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

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