Monday, August 22, 2022

Book Review and Signed Copy GIVEAWAY: Devil's Chew Toy, by Rob Osler {ends 8/30}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Hollister called. She apologized for bagging out on me the night before. Her excuse: Mysti had felt neglected, and so for the sake of their relationship, Hollister had needed to hang out with her. I said I understood (I didn’t). I was eager to fill her in on my discovery of 6969 Bounder Road, the second threatening note, and the detectives’ visit – along with the bombshell that Camilo was in the country because of his DACA status. For all that, I decided it was better to talk in person. We agreed to meet at Slice in an hour. 

When I arrived, Hollister was already at the same table by the window. “Top of the morning, Batwoman.”

She tipped her mug. “Robin.”

“No, no, no. We’ve been through this before. Spiderman, please.”

“What, you don’t want to wear a kick-ass cape and sexy tights? Fine by me. Wouldn’t be my choice.”

The cast of characters could have made this book sound just ridiculous, but it’s a well-written and interesting story too!

Official synopsis: 
Book Review and Signed Copy GIVEAWAY: Devil's Chew Toy, by Rob Osler {ends 8/30}
Seattle teacher and part-time blogger Hayden McCall wakes sporting one hell of a shiner, with the police knocking at his door. It seems that his new crush, dancer Camilo Rodriguez, has gone missing and they suspect foul play. What happened the night before? And where is Camilo?

Determined to find answers, pint-sized, good-hearted Hayden seeks out two of Camilo’s friends—Hollister and Burley—both lesbians and both fiercely devoted to their friend. From them, Hayden learns that Camilo is a “Dreamer” whose parents had been deported years earlier, and whose sister, Daniela, is presumed to have returned to Venezuela with them. Convinced that the cops won’t take a brown boy’s disappearance seriously, the girls join Hayden’s hunt for Camilo. 

The first clues turn up at Barkingham Palace, a pet store where Camilo had taken a part-time job. The store’s owner, Della Rupert, claims ignorance, but Hayden knows something is up. And then there’s Camilo’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who’s suddenly grown inexplicably wealthy. When Hayden and Hollister follow Ryan to a secure airport warehouse, they make a shocking connection between him and Della—and uncover the twisted scheme that’s made both of them rich.

The trail of clues leads them to the grounds of a magnificent estate on an island in Puget Sound, where they’ll finally learn the truth about Camilo’s disappearance—and the fate of his family.

The first pitch for this book read: “...this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring…” Who could pass that up?? While it was a big promise for a super-fun story, Hayden, Hollister, Burley, and Commander truly may be the best set of heroes ever!

Their stories felt real, and not over-embellished for stereotypes. The daily struggles they faced included college, working to make ends meet, immigration, and yes, peoples’ perceptions of them based on how they presented. But they all had hearts of gold (usually) and recognized the good in those around them whenever possible. 

Overall, this book got 4 out of 5 stars from me. While the author could have leaned on the quirks of the characters to sell books, the great writing and depth of the story made it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Hopefully we can find out what happens next! I’d recommend this book for those who like found family stories, unique and varied characters, and quirky cozy mysteries.

{click here to purchase - currently free for Audible members!}

Becki Bayley has lived more than a half century and enjoys reading (obvs), writing, and learning more about the world around her. Check out some of her discoveries at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a SIGNED COPY of Devil's Chew Toy, as well as a dog bone bookmark!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 30th, at 11:59pm ET, 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!

Devil's Chew Toy, by Rob Osler

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Finding Edward, by Sheila Murray {ends 8/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The racket of sound is the rattle and clang of a passing trolley. Edward is on a street corner. It is a cold day and his hands are wrapped in strips of cloth. He’s wearing an oversized pair of shoes, insulated with more fabric. He has a cart with him. A small thing with wheels that is piled high with newspapers. Edward must be fourteen now, grown a couple of inches. His skin seems darker, though his eyes reveal the same contradiction, apprehension and defiance

He is holding a newspaper and shouting, “Telegram. Evening Edition. Bennett’s New Deal.” There is urgency in his voice. Now that he is his own man, newspaper sales are the difference between food or not. He’s run from the children’s home. They say he still owes them money, for keep that was never paid. He sells his papers on a corner that is across town, where they’re unlikely to find him. If they do, he’ll take the beating and move on.

Cyril is sure he’d feel it if the mysterious Edward has died. He keeps searching for clues, initially feeling like Edward is his only ‘friend’ in his new Canadian home.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Finding Edward, by Sheila Murray {ends 8/22}
Cyril Rowntree, a mixed-race Jamaican, migrates to Canada after his mother and surrogate grandfather die. Cyril arrives in Toronto and sets about earning a degree, works two jobs and begins to navigate his way through the implications of being racialized in his new land.

A chance encounter with a panhandler named Patricia leads Cyril to a suitcase full of photographs and letters dating back to the early 1920s. Cyril is drawn into the letters and their story of a white mother’s struggle to come to terms with the need to give up her mixed-race baby, Edward. Abandoned by his white father as a small child, Cyril feels a compelling connection to the boy and begins to look for the rest of Edward’s story.

As he searches, Cyril unearths hidden pieces of Black history and gradually gains the confidence to trust his own judgment.

Cyril has never known anything besides his life in Jamaica, where he shared a home with his mother and two younger siblings, and had spent a lot of time with his mom’s employer, Nelson. When his mom dies shortly after Nelson died, Cyril’s siblings stay in Jamaica to live with their aunt, and he is sent to Canada to live with distant relatives he doesn’t know and attend University.

The story of Cyril’s new life and discoveries in Canada is beautiful. It’s not beautiful because everything is right in the world, but because it feels so real. Cyril learns that opportunities always have a cost, and frequently that cost varies based on who you are, what you look like, and where you’re from. As Cyril tries to find Edward and prove that he’s real, he meets other students and people in the city who let him share their journey as well. 

Spending time in Cyril’s world, with his few school friends, his Jamaican family, possibly crazy Patricia, and the stories Mr. Addo has to share is so enlightening and comforting. This book was definitely 4 out of 5 stars from me. It was an enjoyable read, while also teaching me a little more about Canadian history, and the fascinating history of Africville. I’d recommend this book to those who like family dramas, 1900s historical fiction, and stories about Canada.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes listening to music while she works, relaxing with a chilled old-fashioned while she reads, and knowing that her nails are neatly polished. She posts more book reviews and some of her activities on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Finding Edward!

Giveaway will end on Monday, August 22nd, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be contacted via emial and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Open to both U.S. and Canadian residents.

Good luck!

Finding Edward, by Sheila Murray

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Our Little World, by Karen Winn {ends 8/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The summer of 1986, the hot weather arrived – swimming weather – but Deer Chase Lake remained closed. “They found bacteria in the lake,” Mother told Audrina and me one June morning over breakfast, “so it’s not going to open for a while. They have to clean it.”

I nodded, feeling relieved, and swirled around the milk in my cereal bowl to douse the remaining Cheerios that were still partially dry.

Audrina snorted. “Who’d want to go there anyway?”

I glanced up from my bowl of cereal, surprised that we were in agreement on this, albeit silently, when we still felt so far apart.

This isn’t just a story of a four-year-old who goes missing from the beach. It’s her neighbor Bee’s insights surrounding the tumultuous summer and all the changes this initiated in her life and other lives in the community over the next year. It’s the story of how one thing happening can change everything, forever.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Our Little World, by Karen Winn {ends 8/11}
July 1985. It’s a normal, sweltering New Jersey summer for soon-to-be seventh grader Bee Kocsis. Her thoughts center only on sunny days spent at Deer Chase Lake, on evenings chasing fireflies around her cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, and on Max, the boy who just moved in across the street. There's also the burgeoning worry that she'll never be as special as her younger sister, Audrina, who seems to effortlessly dazzle wherever she goes. 

But when Max’s little sister, Sally, goes missing at the lake, Bee’s long-held illusion of stability is shattered in an instant. As the families in her close-knit community turn inward, suspicious and protective, things in Bee’s own home become increasingly strained, most of all with Audrina, when a shameful secret surfaces. With everything changed, Bee and Audrina’s already-fraught sisterhood is pushed to the limit as they grow up—and apart—in the wake of an innocence lost too soon. 

This moving story tells of young Bee’s observations about her neighborhood and her family when she’s around 12 years old, but adds a few comments about her adult reflections on these memories. It was definitely a sort of "before-and-after" summer for her. When young Sally goes missing, it not only changes the way her entire community operates, but also her personal relationships with her parents and her younger sister. Everyone is processing the grief of not having Sally around, and potentially addressing that their community may not be perfect and safe, with the hope they’re holding out that Sally has just wandered off and will return, miraculously, unscathed.

But Sally’s story isn’t always the most important one, even when Bee and her neighbors want it to be. Other people are still growing, changing, and making choices about their own lives. Adults are still good or bad parents and spouses, and everyone still has good and bad things happen, that usually have nothing to do with Sally being gone.

Bee’s viewpoint from both her young self and her comments about it all once she’s an adult were heartfelt and memorable. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and loved it not just for the amazingly realistic character Bee was, but for the wholly memorable 1980s setting for it all. This book would be recommended for those who appreciate family dramas, sister stories, and re-living the 1980s.

{click here to purchase - Kindle edition is currently 46% off!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys relaxing with a good book, driving on a dry sunny day, or curling up with a watermelon wine to watch a thunderstorm out the window. Check out a few of her captured memories on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Our Little World!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, August 11th, at 11:59pm ET, and winners will be notified 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!

Our Little World, by Karen Winn

Monday, August 1, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn {ends 8/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

From the pantry, Mae hears the knocking.

‘See who it is!’ shouts Father. He is explaining to Sam about the humoral system, and the two of them are sitting at the kitchen table looking at a diagram of the human body.

Mae goes through to the lobby, pulling the door closed behind her to keep the warmth of the kitchen in. The key hangs from its nail and, taking it, she slips it into the lock, turning it easily, the ironwork of the door handle cold in her palm.

Isabel is backlit by the sun, her eyes the bright blue of forget-me-nots.

‘Mae.’

‘I cannot ask you in.’

‘You explained last time.’

Mae knows her life would be much better if her mother and her sister hadn’t died. Life with her father is hard, but it may be even worse than she thinks.

Official summary:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn {ends 8/8}
A glitteringly dark historical novel of love, persecution, and survival set against the backdrop of one of history's most terrifying episodes: the Bubonic Plague.

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam village keep many secrets. Especially Isabel and Mae.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about the pious, reclusive apothecary, on whom she is keeping a watchful eye.

Mae, the apothecary's youngest daughter, dreads her father's rage if he discovers what she keeps from him: her feelings for Rafe, Isabel's ward, or the fact that she studies from her father's books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unimaginable peril. Meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all. . . 

After Mae’s mother died, she started hanging out regularly with her mother’s friends, Isabel and Elizabeth. Her father especially did not approve of Isabel, the village’s midwife, who he held responsible for the death of any brothers Mae may have had. 

Soon, the plague hits their small village. Mae’s father encourages prayer and a few remedies he offers as the apothecary. When Isabel’s husband goes to London to help other family members, pregnant Isabel watches Mae’s home life get worse and worse. Should someone help Mae? And if so, how? Standing up to an apothecary with an upstanding reputation is risky for any woman, but especially one with a sketchy past for herself.

This was a great book about female empowerment when it seemed impossible. I loved Mae’s spirit and gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. This book could be recommended to any reader who wants to read more about a period of history about which not a lot of books are written. The author includes a note at the back that credits some characters based on real people from that period.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is always a wife and mom first. Check out her posts about what she’s reading and enjoying in her yard on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Hemlock Cure!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, August 8th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email. Winner will have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn

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