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  • Sandlynn
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    Post count: 84

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “G”

    For letter “G,” I read a book that was offered to me as an advance readers’ edition. Tracey Garvis Graves’ The Girl He Used to Know will be released in April 2019.

    Graves’ story alternates between two time lines and two different points of view within those time lines. In 1991, Annika Rose is attending the University of Illinois, studying library science. What makes Annika different is that she suffers from a developmental disability that challenges her social skills, her personal behavior, and sometimes has her retreating into herself. With the help of her parents and a sympathetic roommate, Annika has been managing her college life and trying to fit in. Additionally, she volunteers at a wildlife rehab center and participates in a chess club, although she plays with the same opponent every week and never socializes with any of the members. Entering Annika’s world is Jonathan Hoffman who is a transfer student, studying finance. He also plays chess. Annika’s usual partner asks her to play with Jonathan, despite the fact that she has no interest. However, Jonathan is attracted to the very pretty chess player and so begins their relationship. Before long, Jonathan invites Annika to join him in other social situations and they grow closer, eventually becoming intimate and planning a life together beyond college.

    In 2001, Annika is a librarian at a public library in Chicago. She surprisingly runs into Jonathan at a local grocery store. Jonathan has recently moved back to Illinois from New York City where he has been working in finance and has recently divorced. Apparently, their plans as a couple, during their college years, did not come to fruition and they tentatively reconnect. Jonathan is especially cautious as he feels burned from the past — both in terms of his first love, Annika, and his ex-wife, Liz. As Jonathan gets to know this newer Annika who has become more capable and Annika gets to explain herself and her decisions to Jonathan, they — again — get closer. Will it end differently for them a decade later?

    First off, I enjoyed this book and, in fact, what I wanted was more. I wanted more about Annika’s disability. The reader only learns later in the book what Annika’s diagnosis is and that her father also suffers from the same condition. She mentions that her disability could be hereditary. I didn’t know that was possible. So, I was ready to be educated. The second thing I wanted more of was … the ending, possibly an epilogue. If the reader focuses on the second time frame, the fact that Jonathan becomes a financier from New York City, you might guess what happens and what challenges the couple’s happiness. So, yeah, I wasn’t sure how that would work out and I could’ve used a little more story…. That being said, this is a good romance. I’d give it an A-.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 4 down, 15 to go (D, G, M, S …)

    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “H”

    For letter “H,” I read a novella that was chosen by my book group, Talia Hibbert’s Mating the Huntress, published in 2018.

    Mating the Huntress is a 136 page paranormal that has hints of the The Little Red Riding Hood/Big Bad Wolf story line. Chastity, aka Chas, works in her family’s diner, but that’s not all her family does. They are also a family of huntresses. Although it’s unclear whether her father and brothers are involved in this extracurricular activity – ergo huntresses — Chas’ mother and sisters are all fearless hunters of beings that turn into werewolves during the phase of the full moon, slaughtering innocents. At her birth, Chas’ family was warned by an Oracle that her heart would be torn out by her first kill. As such, to Chas’ dismay and frustration, her family has forbidden her from pursuing her own calling as a huntress. One day, a handsome, strangely quiet, and brooding man enters the diner. He comes back time and time again, watching Chas closely. Despite herself, Chas finds herself anticipating the man’s visits, attracted by his presence, but there’s something about him that seems unnatural and she begins to suspect he’s a werewolf.

    Luke has been living a solitary life in a cottage in the woods, not far from Chas’ family’s diner. During a full moon, he finds himself being pursued by one of Chas’ sisters. Oddly, he is drawn to her, and although he manages to catch her, he is confused by his feelings. This is not the right person, but she’s wearing a garment on which his senses have picked up the scent of someone special … his fated mate. Tearing a piece off and letting the woman go, he tracks down the rightful owner of the garment at a diner in a town nearby. Somehow, he’s going to have to convince this human woman – who comes from a family of huntresses – that they are mates for life.

    I don’t often read paranormal romances, nor am I too fond of novellas. I usually feel that the length of a novella is not adequate for a good story. But, in this case, Hibbert does a very good job of offering a satisfying story in a shorter amount of pages. I also enjoyed how humorous the book was, not taking itself too seriously nor being overly gruesome. It had a fairytale quality about it that kept it light, despite the horror elements. That all being said, I really wish Hibbert had done a full length novel or maybe a series. I would’ve enjoyed having Luke and Chas’ families react to their relationship and I would’ve enjoyed learning more about this world. How did Luke come to be able to tame his beastly side in comparison to other werewolves? Is *his* family special in that way? How did Chastity’s family come to be huntresses? What other types of beings inhabit this world? So many questions. Clearly, I liked this enough to have craved a bit more. I’ll give this story a “B”.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 5 down, 14 to go (D, G, H, M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    N = Archangel’s Prophecy by Nalini Singh:
    I read this entire series for the first time over the past two weeks (Though full disclosure I had previously read book 8 when it released in 2015 as well as some of the author’s newsletter short stories.) The main h/h’s romance was already well established in the first two books and remained steadfast here. The mystery of who attempted to kill the heroine’s brother-in-law was more interesting for the “why” than for the “who.” The main plot centered on the heroine’s health regression from immortal back to mortal. We were left with plenty of questions, but I don’t think the ending actually qualified as a cliffhanger (nevertheless I am anxiously awaiting the next book). More angsty than usual, but overall an absorbing read.

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    From Here to Eternity (1953) — Read a romance that’s set in Hawaii
    Fierce Justice by Piper J Drake:
    The hero had a lackadaisical attitude about his job, but had quit the security firm he’d worked for when we met him in the previous book due to their decision to turn a blind eye to the human trafficking perpetrated by one of their top clients. The heroine was a sniper who worked at a different security firm which normally specialized in search and rescue. Though they agreed to have a one-night stand, they each then wanted to take the time to get to know one another. Their romance was complicated by the fact neither was good at communicating when it came to their personal lives. I liked the hero, but it was the heroine who made the book for me. She was brilliant at her job, prickly, smart, and caring, yet saw herself as too violent and brusque. Her dog was one of my favorites from this series. The fact a conversation toward the end very quickly snowballed into a break-up as they each shut down and pushed each other away could have seemed contrived, but it was so in keeping with both of their characters that it worked. Though the HEA was solid, the ending felt rushed. Part of me wishes there’d been an epilogue, so I am hopeful we’ll see the h/h again in the next book of the series. The suspense plot was basically a continuation of the previous book. But despite my quibbles with that fact and the rushed ending, overall a very enjoyable read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 5 down, 14 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: 6 down, 13 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    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.
    Heart on a String by Carla Neggers – hero is a heart surgeon:
    The heroine’s father and sister had asked the hero to look in on her when he went to Boston to give a keynote speech. She had dropped out of medical school to become a puppeteer so was considered kooky by her über-successful family. The h/h were immediately attracted, but she felt he would eventually see her as inappropriate and/or all of his time would be dedicated to his career as her father’s had been. The hero did not have any POV scenes and his behavior was kept deliberately opaque so most of the issues were the heroine’s. Since he rarely reacted the way she assumed he would, most of the issues then seemed to be only in her head. I enjoyed the heroine’s relationships with her parents and siblings and her growing understanding that they were truly proud of her and didn’t begrudge her change of career the way she’d believed. The romance was engaging with plenty of humor, but the lack of communication solely to cause conflict made this a middle-of-the-road read overall.

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    Grand Hotel (1932) — Read a romance that’s set at a hotel or a romance where the characters are strangers who meet in a group
    In the Dark by Judith Arnold — set at a fictional hotel:
    I purchased the multi-author Hotel Marchand series for the 12-in-2012 Midnight Challenge but it’s remained buried in my TBR pile. In this first book, the hero had been hired to protect the heroine, unbeknownst to her. A lot of page time was taken up introducing future lead characters as well as setting up the on-going mystery. The heroine thought the emails she was receiving were a joke and refused to tell anyone or ask for help. The hero often lectured himself about how unethical it was to become involved with her, but did anyway and so needed to grovel more. I liked the h/h when they weren’t acting daft just to move the plot along, but overall I wanted to like the book more than I did. A disappointing read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 5 down, 14 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 10 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 7 down, 12 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    It Happened One Night (1934) — Read a romance featuring an heiress
    The Setup by Marie Ferrarella – heroine is an heiress:
    This book took place concurrently with the first book. The hero’s sixteen-year-old daughter fixed him up on a blind date using a dating service. She knew her father didn’t present well “on paper” so fudged his details a bit. The heroine’s sisters signed her up for the dating service. She was a free-spirited artist currently managing her family hotel’s art gallery. She had a three-year-old daughter. The heroine referring to an odious actor as her “ideal” kept throwing me out of the story. We were given confirmation the suspect from the first book was a bad guy. Sadly, he was a whiny brat who knew he was in the wrong but wanted revenge for his loser father. I had zero sympathy for him since some of his so-called pranks could have seriously injured people. That subplot was left dangling and there was entirely too much page time from his POV. The romance was super rushed, but this was addressed on page so the HEA was believable. It helped that the h/h were both older (he was 47, she was 35). The mystery was underdeveloped and the resolution was beyond anti-climactic and totally ridiculous. A last minute subplot was introduced then resolved too quickly resulting in some unnecessary, over the top drama. I rolled my eyes a lot. But the romance had such a sense of fun it made for an enjoyable read despite the plot issues.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    L = The Unknown Woman by Laurie Paige:
    This book also took place concurrently with the first two books in the series. The hero found a dead body in his hotel room during a blackout. The heroine had met the dead woman earlier that day and felt a connection to her. So when no one claimed the body, they arranged for her cremation and to scatter her ashes. Some of the research was well-integrated into the story, but most of the voodoo facts and “what to see and do while in New Orleans” came off as pure info dumping. The heroine was a dental hygienist, the hero a wine critic. They each wanted more than a vacation fling but didn’t want to be presumptuous. I liked the heroine. The hero wasn’t a bad guy but he too often made decisions and did things to “spare” the heroine only telling her after the fact. The deceased woman was the most intriguing character and I wanted more for her. An uneven read overall.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 10 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 8 down, 11 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    Oops, the count for the Alphabet Challenge Variation should be 6 down, 13 to go… (not 12).

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    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.
    Damage Control by Kristi Gold — hero is a director:
    Prior to the start of the book, the hero dumped the heroine and quit the movie they’d been developing. Even though he’d been in breach of contract this had no negative repercussions on him professionally, whereas it destroyed her career as a producer. Of course, he hadn’t bothered to wonder what happened when his lawyers used her as a scapegoat or attempted to contact her for three years. She deserved more than a cursory verbal apology. His reasons for not being honest about why he’d left were flimsy. He needed to grovel and actually talk to the heroine about his regrets rather than simply lamenting his actions in his internal monologues. He eventually did somewhat but not nearly enough. He told himself he’d do whatever was necessary to make things up to her, then turned around and unfairly blamed her more than once. The reader knew he regretted his actions both then and now, but it wasn’t made as clear to the heroine so it felt she forgave him too easily. The whiny bad guy continued to have too many POV scenes. The hero’s nephew conveniently went on play dates or sleepovers whenever the hero needed to spend time alone with the heroine. The subplot with his sister wasn’t as developed as it could have been, but at least there was on-page resolution. I liked the heroine and rooted for her HEA with the hero. I just wish the author hadn’t had the hero run hot and cold solely to provide conflict. Another uneven read I wanted to like more.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 6 down, 13 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 10 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 9 down, 10 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “A”

    For the letter “A,” I decided to read my first Jennifer Armentrout novel. The book is called “Wait for You,” published in 2013, and she’s writing under the name J. Lynn.

    19 year old Avery Morgansten, who is from a wealthy Texas family, decides to travel to West Virginia to attend college. Her decision to go so far out of state is driven by an incident that happened when she was 14. Sexually assaulted by the son of her parents’ friends, Avery is pressured to not press charges, to take a pay-off, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. But the incident was known in the community and Avery suffers censure and derision. At the college in West Virginia, Avery keeps to herself. However, in her Astronomy class she literally runs into a young man who looks like just the kind of guy Avery has vowed to sidestep. Cameron Hamilton is popular, handsome, and looks like a jock. Cameron is attracted to Avery, wants to get to know her, and tries his best to draw her out. But doing so is a long, difficult process and Cameron has his own past demons to overcome, which might frighten Avery away.

    What I liked about this story is that this is a romance that was well-earned. This couple really struggled to be and remain together (on Cameron’s part) and to trust (on Avery’s part). There were a number of set backs and, at times, I became impatient with Avery. She obviously had a lot to overcome and was still being tortured by her past, sometimes literally, but through her distrust and fear, she pushed people beyond what one might think they could endure and put up with her. For that reason I gave this story a “B+”. However, I believed in their romance and could see them making it together.

    ******



    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 6 down, 13 to go (A, D, G, H, M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    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.
    Bourbon Street Blues by Maureen Child — heroine is a singer:
    The h/h originally met when she sang at his wedding ten years prior to the start of the story. She’d never told him about walking in on his bride-to-be having sex with someone not-the-groom before the ceremony. They met again when he saw her singing in a hotel bar. His soon-to-be-ex-wife was a one-dimensional caricature. They’d married as a business arrangement, but the clichéd “my ex is evil so all women are bad” subplot did not reflect well on the hero. I wish we’d met the hero’s sister on page as she was the most intriguing character in the book. I had many issues with the plot, including the hero’s awful behavior at multiple points and the heroine’s decision toward the end (probably too spoilery, but oh well!). So dissatisfying. I wanted my time back.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    E for extrasensory — Read a paranormal romance.
    Toxic Game by Christine Feehan:
    The hero was infected with a virus during a rescue mission. He stayed behind in an effort to kill as many of the small-time villains who were holding another village hostage as possible. During one excursion he was shot and rescued by the heroine, who was then exposed to the virus. The story started strong, but then went from point A to point B to point C with no surprises. The very late introduction of a new set of wanna-be big bad guys felt shoe-horned in and lacked any sense of danger. Of course the original villain from book one was also still in play, but his subplot will obviously never end. There were a lot of repetitive phrases and internal monologues. The ending dragged. So despite some positives, overall another disappointing read in this long-running series.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 6 down, 13 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “E”

    My book group decided to read Rachel Spangler’s Edge of Glory, published in 2017. So, I decided that I would use it for my letter “E” in this challenge.

    Edge of Glory is very much a sports romance. The two lead characters, as well as most of their friends and associates are either Olympic athletes, trainers, or managers. Twenty-five year old Elise Brandeis is a world class skier who is expected to medal, if not win the gold, at the Sochi Olympics. However, due to a terrible accident that injures her leg, she misses the podium and ends up in the hospital, possibly out of competitive skiing forever. Other than her trainer, Paolo, everyone abandons Elise. But, considering she’s been a loner, who has held herself apart and worked alone diligently, she’s not fazed by the abandonment, as much as by the thought that no one expects her to return, nor win a race again. Even her wealthy parents, who were there for her financially, if not emotionally, have basically given up on her. However, through hard work and with the approval of medical authorities, Elise and Paolo are given the go ahead to begin training again at an Olympic facility in New York state. There Elise meets a fellow athlete and team very unlike her own. Corey LaCroix is a Olympic medalist and world champion snowboard cross racer. Corey’s event had been fairly new to the Olympics, so the beginning of her career was spent at events like the X-games. Like her sport, Corey is wild, uninhibited, and edgy. She’s been known to party hard as much as she is known for winning. However, at the age of thirty, Corey is beginning to feel the youngsters in her sport breathing down her neck, and she’s also been feeling the need to party less and be more selective with whom she spends her time. Still, Corey, her manager/sister, Holly and her trainer, Nate, engage much more with their fellow athletes. And, in fact, when Elise arrives at the training facility, Corey senses an immediate attraction and vows to get to know “the ice queen”. As they each try to prepare for races that will decide whether they make the next U.S. Olympic team, they tentatively get to know one another, their training techniques, and most importantly begin to build a friendship which promises more. But, can Elise trust herself to a “wild child” who has been known to love and leave them? Can Corey convince Elise that she’s changed her ways and to give her a chance? How will their individual competitive drives and goals affect their relationship, especially as they reach separate milestones in their lives?

    The author of this book must have done a tremendous amount of research in training and competing in these two winter sports. A huge part of the story is how these two athletes train, prepare themselves, and compete. Even though Elise and Corey’s romance is a important part of the plot, it often takes a back seat to the separate issues facing them as athletes, as well as their relationships with their trainers, family, and friends. An interesting subplot involves a young 17 year old snowboarder who is challenging Corey’s reign, but who also hero worships her. Corey eventually takes Nikki under her wing and she, too, becomes a part of their posse, and a friend to Corey and Elise. The romance, itself, is rather low key through two-thirds of the book but heats up towards the end, when events begin to snowball – pardon the pun. To be honest, I had mix feelings about this story. I so appreciated all the research and time that went into the building of this world, but it is slow going in the beginning. When the relationships are highlighted – both the competitive ones, the friendships, and the romance – the story does take off, literally! (I especially enjoyed the Nikki character.) And, I also appreciated seeing how both characters work through the next steps in their careers, the conflicts that causes between them, and the romantic resolution. I’d give this story a B.

    ******



    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 7 down, 12 to go (A, D, E, G, H, M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    I haven’t completed The Alphabet Challenge Variation quite yet, but I have enough books I plan to read this year to do two rounds and I’ve already read my first “A” and “L” entries, so…

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise
    A = Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet:
    This book alternated POV, but I found it extremely odd that the heroine’s scenes were written in first person while the hero’s scenes were written in third. This made for some jarring transitions. The rebel heroine and her small crew were forced to wait on a planet for their ship to be repaired. The hero was the person she’d hired to do the repairs. Since the reader was aware of the hero’s secret from the start, it was obvious the heroine would discover it at an inopportune time to cause the most conflict. The author did a good job of making each of them sympathetic and yet still have valid reasons for their actions and lack of trust. The last few chapters seemed to be setting up events for book two so the plot felt like it lost focus somewhat. I was bummed that we won’t get to know one of the secondary characters better. The main villain was an evil mustache twirler, but the secondary villain was a more nuanced character. I’m curious how his story arc will play out. Also hoping the secondary romance hinted at will happen. A few plot quibbles, but overall an entertaining action-adventure story with an engaging romance. I’m looking forward to book two of the trilogy next year.

    L = Some Like it Hot by Lori Wilde: We were meant to find the opening scene funny, but their unprofessionalism made me question both the h/h’s competence. The series’ bad guy continued to sabotage things, but at least there were no POV scenes so we weren’t subjected to his whining. I had sympathy for the heroine in her belief she never quite fit in with her family, but she was overly judgmental and continually jumped to conclusions. The h/h were both exasperating for much of the book. The hero at least improved his attitude. Their romance felt routine. The book got better at the end, but overall a frustrating read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 6 down, 13 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 2 down, 17 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    J = Lonen’s Reign by Jeffe Kennedy:
    The final book in the series picked up where we left off. Having reclaimed his throne, the hero made plans to finally marry his wife according to the customs of his kingdom (they’d already married according to her kingdom’s rituals in book two). Their respite didn’t last long as the threat of war still loomed over both kingdoms. The h/h continued to work as a team along with her dragon familiar. I wanted more of the hero’s stalwart warhorse, but at least he made an appearance. All of the major plot threads were addressed but a few small questions remained. On the one hand the final battle felt rushed, but on the other it was perfectly apropos. I loved seeing the heroine embrace her hard-won command over her abilities and the hero continue to demonstrate why he was a good leader. A delightful read filled with humor and the bonds of family.

    S = Kierce by Veronica Scott: The ex-military heroine had been kidnapped from a ship where she was an engineer and imprisoned in an alien lab. The hero had been subjected to more horrible experimentation and forced to shift forms. The main bad guy was the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil scientist. The conflict changed once they’d been rescued from the lab, but the middle section of the book dragged. The hero’s woe-is-me attitude was somewhat understandable, but his rampant jealously quickly grew wearisome. I appreciated that the heroine refused to put up with it or his misguided attempt to ignore his shifting ability. It was nice to have some POV scenes from the hero of book one. It was also nice to see some of the other previous characters, either in supporting roles or quick cameos. There were parts I enjoyed, but overall an uneven read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 8 down, 11 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 2 down, 17 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “I”

    For this letter, I decided to read Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us, published in 2016, and I have to say, being a new author to me, where have you been all my life, Ms. Hoover?

    This story moves between two time lines. Twenty something Lily Bloom has just experienced a personal loss. Her father has died and she had to give the eulogy. The problem is, Lily both loved and hated her father. Although he treated her well, Lily’s father’s abuse towards her mother colored her young life affecting her adulthood. Another thing that affected her adulthood was a young man she came to know during her teen years in Maine. He was a few years older and had been kicked out of his home. Lily discovers that Atlas Corrigan has been camping out in the abandoned house behind her home and attempts to help him. As a result, their young love grows, but is cut short by the fact that Lily’s father catches Atlas in his daughter’s bedroom *and* Atlas is offered a home by an uncle in Boston. With plans to ultimately join the Marines, Atlas goes off to Boston, leaving Maine and Lily behind.

    In the present timeframe, Lily has moved to Boston. She is both mourning her father and despising him. In the midst of this, she meets a young doctor-to-be, Ryle Kincaid. Ryle is from a whole different world of familial support and money. But, he’s been chased by demons and warns Lily that he’s not interested in a relationship. However, in no time, Ryle is falling utterly in love with Lily and vice versa. Lily has also decided to leave her job and open a florist shop. By chance, she hires Ryle’s wealthy sister to help her which throws her further into Ryle’s life. Before long Lily and Ryle decide to make things permanent between them and all seems to be perfect … except, Ryle has demons — serious demons — and the revelation that Lily’s teenage crush, Atlas, has left the Marines and is in Boston, growing his own business, exacerbates the relationship between Lily and Ryle.

    This story really kept me turning the pages. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how this might end, and I do mean that. Most romances make it pretty clear what the ending will be, but not how the characters will get there. This story leaves both issues open to question. What will Lily do and how will she get there. Bad things happen and one thinks they know what Lily should do, but then you begin to feel the pull of the other character’s torments and are not too sure. As the book reminds us repeatedly, there are no bad people, only bad decisions. What decisions will Lily, Ryle, and Atlas make — especially when their pasts, presents and futures collide. I’d give his book an “A” gladly. This is an excellent, heart wrenching story, and the title quote really made me tear up.

    ******

    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 8 down, 11 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, M, S …)

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    C for critter — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero have a pet.
    Stone Bridges by Carla Neggers – hero has a dog:
    Most of the characters from the previous books put in an appearance and the others were mentioned (complete with a mini-synopsis of how they met). At times this was well-incorporated into the story—the heroine was given a cheat sheet!—but other times it was straight info-dumping. The h/h were both characters introduced earlier in the series. She had traveled extensively never staying in any one place for long. The h/h both assumed she would eventually leave town so they were reluctant to become involved despite their attraction. As a result, the romance was refreshingly slow to develop. There weren’t any major external conflicts, only subtle, internal ones. The heroine was a wine blogger-turned-innkeeper and loved to make lists. The hero was a former Marine who loved his work as a stonemason. I liked that they were both able to poke fun at themselves. After such a meandering pace the ending felt quite rushed, but the reasons for this were addressed as part of the plot. Overall a very charming addition to this long-running series.

    The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas
    The Queen’s Advantage by Jessie Mihalik:
    This was a weekly serial on the author’s website and will be available to purchase in digital soon. I normally wouldn’t have read it until completely done, but caved and started it after reading the first novella in this series in January. So I anxiously awaited each week’s installment. The heroine journeyed to the hero’s home planet to discover who was behind the attempts on his life. His character took more of a backseat this time around. Of course things didn’t quite go according to their plan. The political machinations of his advisors were front and center and they all made valid suspects. I loved the hero’s mother. While the story had a conclusion, there were numerous subplots left hanging so I’m looking forward to the next novella in the series.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 8 down, 11 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 2 down, 17 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Starting the 2019 Phonics Challenge:

    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.

    A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres, published in 2015, is an e-read story chosen by my book group. It looked interesting to me, as well, because of its unusual setting and diverse characters.

    San Andres’ story is set in 1911 in a fictional Caribbean island country. Emilia Cruz and her older sister Susana are trying to keep a roof over their heads in light of their poet father’s submersion into alcoholism after their mother died. Both women have jobs outside the home, but Emilia is not only a typist at a local company, she also secretly writes “salacious” stories about a courtesan that has been serialized in a local literary magazine. Although scandalous, the stories are extremely popular. Emilia, however, has been writing them under a pseudonym and quietly bristles at some of the criticism, especially by noted writer Ruben Torres. What Emilia does not know is that Ruben not only publicly questions the value of these stories, but, under his own pseudonym, he edits a competing journal and has published blistering reviews of Emilia’s work.

    As the story opens, Ruben has recently moved to Emilia’s town of Arroyo Blanco. He has left his home in the city behind in a dispute with his father and decides to take up residence in the small town of a school friend, Luis. However, Ruben is struggling financially and is having difficulty with his new book. So, he decides — in order to boost his fortunes — that he needs to land a coup for his magazine and find out who the mystery writer is. The problem is, he’s beginning to suspect Emilia, but he’s also beginning to fall in love with a woman he has vowed to expose.

    This is a gem of a story that has some unfortunate problems. First, I so appreciated the Caribbean setting and the focus on the local townspeople. In fact, I kind of liked the ensemble feel of the story as we get to know family, various friends, and foes. I felt the author did a good job of fleshing out some of these characters without diminishing the central story. We even spend a little time in the city from which Reuben hailed, with his family, exploring the issues that drove him away. However, some of the characters suffered from the relatively huge cast. It would’ve been nice to know more about both Emilia’s and Reuben’s fathers who are the driving forces for their children’s actions. Also, Reuben’s sister and his partner Manuel could’ve used a little more substance. So, on the one hand, I felt some characters were well drawn but others were sketchy. But, the biggest problem with the story were the numerous typographical errors that had to be the result of poor proofreading. At one point Reuben is even referred to as Roberto, so I’m guessing the author changed his name along the way. A couple of errors are okay, but when I began to lose count … that irritates me. I’d give this a “C”.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 8 down, 11 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, M, S …)

    The Phonics Challenge – 1 down, 18 to go

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by   Sandlynn.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by   Sandlynn.
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