Sunday, November 21, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Wolf Point, by Ian K. Smith {ends 11/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

My intel had been spot on, which was why I found Amy Bonnegan sitting alone at a back table in Randolph Tavern, a busy pub just a couple of blocks from city hall. She tore into a mountain of greens while tapping furiously on her phone. She didn’t notice me as I approached.

“This chair taken?” I asked.

She looked up. The disappointment registered immediately on her face. I took a seat.

“It’s been a while,” I said.

“Are you following me?” she said.

“What makes you say that?

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that of all the restaurants in Chicago you just happen to choose the one where I’m eating lunch.”

“I like salads,” I said. “I read a study where the average American eats only a third of the recommended amount of daily fiber. Leafy greens are loaded with fiber, but those chia seeds you have sprinkled on top...now that’s where the gold is. They are probably the single best food source of fiber on the planet.”

“Thanks for that nutritional tidbit,” she said. “But I’m sure you’re not here to talk about fiber.”

Ashe Cayne left his law enforcement career to be a private investigator, and pursue real justice.

Official synopsis:
A Cadillac, a pistol, and a corpse make for another morning in Chicago. The body belongs to Walter Griffin, a prominent Black Chicagoan insider hailing from the city’s West Side. He ascended to the upper echelons of the mayor’s office only to meet his end in a watery grave at Wolf Point. Forensics finds his prints on the gun; it’s ruled a suicide.

But grizzled private investigator Ashe Cayne knows better.

Griffin’s children plead with a reluctant Ashe to hunt their father’s killer. They know their dad wouldn’t have taken his own life without a goodbye. And Ashe knows this town’s dark secrets often mean murder is not too far away.

Ashe decides to take on the case and navigate a city rotting with corruption, racial tensions, and sketchy backroom deals. On the bleak streets of Chicago, it’s every man for himself—and that makes everyone a suspect.

Ashe Cayne’s previous experience working at the police department has given him all the connections he could need. Walter Griffin’s children are also convinced that he is the one to find out the truth about their father’s death. This time of year, he usually spends less time working so he can focus on his golf handicap, but he makes an exception to find the real story behind this previously high-profile case. Oh, what a tangled web Walter Griffin left. While he was certainly well-known, and everyone talked about how likable he was, no one gets to a position of power without making several enemies.

While he’s working this case by the light of day, Ashe Cayne is also exacting his own version of justice for another crime where no one else can see. Plenty of people may not have approved of his ideas and methods, but there was definitely something karmically satisfying about the good guys getting even.

The Ashe Cayne series is amusing. He’s a great character with a sharp mind, and his randomly dropped literature quotes are fun and shocking to some of the people he has to work with to get to the bottom of the street crimes he’s solving. This book would also stand alone fine, as you are always learning about Ashe Cayne through his adventures. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and look forward to reading what’s next in the series. 

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom who tries to hold her house together while working full time and reading/reviewing 100 books this year. Follow along and see if she makes it at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of Wolf Point!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, November 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Wolf Point, by Ian K. Smith

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson {ends 11/25}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

She scrolls back through all the texts she’s sent her mom, but they’re all unread. Now she thinks she knows why. Her mom’s phone was probably in her minivan with Jeanie when her mom ran away. 

So there’s no point in texting her at all.

And yet...there’s something comforting about it, too.

I’m scared, she types.

There’s no response to that, either.

Please help me.

As if by magic, the doorbell rings.

For the tiniest, briefest, stupidest moment, her heart lifts. Have her prayers been answered?

But then reality descends. No one should be here. No one should ring this doorbell.

This is not a good sign.

What if COVID is just the first pandemic? In The Violence, the next pandemic causes people to go crazy and kill one person they’ve decided is the enemy.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson {ends 11/25}
When Chelsea Martin kisses her husband hello at the door of their perfect home, a chilled bottle of beer in hand and dinner on the table, she may look like the ideal wife, mother, and homemaker—but in fact she’s following an unwritten rulebook, carefully navigating David’s stormy moods in a desperate nightly bid to avoid catastrophe. If family time doesn’t go exactly the way David wants, bad things happen—to Chelsea, and to the couple’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Ella. Cut off from all support, controlled and manipulated for years, Chelsea has no resources and no one to turn to. Her wealthy, narcissistic mother, Patricia, would rather focus on the dust on her chandelier than acknowledge Chelsea’s bruises. After all, Patricia’s life looks perfect on the surface, too.

But the façade crumbles when a mysterious condition overtakes the nation. Known as the Violence, it causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bursts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. The ensuing chaos brings opportunity for Chelsea—and inspires a plan to liberate herself and her family once and for all.

This was definitely a page-turner, and believable in a horrible way. It uniquely combines a pandemic after COVID, an intricate domestic violence situation and its influence on three generations of women, and society’s responses to violence in general. While these all summon strong emotions and reactions, they also send thoughts of possible options of what’s next in every direction. The big picture of the book had a few somewhat expected endings, but getting there was a suspenseful adventure.

Chelsea, her daughter Ella, and her mother Patricia all have their own conditioned responses to violence and power in their personal lives, but the violence pandemic gives everything a new perspective. Whether they were used to being in control, or thought they never could be, their interactions with the pandemic changed their ideas of what was possible repeatedly.

While it’s fair to warn of some, well, violent scenarios described in the book, personally the satisfaction of vigilante justice was worth it. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars. The characters and situations they dealt with felt realistic (if a bit choreographed for convenience near the end). I’d recommend this for those who enjoy contemporary fiction and family stories, but don’t mind some graphic depictions of violence. 

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a cat person and music lover. You’ll find her reading, puttering around her home office, and listening to a variety of 80s, holiday, the Chicks, Ke$ha, and Stevie Nicks. She posts about what she reads and other events in her life on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Violence!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, November 25th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified 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 Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson

Monday, November 15, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe {ends 11/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

BEFORE

The woman in the fur coat is the first to break our three-way stare down. Maybe she reads the determination on my face, a look that says I will not give up these items without a fight. I know I can do it, fight...until the death. Once you have killed your first, another may not be as difficult.

“Monsieur, it’s fine. She’s picking up items I asked for.”

“Madame? How so? You two did not come in together.”

She turns to me with a hint of a smile. “But darling, you need to get the new ones. Not the testers.” She steps to the shelf, picking up a box of Hugo, and holds it out to me.

“Madame, no. She is nothing but a misérable, a vagabonde. The police can handle her accordingly.”

Wretch and vagrant. Two more names to add to my growing list.

Aninyeh has many names through her life, but the one she chooses to go by ends up being the most important.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe {ends 11/22}
Stolen from her Ghanaian village as a child, Nena Knight has plenty of motives to kill. Now an elite assassin for a powerful business syndicate called the Tribe, she gets plenty of chances.
But while on assignment in Miami, Nena ends up saving a life, not taking one. She emerges from the experience a changed woman, finally hopeful for a life beyond rage and revenge. Tasked with killing a man she’s come to respect, Nena struggles to reconcile her loyalty to the Tribe with her new purpose.

Meanwhile, she learns a new Tribe council member is the same man who razed her village, murdered her family, and sold her into captivity. Nena can’t resist the temptation of vengeance—and she doesn’t want to. Before she can reclaim her life, she must leverage everything she was and everything she is to take him down and end the cycle of bloodshed for good.

This was quite a thriller, told in "before" and "after" storylines. Usually alternating timelines result in one being a more enjoyable read, but in this case, they were both intriguing stories with non-stop action. 

The "before" stories led from the destruction of her childhood village and family to her realization of having taken back her own power by becoming a trained assassin, helping her new family and Tribe right the wrongs of the world. The "after" story is when she suddenly knows more than the intel of the Tribe, and needs to personally right much older wrongs from her own destroyed world.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. The action and violence are a bit daunting in some parts of the story, but the only reason I wouldn’t re-read this is because I know what happens. The good news is that this is book one of a Nena Knight series, so there’s more action and vigilante justice to come!

{click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and Gemini. She enjoys Faygo Rock & Rye with Southern Comfort, and dinner cooked by someone else. Read more of her book reviews and info about local Detroit events on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Her Name is Knight!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, November 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!

Her Name is Knight, by Yasmin Angoe

Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw, by Michelle Hodkin

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I’d never wanted to see the place before, and now that I stand here, looking up at it, nondescript and shuttered in a toxically ugly part of Brooklyn, I feel justified. There are windows stretching up for stories, boarded shut, crudely. Father always was good at hiding. 

“You’re serious?” Daniel asks, staring at the building.

“Deadly,” I say. I lift the metal shutter; it groans in protestation, and I feel my way for the lock. The rusted red door opens, and I slide my hand over the wall for the light switch.

The lights slam on at once, the sudden artificial brightness a bit shocking. “I don’t think we’re going to find anything in here that’s going to help prevent whatever’s going on,” I say, looking up at the towering shelves, “but you do. And I trust you with whatever might or might not be in here.”

Daniel’s quiet, staring ahead at the aisles that go on forever.

“So this is what’s happening today,” I go on. “Mara, Jamie, and Goose are at the brownstone with Leo—”

“And Sophie, probably,” Daniel mumbles.

I shrug a shoulder, as if it doesn’t matter. “Perhaps. No one’s texted yet, and I don’t much care, honestly. But listenthere was a map that I just barely got a glimpse ofI have a near-photographic memory, but the room was dark and I couldn’t make everything out. Now that we’re all on the same team

Daniels’s eyes drop, and he looks away.

“The same let’s-not-allow-innocent-people-to-die team,” I inhale, trying not to sound frustrated.

Noah, his love Mara, and their friends have Gifts, with a capital ‘G.’ Perspectives vary on if their Gifts are good or not, but they are what tie this group of friends together.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw, by Michelle Hodkin
In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

While these characters seem interesting, a lot of their background was surely explained in the previous Mara Dyer books. Having not read those, some parts of their characters or their relationships were unclear. 

In this book, Noah Shaw starts out in England for a family function, and his girlfriend Mara is around, but not directly with Noah and his family at first. They soon travel to the U.S., and are joined by Noah’s school friend, Goose, who has nowhere else to go at the moment.

In the U.S., Noah, Mara, and Goose meet up with some other young adults with Gifts who apparently Mara had been staying with at an earlier date. Since they all chose to separate at some point, no one is sure who to trust, especially when other kids like them have been disappearing or being found dead. Not a lot of the population knows about these unique kids and their Gifts—could it be one of them causing all the trouble? It’s never said for sure, but there are more books that follow in the Noah Shaw series.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The characters were definitely intriguing, but there was a large chunk of the story I was missing since I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the Mara Dyer series books. The Mara Dyer and Noah Shaw series would probably be enjoyable for those who enjoy teen series with a twist of paranormal mystery.

{Click HERE to purchase}

Becki Bayley still likes zombies, Christmas movies and music, and sitting close to her space heater in the office. Check out her other book reviews and Detroit area posts at SweetlyBSquared.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, by Kristy Woodson Harvey {ends 11/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

He was right. Adam and I might not have agreed one hundred percent of the time on things like where we should live and precisely what our future should hold. But it didn’t matter. I knew now that that didn’t mean I should just roll over and give in to anything he wanted, and that was growth for me. But I did know that something like a house didn’t matter at the end of the day. Not really.

I squeezed James’s knee and got up. “We are lucky. Let’s just hope our luck holds out.”

I left James and stood in the doorway of the stateroom I was sharing with my family, watching as my husband fluffed the comforter and spread it out over the top of the bed. I walked into the room and locked the door shut behind me. “Hey,” he said, smiling.

I put my finger to his mouth  and then kissed him. He pulled back and smiled at me. I kissed him again and lifted his shirt over his head, drawing him close enough that I could feel his heartbeat. My heart swelled with love for this man who was always there for me, who I knew was always on my team. As I lay back on the comforter, everything we’d been going through faded into the background. It was just Adam and me and a bright, shining future, stretched out into the distance like the eternal tide before us. And I knew James was right: we were, without a doubt, the lucky ones.

What a quaint, cozy town and charming cast of characters! The author’s note stated that she thought the Peachtree Bluff stories were done, til pandemic upheaval inspired one last holiday visit.

Official synopsis:
When the Murphy women are in trouble, they always know they can turn to their mother, Ansley. So when eldest daughter Caroline and her husband, James, announce they are divorcing—and fifteen-year-old daughter Vivi acts out in response—Caroline, at her wits end, can’t think of anything to do besides leave her with Ansley in Peachtree Bluff for the holidays. After all, how much trouble can one teenager get into on a tiny island?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

As the “storm of the century” heads toward Peachtree Bluff, Ansley and her husband, Jack, with Vivi in tow, are grateful they’re planning to leave for the trip of a lifetime. But Vivi’s recklessness forces the trio to shelter in place during the worst hurricane Peachtree has ever seen. With no power, no provisions, and the water rising, the circumstances become dire very quickly…and the Murphy sisters, who evacuated to New York, soon realize it’s up to them to conduct a rescue mission. With the bridges closed and no way to access Peachtree Bluff by land or air, they set sail on Caroline’s boat, The Starlite Sisters, determined to rebuild their beloved town—as well as their family.

This book was wonderful as a stand-alone. While there are three other Peachtree Bluff books (and some of their focal characters can probably be guessed based on references in the holiday book), Christmas in Peachtree Bluff was really about the Murphy family, with just a dash of romance on the side.

Viv, Caroline’s teenage daughter, started out as very unlikable. Her rage at her parents’ divorce was leading her to make some poor choices and act like quite a brat. While her introspection during her transformation seemed especially deep for a 15-year-old, it was acceptable to just have her as a more pleasant human being.

The author’s note made it sound like the series may be done, the holiday book did open up a couple more options for other books that could extend the series. The writing style was conversational, friendly, and engaging, and books about quaint towns and charming people are always a lovely escape.

That being said, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. While it may not be too memorable months from now (or maybe just a bit from the hurricane), it was a nice way to spend a few hours and start thinking about the Christmas-y time coming soon.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is ready for holiday music now. Find out what she’s listening to and reading in her infrequent Instagram posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Christmas in Peachtree Bluff!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 9th, 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!

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

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