Wednesday, March 22, 2023

TV show vs. book: Fleishman is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

TV show vs. book: Fleishman is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
I recently watched Fleishman is in Trouble on Hulu, with Jesse Eisenberg and Claire Danes, so I definitely wanted to check out the book version afterwards. 

First off: I absolutely loved the series. To be fair, I'm a sucker for any series' with voiceovers (i.e. Sex and the City, etc.) but the cast here was phenomenal, as well—Eisenberg played Toby Fleishman, the main character, and Danes played his soon-to-be ex-wife, Rachel Fleishman. In addition, Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls) played Libby Epstein, one of Toby's good college friends, and the narrator of the story, and Adam Brody played Seth Morris, another college friend. 

It turned out the TV show actually stayed pretty true to the novel. Libby is again the narrator, which is interesting because she and Toby hadn't been close for a while; it was only now (present-day) that they had become close again, since he was in the middle of a divorce and realized he hadn't been keeping in touch with his friends, especially his good college friends. 

I would give the TV show 5/5 stars and I'd give the book 4.5/5 stars. In the third half of the book, we finally see things from Rachel Fleishman's perspective, and realize that Toby may have been an unreliable narrator—by that I mean, although he told the story from his perspective, we were missing Rachel's half of the story, and it's then that the reader gets to find out what's been going on with her, and why she has been literally missing for the past three weeks. (Claire Danes did a fabulous job with this in the TV show, also)

The book tends to wax on a bit long near the end, which is why I deducted a half-star, but other than that, it was a very good read—I couldn't believe it was the author's first book, as well, as she is very talented.

I also found this gem online yesterday—the author did an online-only follow-up to Fleishman is in Trouble, called Fleishman is in Lockdown, which premiered on in July 2020. It was a great mini-sequel and it was fun see what Toby Fleishman would have been up to in 2020 during the height of the pandemic; my only complaint is that we get no update on his ex-wife, Rachel. 

Overall, I highly recommend both the book and TV show versions of Fleishman is in Trouble, and you can find the TV show currently streaming on Hulu.

Click here to purchase the book on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, by Irena Smith {ends 3/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

How did you spend the last two summers?

By the time Mara is five, David and I begin to believe that we successfully willed into being the charmed life we envisioned for ourselves. Mara is curious and funny and affectionate; Noah acts like the mayor of his elementary school, where he seems to know and like everyone and where everyone seems to know and like him. We discover a family camp in the Sierras and return there for a blissful week every summer. Jordan has friends with whom he tosses a football after school and friends David stealthily helps him cultivate by running elaborate Lord of the Rings-themed games every Saturday. Our garage is full of laminated topographical maps of Middle Earth and boxes of Lord of the Rings miniature figures, which range from a minuscule squatting Gollum to towering Ents. On Saturdays, our house is filled with boys rolling multi-sided dice and yelling about critical rolls. There’s dropped popcorn all over the floor. We order pizza and act like this is all totally normal, like we’ve been the fun house since time immemorial.

While nothing seems to work out like the author expects, she eventually realizes and admits that it all somehow seems to work out.

Official synopsis:
Palo Alto, California, is home to stratospheric real estate prices and equally high expectations, a place where everyone has to be good at something and where success is often defined by the name of a prestigious college on the back of a late-model luxury car. It’s also the place where Irena Smith—Soviet émigré, PhD in comparative literature, former Stanford admission reader—works as a private college counselor to some of the country’s most ambitious and tightly wound students . . . even as, at home, her own children unravel.

Narrated as a series of responses to college application essay prompts, The Golden Ticket combines sharp social commentary, family history, and the lessons of great (and not so great) literature to offer a broader, more generous vision of what it means to succeed. 

Parenting is a hard job, even if you have every qualification imaginable. The author has her PhD in comparative literature and counsels other people’s children through the college admissions process. What this unfortunately means for a lot of the students she works with is helping them to fulfill their parents’ dreams. The comparison between her family life and that of those showing her only their best stories doesn’t help her find peace.

In a unique presentation, the author uses writing prompts from different college applications to tell her own life story, so far. Ending up as a parent of three children with their own challenges is not like the American dream that was sold to her when she came to the United States with her parents as a child. She and her husband are smart people, with plenty of resources at their disposal, but they quickly learn that each child is different, and each of their problems never has the same solution twice.

This was a charming and emotionally engaging memoir that told of the author’s emigration to the U.S. in the late 1970s, to her own childhood and then courtship with her husband, and on to the birth and raising (so far) of their three children. Their struggles are heartfelt and relatable, and illustrate clearly that even the perfect, happy life is frequently not as it appears. This book gets 4 out of 5 stars and would be enjoyed by those who enjoy parenting and family stories. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and a mother to humans and cats. She enjoys snacking, reading, and hoping her children find things like these that make them happy too. Check out some of her other book reviews and family activities on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Golden Ticket!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, March 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 Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, by Irena Smith

Monday, March 20, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Twelve Hours in Manhattan, by Maan Gabriel {ends 3/27}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I close the door behind me and stand motionless as I savor the moment of victory. The carefully carpeted hallway is empty and quiet. I put my hand over my mouth, and I bow my head. And then I cry. For fuck’s sake. I feel like crying has been my default setting lately. But I cry quietly anyway. This time I cry because I am joyful.

I got myself a job in New York City that pays sixty-five thousand dollars a year. I don’t think I have ever seen, let alone made, that kind of money in my life. As I walk slowly toward the end of the hall, I can feel my hands shaking. I pull my phone out of my suit pocket and see that I already have a dozen calls from Pam, Marco, and Miguel. When I turn the corner to the exit, I see Marco waiting for me with anticipation. His eyes widen as he sees me walking toward the door, and rushes to me.

“I got it,” I whisper, trying to prevent a croak. He pulls me toward the elevator hall and gives me a hug. I look for Ms. Van and wave goodbye. She mouths Congratulations to me.

When things go wrong for Bianca, they go really wrong. But when they go right? It’s nearly a perfect fairy tale.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Twelve Hours in Manhattan, by Maan Gabriel {ends 3/27}
Bianca Maria Curtis is at the brink of losing it all when she meets Eric at a bar in Manhattan. Eric, as it turns out, is the famous Korean drama celebrity Park Hyun Min, and he’s in town for one night to escape the pressures of fame. From walking along Fifth Avenue to eating ice cream at Serendipity to sharing tender moments on top of the Empire State building, sparks fly as Bianca and Eric spend twelve magical hours far away from their respective lives. In that time, they talk about the big stuff: love, life, and happiness, and the freedom they both seek to fully exist and not merely survive.

But real life is more than just a few exhilarating stolen moments in time.

As the clock strikes the twelfth hour, Bianca returns back to the life she detests to face a tragedy that will test her strength and resolve—and the only thing she has to keep going is the memory of a man she loves in secret from a world away.

Bianca just failed miserably at a presentation that would have gotten her the job or contract she needed to keep going. Now she’ll probably be homeless and destitute. Is she really a loser, or is our heroine waiting to bloom? She meets a man at a bar who may look familiar, but at least he’s nice—getting to know him is exactly the escape she needs from her own life. 

But that all ends, and Bianca’s real life is pretty depressing, indeed, at the beginning of the story, and only gets worse as it’s all initially presented. Soon, the 12 hours of bliss at the beginning of the book may as well have been just her imagination. 

Luckily, as the story goes on, Bianca’s life is definitely taking a turn for the better. She’s finally got a good job, is living in a nice place, and is regularly spending time with her friends. Maybe adulting isn’t so terrible, if the cards aren’t stacked against her. Then the real fun starts, and the 12 hours of her dream life may be coming back. Is she ready for her dreams to come true?

While the book started out slow, it built toward a much more satisfying ending. This story earned 4 out of 5 stars for being an amusing contemporary story of love and brushes with fame. The main focus was between Bianca and a Korean drama star, but was easy to read and enjoy without having appreciated any Korean dramas previously. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who has worked in data entry, chocolate tasting, event promotions, online reviews, and standardized test scoring, while reading and reviewing books alongside it all. Check out pictures of her life when she remembers to post at Instagram as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Twelve Hours in Manhattan!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, March 27th, 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!

Twelve Hours in Manhattan, by Maan Gabriel

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Delicious Monsters, by Liselle Sambury {ends 3/23}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“What were you both afraid of?” My voice is so quiet, I’m lowkey shocked that I said anything.

Katie bites her lip and shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I thought about telling you ever since you booked me. But I just can’t do that to her. My truth is hers, too. And if I tell it, everyone will know, and she won’t have a say in it. Grace Odlin was not a good friend to me, but I can’t help being one to her. She has the capacity for it. She did. I know she loved me in her own way. But she had to focus on surviving. There are no friends in survival. Everyone else is just a raft to keep you afloat.”

I’m exhaling before I realize it. Sinking back into the dinette cushions. Either Katie is right, and she and Grace were scared of the same thing. Something she won’t talk about. Or she’s wrong, and Grace was terrified of something completely different. Or maybe a bit of each because now we had whatever freaked out Jordan in the mix.

Which is scarier—the supernatural and a house being more than it appears to be, or people who aren’t what they appear or are supposed to be?

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury {ends 3/23}
Daisy sees dead people—something impossible to forget in bustling, ghost-packed Toronto. She usually manages to deal with her unwanted ability, but she’s completely unprepared to be dumped by her boyfriend. So when her mother inherits a secluded mansion in northern Ontario where she spent her childhood summers, Daisy jumps at the chance to escape. But the house is nothing like Daisy expects, and she begins to realize that her experience with the supernatural might be no match for her mother’s secrets, nor what lurks within these walls…

A decade later, Brittney is desperate to get out from under the thumb of her abusive mother, a bestselling author who claims her stay at “Miracle Mansion” allowed her to see the error of her ways. But Brittney knows that’s nothing but a sham. She decides the new season of her popular Haunted web series will uncover what happened to a young Black girl in the mansion ten years prior and finally expose her mother’s lies. But as she gets more wrapped up in the investigation, she’ll have to decide: if she can only bring one story to light, which one matters most—Daisy’s or her own?

As Brittney investigates the mansion in the present, Daisy’s story runs parallel in the past, both timelines propelling the girls to face the most dangerous monsters of all: those that hide in plain sight.

Learning what really happened to Daisy and her mom, Grace, while following along with Brittney and Jayden’s investigation of it all years later, took a little getting used to. The background of who these characters really were, and how their relationships with their mothers shaped them into these characters, was a mystery of its own worth untangling. 

While that was all going on, there’s also a supernatural house and a few more creepy characters who are necessary to the mix. Then the reader is left with trying to find the line between good and evil. The line, of course, isn’t always clear, and might even move a bit when someone gets too close.

Overall, this was a thoroughly intriguing book about some very interesting lives. It deserved a high 3 out of 5 star rating, with the author’s description of the setting creating perhaps the most fundamental character to the storyline. This book is recommended to those who enjoy gothic mysteries and family dramas, and the author offers a great list of trigger warnings for those with concerns.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a middle-aged wife and mom who enjoys using her few spare minutes to herself to read. Find out what else she’s been reading on her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Delicious Monsters!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, March 23rd, 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!

Delicious Monsters, by Liselle Sambury

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Book Review: Mother of Invention, by Caeli Wolfson Widger

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Five years after she’d released the baby for adoption, when Irene was living in Austin and working as a glorified secretary for a nondescript financial services company, having never returned to Yale, she saw the ad in the Houston Chronicle:

        Config Labs, prominent Bay Area startup conducting a study on the phenomenon of “accelerated gestation,” seeks female volunteers who have experienced full-term pregnancies in a fraction of the typical 40 weeks. Submit a relevant skin cell sample from you and/or your baby and receive an instant stipend. See to learn more.

The language was dry and clinical, but it made Irene weep. Until she’d read it, she hadn’t realized just how profoundly lonely her experience had left her. She’d gradually become aware of other accounts of fast pregnancies as a handful of women came forward with their stories, but until she’d seen that ad in the Chronicle, on a bright winter morning in Texas, she’d still felt alone.

What if a normal, healthy baby could be born after nine WEEKS of pregnancy instead of nine months? Has it already happened??

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Mother of Invention, by Caeli Wolfson Widger
Meet Silicon Valley executive Tessa Callahan, a woman passionate about the power of technology to transform women’s lives. Her company’s latest invention, the Seahorse Solution, includes a breakthrough procedure that safely accelerates human pregnancy from nine months to nine weeks, along with other major upgrades to a woman’s experience of early maternity.

The inaugural human trial of Seahorse will change the future of motherhood―and it’s Tessa’s job to monitor the first volunteer mothers-to-be. She’ll be their advocate and confidante. She’ll allay their doubts and soothe their anxieties. But when Tessa discovers disturbing truths behind the transformative technology she’s championed, her own fear begins to rock her faith in the Seahorse Solution. With each new secret Tessa uncovers, she realizes that the endgame is too inconceivable to imagine.

Caeli Wolfson Widger’s bold and timely novel examines the fraught sacrifices that women make to succeed in both career and family against a backdrop of technological innovation. It’s a story of friendship, risk, betrayal, and redemption―and an unnerving interrogation of a future in which women can engineer their lives as never before.

Tessa Callahan has never felt a real calling to be a mother, and even less so when she realizes how much pregnancy and mothering takes from the rest of the life of the mother. Sure, there are exceptions, but the majority of the inconveniences are not usually experienced by a father. When her husband wants to be a father, and claims he will do all the necessary work once she actually has the baby, she eventually warms to the idea, but nature is not on their side. She goes back to devoting all of her time to her successful career, not admitting that she’s a bit relieved to not have the questionable responsibility of a pregnancy and child.

She is enthusiastic when she’s able to work with a business partner to get all the way to a trial for accelerated gestation—women getting pregnant and delivering a full-term baby in just nine weeks! She works closely with the first three mothers-to-be and is genuinely happy for them to be fulfilling their dream of motherhood, without nine months away from their own successful lives. 

Unbeknownst to Tessa, the mothers and offspring of some spontaneous cases of accelerated gestation decades earlier may have different stories about the experience. Irene and Vivian have tales to tell, but the people listening may not be the audience who needs to know the truth. 

The different viewpoints in this book were fascinating. Tessa and her cohort of mothers-to-be knew there were risks, but didn’t realize there were stories similar to theirs that should be studied. The mothers and children of the accelerated gestation that occurred previously were being heard from less and less, but perhaps their experience could help those embarking on the same path with Tessa’s help. 

Overall, this story was definitely 4 out of 5 stars and a great science-fiction story of dystopian possibilities. It could be recommended to those who appreciate strong, smart female characters, womens’ studies, and speculative fiction novels. 

{click here to purchase} 

Becki Bayley was born on a Tuesday, 50+ years ago. She enjoys traveling the world and the universe from the comfort of wherever she really is, by reading books. Check out more of where she’s been and what she’s read on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: a Memoir, by Michelle Dowd {ends 3/21}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Today is shopping day. When Mrs. Washington arrives home, her three sons run out to help carry the bags. The oldest reaches in and opens a box of cereal, which he begins consuming with one hand while holding a bag under his armpit and another bag with his other hand. Mrs. Washington doesn’t scold him for this. She just laughs.

I’m not sure whether she would care about my hunger if she knew, but she doesn’t seem to even notice I am there. I’m sure I can wrangle some leftovers when they’re through. I hold open the door, careful not to let the dog out, while the boys go back for more bags.

Heartbreaking to imagine the author’s upbringing, and know it still happens, because there are still adults that share her parents’ beliefs and enforce them with their parental authority.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: a Memoir, by Michelle Dowd {ends 3/21}
As a child, Michelle Dowd grew up on a mountain in the Angeles National Forest. She was born into an ultra-religious cult—or the Field as they called it—started in the 1930s by her grandfather, a mercurial, domineering, and charismatic man who convinced generations of young male followers that he would live 500 years and ascend to the heavens when doomsday came. Comfort and care are sins, Michelle is told. As a result, she was forced to learn the skills necessary to battle hunger, thirst, and cold; she learned to trust animals more than humans; and most importantly, she learned how to survive in the natural world.

At the Field, a young Michelle lives a life of abuse, poverty, and isolation, as she obeys her family’s rigorous religious and patriarchal rules—which are so extreme that Michelle is convinced her mother would sacrifice her, like Abraham and Isaac, if instructed by God. She often wears the same clothes for months at a time; she is often ill and always hungry for both love and food. She is taught not to trust Outsiders, and especially not Quitters, nor her own body and its warnings.

But as Michelle gets older, she realizes she has the strength to break free. Focus on what will sustain, not satiate you, she tells herself. Use everything. Waste nothing. Get to know the intricacies of the land, like the intricacies of your body. And so she does.

Using stories of individual edible plants and their uses to anchor each chapter, Forager is both a searing coming-of-age story and a meditation on the ways in which understanding nature can lead to freedom, even joy.

Oh, dear Michelle. The whole story is of a child, and how she is essentially raising herself. She mentions near the beginning that her mother is still alive, and does not want her to speak badly of the family and their religious upbringing. The author is true to her word, and does not intentionally speak poorly of her upbringing, but the straightforward presentation of her circumstances is hard to misunderstand.

Each chapter also opened with field notes of what she had learned of the plants around her as she grew up at the Field, a religious compound. She grew up expecting the end of the world to come soon, and her mother taught her how to survive in the end days. The field notes gave identifying details of plants, and how to harvest each one for any available nutrients, while hopefully not injuring or poisoning the one who needed it.

Luckily, her family did not completely shun the outside world and medical assistance, and the author got a temporary reprieve from all responsibility for herself when confronted with a medical condition as a child. Living with her grandma between hospital stays allowed her to see a little more of the outside world than her siblings, but also probably kept her from developing some of the same relationships within the cult that the rest of its members appreciated. 

The insights and anecdotes of the author were so interesting. The book was definitely 3 out of 5 stars, and the author obviously gained a lot from her secretive reading to expand her vocabulary and knowledge of life on the outside. Her story could be recommended to those who like stories of children overcoming adversity, and it would be interesting if she told more about how her upbringing influenced her own adult life outside the Field.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother. When the kids are grown, who knows who she’ll be? You can follow along at her blog,


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, March 21st, at 11:59pm EST, and winners 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!

Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: a Memoir, by Michelle Dowd

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: On the Sly, by Wendy L. Koenig {ends 3/16}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I still felt the malice of Garret’s stare bear down on me. I was jittery and my stomach was locked into a painful knot. More than one glass shattered on the floor at my feet. Finally Karyn pushed the mop into my hands and took over the bar work. Though the rain had stopped and the air was on, the humidity was still high, making the walls close. I kept trying to gulp in fresh air. If ever there was a case of becoming suddenly claustrophobic, it was then. Karyn said it was just a panic attack. Still, I was glad I had a late crowd to keep both my employees there with me until I left.

The volume in the bar spilled into the street as I locked up. I drove home and parked in front of the house, too tired to go around back. Even before I opened my door, I knew something was wrong. There were no happy whines or yips coming from the other side. Energy zinged through me and all thoughts of sleep left. 

Sylvia generally minds her own business, but when a man is murdered in her bar, she needs the crime solved so she can sleep soundly again.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: On the Sly, by Wendy L. Koenig {ends 3/16}
Sylvia Wilson, a bar owner in St. Louis, Missouri, arrives at work to discover the body of an ex-police officer in her locked bar. The police focus on her as their primary suspect, so she decides to launch her own investigation into the dead man and his accomplices. But when the killer sends her clear messages that she and her loved ones are on his radar, she knows it’s just a matter of time before someone ends up dead.

Sylvia hasn’t spent much time making friends or enemies since moving from Texas to Missouri. Her life is full enough with her brother, her dogs, her bar, and her friend-with-benefits who owns another bar across town. When a man is murdered in her bar, the police think she must have had more to do with it, since it is her bar. 

She starts out trying to find another possible suspect in the case so they’ll let her open her bar and stop looking at her like she’s guilty. Unfortunately, as she starts discovering clues, the killer decides to try and discourage her from investigating any more. 

This sounds like the first book in a series, since it’s identified as "A Sylvia Wilson Mystery." It was good getting to know the characters and some of their histories. The book earned 3 out of 5 stars, and more books in the series would probably be fun to read as well. This story could be recommended to those who enjoy stories of found families, as well as crime thrillers/mysteries.

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

Becki Bayley’s favorite part of winter is usually when it ends. She can be found carting her kids to their numerous activities with a book in hand. Posts of where she’s been and what she’s read can also be found on Instagram, where she is PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a *signed copy* of the book, as well as a pair of sunglasses!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, March 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and the 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!

On the Sly, by Wendy L. Koenig

Monday, February 27, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: 27 Days, by Patrick Moore {ends 3/6}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Tony and I drove to General Mitchell Airport in a rented grey Sonata. He waited at the bottom of the escalator near Baggage while I ate the price of a one-way ticket to Cleveland. Went through security and waited at Gate 17 where Southwest flight 1678 was scheduled to disembark. The flight was on time, and I watched Tommy Blank emerge from the tunnel and stroll casually toward the escalators. He was wearing an expensive black leather jacket. No carry-on. Not as tall as I’d expected but handsome with full lips and thick, dark Hollywood hair, jelled on top, razor cut on the sides.

I fell in behind him, strolling just as casually. He stopped at the first men’s room; I stopped too. He matched Rainey Morgan’s description – brown eyes and the livid, diagonal scar across his otherwise perfect right cheek. As he turned away from the sink, he looked right at me. Hunger. Gave me a jolt. And a softness in the eyes that I hadn’t expected. We exited together. He rejoined the throng and I fell back into the crowd.

Nick Crane hasn’t had much time to relax, but this time he’s fighting for both his life, and that of his good friend, Bobby.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: 27 Days, by Patrick Moore {ends 3/6}
27 Days is a taut and topical political thriller narrated in laconic noir fashion by veteran LA PI Nick Crane. In the spring of 2019, Nick is on the run in the Pacific Northwest, pursued by a cabal of wealthy right-wing power brokers and domestic terrorists (the Principals) led by Marguerite Ferguson and Desmond Cole. Nick has clashed with Marguerite and her crew in the past, and she wants him abducted so that she can personally “close his eyes forever.”

Things get worse. Nick’s close friend and business partner Bobby Moore is kidnapped by Marguerite and the Principals. Nick is then informed that he has twenty-seven days to surrender to Marguerite. If he does not turn himself in, Bobby will be sent to Scorpion prison in Egypt to be tortured and murdered. If Nick surrenders, however, Bobby will be released.

Help appears in the form of a young, idealistic female FBI agent named Carrie North who wants to arrest Marguerite for conspiring to commit domestic terrorist operations against the United States. Nick and Carrie join forces and the race against time to rescue Bobby Moore begins.

And what a race it is! Marguerite and company are the toughest foes Nick has ever faced and he must dig down deeper than ever before to have any chance of surviving.

Lots of action in this one! While currently described as book 1 of 1, it feels like sequels will be coming, with well-developed characters and evolving relationships. 

In this story, Nick starts out being warned that the right-wing politicians are still trying to kill him, now that he’s recovered from their last attempt and is trying to lie low and stay off their radar. Once they scare him back to his office, he finds that they’ve already abducted his good friend and are interested in a trade. Nick has 27 days to get to the bottom of it all, or turn himself in to secure Bobby’s safe release.

The cast luckily expands, as Nick is connected with an FBI special agent who he may eventually find himself able to trust. He’s used to operating alone, and flings around cash like he prints it, but he needs a little more manpower and authority, and some actual agency assistance may help for that.

Overall, Nick and his contacts turned out to be fun and spunky, and the book earned 3 out of 5 stars from this reader. The political angle was amusing, but did not feel like the most pertinent part of the bad guys’ agenda. This book could be recommended for those who enjoy contemporary action/adventure thrillers.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader who is now celebrating having her two current cats for four years already! Check out some of their cameos on her Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of 27 Days!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, March 6th, 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!

27 Days, by Patrick Moore

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - An Assassin in Utopia: The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sex Cult and a President's Murder, by Susan Wels {ends 2/23}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

There was no doubt that President Hayes was straightlaced. He never smoked, swore, or drank liquor, and his wife, who banned alcohol from the White House, was known in the capital as “Lemonade Lucy.” But Hayes was surprisingly broadminded when it came to his first cousin John Humphrey Noyes. As governor of Ohio, Hayes told visiting Oneidans that he had “no prejudices” about their peculiar religious beliefs, “and was well pleased” at having a visit from them. He even toured the Community’s branch in Wallingford, Connecticut. Later, when he was president, Oneidans came to see him in the White House and presented him with a huge bear trap – although they were always careful not to embarrass him about their connection. 

This book covered a slice of history in and around the East Coast with information surrounding several presidents and their inter-relationships.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - An Assassin in Utopia: The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sex Cult and a President's Murder, by Susan Wels {ends 2/23}
It was heaven on earth—and, some whispered, the devil’s garden.

Thousands came by trains and carriages to see this new Eden, carved from hundreds of acres of wild woodland. They marveled at orchards bursting with fruit, thick herds of Ayrshire cattle and Cotswold sheep, and whizzing mills. They gaped at the people who lived in this place—especially the women, with their queer cropped hair and shamelessly short skirts. The men and women of this strange outpost worked and slept together—without sin, they claimed.

From 1848 to 1881, a small utopian colony in upstate New York—the Oneida Community—was known for its shocking sexual practices, from open marriage and free love to the sexual training of young boys by older women. And in 1881, a one-time member of the Oneida Community—Charles Julius Guiteau—assassinated President James Garfield in a brutal crime that shook America to its core.

An Assassin in Utopia is the first book that weaves together these explosive stories in a tale of utopian experiments, political machinations, and murder. This deeply researched narrative—by bestselling author Susan Wels—tells the true, interlocking stories of the Oneida Community and its radical founder, John Humphrey Noyes; his idol, the eccentric newspaper publisher Horace Greeley (founder of the New Yorker and the New York Tribune); and the gloomy, indecisive President James Garfield—who was assassinated after his first six months in office.

Juxtaposed to their stories is the odd tale of Garfield’s assassin, the demented Charles Julius Guiteau, who was connected to all of them in extraordinary, surprising ways.

Against a vivid backdrop of ambition, hucksterism, epidemics, and spectacle, the book’s interwoven stories fuse together in the climactic murder of President Garfield in 1881—at the same time as the Oneida Community collapsed.

The book starts out with a lot of Horace Greeley’s life and background. As a newspaper man, his story mentions a lot of the other prominent figures and events of the time. It was a good way to lay out the general setting and political culture on which the rest of the book was based.

One of the ongoing curiosities of the time was communal living and different experiments of how this might succeed. The Oneida Community was launched by John Humphrey Noyes after a few unsuccessful attempts at the concept. He developed and set up production lines to fund the community, houses for them to live in together, "marriages" between all the men and all the women, and then personally arranged which conjugal unions were approved by his board. He was one of the "trainers" to initiate young women to physical relationships, and he also arranged for the young men to be trained by older women. It was definitely shocking, but they insisted it all worked for their community.

A resident of the Oneida Community on a couple different occasions was Charles Julius Guiteau, but his descriptions of himself were always as more of a leader than a follower. The book goes into his reasons for justifying his assassination of President James Garfield, and why he even disputed that he didn’t kill him.

Overall, the book gave a lot of insight to the time period and its historical figures. The book earned 3 out of 5 stars and definitely taught a lot about a potentially less popular period of U.S. history. It would be recommended to those who enjoy non-fiction, U.S. stories, political history, and late 19th century events.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini whose favorite seasons are spring, summer, and fallokay, anything but cold, messy winter. She shares about the books she reads both here and on her own blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of An Assassin in Utopia!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, February 23rd, 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!

An Assassin in Utopia, by Susan Wels

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Direction of the Wind, by Mansi Shah {ends 2/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Sophie - 2019

Naresh Uncle had been kind enough to give Sophie an advance on her wages, so she has been able to secure a room at Le Canard Volant beyond the couple nights that Cecile was able to help her with in the beginning. She is now sharing a room with five other girls and is surprised by how many people she’s met at the hostel who have come to Paris to pursue creative endeavors, whether they be art, writing, or food. She has never had such dreams or ideals and cannot recall her friends in India having those types of impractical ambitions either. Her friends enjoy dancing or cooking or art as hobbies, but none would consider stepping outside the confines of their prescribed lives to leave Ahmedabad and pursue such an uncertain career, giving up the comfortable and privileged lives into which they were born. This desire for a life beyond the one you were given seems far more Western than Eastern in her mind, and she does not fully understand it. It seems much simpler to fall in line with the life that is planned for you, especially when you are given so much as part of it, but she now realizes it is easy to be content when you are born into the upper caste. Clearly Nita felt differently and must have had some part of that Western idealism inside of her to have chosen the path she did. 

Not all beautiful stories have a happy ending. It felt warm and familiar getting to know Sophie, as she learned about her mother, Nita. 

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Direction of the Wind, by Mansi Shah {ends 2/11}
Sophie Shah was six when she learned her mother, Nita, had died. For twenty-two years, she shouldered the burden of that loss. But when her father passes away, Sophie discovers a cache of hidden letters revealing a shattering truth: her mother didn’t die. She left.

Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected.

Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew.

The stories are told in alternating viewpointsSophie in 2019, embarking on the search for her mother, and Nita in 1998, as she first goes to Paris. They are very different women. Neither quite fits into the traditional caste roles they were raised to follow, but their rebellions have been different. Sophie lives in a loophole. By taking care of her supposedly widowed father, she hasn’t had to enter an arranged marriage and take on a household of her own. While Nita knew all along that wasn’t the role she wanted, it takes years before she works up the nerve to escape, which also means leaving her young daughter behind.

The people both women meet along their journeys are never all good or all bad, of course. But while they both thought they knew what to expect in Ahmedabad, India, nothing in Paris turns out like their plans.

This was a wonderful book that earned 5 out of 5 stars from me. It could be recommended to those who enjoy family dramas, books about India and its culture, and stories with realistic female characters. 

{Click here to purchasecurrently free for Kindle Unlimited!}

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


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Direction of the Wind!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, February 11th, 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!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir {ends 2/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

This is a really unpleasant position to be in, repeats the commissioner, looking at Júlíus and me like we’re responsible for the whole thing. There’s really no way to say what will happen next?

We’re sitting around an oval meeting table in the coordination center, people clutch their coffee mugs, and a plate of grayish pastries and wan doughnuts is arranged in the middle. The tension is palpable.

If I’m understanding you correctly, there’s nothing to specifically indicate there will be another eruption, says Stefán, stroking his shiny tie. It’s vital that we don’t fuel unnecessary fears amongst the public.

I look at him – after our meeting in the spring, I felt like I got him. He’s barely thirty, but his hair’s already thinning, he’s got his initials embroidered onto the cuffs of his custom-made shirt, he looks at this stint on the Scientific Council as his ticket to advancing through the ranks of officialdom. He’s as methodical as Júlíus is temperamental, as starched as Júlíus is rumpled, and they seem to have a physical aversion to one another. The seismologist opens his mouth to answer the bureaucrat, but I send him a warning look and he thinks better of it, keeps his mouth shut.

So much conflict—men vs. women, science vs. business, the earth vs. its population.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir {ends 2/8}
After an eight-hundred-year slumber, the volcanoes in Iceland’s most populated region are showing signs of life. Earthquakes dominate the headlines. Echoes of the devastating eruptions in the past stir unease in the people.

Volcanologist Anna Arnardóttir has spent her entire life studying the volcanic powers under the earth’s crust, but even she cannot fathom the catastrophe at hand.

As a series of eruptions threaten most of Iceland’s population, she’s caught off her rational guard by the most terrible natural disaster of all—love. The world as she knows it is about to fall apart, and so is her heart.

Caught between the safety of a nation and her feelings for her children, her lover, and her past, Anna embarks on a dangerous journey to save the lives of the people she loves—and her soul.

The reader starts out seeing Anna primarily as her job title—she’s a geoscientist, an expert in volcanoes in an area built on volcanoes, but hasn’t seen substantial volcanic activity. She’s practical, and makes decisions about her job and her life based on the science, never on something as flighty as feelings.

When Anna finds herself suddenly overwhelmed by a passionate love, and the science of the volcano stops giving her straight answers, she doesn’t know how to respond to it all. Her choices begin to change the path of everything, as her life as she knew it quickly unravels.

The writing/translation style took a little bit of getting used to (as in the quotes above, no quotation marks are used), but the conversations were easy enough to discern from the main character’s internal dialogue.

While the ending may not be considered anyone’s happily-ever-after, this reader feels it was perfect for the book. This book was 5 out of 5 stars, and strongly recommended for those who enjoy family dramas, stories about Iceland, and those who don’t need a traditional happy ending. 

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

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom. She enjoys curling up with a good book, enjoying movies and tv with her family, and watching the birds. Check out more of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.


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

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

The Fires, by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Some Colored towns boasted of riches in their advertisements, offering want upon arrival. Not here, though. Folks coming here knew what they were getting into. Those wanting to work found a community willing to share down to their last. Willing to teach trades, offer a comfortable bed, keep bellies full. I come from a farming family, and we often had folks turning up like you, your kin. They worked, saved up to buy their own land if they wanted, or moved on, but our work was crucial. I like to think my family fed New Jessup so it could grow and grow.

“When the ones who left came back,” she continued, “they were floored by what we had done with the money. They came back, and they’re still coming back two, three generations later. New folks are still coming to stay here, too,” she said with a suggestion in her tone and the slight curve of her smile, though, until then, staying in New Jessup, particularly without Rosie, had never been a thought. My sister had been in Chicago for six years. She wrote of friends, and said she liked her job and that she missed me and wished me and Daddy would come. Those weeks, all I thought about was finding her doorstep. Finding, seeing Rosie was the journey, so I knew she would never just pick and move back to Alabama, to a place where we were both starting over. So stay? Without Rosie? I changed the subject.

Alice has left the life she knew in Rensler, and traveled only partway to her intended destination. Life was just too tempting to pass up in New Jessup—no Colored-only water fountains, or entry doorways. The whole town is Colored, and life feels perfect.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks
It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their “side of the woods.” In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup’s longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple’s expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup’s political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.

Alice is a woman who means business. While her original goal is to reach her sister, New Jessup goes from a stop on her bus route to Montgomery, to a city she just can’t stand to leave. This all-Black utopia leaves her without an abusive landlord or other white person to lord over her. At first glance, it may be all that’s needed for the town to be perfect for her.

Soon enough, Alice is no longer a newcomer to town. With two jobs and a nice apartment over the dress shop, she soon finds herself courted by the son of one of the founding fathers of the town. She assumes his goals for maintaining the status quo in town will be the same, but he and other young adults in town want to make sure the town is truly theirs.

Life is never as simple as black and white. There lies dissent even in Alice’s perfect town. Is segregation truly the best solution? As with almost everything, there seem to be acceptable degrees of integration to the different residents in and outside of New Jessup

This story was a beautiful coming-of-age story of Alice and those she adopted as her new family in 1957 New Jessup. The book was 4 out of 5 stars, with a few loose ends unanswered, but isn’t that life? This would be enjoyed by those who like family stories, strong female characters, and stories of race relations in the 1950s & 1960s.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes sleeping in, long weekends, and setting her own pace. When she’s not reading books for review or working with regulatory complaints, you’ll find her posting snapshots of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson

Guest review by: Becki Bayley


Ash and I arrive home. The apartment feels like a sauna. I can’t believe it’s March. I assume my mom is still at work since she’s not around. Dani, who came home at the same time we did, cranks up the window unit and we huddle around it like a campfire.

The front door opens. Mom.

She throws me a look. Uh-oh.

“Izzy, could you come in the kitchen, please?”

Not sure what’s going on, but I don’t like it. My mom, who’s normally pretty chill, looks like she’s trying to keep from wringing my neck.

The stories of Izzy and Brianna are told in parallel. Both girls have a connection to the school’s talent show, but their priorities about it all are very different.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson
Middle school is all about labels.

Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. 

The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of A's. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

This middle grade graphic novel is the second in a series of four books about characters who could know each other, but aren’t necessarily close. There were a few mentions of Emmie in this book, who was the main character in the first book. This read fine as a stand-alone, though.

Brianna has a reputation for her good grades and being smart. Her mom is the drama teacher, who she feels she has very little in common with, which may surprise people when they find out they’re related. 

Izzy could probably get better grades, if she cared about something at school besides drama. She sees her sisters getting better grades, and knows she’s probably smarter than her report card shows, but as everyone tells her, she just doesn’t focus on the rest of school.

Overall, this was a nice story with a good lesson. It was 3 out of 5 stars for this reader. The whole series is probably good for getting kids to read more, and the alternating style for the storylines in this book had comparatively more text than some graphic novels.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys BBQ chips, appetizers for dinner, Cherry Coke, and occasionally sharing pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

With our witchy saying, “as above, so below,” we understand that we are made up of the same stuff as the universe, and we are occupying space in this world and learning to work in harmony with its forces just as the cells of our bodies learn to adapt to our energetic environments. 

Working with this energy is truly a superpower. When you are comfortable interrogating your emotions, you become someone who knows how to understand what is important to you, what you want to nurture in your life, and what kind of energy you want to bring in. When you are someone who pays attention to the energy around you, you learn what exists in the present moment for you to work with, and how you can begin to manifest more of what makes you feel most alive and most in alignment. This does not come naturally to everyone, and if it is a part of who you are, consider it a gift, even in moments when that sensitivity can feel like a burden. 

Learning about who you are, and self-care, can come from many different tools and beliefs, and many of them are explored and explained briefly here.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}
Self-care is not only necessary, it’s magical! Your road to self-care can be a mystical journey that leaves you feeling more confident, determined, and ready to accomplish all those bucket-list items and dreams you have scribbled in your journal. So why not start that journey now?

Find both mystical and practical tools to help deal with stress, depression, and other challenges in this gorgeously illustrated and highly designed guide offering different creative ways of living a heart-centered, mindful, and magical life through concrete tools for self-care and advice from a diverse group of practitioners in areas like tarot, astrology, energy work, and much more.

Luminary is a book of practical magic that empowers you to pursue mental wellness with curiosity and confidence. But it’s also a book of possibility that pushes the boundaries of what self-help can be.

The author shares from her well-rounded knowledge of disciplines that help the reader get to know themself—which in turn can help one care for themself. She discusses tarot, astrology, palmistry, and other practices and talks with experts in each field. It really doesn’t matter much if the reader is a skeptic or not; this is just a presentation of information in the hopes that something will resonate and help you feel better about your life and yourself.

The path the book takes is described as similar to the path of the author, with introductions to those she met along her journey, and what she has found to help her in dealing with her own mental health and depression. A strong point made throughout the book is that your mental state should really be appreciated as a continuum—no mental state is entirely "good" or "bad," but instead triggers to examine your mental and physical health for what your body and mind may need. 

Overall, the book could be very helpful to many as a way to consider and cope with life and the world around us. The book is well-researched and earns 4 out of 5 stars. It could be recommended to those with an interest in mental well-being and self-care, with a willingness to seek answers from possibly unique sources.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes being warm and cozy, and enjoys listening to music, petting cats, and munching on appetizers while reading. Check out her other book reviews at her blog,


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 10th, 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!

Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa

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