Saturday, December 11, 2021

Book Review: The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, by Pamela Terry

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

On the long polished dresser sat two framed photographs. One was of a laughing Aunt Jo taken on a snowy day in the mountains when she was young, and the other was of my father. It was a picture I had never seen, and the resemblance to Henry was stunning. Daddy must have been in his thirties. He was sitting on a low stone wall, his hair as black as a crow’s wing in the sunshine, and he was smiling up at the photographer with an unabashed joy. The land behind him was foreign to my eyes, certainly unlike anything in the vicinity of Wesleyan, and it fell away sharply to a faint silver line of sea. Behind him I could make out a corrugation of mountains rising up like the shadows of unimaginable things. I turned the frame over and gently pried my thumbnail under the metal stays that held the photo in place. Carefully I removed the cardboard backing. The underside of the picture bore the handwritten words “Scotland, 1969.”

What if the past you’d built your future on wasn’t really your true past? Lila is on a quest to find out what her true past was, and whether it’s meant to stay in the past.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, by Pamela Terry
Lila Bruce Breedlove never quite felt at home in Wesleyan, Georgia, especially after her father’s untimely demise when she was a child. Both Lila and her brother, Henry, fled north after high school, establishing fulfilling lives of their own. In contrast, their younger sister, Abigail, opted to remain behind to dote on their domineering, larger-than-life mother, Geneva. Yet despite their independence, Lila and Henry know deep down that they’ve never quite reckoned with their upbringing.

When their elderly mother dies suddenly and suspiciously in the muscadine arbor behind the family estate, Lila and Henry return to the town that essentially raised them. But as they uncover the facts about Geneva’s death, shocking truths are revealed that overturn the family’s history as they know it, sending the pair on an extraordinary journey to chase a truth that will dramatically alter the course of their lives. The Sweet Taste of Muscadines reminds us all that true love never dies.

What a beautiful family drama! Every time that the "drama" attempted to overpower the ‘family,’ Lila’s brother Henry was quick to step in and help her find forgiveness for all the slights she’d experienced at the hands of her parents or sister. No member of their family was ever really trying to be hurtful; everyone was just trying to get by.

This book was really all about the characters: stable, predictable Lila; even-keeled, caring Henry; and mama’s favorite, Abby. They’re learning their place in the world all over again. Their father died when they were almost too young to remember, and their overbearing mother has been calling all the shots since then. When their mother dies, they suddenly unearth (literally) pretty serious secrets about what they thought was their past. A visit to charming Uncle Audie helps set them on the path to uncover all the secrets that have been kept for way too long.

My favorite parts of this book are the mystery character, who turns up far from their original home. The idea of escaping and starting a whole new life is tempting to everyone at some point, right? I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary family dramas. 

{click here to purchase}

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.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: House of Glass Hearts, by Leila Siddiqui {ends 12/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Calcutta, India, 1943

I walked the streets of Calcutta, periodically looking up at the sky. The city was transforming day by day. Before, I could stick my tongue out and taste the salt in the air; now, it was the rusty tang of gunmetal and war. Soldiers streamed into the city, taking over Chowringhee Road, filling up The Grand Hotel, and pouring in and out of the shops. They roared by in jeeps on the way to nightclubs, whooping and throwing money at us pedestrians.

I spotted a group of soldiers on their way to the Maidan, with two brown boys scurrying after them, carrying burlap bags. “Hai!” I shouted and hurried after them.

As I neared the group, I grabbed one of the boys by his shoulder and turned him around. The boy’s bag fell to the ground. He scowled up at me. “What do you want? Can’t you see I’m working?”

“Oi, blackie!”

A tall British soldier strode over to us. He stared at us as his boy hauled up his bag. “And you filthy wog,” the soldier added, turning to me. “You leave our errand boys alone.”

With a sudden crack, the soldier slapped me across the face. I stumbled to the ground, angry tears stinging my eyes.

The soldier towered over me. “Don’t you speak English?”

I glared up at the man. “I do,” I replied in English. “And my wog father is fighting for your country.”

When Maera’s grandfather dies, she finally learns about his life, and how it may have led to the disappearance of her older brother more than a decade earlier.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: House of Glass Hearts, by Leila Siddiqui {ends 12/16}
Maera and her ammi never talk about the Past, a place where they’ve banished their family’s heartache and grief forever. They especially never mention the night Maera’s older brother Asad disappeared from her naana’s house in Karachi ten years ago. But when her grandfather dies and his derelict greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of her grandfather’s past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family’s secrets—the monsters that live inside her grandfather’s mysterious house of glass.

Seamlessly blending history with myth, HOUSE OF GLASS HEARTS follows a Pakistani-American teen’s ruthless quest to find her missing sibling, even if the truth would reveal her grandfather’s devastating secret and tear her family apart. In a narrative that switches between colonial India and present-day America, this ambitious young adult debut explores how the horrors of the past continue to shape the lives of South Asians around the world.

Maera and her best friend Sara realize that India’s role in WWII was never taught in their US school. Luckily, Jimmy, Maera’s cousin, arrives just in time to read the journal of their recently deceased grandfather, which is in Urdu. The book magically appears under Maera’s pillow, the same night a giant greenhouse apparently transports from the family house in Pakistan to her backyard overnight.

Maera, Sara, Jimmy, and Maera’s next door neighbor Rob begin a search that they hope will lead to finding Asad, Maera’s older brother and Rob’s best friend from childhood, who disappeared more than a decade ago, during a visit to Pakistan.

The magical realism was complicated but interesting. The Indian history as told in the journal from WWII was so descriptive and well-told. The adventures and unique characters within the greenhouse were probably my favorite. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Indian stories and magical realism.

{click here to purchase - only $7.99 on Kindle currently!}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys delivered pizza best when accompanied by a good book. Check out her holiday wish list and other book reviews at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of House of Glass Hearts!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, December 16th, 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!

House of Glass Hearts, by Leila Siddiqui

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: How to Murder a Marriage, by Gabrielle St. George {ends 12/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Lillian’s husband kept his promise. He came back just as he said he would.

Florrie is frantic. “Is it the maniac from last night?”

I’m nodding. “I have to go outside to get the picture so I can show it to Lloyd.”

Florrie is nodding also. We’re both doing a lot of nodding. Robotically.

Florrie is shaking her head now. “No, you can’t go out there. What if this lunatic is outside waiting for you to retrieve the note? We can get it in the morning when it’s light.”

“No, it might be gone by then. Lloyd said I have to have physical evidence to be able to charge the guy with anything. I have to get it now.”

Florrie grabs my arm to stop me from leaving. “Let’s call Lloyd and have him get the note.”

“No, I’m not doing that.”

“Okay, we’ll go together, then. Take Phoebe with us.” Florrie locks her arm around mine in human-wall style.

We both try desperately to drum up the courage we need to do this thing as we inch toward the door. The progress is very slow. And then, at the exact moment, we reach it and I touch the handle and begin to turn it, a heavy banging reverberates through its oak planks.

Gina Malone has some seriously lousy luck with men, both hers and ones she encounters through her advice column as the "Ex-Whisperer."

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: How to Murder a Marriage, by Gabrielle St. George {ends 12/12}
Gina Malone, a bestselling relationships advice author and expert on exes, meddles in other people’s affairs for a living. It makes for enemies. One of them is scaring her to death.

A modern-day Miss Lonelyhearts, Gina’s smart, she’s sassy, she’s got a potty mouth, and she’s determined to live life on her own terms. She’s also divorced, an empty nester, and turning fifty. In the true spirit of mid-life crises, Gina dyes her hair, pierces her nose, and moves to a tiny tourist town on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron.

Just as she’s settling into her new life and deciding whether to fall into bed with her hot contractor, Gina advises a reader to leave her husband, right before the woman goes missing. And Gina’s got a stalker. Is it her vengeful ex-husband, the abusive ex of the missing woman, or her new crush’s crazy ex? All three would love to get her alone in some dark and deserted place, which isn’t tough to do since her new residence is an old family cottage she’s renovating on an empty stretch of beach.

Can Gina outsmart her stalker and find the missing woman before the noose around her own neck gets any tighter?

Oh, Gina. Turning 50 soon, she’s hoping to have moved on from her stalker ex-husband. She’s ready to enjoy downsizing from the family home they lost in the divorce and making the cottage in her hometown livable and comfortable for her grown children to visit from time to time. But she suddenly finds her peace threatened by not just her stalker ex-husband, but also the ex-wife of her contractor, and the spouse of a woman she advised in her "Ex-Whisperer" column. She doesn’t want to be more of a burden to her small-town family as they rally to protect her from whoever the current threat is.

Gina’s story is told in a quirky and conversational style. It definitely reads as the first in a series, as we get to know a bit of her style and the family and friends who are important to her. I’d give this one 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy a contemporary story with a sassy, strong female protagonist and a fun mystery storyline.

{click here to purchase - only $5.99 for Kindle currently!}

Becki Bayley is a mom, first and foremost. She loves her husband, her kids, and her kids’ friends whenever they need it. Find a bit of what she’s doing, and currently her holiday wish list, at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of How to Murder a Marriage!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, December 12th, 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!

How to Murder a Marriage, by Gabrielle St. George

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