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.

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