Saturday, May 27, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Surrender, by Lee Schneider {ends 6/4}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

As the doors of the glidepath flew open, Kat was flooded with sensations. The smell of the city hit her first. There was nothing else like it. Seaweed, urine, and humanity. Suddenly she was a child again on the Westside with her father, financially overextended because her mother was sick with lung cancer.

She remembered the day her father presented her with her first comms unit. The number-letter string had been assigned to her at birth, but most families didn’t turn the device over to the child until they turned thirteen. Martin, Kat’s father, had been so proud to hand her the comms unit dedicated to her identity. She felt like a real grown-up then. Martin was a data salesman who cut some corners, desperate to make the money to send her to an Upper East school so she could receive a prestigious education.

Kat held her comms unit in her hand. It wasn’t the same one she was given as a child, of course; it had been updated. But the letter-number string was the same.

The setting of this story references the United States and the rest of the world we know as only a distant memory. Air is controlled, water can be artificial, and even the humans can be modified, for a price.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Surrender, by Lee Schneider
It is 2050. Kat Keeper, an entrepreneur, hires an AI savant to recreate the consciousness of her husband, who has passed away. Soon, she is drawn into a love triangle with her husband's mind and the man who created it.

Kat learns, only too late, that the man she hired leads a tech company that is working to capture the inner thoughts of all people, and use them to control the weather, all tech and learning, and even human will. Kat knows she must stop this, but doesn’t know how. She is pursued by a secret circle of women who say they have the answer, and want her to lead them.

Surrender takes place in a future where a global machine intelligence manages our climate disaster. While a tech company works to harvest every citizen’s thoughts, a secret band of resisters struggles to keep human thought safe and free.

The "official synopsis" is extremely brief and concise for a complex book with a sequel already planned. Yes, Kat Keeper and Bradley15 work together to build the consciousness of her deceased husband into essentially a desktop version. While this is going on, readers are also introduced to Hopper (a less-than-stable man with claims to mind expansiveness and astral projection), Alon6 (a modified human whose greed and rage may eventually consume everything he holds dear), Ravven (an activist Bradley15 dated until their arrest), and several women with unique backstories who become part of Kat’s inner circle. The severe climate change and infrastructure designs, as well as changes to the world caused by repeated pandemics were also substantial influences to the way the story developed.

This was definitely not a story to rush through. The changes to the world as it is now known by the time the story takes place in 2050 are staggering. The explanation of how and why some humans are modified is compelling and detailed. The threats and benefits of more and more AI control in the everyday world is frightening and fascinating.

Overall, this book earned 3 out of 5 stars. While it is definitely a story about a potential future, the style of the descriptive telling and heavy technology influence would probably be enjoyed more by fans of science fiction than speculative fiction. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who also enjoys reading and playing the flute when she isn’t at her job as a regulatory complaint specialist. See some other books she’s read and reviewed on her blog,


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, June 4th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen and 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!

Surrender, by Lee Schneider

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mrs. Nash's Ashes, by Sarah Adler {ends 6/1}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“This is the first time I’ve been in a police car,” I say to Hollis beside me. As a former child star, any misstep automatically becomes tabloid fodderjust ask Justin LaRue, who played Penelope’s little brother on the show but is now best known for his appearances on “15 Celeb Mugshots That Could Double as Headshots” internet listicles—so it’s always been an easy decision for me to stay on the straight and narrow. And, again, being an almost-famous, small, redheaded bag of milk, no one’s exactly champing at the bit to find reasons to arrest me.

“Congratulations.” Hollis folds his arms across his chest.

Millicent and Hollis find themselves on a reluctant adventure to Florida when an airline snafu leaves them stranded. While they’ve met a couple times in passing, what they mostly have in common is a disdain for Millicent’s ex-boyfriend.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mrs. Nash's Ashes, by Sarah Adler {ends 6/1}
Millicent Watts-Cohen is on a mission. When she promised her elderly best friend that she’d reunite her with the woman she fell in love with nearly eighty years ago, she never imagined that would mean traveling from D.C. to Key West with three tablespoons of Mrs. Nash’s remains in her backpack. But Millie’s determined to give her friend a symbolic happily-ever-after, before it’s (really) too late—and hopefully reassure herself of love’s lasting power in the process.

She just didn’t expect to have a living travel companion.

After a computer glitch grounds flights, Millie is forced to catch a ride with Hollis Hollenbeck, an also-stranded acquaintance from her ex’s MFA program. Hollis certainly does not believe in happily-ever-afters—symbolic or otherwise—and makes it quite clear that he can’t fathom Millie’s plan ending well for anyone.

But as they contend with peculiar bed-and-breakfasts, unusual small-town festivals, and deer with a death wish, Millie begins to suspect that her reluctant travel partner might enjoy her company more than he lets on. Because for someone who supposedly doesn’t share her views on romance, Hollis sure is becoming invested in the success of their journey. And the closer they get to their destination, the more Millie has to admit that maybe this trip isn’t just about Mrs. Nash’s love story after all—maybe it’s also about her own.

The story is told mostly through the adventure that Millie and Hollis find themselves on, but a few chapters of the love story between Rose (McIntyre) Nash and Elsie Brown are interspersed as they were told to Millie by Rose. Millie knows that Rose thought their love story was over once she was informed of Elsie’s death decades earlier. But now Millie has learned otherwise and is determined to reunite at least some of Rose with Elsie after all this time.

The charm of the characters and the relationships between them was addictive. Getting a glimpse into the love of Rose and Elsie, and the unexpected sweetness between Rose and her husband after she and Elsie were separated was a beautiful highlight as Milile and Hollis got to know each other. 

While there was so much more that could be toldabout Millie’s close friendship with her cousin, the original journey Hollis was on, and what will happen if they pass back through Gadsley to return their borrowed carthis book stood alone fabulously as a 5-star read. It was a fun contemporary fiction and romance, with great historical and LGBTQ aspects as well. Parts of it even brought family drama into the plot. This would be an easy book to recommend if any of those storylines appeal to the reader.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom whose favorite seasons are summer and fall. Check out what she’s reading and pictures of her flower garden on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Mrs. Nash's Ashes!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, June 1st, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Mrs. Nash's Ashes, by Sarah Adler

Monday, May 15, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Half Moon, by Mary Beth Keane {ends 5/19}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Jess used to say that he wasn’t himself until he had people around, until he had other moods and personalities to react to, and he resented when she said that, as if he were incapable of self-reflection, but now he sort of knew what she meant. It wasn’t that he disliked being alone, it was more like he felt muted, not completely awake. He held a bag of ground coffee, considered whether he could rig up a percolator on the stove if he found matches to light the pilot. And then, after standing there another minute, he heard the crunch of snow under tires, as if from his dreams.

A police SUV was rolling slowly up the street, the snow so high it looked like it was floating. Malcolm imagined all his neighbors rushing to their windows, praying that a cop car meant something that would distract them for ten minutes, break up the morning. It kept coming, rolling past the other houses, and stopped at Malcolm’s driveway.

Jess and Malcolm have had more than their share of troubles since getting married. One season brings all of the obstacles to their happiness to light, and leaves them both with choices to make.

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Half Moon, by Mary Beth Keane {ends 5/19}
Malcolm Gephardt, handsome and gregarious longtime bartender at the Half Moon, has always dreamed of owning a bar. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches to buy the place. He sees unquantifiable magic and potential in the Half Moon and hopes to transform it into a bigger success, but struggles to stay afloat.

His smart and confident wife, Jess, has devoted herself to her law career. After years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. Like Malcolm, she feels her youth beginning to slip away and wonders how to reshape her future.

Award-winning author Mary Beth Keane’s new novel takes place over the course of one week when Malcolm learns shocking news about Jess, a patron of the bar goes missing, and a blizzard hits the town of Gillam, trapping everyone in place. With a deft eye and generous spirit, Keane explores the disappointments and unexpected consolations of midlife, the many forms forgiveness can take, the complicated intimacy of small-town living, and what it means to be a family.

The synopsis points out that the book takes place over one week, but in reading it, the flashbacks and how it all ended made it feel like much more. It was an eventful week, for sure, but a lot had happened that triggered some of the actions of that week, even if the sudden onset of a winter storm instigated a lot of immediate action too. 

While Malcolm and Jess are the central characters of the story, their relationships with their mothers and their lifelong friends also presented more angles to the struggles they faced. Most of the story was from Malcolm’s perspective—he wanted to be supportive as Jess decided if she could feel part of a family of two if they didn’t have children, he struggled with keeping the bar he dreamed of owning afloat and while the bar was shut down for a few days while the whole town was without electricity, he had some unique drama regarding a regular at the bar who had gone missing at the same time the storm struck. So many life-altering decisions to be made over the course of a week spent largely in isolation while the storm caused everything to grind to a halt.

The story was a largely insightful family drama which earned 4 out of 5 stars. It was an enjoyable contemporary drama with engaging adult characters.

{click here to purchase on Amazon.}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mother who spends her days addressing regulatory complaints for a debt collection company, and her evenings caring for her family.  She couldn’t imagine life any other way. Read more about her adventures at her blog.


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, May 19th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Half Moon, by Mary Beth Keane

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Mommy Clique, by Barbara Altaramino {ends 5/18}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The Target

“I better not regret this.” I glared at Ronnie. I was back where I said I’d never go again. Ronnie had practically begged me to come back, saying she needed a friend with her in the trenches. A friend, she’d actually said. Maybe it was her use of that loaded word that convinced me more than anything else.

Well. There was another reason. But no way was I telling Ronnie about that. I wasn’t that stupid. I had learned a few things.

“You won’t, Trust me.”

Taking mommy drama to the next level. Everyone wants their kids to have a better, easier life than they had. But at what price?

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Mommy Clique, by Barbara Altaramino {ends 5/18}
Life in suburbia is typical and ordinaryjust the same old same old. Only, not in this neighborhood. Here, the impressively large homes and pure green lawns hide a much darker reality that is far from mundane.

When Beth moves back to her hometown in Connecticut to care for her ailing mother, she is forced to confront not only the ghosts of her youth but the other mothers on her street. There is Elise, the queen bee, who determines the fate of everyone and is all-controlling. There is Kelly, Elise's sidekick and most sycophantic supporter, who secretly longs to have a voice and power of her own. There's Ronnie, the informer, who, with her intelligence and investigative skill, digs up dirt on the others in service to the queen. And then there's Gail, the wannabe, who is constantly striving to feel as important and valued as the others.

Looking for some mom friends, Beth seeks a place for herself within this mommy clique. Turns out they do have an available role for her: it's called the target.

The original vibe of the book almost killed it for this reader. Elise is the Queen Bee—a very unpleasant character, and the leader of this mommy group who are at the same bus stop every morning. She calls all the shots—for her sidekick, her informer, and the most recent joining member, the wannabee. They all have first-grade girls, and they all want their daughters to have what they didn’t necessarily have, an accepted role in high school for an easy social life.

When Beth returns to this Connecticut town where she grew up to be closer to her ailing mother, and for her own two children to be closer to their grandmother, she expects some negative memories and reconnections with her high school peers, but no one could be prepared for Elise and her crew. Beth is quickly chosen by Elise to be their new victim, "The Target." But Beth realizes very soon that she does not want to relive high school in a role chosen for her by someone who refuses to grow up.

The whole story started out as essentially a nightmare for moms who crave acceptance and belonging for themselves and their children, but the ending was much more satisfying. This book ended up earning 3 out of 5 stars and could be recommended as an amusing story with an ultimately karmic ending for moms of elementary schoolers, or those who remember being there. 

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is almost ready to watch the moms of elementary schoolers in her rearview mirror, but feels somewhat detached already while working outside the home. She feels nothing but love toward her neighborhood moms for their kindness and assistance as a tribe for her and her children. Check out what else she’s been up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


TWO of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Mommy Clique!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, May 18th, 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!

The Mommy Clique, by Barbara Altaramino

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Nightingale Affair, by Tim Mason {ends 5/17}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Detective Inspector Field of the Metropolitan Police, London, here to see the hospital director, Dr. Hall.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the  porter. “If you’d follow me, sir.”

As they walked, they passed wards in which Field glimpsed uniformed women moving among rows of beds. The porter led him to one of the corner staircases, and they began to climb. At the top floor, along a broad corridor, was a row of open windows with a view of the sea. Field paused for a moment to inhale the fresh breezes. Four floors below, the grass was dotted with crosses. Clearly, it was a cemetery.


Field turned from the window to find the porter gone. In his place stood a clean-shaven, fair-haired young man with a prominent brow and high hairline. He had a quiet, deferential manner, and the hint of a Yorkshire accent.

“I’m John Stanhope, sir,” he said. “Dr. Hall will see you now.” He took Field’s satchel from him, opened the door and gestured him in.

After Detective Inspector Field first meets Miss Florence Nightingale and her nurses in Crimea during the war, it’s a wish come true to reunite with them as part of his future in London. But unexpectedly, the horrors of the past seem to have followed them.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Nightingale Affair, by Tim Mason {ends 5/17}
Who is stalking Florence Nightingale and her nurses? Is it the legendary Beast of the Crimean, or someone closer to home? In 1855, Britain and France are fighting to keep the Russians from snatching the Crimean Peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, and Nightingale, a wealthy young society woman, has made it her mission to improve the wretched conditions in the British military hospitals in Turkey—despite fierce objections from the male doctors around her. When young women start turning up dead, their mouths sewn shut with embroidered fabric roses, Inspector Charles Field (the real-life inspiration for Charles Dickens’s Inspector Bucket in Bleak House) is sent from England to find the killer among the doctors, military men, journalists, and others swarming Turkey’s famous Barrack Hospital. Here Field meets both the famous Nightingale as well as Nurse Jane Rolly, the woman who will become his wife, and as he races to protect them, the prime suspect takes his own life.

Case closed. Or is it?

Twelve years later, back in London, amid the turmoil surrounding the expansion of voting rights, women again start turning up dead, their mouths covered by that telltale embroidered rose. Did Field suspect the wrong man before, or is he dealing with a deviant copycat? Either way, he must race against time to stop the killer before more bodies are discovered, and before his own family gets pulled into danger. Populated by real figures of the day, from Benjamin Disraeli to novelist Wilkie Collins to, of course, Florence Nightingale herself, and steeped in historical details of 1860s London, The Nightingale Affair plays out against a backdrop of a rapidly changing society. Most of all, it is a pure reading delight, offering shocks, unforgettably vivid scenes, and surprising twists.

The timeline switches between the initial meeting of all the main characters in 1855 in Turkey, and twelve years later in London. Unfortunately, while time has passed after they thought the Beast had ended his own life instead of being convicted of his crimes, the horrifying murders of women and those in favor of women gaining rights have started up again. Has the Beast returned from the dead? Did their own eyes deceive them, and he never died? Is it a copycat killer haunting them all again?

The story in both timelines was intricate and felt realistic. The characters and their relationships were genuine, and there was plenty of suspicion to go around about who could be doing the gory murders. The descriptions of the setting both in war time Turkey and 1860s London were colorful, with the descriptions of the tunnels and their construction under London being especially fascinating.

Overall, this detailed book earned 4 out of 5 stars as a great read for those who enjoy historical fiction surrounding the war in the Crimean Peninsula, London and the mid 1800s. The discussions of womens’ rights, both as they fought for the legitimacy of nursing careers and then for the vote, was also interesting.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley enjoys reading with the feel of the sun on her skin. A refreshing cocktail can only make the day pass even more pleasantly. See some of what she’s up to on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Nightingale Affair!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, May 17th, 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!

The Nightingale Affair, by Tim Mason

Monday, May 8, 2023

Book Review: The Other Side of Infinity, by Joan F. Smith

Guest review by: Becki Bayley


My parents fawned over December. I could hardly blame them.

My mother over-complimented her hair – its length, color, and (apparently high) degree of shine. It was true that her hair was like something out of a movie, I guess. I know it smelled of sunlight and something herbal, like basil. My father kept asking December questions about her uncle’s favorite gardening hacks (??), feigning interest.

A new ice age happened, a thousand children shouted are we there yet? From their parents’ back seats, hell froze over, and finally, we were alone.

December is certain that she knows how things end up, and hopes that by messing up earlier certainties she can change what’s next. What if her perception of it all is wrong?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Other Side of Infinity, by Joan F. Smith
It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save, 
seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love―something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

Admittedly, this reader loves an unreliable narrator. So as December offers up her certainties about the future, they are indeed certainties. She keeps wondering at how much she needs to change in order to bring about different endings than the ones that she’s seen. 

Some of the changes undoubtedly bring better endings for the fellow students at her new high school who she has come to know as friends. But when she suddenly stops seeing the changes she’s brought about actually manifest in the future, she isn’t sure why. Is her gift gone? Has she changed too much and been deemed too much of a risk to the real future to see any more? The story truly wanted a happier ending than the one December continued to see.

This was a charming book that was 4 out of 5 stars. The ending was unexpected, especially for a main character who was accustomed to knowing what came next. This would be an engaging read for young adults who appreciate unique family dramas and speculating about the consequences of tough moral choices.

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who loves getting lost in a good book. See more of her book review on her blog at

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Book Review: In the Vines, by Shannon Kirk

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Although she’d never admit it, Aunty has a tendency to view the world in dramatic ways, like me; this is part of our shared identity, something I accept, but, I believe, she tries to deny. So under a coming full moon and cloudless sky, so unlike tonight, and needing my mother so bad I wanted to die, I knew down to my bones that under that hidden hatch Aunty had built a shrine to my mother. I flipped up the section of plywood at the hinge, and as it banged on solid wood, Aunty crashed onto the scene.

“No!” she yelled. “Don’t go down there. Don’t disturb things.”

“Who is the woman in the barn?” I yelled back as I ignored her walking closer, gaining on me. I looked into the hole, so dark down there, stained of soaked soot, charred wood, coal streaks everywhere, and scattered debris from the fire that was never cleaned out. Whatever fell from the cottage to the basement and didn’t incinerate was left to rot under Aunty’s patchwork cover. This was no shrine. This was a trash pit of my mother’s last-touched items.

Mop is telling a terrifying story that could end in her death, and that of her companion. There’s a small chance she may survive, but they’ll definitely never be the same again.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: In the Vines, by Shannon Kirk
Mary Olivia Pentecost, known as Mop, was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country—and one of the most guarded. Now, two years after her mother’s mysterious death, Mop is seeking closure on the disquieting tragedy by returning to the New England seaside estate of her cloistered Aunty Liv—once her closest relative and confidante.

But behind the walls of the isolated estate, the shadows of the past are darker than Mop imagined. The puzzles of the family history are not to be shared, but unearthed. With each revelation comes a new, foreboding threat—and for Mop, the grave suspicion that to discover Aunty Liv’s secrets is to become a prisoner of them.

How well do we know the people we love? How well do we want to know them? The answers are as twisted as a tangle of vines in this throat-clutching novel of psychological suspense.

The story is told in two alternating viewpoints—Mop’s current battle for her life against a crazy woman wielding a hatchet and screaming at Mop and her companion, and Aunty’s drama two years earlier which leave the reader questioning her sanity then.

The writing style was compelling—would Mop and her companion survive? Who was hunting them? Would they survive the life-threatening injuries they’d survived so far? The more they found out, the more questions about the truth surfaced.

The book earned 3 out of 5 stars from this reader who enjoys gothic horror. The descriptions of what was happening to Mop and her companion fully conveyed their terror and fear for their very lives. Likewise, the confusion and paranoia of Aunty two years earlier made many of her resulting actions seem understandable, until they weren’t. This book is definitely recommended to those who enjoy an engrossing psychological thriller.

{Click here to purchase on Amazon—currently FREE for Kindle Unlimited members!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who especially enjoys the characters in books. A good unreliable narrator is a great distraction from the craziness of reality. Enjoy more of her insight about books from the reviews she shares on her own blog,

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