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  • Sandlynn Sandlynn
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    Back to the Cocktail Challenge:

    Fuzzy Naval – Read a book where a character has amnesia or mental illness (PTSD, depression etc.) or where the past is a significant factor.

    For this part of the challenge, I picked up a fairly recent buy for me, Renee Carlino’s Swear on This Life, published in 2016. I think it might have been on someone’s list on this board or recommended by someone here. She is definitely a new author to me.

    We start this story with Emiline, an instructor in the writing program at a University in San Diego. She has aspirations of being a writer, but has been too busy running away from all the “interesting” aspects of her life which would be fertile ground for a successful book. As such, she’s kind of spinning her wheels, writing on more superficial topics, while her colleague/roommate gets published. What finally triggers her into action is a new bestseller on the market published by a young man named J. Colby. His story, which we read parts of throughout the first two-thirds of this novel, focuses on the impoverished life of two young kids who are neighbors in a rundown Ohio town. Both are victims of their parent’s neglect and addictions and only have each other. Colby’s story progresses from these kids’ early childish dislike to their growing young love amidst a lot of pain and misery. Emiline’s roommate reads the book and then encourages her friend to do so. When Emiline does, she recognizes immediately that this is her own story and that the author can be none other than her old friend and first love, Jason Culbertson. Although it’s wonderfully written, she’s angry that he’s taken their story and told it from *her* viewpoint, seeming to rob her of her voice. But it also opens up old wounds that she’s been nursing for years and have been holding her back. As she makes her way through the novel, Emiline finally decides to stop burying the past and confront it head on.

    I thought this story started out really well. While Emiline is reading the book, we live through her dirt poor upbringing, her angry alcoholic father, and the boy next door who becomes her best friend and fellow sufferer in his own struggling, drug-addicted family. When she’s not reading, Emiline begins to access her current life. Her uninspired attempts at writing. Her jock boyfriend, with whom she has little in common. And, in addition, her growing anger at having her sad childhood exposed for all to read. After she decides to confront Jason – and the feelings still between them – she then decides to finally seek out the parents who abandoned and hurt her in order to finally get it behind her. It’s at this point that Carlino’s book goes off the tracks, meandering through her encounters with the grown-up Jason, her parents, and others in her childhood. I think the least successful of these – for me – was her encounters with Jason. They were so scattershot and unfocused, as they circled each other through the latter part of the book. I didn’t get a real feel for him – or them – the way I did in the book he wrote and was puzzled about some of his stipulated reasons for writing it in regards to Emiline. Still, this was an interesting read, and I do want to try more of Carlino’s work. I’ll give this one a B.

    ******

    The Cocktail Challenge – 8 down, 2 to go.

    Alphabet Challenge – 8 down, 2 to go. (A, B, C, G, H, J, M, & Q)

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 4 weeks ago by Sandlynn  .
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Sandlynn  .
    Library addict library addict
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    The Breakfast Cereal Challenge
    Chex (1937) = Chex mix is a popular holiday treat. Read a romance set during Christmas time or any other holiday.
    True-Blue Cowboy Christmas by Nicole Helm – set at Christmas:
    The hero was a snarly jerk to the heroine at the start of the story, but he apologized for it without prompting. I liked the relationship he had with his father. His reasons for wanting to protect his daughter were understandable. I liked the fact he’d been through professional grief counseling and considered going back. The romance started slowly and the h/h took time to get to know each other. They each had issues they needed to work through and they did so both independently and together. Their individual family dynamics also played an integral part of the plot as did the heroine’s relationship with the hero’s daughter. As much as I came to like the hero, the heroine was the one who made the book. There were some OTT plot shenanigans toward the end. They were addressed, but still seemed a bit out of place given the way past events were described in the first two books. Overall a very entertaining read with a dash of humor.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    J = Always Faithful by Julie Miller:
    The heroine’s husband had disappeared five years prior to the start of the story. The hero had been erroneously snatched by an inexperienced angel and then sent back in the wrong body (not as a spoiler as it’s in the blurb). Of course he had amnesia or it would have been a very short story. The beginning of the book was slow. The lackadaisical attitude the heroine and her husband’s friends had in the second half rang totally untrue for me (trying not to be too spoilery, but it was just such lazy storytelling, made zero sense from a character standpoint, and threw me completely out of the book more than once.) It was finally addressed, but a case of “too little, too late.” I liked the hero and the heroine’s daughter. I was rooting for the h/h’s HEA, but the resolution to the plot didn’t work for me on several levels. The book had an interesting premise and had some nice moments, but overall it was poorly executed and a very disappointing read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 12 down, 5 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 6 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 7 down, 10 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Danger in the Stars by Veronica Scott:
    As with her sister from an earlier book in the series, the heroine had been kidnapped from her home planet years earlier and sold to an organized crime syndicate. The hero was an enforcer and the second-in-command to the ruthless woman in charge of the planet’s crime syndicate, but he was hiding secrets of his own. They were attracted to one another from the moment they met, but took time to act on it. I appreciated that the hero was unwilling to pursue a relationship while she was a prisoner and that the issue of consent was fully addressed. The big secret seemed obvious from the start, but there were a few twists to the story. The romance was well-integrated into the plot. Overall another enjoyable entry in the Sectors series.

    Stone Cold Texas Ranger by Nicole Helm: The heroine’s secret nickname for the hero in the start was “Agent Jerk” which totally fit his character. The h/h both too often did things which lacked common sense solely for plot purposes. The mystery was too much in the background. I tried to suspend my disbelief, but it seemed implausible for the villain to be prosecuted in court given the way the investigation was handled. Most of the developments took place off page which made for a very disjointed story. The hero thought a lot about his sister and father and I wished they’d appeared on page. The romance was very paint-by-numbers. Overall a disappointing read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 12 down, 5 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 6 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 9 down, 8 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Risking It All by Tessa Bailey:
    The heroine had quit her job as a nurse, graduated from the police academy, and gone undercover in an unauthorized op to avenge her brother’s murder. The hero was reluctantly running his father’s crime organization. He wanted out of the life, but was at a loss as to how to get away. He was blackmailed by the police into keeping the heroine safe, but couldn’t tell her he knew who she really was. His reasons for going along with the secret did not work for me. Meanwhile the heroine decided she would try to save the hero, partly because she needed to justify her feelings to herself. Much of the plot made little sense other than to force the h/h to spend a lot of time together. The big twist seemed obvious from the start. The hero was in serious need of professional counseling and the heroine’s naiveté was a bit much. There were a lot of highs, lows, and self-inflicted angst and the hero needed to grovel more at the end. An uneven read, but despite many issues the romance overall somehow worked for me. After so much subterfuge, the circumstances of their HEA worked for the characters.

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – novellas
    Finding His Mark by Piper J Drake:
    The heroine was an assassin hired by the hero to discover who was targeting his boss. They’d been attracted to one another in the past but had never acted upon it. The touristy information did not overwhelm the story, but there was enough make me want to visit Thailand. The suspense plot was intriguing. The h/h had nice chemistry, but I wished the story had been longer to better explore their romance. I also wanted more with the heroine’s dog. I had some quibbles with the hero’s boss, but overall an enjoyable read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 12 down, 5 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 10 down, 7 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 53

    Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge
    Ladies Home Journal – Read a regency, a “just kisses” romance, or an inspirational. Or, playing off the word journal, read an epistolary romance, featuring either letter writing or modern day emails, texting, and tweeting.
    So Wrong It Must be Right by Nicole Helm – hero and heroine have been communicating anonymously via email for eight months:
    This book was a modern day epistolary story inspired by You’ve Got Mail, but with a role reversal. The heroine was the business exec attempting to purchase the house and land where the hero lived and ran an urban farm. Sadly the bulk of their email and IM chat exchanges took place before the story began, so we mostly only heard about them. With the exception of her cousin/BFF, the members of the heroine’s family were awful. I liked that the author allowed the heroine to be unsympathetic at times. As exasperating as it was, her single-minded focus on taking her promised place in the family business was understandable, as was her decision to continually adapt her original plans. The hero had good reasons to doubt things. Their romance was charming and full of joy and humor, yet edged with angst as they tried to navigate how to take their relationship from fantasy to reality then permanence. The plot had a few surprises. Several of the subplots were ultimately glossed over, but overall a very enjoyable read.

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Two Against the Stars by Veronica Scott:
    The hero was being held in a cooked veterans’ clinic where the heroine had found a low-level job after she’d escaped from the crime syndicate featured in the last few books. While many books in this series have an old-fashioned Saturday matinee feel to them, the way the h/h conveniently had whatever they needed exactly when they needed it to repeatedly get out of whatever their current jam was felt more contrived than usual. Thankfully their romance worked better for me than the suspense plot.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 13 down, 4 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 11 down, 6 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Kissing Her Enemy by Coleen Kwan:
    The hero wanted to purchase the heroine’s hardware store, and the businesses around it, to tear down the buildings and build a mega home improvement store. The heroine did not want to sell as she needed her store to support her mother. Their strained relationships with their parents were a major subplot. The hero had his own set of issues, but his belief the heroine could simply open a new type of store was dismissive. The heroine had grown up on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks and didn’t have the political connections in town the hero did. There was also some history between the h/h from high school which the hero needed to apologize for (and it irked me that when he finally did, the heroine suddenly thought her behavior at the time was wrong, sheesh! No, his was.). I had a few other quibbles, but don’t want to get into spoilers. An uneven read, but I mostly enjoyed their romance. There was a lot of humor, the h/h had good chemistry and overall I liked them as a couple. Though I had some issues with the hero, the heroine made the story for me.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    N = Need You Now by Nicole Helm:
    The h/h started off on the wrong foot, a situation which was perpetuated by the hero’s boorish behavior and the heroine’s preconceptions. They each took their responsibilities very seriously and had reasons to not want to get involved, so their relationship took time to develop. I appreciated that the boss-employee situation was addressed multiple times. There was quite a bit of set up for future books, but thankfully it didn’t overwhelm the romance. I liked the h/h both individually and as a couple. I had some major issues toward the end, but most were addressed. Overall a very enjoyable read with a good balance of angst and humor.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 13 down, 4 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 12 down, 5 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by Library addict  library addict.
    Library addict library addict
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    Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge
    Entertainment Weekly – Read a romance featuring a hero or heroine who works in *any* form of the arts or entertainment, whether it be acting, writing, dancing, singing, visual arts, or sports, etc.
    King’s Ransom by Amelia Autin – heroine is an actress:
    The h/h had been in love when she was eighteen and he was twenty-two. The heroine returned to his fictional country to film a movie based on his many times great-grandfather unaware the hero had arranged it all. The hero was an arrogant jerk for most of the book. He hadn’t spoken to the too-perfect-for-words heroine in eleven years yet expected her to just fall at his feet and made no effort to discover why she was still angry with him after so long. Their lack of communication was tiresome. The subplot involving the lead actor and his wife was more interesting. The disposable way one of the characters was treated was extremely maddening (trying not to be spoilerish). I also did not find the characters in the film to be the most romantic couple ever as they were described ad nauseam; their actions were pathetic. The suspense plot worked better than in the previous book, though the bad guy was too obvious. Overall a disappointing read.

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Riding the Storm by Julie Miller:
    The paramedic hero was on loan from California to help cover the small Texas town during a hurricane. The volunteer heroine was recently widowed and pregnant. The hero felt she took too many risks. It was difficult to suspend disbelief enough for the plot’s numerous OTT moments. The h/h each tried to outdo the other as to who could be the most selfless caretaker. The romance was super rushed. There were some humorous antics with the secondary characters and animals, but overall an uneven read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 14 down, 3 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 13 down, 4 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Library addict  library addict.
    Sandlynn Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 26

    Continuing with the Alphabet Challenge, I decided to tackle the letter “K” by reading Carla Kelly’s Courting Carrie in Wonderland.

    Despite Carla Kelly being a well-regarded writer and my having a handful of her novels, this is only the second time I’ve read her and I’m glad I did. Wonderland is a unique and well-written book. It’s set in Yellowstone National Park in 1903. The hero is a Sergeant Major who heroically served in the Philippines and who was now serving as one of the Army’s caretakers of the National Park, which was overseen by the U.S. Army before the Park Service was established. The heroine is a young woman who spends summers working in the park in order to earn money to complete her college education. From very humble beginnings, including working in the kitchens of a hotel, our heroine, Carrie, meets the Sergeant Major and they are immediately smitten. Even though they recognize their feelings almost instantaneously, a few obstacles stand between them. I won’t go any further. You can read the AAR “A-“ review of the book here:

    https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/courting-carrie-in-wonderland-by-carla-kelly/

    Although I really can’t argue with the review entirely, I would take my own grade of the book down a peg or two. One of the reasons is purely selfish. Although it probably would’ve affected the price point of the book, I would’ve loved if this novel had included illustrations, maps, photos, prints or whatever Kelly could get to show us the various landmarks in the Park she referenced in her story, as well as the paintings of the artist Tom Moran which she also mentions. This is probably a compliment to the author, but I spent time googling various landmarks and other Yellowstone developments that, I think, would have made this book stellar if illustrations had also been included. Secondly, I have to tell you — despite the story having your expected HEA — I was disheartened by the form the HEA took. Not to spoil anything, but the heroine had some things going on in her life, unrelated to the hero, and I guess those things just weren’t important enough to be a part of her happiness. I was really disappointed in that. Anyway, I’ll give this book a “B,” maybe a “B+”.

    *****

    The Cocktail Challenge – 8 down, 2 to go.

    Alphabet Challenge – 9 down, 1 to go. (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, & Q)

    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Up in Smoke by Tessa Bailey:
    The h/h were instantly attracted to each other but it worked for the story. They each had deep psychological issues which could have used professional counseling (though to be fair the heroine had gone through therapy while in prison, but with a less than competent psychiatrist). The plot was a well-balanced mix of the case the team was investigating and the h/h’s backstories. The fact nearly all of this author’s heroes need to dominate in the bedroom can be repetitive, but this heroine’s aversion to touch at least mixed things up for a while. I liked the hero’s mother. The suspense plot was anticlimactic but overall a fun read.

    The Cocktail Challenge
    Incredible Hulk – Read a book where the h or h has a dual identity or where they are pretending to be someone they are not or where they are a contradiction (virgin sex therapist, virgin erotica writer, virgin prostitute/mistress etc.)
    Stone Cold Undercover Agent by Nicole Helm – hero is pretending to be someone he is not:
    This book took place concurrently with the first book in the series, but there weren’t many repeated scenes from these characters’ POV. We learned the fate of the one-dimensional mustache-twirling über-villain in the first book, but his character wasn’t any more convincing in this book. The heroine had been held captive for eight years; the hero had been deep undercover for two. They somehow magically had tons of time to spend alone together. I actually liked the h/h more than the characters from the first book, particularly the hero, but the plot did not work for me at all. I wish we had the ability to do spoilers as I can’t list other specific issues, but…ugh! Another disappointing read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 14 down, 3 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 14 down, 3 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Library addict  library addict.
    Sandlynn Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 26

    Back to the Cocktail Challenge:

    MargaritaRead a book set in Mexico or Spain or with Hispanic or Spanish characters.

    For this part of the challenge I decided to read a book that I wasn’t sure was a romance. And, in fact, it’s more a book of self-discovery than about a relationship between two people. The book is Francesc Miralles’ “love in lowercase” published in Spanish in 2010 and translated and published in English in 2014.

    The story is sold as similar to something like The Rosie Project. And, indeed, there *are* some similarities, but it’s really more about our main character coming out of his self-imposed shell due to the smallest of changes in his life. The protagonist is Samuel de Juan, a 37 year old instructor of German literature and linguistics at a Spanish University. He lives a very self-contained life, following the same patterns every day, with few, if any, friends. One day; however, a young cat manages to worm his way into Samuel’s apt. and before you know it, Samuel is forced to interact with his neighbor, with a veterinarian, and with others around the city. And through those interactions, he stumbles upon a woman he knew when they were both children, with whom he’d been unknowingly carrying a torch all these years.

    This is a quick, short read. Only 224 pages. It reminded me of a book version of a foreign film one might see at an art house theater. Parts of it were puzzling, perhaps culture-bound, but other parts offered thoughtful evaluations on life and love with frequent interjections about literature, philosophy, music, and science. More often than not things seemed to happen, leading no where. While the ending was hopeful — Samuel is probably not going to be alone anymore — it took a strange, circuitous route to get there — one I wasn’t sure was 100% believable. I would say this was a “C” read for me.

    *****


    The Cocktail Challenge – 9 down, 1 to go.

    Alphabet Challenge – 9 down, 1 to go. (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, & Q)

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Sandlynn  .
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook:
    I wanted to like this book more than I ultimately did. I was surprised by the big event near the beginning (trying to avoid spoilers), but the book then skimmed the surface of the characters’ reactions and did not really deal with the fallout. This was very much an adventure story, but it felt like some of the transitions were missing. It was nice to see the h/h from the introductory novella. I liked the romance and the “mystery” took some unexpected turns, but the ending felt extremely anticlimactic. I wish more page time had been spent on certain events and less on so many zombie fights. Overall an uneven read.

    Secret Affair with the Millionaire by Coleen Kwan: The heroine was considered the black sheep in her family, but trying to turn over a new leaf by finally taking her position in the family company seriously. Matters were complicated when she discovered the man she’d shared a one-night stand with a few weeks prior to the start of the story was a business competitor and that their fathers were sworn enemies. They each had complicated family situations. The hero owned his own business in Texas, but was back in San Francisco to make amends with his dying father. The hero’s brother was a complete jerk and their fathers took their “feud” all too seriously, but for the most part the h/h didn’t allow it to affect their relationship. Their questioning one another’s motives often seemed forced as did the big argument between them toward the end, but those were minor quibbles. Overall an enjoyable romance and a nice conclusion to the Rochester series.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 14 down, 3 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 12 down, 5 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – novellas
    Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook:
    The h/h were learning to navigate being married. Their slight issues were due to a lack of communication which was thankfully soon addressed. There was also a mystery surrounding the young girl the heroine had taken in. The murder mystery took a backseat to the romance, workplace relationships, and other character interactions for much of the story, but was intriguing nonetheless. An enjoyable follow-up novella featuring the couples from the first full-length book in the series.

    Tethered by Meljean Brook: This was a follow-up novella featuring the h/h from the second full-length book. As with that book, the letters between the hero and his sister were some of my favorite parts. The h/h were also adjusting to being married, but the conflict for this story came from an outside source. I really enjoyed the first three-quarters or so of the story and the personal story arcs for the h/h worked very well. Sadly, the action/adventure part of the plot petered out. The ending felt super rushed and anti-climactic.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 14 down, 3 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 3 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 53

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler)
    So Bad It Must Be Good by Nicole Helm:
    The hero partially resented always having to be the responsible sibling in his family while his older brother was the “free spirit.” He found it nearly impossible to say no to his parents or brother. The hero knew his family dynamics were dysfunctional, but felt stuck. The heroine had resigned and cut ties with her (mostly) toxic family six months earlier, but still hadn’t truly dealt with things. I was happy to see her learn to value her self-worth and stand up for herself. The heroine had had a crush on the older brother when they’d been teenagers. Now he’d finally asked her out, but sent the hero to apologize when he couldn’t make their date. But all of that was just set up and the focus was very much on the actual romance between the h/h. Of course their family dynamics also had an impact, but they each had the freedom to be themselves in their relationship which was a first for both. The hero’s mother was ridiculously oblivious to how unfairly she treated him and the brother was selfish and a complete jerk, but the author did a good of explaining the hero’s motivations for being the family peacemaker and why he continued to do so. Given that the h/h had each made the effort to talk through their problems all along, parts of their argument toward the end felt forced, but other parts felt like necessary resolutions. Despite those quibbles and the slow start, overall a very enjoyable book.

    Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge
    TV Guide – Read a romance in which the hero and/or heroine are actors, producers, screenwriters, or personalities (like celebrity chefs or reality “stars”) in any form of entertainment, including television.
    Running on Empty by Meg Benjamin – heroine is a reality TV star:
    The heroine had stayed behind in the small Colorado town after the disaster of her second stint on reality TV during the first book in this trilogy. She was happily working as a waitress and taking classes online when she was lured back to another reality show. She agreed as the prize was a half-million dollars for charity and she wanted to prove she wasn’t the blonde bimbo she’s been portrayed as. The hero was her boss at the bar who agreed to help train her for the triathlon inspired show. He was a nice guy and had his own character arc, but this was very much the heroine’s story. Their romance was slow to develop and often took a backseat to the over the top reality show shenanigans, but I liked them both individually and as a couple. It was also nice to catch up with the various supporting characters again. All-in-all an enjoyable read.

    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go …
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 3 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    Sandlynn Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 26

    Finishing up the Alphabet Challenge:

    Since I’m only doing ten books per challenge, this book will wrap up the Alphabet Challenge for me. For the letter “P,” I’ve read Artistic License by Elle Pierson (aka Lucy Parker) published in 2014. The book is only 178 pages and is an E-book.

    This story is a contemporary set in New Zealand. (The author is also from New Zealand.) Our heroine, Sophy James is a 24 year old art student who specializes in sculpting. She is also a somewhat reticent figure. Although very social with those close to her, she’s shy and doesn’t do well with strangers. Mick Hollister, is a 34 year old, security specialist, who comes from a well-to-do family from whom he is estranged. The two of them meet at an art exhibit being held at a hotel. Even though Mick has long seen himself as a rather plain, brutish looking fellow, Sophy spots him and immediately sees him as an interesting subject for a project she wants to do for an art competition. But before that can be addressed, there’s an attempted heist at the exhibit, putting Sophy in the middle of the investigation and suddenly she’s got Mick’s attention — both in terms of getting the bad guys, but also in terms of protecting her … and perhaps something more.

    This story reminded me a bit of a throwback to romances of the past. The heroine, although intelligent and talented, is socially awkward and even has an asthma condition that makes her appear needy — as viewed by the hero. And the hero is an alpha who is protective and hovers over the heroine. The author tries to soft pedal this by giving the heroine a more outgoing side job and allowing the hero to give her some space, but I honestly felt this was very old school. That being said the hero’s relationship with his family was interesting although not adequately explained – in my opinion. (Frankly, they just appeared to be ugly people for no reason.) And, of course, the setting was interesting and clearly well described since the author is a native. But, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did her later work, Act Like It, as Lucy Parker. I’d give it a B.

    *****

    The Cocktail Challenge – 9 down, 1 to go.

    Alphabet Challenge – 10 down (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, P, & Q) – complete

    Library addict library addict
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    The Breakfast Cereal Challenge
    Cocoa Pebbles/Fruity Pebbles (1969) = these cereals are the oldest brands based on characters from a TV or movie. In honor of The Flintstones, read an historical romance.
    Riveted by Meljean Brook – historical steampunk romance:
    The h/h of this story were both searching: the hero for his mother’s people to fulfill a promise, the heroine for her sister who’d been banished. They each thought of themselves as outsiders, but they intrigued one another from the moment they met. Things quickly went awry when he confessed his true reason for going to Iceland, but I was glad the issue was dealt with early on. I enjoyed their romance even when they each mistakenly thought the other only wanted friendship. The villain was entirely too easily dispatched which made for a lackluster conclusion to what was otherwise a captivating action/adventure plot, but the characters and the romance still made this book my favorite of the series so far.

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay
    Ashwin by Kit Rocha:
    I did not read the previous series, but there was enough background in this first spin-off book that I never felt lost. The h/h had always been attracted to one another, but hadn’t acted on it. The doctor heroine had believed the hero was dead. The hero was on assignment to infiltrate the sector where she now lived. But that wasn’t the only secret he was keeping. There were a few spots where the plot seemed to drive the characters’ actions rather than vice versa. The post-dystopian world was intriguing enough that I will continue with the series, but it was the “reunion” romance between the h/h which made the book for me. An enjoyable read.

    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: 15 down, 2 to go ..
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • The Cocktail Challenge: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 3 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: 1 down, 16 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Library addict  library addict. Reason: fix coding in list
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Library addict  library addict.
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