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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