Monday, September 25, 2023

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

Official synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

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


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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Better Half, by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

Thursday, September 21, 2023

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

Gulnaz looked around. “Where’s Mum?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Museum of Failures, by Thrity Umrigar

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 26th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Taken Ones, by Jess Lourey

Saturday, September 9, 2023

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{click here to purchase from Amazon}

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


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

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The President's Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{click here to purchase on Amazon}

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


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

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

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

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

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