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    Each challenge consists of 19 books. Or if you prefer read 10 books per challenge.

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    And The Award Goes To….
    Taking themes, settings, characters, and/or other suggestions from award winning movies from the past 18 years, as well as a movie you enjoyed this year (or this coming year’s best picture winner which will be announced in February 2019) choose books from your TBR pile that fit the following requirements:

    • Gladiator (2000) – Read a romance in which a lead character is returning from war; a romance in which the lead characters are involved in sports in any way; or read a romance set in Italy for all or a portion of the story.
    • A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Read a romance with lead characters who are involved in academia in some way and/or set at a college or university; a romance in which a main character is battling a mental handicap or condition. Or, read a new adult romance.
    • Chicago (2002) – Since Chicago is a musical, read a romance set in the music industry and/or characters who are musicians; a romance set in the U.S. mid-west; a romance set in the 1920’s; or, a romance in which one or both of the lead characters are involved in or come from a “shady” background, whether grifters, skirting the law, crime families, or confidence men/women.
    • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – Read a romance in which at least one of the main characters is a member of the nobility; read a fantasy romance; or read a romance which is part of a series of any romantic sub-genre.
    • Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Read a romance in which the heroine is an athlete; a romance in which one of the lead characters is a successful self-made man or woman; or read a young adult romance.
    • Crash (2005) – Read a romance in which one or both main characters are police officers or detectives; a romance where a main character is a victim of a crime or a potential victim; a romance set on the west coast of the U.S.; and/or a romance with characters from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds as the leads.
    • The Departed (2006) – Read a romance in which a main character has gone undercover or has taken on an identity not their own; a romance involving characters who are FBI agents; a romance set in New England; Or, inspired by the title of the movie, read a romance involving a loved one dying or in which one of the main characters leaves their home to live elsewhere.
    • No Country for Old Men (2007) – Read a romance in which one or both of the lead characters is older than 40 (I know that’s not old); Read a romance set in the American west, whether an historical or contemporary.
    • Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Read a romance in which a lead character is a millionaire or billionaire, whether inherited or self-made; a romance set in Bollywood or in South Asia generally; Or, read a romance in which a lead character enters a competition and/or wins a contest.
    • The Hurt Locker (2009) – Read a romance in which one or both lead characters are in the military or are veterans; or, read a romance set during a war.
    • The King’s Speech (2010) – Read a romance in which a main character leads a country, a government, or a company; a romance involving a long term friendship between the leads; a romance featuring a lead character with a disability; and/or read a romance set during the WWII era, anywhere in the world.
    • The Artist (2011) – Read a romance in which one or both of the main characters is in the film industry; a romance in which one or both is involved in the art world in some way; or, since one of the movie’s characters is French, a romance set in France or with one or more French lead characters.
    • Argo (2012) – Read a science fiction romance; read a romance involving one or more main characters who are spies; or a romance in which one or more lead characters work for any government.
    • 12 Years a Slave (2013) – Read a romance set during any Civil War or war of rebellion; a romance in which one of the lead characters was or is in servitude; Or, inspired by the lead character in the movie, read a romance in which at least one of the main characters is a musician or who writes a book.
    • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) – Read a romance set in New York City; a romance in which one or more of the main characters are involved with the theater and/or films; a romance in which one of the lead characters is trying to make a come back after time away from a career; Or, read a romance with fantasy elements mixed with realism.
    • Spotlight (2015) – Read a romance in which one or both of the lead characters are writers or journalists; a romance set at a newspaper or magazine; a romance in which one or both leads are involved in an investigation; a romance in which either of the leads is a member of the clergy; Or, simply, read a epistolary romance.
    • Moonlight (2016) – Read a romance set in the southern United States; a romance in which the lead characters are gay; a romance in which one or both of the lead characters are African American; read a romance in which a lead character is dealing with addiction.
    • The Shape of Water (2017) – Read a romance that’s set either on the water, like on a ship, or near the water, like in a beach town; a romance set in the 1950’s; or a romance featuring a relationship between main characters of different species
    • 2018 – Read a romance inspired in some way by a film you enjoyed in 2018 *or* inspired by the movie which wins the Oscar this coming February 2019.
    • BONUS To get to your nineteen books if some of the categories listed above don’t work for you, read one or more romances inspired by a film that won best picture before the year 2000. Feel free to confer with the following list: https://m.imdb.com/chart/bestpicture/

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    The Alphabet Challenge
    S is the 19th letter of the alphabet. Read 10 or 19 books where the title or author’s name begins with the letter S.

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    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    Variation read 19 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through S.

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    Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Read any 10 or 19 books from your TBR pile

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    The 21st Century Challenge
    Read 19 books, one per year published in 2001, 2002 through 2019

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    The 20th Century Challenge
    Read 19 books, one per year published in 2000, 1999 through 1982

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    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    Read 10 or 19 books which fit the following categories:

    • N for nutrition — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is a chef, baker, caterer, etc, or owns a restaurant, diner, bakery, etc.
    • I for ignite — Read a “hot” or erotic romance. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a fireman.
    • N for Noël — Read a romance set during Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, or any other holiday.
    • E for encore — Read a romance that is part of a series which features the same main characters in each book.
    • T for transfigure — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has the ability to shift into an animal.
    • E for education — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with education, e.g. teacher, principal, school counselor, etc.
    • E for eager — Read a romance published in 2019 which you have been eagerly anticipating.
    • N for name — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s first or last name begins with the letter S (the 19th letter of the alphabet).
    • I for identity — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has amnesia. Or where the heroine and/or hero is hiding their true identity, been a victim of mistaken identity, etc.
    • N for new — Read a romance by a debut author or a romance by any author you haven’t read before. Or read a New Adult romance.
    • N for narrator — Read a romance told from first person point of view.
    • I for interconnected — Read a romance that is part of a series.
    • N for navigate — Read a romance where the heroine and hero take a road trip or travel together.
    • E for entertainment — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero works in the entertainment industry, e.g. actor, musician, director, make-up artist, producer, etc.
    • T for time — Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
    • E for enigma — Read a mystery romance or romantic suspense.
    • E for epic — Read a fantasy romance.
    • N for news — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the news industry, e.g. reporter, anchor, newspaper editor, etc.
    • C for critter — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero have a pet.
    • H for health — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the health services industry, e.g. doctor, nurse, paramedic, physical therapist, etc.
    • A for athletics — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with sports, e.g. athlete, coach, referee, team owner, etc.
    • L for laughter — Read a humorous romance.
    • L for law — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with the law, e.g. lawyer, judge, police, politician, etc.
    • E for enduring — Read a romance which features a couple who have been together for a long time and/or already married.
    • N for nudge — Read a romance that has been in your TBR for over a year.
    • G for guardian — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire-fighting organization. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a parent.
    • E for extrasensory — Read a paranormal romance.
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The 20th Century Challenge
    1982 = Midsummer Dreams by Amalia James (published May 1982):
    The heroine had given up on her acting career and recently returned to Massachusetts to run her grandparents’ inn. The hero was a Broadway director with a reputation as a user. He was in town for the summer to stage a series of outdoor plays. The hero seemed to resent the attraction he felt for the heroine and spent most of the book alternately insulting, ignoring, or kissing her. The heroine was attracted to the hero despite her determination to not like him. Cue forced proximity, multiple misunderstandings, and angst. One of the subplots involving two of the supporting characters had a totally out of the blue resolution and the subplot with her grandparents was tedious. The book felt dated at times, both the h/h’s attitudes could be irksome, and the hero definitely needed to grovel more, but I liked parts.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 1 down, 18 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    A = Storm Warning by Toni Anderson:
    I read this author’s Sea of Suspicion back in 2010. I didn’t realize this book was connected since they were both marketed/labeled as stand-alones back when I purchased them. I was also expecting another romantic suspense so was surprised by the paranormal elements. The heroine was working on her PhD. The hero suspected her of being part of a drug ring. He knew it was unethical to become romantically involved and the hero had legitimate reasons to suspect her, but he also jumped to conclusions and looked for ulterior motives, so my sympathy was more with the heroine. Despite the shaky bed of lies their relationship was built on, their HEA was believable. There were too many scenes from the villain’s POV and their identity obvious from early on. I enjoyed the Scottish setting and characters more than the suspense plot.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 1 down, 18 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    E for epic — Read a fantasy romance.
    Warrior of the World by Jeffe Kennedy:
    The final book in this trilogy opened with the heroine recovering from the events in book two. The romance finally took center stage, though this book was still very much her story. I loved seeing the heroine truly come into her own, grapple with her past, and find her balance. It was also gratifying to spend more time with the hero’s family. Plus more elephants! No spoilers, but I am now even more anxiously awaiting the final book in the Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms series. An endearing romance with a nice blend of personal exploration, family dynamics, courtship, and humor.

    E for enigma — Read a mystery romance or romantic suspense
    Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz:
    The lucid dreaming subplot and the power of positive thinking reminded me of several of the author’s past books. After so much buildup, the resolution of the trilogy’s main mystery was somewhat lackluster. Thankfully were a few twists in the latter half of the book as well as plenty of humor. I enjoyed the h/h and their romance, but not quite an instant favorite.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    Thought I had posted this yesterday,,,

    The 20th Century Challenge
    1983 = Matching Wits by Carla Neggers (published May 1983):
    The heroine was a lawyer with her family’s firm who moonlighted for the historical society trying to save an old hotel from demolition. The hero was the developer with plans to tear down it down. He continually threatened to have her fired, but since his demand was obviously a plot device it was easy to overlook. He also told her he liked the fact she stood up to him. I loved that there was never a question she’d have to give up her career or change. Dated, but overall a fun enemy-to-lovers story.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas
    The Queen’s Gambit by Jessie Mihalik:
    The heroine was queen of a ragtag group of refugees and rogues who had fled the decades-long war between two rival galactic empires. The hero was the newly crowned emperor of one of the empires. He’d been captured, so her plan was to rescue him and then ransom him back to his world to help her starving people. But of course things did not go according to plan. The political machinations of the hero’s advisors were alluded to, but that subplot went unresolved. The romance was barely hinted at, but since this was the first of a series I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Parts of the resolution took place off-page, but that was obviously due to the limitations of the story’s first person POV. An entertaining read.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    B = Bad Keys by JB Curry:
    The heroine was working on her PhD and a soon-to-be-ex-swimsuit model who was helping the US Fish and Wildlife Department apprehend an ivory smuggler. The hero was a piano tuner from Minnesota on the trail of a former associate who had stolen something he needed back. Due to a case of mistaken identity and assumptions each suspected the other so they definitely got off on the wrong foot. But soon they were working together to find the bad guys while various hijinks ensued. The humor didn’t always for me. An uneven but overall fun romance with likeable main characters.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    N for nutrition — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is a chef, baker, caterer, etc, or owns a restaurant, diner, bakery, etc.
    Dancing Season by Carla Neggers – heroine is a chef:
    The heroine’s boyfriend was a ballet star in town for the summer season. She wanted to make their relationship permanent but was ambivalent about moving to NYC since she’d just opened her own café and bakery. Things became complicated when her older brother’s bff suddenly took an interest in her as well. The heroine’s brothers, sister-in-law, bff, and mother all treated her shabbily at varying points. I loathed the so-called hero. Published in 1983, there was an old-school vibe to the story, but there was never any kind of forced seduction and it was refreshing that the heroine and her bff both had sex lives beyond the “heroes” they ended up with and no one batted an eye. But the hero’s attitude and behavior was irksome, even more so since we were meant to see him as one of the good guys (can’t say more without major spoilers). A very disappointing read.

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    A Beautiful Mind (2001) — Read a romance with lead characters who are involved in academia in some way and/or set at a college or university; a romance in which a main character is battling a mental handicap or condition. Or, read a new adult romance.
    Finding Abigail by Carrie Ann Ryan — heroine is a teacher:
    This was obviously part of a series, but I didn’t read any of the earlier books. The hero was a small-town sheriff. He didn’t believe in love which proved an issue when he turned into one of Cupid’s helpers. The heroine planned to leave town as she felt she had no future there. Neither knew a curse was preventing him from seeing her as his one true love. The premise was interesting, but the book fell apart early on. The villain was cartoonish. Something happened to the heroine, but the repercussions weren’t actually explored. There were multiple mentions from the h/h about how she was not like other girls. Another disappointing read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 1 down, 18 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 76

    Starting with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge (and hopefully I’ll get through the entire thing this year):

    Letter S

    For letter “S,” I read Joanna Shupe’s A Notorious Vow, which was published in 2018 and was chosen to read by my book group.

    This story is part of Shupe’s Four Hundred Series which references the 400 families on the social register during the Gilded Age in the United States, or more specifically New York. It also was, allegedly, the number of people able to fit into Mrs. Astor’s ballroom. So, based upon that background, A Notorious Vow is set in New York City in the year 1890, but it does not involve people who are a part of the 400 families.

    Our hero, Oliver Hawkes, although incredibly wealthy, suffered from an illness at 13 years old and lost his hearing. As such, he has become a bit of a recluse, keeping to his grand house and grounds in New York, while working on inventing a small hearing aid that the deaf and hard of hearing can wear. Our heroine, Lady Christina Barclay, is from a family which is ostensibly a part of the British aristocracy, but her parents have squandered their money and reputation in England. So, they’ve absconded to New York in order for Christina to capture a rich husband who would also be thrilled to be connected to a titled Brit and/or have a young wife. Problem is, Christina has been emotionally and mentally beaten down by her mother, is basically a pawn, and has become quite withdrawn, nervous, and terrified of interacting in society. Nonetheless, Christina’s parents have pushed her to accept the marriage offer of a much, much older wealthy New Yorker who has out-lived a few wives and is interested in siring more children and basically sees Christina as a brood mare.

    To escape her parents, Christina has taken to breaking into the garden of the next door neighbor, who just happens to be the wealthy recluse, Oliver Hawkes. When Oliver discovers Christina, he is eager to get her out of his gardens and his life, while Christina begs for sanctuary. Before long, Christina’s parents discover where she’s been spending time and demands they marry — especially since they hope to attain some of the wealth of the deaf recluse. They’re not the only ones after Oliver’s money. A cousin has also been demanding a part of Oliver’s fortune and will stop at nothing — even getting Oliver declared mentally deficient — to assert his claims.

    After learning what Christina has been facing, Oliver reluctantly agrees to help her, but on his own terms which will make their marriage one in name only, but will that bargain last? Can Christina’s parents be bought off? Will Oliver’s cousin give up his quest? And will Christina and Oliver help each other to face the world as a couple.

    I am a huge fan of Gilded Age historicals and this is a very interesting premise, not only including someone with a disability, but highlighting how deaf people were treated and what inventions were being developed during that period. So, I was really much more interested in Oliver’s part of the story. Christina’s, on the other hand, was more old school romance — a titled young lady “being sold” by her family. Plus, Christina’s deeply introverted personality made me a bit impatient. I kept hoping she would gain more of a backbone, but — although she has to step up to help Oliver in the end — she still seems to be so reticent and leaves much of the work to Oliver’s attorney and friend, Frank. She frustrated me because she never seemed to really take full control of her life. For that reason, I’d give this a B or B-.

    ******

    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 1 down, 18 (or maybe 9) to go (S …)


    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    The Hurt Locker (2009) — Read a romance in which one or both lead characters are in the military or are veterans; or, read a romance set during a war.
    Edge of Survival by Toni Anderson — hero is former SAS:
    The helicopter pilot hero was cruel to the biologist heroine on multiple occasions to drive her away. However, she was aware of his motivation and determined that they would become friends. The murder mystery was bland as the main villain was obvious. The minor villain had far too many POV scenes and then never got a comeuppance which was extremely vexing. I wish the subplot about the lead RCMP detective had been more deeply explored. Despite issues with the way the romance’s black moment and the resolution of the suspense plot played out, I liked the h/h as a couple. I just wish I could’ve liked the book as a whole more than I did.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    N for name — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s first or last name begins with the letter S (the 19th letter of the alphabet).
    Playing for Keeps by Jill Shalvis – heroine’s name is Sadie:
    The h/h each had baggage from their pasts. They both tended to overreact and jump to conclusions, but also knew this was something they needed to work on. I loved the hero’s sisters and the way he interacted with his family. The heroine’s family also played a significant role. The conflicts were all internal, so their repeated misunderstandings seemed forced after a while. But overall a nice blend of humor and angst with very likeable leads and a fun dog. Another solid entry in this series.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 76

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter M

    For letter “M,” I read Courtney Milan’s Trade Me, published in 2015.

    This story started off with a pretty unrealistic premise. In Trade Me, Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds are two 20-somethings attending college in northern California. Tina is a working class Chinese American, who is also pre-med. Blake Reynolds is the only child of an extremely wealthy CEO of a high tech company who is on hiatus from the company in order to finish his studies. Blake’s father, however, is not terribly interested in seeing his son complete his degree. He, himself, was a drop out and became a billionaire by founding a tech company and developing extremely popular tech products, and he’d like his son to return to the fold and — sooner rather than later — take over as CEO of Cyclone. Tina also has parental problems, but of a different sort. Tina’s parents struggle from paycheck to paycheck, but instead of being careful with money, Tina’s mother often uses her last dollar to help new immigrants and others with their legal problems. If not for Tina earning money between classes and pinching her own pennies, her family’s bills would pile up.

    With those enormously different backgrounds, Tina and Blake get into a debate in class over poverty programs and their effects on the poor which turns into a heated argument. Afterwards, they continue their discussion and Blake makes Tina a proposition. They will switch places for a few weeks. He’ll live in her apt., do her job, live on her income, while Tina and her roommate can move into Blake’s expensive home, use his car, and even have access to a new product being developed by Cyclone so that she can help to develop a launch presentation for the product.

    That’s the part which is a bit unbelievable and it stretches the imagination a bit that they could get away with it, except Tina and Blake pretend to be a couple in order for Blake’s father to accept Tina’s knowledge about their company’s new product and for Tina’s parents not to question her new found access to such things as a $60,000 Tesla. After this initial switch, things get interesting as Tina and Blake begin to understand each other’s problems more and get emotionally and physically closer. Towards the end of the story, the whole thing takes quite a serious and dramatic turn when Blake and Tina reveal their vulnerabilities and, subsequently, face a life threatening incident involving Blake’s father as well as a threat to Tina’s reputation and hopes for the future. For me, while the beginning of this story was a little out there, the ending made up for it. I give the story a “B”.

    ******

    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 2 down, 17 to go (M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) — Read a romance in which at least one of the main characters is a member of the nobility; read a fantasy romance; or read a romance which is part of a series of any romantic sub-genre.
    Oria’s Enchantment by Jeffe Kennedy — fantasy, h/h both members of the nobility:
    The long-awaited penultimate book in this series had a slow start, but soon picked up. The h/h continued their journey along with her dragon familiar and his stalwart warhorse. Of course things did not go according to their plans. The heroine had to face her greatest fear. The normally optimistic hero briefly lost faith in himself. I appreciated that the h/h talked through their issues for the most part so there were no convenient misunderstandings simply to cause conflict. While the political machinations of others ultimately drove the plot, it was in the background for much of the story. The focus was more on the h/h each coming to terms with themselves. The hero’s mother was a welcomed addition to the ensemble. The latter half of the story had some interesting twists and the ending definitely left me wanting more. Looking forward to the final book.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    I for ignite — Read a “hot” or erotic romance. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a fireman.
    Flare Up by Shannon Stacey — hero is a fireman:
    We first met this h/h earlier in this series. Their initial romance and breakup was a subplot in books four and five, so it was nice they finally had their own story. The heroine’s reasons for leaving were understandable as was the hero’s initial reluctance to trust her again. Yet their feelings for one another were an undeniable force neither could ignore, so they were determined to give their relationship another try. Their road to learning to trust again and communicate more effectively was filled with angst, joy, and humor. The story also focused on their friendships, so catching up with the large cast of characters from earlier books was well-integrated. I appreciated the way the subplot about her ex was resolved (trying to avoid spoilers). Overall, a wonderful reunion romance and fitting conclusion to the Boston Fire series.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 5 down, 14 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    The Departed (2006) — Read a romance in which a main character has gone undercover or has taken on an identity not their own; a romance involving characters who are FBI agents; a romance set in New England; Or, inspired by the title of the movie, read a romance involving a loved one dying or in which one of the main characters leaves their home to live elsewhere.
    Dream Images by Amalia James — set in Vermont:
    The heroine was working on her master’s degree. She was in town to film a children’s documentary about maple sugaring. The hero owned an outdoors company and had had several photography books published. The hero started off as patronizing, but the heroine refused to put up with his condescending attitude. The info-dumping about maple sugaring was cleverly used as snarky dialogue between the h/h which they acknowledged was unnecessary research since they both already knew about it. The reformed workaholic hero’s overly-controlling behavior toward the end, even when his heart was in the right place, may have seemed normal when the book published in 1983, but in this day and age came off as a huge red flag. Despite this issue and a few other quibbles, overall I liked the book due to the heroine.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    L for law — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with the law, e.g. lawyer, judge, police, politician, etc.
    Do-or-Die Bridesmaid by Julie Miller – hero is a police detective:
    The hero’s ex-fiancée had started seeing his bff after she’d dumped him. Despite knowing it wasn’t true, he felt they’d both betrayed him so was reluctant to attend their wedding. The h/h left the wedding and discovered her bff’s body. There was some unnecessary confusion with the timeline which could’ve easily been cleared up with a line or two or dialogue. It was irksome that the heroine acted foolishly simply to forward the plot. Despite viable suspects her harasser was obvious from the start so the mystery fell flat. The heroine was the hero’s ex’s younger sister. She’d always had a crush on him. The romance felt super rushed. Mostly I was left with the feeling they all would have benefited from counseling. A very disappointing read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 6 down, 13 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 76

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “D”

    For letter “D,” I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, published in 1951, which is a bit of a cheat since this is not a romance, but a mystery. One of the best, in fact. However, nothing in this particular instruction says it must be a romance and this book has been in my TBR pile for quite some time….

    In any event, The Daughter of Time is a fairly short book of 185 pages, but it’s dense in information about British royal history, dating back to Richard II.
     
    I’m not familiar with Tey’s other work, so I was unaware that the protagonist of this mystery, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, is the lead in a series of detective novels written by this author. I came to the book strictly by virtue of its focus, i.e., an investigation into whether Richard III really did order the killing of his two princely nephews residing in the Tower of London, as well as the disposal of other family members.
     
    The conceit of this story is pretty clever. Inspector Grant, who is laid up in a rehabilitation hospital due to a serious fall that has left him with a broken leg, has nothing to occupy his active mind. His friends and co-workers visit him, leaving behind flowers, books, and puzzles, but he’s still restless. Finally, Grant’s actress friend Marta figures out what might engage him and brings along a stack of prints of various historical figures, most of whom were the center of mysteries or conspiracies in the past. She recalls Grant’s interest in reading people, discovering whether he can look at their faces and tell what their characters and personalities might be. Through this exercise, Grant comes across a portrait of the notorious King Richard III. Initially unaware of who he is, Grant surmises that this man might be an academic, a scholar, or a judge. He’s astounded to find out the fellow is Richard III, and he toys with the notion that maybe “historians” have gotten it wrong about him, intentionally or not.
     
    When Marta sees Grant’s interest in revisiting the history of Richard, she asks a young American man, who has been dating a fellow actress, to stop in and see Grant. Brent Carradine, when not hanging around the theater waiting on his lady love, has been doing historic research at the British Museum. Once Brent visits Grant, he is delighted to help him, and soon enough, they work together to ferret out letters, diaries, and documents, contemporary to Richard’s time, to try and discover the real man, rather than relying on historical accounts written decades later by third parties with axes to grind or personages to protect.
     
    Through this fascinating exercise, Tey paints a compelling account of the relationships between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. And, most importantly, focuses on familial relationships,  revealing the true nature of Richard III and his usurper Henry VII. Frankly, afterwards, you will never look at historical accounts the same way again. This was an entertaining “A+” read for me. The only downside was the fact that there were so many “Henrys,” “Edwards,” and “Richards” in the family, that there were times one needed to re-read paragraphs and review the royal family tree over and over. (Fortunately, one was included in the book.) But in the end, you might find yourself doing some independent research of your own, as you find yourself questioning all of your assumptions about the infamous Richard.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go (D, M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    E for enduring — Read a romance which features a couple who have been together for a long time and/or already married.
    Connections in Death by JD Robb – h/h are married:
    The latest in this long-running series had a different structure and pacing than usual. The book started with a party where we had the chance to catch up with most of the series’ regulars. We were also treated to a small glimpse of Roarke’s work day. After this meandering start, the story kicked into gear with the discovery of an apparent overdose. While the case overall was average and more of a procedural ‘how do they prove it’ rather than a mystery whodunit, I enjoyed the book for all of the personal interactions. I loved seeing more of particular favorites Nadine and Caro. It was also nice to get more of Crack and the introduction of his lady love. Another solid entry in the series.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    P = Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik:
    The heroine was an on-the-run princess. The hero was a fugitive with a large bounty on his head. They met when each were taken prisoner. Set in the far distant future, the story was a good balance of romance, action, political intrigue, and the bonds of family—both the kind you’re born into and the type you create for yourself. The fact the story was told solely from the heroine’s POV meant there were some events that happened off page which I would have liked to have known more about. The main romance was slow to develop due to trust issues. I loved that the h/h took turns rescuing each other. They each overreacted at times, but owned their mistakes and made the effort to share and communicate more effectively. The story also included a lovely secondary romance I wish had had more page time. We were introduced to the h/h of the next book, but the sequel-bait was well-integrated into the plot. Overall an absorbing and delightful read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 7 down, 12 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 194

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    The Shape of Water (2017) — Read a romance that’s set either on the water, like on a ship, or near the water, like in a beach town; a romance set in the 1950’s; or a romance featuring a relationship between main characters of different species
    Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland — heroine is human, hero is a dragon shifter:
    We were immediately introduced to a large group of characters and it took me a few chapters to keep everyone straight. The heroine unintentionally met a group of dragon shifters and ended up saving the hero’s life. Since the dragons were at war, they took her with them into hiding to save her life. The hero believed human women were untrustworthy due to spoilerish reasons. Neither the h/h were happy to discover they were fated mates. There was some effort to explore this, but the characters tended to talk in circles. I appreciated that not all of the good guy characters started off as likeable. The author had several of the characters act foolishly simply to further the plot which was irksome. The death of one of the secondary characters was telegraphed very early on. Nonetheless it felt emotionally manipulative and, as evidenced by a conversation between characters late in the story, proved unnecessary for the plot so I was left more angry than sad. On the plus side, I did like the main h/h overall, the secondary h/h, and most of the other characters plus there was a lot of humor. This book basically served as set up for the overarching story and little was resolved. So an uneven read, but still an intriguing start to the trilogy.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    I for interconnected — Read a romance that is part of a series.
    Shadow of Flame by Caitlyn McFarland– book two in Dragonsworn trilogy:
    The characters never dealt with the repercussions of the manipulative death of the character from book one. Divided loyalties took center stage as the main h/h attempted to navigate the political machinations of many secondary characters and his enemies came out of the proverbial woodwork. It was extremely frustrating neither the main hero nor heroine made an effort to talk to the other simply because their lack of communication provided conflict. The main heroine continued to be too passive which added to the frustration. Thankfully she eventually decided to be proactive. A lot of page time was spent setting up a tertiary romance which I didn’t care about. There was also a lot of page time from various villains’ POVs. The secondary romance took an unsurprising twist that was hinted at in book one, but I had hoped to be wrong about. The spy was obvious and it was disconcerting that the main characters never suspected the correct individual. A subplot involving the hero’s sisters did have a few surprises. So despite the frustrating first half and issues with some of the subplots, overall I enjoyed this book for the stronger second half. Also, I was happy that I had book 3 to start right away since this book ended on a cliffhanger.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    M = Truth of Embers by Caitlyn McFarland:
    I appreciated that the main h/h were finally on the same page and worked as a team. The secondary couple was my favorite of the trilogy, so I was happy that events from the second book didn’t derail their romance. I wish they’d had more page time together in this book. There was another major character murder, but at least this time it could be considered integral to the plot. I liked the heroine in the angsty tertiary romance but remained meh on the hero. His ‘lying for your own good’ attitude and casual hurtfulness were annoying. Thankfully he eventually cleaned up his act. The issue of the heroine’s human family was finally addressed somewhat. One of the secondary characters from the first book remained too much in the background, but at least had a few good scenes to give some closure to her story arc. The author’s attempts to redeem one of the villains simply did not work for me in the slightest and it was wearisome to again spend so much time in his POV. Other villains weren’t redeemed at all but also didn’t face any actual consequences for their evil deeds (including the aforementioned murder) which was unsatisfactory. There were some interesting plot twists throughout. The overarching war plot was resolved, but several subplots were left open-ended. Despite these issues, this was my favorite of the trilogy.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 11 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 5 down, 14 to go…
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