

Sasha confides in her oldest childhood friend, Dyson—a failed actor with a history of body issues—who hatches a plan for Sasha to restore her reputation by becoming the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere: a rehabilitation community for men. Based in an abandoned summer camp and billed as a workshop for job training, it is actually a rigorous program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity and heal them physically, emotionally, and socially. Sasha has little choice but to accept. But what horrors await her as the resident female leader of a crew of washed up, desperate men? And what exactly does Dyson want?


When Sasha has hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? She’s afraid even Dyson, the friend she’s known since childhood, doesn’t want to be associated with her anymore. When he shows up with a radical idea to create a cult and cure men of toxic masculinity, she may as well go along with it; she’s already lost her internet brand, and her waitressing job, and she’s being evicted from her apartment.

What could have been funnier came off as a bit too serious for this reader. Sasha definitely seemed pretty snarky and amusing in her own head, but the things she and Dyson did together and separately that were detrimental to those they claimed to be helping were somewhat depressing. Instead of having a little remorse for the unfortunate state of the world, and poorly functioning men in particular, they searched for some way to improve their own station, and then figured maybe it would help someone else.

Overall, I’d give this book 2 out of 5 stars. It may be better suited to someone with a darker sense of humor than I have these days. Its statement of the state of things was cynical, with a definite edge of commentary on social media, men’s issues, and self-acceptance.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother. She enjoys chilling with the sun on her skin, the smell of flowers in the air, and a cold glass of bourbon in her hand. Find some of her adventures on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: It Had to Be You, by Georgia Clark {ends 5/13}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

As summer spread itself sunscreen-thick over New York, Zia Ruiz and Clay Russo started seeing each other. In secret. As Clay explained, as soon as the press knew they were dating, they’d be hounded and Zia’s personal life would no longer be personal. Trolls would come out of the woodwork. Her online footprint would be mined for information. “They’d be obsessed with getting a photo of us,” he said, unable to hide his annoyance. Privacy gave the relationship space to breathe, and grow, he said. And they’d have lots of time together, since the job in Mozambique unexpectedly fell through. The project lost funding. Zia expected to feel disappointed. Instead, she felt relieved. Excited. There’d be other jobs, and her feelings for Clay were growing.

If they were out late and Clay’s security gave the all clear, occasionally Clay would stay over at Darlene’s. Darlene had sworn to take-it-to-the-grave secrecy, as had Zach, who’d popped by one night and ended up bonding with the actor over a shared love of nineties British rock bands. (“That guy seriously has the world’s best body,” Zach told the two women. “I can say that because I’m comfortable in my manhood.”) But usually, it was safer, and more convenient, to stay at Clay’s penthouse apartment.


This book had relatable characters for everyone. New York City is truly portrayed as a great melting pot, with lots of interesting and likable people.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: It Had to Be You, by Georgia Clark {ends 5/13}
For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It
Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.

This was a delightful book of love stories of all sorts, and somehow at least this reader was cheering for them all to find their happily-ever-after. When surprisingly cynical wedding planner Liv loses her husband—who is also her partner in their wedding planner business—she thinks her life will just be her and her son from there on out. But the girlfriend she didn’t know her husband had, until his unexpected death, shows up at her door, ready to enthusiastically take Eliot’s place as Liv’s new partner in the wedding planning business.

Luckily, getting the wedding planning business active again facilitates several perfectly adorable meetings between catering staff, entertainers, and the guests at the weddings that bring them all together. Unexpected couples are revealed, each charming and endearing in their own way, with their own amusing stories.

I found this book to be so fun and such a cozy summer romance read. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy fun, contemporary romances, with great lasting friendships thrown in.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys listening to Handel’s flute sonatas and drinking Faygo Redpop while she reads. Find out more of what she’s been reading at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of It Had to Be You!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, May 13th, 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!

It Had to Be You, by Georgia Clark

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Book GIVEAWAY: Long Walk Home, by Ellen Oaksmith {ends 5/12}

Long Walk Home by Ellen Oaksmith was just released on April 28, 2021, and one of my lucky readers will win an e-copy of the book!

Official synopsis:
Book GIVEAWAY: Long Walk Home, by Ellen Oaksmith {ends 5/12}
Lola was struck by just how quickly she recognized him. It had been ten long years since she’d seen him; ten years of thinking that maybe she hadn't really loved him. But there he was. And he still took her breath away.

Lola has turned her life around since her wild teenage years, but one thing hasn’t changed: how her sister sees her. Her sister Carmen only remembers the mistakes she’s made and can’t see the potential of Lola’s plans to expand the family vineyard business at Blue Hills. But Lola is determined to win Carmen round—and gain her respect once and for all.

Then Lola’s high school sweetheart Gus arrives back in town, and everything changes. He was her first love, the bad boy she used to climb out of windows to see. But he’d broken her heart when he left town suddenly, without so much as a goodbye. And after that, she’d never seen him again. Until now.

Gus isn’t that same rebel anymore. It’s taken everything he has to come back to this town full of bittersweet memories, but he owes it to himself, and to Lola, to make amends. But she’s not that lovesick girl anymore and she knows she can’t let him turn her head again. So why can’t she stop thinking about how his strong arms would feel wrapped around her?

Then fate intervenes, and they’re forced to work together on Lola’s biggest project—and the sparks begin to fly once more…


As the sun sets over the mountains and meadows of Blue Hills, can two people who’d thought they could never be together find their way home to each other?

An utterly romantic feel-good read about being true to yourself and becoming the person you were always meant to be,
Long Walk Home will make you laugh, make you cry, and show you that true love always finds a way. For fans of Robyn Carr, Carolyn Brown and Mary Ellen Taylor.

Author bio:
Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today and Kindle bestselling author of addictively fun love stories. She has never run a winery, been attacked by drones or nearly drowned someone but she loves putting her characters in challenging situations. Ellyn also enjoys chatting with readers on social media. Especially when she should be writing.

Ellyn began her writing life as a screenwriter in Los Angeles which, outside of writing hours, is exactly as crazy as it seems in the movies. After hightailing it back to her native Seattle, Ellyn began writing comedic romances and never looked back.

Ellyn lives in Seattle with her husband. She's part of a competitive rowing team. You can often find her on Lake Sammamish rowing in the dark.

Author website: www.EllynOaksmith.com
Facebook: @EllynOaksmith
Instagram: @EllynOaksmith

{Click HERE to purchase the book}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my readers will win an e-copy of Long Walk Home!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, May 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.

E-book will be sent to the winner directly from the publisher, as a Kindle copy.

Open to international since this one is an e-book!

Good luck!

Long Walk Home, by Ellen Oaksmith

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Book Review: The Stranger Inside, by Jennifer Jaynes

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The doorbell rang at exactly seven p.m….just as Diane was walking downstairs.

Right on time.

When she opened the door, her stomach felt jittery. Rick stood in the doorway in a button-down shirt and tie, holding red roses. He looked even more handsome than the previous night, if that was even possible.

Unfortunately, both kids were in the living room. She’d been so stressed thinking about Josh’s pot smoking and getting herself ready in time for her date, she hadn’t thought about them actually being present when Rick arrived.

She quickly made awkward introductions. Josh was his usual laid-back self and gave Rick a cool nod and a “What’s up?” Alexa, on the other hand, stared at him, unblinking.

“You’re going on a date?” she’d asked.

“We’re going to dinner,” Diane said.

“Which is a date, right?” Alexa asked, her eyes never leaving Rick.

This book was definitely an interesting page-turner with lots of false suspicions, and one true villain, of course.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Stranger Inside, by Jennifer Jaynes
After mystery author Diane Christie loses her husband to suicide, she and her son move to the small coastal town of Fog Harbor, Massachusetts. Her daughter is attending college nearby, and Diane hopes that her family can now begin to heal. But rebuilding their lives after the tragedy isn’t so simple.

Diane’s depressed college-age daughter, Alexa, still avoids her, critical of everything Diane does, and even her generally amiable teenage son, Josh, has started acting out. Diane pushes forward, focusing on her writing and her volunteer work at a local crisis hotline. She knows that healing takes time.

But then a girl from Alexa's college is found strangled. Worse still, the murderer uses the crisis hotline to confess to Diane ... and claims she is the only one who can stop the killing. And just when the glow of new love from an attractive admirer begins to chase away some of the darkness, more girls turn up dead, and Diane races to solve a mystery she fears will hit terrifyingly close to home.


Diane feels her family’s life would be perfect if only her relationship with her daughter Alexa was better. At a college nearby, her daughter avoids her whenever possible, which may be better than when they are together and she’s angry and confrontational, or drunk. But in order to do her laundry and see the brother she loves, Alexa has to come home sometimes.

A visit from Diane’s best friend convinces Diane that she deserves her own happiness, and she even wants to put her foot down about letting Alexa be so disrespectful and mean to her. But dating may complicate things even more. Alexa isn’t sure if she hates her mother or not, but she knows she doesn’t trust the guys Diane invites to the home.

Overall this was a quick read with a quite unexpected ending. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy an exciting thriller.

{click HERE to purchase—currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys the sun on her face, food cooked by other people, and bourbon. See more of her book reviews at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, by Amy E. Reichert {ends 4/27}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“He looks nice,” her brother Cal said. He and his husband, Brendan, stood and gave her hugs. “Is he ready for a Monroe family gathering?”

“We’re just friends.”

“You know what I mean. We aren’t always subtle, especially with Arabella claiming she can see blurry outlines and Oscar obsessed with the idea. She’s only trying to impress the other kids, but…”

Shit. Sabrina hadn’t thought about that. When they were together, everyone treated the family business as completely normal. It’s what had made the few short trips home each year between high school and now tolerable. Her family was a safe zone. She had been so excited to show Ray this secret part of the Dells that she’d forgotten the other secret, one he couldn’t know anything about. She was getting too comfortable with him much too soon. She didn’t know anything about him other than that he was from New York, had worked in real estate, and made a great fried cheese curds.


Sabrina’s plan when she moves back to the Dells is to work lots of hours, save up enough money to pay her bills up to date, and move back to the city and away from her quaint hometown and her hereditary "gift."

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, by Amy E. Reichert {ends 4/27}
For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells—the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World
means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina's always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who's much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina's side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He's charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn't have time for romance--she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she's in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?

When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.


Sabrina and Ray were such a perfect couple! Starting with their great meet-cute at the waterpark, the universe just kept throwing him into her path until she got more comfortable. Helping a girl feel more comfortable with a person when even her best friend is a ghost is truly the way to her heart. But it was her ghostly best friend who was both the one trying so hard to get them together, and the reason Sabrina was convinced it would never work out.

Sabrina’s evolution into someone who knew she deserved happiness and love regardless of her family quirks made this book so heartwarming and relatable. Those closest to Sabrina and her gentle and kind way of moving through the world already knew how special she was, but she was the last one to believe it.

I really enjoyed the unique characters and stories revealed between the humans and the ghosts. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. The paranormal twist made it feel more like a cozy mystery than a supernatural book. I’d recommend it for most readers who enjoy contemporary romance, or those who especially like stories taking place in the Midwest.

{click HERE to purchase - only $9.99 for Kindle right now!}

Becki Bayley enjoys sleeping in, avoiding cold weather, feeling the sun on her face, and curling up with a good book. Soon you’ll be able to see her new garden grow on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, April 27th, 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 Kindred Spirits Supper Club, by Amy E. Reichert

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: At the End of the World, Turn Left, by Zhanna Slor {ends 4/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Before Zoya, the closest I came to returning to Ukraine was in high school, during a Baltic cruise, when we spent a day in St. Petersburg. It was a weird trip; even though it was my first time back abroad, I had become anxious the last week, spending so much time locked in a room with my parents, and was looking forward to seeing Russia and heading back to America. But being Soviet refugees back in Russia was strange. On more than one occasion we overheard the Russian tour guides joking about how fat and ugly the group from our cruise ship was. They didn’t notice we could understand them; that’s how American we’d come to look in our bootcut jeans and Adidas sneakers. No one suspected us of being in our homeland. Maybe because it wasn’t our homeland anymore. The Jews had gone with the ruble, after all. And like my parents said, we were Jews first and Russians second—at least, this had been the case in the USSR. Our passports listed Jewish under nationality. Who knew, maybe we were Americans first now, or refugees first. I wasn’t sure. My identity was such a mess. It was sort of like wearing layers during the time of year that Autumn turns to Winter: when it’s freezing out, you appreciate every one. But when the sun comes out, you want to shed half of it to the ground; you feel suffocated. This is what identity could feel like, for me, sometimes. Like wearing too many coats, then not wearing enough.

Sisters Masha and Anna could be said to have had the same upbringing and background, but their transition and reactions to adulthood couldn’t have made them more different.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: At the End of the World, Turn Left, by Zhanna Slor {ends 4/21}
Masha remembers her childhood in the former USSR, but found her life and heart in Israel. Anna was just an infant when her family fled, but yearns to find her roots. When Anna is contacted by a stranger from their homeland and then disappears, Masha is called home to Milwaukee to find her.

In 2008, college student Anna feels stuck in Milwaukee, with no real connections and parents who stifle her artistic talents. She is eager to have a life beyond the heartland. When she’s contacted online by a stranger from their homeland―a girl claiming to be her long lost sister―Anna suspects a ruse or an attempt at extortion. But her desperate need to connect with her homeland convinces her to pursue the connection. At the same time, a handsome grifter comes into her life, luring her with the prospect of a nomadic lifestyle.

Masha lives in Israel, where she went on Birthright and unexpectedly found home. When Anna disappears without a trace, Masha’s father calls her back to Milwaukee to help find Anna. In her former home, Masha immerses herself in her sister’s life―which forces her to recall the life she, too, had left behind, and to confront her own demons. What she finds in her search for Anna will change her life, and her family, forever.


Masha and Anna were never really close sisters, but since they both went to college in Milwaukee, they knew some of the same people and places. So when their dad can’t get a hold of Anna, he calls Masha home from Israel to look for her sister. Masha resents it from the start, and was way happier with her new life in Israel than confronting and being reminded of her old life in Milwaukee.

It just gets worse when she finds her dad may have been lying to all of them, and creating the situation Masha is now expected to get Anna out of. There are a few different places Anna may have fled to, but does their dad know more now than he’s letting on? Masha’s mission to figure out what happened and bring Anna home may be near impossible without the truth about everything that happened before.

Overall, I’d give this family drama 3 out of 5 stars. I loved the little linguistic asides from Masha—words she’d learned in her linguistics studies that had no English equal. Sometimes it’s hard to find just the word to describe what you’re trying to say, but Masha had a lot more words to choose from. It was insightful learning about all of Masha and Anna’s family members and their reactions to the world and their situations as refugees. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy family dramas, refugee stories, and people who enjoy learning about different world cultures and expectations.

{click HERE to pre-order; the book will be out on April 20, 2021}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading, some writing, and being a wife and mother. She hopes to see her garden bloom soon, and will share pics on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of At the End of the World, Turn Left

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, April 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be emailed 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!

At the End of the World, Turn Left, by Zhanna Slor

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: To Love and To Loathe, by Martha Waters {ends 4/13}

"Is this about Jeremy?" Violet asked.

Diana sighed, nodding. "We came to our current arrangement under the understanding that it was to be temporary, mutually beneficial, and that we would go our separate ways when it ceased to please us both. But ..."

She trailed off, at a loss to explain the complex whirlwind of emotions that had taken up residence within her without her consent. That was the trouble with feelings—they so rarely appeared when it was convenient, and even more rarely did they appear in a desirable configuration.

I haven't read a fun romance novel in a while, and this fit the bill. It was also rather unusual, because novels set in this time period are usually about marrying or finding a wife/husband; this one had elements of that in there, but the main character is a widower and intent on being single for the rest of her life.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: To Love and To Loathe, by Martha Waters {ends 4/13}
The author of the “hilarious...joyful, elegant” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
To Have and to Hoax returns with an effervescent, charming, and swoon-worthy novel about a man and woman who never agree on anything—until they agree to a no-strings-attached affair in this Regency-era romp.

The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.

After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.

Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

With Martha Waters’s signature “cheeky charm and wonderfully wry wit” (Booklist, starred review), To Love and to Loathe is another clever and delightful historical rom-com that is perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Evie Dunmore.

This was a fun book to read. I forget exactly what year it takes place in but I believe it was in the early 1800s sometime, in England, where it's not exactly appropriate to sleep with many men before marriage! However, Diana is now a widow, and therefore has the luxury of her dearly departed husband's money and wealth. She and Jeremy Willingham have been friends forever, and there's always been something bubbling under the surface there, as well. 

I didn't realize until writing this that Martha Waters (the author) also wrote To Have and To Hoax, which my guest reviewer Becki reviewed in Sept. 2019 here. It sounds like based on the synopsis for that one that it takes place within the same world as To Love and To Loathe, which would make sense based on the titles, so I may have to read that one at some point too; I don't believe it's a follow-up novel, though, because this one was fine as a standalone read.

Overall, I would give To Love and To Loathe 3.5/5 stars—you can probably predict the ending, but it's fun getting there. 

To Love and To Loathe is on sale today, April 6, 2021, and can be purchased here

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky winners will win a copy of To Love and to Loathe!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, April 13th, 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!


To Love and To Loathe, by Martha Waters

Monday, April 5, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Knives and Knightsticks, by K. Lew and C.R. Lockhart {ends 4/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

SADIE

“What part of ‘I promise I won’t go on a stakeout alone’ was unclear to you? What part of ‘I promise to be safe’ did you decide was up for debate?” She opened her mouth to speak, and I held up a finger and shot her a look that dared her to try me.

“How dare you? Honestly, how dare you! You are my best friend, my roommate, my family whom I have chosen, and you promised me that you would not endanger yourself again—you promised it on our friendship. Uh-uh, no, still my turn to talk,” I barrelled through her second attempt to speak.

“I would understand if Dion couldn’t make it, I would understand if you were annoyed, but what I cannot understand is why you wouldn’t tell me first. You know
you knowthat I would support you on any crusade, no matter how crazy. I would have done this with you.”

I finally took a moment and looked around the car at her detritus of takeout cups and lack of anything helpful.

“I would have also been a lot more prepared. Were you going to lure the mobster out with an iced latte? Most importantly, I would have known you were safe.” I took a deep breath, trying to calm down.

Sadie and Zoey are the best kind of best friends. And while down and dirty adventure may not be Sadie’s first choice, she’ll do what she has to for Zoey.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Knives and Knightsticks, by K. Lew and C.R. Lockhart {ends 4/12}
What shade of lipstick goes with bloodstains? Sadie and Zoey, best friends and sharers of shoes, have both lost their jobs for Very Bad Reasons. Sadie ditched her lawyer boyfriend (who happened to be her boss) and Zoey followed her nose into a story that shattered her burgeoning career as a journalist. When the story that destroyed Zoey’s career lands her next to a dead body, Sadie’s new job at the police station makes for the perfect spy. Unravelling the mystery proves to be more dangerous than expected, and the two find themselves wedged between romance, organized crime and deciding what shoes go best with a stakeout. If you loved the Stephanie Plum series, the Rock Chick series or
Firefly Lane, you'll enjoy Knives and Knightsticks!

Such a fun book! Sadie and Zoey are both going through some life changes. Sadie was lucky enough to stumble into a new job that made leaving her old job and cheating boyfriend much easier. Zoey has lost her reporting job, and publishing a retraction of what was supposed to be her big story isn’t exactly opening doors for her in the industry.

Whatever else may be going wrong in their lives, Sadie and Zoey always have each other, so they know they’ll make it through whatever life throws their way. Not only is their relationship something all friends could aspire to, they were individually charming, snarky and amusingly insightful. If only they could have noticed a few big red flags about the direction their lives had suddenly taken.

This book was great, and I can’t wait for new books in the series. I’d give this one 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy excellent friendship tales and contemporary fiction. Their single-girl city life sounds exciting, and I’m certain those from Toronto would recognize some of the landmarks mentioned by the authors.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley loves warm spring weather, watching birds enjoy her garden, and pizza and wings delivered. Check out her other book reviews at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Per the authors' request, this one is going to run a little bit differently!

There will be two widgets below: one is for Canadians, and one for Americans.

Prizes include:
One paperback copy of the book—for Canadians only (the authors are Canadian)
Two e-book copies of the book—for Americans only

Gleam does tell me IPs, so please enter via the widget that is correct for you. :) 

Please enter via your appropriate widget below! Giveaway will end on Monday, April 12th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified the next day via email, and will have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Good luck!

Knives and Knightsticks - CANADIAN CONTEST
Knives and Knightsticks - AMERICAN CONTEST

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