Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Book Review and Book/Art GIVEAWAY: Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge {ends 4/6 - three winners!}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Dear Libertie,

You have only written me of music and nothing of your studies. Miss Annie tells me that you are planning, with the ladies of the old LILS, a concert in the summer -- I would wish to know about it. I hope you will tell me of it when you come to stay.

Emmanuel is eager to hear of it, as well. I fear he grows bored here, out in the country, as it is. But he does not wish to go downtown and he rarely travels to Manhattan.

I am most excited for you two to meet. I think you will find him an excellent brother in study. He is so levelheaded, so calm, so persevering, that it is impossible not to wish to work as he does.

It is strange to have someone in the house who is not you, who is not my daughter.

I am eager to welcome you here, to your home, to where you belong, before you leave me again for your studies.

I hope this is not a sign that my Libertie is leaving me behind.

Your Mother

The constant in Libertie’s life has been her mother, and her mother’s career as a doctor willing to care for anyone. What if Libertie could be someone different?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Libertie, by Katilyn Greenidge
Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past.

This book was a great reminder of how hard growing up can be. Libertie Sampson, of course, had even more challenges. While living as a freeborn Black girl, she still saw slaves trying to escape. She knew she and her mother had always been free, but sometimes she wondered if freedom was all it was cracked up to be. Libertie saw that she suffered more prejudice than her mother and others with a lighter skin tone. Listening to other free peoples’ stories from around the world, Libertie begins to wonder if freedom is ever a reality.

The historical fiction aspect of this book spoke quite clearly to Libertie’s struggles as a Black woman. Her character seemed defined first growing up in her mother’s shadow, and then as an overlooked woman when her mother’s notoriety in the local community didn’t make her recognizable far from home. Her search for self was somewhat universal. She wondered internally at who she should be, when no one was telling her who to be anymore.

Libertie’s story and quest for her own identity was touching. It was easy to forget the book took place so long ago. I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who like unique historical fiction and coming of age stories.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley defines herself as a wife and mother. She also enjoys reading and posting about what she’s read at SweetlyBSquared.com.


THREE of my lucky readers will win a copy of Libertie, as well as an 11x14 inch frameable art print of Libertie on high quality textured paper!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, April 6th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge - book + art print

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Book Review: Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“It’s just, Teddy’s reputation.” Alice sounded hopeless. “He did this other thing now. Made a stupid comment on social media and—”

“Who cares what other people think of Teddy?”

But of course, Alice had always cared about public opinion. Evelyn knew this. Appearances, after all, had become her daughter’s life’s work as an architect and interior designer. Alice’s desire to impress had seemed inborn. She’d collected only accolades all through middle and high school, cultivating her teachers’ and peers’ impressions of her. Alice herself had affixed the “Notre Dame Mom” sticker on the back window of Everlyn’s old Subaru the same day the acceptance came in. The Notre Dame architecture dream had been pure irony, Evelyn marveled, as Alice didn’t even know her mother had started at the very same school, transferring away only when her pregnancy mandated it.

Junior high is a complicated time for young teens’ relationships, and their mothers’ relationships too. The three moms featured in this book were used to doing everything together, but the changes their kids were going through seemed to be the catalyst for the mom connections to change as well.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West
Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.

When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn’t made of glass).

Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.

As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else's standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.

Oh, what a day to be Alice! She starts out thinking her biggest concern is that she’ll have to cut her conference with her second grade daughter’s teacher short in order to rush to a career changing work appointment. In the first few minutes of the brief conference, her phone rings repeatedly from her son’s school. That’s just the beginning of everything falling apart, and it may take months or longer to put it all back together.

The characters in this book all felt sort of stereotypical, but that didn’t make them any less real. Unfortunately for the moms, most of their reputations and relationships were quite dependent on their kids. The kids were 12 or 13, and were starting to have more of their own choices to make. Their choices started changing everyone’s idea of who they and their moms were.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The author could definitely portray convincingly what being a mom of a junior high aged kid can be like. This book would be an enjoyable read for those who like fiction, especially involving families.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a mom who hopes to never have jarring revelations of what her kids are really like. So far, so good. See more of her and her kids on her instagram as PoshBecki.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Good Eggs, by Rebecca Hardiman {ends 3/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“If I were you, Mrs. Jameson,” Millie continues now, “the first thing I’d do is check my handbag.”

Mrs. Jameson levels a watery, disconcerting gaze at, or sort of at, Millie.

“Not to alarm you—Kevin, my son, you see, now he’s an alarmist. He worries about his knees, he’s an athlete, you see. Wonderful tennis player. Very graceful. And then, oh Gerard’s exams! That’s his eldest. Will he fail? Will he meet a nice girl?”

Millie throws up exasperated hands to punctuate her monologue. She decides, having studied the woman’s soft folds of skin and collapsed neck and hand-stitched eyelet cover, that back when Mrs. Jameson was not bedridden, before whatever befell her, she was a generous woman with a creative streak and a wicked sense of fun, a good egg.

Three generations of the Irish Gogarty’s are having a bit of a rough time. It was an amusing distraction to read of how they face the problems that they think are shaking the world, while not even usually noticing what their other close family members are going through.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Good Eggs, by Rebecca Hardiman {ends 3/28}
When Kevin Gogarty’s irrepressible eighty-three-year-old mother, Millie, is caught shoplifting yet again, he has no choice but to hire a caretaker to keep an eye on her. Kevin, recently unemployed, is already at his wits’ end tending to a full house while his wife travels to exotic locales for work, leaving him solo with his sulky, misbehaved teenaged daughter, Aideen, whose troubles escalate when she befriends the campus rebel at her new boarding school.

Into the Gogarty fray steps Sylvia, Millie’s upbeat home aide, who appears at first to be their saving grace—until she catapults the Gogarty clan into their greatest crisis yet.

With charm, humor, and pathos to spare, Good Eggs is a delightful study in self-determination; the notion that it’s never too late to start living; and the unique redemption that family, despite its maddening flaws, can offer.

This was definitely an engaging multi-generational story. While most books marketed with three generations feature all women, this story highlighted the matriarch Millie, her son Kevin, and Kevin’s daughter (Millie’s granddaughter) Aideen. The three stories were mostly pretty independent of each other, until the last third of the story when Millie and Aideen joined forces to escape some troubles and confront others.

While the beginning of the book was a lot of set-up, the interaction of the whole family, and the adventures of Millie and Aideen really made the ending more fun. Millie was a quirky, eccentric old lady, but learning more about her story as the book went on was heartwarming. Kevin was unemployed with too much time on his hands, but recognized the value of his family eventually. Aideen appeared on the surface to just be a troubled teen, but she also had her own hidden charms.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it as a pleasant contemporary fiction. Some of the language and explanations that were unique to Irish culture added to the enjoyment.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley worries that a real job may be cutting into her reading time. This was kind of expected. Read her other reviews at her own blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Good Eggs!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, March 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be emailed the next day and must respond within 24 hours, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Open to both U.S. and Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Good Eggs, by Rebecca Hardiman

Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Memory Collectors, by Kim Neville {ends 3/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

She sends the paper boat skimming across the waves. It’s easier this time, like she’s been building a muscle. There seems to be a quality to each object, the emotion it holds dictating the kind of response she can draw from it. She practiced with the lantern last night, lifting and floating it gently above her bed. She lit the candle inside and used the lantern’s joy to control the flame, brightening and dimming its glow. She lasted only a few minutes before her head began to ache and her limbs grew heavy, sending her into a deep, exhausted sleep.

This object is lighter than the lantern. It takes little effort to connect with it, to bring it alive. The list wants to move, so she helps it along. It takes flight, spinning and whirling with the wind until she can see only a speck against the navy blue of the ocean.

“How did you do that?”

She’s forgotten Brett completely. Oops. Ev shrugs, keeps her back turned.

“Wind must have caught it just right.” She squeezes her eyes shut, hoping he’ll accept the lie and move on.

What if objects carried the emotions of those who had possessed them before? What if they spread the old emotions as they moved throughout the world? Maybe for some people they do.

Official synopsis:
Ev has a mysterious ability, one that she feels is more a curse than a gift. She can feel the emotions people leave behind on objects and believes that most of them need to be handled extremely carefully, and—if at all possible—destroyed. The harmless ones she sells at Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market to scrape together a living, but even that fills her with trepidation. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Harriet hoards thousands of these treasures and is starting to make her neighbors sick as the overabundance of heightened emotions start seeping through her apartment walls.

When the two women meet, Harriet knows that Ev is the only person who can help her make something truly spectacular of her collection. A museum of memory that not only feels warm and inviting but can heal the emotional wounds many people unknowingly carry around. They only know of one other person like them, and they fear the dark effects these objects had on him. Together, they help each other to develop and control their gift, so that what happened to him never happens again. But unbeknownst to them, the same darkness is wrapping itself around another, dragging them down a path that already destroyed Ev’s family once, and threatens to annihilate what little she has left.

The Memory Collectors casts the everyday in a new light, speaking volumes to the hold that our past has over us—contained, at times, in seemingly innocuous objects—and uncovering a truth that both women have tried hard to bury with their pasts: not all magpies collect shiny things—sometimes they gather darkness.

Ev holds others at a distance for their own good, at least that’s what she tells herself. She hates feeling the emotions of others through objects they’ve previously had. She purposely keeps her living space as impersonal as possible, so she can try to keep herself quiet and unaffected by other influences. While she spends time with Owen, it’s mostly because he doesn’t make her reveal more about herself than she wants to. Ev thinks the only one who truly knows her is her sister Noemi.

Then Ev and Owen meet Harriet. While Owen has always known that Ev’s relationship to objects is different than most people, he recognizes that Harriet also treats the objects in her care with more reverence than most. So if Ev and Harriet have that in common, should they be friends? Ev hardly trusts herself with her power, she’s really reluctant to trust Harriet, who has hoarded her apartment so full of bright things (as she calls them) that she’s making her neighbors sick with all the emotions spilling out.

Ev and Harriet were so unique. While their understanding of the objects they encounter seemed to be something they had in common, how they reacted was very different. Is it from their background? The strength of their power? Their own will? What does using their powers, or not, cost them?

The story and characters in this book were amazing to me, and I would give the book 5 out of 5 stars. I’d love to read it again and see what other signs I missed of how it all would develop next. I’d recommend this book for those who enjoy unique stories and magical realism.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes flowers, shiny memories, and the smell of old books. Read more of her reviews and sometimes other thoughts at SweetlyBSquared.com.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Memory Collectors!

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Memory Collectors, by Kim Neville

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Book Review - I Can See Clearly: Rise of a Supernatural Hero, by James A. Cusumano

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

When we arrived at Bella’s home, she looked at me with great distress. Her eyes were welling up with tears.

“Look, Luc, I’ve told you several times this past week, you’re my best friend -- ever. But I’m frightened, and to be honest, I’m becoming afraid of you. I don’t know who or what you are anymore. What just happened back there at the preserve with that Eric guy was way beyond normal. Some kinda high-energy electric bolt or something came out of your body and nearly killed him -- and, what’s more, it had no effect on you! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Whatever happened to you during your NDE in the hospital has changed you into I don’t know what, and I’m scared, very scared—scared for me, scared for you, scared for us. Forget spying for the CIA—what kind of frightening thing will you do next?”

Luc isn’t sure if his newly discovered gifts are a blessing or a curse. His whole life is changing, and he doesn’t feel in control of any of it.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - I Can See Clearly: Rise of a Supernatural Hero, by James A. Cusumano
Sixteen-year-old star basketball player, Luc Ponti wins an important tiebreaker game for the Palo Alto Vikings with a three-point basket during the last few seconds of play. He is simultaneously critically injured with a flagrant foul by a player from the opposing team. Luc dies for several minutes but is revived after having a near-death experience (NDE). He inexplicably begins to develop superpowers, which change the course of his life and have a profound impact on the world.

Luc becomes caught in a tangled web of espionage, blackmailed by the CIA to use his powers of remote viewing to spy for them. This creates conflict in his life, most significant—how can he pursue his long-time dream of playing varsity ball for a top college; major in engineering; and possibly go pro after graduation. I Can See Clearly is the story of a talented teenager seeking the Meaning of Life and his Life Purpose, while fighting the grip of the CIA.

The prologue for this story really sets the stage. In 2017, a monk tells a teenager of a very important arrival predicted for 2018. The foreshadowing going into the actual story was excellent.

In 2018, Luc is introduced: a great basketball player under enormous pressure, especially from his father, a former ball player who chose not to go pro. What should have been a minor injury if any ends up rupturing Luc’s appendix, leading to fevers, infections, and even his death, but he’s sent back to the world he’s always known.

Once Luc recovers from his injury and near-death experience, he keeps discovering new talents including traveling outside his body, reading minds, and telling the future. While the gifts sound helpful, they continually put Luc and his friends and family at risk.

The characters in this book, the first in the series, were interesting. Luc was a believable typical teen dealing with some pretty non-typical experiences. His friends Bella, and then Eric were also regular kids having to come up with new responses to unique situations. The monk, Thay, who becomes sort of an advisor to Luc is fun and quirky, if a little wordy at times.

The story-line is of course a bit far-fetched, by design, but well told. It felt like the author wanted to impart a lot of philosophical and spiritual wisdom, which sometimes got tedious, but the rest of the intrigue and adventure played out nicely.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those with some paranormal or philosophical interest who also like a bit of government spy stories. I look forward to checking out what happens next for these teenagers with unusually exciting lives.

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes painting her nails, drinking bourbon, and reading. See more of her adventures on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

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