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  • Sandlynn
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    Post count: 87

    Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

    13) Try your luck at the lottery.

    Read a romance in which one or both protagonists works in the gambling industry or is a gambler. Or read a romance in which the hero or heroine has won a prize or has inherited something substantial – like land, a house, or a share of a business.


    Even though I must have about six or seven books by Jill Shalvis in my TBR pile, I have never actually read any of them. So, this challenge afforded me the opportunity to crack open one of her newer stories, Lost and Found Sisters, published in 2017.

    Lost and Found Sisters is centered on 30 year old Quinn Weller who lives in L.A., works as a sous chef in a posh restaurant, and most importantly to this story, was adopted by loving parents as an infant. When we meet Quinn, she is still mourning the accidental death of her younger sister, who was the biological child of her parents. The difference in their origins meant nothing to either of the siblings. They loved each other completely.

    Into this mix enters the news that Quinn’s biological mother, who lived in a small California town some hours north of L.A. and who she never knew, has recently died of cancer leaving a dubious bequest to her daughter. Quinn’s inheritance is not really the house her mother lived in or the cafe she owned, but a 15 year old, biological sister who needs a guardian.

    Quinn travels to the Wildstone, California, to meet the sister who is not too keen to be managed by anyone and finds herself sucked in by the needs of not only her sister, but the business and the inhabitants of the struggling town. In addition, she meets a handsome former citizen, who has been traveling down from San Francisco to help out his widowed mother and who secretly is fighting to save what is left of Wildstone from a greedy local politician.

    This is more of ensemble story than a straight romance. If anything, the primary relationship is between Quinn and her newly discovered 15 year old sister, Tilly. And each has their own separate plot line. Mick Hennessey, our hero, also has a separate story, but it’s secondary to Quinn and Tilly’s. Furthermore, we are introduced to a slew of town characters, as well as characters from Quinn’s other life in L.A. There is definitely a lot going on here, although the small town setting makes it seem less overwhelming. However, jumping around from character to character does mean we don’t get to know any one person very well, other than maybe Quinn herself. As such, I didn’t feel as great a connection to the hero or to anyone else. It’s too bad, because I would have liked to have delved more into Quinn and Tilly, Quinn and Mick, as well as their deceased mother Carolyn, Quinn’s deceased sister (who we get to meet in an odd way), and Quinn’s adoptive parents. Less is more, I think. I would give this story a B-/B.

    ******
    


The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 12 down, 6 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    The Boss by Abigail Owen:
    The heroine was tied to a set of mysterious fires. She’d recently moved across the country to get away from a stalker. The hero was a dragon shapeshifter. He still felt guilty as a few hundred years before he’d been chosen in the mating ceremony, but since both he and his prospective mate had been wrong his fire had killed her. The world building was clarified with more details, but there were still plenty of unanswered questions. I hope the disparity in the way the dragon society treats women will be more thoroughly addressed in later books. I would like to see the hero’s brother from the introductory novella return. There were too many scenes from a supposed bad guy’s POV as well as the POV of a traitor within the hero’s group. I hope the subplot with the traitor will be answered sooner rather than later, but I’m guessing it will be part of the overarching plot for a while. The issues I had were with the world building rather than the characters. So an uneven read, but one I enjoyed overall.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Heigh Ho, Silver, Away!” The Lone Ranger (The Lone Ranger) – Read a Western romance or a book with a cowboy, rancher or farmer.
    Wyoming Cowboy Protection by Nicole Helm – hero is a rancher:
    The heroine was on the run and had turned to a distant cousin for help. She worked as the housekeeper for the hero. Her decision to not tell her cousin, who was a cop, or the hero anything about who or why she was on the run was extremely irksome. Supposedly she was protecting them, but it came across as her acting foolishly just to provide conflict in the story. The suspense plot had some interesting twists, but was also all over the map so ultimately did not work for me. The bad guys were capable and clever up until they were easily captured or killed. The main villain was a one-dimensional mustache-twirling caricature, but even he managed to outsmart the good guys when needed for the plot. The h/h each thought the other was too good for them. The baby was often conveniently out of the way. The characters had potential, but a disappointing read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 13 down, 5 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 87

    Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

    11) Enlist or be drafted.
    Read a romance in which one or more of the lead characters is in the military. Or read a romance set during a war at any time in history or in any fantastical world, either on the homefront or in battle.

    I picked up Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana, published in 2018, having heard many good things about it. And, I must say, it lives up to its promise.

    This story switches back and forth between two time lines. The first is present day Cuba, where Marisol Ferrera, a 30 year old American woman of Cuban descent is visiting her grandmother’s place of birth for the first time. On the surface, Marisol is a travel and lifestyle writer who is planning an article on the sights and sounds of Cuba for potential tourists who may visit as relations with the United States evolve. But, surreptitiously, she is carrying her recently deceased grandmother’s ashes, hoping to spread them somewhere meaningful in Cuba, according to her grandmother’s wishes. Upon arriving, Marisol is met by Luis Rodriguez, the 36 year old grandson of Ana – the childhood friend of Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa. Luis is a history professor at the University of Havana who also helps Ana run a restaurant that she opened in a small part of her once palatial home in the hopes of making much needed money from the tourists. She, her daughter, and Luis started the business years ago, but only recently was this officially sanctioned by the Castro regime. Further on the down low, Luis also has been blogging, under an assumed identity, arguing against the regime’s tyranny. As you can tell, there are multiple layers to everyone’s identity and activities, contrasting with what seems to be a simple, tired, ramshackle island paradise.

    The second timeline is set in 1959 Cuba, in the tumultuous years, months, and days leading up to the overthrow of Batista, the authoritarian ruler backed by the U.S. Elisa Perez is one of four daughters of a wealthy sugar planter and his socialite wife. The family’s roots go back to the founding of the country and they have led a very privileged life, while poverty and injustice rain around them. In fact, the one son of the family, disassociated himself from his kin and is off conspiring with one of the rebel groups trying to rid Cuba of Batista. Amidst this percolating violence, Elisa and her sisters meet friends, shop, attend parties, and every once in a while come face to face with the fringes of the burgeoning revolution. It’s at one of these gatherings that 19 year old Elisa meets and instantly sparks with 30 year old Pablo Garcia, a lawyer, who hasn’t been practicing much law lately. But, instead, he’s been working and fighting with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

    During these separate — but connected — time periods, we follow the relationships of the two sets of lovers, especially as they are impacted, on the one hand, by revolution and on the other by the everyday strictures, fears, and indignities of living under a tyrant.

    No one in this story is exactly who they appear to be at first. Although I could guess some of the revelations, that didn’t make the story less enjoyable or interesting. I really grew to care about and root for characters, even though I knew they all couldn’t end up happy. And, in fact, I teared up over and wondered about the fates of a few people towards the end – not just our main characters but even supporting players. Going into this book, I didn’t know much about the Cuban Revolution or its aftermath, so I did learn a few things. However, this book is definitely not heavy on history. The main focus is on the effects the Revolution had on these characters, where they stood – both literally and morally — how they coped, how they loved, and what compromises they made. The only downside I would note, is that I found the ending a little rushed, a little less compelling, leaving a number of plot lines feeling unfinished, but I’d still give the story a heartfelt A.

    ******
    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 13 down, 5 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    Star Cruise: Mystery Dancer by Veronica Scott:
    The heroine was an imperial princess on the run from assassins. She took a job as a backup dancer on a luxury cruise liner. The hero worked in security on the ship. Their romance happened quickly but didn’t feel rushed. I wish there had been more emphasis on their relationship as the story mainly focused on her efforts to escape from the planet where we met her and get to her great aunt who had a court-in-exile. The story’s blurb was somewhat misleading, but I was glad that the conflict was not what was implied. Overall this was a fun story with a likeable h/h and a mischievous “pet cat.” As always, it was nice to see the crew of the ship again.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Did I do that?” Urkel, (Family Matters) – Read a romance told from first person point of view.
    The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy:
    In previous books the supposedly charming hero came off as more of a jerk, so I was relieved he owned up to his poor behavior early on. The h/h were sent on a secret mission. The heroine was struggling to find herself after having escaped from Dasnaria. The hero had his own baggage to deal with, but this was very much the heroine’s story. There was a nice blend of humor, adventure, and angst. This book answered several questions for the overarching plot and opened others. While I liked the romance overall it was the heroine and her journey of self-discovery and self-reliance which made the book work. Another solid entry in this series.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Saving Hearts by Rebecca Crowley:
    The h/h were college acquaintances who’d had a one-night stand on New Year’s Eve. They met again months later at a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting. The heroine had recently been appointed the first Director of Ethics and Advocacy for the Championship Soccer League. The hero was a goalie warming the bench to ride out his contract after his gambling habits were exposed along with several other high-profile athletes when an online betting site was hacked. As a gold-medal winning former player she wanted to expand opportunities for women at the professional level in soccer. The hero used statistics and analysis to calm his anxiety. Though he’d already served a three-month suspension, her new boss wanted to make an example of the hero to show they were tough on gambling. The h/h each threatened the other with no intention of following through, but called a truce when teammates’ injuries suddenly meant he was back on the starting lineup. She didn’t do serious relationships. He didn’t want to become involved with someone so entrenched in the sport he was being forced to leave behind. A very enjoyable book filled with humor and a touch of angst as well as unexpected twists and surprises. After a contentious start the romance ended up being an endearing exploration of two strong-willed, complex characters learning to be vulnerable and trust each other.

    What the Dead Know by Kylie Brant: The sheriff heroine had been a homicide cop in Chicago, so the hero’s insistence on treating her as a damsel in distress multiple times got on my last nerve. The hero was a medical examiner turned investigator. Their romance took a definite backseat to the mystery plot. The main villain was obvious and the red herrings made the otherwise very competent h/h look foolish at times. I wished the page time given to the villain’s POV and his joy of torture had instead been used to further develop the relationship between the h/h. I liked the heroine and her bff. I also liked what there was of the romance. But overall a middle-of-the-road read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 12 down, 6 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Timtur: The Teacher’s Alien Healer by Veronica Scott:
    This story was set earlier in the series than the previous few books. The alien bad guy was the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil scientist. There was an additional baddie as well as a few misguided packmates. The hero had put off declaring his feelings for fear they would interfere with his duties. When the heroine was kidnapped he spent a lot of page time regretting his inaction. Thankfully he also actually apologized to the heroine once they were reunited. I liked the h/h both individually and as a couple and wished this story had worked better for me overall. After a slow start the book improved in the middle, but the ending felt rushed. The issues I had were plot-related not character-related. I enjoyed parts, but it was missing something.

    Happy Medium by Meg Benjamin: The heroine was a production assistant for a cable show with a fake medium. The hero was a carpenter and owned a restoration business. He agreed to allow the show to film at the house he was currently renovating. During a rehearsal, the fake medium unknowingly summoned a real ghost who was a succubus. Neither the hero nor heroine believed in ghosts so were each reluctant to admit what they’d seen. It was nice to see the hero’s sister and her dog again but then she conveniently had to leave. The heroine worked for an overly demanding boss but it was never explained why she put up with the boss’ behavior. The characters did not communicate with each other and the hero acted foolishly solely to move the plot along. It took them entirely too long to spot the really obvious clue. Once the villain was defeated the ending felt rushed. A likeable h/h, but overall an uneven read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 14 down, 4 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 87

    Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

    16) Buy a car.

    Read a romance involving someone who works with vehicles of any type – pilots, racecar drivers, mechanics, chauffeurs, or someone who works with their hands, is in a blue collar profession, or works in tech (IT).

    Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, published in 2017, is general fiction rather than romance, but it definitely has romantic elements. I came across this book while browsing at my local bookstore last year, but I have since noticed that it’s now become one of Reese Witherspoon’s picks, and she has optioned it to be adapted for the screen.

    At first blush, this story puts me in mind of those that focus on a lead character who has autism or some other developmental disability. However, our main character, Eleanor, has issues that clearly resulted from a traumatic childhood which have stunted her ability to interact with others in what we would define as an “acceptable” manner. Eleanor is a 30 year old single woman, living in Scotland who works in accounting and payments for a design company. She lives by herself, keeps to herself, has an ironclad, regular routine, and tends to be judgmental about those around her.

    One day, things change for Eleanor in what appear to be small ways, but they begin to have huge impacts, making her take baby steps towards changing her outlook and finally face her internal demons. The first is that a new co-worker, Raymond Gibbons, who works in IT, comes to help Eleanor with a computer problem and begins to slowly draw her out, overlooking some of her hostile comments. The second is, upon grudgingly accompanying her co-workers to a work-related event, she sees an up and coming musician who captures her fancy, and the third is that she and Raymond reach out to help an elderly man, who has an accident, and are drawn into his life.

    I really enjoyed this debut novel. Although I came to guess some of Eleanor’s secrets, I wasn’t 100% sure if I was correct. This novel does manage to keep you cheering Eleanor on and wondering how far she’ll get towards healing herself. I like how the story took its time and didn’t make huge leaps, even at the end. The story does have a HEA, but it’s not a sure thing that everything you hope for her will work out. It’s just nice to know that Eleanor definitely won’t return to being a damaged loner, who longs to be loved, and that she will have friends who will be there for her. I’d give this book an A. It’s a keeper.

    ******

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)
    

Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    Hearts in Extra Time by Rebecca Crowley:
    This story was set at Christmas time, but the holidays were not a focus. After being dumped a few months before her wedding, the heroine went on her non-refundable honeymoon cruise by herself. Winter weather caused the delay and eventual cancellation of her flight home. She met the hero in the airport. She was a workaholic lawyer. He was a professional soccer player, self-described as “one of the lesser lights on a team packed with stars.” He didn’t do committed relationships. They agreed to a one-night stand which then stretched into a few days when they rented a car to drive to Atlanta. The romance was rushed time-wise but felt fully explored. They each had reasons for their outlook on life yet knew they needed to make changes. A nice blend of humor and angst with two complex characters with seemingly opposite approaches to life. A very enjoyable read.

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Wyoming Christmas Ransom by Nicole Helm:
    The hero was convinced his estranged wife’s death two years earlier had been murder. The heroine was the county coroner. She’d enabled the hero’s search for justice but was determined to cut off her help since he was seemingly not moving on. When the hero’s car was tampered with she and her deputy sheriff cousin realized he’d been right all along. The mystery was intriguing, but the reasons the h/h had for insisting on investigating things themselves was weak at best and resulted in them each making a number of foolish decisions simply to further the plot. The book improved in the second half though the resolution to the mystery plot was both rushed and jumbled. Despite these issues, I liked the h/h. Their romance was charming and made the story work.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Act Like It by Lucy Parker:
    The premise of the stage manager and agents setting up a fake romance to help the hero’s public image was fanciful. I liked that neither the h/h wanted to go along with it at first and that the heroine stood her ground to get what she wanted. Even though his actions had been exaggerated by the press and we learned his reasons, it was disconcerting that so many of the supporting characters continued to give the hero a free pass for his behavior simply because he was such a talented actor. Even though the story was primarily set behind the scenes at the theatre it came off as superficial much of the time as the details were off and unrealistic. Despite these issues, I enjoyed the h/h. I liked that they became friends somewhat before becoming involved. I also liked that she wouldn’t put with his attitude and that he both acknowledged his privilege and made an effort to, if not change, at least be more aware. There was a lot of humor, a touch of angst, and overall just a sense of fun. A charming romance.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Book ’em, Danno.” McGarrett, (Hawaii Five-0) – Read a romance with h/h who work in law enforcement.
    Deep as the Dead by Kylie Brant – hero is a RCMP Sgt:
    The h/h had been married twenty years earlier. Reunion romance plots can be tricky but it worked here as their reasons for splitting up even though they were still in love were believable and they’d each moved on with their lives in the intervening years. The focus was very much on the serial killer which left little room to explore their romance. Too much page time was spent in the villain’s POV. The mystery was uneven and the ending very rushed. Since the emphasis was on the case I wish we’d had an epilogue or more time spent with the h/h actually together. I liked the h/h, both individually and as a couple, so wanted more for them.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 3 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 2 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 87

    Returning to the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter I

    My book group decided to read Alexa Martin’s Intercepted, published in 2018, this month. And, happily, that choice ticks off the letter “I” from the alphabet variation challenge.

    Intercepted follows a year or so in the life of a woman who’s the live-in girlfriend of a professional American football player. The two of them have been dating since high school and have been together – off and on – for almost a decade. Marlee and her boyfriend, Chris, live in Denver, and he is a wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs. As a girlfriend, rather than a wife, Marlee often deals with the rancor, bitchiness, and lack of acceptance of the wives of her boyfriend’s teammates, as Marlee tries to participate in charity events or even just attend games as a “family member.” However, she’s been persevering at the insistence of her boyfriend. In fact, even though Marlee is attempting to build a career in marketing and maintain her own pursuits – outside of sports — her life and work tends to take a backseat to her boyfriend’s. Entering into this mix is the new team quarterback Gavin Pope, who is a huge talent. Four years previously – when Marlee and Chris were on one of their relationship breaks – Marlee met Gavin during a trip to Chicago and ended up in bed with him, having unforgettable sex. Now, here he is and she wonders whether he’ll remember her.

    Very soon after Gavin joins the Mustangs, Chris and Marlee have another serious falling out, partially witnessed by Gavin, who proceeds to help Marlee gather her things and leave Chris. Although Marlee immediately decides to swear off athletes and concentrate on her career and her new job at a restaurant, it’s only a matter of time before Marlee’s back on the arm of a football player – this time Gavin’s, which starts the rollercoaster ride again.

    What’s interesting about this book is that the author is actually the wife of a former professional football player, who was in the NFL for eight years, so I was definitely curious as to the realism of what Marlee experienced. While I appreciated that Martin knew the sport and what went on behind the scenes, most of the story deals with the heroine making, what I felt were, poor decisions – from staying too long with a man who clearly was bad news to jumping into another relationship so soon. My exasperation with her lasted late into the book until she’s confronted – again – with a boyfriend who is trying to make decisions for her even if, this time, he meant well. At that point, she finally stands up for herself, but it feels like too little, too late. The story definitely needed to give the heroine more space to become her own person, with the help of family and friends. Instead, we get a too-quick resolution and only hear about the interactions with others that we needed to see. As a new writer, this author shows promise. Her writing is breezy and very conversational, with the constant use of hashtags (for some reason) but I think her plotting needs work. I give it a B-/C.

    ******

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 14 down, 4 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I …)
    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    The Dragons of Summer by Jeffe Kennedy:
    This story featured my favorite couple of this series. While they were firmly together at the end of their full-length book and their HEA never in doubt as they were totally devoted to one another, there were lingering questions due to the political upheaval in the overarching story. I was very happy to finally have the hero’s POV. A lovely blend of angst, humor, and longing with a side trip down memory lane, this novella not only encompassed the wonderful romance, but gave another glimpse into the story of his eldest sister as well as showcased the hero’s complicated relationship with one of his older brothers. We briefly caught up with a few other favorite characters as well but the relationship between the h/h was very much center stage. A delightful read.

    A Second Shot by Shannon Stacey: This novella read like it should be a sequel to the hero’s sister story. (I’ve read everything by this author and it’s not. However, there is one book listed in the “also by” page that I cannot find for sale anywhere and is not mentioned on her website, so maybe it was delayed or something). The hero was a hockey player who found a small dog just before Christmas. The heroine was his ex-girlfriend who happened to be the veterinarian on duty at the animal clinic he took the dog to. The hero regretted having let the heroine go and took their unexpected reunion as a sign to show her he’d changed. I just wish he’d done more actual demonstrating so on page rather than simply thinking about it a lot. There were several subplots which felt underdeveloped. The h/h were both likeable and I enjoyed it overall, but I wish the story had been longer.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 2 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Shannon Stacey added a note on her website now that the sister’s story will be published later this month.

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 216

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    A Curse for Spring by Amanda Bouchet:
    We first met the h/h when they were ten, then quickly flashed-forward fifteen years. The now adult hero’s attitude toward the start was selfish and hypocritical. Thankfully he soon acknowledged this fact and admitted he was acting out of line. The misunderstandings and perfectly timed interruptions frayed a bit in the middle, but thankfully the h/h both made an effort to communicate with each other. Overall an imaginative, angst-filled adventure with a likeable couple on a quest to save a kingdom.

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Gabe by Veronica Scott:
    We originally met this hero in the first book of the series. The author initially listed that his book would be third, but it was repeatedly pushed back, so I was glad to finally get his story. Most of the book was set in an isolated area of the planet with all new characters. The alien baddies were the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil, casually cruel and effectual yet inept. There was a major twist in the overarching series plot. A few other subplots just skimmed the surface rather than exploring their actual ramifications so I hope things will be addressed in future books. The romance was of the insta-love variety, but that worked well with the plot. As with others in the series, it read like an old Saturday matinee with the intrepid h/h getting into one scrape after another. The way they worked themselves out of these various jams was contrived at times, but overall a fun story.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 17 down, 1 to go…
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: completed!
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 87

    Returning to the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter O

    For this next part of the challenge, I decided to read a book from another new author to me, The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson, published in 2017.

    In The Opposite of You, we have a story focusing on very talented chefs. Our heroine, Vera Delane, while attending culinary school in North Carolina, meets star chef, Derrek Hanover, who immediately captures her interest both professionally and personally. After graduation, this talented woman moves in with Derrek and, before long, he has managed to convince Vera to put herself in second place while he builds his own stardom with the promise that he will help her once his career is made. This relationship not only proves stifling but isolating and physically abusive for Vera and, one day, she secretly leaves Derrek, running off to Europe to work in various kitchens, building her skills. After a year abroad, Vera is notified that her father is ill with cancer. She returns to Durham, North Carolina and decides to use her limited resources to open a food truck, which she can park for free in the parking lot of her big brother’s bike shop. But, unfortunately, this parking spot is in a popular square also occupied by the illustrious restaurant, Lilou, headed by star chef and damn attractive man, Killian Quinn. This food truck sitting across from his restaurant both sparks Quinn’s curiosity and irritates him. Before long, he’s secretly testing Vera’s food and giving uninvited advice. Then, he’s doing it not so secretly while Vera defiantly confronts him, vowing not to be intimidated by or attracted to another star chef who might eat her alive again.

    If you’re a foodie, this book is for you, as there’s a great deal of talk about recipes and food combinations from these characters who are manning their own kitchens. I did enjoy that. For the first 30 or so pages of the book; however, I couldn’t get into the story because the heroine was such a Debbie Downer and so fearful about pursuing her ambitions. Finally, she gets her act together and the action picks up. Once that happens and Killian Quinn begins interacting with Vera, getting her back up, and sparking her personality, things take off. There’s a little hiccup towards the end as Vera faces Derrek again, but the middle part is good and Killian’s backstory is very interesting, and, in fact, I can see a sequel emerging based on Killian’s suave partner — and perhaps — Vera’s friend. I would give this book a B, maybe a B+.

    ******
    

The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 15 down, 3 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I, O …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    library addict
    Participant
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    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Deceiving Dante by Kate Davies:
    The heroine was a high school teacher. The hero was a police detective with the juvenile crimes division. They met when a stolen car showed up on her front lawn. He suspected one of her at risk students. The excuses used to throw them repeatedly together were flimsy at best. The subplot about the hero’s teen daughter becoming conveniently involved with the suspected student took up too much page time. The teenagers came off more as caricatures than three-dimensional characters. It was extremely vexing that the hero wouldn’t have an actual conversation with his daughter and all too often ignored her simply to further the plot. The real culprit was obvious from the moment they were first mentioned. I liked the heroine and there were a few enjoyable moments. However, the teenagers’ antics, the fact the hero acted like a jerk too often, and the anticlimactic resolution made for a very disappointing read overall.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: completed!
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
    • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
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