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review 2020-10-13 06:27
Dare to Play (Dare Nation #3) - Carly Phillips

This is book #3 in the Dare Nation series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  For reader understanding, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this series in order.


Jaxon has learned the hard way that most relationships do not last.  Taking a chance with his sister's best friend, he is learning that she is strong and sassy.  Maybe this is a relationship that can last?


Macy needed help and the most unexpected person stepped up.  Married to a Baseball Star?  Well it appeals with both of them needing a rescue.  Being attracted to that bod isn't difficult, either.


This story moved at such a good pace.  It felt honest.  The book appealed on a family level, as well as a couple level.  I really liked the characters.  They make a good couple.  The sister didn't come across perfect, or rushed to be on the side of right.  This was a very good read, since it felt real.  I give this a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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review 2020-07-30 03:18
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. - Brené Brown

This was mostly a wrong turn in my “learn how to be a supervisor in the middle of a pandemic” quest. It seems to have received more attention from fans of the author’s other work than people looking for business books, and so perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s much more a self-help book than a management book. Mostly it’s peddling the author’s particular version of emotional authenticity and connectedness. I don’t know that there’s anything bad about her vision per se, but I found the book off-putting: the peculiar phrasing she uses in her workplace (“let’s rumble about this,” “that’s outside of my integrity,” and so on), the self-help-y unspoken assumption that seems to saturate its pages that those who don’t see the light of her vision will bumble around blindly leading terrible lives. Admittedly, I don’t think much of self-help books. They’re quick and easy reads, as this is, but they rub me the wrong way.


And unfortunately, for all the author touts her Ph.D. and calls herself a researcher, this is very much self-help rather than pop psych. Typically, a pop psych book will discuss studies and their methodologies and results in an accessible way for a general audience. This author claims to have done a bunch of research, but her methodology is never discussed beyond vague references to interviewing people. And she never cites a single statistic, instead presenting the One True Way to Be Empathetic, for instance. Somehow I’m pretty sure no psychological research shows 100% unanimity on anything, unless it’s total softball questions like “is murder generally wrong?” At what point does “I talked to a bunch of people about this, and here’s the general consensus” cross the line from anecdote to science? I don’t know, but I’m not convinced this work has done so.


That said, certainly there’s plenty of common sense advice here, like “be clear about what specifically you’re asking people to do” and “try to be nonjudgmental if you want people to feel safe talking to you.” I think the book is a little overly padded with the author quoting long excerpts of people (particularly famous people) praising her work, and it’s probably most useful if you are the head of an organization looking to transform a workplace culture. It kind of annoyed me, but then it’s not my type of thing to begin with.

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review 2020-06-27 12:23
An emotionally enriching experience
The Girl with the Louding Voice - Abi Daré

Thanks to Net Galley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review, and I am happy I’ve been given this opportunity. This is one of those books best enjoyed by immersing yourself in it. It is one of those novels that you can see with your mind’s eye and you can imagine being right next to the protagonist (it is narrated in the first person by Adunni, a fourteen year old girl with a very special voice) as the action happens, and you’d love to be able to advise or help her, to protect her from some of the things she has to go through and to warn her at times when she does something foolish. This is not a novel constructed for an analytical mind, where everything fits in neatly; all the characters are consistent throughout; there is not a paragraph of excess information; and where clichés and common places are avoided like the plague. Reading it, I got the feeling that this was a book written with the heart (and the author, in the acknowledgements, explains her process quite well), and it pull at one’s heartstrings. It’s an emotional experience. In this debut novel, we witness the coming of age of the main character, Adunni, who has to experience things that will be completely alien to most readers (we might have read about them, but, thankfully, many of us have never been exposed to them). Although this is no mystery novel, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot. There is child marriage, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and servitude (she calls it “slavery without the chains” and it is quite an apt description), cheating and lies, poverty and desperation, and a fascinating look at Nigeria and at the huge contrasts there, from outright poverty to extreme wealth. We have a mix of rural customs and traditions with high-tech and modernity, and a society where women are still subservient to men, and where education, rather than a right, is a privilege, especially if you’re a woman. Adunni is a wonderful character. She has lost her mother to illness when we meet her, and she has become a mother to her younger brother, but still misses her own mother, who instilled in her the importance of getting an education and having her own voice. Unfortunately, her father does not keep his promise to his dead wife and decides to try to solve his financial difficulties by marrying his daughter to a much older man (she is to be the man’s third wife, as he wants to have a son, and that has not happened yet). Nobody seems to understand her reluctance to marry, as many of her friends see this as an opportunity, their best option and their fate. You won’t be surprised if I tell you her marriage proves to be a harrowing experience, although she gets on well with the man’s second wife, who becomes a friend and mother-figure to her. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse, she has to run away and ends up as a servant to a rich woman in Lagos. I wouldn’t say she jumps from the frying pan to the fire, but there is little to choose from between the two situations. What makes Adunni particularly endearing is the fact that through all her troubles she remains optimistic. She gets scared at times, she freezes and does not know what to do (and often takes rushed decisions she lives to regret), she talks too much and gets herself into trouble often (even when she thinks ‘I shouldn’t say that’, she often says it anyway), but even though she does not always do what is best for her, she tries hard to help others and at times puts herself at risk to defend others. She is also eager to learn and will take any opportunity to try, sometimes with hilarious results. She is innocent regarding certain things (she understands how rural society and things in her village work, but is totally naïve as to the workings of a great city), and also gives everybody the benefit of the doubt, always thinking the best of people, even after they disappoint her time and again. She misunderstands many things (she does think her English is much better than it really is, and her attitude towards the language endeared her to me, also a non-native English speaker), but she is never afraid to ask or question what she doesn’t understand, even when her questions are not welcomed. More than anything, she is a credible fourteen year old, who thinks she knows more than she knows, who has had to grow fast because of her circumstances, but still misses and needs her mother. There are many other characters, most pretty memorable. If we think of the story like the typical quest (the hero’s journey concept), there are some characters who get in the way of Adunni achieving her dream, many horrendous (her husband, big Chief, Kola, his husband’s first wife and Florence, her boss, although we get to understand that they are also victims of their circumstances), some misguided or unable to see beyond the conventions (like her father), and others who help her move on, like Ms Tia and Kofi. Ms Tia made me think of a fairy godmother (and there is plenty of Cinderella in the story and other readers have mentioned similarities to other books), but we do get to learn about her personal circumstances as well, and the relationship benefits both of them, as Ms Tia also learns things about herself in the process. Although the plot is not original, and yes, there are many similarities with other stories and books, the character’s voice and the way she touches everybody around her make it a compelling story and a delight to read. I’ve mentioned that Adunni narrates the story in the first-person, but she uses broken English that can be jarring to begin with (as an English teacher I couldn’t help but keep correcting her grammar in my head), but I think it communicates clearly the character’s circumstances, and serves her well to analyse and wonder at the world around her. She is very witty and comes up with some wonderful similes and comparisons when she first comes to the city, a completely new experience for her. And she can communicate her feelings and describe them beautifully, even with her limited English. For example, at the beginning of the book, when her father is telling her about his plans for her marriage, she thinks: ‘But sometimes, like today, the sorrow climb out of my heart and stick his tongue in my face.’ Her mother’s advice to her is probably the most quoted fragment of the book: ‘Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk. It will be speaking till the day God is calling you come.’ And, if you’re wondering where the title comes from… ‘I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.’ I know some readers have found the writing style off-putting, so I definitely recommend anybody thinking of purchasing and reading the book to check a sample first. Some readers have complained about the ending. They feel it seems a bit too neat, rushed, and it does not seem to fit in with the rest of the story, but this is one of these books where you’re rooting for a character, and a hopeful and positive ending is the minimum she deserves. As I said, there is something of the fairy tale in the story, but the character works hard, studies, makes a big effort, and grows and evolves, without losing her hope and her enthusiasm, and hey, I enjoyed the ending. It might not feel realistic, but this is not that kind of novel. I recommend this novel to readers interested in learning more about Nigeria and happy to accompany a delightful main character in her journey. She goes through some terrible experiences, so this is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Make sure the writing style works for you, but if it does and you like the sound of it, go for it. It will pull at your heartstrings, and you’re likely to find a new favourite author. I will be eagerly waiting for her next book.

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review 2020-06-13 06:47
The Dare - Elle Kennedy

This is book #4, in the Briar U series.  This can be read as a standalone novel.  For reader understanding, and to avoid spoiler, I recommend reading this series in order.


Conor was a typical party guy who loved being a player.  Lately he has found himself being played.  Girls just want to get with him to brag that they caught a hockey player.  He is doubting a lot of things lately.


Taylor is being dared yet again by the Sorority Sister who still hates her.  She has just one plan - be honest with Conor on what is going on and hope for the best.  What does she have to lose?  


The attraction between the lead characters is obvious right from the start.  I was eagerly reading each page, and not even wanting to stop to eat.  This series has been sexy and fun from the first book! In my opinion, this is the best book yet.  I loved the banter, so edgy and clever.  I wish my college years had these two in it.  I give this read a 5/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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text 2020-06-12 08:10
Excerpt Reveal - The Dare





Get ready for another binge-worthy romance from New York Times bestselling author Elle Kennedy!

College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.


The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.


Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy. 


Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes. 


But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.


And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.


The Dare purchase links:

Amazon: https://geni.us/TDrAmz

Apple: https://geni.us/TDrAp

Kobo: https://geni.us/TDrKobo

Nook: https://geni.us/TDrNook


“Thank you,” she breathes the moment we’re alone.


“No problem. Mind if I make myself comfortable?”


“Um, yeah. I mean, no. I don’t mind. Sit if you want. Or—wow, okay, you’re lying down.”


I grin at her visible nervousness. It’s cute. While I stretch out my six-foot-two frame amid the stuffed animals and decorative pillows on the bed, she remains the startled rabbit plastered against the door and breathing heavily.


“Gotta be honest,” I tell her, entwining my hands behind my head, “I’ve never seen a girl so unhappy to be locked in a bedroom with me.”


This has the desired effect of loosening her shoulders and even eliciting a shy smile. “I have no doubt.”


“I’m Conor, by the way.”


She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I know.”


“What’s the eyeroll for?” I ask, playing wounded.


“No, sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. Just, I know who you are. You’re, like, campus famous.”


The more I watch her, hands braced at her sides against the door, one knee bent, dirty-blonde hair a little messy and draped over one shoulder, I can’t help picturing myself holding her arms above her head while I explore her body with my mouth. She’s got very kissable skin. 


“Taylor Marsh,” she blurts out, and I realize I don’t know how long we were silent until then.


I scoot to the far side of the bed and put a pillow beside me as a divider. “Come on. If we’re going to be in here awhile, let’s at least make friends.”


Taylor laughs out a breath and with it she releases a bit more tension. She’s got a nice smile. Bright, warm. It takes a bit more coaxing, however, to get her on the bed.


“This isn’t like a move,” she tells me, lining up stuffed animal guards to patrol the pillow wall between us. “I’m not some sort of weirdo who tricks men into getting in bed with her and then mauls them.”


“Sure.” I nod with mock seriousness. “But a little mauling would be okay.”



Other Links:


Briar U series: https://geni.us/BriarU

Elle’s Newsletter sign-up: http://geni.us/EKNL

Blogger Newsletter sign-up: http://geni.us/EKBlog




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