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.

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