Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mud Lilies, by Indra Ramayan {ends 7/5}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I knew a lot of dead girls. That was the cost of my profession. I’d tried to convince myself that Perry’s boyfriend had killed her. It was easier to accept that than it was to believe that there was a psycho actively hunting us. I could put her death in a container and go about my business without fearing every man who approached me. It helped to ease the feeling in my gut that I was always just a second away from being strangled and left by a garbage bin.

I’d met the first of the three dead girls a few days before her murder. A trick had just dropped me off in an alley where she was screaming at a guy in an old Malibu. Turns out, he was her scrawny pimp harassing her for cash. Her real name was Jamie, but I named her You Do the Math.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard to make any cash tonight! Look around!” she’d screamed as she spun around a couple of times with her palms to the sky. “Hmm, ten girls, one car! You do the math!” 

Chanie had little choice in the life she was living, and frequently wanted out. But she accidentally found her way into a program intended to help her make a life worth living.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mud Lilies, by Indra Ramayan {ends 7/5}
The night fourteen-year-old Chanie Nyrider ran away from her abusive parents, she was saved by an older woman who, after building a friendship with the teen, offers her a new life working as a prostitute. With nowhere to turn, Chanie is drawn into Edmonton’s dark underbelly, where she survives until arrested four years later. At this time she is given two options: jail or a high school equivalency program for troubled youth.

Reluctantly, Chanie agrees to attend the program — but only so she can maintain her freedom and get to know her new love interest, Blue. As she begins to make strides in the program and meets friends who share similar circumstances, her home life, such as it is, deteriorates. Blue becomes unstable, deceitful, and eventually violent. He puts himself between her and her new friends, between her and the promise of a new and better life.

This story felt unique. It wasn’t the story of Chanie’s end of a typical teen-age life (although the history is eventually shared). It’s the story of Chanie’s eventual chance at salvation. She’s a hooker, and doesn’t expect anything different from life. It’s never a question of who deserves what, or if life is fair; it’s just survival, and the life Chanie knows. 

Maybe even more than the life on the streets, this story really illustrates the challenges to getting out. How can a girl who is told she is owned by others find time to study, or uphold a promise to the program to not work as a hooker anymore, or drink, or use drugs? Is any of this a reasonable expectation if that’s all someone knows?

The book told Chanie’s story so powerfully, and probably the story of other women existing on the streets of Edmonton or any other major city. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. I cried along with Chanie and her friends and wanted to reach out and make it all better. The characters were so touching and felt so real. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy true struggles for their beloved characters.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who would love to have a super-power ability to fix the world. You can find her @poshbecki on Instagram.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Mud Lilies!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, July 5th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or another winner will be chosen.

This one is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents!

Good luck!

Mud Lilies, by Indra Ramayan

Monday, June 6, 2022

Book Review: Mad Honey, by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Book Review: Mad Honey, by Jodi Picoult
  • Opening lines: Olivia, December 7, 2018, The day of
    From the moment I knew I was having a baby, I wanted it to be a girl. I wandered the aisles of department stores, touching doll-size dresses and tiny sequined shoes. I pictured us with matching nail polish—me, who'd never had a manicure in my life. I imagined the day her fairy hair was long enough to capture in pigtails, her nose pressed to the glass of a school bus window; I saw her first crush, prom dress, heartbreak. Each vision was a bead on a rosary of future memories; I prayed daily.

    As it turned out I was not a zealot ... only a martyr.

    When I gave birth, and the doctor announced the baby's sex, I did not believe it at first. I had done such a stellar job of convincing myself of what I wanted that I completely forgot what I needed. But when I held Asher, slippery as a minnow, I was relieved. 

    Better to have a boy, who would never be someone's victim.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books, so I was very excited to get an e-galley of her newest novel.
  • And what's this book about? 
    A soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past and what we choose to leave behind, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wish You Were Here and the bestselling author of She's Not There.

    Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined that she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.

    Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

    And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can trust him completely. . . .

    Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in Ash, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

    Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a good read with a twist.
  • Favorite paragraph: My father taught me that beekeeping is both a burder and a privilege. You don't both the bees unless they need your help, and you help them when they need it. It's a feudal relationship: protection in return for a percentage of the fruits of their labors.

    He taught me that if a body is easily crushed, it develops a weapon to prevent that from happening.

    He taught me that sudden movements get you stung.

    I took these lessons a bit too much to heart.
  • Something to know: I haven't been reading a lot during the pandemic (hence all the Becki guest reviews on here) but I binged this book in two to three days, because it was THAT goodas are most of Picoult's books, too.
  • What I would have changed: Not sure I would have changed anything. 
  • Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon—it will be out on October 4, 2022.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra {ends 6/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Kaveri was resting her sore feet in a bucket of hot water when she heard the gate open. Ramu had come home early. She tried to jump out, but her sari got caught in the bucket. By the time she’d disentangled herself and stepped out, Ramu was in the compound, alighting from the car. He turned to her, impassive as ever, though she saw the sides of his mouth twitching. Kaveri murmured a hasty apology as she fled to the garden with the bucket in tow. Just as she reached the papaya plant, he called, ‘Careful, Kaveri. Don’t cook the papaya plant. The water must be hot.’

She could definitely see his face twitching now. She gave up, and began to laugh, wringing the moisture from the folds of her sari at her feet. Ramu smiled back.

‘Did you sprain your leg?’ he asked.

‘It’s a long story,’ replied Kaveri. ‘Let me get you your coffee and then I can tell you the details.’

Kaveri and Ramu are such a sweet couple, and so supportive of each other. They were surely quite progressive for the 1920s in Bangalore, where the story takes place.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra {ends 6/9}
When clever, headstrong Kaveri moves to Bangalore to marry handsome young doctor Ramu, she's resigned herself to a quiet life.

But that all changes the night of the party at the Century Club, where she escapes to the garden for some peace and quiet—and instead spots an uninvited guest in the shadows. Half an hour later, the party turns into a murder scene.

When a vulnerable woman is connected to the crime, Kaveri becomes determined to save her and launches a private investigation to find the killer, tracing his steps from an illustrious brothel to an Englishman's mansion. She soon finds that sleuthing in a sari isn't as hard as it seems when you have a talent for mathematics, a head for logic, and a doctor for a husband...

And she's going to need them all as the case leads her deeper into a hotbed of danger, sedition, and intrigue in Bangalore's darkest alleyways.

First of all, the book starts out with the author pointing out that there are not only some simplified versions of the recipes in the story included at the back of the book, but also an appreciated glossary of some terms from the 1920s in Bangalore with which the reader may not be familiar. While there were some unfamiliar words and phrases, they were usually discernible from context clues.

Kaveri was such a cute, independent young bride. She expected married life to be boring and predictable, but she lucked out in the husband department. When a local crime catches her interest, she’s excited to use all the skills she’s learned from her reading and schooling to try and help the police find the culprit. While they say many husbands of the time would not support such crazy actions from a wife, Ramu is amused and wants to help his wife safely uncover clues and learn important facts about those who may be involved.

As far as the actual crimes went, the true guilty party was a surprise, at least to me. Reading as Kaveri and Ramu put the facts together (along with the help of the police detective, Ismail) was so fun. I’m excited that this book says it’s the first in a series, as I’d give this one 4 out of 5 stars. It was an interesting mystery set in a time and place I haven’t read a lot from. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries and Indian stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader. She likes to go with the flow and sometimes post pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Bangalore Detectives Club!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, June 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!


The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Breach, by Kelly Sokol {ends 6/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Their routine was simple those first few months. Marleigh was surprised and thankful at how quickly she mastered breastfeeding – certainly Jason deserved some credit, too. That boy was born ready to eat. She could feed Jason sitting, laying on her side, and standing up.

“I’m kinda jealous of that little fucker,” Jace said with a smile as wide as the horizon. “He’s got round-the-clock access to my wife’s tits.”

Marleigh sighed. “And they’re still so big and heavy.”

“Yeah, I hadn’t noticed.”

Jason’s hair grew in curly like Marleigh’s. “He’ll have to be a special operator with a mop like that,” Jace said with a smile. Military special forces were granted greater leeway when it came to regulation grooming appearance. Marleigh had learned a few things in her crash course in becoming a Navy wife.

Marleigh dozed when she could, and for the first time in her life she felt no guilt about resting. 

“I want you to do nothing while I’m home, babe,” Jace told her. “This is my time to help on the home front. I’ve always got you covered.”

While Marleigh and Jace definitely had their good and bad traits, a reader could want nothing more than their happily-ever-after.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Breach, by Kelly Sokol {ends 6/8}
Marleigh Mulcahy grew up in a boxing gym, the daughter of hard-drinking parents who didn't keep a stable roof overhead. In the cinder-block Box-n-Go, amidst the sweat and funk, she meets EOD specialist Jace Holt, a highly and expensively trained bomb diffuser with three successful deployments behind him. With a heady mix of hope, carelessness, and a ridiculous amount of courage, they begin a family. When Jace returns to active duty, a roadside bomb resurrects ghosts from the couple's past and threatens the life they've built. An unflinching and timely gaze into the marriage of an enlisted special operator and his wife, Breach is a story of betting it all on love, a couple's determination to change the trajectory of their lives, and one woman's promises to the man she loves and the boys they're raising.

What choices will a desperate mother make to keep her family whole?

Marleigh had fought for everything she had, but once she met Jace at her family’s boxing gym, he promised she’d have it easier. They both had paid their dues and were ready for happily-ever-after. But karma doesn’t always cooperate.

Jace’s job as a bomb diffuser with the Navy was a level of stress that most people could never even comprehend, and after every deployment, a little more of him seemed to be left behind. The transition back to family man was harder every time.

They never planned on having kids who would have to struggle as they had, but no one can ever really know the future. The characters in this book were so gripping, I gave the story 4 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend this book for those who enjoy character and family dramas, and military stories (although there is not actual combat re-told in the story, they were definitely a military family, which influenced everything).

{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 summer reading activities on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Breach!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, June 8th, 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!

Breach, by Kelly Sokol

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