Monday, January 10, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Inhuman Trafficking, by Mike Papantonio {ends 1/17}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The men found two open seats next to one another at the stage. Their location allowed for a good vantage point for the bar and the room, as well as the stairway that led to what the signage identified as the Underground Club. 

The lights were kept low, with most of the lighting directed to the dancer. At the moment, she was moving suggestively up and down on a pole positioned in the middle of the stage. Half a dozen women were working the tables and bar area. Within fifteen seconds of their being seated, a server approached them. Her outfit concealed very little, but did allow for a name tag that identified her as Oksana. She ran her hands up and down each of their arms.

“Strong, sexy men. Buy Oksana a stiff, stiff drink?”

“Hello, gorgeous,” Michael said. “As pretty as you are, I’m afraid we’ve got to disappoint you. The last time we were in here we promised Karina that we’d let her take care of us. So be a darling, and go tell her that Mickey D and the Dude are here.”

For a moment, Oksana’s false smile vanished, and perhaps a touch of uneasiness showed itself. Then again, with the amount of makeup she was wearing, Michael didn’t have the easiest time reading her expression. Most clowns weren’t as generous in their application of ruby-red lipstick as was Oksana.

The world can be a bad place. This story really colorfully illustrates the underbelly some young girls experience when they think they’re chasing their dreams. 

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Inhuman Trafficking, by Mike Papantonio {ends 1/17}
For Nick “Deke” Deketomis, going where angels fear to tread in waging legal battles has long been a way of life. As managing partner for one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ law firms, Deke has gone toe to toe with some of the largest corporations in the world. His firm specializes in the tough, even quixotic, cases that few lawyers would dare to take on. Like human trafficking.
 
Deke’s target this time is Welcome Mat Hospitality, a firm known for its truck stops and lodging throughout the United States. What Welcome Mat doesn’t advertise is the human trafficking—for sex work and slave labor—going on at many of its properties. For the sake of better profits, Welcome Mat’s ownership has turned a blind eye to this lucrative enterprise.
 
As invested as Deke is in the case, though, it takes on even greater urgency when the past comes calling with word that his fifteen-year-old goddaughter, Lily Reyes, is missing. When Deke learns that Lily has fallen prey to a notorious trafficker, his personal and professional worlds converge. For his goddaughter to survive, Deke must prevail not only in the legal arena but outside of it.

The legal thrillers by this author are truly stunning. The first chapter made the characters and the story completely compelling, and it was hard to put the book down. In the first couple pages, Lily thinks she’s being stalked. While the situation wasn’t what she originally thought, her relief is short-lived.

Once Karina is introduced, we hope we may have found our underdog. All the girls inspired hope, as they tried so hard to make the most of a horrible situation, and possibly get out with their lives. Unfortunately, as the story was meant to mimic real human trafficking, there were a lot more losers than winners.

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. While it included characters who were mentioned in previous books by the author, their introduction was adequate to understand who they were without their entire backstory. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy legal thrillers and stories that raise serious emotions about tragic social issues. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a reader, a [letter] writer, and a mom. While these things take about 27 hours/day, she tries to post a few times a week to her blog at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Inhuman Trafficking!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, January 17th, at 11:59pm EST, and the 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!

Inhuman Trafficking, by Mike Papantonio

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Book Review: Daughters of the Lake, by Wendy Webb

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“How can you be sure it’s her?” Simon said, taking a bite of salad and examining the photo more closely. “I mean, this must’ve been taken, what, a century ago?”

“It’s her,” Kate said. “If I showed it to my dad and Johnny, they’d identify her as the woman we saw on the beach. But that just can’t be, right? It would make her body more than one hundred years old.”

“What if the woman in this photo and the woman on your beach were, say, mother and daughter, or grandmother and granddaughter?” Simon offered. “How do you know for sure it’s the same person?”

“That would make sense, if I hadn’t also been dreaming about the husband,” Kate said, her eyes shifting to the man’s handsome face. “I saw both of them, Simon.”

Kate’s thoughts drifted back to her dreams – there were no cell phones, no televisions, no electronics of any kind in any of the dreams. No cars. No modern music.

“I just sort of took it for granted that she was alive now – well, recently, anyway – but when I really think about it…”

“You think you’ve been dreaming about the past.”

What a fascinating story of  a legend of a bloodline, and the mystery that ensues when the story has not been passed along.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Daughters of the Lake, by Wendy Webb
After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams…

One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen.

As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past.

With so many alternating viewpoint books lately, this book was unique. It used alternating viewpoints between the woman Kate imagines from more than a hundred years earlier, and Kate as she experiences her own life and researches who the woman from her visions may be. Besides these viewpoints, there was a narrative of Kate as she viewed the world through the woman’s eyes. How terrifying to find herself trapped in a situation so long ago that she soon knew didn’t end well!

Some authors have a real gift for telling a story like it’s fact, and that was definitely the case here. The characters and their circumstances were given real life. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it for those who enjoy family dramas and mysteries.

{click here to purchase—currently free for Kindle Unlimited!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini and mother of two. She enjoys reading, tracking her life in her paper planner, and posting to her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Treachery Times Two, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Koa was sound asleep later that night when the phone rang. Never a good sign in the middle of the night. He answered and heard Zeigler’s voice. “Sorry to wake you, but there have been developments on the X-CO front. Can you come up to Pōhakuloa?”

Koa looked at the clock. “Right now? It’s four thirty a.m.”

“It’ll be reveille by the time you get here.”

Koa groaned. He hadn’t heard the military wake-up call since his soldiering days. Easing himself out of bed to avoid disturbing Nālani, who’d turned over and gone back to sleep, he dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee from the kitchen, and headed for the saddle. Darkness gave way to first light as he left Hilo and headed up the Saddle Road toward Pōhakuloa at 6800 feet above sea level. Approaching the 4000-foot level, he entered a cloud bank that shrouded the surrounding forest in an eerie mist. Barely able to make out the yellow dividing line down the center of the curvy highway, he slowed to a crawl. Eventually, he climbed above the clouds, where the foggy air gave way to clear skies. The road leveled out and crossed overlapping lava flows from Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa where there were fewer trees, leaving only shrubs or nothing on the jagged brown landscape.

Curiosity consumed Koa as he turned into the Pōhakuloa Training Area. He secured a pass at the security gate and drove to the military police headquarters. Zeigler, dressed as usual in military camo, met him in the parking lot. “What’s this all about, buddy?” Koa asked.

Chief Detective Koa Kane has a unique reason for wanting to solve crimes and get justice for the victims. Hopefully that reason never comes to light, or his ability to meet these goals will be gone.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Treachery Times Two, by Robert McCaw {ends 1/13}
On Hawaii Island, a volcanic earthquake disrupts an abandoned cemetery—unearthing the body of a woman mutilated by her killer to conceal her identity.

The search for her identity leads Hilo Hawaii's Chief Detective Koa Kane to a mysterious defense contractor with a politically connected board of directors. Defying his chief of police, Koa pursues the killer, only to become entangled in an FBI espionage investigation of Deimos, a powerful secret military weapon. Is the FBI telling all it knows—or does it, too, have a duplicitous agenda?

At the same time, Koa—a cop who thirty years earlier killed his father's nemesis and covered up the murder—faces exposure by the dead man's grandson. Koa is forced to investigate his own homicide, and step by step, his cover-up unravels until another man is falsely accused.

Can Koa stand by and let an innocent man pay for his crime?

This book gives us another mystery involving the specific scientific details of volcanoes and lava, but in the concurrent case, Koa Kane’s whole fragile backstory and future are at risk. As usual, it’s a tangled story with more than one possible villain, both individuals and entities. 

The beautiful descriptions of Hawaii, and the engaging characters, especially Koa, drive this series. The mysteries would each read well as a stand-alone, but the whole series is worth checking out. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. The author’s note at the end was also quite insightful, drawing a great comparison between the character with no sense of guilt with the one whose whole life is driven by guilt.

{click here to purchase—currently only $1.99 for Kindle!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who loves being cozy, chuckling at retro snark, and appreciating the powers of the universe. Check out more about what she’s reading and what she’s up to on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Treachery Times Two!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, January 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Treachery Times Two, by Robert McCaw

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: All I Want, by Darcey Bell {ends 1/12}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It’s a beautiful fall. Emma falls in love with each tree, as she watches them turn, leaf by leaf, from red to orange to yellow to brown. She loves the flat, perfect blue of the sky against the brilliant leaves. She wishes she had someone to talk to, just to say, “Look at that!” She says it to the baby, but that feels silly and sad.

One afternoon, in the supermarket, a middle-aged woman with curly gray hair tucked under a bright blue baseball cap accidentally crashes her cart into Emma’s, and when she stops apologizing, the woman does a double take and says, “Emma! How are you?”

Emma has no idea who she is, but it’s pleasant hearing someone say her name, meeting a friendly face. She plays along. The woman’s name – or who she is – will come to her sooner or later. 

As Emma spends more time alone at the house she and her husband bought, she learns more about its creepy past, and more coincidences between her life, and lives that may have taken place here before hers.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: All I Want, by Darcey Bell {ends 1/12}
When Emma’s husband, Ben, falls in love with a large Victorian mansion for sale in upstate New York, he swears to her the fixer-upper will be worth the risk. With a baby on the way, Emma would like to live in a charming, safe community, after all—and in a space larger than a one-bedroom New York City apartment. On impulse, she agrees to Ben’s plan and they put in an offer on the house.

Sure, the mansion has a somewhat creepy backstory and is a bit dilapidated, but Emma and Ben are in this together, aren’t they? When strange things start happening, Emma begins to experience a little buyer’s remorse. What’s the real history of this house? Is its dark history repeating itself? Why does her husband suddenly seem so distant? Is she in danger? Is her baby?

When Ben first finds a listing for a quirky Victorian mansion a few hours out of the city, he’s excited that it sounds just like the kind of adventure he and Emma would have loved in their early dating days. But Ben may be forgetting that he’s a married man and soon-to-be father now. He sets Emma up in the house with a bit of habitable space and a handyman around each day working on the rest of it, while he continues his theater job in the city.

The attic of the house is full of relics from when it was rumored to have been run as a rehabilitation center for theater stars There, Emma finds an old diary which tells of a young pregnant woman who was sent to the home to keep her out of sight until she delivered the illegitimate baby. It makes Emma wonder if she is just being kept out of the way as well.

The beginning of this book was a fun build up, and the house sounded amazing. The end was a bit less clear and felt unfulfilling. Sometimes the book seemed to be told by an unreliable narrator, but then doubts were cast if the narrator was unreliable or someone was influencing her perceptions. I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it as an interesting domestic drama. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a homebody who enjoys quirky movies and stories, playing board games, and relaxing with a good book. Check out her winter activities on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of All I Want!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022, at 11:59pm EST, and winners 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!

All I Want, by Darcey Bell

Monday, January 3, 2022

Book Review: A Million Reasons Why, by Jessica Strawser

Book Review: A Million Reasons Why, by Jessica Strawser
Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Sela zipped her bag closed and took a last look around Lucy’s room, feeling – what was this? Her thoughts were sluggish this morning; she’d slept even worse than usual, but her mood was buoyant. Something like a sense  of accomplishment, mixed with pleasant surprise at the twinge of reluctance she felt about leaving so soon. 

When she got home, she knew, Brody would throw his arms around her, and Oscar would nose through her things, trying to suss out where she’d been before reclaiming his place at her feet. She’d been picturing the scene since before she’d even gotten here, the reward awaiting her at the finish line. But now that the time had come, she pictured her homecoming in a different light. How quiet the house would seem by contrast, how absent of the breakfast chatter coming from downstairs now, and how far she’d suddenly feel from these people – not just a half sister but a half family.

This was an intricate family drama, where two women find out they’re half sisters from a DNA test. But what if that isn’t even the biggest secret in their lives?

Official synopsis:
When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer—that is, for one half sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.

Caroline lives a full, happy life—thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing:

She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.

Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother, always her closest friend, unexpectedly passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half sister and may also be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears—and one misstep could destroy it all.

Caroline’s husband gifts the adults in their family a DNA test for Christmas. Seems like a fun idea, right? But a few months later, Caroline gets a notice that she has a matcha new family member that she’s never known anything about. As expected, family upheaval ensues. While she’s reservedly happy that she may now have a sister, like she always wished for, the discovery that there may be an ulterior motive for them reconnecting threatens to destroy the relationship they’ve built so far.

The first half of the book was more or less predictable, although the fact that Sela wasn’t as driven to get Caroline’s kidney and save her own life was a bit unexpected. The author explained her reservations quite well, and the character’s motivations were believable. The twist toward the end of the book was a surprise, though.

Overall, I gave this book four out of five stars. The twist cast a whole new light on the characters’ lives, organ donation, and the expectations and responsibilities of the medical community. It can really make a reader think. I’d recommend this book for those who enjoy contemporary family dramas.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys relaxing with a book and a cocktail when taking a break from the endless list of work and mom tasks. Check out snapshots of her life on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

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