Thursday, December 14, 2023

Book Review: Touch of Gold, by Annie Sullivan

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Royce takes his seat in the boat opposite me.

“Did you get everything we needed?” he asks Phipps as though he hasn’t just left a man behind to die.

“Aye, Captain,” Phipps says. He pats the massive amount of sail filling up the majority of the longboat. If he finds it odd Aris isn’t with us, he doesn’t mention it.

None of them do.

“Where’s Thipps?” Phipps asks.

There’s frantic movement in the boat followed by a gasp when his eyes land on his brother’s body, laid out on another new sail folded in the front of the boat. I look away.

“He saved the princess,” Royce says quietly.

“No,” Phipps whispers. He falls to his knees next to his brother’s form. “Thipps. Come on, Thipps.” He pulls on the collar of his shirt, yanking him up. Thipps’s head rolls backward.

“He’s gone,” Royce says in a gentle tone I’ve never heard from him before.

Kora doesn’t go outside the palace anymore, as she’s been convinced that her father’s curse will ruin everyone’s life the way it has ruined hers.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Touch of Gold, by Annie Sullivan
After King Midas’s gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, he relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days concealed behind gloves and veils. It isn’t until a charming duke arrives that Kora believes she could indeed be loved. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals treasures her father needs to survive. Thanks to Kora’s unique ability to sense gold, she sails off on her quest to find the missing items.

While Kora never expected to leave the palace, when her father’s life is at stake, she’s the only one who can find the missing gold and save his life. While she initially expects everyone to fear her or exploit her, she finds out that the small circle of people who have populated her life may not be exactly who she thought. And perhaps there are some truly good people out in the world who she would benefit from and enjoy knowing.

Kora and her cousin Hettie go off on the adventure of their lives and learn more about themselves and each other than they thought possible. Their first instinct, of course, is to only trust each other, but circumstances will force them to re-evaluate where their loyalties should lie. Peoples’ response to The Midas Touch may sometimes tell them all they need to know.

This book earned 4 out of 5 stars and is a great middle-grade retelling of a classic fairy tale from a unique perspective. King Midas’s golden touch has also changed every aspect of his daughter Kora’s life, and she’ll never forget that a gift from Dionysus is never as it seems. This book would be recommended for those who like classic stories from different viewpoints and sharing different emphasis.

{click here to purchase using my Amazon Affiliate link - Touch of Gold is part of a two-book series}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, and aunt who enjoys relaxing with a book and learning about what everyone else likes to read. Check out other book and life reviews on her blog,

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Book Review: No One Knows Us Here, by Rebecca Kelley

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Leo wanted me to show him the knives myself, but we needed someone to open up the display case with a key. He went to find someone and returned with…Margorie. I felt heat rise up my face, all the way up to my ears.

Margorie approached the case, her keys jingling in an exaggerated way. She acted like she didn’t recognize me, or like she didn’t know me at all. And god. She was right. She didn’t know me.

Or she did know. She knew everything the minute I – dressed in a tight velvet dress – waltzed into the store with the man I said was my boss. She knew then that there was no boyfriend in San Francisco. Only this.

“My girlfriend wants to give me the sales pitch,” he said to Margorie as she twisted the key in the lock and opened up the case. “She used to work here.”

Rosemary thinks she’s found her big break. She’s willing to do anything for her sister, and eventually, she has to prove it.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: No One Knows Us Here, by Rebecca Kelley
Rosemary Rabourne is already struggling to pay the bills when her recently orphaned half sister, Wendy, shows up at her door. Rosemary will try anything to provide for the traumatized teenager—including offering her services as a high-end escort.

Leo Glass is the billionaire CEO of a revolutionary social app. He wants the “girlfriend experience”—someone contractually obligated to love him—and he thinks he’s found the perfect match in Rosemary. His proposition has its perks: a luxury apartment and financial security. And its conditions: constant surveillance and availability whenever Leo calls. It’s not the life Rosemary wants, but she’s out of options.

Then she meets her new neighbor, Sam, a musician with whom Rosemary shares an immediate attraction and a genuine intimacy she’s never felt with anyone. Falling in love makes it possible to imagine a real new life. But Leo won’t let go of her that easily, and his need for control escalates. So does Rosemary’s desperation—to protect Wendy, to protect herself, and, at any price, to escape.

Rosemary is old enough to know that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. But when she is struggling to keep a roof over her own head while going to school, and then her young sister shows up threatening self-harm if Rosemary doesn’t take her in, desperation takes over. 

This book felt like a lot of information, between the backstory for Rosemary and Wendy, to a sort of glossing over of Rosemary’s life between her childhood and when she meets Leo Glass, to her divided life while "dating" Leo Glass. She made it clear that she was playing a role with him, but what an engrossing role to play. While it wasn’t clear if she was still going to school or just waiting til the year was over, her time without him felt almost pointless. Having to be prepared for him to summon her meant she never could really just relax and be herself.

Overall, the book was an interesting perspective of a situation that sounds like it maybe could be realistic, but still hard to imagine. The story earned 3 out of 5 stars and would be good for those who enjoy psychological thrillers combined with a bit of family drama. 

{click here to purchase via Amazon Affiliate link; currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited users}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys relaxing with a good book, a salty snack, and a refreshing beverage. When she’s not at work writing responses to complaints, find her carting her kids around or finding a few minutes to read in a cozy spot. Check out more reviews and adventures on her blog,

Monday, December 4, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Calico, by Lee Goldberg {ends 12/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Friday, February 8, 2019

Beth met Selma Neary, head of the San Bernardino County historical society, in her office at the county museum in Redlands. The tiny office was filled with books, overflowing from sagging shelves and in stacks that had collapsed into a giant pile. There was barely room for a desk, two chairs, and the two women.

‘You’re a homicide detective?’ Neary asked.

‘That’s right,’ Beth said. ‘We found a dead body in a hundred-year-old grave on land in Newberry Springs that was once home to the Cartwright family.’

Neary smiled, her pearl necklace disappearing in the folds of her neck. ‘It’s a little late to bring the felon to justice.’

‘This man was killed a week ago and buried in an old casket,’ Beth said. ‘I’m wondering if there might be some connection between the victim and the Cartwright family or at least that bit of land.’

‘Unfortunately, Calico burned to the ground twice, destroying most of the legal records, and almost every issue of the Calico Print newspaper, so much of the town’s history, outside of the mining activity, is lost. What little we know about the daily lives of any individuals comes from letters, a few diaries, and a dozen surviving issues of the Calico Print.’

‘Anything you can tell me will be helpful,’ Beth said.

Beth is determined to make conclusions based on the facts of her investigation, but this time the facts are a little hard to believe.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Calico, by Lee Goldberg {ends 12/11}
There's a saying in Barstow, California, a decaying city in the scorching Mojave desert . . .

The Interstate here only goes in one direction: Away.

But it's the only place where ex-LAPD detective Beth McDade, after a staggering fall from grace, could get another badge . . . and a shot at redemption.

Over a century ago, and just a few miles further into the bleak landscape, a desperate stranger ended up in Calico, a struggling mining town, also hoping for a second chance.

His fate, all those years ago, and hers today are linked when Beth investigates an old skeleton dug up in a shallow, sandy grave . . . and also tries to identity a vagrant run-over by a distracted motorhome driver during a lightning storm.

Every disturbing clue she finds, every shocking discovery she makes, force Beth to confront her own troubled past . . . and a past that's not her own . . . until it all smashes together in a revelation that could change the world.

This was definitely different from the author’s previous works, but in this reader’s opinion, they nailed it! Beth was a reasonably successful LAPD detective, but bad choices led to her disgraceful exit from the department. In Barstow, the biggest risk to her career may be dying from boredom, but she still tries to do her best to uphold the law, especially for the victims—they deserve the truth, and justice.

A missing person case from the LAPD seems to leave a trail right through Beth’s Barstow jurisdiction, so she’s determined to find out what really happened, no matter how unlikely that story seems to be. She knows her career (and maybe her sanity) are at stake, so she needs to not just uncover the truth, but have solid proof.

This unique cross between a sci-fi sort of story with a built in police procedural was an excellent read. It earned 5 out of 5 stars and should be shared immediately with those who enjoy a realistically-told science fiction story. Could it be true? It’s up to each reader to decide whether they think it could be possible.

{click here to purchase on Amazon - affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys theater, reading, and a mid-afternoon nap in the sun. Check out what else she’s reading and her family’s adventures on her blog,


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, December 11th, at 11:59pm ET, 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!

Calico, by Lee Goldberg

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Kassandra: A Tale of Love, War, and One Woman's Destiny: A Novel of Ancient Greece, by Alison Blasdell {ends 12/7}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Nikias and Kassandra strolled through Athens until they reached the city’s south edge. Then Kassandra indicated they would walk southwest. They passed through several small farms until they came to Despina’s farm. Nikias looked around.

“Olive trees? No wheat or barley?” he asked. “The land does not support the growing of grain. Some of the farms we passed plant it, but wheat requires they leave the ground fallow every other year. Such a practice is too costly for the farmers,” Kassandra explained. “Despina has a small area where her farmer grows just enough wheat for his family’s bread. The olive trees are quite productive, however, as are the grape vines growing on the hillside,” she said, pointing at the hills to the west.

“That land belongs to Despina also?” Nikias asked.

“Yes, her farm is quite large. Let’s go inside,” Kassandra said. 

Kassandra’s mother, Acacia, wanted a different life for Kassandra than what was available to her in Athens. Instead of a wife, hetaera, or slave, Acacia sent her daughter to be an Amazon. But her fate may require her to be more roles than any woman has been before.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Kassandra: A Tale of Love, War, and One Woman's Destiny: A Novel of Ancient Greece {ends 12/7}
This is the tale of Kassandra, born in Athens, Greece, in the 4th century BC, and her transition from a frightened but determined girl into a formidable warrior—a path of trust and betrayal, love and loss, joy and heartbreak—the story of a woman who challenges the very gods of Greece to find happiness.

Kassandra was just ten years old when her mother spirited her away in the middle of the night to avoid an arranged marriage, traveling until they reached the mountains the Greeks believed belonged to Zeus. There, her mother left her alone, telling her she must climb the mountains, a feat no man had accomplished, to find the secret band of free warrior women—the Amazons.

Kassandra was an amazing and inspiring woman. Forced to strike out on her own at only ten years old, she completes a journey that would kill most grown men, and it seems inevitable that she become a formidable Amazon warrior. While love was never on her agenda, she knows there is something different about Nikias from their first meeting. 

Although she knows of no woman who has ever been able to live both as an Amazon and as a woman in a different society in the same lifetime, the gods themselves may be guiding Kassandra on a unique path. This story was fascinating and earned 4 out of 5 stars. While it felt like an epic story, it was an exciting and engaging read that went quickly. It was hard to believe that most of the events described took place in less than 20 years of Kassandra’s life as an Amazon. This book would be highly encouraged reading for anyone interested in ancient Greek history with a female perspective. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon - affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and a cog in the corporate machine. See what she and her family are up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, December 7th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be notified the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be notified.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Kassandra: A Tale of Love, War, and One Woman's Destiny: A Novel of Ancient Greece, by Alison Blasdell

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Book Review: Distant Sons, by Tim Johnston

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Viegas pulled up in front of the house and shut down the car and sat a minute in the dark, watching the downstairs windows. The curtains were not drawn and she could see the play of firelight on the far wall of the living room, on the paintings hung there, but no other movement.

Lights had been turned on in the dining room and kitchen but no movement there either. No preparations for dinner. No sitting down to it.

She sent a text and waited. The reply came, and by the time she reached the stone steps he was standing in the open door.

“Detective,” said her father.


He was out of his tie and jacket but still wore his good pressed shirt, his suit pants, the nice black belt she’d given him for Father’s Day. The sight of his black Gold Toe socks made her smile, as they always did – a little shiver of childhood, days of starched khaki blouses and the wide-brimmed hat and the black utility belt with its pouches and snaps, the holster that smelled of leather and guy oil. He’d worn the same socks then.

Sean never expected his humble life to have much impact, until it suddenly does.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Distant Sons, by Tim Johnston
What if?

What if Sean Courtland’s old Chevy truck had broken down somewhere else? What if he’d never met Denise Givens, a waitress at a local tavern, and gotten into a bar fight defending her honor? Or offered a ride to Dan Young, another young man like Sean, burdened by secrets and just drifting through the small Wisconsin town?
Instead, Sean enlists Dan’s help with a construction job in the basement of a local—the elderly, reclusive Marion Devereaux—and gradually the two men come to realize that they’ve washed up in a place haunted by the disappearance of three young boys decades earlier. As Sean and Dan’s friendship deepens, and as Sean gets closer to Denise and her father, they come to the attention of a savvy local detective, Corrine Viegas, who has her own reasons for digging into Dan’s past—and for being unable to resist the pull of the town’s unsolved mystery. And with each chance connection, an irreversible chain of events is set in motion that culminates in shattering violence and the revelation of long-buried truths.
Gripping and immersive, this crime novel by bestselling author Tim Johnston becomes so much more: a book about friendship and love and good hard work—and a masterful read about how the most random intersection of lives can have consequences both devastating and beautiful.

Sean never intended to spend any time in the small Wisconsin town where his truck breaks down. But he goes where he finds work, so when he’s offered a job along with a ride, it’s worth his time to stick around and finish once his truck is fixed.

Likewise, Detective Corrine Viegas never expects much to happen in the small town where she works, until a few people new to town keep popping up where she least expects them. Everyone in this novel has a past that may not be common knowledge, and most are content to keep their stories to themselves indefinitely.

The unassuming characters in this story had their own histories and lives. While their secrets may not have been secrets intentionally, once they were discovered, they were life-changing for others. The book was not generally action-packed, but once a reader becomes engaged with the characters, no one could resist the urge to get to the end and find out how it all connects. 

This story earned 3 out of 5 stars. The nostalgia of the stories still re-told around town from the 1970s was heartfelt and realistic. Anyone who enjoys small town family dramas would certainly enjoy this book.

{click here to purchase from Amazon - affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a blogger for more than 20 years who primarily shares book reviews now. Feel free to review almost half her life at her blog,

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Curious Tides, by Pascale Lacelle {ends 11/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It started with an oath.

Keiran handed her a small silver flake like the one she’d seen Virgil imbibing earlier. An Unraverler synth, he explained. It’ll force you to tell the truth when swearing your oath.

A distant, drowned-out part of her had a terrible sinking feeling as Keiran led her to the large pool. They waded through the shallows until they stood waist-deep in the center of the basin, just out of the cascade’s reach. The rest of the Selenics gathered around her, forming a tight circle in the order of the moon’s phases. All Emory could think of was how surreal they must look to the outside eye, all of them dressed in their sopping wet suits and gowns, their faces cast in dancing turquoise light.

“Here before us you must share three truths,” Keiran intoned. “A painful memory that haunts you, a dream that calls to you, and a secret that burdens you. Let these truths serve as a reminder of the Order’s secrets you carry, and those of yours we now hold.”

For those who dream of super power or magic abilities, Emory’s discovery of her newfound powers was a marvelous cautionary tale.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Curious Tides, by Pascale Lacelle {ends 11/16}
Emory might be a student at the prestigious Aldryn College for Lunar Magics, but her healing abilities have always been mediocre at best—until a treacherous night in the Dovermere sea caves leaves a group of her classmates dead and her as the only survivor. Now Emory is plagued by strange, impossible powers that no healer should possess.

Powers that would ruin her life if the wrong person were to discover them.

To gain control of these new abilities, Emory enlists the help of the school’s most reclusive student, Baz—a boy already well-versed in the deadly nature of darker magic, whose sister happened to be one of the drowned students and Emory’s best friend. Determined to find the truth behind the drownings and the cult-like secret society she’s convinced her classmates were involved in, Emory is faced with even more questions when the supposedly drowned students start washing ashore—alive—only for them each immediately to die horrible, magical deaths.

And Emory is not the only one seeking answers. When her new magic captures the society’s attention, she finds herself drawn into their world of privilege and power, all while wondering if the truth she’s searching for might lead her right back to Dovermere…to face the fate she was never meant to escape.

The evolution of the characters and their relationships to each other was so exciting in this book. There were plenty of instances where the reader couldn’t be sure who was right in their assessments of their own or someone else’s powers. While a hierarchy existed of how things were supposed to be for specific families and moon phase powers, Emory’s previously unseen powers were turning everything into something new. 

Emory isn’t one to usually cause trouble. She does what’s expected of her, and enjoys her lifelong friendship with Romie, until Romie seems to drift away, and then is lost to her seemingly forever. While the idea occurs to her to never return to school, where she last saw Romie and will now have to regularly see Romie’s brother, she really isn’t sure what else she would do with her time either. So back to school she goes. 

She surprisingly finds herself in what appears to be a love triangle, where she never imagined herself before. Is this what love is like, or could her suitors be after more than the kind healer she’s always been?

This was a great magical realism story, and it is so exciting that it’s the first in a duology! The book earned 5 out of 5 stars and would be easily recommended to those who enjoy high school stories and magical realism.

{click here to purchase on Amazon - affiliate link}

Becki Bayley enjoys drinking caffeinated water and making the best adult promise to herself: “You just have to get through this week, then things will get easier.” It’s a lie. It’s always a lie. Watch her persevere on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Curious Tides!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, November 16th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be contacted 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!

Curious Tides, by Pascale Lacelle

Monday, October 30, 2023

Book Review: For Girls Who Walk Through Fire, by Kim DeRose

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Bea was surprised to find that, despite casting her revenge spell, she’d yet to reduce her anxiety or remove him from her life. If anything, in a weird way, it felt as if he’d been drawn in closer.

Her mom now talked about him all the time, updating the family at dinner on his status, fretting over his health and what it might mean for Margaret and the kids, worrying about how this would impact the trajectory of his career, thinking up ways to help their family out. Just hearing his name was triggering enough, but to listen to all that sympathy made Bea want to scream at the top of her lungs.

And apparently, she wasn’t the only one.

“We should really go bring Margaret and the kids a meal,” her mom suggested at dinner one evening. “And just sit with them and spend some time distracting the kids. Also, I think it would be good for all of us to go visit Michael in the hospital.”

“Jesus! Mom!” Otis finally snapped. And then caught himself when Bea kicked him under the table. He glanced up apologetically.

Four girls from a victim’s support group find a way to really make a difference in their abusers’ lives. But will it really make a difference for their emotional burdens?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: For Girls Who Walk Through Fire, by Kim DeRose
Elliott D’Angelo-Brandt is sick and tired of putting up with it all. Every week, she attends a support group for teen victims of sexual assault, but all they do is talk. Elliott’s done with talking. What she wants is justice.

And she has a plan for getting it: a spell book that she found in her late mom’s belongings that actually works. Elliott recruits a coven of fellow survivors from the group. She, Madeline, Chloe, and Bea don’t have much in common, but they are united in their rage at a system that heaps judgments on victims and never seems to punish those who deserve it.

As they each take a turn casting a hex against their unrepentant assailants, the girls find themselves leaning on each other in ways they never expected—and realizing that revenge has heavy implications. Each member of the coven will have to make a choice: continue down the path of magical vigilantism or discover what it truly means to claim their power.

This book really looked at whether revenge is what helps someone move on. When Elliott, Madeline, Chloe, and Bea join forces to become a coven that can exact revenge on those who hurt them and changed their lives forever, they’re willing to pay almost any price for the satisfaction of seeing their abusers suffer. But as their side effects get worse, and they see others paying the price owed by their abusers, they get a chance to look at not what they’re owed, but what might really make them feel better.

Each of the girls had her own backstory, coping mechanisms, and ideal concept of revenge. Their responses to how well their spells worked also made each of them more individual. It was easy to imagine many of their responses as realistic. The book was definitely worth 4 out of 5 stars, and the ending was not easily predictable. This would be an enjoyable read to those who like witchy stories, vigilante justice, and a little bit of family-style drama thrown in.

{click here to purchase on Amazon, only $8.99 on Kindle - affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys reading (obviously), cozy hoodies, and snuggling with her cats. Check out more of what she’s up to on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: Kill for Love, by Laura Picklesimer

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I soon had to put aside the changing dynamics of the sorority house for other practicalities. Weston’s birthday was only two weeks away. Mine wouldn’t arrive until August, and it sucked that his would come so soon after we had started dating. We were two and a half months into our relationship, long enough that I’d need to do something to celebrate, but short enough that it couldn’t be too extravagant, or it might make me seem desperate. TikTok devoted whole tutorial videos to this delicate balance.

To put even more pressure on, Weston had informed me over dinner that three of his fraternity brothers from back East would be visiting for his birthday weekend.

One of my favorite things about Weston (right below his chiseled cheekbones and GQ-quality physique) was that he didn’t have too many friends. He was still new to L.A. I kept forgetting until he’d drop some bombshell, like that he’d never been to Coachella.

Tiffany would do anything for a good time. Some would call it "dying" for a good time, but in Tiffany’s case, it’s "killing."

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Kill for Love, by Laura Picklesimer
Kill for Love is a searing satirical thriller about Tiffany, a privileged Los Angeles sorority sister who is struggling to keep her sadistic impulses—and haunting nightmares of fire and destruction—at bay. After a frat party hookup devolves into a bloody, fatal affair, Tiffany realizes something within her has awoken: the insatiable desire to kill attractive young men. 

As Tiffany’s bloodlust deepens and the bodies pile up, she must contend with mounting legal scrutiny, social media-fueled competing murders, and her growing relationship with Weston, who she thinks could be the perfect boyfriend. A female-driven, modern-day
American Psycho, Kill for Love exposes modern toxic plasticity with dark comedy and propulsive plot. 

It seems Tiffany should have been less likable as a character, but girls just wanna have fun, right? A completely spoiled sorority girl with no real purpose in her life or dreams, when she randomly gives in to her urge to kill, her nightmares stop, and she feels something that seems pleasant in her life for the first time she can remember. 

This was definitely an amusing read with some fun vigilante justice, well, except for the victims. The ending was a bit surprising but not out of character for Tiffany. The story could be recommended for those who can appreciate a sarcastically jaded and spoiled main character, and make some allowances for how someone like that may act in an exaggerated and extreme plot. Overall, the book earned 3 out of 5 stars.

{click here to purchase via my Amazon affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a suburban wife, mom, and school volunteer. She’s equally comfortable singing Disney showtunes or emotional female rage songs. Check out some of her other activities on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Happy AF: Simple strategies to get unstuck, bounce back, and live your best life, by Beth Romero {ends 10/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

While the pen may be mightier than the sword, it looks like the Polaroid out-champs the ballpoint—at least from a neuro-scientific perspective. Pictures speak far more effectively to the brain’s subconscious than language. Images can bypass the cerebral cortex, where language is processed, and engage directly with the intuitive and visual parts of the brain. In other words, they skip the line and head straight to VIP.

Images speak louder than words. Given our social media-obsessed world where the mantra is “pics or it didn’t happen,” let’s apply that same philosophy to images far more significant than the well-plated dinner, gym workout, or the endless summer of selfies—images not of the here-and-now, but of our visions for the future. Let’s invest some time and imagery in the power of yet. It’s far more fulfilling than pics of your manicure, promise. 

A lot of the self-help lingo was familiar, but it’s always good to hear a new take and description on something that can really help, if presented in a potentially new way.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Happy AF: Simple strategies to get unstuck, bounce back, and live your best life, by Beth Romero {ends 10/22}
Happy AF is your comprehensive roadmap for happiness. Drawing heavily from neuroscience, positive psychology, and behavioral science, the straightforward strategies and exercises in this how-to guide will teach you how to strengthen your happiness muscle and live up to your greatest potential. Happiness junky Beth Romero serves up a life-affirming parable laced with contextual how-tos—all backed by clinical research—in fresh, insightful, and accessible language you can relate to. Kinda like your best friend giving it to you straight (with love) over cocktails. In this book, you will discover:

* the art of letting go
* proven ways to jiu-jitsu your negative thoughts to transform your life
* how goals, vision, purpose are the stepping-stones to greatness
* the importance of gratitude and grace in your happiness journey
* the scientific link between sleep, morning routines, diet, and exercise on your mental well-being
* and much, much more!

Happiness is a choice—and it’s within your reach. If you do the work. If you believe. Much like Dorothy with her ruby slippers, the power is always within you . . . just waiting for you to access it. So get ready to click your Manolos, Dr. Martens, or Adidas and find your happy place.

The author did a compelling job of laying out info that certainly wasn’t new in an engaging way, and with lots of research to back it up. Starting with her own decline during the pandemic, she then vividly tells about recognizing how she got there and the steps she took to get her life back on track.

While different approaches are suggested, the author tries to be convincing in her assertion that SOMETHING will work for each reader. The path to happiness is never a one-size-fits-all, but the finish line is eventually attainable for everyone.

Overall this book earned 4 out of 5 stars, with interesting scientific details supporting the benefits of happiness and the attempts to get there, and three different sets of action steps at the end of each chapter. This would be a good book for someone looking for a bit of empathy and a boost toward making their daily life happier and overcoming circumstances that have gotten them down.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who loves autumn, warm sun, and dark painted fingernails. Check out more of her book reviews and other escapades on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Happy AF!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 22nd, 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!

Happy AF, by Beth Romero

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Glory Be, by Danielle Arceneaux {ends 10/19}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The town of Scott, Louisiana, hadn’t changed much from the days Glory and Amity would run around town in scuffed Mary Janes and starched pinafores. No one had bothered to tear down the defunct cotton gin, the gray metal building that stood on stilts with the rusted red roof. The town was stuck in time, but an awful moment in time. A time its black residents would rather not revisit and its white residents would rather pretend  didn’t happen at all. 

Delphine crossed the train tracks and drove by the old pharmacy with the Rexall sign that could have been from the 1950s, or even earlier. Electrical wiring draped from pole to pole on each street, which were lined with tidy but old single-story homes with flat roofs.

Glory Broussard is shocked when her childhood friend who is now a nun is found dead, and the authorities immediately decide no investigation is needed for an apparent suicide.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Glory Be, by Danielle Arceneaux {ends 10/19}
It’s a hot and sticky Sunday in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Glory has settled into her usual after-church routine, meeting gamblers at the local coffee shop, where she works as a small-time bookie. Sitting at her corner table, Glory hears that her best friend—a nun beloved by the community—has been found dead in her apartment.

When police declare the mysterious death a suicide, Glory is convinced that there must be more to the story. With her reluctant daughter—who has troubles of her own—in tow, Glory launches a shadow investigation into Lafayette’s oil tycoons, church gossips, a rumored voodoo priestess, nosey neighbors, and longtime ne'er-do wells.

As a Black woman of a certain age who grew up in a segregated Louisiana, Glory is used to being minimized and overlooked. But she’s determined to make her presence known as the case leads her deep into a web of intrigue she never realized Lafayette could harbor.

Glory is used to being fiercely independent. Her ex-husband is finally gone, and her daughter is a successful attorney in New York. When Glory’s best friend, Sister Amity, is found dead, Glory’s daughter, Delphine, comes back to town to attend the funeral. Luckily she has some extra time to stick around and help Glory get her life back on track.

Delphine is soon involved with not only helping Glory find out who has been reporting her house to the city as uninhabitable, but she may also be growing more convinced by Glory’s insistence that Sister Amity’s death was suspicious. While Delphine is originally staying in Louisiana to avoid some of her own life, it turns out some of her relationships from her youth could still be waiting to pick up where they left off.

As the first book of the Glory Broussard Mystery series, this book set up several key players and relationships with potential for growth and more interactions. This book was 3 out of 5 stars, as getting to know about the characters showed a lot of their good qualities and their opportunities for growth. When Glory and Delphine didn’t get along as well in the beginning of the story, neither of them were very likable. This would definitely be a book enjoyed by those who like light-hearted family dramas, cozy mysteries, and fun series about Louisiana life. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley enjoys keeping her feet warm, feeling the sun on her skin, and uninterrupted sleep. Check out some of her random moments on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Glory Be!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, October 19th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be contacted 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!

Glory Be, by Danielle Arceneaux

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Book Review: The Key to My Heart, by Lia Louis

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Today is one of those classic, airless summer days that turn London into a raging furnace and morph every resident into a grumpy expert on historical architecture. These buildings were just not built for these temperatures. No tiles, no air-con! British houses keep heat in, they don’t let it out! The rehearsal rooms at music therapy as expected were unbearable this morning, and I lasted all of seven minutes in The Smelly Room, which smelled like passing a landfill on a motorway. Joe had arrived in the final minute, poking his head around the door. “Sort of ironic that this is therapy,” he said, “today it’s more like a Bear Grylls challenge.”

After the session, we decided that instead of grabbing coffee, we needed something cold, so we ordered iced teas to take away from an empty, just-opened juice bar. A lone photographer from a local paper stood snapping the balloon-arched entranceway on the street, and to mark the opening day, a woman behind the counter had flirtily leaned and slid novelty straw spectacles onto Joe’s expressionless face.

Natalie isn’t sure if her grieving will ever end, but she can’t even remember how her life would be different without it. 

Official synopsis:

Book Review: The Key to My Heart, by Lia Louis
Sparkly and charming Natalie Fincher has it all—a handsome new husband, a fixer-upper cottage of her dreams, and the opportunity to tour with the musical she’s spent years writing. But when her husband suddenly dies, all her hopes and dreams instantly disappear.

Two and a half years later, Natalie is still lost. She works, sleeps (well, as much as the sexually frustrated village foxes will allow), and sees friends just often enough to allay their worries, but her life is empty. And she can only bring herself to play music at a London train station’s public piano where she can be anonymous. She’s lost motivation, faith in love, in happiness…in everything.

But when someone begins to mysteriously leave the sheet music for her husband’s favorite songs at the station’s piano, Natalie begins to feel a sense of hope and excitement for the first time. As she investigates just who could be doing this, Natalie finds herself on an unexpected journey toward newfound love for herself, for life, and maybe, for a special someone.

Natalie isn’t really worried about her life since her husband Russ died. She just goes on existing. She has the folks she visits at the coffee shop, and she finds some solace in playing the piano at the train station. Everyone else seems to want her to have more, but it’s not their life, is it?

Eventually the time comes where she finds herself somehow moving on. A practically required night out with her friends introduces her to Tom, who keeps turning up even though she had never noticed him before, and then a recommended music therapy group has her spending time with Joe, who she does recognize as being around before, but always as part of the background in her predictable life.

This charming and unique story earned 4 out of 5 stars. As a young widow, Natalie wasn’t the usual young-ish woman searching for love at the bars with her friends. Her friends were having babies and living their full, developing adult lives, and she wasn’t sure where that left her. She didn’t want a new love, she wanted what she already had with her husband, but she now had to move on without him. Her reluctance to accept the life she truly had to deal with now was just part of her appeal. The details of the ending were somewhat unexpected in a pleasant way.  This is a great and heartwarming book with likable characters who each had their own flaws. The story could be enthusiastically enjoyed by those who enjoy family dramas, starting over, and interesting ideas of where love may be found.

{click here to purchase on Amazon - only $5.99 on audiobook as of this writing}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader who tries to find a little more spare time to indulge her kids’ love of theater, robotics, and D&D. Check out some of their adventures on her blog,

Monday, September 25, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Better Half, by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans {ends 9/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Hey Jasmine,” I say, giving a big hug to one of my favorite seniors before I head up the bleachers to where I see Roan and Marisol have already claimed spots. With R-H letters in kelly green and rose red adorning her cheeks, and a pile of ribbons holding her high pony, Jasmine has exuded school spirit since her first day in kindergarten. When her teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she hopped to the center of the sharing circle, kicked her leg in the air, and roared, A CHEERLEADER! I never did tell her parents that their school tuition was paying for such five-year-old aspirations. Turns out, thirteen years later, Jasmine also wants to be the next RBG. “I saw your mom last week hobbling around the upper school on crutches. Is her ankle doing any better?”

“She’s way better, Ms. Clarke. I’m glad, too, ‘cause I’m sick of having to reach everything in the house. You know I’m not that tall.” Jasmine puts a hand on her hip and give me a pout for show. Not one member of her Filipino family stands above five-five, and Jasmine is no exception, maybe hitting five-two in her platform sneakers. “I think she’s keeping those crutches around to get me to do more chores.”

“Smart woman if you ask me. Enjoy the game, Jaz.” I nod to the one-woman pep squad.

Nina isn’t sure she wants to have it all, but the time has come to make some hard choices.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Better Half, by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans {ends 9/28}
After a difficult five years, at age forty-three, Nina Morgan Clarke’s time has finally arrived. With an ex-husband relocated across the country, her father bouncing back after the loss of his beloved wife, and her daughter, Xandra, thriving at boarding school, Nina is stepping into her dream job as a trifecta: a first-generation, Black female head of the storied Royal-Hawkins School. To mark the moment, Nina and her best friend, Marisol, take a long-overdue girls’ trip to celebrate the second half of Nina’s life—which is shaping up to be the best part of her life.

As Nina’s school year gets underway, all seems to be progressing as planned. Before long, wunder-hire Jared Jones, two hundred pounds of Harvard-educated ego, relentlessly pushes Nina to her ethical limits. Soon after, dutiful Xandra accuses one of her teachers of misconduct. And most alarming, the repercussions of her trip with Marisol force Nina into a life-altering choice. Time is of the essence, and Nina must decide if she will embrace a future she never could have predicted.

Nina Morgan Clarke’s teenaged daughter is gaining more independence and Nina finally has achieved her dream job. All the pieces of her perfect life are falling into place, so she and her best friend Marisol head away for a weekend to celebrate. She doesn’t expect to meet anyone, but sometimes when something is meant to be, it will happen regardless of expected plans.

The fun summer with her weekend fling, Leo, seems certain to end when he has to move for work, but then they suddenly have more reason than ever to stay together. While Marisol and the other important people in Nina’s life see changes coming, Nina is the one most reluctant to adjust her vision of a perfect future.

This story was an intense family drama that was hard to put down. Things could have gone so many different ways for all of the characters, and their growth both individually and in their relationships with each other was inspiring. The main plot and intricate subplots earned 4 out of 5 stars, with Nina’s dad, Fitzroy, and Marisol being favorite supporting characters.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom who enjoys feeling competent at work, making time to support her kids’ activities, and using a few stolen minutes to read whatever she wants. Check out some of her reading on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Better Half!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, September 28th, 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 Better Half, by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar {ends 9/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

He had invited Gulnaz to lunch today and she, too, was wearing a sweater. At twenty-two degrees Celsius – seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit, Remy’s phone had told him – he was delighting in the weather, happy to be escaping the harsh Ohio winter. But Gulnaz looked at him in horror when he answered the door in a t-shirt. “Are you mad?” she said. “Aren’t you freezing? Or has living in America turned your brain into yogurt?”

“Welcome, Gulnaz,” he said. “And, no, I’m not cold. It’s a balmy seventy-two degrees here. It’s currently five degrees in Ohio.”

“Ae, forget this Fahrenheit nonsense. Talk in Celsius, na, like a normal person,” Gulnaz said as she walked into the living room. “Why must you Americans always be out of step with the rest of the world? You haven’t even embraced the metric system yet.”

Remy grinned. “The perks of being the world’s sole superpower, darling.”

Gulnaz looked around. “Where’s Mum?”

“In her room. Want to come say hello?”

“In a minute.” Gulnaz took Remy’s hand in hers. “Tell me. How are you? How are things since you brought her home?”

Remy’s visit home to India is expected to be a surprise, but he ends up the one most surprised.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar {ends 9/28}
When Remy Wadia left India for the United States, he carried his resentment of his cold and inscrutable mother with him and has kept his distance from her. Years later, he returns to Bombay, planning to adopt a baby from a young pregnant girl—and to see his elderly mother again before it is too late. She is in the hospital, has stopped talking, and seems to have given up on life.

Struck with guilt for not realizing just how ill she had become, Remy devotes himself to helping her recover and return home. But one day in her apartment he comes upon an old photograph that demands explanation. As shocking family secrets surface, Remy finds himself reevaluating his entire childhood and his relationship to his parents, just as he is on the cusp of becoming a parent himself. Can Remy learn to forgive others for their human frailties, or is he too wedded to his sorrow and anger over his parents’ long-ago decisions?

This book truly took family drama to the next level. The story is told from Remy’s viewpoint during his visit to India, with a few of his memories from his childhood in India and college years in the U.S. thrown in. Now married to a woman he met in Ohio in college and ready to start his family, he has pretty set memories of how his life and relationships were with his parents until his father’s passing a few years earlier. 

While visiting India in the hopes of starting a family, he finds out more than he ever thought there was to know about his family growing up, and his opinions and feelings about who his parents were and his role in the family could drastically change. When the untangling of Remy’s past came to fruition in the story, it was a surprise. 

The story was a beautiful and emotional one about family relationships and parental sacrifices. The book earned 3 out of 5 stars and would be enjoyed by those who enjoy family drama stories, and stories about life in India.

{click here to pre-order on Amazon; it will be out on Sept. 26)

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who enjoys reading, theater, and watching her kids enjoy their activities. Check out more of what she’s up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Museum of Failures!

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey {ends 9/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Small, one-of-everything stores used to be the heart of a town. Not any longer. Most of the neighborhood shops had dried up and disappeared, replaced with great, impersonal box stores, or even worse, grocery delivery where you didn’t need to exchange so much as a glance with the person who brought you the food you needed to survive.

He thought the disconnect might be at the root of what was wrong with the world.

The box stores had been a good development for him, of course. Once they arrived, it meant he didn’t have to drive so far to shop anonymously for female supplies. But in the rare occasions when he found himself in the local market, he felt a stab of righteous grief for an imagined better time. 

He watched Setzland drugstore across the street as he shopped. Comstock and the two BCA agents had gone upstairs to Rita Larsen’s apartment. He congratulated himself on placing the tracker on Van’s car, both her blue Toyota RAV4 and the silver Impala she checked out from work. It was shockingly easy to order the tiny black GPS with the magnetic strip, park next to someone, drop your keys, stick the tracker in a wheel well, grab your keys, and be on your way.

Van Reed is an interesting investigator with a traumatic history of her own. Maybe Harry Steinback also has more of a past than we know about so far?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey
Two girls vanished. A woman buried alive. Between two crimes lie decades of secrets yet to be unearthed in a pulse-pounding novel by the Edgar Award–nominated author of Unspeakable Things.

Summer 1980: Despite the local superstition that the Bendy Man haunts the woods, three girls go into a Minnesota forest. Only one comes out, dead silent, her memory gone. The mystery of the Taken Ones captures the nation.

Summer 2022: Cold case detective Van Reed and forensic scientist Harry Steinbeck are assigned a disturbing homicide—a woman buried alive, clutching a heart charm necklace belonging to one of the vanished girls. Van follows her gut. Harry trusts in facts. They’re both desperate to catch a killer before he kills again. They have something else in common: each has ties to the original case in ways they’re reluctant to share.

As Van and Harry connect the crimes of the past and the present, Van struggles with memories of her own nightmarish childhood—and the fear that uncovering the truth of the Taken Ones will lead her down a path from which she, too, may never return.

Van Reed doesn’t have any real friends. Since her previous work partner died, she’s been working alone, while being shunned and then chased out from her old job where her partner’s reputation was what had kept her safe until he was gone. 

At her new job with the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehensionit’s a real thing), Van is attempting to re-investigate and hopefully solve cold cases. When a new murder victim is found, she’s soon tied to a cold case. It leaves Van working with one of her former co-workers that she was glad to get away from at the Minneapolis police department.

Luckily Van has a new ally in Harry Steinback. He’s a science guy—primarily there to solve cases based on provable facts, but he seems willing to trust some of Van’s hunches - at least far enough to investigate them.

This book was so good! The investigation of the current murder and concurrent review of the cold case worked really well together, since the cases were clearly linked. The side stories were also engaging and surprisingly connected. The non-top action and intrigue earned 5 stars out of 5, and a strong recommendation for the books to come in this new series about Reed and Steinback. Worth mentioning as well, though, that the original crime and Van’s background story was directly against children, in case that’s something a reader would rather avoid.

{click here to purchase on Amazon; it will be released September 19 and is only $4.99 for Kindle at the time of this writing}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader of all the things. She enjoys snuggling with cozy blankets and a good book, or sitting in the sun surrounded by her flower garden to read. Yummy snacks are always a fun addition as well. Check out some of her favorite spots and books on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Taken Ones!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 26th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be contacted 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 Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood {ends 9/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

On a sunny Sunday at the end of March, Edith and Woodrow took a drive down to Mount Vernon. George Washington was Woodrow’s hero and most important role model, and he wanted to consult with his spirit.

“You have your Ouija board, I have this.” He opened his arms to encompass the wide view of the Potomac. They had toured the mansion and the burial crypt, but it was the sloping back lawn above the river that entranced Woodrow. “I feel him looking out there, determined to fight for freedom. I feel him envisioning how a peaceful nation will be formed from small states and large ones, all having a voice in the whole.” He sat on the grass, still stiff in its winter brown, and patted the spot next to him for her to join him.

She sat, the ground hard and cold under her bottom. “As you want for Europe.”

“It’s a good model for them, don’t you think?” He pulled up his long legs, tenting his knees, and tilted his head back to look into the sky. “I have to write the speech I had hoped would never be given.”

She knew the date had been set for an address to a joint session of Congress. He would ask them to declare war.

This was an interesting historical story told from a unique perspective.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood {ends 9/16}
Socialite Edith Bolling has been in no hurry to find a new husband since she was widowed, preferring to fill her days with good friends and travel. But the enchanting courting of President Woodrow Wilson wins Edith over and she becomes the First Lady of the United States. The position is uncomfortable for the fiercely independent Edith, but she's determined to rise to the challenges of her new marriage—from the bloodthirsty press to the shadows of the first World War.

Warming to her new role, Edith is soon indispensable to her husband's presidency. She replaces the staff that Woodrow finds distracting, and discusses policy with him daily. Throughout the war, she encrypts top-secret messages and despite lacking formal education becomes an important adviser. When peace talks begin in Europe, she attends at Woodrow's side. But just as the critical fight to ratify the treaty to end the war and create a League of Nations in order to prevent another, Woodrow's always-delicate health takes a dramatic turn for the worse. In her determination to preserve both his progress and his reputation, Edith all but assumes the presidency herself.

Now, Edith must contend with the demands of a tumultuous country, the secrets of Woodrow's true condition, and the potentially devastating consequences of her failure. At once sweeping and intimate,
The President's Wife is an astonishing portrait of a courageous First Lady and the sacrifices she made to protect her husband and her country at all costs.

Reading about Woodrow Wilson’s presidency along with his personal life from his second wife’s perspective was so enlightening! While they were portrayed as discussing and agreeing on many of his presidential policies, the points they did not agree on were even more interesting. With that said, when she was doing the most to assist in his presidency, the author made it sound like she really did try to continue making decisions in what President Wilson had told her were in the best interests of the country.

Edith Bolling Gait Wilson was also an engaging character on her own. Her reactions to the necessary appearances and wealth of experiences as the First Lady were amusing, especially while she stressed that this public life was never what she was after—she truly loved her second husband, who happened to be the President.

Overall, this was a great historical fiction with likable characters and stories that taught a lot. It earned 3 out of 5 stars, and this reader learned a great deal about this time and these important people from history.

{click here to purchase from Amazon}

Becki Bayley, like Edith Bolling Gait Wilson, is the second wife to her second husband. She enjoys hanging out at home alone reading with her cats and some good snacks (Becki, not Edith). Check out a few shots from her daily life on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The President's Wife!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 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!

The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC, by Shout Mouse Press Young Writers {ends 9/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The Storm, The Rainbow, and Valentina - Back in the Day

My abuela taught us not to give up. She was born in the same pueblito as me. Her parents had nine babies and she was the only baby girl my bisabuelos had. We lived with her in Mexico and she always shared her stories with us. I still remember one of her stories, that when she was still very small, her mother taught her how to make tortillas and do laundry. Her mother would tell her, “Ya estás grande para que me ayudes con las labores de la casa.” And so, even as a little girl, she helped with the house chores.

My abuela didn’t go to school. She learned how to count, and one of her brothers taught her how to read a little bit, but her parents said girls should be at home. A woman’s responsibility was to take care of the house and the kids, while the men went out to work. I loved my abuela, but I’m glad I wasn’t raised like her, and I’m glad she didn’t raise my mom or Tía Gabriela like her either. My abuelita taught them how to be strong and brave. They are not the type to give up easily.

These stories brought back all the 2020 memories, with new perspectives of how it changed us all.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC {ends 9/9}
In this collaborative novel, ten diverse young writers from Washington, DC recreate the historic year 2020 from their perspectives, through fictional stories inspired by their own lived experiences. Told chronologically from the onset of the pandemic to the insurrection of January 6th, their stories of change and resilience are accompanied by maps, social media, original artwork, and real-life headlines to create an immersive experience of an unprecedented coming of age.

You’ll meet Faiza, a Muslim high school student, who struggles to celebrate Ramadan during the worst of the COVID-19 shutdowns. You’ll protest with Roman, the only Black student in his class, whose relationships are challenged in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. You’ll face the fraught 2020 election with Dennis, a young Nigerian immigrant, as he questions a democracy that seems to count him out.

By examining the shards of this shattered year, these authors explore “what it cost us” through stories that both acknowledge loss and celebrate what got us through.

While short stories usually aren’t a favorite of this reader, each of these unique and evocative stories vividly recounted specific 2020 memories. Watching the world shut down and the fear of COVID’s spread, virtual learning, the loss of contact with those we were comfortable with in everyday life, the BLM protests around George Floyd’s murder, developing a new normal, and the January 6 riots—as far apart and disconnected as we all sometimes felt, so much of what we were going through was nationwide. 

Knowing the stories were from true minority perspectives made them that much more powerful. Every generation has a before and after moment, and right now, 2020 is it for so many young adults. These short stories help people really remember and consider where they were when life changed for so many.

This book was a solid 5 stars. It is a recounting of vivid memories for so many, but should soon be required reading for anyone who was too young or doesn’t know what they were doing when the world stopped and our new normal was born. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley worked until the world shut down, while wondering in the final moments what was next, and if she should skip a work shift to buy groceries and toilet paper. While she probably didn’t remember to post much then, you can see what she’s up to now on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of What It Cost Us!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 9th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic and Protest in DC

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Book Review: Jane Doe, by Victoria Helen Stone

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I gasp as Steven pulls into his driveway. “Oh my God, what a beautiful yard!”

“Thank you.” The garage door rises and I see that the garage is perfectly clean, tools hung on walls and shelves neatly lined with boxes.

“Everything is so pretty. And it seems like such a great neighborhood.”

“It’s nice. There are a lot of older folks here, so there aren’t too many asshole kids around. But the school district is one of the best, so home values are solid.”

He’s so cold and practical that I have trouble imagining what free spirit Meg saw in him. She never thought about home values or school districts during her walks around town. She liked pretty trim and brightly painted porches. But opposites attract, I suppose. His serious and responsible nature must have felt like safety to her.

Sometimes it’s beautiful when karma has a name. This time, karma’s name is Jane, and Steven Hepsworth is about to pay for his bad treatment of another woman.

Official synopsis:
Jane Doe book review, Victoria Helen Stone
Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

This quick read introduces a unique character: Jane, who repeatedly recognizes herself as a sociopath and isn’t ashamed to keep telling the reader about how she’s getting through life by pretending to be like other people while not experiencing any real emotions of her own. 

Jane’s ability to read people and anticipate who they want her to be makes her the perfect woman to exact revenge on the man who broke her college best friend’s heart. She has no problem getting close to him so she can decide how to most efficiently and effectively ruin him. 

A really fun book (not sure what that says about this reader!), it could be recommended for those who enjoy contemporary psychological thrillers and stories of what may look like female empowerment. It earned 3 out of 5 stars, and Problem Child, the second book in the Jane series, has already received great reviews as well.

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

Becki Bayley is a mom and wife who enjoys reading, spending time with her family, and relaxing outside in her flower garden. Check out reviews of other books she’s read on her blog,

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland {ends 8/22}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Boston, June 1854
The guards gave Anthony a new suit that morning. After so many days wearing the same rank outfits all the time, he was glad for something clean to put on. And the clothes they gave him were fine. The only time he saw Black folk dressed so costly was when they were being sold at auction for house slaving. He took his time putting on the trousers and the sharp coat, and he found himself still hoping. If they gave him all those fine fabrics and even a top hat to wear, that maybe signified more good was to come.

But it turned out those clothes were meant just to show folks outside that he’d been treated well, that maybe the slave life wasn’t so bad after all.

When the commissioner announced his decision, Anthony could scarcely believe it, even though he heard it clear with his very own ears.

Life as a former slave in a divided country presented many challenges and conflicts for all of the country’s citizens.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland {ends 8/22}
A passionate advocate of abolition from her earliest years, Ann’s activism was derailed just before her twenty-fourth birthday, when she fell sick with a mysterious illness. In order to protect her fragile health, her husband, the famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips, forbade her from joining any further anti-slavery outings. Even so, when fugitive slave Anthony Burns is apprehended in Boston, Ann is determined to help him, no matter what it costs her.  

With a particular focus on the predicament of nineteenth-century women who wanted to effect change despite the restrictions society imposed on them, The Stockwell Letters takes a deep dive into the harrowing conditions of the antebellum South and the obstacles faced by abolitionists who fought tirelessly to eradicate slavery. A fast-paced, arresting recounting of America’s not-so-distant history, the story will stay with readers long after the final page.
Told from the viewpoints of Anthony Burns, Colette, and Ann Phillips, this story gave fascinating perspective on abolitionist activists in Boston in the 1830s through the 1850s (with one last follow-up in the mid-1880s). The title of the book wasn’t obvious, and didn’t really occur to this reader until the book was done, but when it made sense it was excellent.

Anthony Burns starts out the story as a slave who is being rented out by his owner to a business-owner in another town. His escape is what starts most of the action in the story. Colette lives in the city where Anthony is working. She likes to think that she has a progressive view of human rights, and is sneaking around to teach her maid, Adelia, to read. When they first meet Anthony, she wants to add him to their classes since he has expressed an interest in reading as well. Ann Phillips was raised in an abolitionist family and married famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips. 

The story of the three main characters and the commitment to and evolution of their ideals is fascinating. While the story is based on their common beliefs, why they believed what they did, or how they interpreted their actions based on these beliefs, varies. Overall, the book was enlightening and earned 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully told historical fiction, with some of the characters actually based in fact. There was more than average history available about what happened with Anthony Burns, and the author researched it well.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley enjoys writing, reading, and snuggling with her two cats. Catch a glimpse of what she’s up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Stockwell Letters!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 22nd at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen and emailed the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Stockwell Letters, by Jacqueline Friedland

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