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

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Fires, by Denise Mina {ends 8/15}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley 

This is how Savonarola knows that he has lost Florence: not one of the apartments overlooking the Piazza della Signoria has a candle flickering inside. The apartments seem deserted but they’re not. There’s nowhere to go any more: the inns are closed and the gambling dens are all shut. People must be home. In one room a figure is shifting, watching, looking straight at him. It’s a man, he thinks, a man with his arms crossed. At this same event last year all the windows were bright; a lot of them were open for people to watch the march come in for the big bonfire. Last year was better.

Savonarola is losing the city.

Of course we’ll never know what was really in Savonarola’s mind, but this story makes some pretty good guesses.

Official synopsis: 
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Fires, by Denise Mina {ends 8/15}
Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar living in Florence at the end of the fifteenth century. An anti-corruption campaigner, his hellfire preaching increasingly spilled over into tirades against all luxuries that tempted his followers toward sin. These sermons led to the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities”—a series of fires lit throughout Florence for the incineration of everything from books, extravagant clothing, playing cards, musical instruments, make-up, and mirrors to paintings, tapestries, and sculptures.

Railing against the vice and avarice of the ruling Medici family, he was instrumental in their removal from power—and for a short time became the puritanical leader of the city. After turning his attention to corruption within the Catholic Church, he was first excommunicated and then executed by a combination of hanging and being burned at the stake.

Just as in Rizzio—her latest novel with Pegasus Crime—Denise Mina brings a modern take to this fascinating historical story, drawing parallels between the febrile atmosphere of medieval Florence and the culture wars of the present day. In dramatizing the life and last days of Savonarola, she explores the downfall of the original architect of cancel culture and, in the process, explores the never-ending tensions between wealth, inequality, and freedom of speech that so dominate our modern world.

This enlightening and imaginative re-telling of the late fifteenth century really brought a not necessarily popular or well-known time in history to life. From a childhood that may have led to Savonarola’s passion for sharing his truth, to his actual practice preaching to get his message out, this book made the struggles in Savonarola’s life feel understandable and relevant.

While not a long book, the journeys, sermons, and confrontations of Savonarola as a force within the Church and outside of it were fascinating. No chapter or incident was too long to bore a reader, but instead just gave a hint at the surface of the characters’ lives that left the reader’s imagination open for more.

The book was quite enjoyable and earned 4 out of 5 stars while also teaching a lot about a time and place with which this reader was previously unfamiliar. Those who enjoy historical fiction, especially with a religious angle, would like this book.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who is married with two children. She loves the theater, her flower garden, and watching her kids enjoy their lives. Check out other book reviews and their activities on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Three Fires!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 15th, 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!

Three Fires, by Denise Mina

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Garden of Second Chances, by Mona Alvarado Frazier {ends 8/2}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Xochitl and I finished cleaning the dayroom while the rest of the girls were locked in their cells for the night. We had five minutes alone before Ms. Montes finished her paperwork and sent us to our rooms. Eager to jot down my gardening plan,  I held my pencil over the back of one of my old worksheets.

“What were those words you used before?” I asked.

“Tell Mrs. Shaffer a garden can help inmates stay busy and out of trouble. The staff like to hear that kind of stuff. Say, the garden is ecological, good for the environment. Especially since we won’t use pesticides.”

“Those words are too big,” I said. “You write it down.”

“No, you need the practice. Write ‘organic vegetables and flowers help inmates gain skills,’” Xochitl said slowly. “What are we going to plant?”

“Let’s ask for tomatoes, chiles, some herbs, calabazas. Sunflowers, marigolds.” I recorded the names of the seeds and plants. “Those are easy to grow. We need a water hose and bucket too.”

Juana wants to do what is right for her baby, but it’s hard to do the right thing while navigating the crime she’s accused of and the sentence she’s serving in prison.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Garden of Second Chances, by Mona Alvarado Frazier {ends 8/2}
Juana's life has taken a dark turn. Accused of her husband’s death, she's now a seventeen-year-old mother, alone and undocumented in a prison cell. No one believes her when she claims she's innocent, not even the prison staff or the gang leader in her block who torments her relentlessly. 

Her only solace is in her baby, but as Juana struggles to survive the dangers lurking in prison, the threat outside grows even more terrifying. Her husband's furious family wants to take the child away. 

With no hope in sight, Juana discovers a glimmer of light in a small patch of earth in the prison yard. As she nurtures the plants, memories of her mother's strength and resilience surface, pushing Juana to fight for her freedom and her daughter's future. This is a story of courage, hope, and determination in the face of impossible odds. 

Juana Ivanov seems to have all the cards stacked against her. She barely speaks English. Her father wants nothing to do with her. Her mother-in-law never liked her, and now her husband is dead and everyone has decided she did it. While she knows she didn’t, she has no knowledge of how to prove otherwise, or how to even tell the people who matter.

Luckily she makes friends with another prisoner who is literally incarcerated on charges that she assaulted a police officer during a protest for immigrants’ rights. If anyone gets it, Xochitl does.

Together, they try to navigate finding out the truth about Juana’s husband’s death, while also making it through their time behind bars alive. Prison rules and the other prisoner’s gang rules are often two very different lists of things they can and cannot do without repercussions. 

Juana just wants to do what she can to be reunited with her baby and give them the best life together that she can. This touching story gets 3 out of 5 stars and would be recommended for those who appreciate stories about teens and shows or books like Orange is the New Black.

{click here to purchase from Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom to a 16-year-old and an 11-year-old. Their busy household is rounded out by two black cats who are sisters. See more of their life on Instagram where Becki posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Garden of Second Chances!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, August 2nd, at 11:59pm EST, 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!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Alchemy of a Blackbird, by Claire McMillan {ends 8/1}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

When they landed in Veracruz, Remedios slipped a bunch of Madame Nouget’s lavender and rosemary out of her pocket and dropped it in the dirt as she stepped off the wharf. The dried leaves mingled with the dust of a new country. She’d picked them in the hills of Marseilles while on a foraging trip, drawn to their scent and what Madame Nouget taught her about their qualities, lavender for healing, rosemary for remembrance. She dried them, tied them with kitchen twine, and brought them with her on the Serpa Pinto to ground the watery days at sea. She hadn’t anticipated that at night, lying in her cot, she’d hold the bundle to her nose to mask the scent of unwashed bodies and people being seasick in buckets. All of them down in the hold while the ill and injured rightly took the staterooms on a luxury ship packed to three times its usual capacity. She offered the herbs back to the earth now to acknowledge a rough crossing and to greet a potential sanctuary. She offered them back with thanks.

This story of surrealist artists doing their artist things around the world was charming—like hanging out casually and appreciating the world as they seemed to be doing.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Alchemy of a Blackbird, by Claire McMillan {ends 8/1}
In this “unforgettable adventure, and one you don’t want to miss” (Patti Callahan Henry,
New York Times bestselling author), painter Remedios Varo and her lover, poet Benjamin Peret escape the Nazis by fleeing Paris and arriving at a safe house for artists on the Rivieria.

Along with Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, and others, the two anxiously wait for exit papers.

As the months pass, Remedios begins to sense that the others don’t see her as a fellow artist; they have cast her in the stifling role of a surrealist ideal: the beautiful innocent. She finds refuge in a mysterious bookshop, where she stumbles into a world of occult learning and intensifies an esoteric practice in the tarot that helps her light the bright fire of her creative genius.

When travel documents come through, Remedios and Benjamin flee to Mexico where she is reunited with friend and fellow painter Leonora Carrington. Together, the women tap into their creativity, stake their independence, and each find their true loves. But it is the tarot that enables them to access the transcendent that lies on the other side of consciousness and to become the truest Surrealists of all.

While the story originally seemed about the friendship between Remedios and Leonora, as it progressed it told more of Remedios’ life and the unique bond that always existed between her and Leonora. The women were part of a unique population and artists in their own right, although they lived often in the shadows of men. The author’s note at the end acknowledges the story as "faction"—while some events and people may have actually been part of Remedios’ life, the book is more told as things that could have been part of her story.

The book inspires curiosity about all of its characters—surreal artists and members of society starting in Paris, and then fleeing the war from 1939 through the next couple decades. They somehow continued trying to maintain their salons and appreciation for each other and their art through unique and trying circumstances they encountered as they traveled.

The formatting of the narration and chapters was especially delightful. A portion of the story would be told, then the description of a tarot card would be provided and linked with a character. Then that character would narrate their portion of the story. Some of the viewpoints of the characters vs. how they seemed to be acting from the overall scene were amusing.

Overall, the story earned 4 out of 5 stars and inspired an urge to explore tarot cards and surreal artists in the early to mid-1900s. This book is recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction and stories based on real characters. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom who will soon be the shortest person in her family. See how far they’ve all come and check out what else she’s reading on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Alchemy of a Blackbird!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 1st, at 11:59pm EST, 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!

Alchemy of a Blackbird, by Claire McMillan

Monday, July 24, 2023

Book Review: Love & Resistance, by Kara H.L. Chen

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Plainstown High was weird in many ways, but one of its strangest rituals was the lap before the morning bell. PHS was designed in a square shape, and everyone would walk the hallways before homeroom each morning, like the school was some kind of large strolling track. Always clockwise. Always from around 7:15 a.m., when people would  start streaming in from the parking lots, to 7:45 a.m., the first bell.

But that wasn’t the weirdest part. And I had been at four different schools and had seen a lot of weird. What was truly strange was that there was a system to the laps, a whole hierarchy compressed into the anything-but-leisurely strolls. People walked in friend clumps, picking up pals at their lockers, occasionally jettisoning one or two into their  homerooms. It was like a traffic roundabout, but instead of cars, you had angsty adolescents.

Like everything else, where you walked was a direct indicator of who you were. The VIPs were in the inner circle. Social outcasts or those without a group would not walk; they would sit in homeroom. (That was me.) The unspoken rule was this: if Mitzi or her people were coming your way, you moved. Those who defied the rules faced consequences.

Olivia Chang’s method for staying invisible as the new Asian girl at several high schools has worked out for her. It’s lonely, but safe, and she’s pretty sure that is better.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Love & Resistance, by Kara H.L. Chen
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Chang is at her fourth school in seven years. Her self-imposed solitude is lonely but safe. At Plainstown High, however, Olivia’s usual plan of anonymity fails when infamous it-girl Mitzi Clarke makes a pointed racist comment in class. Tired of ignoring things just to survive, Olivia defends herself.  

And that is the end of her invisible life. 

Soon, Olivia joins forces with the Nerd Net: a secret society that's been thwarting Mitzi’s reign of terror for months. Together, they plan to unite the masses and create true change at school.

But in order to succeed, Olivia must do something even more terrifying than lead a movement: trust other people. She might even make true friends along the way . . . if Mitzi doesn’t destroy her first.

What a unique book! Sometimes, the underdogs might get a chance to win, and this is their story. Olivia just can’t keep her mouth shut anymore when the most popular girl in her newest high school makes a racist comment blaming the Asian students for her own less-than-stellar grades. While Olivia initially regrets not holding on to her invisibility, she soon meets the secret Nerd Net, where she’ll find friends and maybe even love.

Besides just teen angst and drama, the story really makes use of Olivia’s interest in government and military strategy and structure. As the Nerd Net made plans of how to "even the playing field" at Plainstown High, Olivia weighed it all against her previous experiences, the lessons her grandfather and mother had taught about navigating the world, and what she had learned through her interest in history and governments.

While not necessarily the expected teen contemplations, Olivia’s assessments and reactions made the book so enjoyable and overall uplifting. The book earned 4 out of 5 stars and would be easy to recommend to any reader who enjoys contemporary YA fiction.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother of one teenager and one pre-teen. While they are sure to learn their own lessons in middle school and high school, books like this just remind her that some things may never change. Check out their adventures on her blog,

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Walking on Fire, by Kathryn Crawley {ends 7/27}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

A haze of smoke filled the air. Greek folk music from the stereo could barely be heard over the din of conversation. Kate sat with Georyia the next Saturday evening in a living room filled with people. They were at the apartment of Georyia’s friend Eleni, a heavyset nurse with a ready smile, who was quizzing Kate about life in America. Greeks seemed to have an insatiable appetite to hear what things were like in the United States.

“Boyfriend in America, Kaitie?” Eleni blew cigarette smoke over her shoulder.

“Only one boyfriend?” Kate said with a laugh, hoping Eleni knew she was joking. She then raised her head and clicked her tongue, Greek-style, to say “no.” No boyfriend. Kate didn’t know when, if ever, she would share the story of her failed marriage to Jim. Divorce was rare in Greece, and Kate still considered hers as an embarrassing failure, a secret not to be divulged. Nor could she imagine describing her life in Colorado where smoking marijuana and sexual freedom were commonplace. Getting high and having casual sex didn’t fit into Greek society.

Kate’s adventure to Greece in 1974 ended up being much more than she expected!

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Walking on Fire, by Kathryn Crawley {ends 7/27}
Greece. Politics. Love. Danger. Reeling from a failed marriage and spurred on by a burgeoning sense of feminism, twenty-five-year-old Kate accepts a position as a speech therapist in a center for children with cerebral palsy in Thessaloniki, Greece. It is 1974, and the recent end of Greece’s seven-year dictatorship has ignited a fiery anti-American sentiment within the country. Despite this, as her Greek improves, Kate teaches communication to severely disabled children, creates profound friendships, and finds a home in the ancient and historied city. From a dramatic Christmas pig slaughter to a mesmerizing fire walking ceremony, her world expands rapidly—even more so when she falls in love with Thanasis, a handsome Communist.

Through Thanasis, Kate meets people determined to turn a spotlight on their former dictators’ massacre of university students, as well as their record of widespread censorship and torture of dissidents. The more she learns, the more her loyalty to her country and almost everything she was taught in her conservative home state of Texas is challenged. Kate is transformed by her odyssey, but when her very safety is threatened by the politics of her lover, she must choose: risk everything to stay with Thanasis and the Greece that has captured her heart, or remove herself from harm’s way by returning to her homeland?

At the beginning of the story, Kate is a unique combination of independent and naive. She’s lived in a few different states since completing her formal education in speech therapy and getting married ... and divorced. Now she’s ready to really branch out and move half-way around the world for a job in Greece that she saw in a journal. She didn’t speak any Greek when she applied, but the kind woman who hired her assured her that she could pick up enough as she went along in her job helping children. 

Shortly before she packs her things and gets ready to move to Greece for the year, she finds out the political climate isn’t very hospitable to Americans. It gives her a few second thoughts, but she really doesn’t  understand how someone could hate a whole population the way they’re trying to make it sound. The woman from the center who hired her assures her that they’ll be her Greek family and keep her safe. The situation is reasonably comfortable, until Kate starts making some choices and adventures on her own.

While the story takes place almost 50 years ago, it felt contemporary and the descriptions of Greece were beautiful. The commentary about the people, customs, and culture were also interesting. This was an enjoyable book that earned 3 out of 5 stars. It would be recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction, especially in a memoir style. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley enjoys learning about the world by reading historical fiction from the comfort of her porch. Check out her view and what she’s reading on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Walking on Fire!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, July 27th, at 11:59pm EST, 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!

Walking on Fire, by Kathryn Crawley

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Murder Under a Red Moon, by Harini Nagendra {ends 7/23}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Bhargavi had called to say she would be spending the night at Shanthi’s home. Alone together at home for the first time in a long while, Kaveri and Ramu decided to push aside all thoughts of the case for a while over dinner. They lingered over a simple meal of lemon saaru with rice, accompanied by spiced fried potatoes, followed by bowls of vermicelli payasa, as they spoke of everything other than the murder.

Ramu traced the dark shadows under Kaveri’s eye with a gentle finger. ‘You have stepped too close to the case, Kaveri. Set the murder aside for a couple of days. Take a break. You will think better for it.’ He placed a kiss on her forehead. ‘You  look tired, I will clean the dishes.’ Ramu pressed Kaveri back on the chair.

Kaveri continues her non-traditional detective work as she finds herself looking at another case that turns into a murder.

Official synopsis:
When new bride Kaveri Murthy reluctantly agrees to investigate a minor crime to please her domineering mother-in-law—during the blood moon eclipse, no less—she doesn't expect, once again, to stumble upon a murder.

With anti-British sentiment on the rise, a charismatic religious leader growing in influence, and the fight for women's suffrage gaining steam, Bangalore is turning out to be a far more dangerous and treacherous place than Kaveri ever imagined—and everyone's motives are suspect.

Together with the Bangalore Detectives Club—a mixed bag of street urchins, nosy neighbours, an ex-prostitute, and a policeman's wife— Kaveri once again sleuths in her sari and hunts for clues in her beloved 1920s Ford.

But when her life is suddenly put in danger, Kaveri realizes that she might be getting uncomfortably close to the truth. So she must now draw on her wits and find the killer . . . before they find her.

This second book in the Bangalore Detectives Club Mystery series is just as fun as the first! Kaveri is a newlywed in 1920s Bangalore, but her marriage and hobbies are definitely not traditional. Her husband, Ramu, is already supporting her in furthering her education, but he also respects that she’s pretty smart already. After solving a murder in the first book, her popularity among her new neighbors has grown, and they seek out her help in solving crimes.

What starts out as looking over the books of a distant relative’s company suddenly escalates when she and a local policeman walk into the scene of a fresh murder. Ramu loves seeing his wife do what she loves, but he has more than his share of worry over her adventures. He sees plenty of tragedy working at the hospital and doesn’t want it threatening his home life.

As Kaveri investigates more crimes, her compassion has her meeting more people without her privilege in life. Frequently to her mother-in-law’s chagrin, she makes them friends and invites them all to their home. This book sees both Kaveri and her mother-in-law, Bhargavi, trying to get along and appreciate each other more. It made both characters even more likable. This book, like the first, was 4 out of 5 stars. Reading about their life and untangling their mysteries in 1920s Bangalore is always enjoyable.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother to two school-aged children, two young cats, and occasionally a few fish. She shares a little of it all, as well as other books she reads on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Murder Under a Red Moon!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, July 23rd, 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!

Murder Under a Red Moon, by Harini Nagendra

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Bridge on Beer River, by Terry Tierney {ends 7/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

When I push through the air-locked door, I see the back of a small woman sitting at a terminal on a wooden table lined with a keypunch machine, a card sorter, a tray of punch cards and an overflowing ashtray, all littered with cardboard chads. Next to the table rises a blue cabinet with white block letters identifying the PDP-11 main frame.

As I step up to the raised floor, Angie leans forward and her worn black jeans tighten around her cheeks, pushed up by the cushion of her stool. She spins to face me, resting her elbows on her knees, and she eyes me with a tilt of her head. I try not to stare at the cleavage framed by her wide necked black tee shirt, but she catches my glance. She grins and looks away as she sits up straight.

“You must be Curt,” she says in an official tone as she purses her blackened lips. “Your mustache is famous.”

Feeling suddenly warm despite the frigid air, I take her extended hand for a quick shake before she pulls it away.

“And you’re Angie.”


Curt seems to think he keeps to himself, but that’s nearly impossible in a town like Binghamton.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Bridge on Beer River, by Terry Tierney {ends 7/20}
A rust belt city in decline retains the solace of romance, which often proves to be an empty promise or even a curse. With a wry perspective and unflappable determination, Curt embodies all the town's ills, including his own problems with drinking, work, and relationships, as he tries to save himself and rescue his friends in his own unconventional and unlawful ways. In
The Bridge on Beer River, a novel-in-stories set in Reagan-era Binghamton, New York, characters scramble for subsistence while hoping for love and a better life.

While this is a chronological story of at least part of the fictional Curt’s time in Binghamton, his interactions with the other residents who come and go through the town often read almost like essays. Curt’s story doesn’t feel monumental, but his relationships with the people he knows are a bit more memorable. 

He has a few temporary girlfriends, or sometimes just hook-ups with women who seem to be in a similar stage in life. They all run in the same circles—working at the dairy, dancing at Pearl’s, and drinking or keeping up on gossip at Mother’s. There isn’t a real climax or goal they’re working toward. Most of them are happy to just make ends meet and do it all again the next day.

The writing style of this book was pleasant, and the hours spent immersed in Curt’s life in Binghamton were enjoyable. The book earned 4 out of 5 stars from this reader, and it could be recommended as a comfortable read to those who can remember a little about the start of computers as a part of our lives in the late 1970's and 1980's.

{click here to purchase from Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini with a Gemini husband, two kids, and two cats. See a few pictures of the books she reads and their family adventures on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Bridge on Beer River!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, July 20th, 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 Bridge on Beer River, by Terry Tierney

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Quick Pick Book Review: Have You Seen Her, by Catherine McKenzie

  • Opening lines: "We're losing light!" Ben yells over the whir of the blades. "We need to go!"

    I turn to look out over the field to the tree line, taking in the scene of the crime. The dark green conifers, with their exposed lower limbs. The trampled glass. A wrapper from a protein bar tumbling over and over like a gymnast. A dark patch in the dirt that looks like it's tinged by rust. 

    I can't hear anything but the helicopter's whine, but the screams are still caught in my thoughts—sharp, terrified, then cut out, cut off.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a big fan of Catherine McKenzie's books—you can read my previous reviews of them here.
  • And what's this book about? 
    A thrilling and timely novel about three women with dark secrets whose lives intersect in the picturesque and perilous Yosemite National Park from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “propulsive” (Laura Dave, author of The Last Thing He Told Me) Please Join Us.

    Equipped with a burner phone and a new job, Cassie Peters has left her hectic and secretive life in New York City for the refuge of her hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California. There, she begins working again with Yosemite Search and Rescue, where a case she worked a decade ago continues to haunt her.

    She quickly falls into old patterns, joining a group of fellow seasonal workers and young adventurers who have made Yosemite their home during the summer. There, she meets Petal, a young woman living in a trailer with her much older wife, keeping a detailed diary of the goings on of the park, and Jada, a recent college graduate on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, documenting their journey on Instagram.

    When these three women cross paths, Cassie’s past catches up with her, and the shocking consequences ripple out far beyond what any could have imagined in this unputdownable thriller from an author who “never fails to impress” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author).
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys thrillers or books with a twist.
  • Favorite paragraph: Fuck.

    My heart is pounding as I check each comment—the original post and three other people who were wondering where I'd gotten to.
    Question answered, one of them said. Crazy, someone else said. I'm not sure if they meant me or the situation, but I don't care. These women aren't connected to anyone else I know in New York. No one knew I was going to that gym. I paid for my membership in cash and hid my climbing gear at the back of my closet. 

    But then there's a final comment on the threat that stops me cold.

    Should we tell the husband?
  • Something to know: This was a great thriller read, and the ending really surprised me. I could definitely see it being made into a movie at some point, too.
  • What I would have changed: Maybe a little more detailed regarding the ending—it was believable, but I still thought there were one or two plot holes.
  • Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to buy on Amazon.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Killer's Game, by Isabella Maldonado {ends 7/10}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Dani assessed her situation, making several observations at once. Doc Tox was alone and had not fired on them despite having the perfect opportunity while she and Toro wrestled with the cobra. Clearly he wanted something from them besides what was in the envelope.

Doc had a white-knuckled grip on the pistol, obviously more comfortable with poisons than firearms. Dani recognized the weapon’s compact, boxy shape as the Glock Model 30 that Chopper had originally brought with him. If Doc was foolish enough to let his guard down, she would have it out of his hand before he could pull the trigger. 

“Why don’t we all see what’s in the envelope together?” she said to him. “Then no one feels left out.”

Doc swung his gaze, and the muzzle of his gun, from Toro to Dani. “How about if both of you are dead and I take what I want?”

Dani Vega is the ultimate girl boss and badass. People may love her or hate her, but they’ll always respect her skills.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Killer's Game, by Isabella Maldonado {ends 7/10}
FBI agent and former military codebreaker Daniela “Dani” Vega witnesses a murder on a Manhattan sidewalk. The victim is chief of staff for a powerful New York senator. The assassin turned informant is Gustavo Toro. His code: hit the target and don’t ask questions. When Dani suspects a complex conspiracy, the only way to take down the mastermind is from the inside, forcing her to partner with Toro. Together they must infiltrate the inner circle at a remote facility.

Except it’s a trap. For all of them.

Locked in a subterranean labyrinth and held captive by an unseen host, Dani, Toro, and others must fight for their lives. Now Dani must stay undercover, unravel a bizarre conspiracy, and survive lethal puzzles. But will Toro be friend or foe? Because in this killer’s game, everything is real: the paranoia, the desperation, and the body count. And only one person can make it out alive.

Non-stop physical and mental action made this book a great page-turner. Dani is just trying to get her morning coffee and make it to a meeting on time, when she’s quickly redirected to a bomb threat, until she witnesses a murder on her way out of the coffee shop. Even as an FBI agent, her day has gotten unpredictable in a hurry, but luckily she has the unique training for her to follow the murder suspect and try to untangle the web of a crime that runs much deeper than the apparent murder on a New York street.

Dani Vega was not the only engaging character in this first book, with at least one more book scheduled featuring the Army Ranger turned FBI agent. Readers also meet her FBI co-workers and NYPD counterparts, and learn of her family relationships and how they shaped the powerful female characters. This book earned 5 out of 5 stars with full-developed characters and a fascinating plot. It could be recommended to those who like strong female main-characters, police procedurals, and psychological thrillers. 

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

Becki Bayley enjoys learning what people are passionate about. Talking with someone about their passion can make nearly any subject interesting. See more of what she does with her spare time and the books she reads on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of A Killer's Game!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, July 10, at 11:59pm EST, 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!

A Killer's Game, by Isabella Maldonado

Monday, June 19, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Belonger, by Mary Kathleen Mehuron {ends 6/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Holly had left seven steaks and a roast, a precious commodity on Grand Turk, on the counter to thaw while they were working earlier. Now Sameera was at the kitchen stove, searing the pork roast in a rub so aromatic that it made Holly instantly ravenous. 

“The roast is for tomorrow,” Holly told her flatly. “Chances are we won’t be able to cook then, despite what Anthony says.”

Anthony was in the dining room. She heard him open and close several cabinets and drawers as he gathered items – trying to make a special table, despite the circumstances. Or maybe because of them.

As if once again reading her mind, Anthony spun to face her through the archway. “I’m determined to make this night one of celebration. It’s an approach that has served me well before.”

While she expected Hurricane Nestor to disrupt her life on the island, Holly didn’t realize how much her reflections on life during it all could change everything.

Official synopsis:
Caribbean-island innkeeper Holly Walker is hunkering down against a monster hurricane. Unfortunately, so is player Lord Anthony Bascombe, a man who excuses his bad behavior by saying he is descended from pirates. Then her grown son, Byron, and his father, Montez—the man she’s never stopped wanting—go missing. Will she ever see them again? What about the many others hurt and dying? And will help ever arrive? With each passing day, Holly’s tumultuous past and the epic storm send her hurtling toward a shattering climax that will change the island—and Holly’s life—forever.

Holly Walker and her adult son have tried to make a life for themselves on Grand Turk Island. While her son Byron’s father has been a belonger and lived there with his parents his whole life, it will take Holly more than just owning property and running a popular inn and restaurant to truly be accepted. No one can tell her exactly what makes a person a belonger on Grand Turk, but she’s sure that they’ll come to appreciate her and accept her in time.

When Hurricane Nestor approaches the island and threatens the worst devastation they’ve seen in a long time, making an impression on the rest of the community is not Holly’s goal—she just wants to do her best for her inn and the community she’s come to love. Maybe that’s enough to secure not just her future on the island, but her own happiness.

This story proves an inspiring novel of found family for Holly as a 40-something woman. The book earned 3 out of 5 stars and made life on an island sound realistic and enjoyable. Those who enjoy island life stories and family dramas would enjoy this book.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who also enjoys reading, writing, and finding the beauty in her surroundings. Check out some of her pictures where she shares her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Belonger

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, June 26th, 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 Belonger, by Mary Kathleen Mehuron

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Retribution: A Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery, by Robert McCaw {ends 6/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“You wanted to see me?” Makanui asked, poking her head into the door of Koa’s office.

“Yes. C’mon in and close the door.”

Makanui obliged and sat opposite Koa. “You’re up to something,” she said with a smile.

“You offered to help with Ikaika’s problem?”


“I think Moses, the Surfboard bartender, holds the key to the whole Ikaika fiasco, but given the chief’s instructions, I can’t lean on him.”

“You want me to do that?” Makankui asked.

“Only if you are comfortable. It might tick off the chief.”

“Screw that. Fill me in and tell me what you want.”

“Bring him in. Use the Kea’au police station. That way, the chief is less likely to hear about it. Put the squeeze on him. There’s an unexplained $25,000 deposit to his bank account a couple of weeks before Nihoa’s murder. I’m guessing it’s a payoff and maybe the key to breaking this thing wide open.” Koa then handed her a thick file.

Koa Kāne’s adventures come with a splash of Hawai’i culture and history, and a bit of researched science and technology. Readers may accidentally learn a few things while being entertained by an intriguing mystery!

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Retribution: A Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery, by Robert McCaw {ends 6/20}
As people around him come under attack, Chief Detective Koa Kāne wonders if he might be the real target.

In the back alley of a bar on Hawaii Island, a young man is found stabbed to death. When Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kāne begins investigating the crime, the murder weapon is recovered only a few feet away from the body. Crime scene technicians find fingerprints on the knife — they are a perfect match for Koa' s younger brother, Ikaika.

As the brothers scramble to prove Ikaika's innocence, another crime sends shockwaves through the Hilo police force. A sniper tries to take out Makanui, Koa's closest colleague. As Koa tries to figure out whether these crimes are linked, the sinister force continues their killing spree, threatening Koa and his loved ones at every turn.

Could Koa be the real target? If so, who is behind this trail of retribution? With his own secret criminal past, Koa confronts an all-out offensive against those closest to him and his police force to which he has devoted his life. As the bodies pile up, Koa finds himself the ultimate target of a ruthless adversary and must risk it all to survive.

It takes a few crimes without obvious motives to get Koa Kāne to start wondering why bad things keep happening to good people he cares about. The only constant between fingerprints on a murder weapon, shootings, bombings, and other targeted violence is that those closest to Kāne are suffering the most. As far-fetched as it sounds, the pieces only start falling into place when he looks for a more orchestrated plan than the individual impulses that these crimes look like.

This, the fifth of the Koa Kāne series, would read fine as a stand-alone, as the hints at previous plotlines are explained well enough to contribute to the characters’ experiences in the newest book. Overall, the latest installation earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The story itself is interesting and well-explained, and the Hawai’i geography stories as part of his girlfriend, Nalani’s job as a park ranger give great information. Additionally, the forensic science details Kāne discovers and shares with readers as he solves different crimes are also fascinating.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who finds time to enthusiastically cheer on her family’s endeavors in car racing, baton twirling, theatre, and robotics. Check out other books she’s read and new adventures on her blog,


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 20th, 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!

Retribution: A Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery, by Robert McCaw

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Book Review: Romantic Comedy, by Curtis Sittenfeld

"What's a song you think is legitimately, non-cheesily romantic?"

"At the risk of being predictable, there's an Indigo Girls song called 'Dairy Queen' that's probably my all-time favorite."

"But isn't that about a relationship that doesn't work out"

"Romance doesn't require a happy ending." Thought I didn't convey it, I was surprised that he knew the song. Fans liked it, but it was no "Closer to Fine."

"Right," Noah said. "But you have to admit it's easier not to be cheesy when you're writing about lost love. Or are your romantic comedies going to end sadly and that's their twist?"

I laughed. "I don't know how they end because I haven't finished writing one yet."

As you may have noticed, I haven't written a ton of reviews here during the pandemic—we can thank my guest writer Becki for holding the fort down, with her guest reviews. However, I'm a huge fan of Curtis Sittenfeld's books, especially Prep, so when I got an early galley of Romantic Comedy, I was excited to read it.

About the book:

Book Review: Romantic Comedy, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sally Milz is a sketch writer for The Night Owls, a late-night live comedy show that airs every Saturday. With a couple of heartbreaks under her belt, she’s long abandoned the search for love, settling instead for the occasional hook-up, career success, and a close relationship with her stepfather to round out a satisfying life.

But when Sally’s friend and fellow writer Danny Horst begins dating Annabel, a glamorous actress who guest-hosted the show, he joins the not-so-exclusive group of talented but average-looking and even dorky men at the show—and in society at large—who’ve gotten romantically involved with incredibly beautiful and accomplished women. Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch called the Danny Horst Rule, poking fun at this phenomenon while underscoring how unlikely it is that the reverse would ever happen for a woman.

Enter Noah Brewster, a pop music sensation with a reputation for dating models, who signed on as both host and musical guest for this week’s show. Dazzled by his charms, Sally hits it off with Noah instantly, and as they collaborate on one sketch after another, she begins to wonder if there might actually be sparks flying. But this isn’t a romantic comedy—it’s real life. And in real life, someone like him would never date someone like her . . . right?

With her keen observations and trademark ability to bring complex women to life on the page, Curtis Sittenfeld explores the neurosis-inducing and heart-fluttering wonder of love, while slyly dissecting the social rituals of romance and gender relations in the modern age.

"The Night Owls" (TNO) is definitely "Saturday Night Live" in this book. Sally details her job there, and it's pretty fascinating—she watched TNO growing up and finally got a chance to be on the staff, but has now been there about ten years. She's met a ton of celebrities who have hosted the show, and this week the celebrity is Noah Brewster, a pop star. 

Sally considers herself a "regular" type of girl, both in status (i.e.: not a celebrity) and in looks, and she's surprised when she and Noah have some chemistry together. After Noah hosts TNO, she almost thinks something may happen, but unfortunately at the after-after party, she says something to him that she later regrets.

Fast-forward to the pandemic (summer 2020) and something surprising happens, in which she reconnects with Noah.

To say anything more would be to include spoilers, but I really loved this book. I started reading it at home on my iPad, then switched to my phone at the gym, because I wanted to see what was going to happen, and I had a 30-minute treadmill walk in front of me. I've been a fan of Curtis Sittenfeld's work for some time now—Prep, the novel I referenced at the beginning of this review, was actually published in 2005—and I knew this novel would be great, and I was not disappointed.

Someone on Goodreads called this novel "the Notting Hill effect," which when you think about it, is not wrong—in Notting Hill, Julia Roberts plays a celebrity and she falls for Hugh Grant, a "commoner," too.

I've been trying to think of who I would cast in a movie production of this—my best picks are below:

4 stars out of 5. 

Click here to purchase on Amazon.

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