Around the World Challenge Week Wrap Up and Giveaway!!

challenge month 2016Hello everyone! Today we are wrapping up the first week of our month-long Reading Challenge Month. This week is Around the World Challenge Week and we have been reading books set in countries other than our own.

You guys can play along with this event in two ways. First off, you can leave a comment on any of this week’s challenge week reviews and earn one entry point for each. And second, if you read along with your own challenge book, you can tell us all about it here in the comments of this post and get 10 contest entries. So if you comment on all the posts and do a mini-review, you can earn mega entries!

Updated to add: Since the site was down for much of Friday due to technical difficulties, the deadline for entering for the Around the World Week contest is now Monday, September 19th at 11:59 pm ET. 

This week’s prizes are sponsored by Riptide Publishing! They are giving away an amazing prize!

Riptide is giving away paperback ARCs, so our lucky winner will get some of these books way before they are even published! Books include:

  • Bounty: The Complete Series by Christine d’Abo
  • What Remains by Garrett Leigh
  • Assassins: Discord by Erica Cameron
  • Shatterproof by Xen Sanders,
  • Can’t Hide From Me by Cordelia Kingsbridge, October 3
  • Wolf’s Clothing by E.J, Russell, October 10
  • Friendly Fire by Cari Z, October 17
  • Change of Address by Jordan S. Brock, October 24
  • Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper, October 31
  • Interborough by Santino Hassell, Oct 24
  • Hotline by Quinn Anderson, Oct 31

(Note: Riptide isn’t able to mail the paperbacks internationally, so an international winner will receive ebook copies of these books at the time of release instead)

Every entry this (and every) week also enters you for our grand prize that will be selected at the end of the month. Dreamspinner is giving away a Kindle Fire filled with all of their summer releases from 2016! So lots of awesome books, plus a new Kindle to read them on!


Ok, before we get too far, some things you may need to know:

  • All the contest details and rules are in this post or at least linked from here
  • This week’s deadline to leave comments on our reviews, or your mini review of your own book here on this post, is Sunday night. All entries will be tallied at that time and the Week 2 winner announced. All entries will also carry over for the grand prize at the end of the month.
  • If you read along your own challenge book this week, leave your mini review here on this wrap up post.
  • And if you missed the chance to leave any comments, here is quick recap of the books we read this week:

Thank you so much to everyone who has been participating all week! Don’t forget to leave your comments and your mini reviews for a chance to win!


  1. I’ve just finished Renae Kaye’s “Don’t Twunk With My Heart” and it was great fun! The previous book, “Loving Jay”, is a real favourite of mine and I love Kaye’s wry, Aussie sense of humour. I don’t think you would need to read the first book to understand the second, but the adorable Jay / Jamie and his beau Liam make an a number of appearances in the sequel, which is great for fans of “Loving Jay” too. Despite its odd title and the mainly cute, funny tone of the narrative, “Don’t Twunk With My Heart” does deal with some more serious issues with real sensitivity. Former twink (now hunk = twunk) Kee is still overcoming the damage done to his self-esteem by his controlling, abusive ex and Tate has his own struggles with body image to deal with, but together they develop a strong, loving relationship. This left me with such warm fuzzies (and a growing obsession with Yanis Marshall after the descriptions of hunky welder Kee copying his dance routines, high heels and all). 4.5 bright Australian stars from me.

  2. THE RUSSIAN BOY by Neil Plakcy

    Blurb: “There are three Russian boys at the center of this sexy new novel by Neil S. Plakcy.
    Alexei Dubernin, the teenaged son of a Russian count longs to paint like his Impressionist idols. This desire brings him in contact with the Russian maestro Fyodor Luschenko in Nice, France, in 1912, as the Russian aristocracy celebrates its last few years of prosperity on the Riviera.
    Luschenko paints an erotic portrait of Alexei, called Le Jeune Homme Russe, or The Russian Boy, which is received with scandal, then acclaim. Then, in the present day, the painting is stolen while being restored– by another Russian boy, an art student in Paris named Dmitri Baranov.
    Dmitri’s desperation to remain in Paris after his fellowship ends leads him into unsavory company, bringing him, and the painting, back to the Cote d’Azur, where someone is willing to stop at nothing– including murder– to possess this magnificent work of art.
    Hard on Dmitri’s trail, and that of the painting, is his boyfriend, American art student Taylor Griffin, and Rowan McNair, a disgraced former professor of art history turned art detective. Partners change, affairs are begun and ended, and dead bodies appear with a disturbing regularity.
    In alternating narrations, Alexei, Dmitri, Taylor and Rowan tell the story of the painting, its theft, and a series of love affairs between older men and their younger protégés. By turns sexy, dangerous and romantic, The Russian Boy is a story of love and art that spans the ages.”

    Review: I’d enjoyed several of Plakcy’s short stories and anthologies, but hadn’t tried his thrillers before. I was impressed by the way Plakcy developed and paced several storylines, and brought shading to multiple characters. His descriptions of the settings and artwork are very evocative, which made this book a perfect choice for Around The World Week! Plakcy can excel at both romantic and raunchy sex scenes, and THE RUSSIAN BOY features examples of each. Fans of traditional m/m romance should know that there’s only one clear HEA in this story, even though three couples have storylines. The plot shows a few holes around the 75% mark, where the sting operation starts to falter. More than a few readers will be unnerved by Dmitri’s treatment at the hands of his kidnappers: not only is there a clear-cut rape, the later dub-con scenes (including water bondage) may offend those who dislike that particular trope. For the most part, I found THE RUSSIAN BOY to be a very engaging story, and those who are intrigued by the premise should give it a try.

  3. (I’m happy to finally be able to log onto the site! It was down for me most of today.) The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara

    The events in this book took place in the 1850s primarily on the Crimean peninsula which is located in the Black Sea. The peninsula is attached to the Ukraine and is near Russia, Romania, and Turkey. It’s a part of the world that I know little about.

    I’d describe the story as a blend of historical and paranormal fiction. One of the main characters is a British captain in the Lancers division; the other is a half-Russian, half-English officer who is possessed by a demon. On the plus side, the book is incredibly well researched and it was an easy read. I learned about the Crimean war – the waiting, the boredom, the deaths from disease, cold, and fighting, the poor command. However, it took time for me to understand the story line, and I didn’t feel connected to either character. I’m happy to have read this book, but I don’t think it’s one I’ll be re-reading.

  4. I had trouble earlier too, but glad to be in now.  

    I chose Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh which is set in England, mostly in Norfolk.  I selected this book because I read everything by Garrett Leigh. 

    My rating:  4.25 stars

    I enjoyed this story quite a lot, but not as much quite as other books by the same author.  I loved the setting and how Liam’s seaside home in Holkham was juxtaposed with where Zac lived in King’s Lynn.  The sea near Liam’s house was also integral to some plot points.  I also liked the themes that were explored:  grief, loss, aging parents, addiction and holding onto yourself in dire circumstances.  Liam’s sister, brother-in-law, dogs and dad made wonderful supporting characters.  Zac’s friend Jamie was intriguing – I both loved and hated him.  I think he could definitely have his own book.  The smexy scenes were not remiss either.  

    However, I did not feel as connected to the MCs as I normally do in Leigh’s books (and would like to have in this one).  I’m not sure why.  It may have been me, as I am in a bit of a melancholy book mood after having listened to Patrick Gale’s audiobook of A Place Called Winter, which tore me up.  (Highly recommend it.)  Whatever it was, Rented Heart was a bit muted for me.

    I still really enjoyed the book and recommend it.  Will definitely read Garret Leigh’s next story.

  5. I read His Royal Secret and His Royal Favorite by Lilah Pace which take place primarily in England. I loved these books. The tension and growing relationship between James the prince of Wales and Ben a journalist was was fantastic. The secondary characters are well drawn and I loved so many of them as well. I also loved the look into the royal family and royal palaces that the story gives. I couldn’t stop with the first book though it doesn’t actually end on a cliffhanger. I just had to know what happened to these guys. The end left me smiling. I would absolutely recommend.

  6. I didn’t really have a lot of time to read this week since I just started a new job. I ended up reading a short story called Cross Checking the Atlantic by Jerry Cole. Dan Alston is a professional hockey player who uproots his life after he suffers a horrible career ending injury. He decides to move to Brighton, England to start anew and be true to himself. I can’t go into any more detail since it’s so short (only six chapters) and I don’t want to spoil anything.

    The story was pretty tame though and I found it to be a promising read. It was a nice meet cute story and I just wish it had been longer since the characters had good chemistry.

  7. I read 2 books this week. The first one is Helping Hand by Jay Northcote. The setting of the story was not stated explicitly, but I guess it was somewhere in England based on the terms used and where the writer lives.

    Second book is Book, Line, and Sinker by LJ LaBarthe. The setting was a small town in Outback Australia. The main characters were an army veteran and a librarian. They were setting up a mobile library to reach remote outback area while starting a relationship.Seeing that one of the main characters had PTSD, I was pleasantly surprised that he was not the typical suffer-in-silence guy, but with his own volition, decided to do something and seek professional help. This book is not a heavy or difficult one. I found it quite enjoyable. And there were glossary of interesting Australian terms at the end of the book.Bonza!I read 2 books this week. The first one is Helping Hand by Jay Northcote. The setting of the story was not stated explicitly, but I guess it was somewhere in England based on the terms used and where the writer lives. I quite enjoyed this one.

    Second book is Book, Line, and Sinker by LJ LaBarthe. The setting was a small town in Outback Australia. The main characters were an army veteran and a librarian. They were setting up a mobile library to reach remote outback area while starting a relationship.Seeing that one of the main characters had PTSD, I was pleasantly surprised that he was not the typical suffer-in-silence guy, but with his own volition, decided to do something and seek professional help. This book is not a heavy or difficult one. I found it quite enjoyable. And there were glossary of interesting Australian terms at the end of the book.Bonza!

  8. My choice for this week was “Softpaw” by Berryl and Osiris Brackhaus. The setting was in Paris. I liked the relationship progress between Michel and Connor, and the Paris setting was wonderful. BUT, I thought Michel was too stupid with his job as a cop! So the investigation part was my biggest complain.

    Full review:

  9. This challenge was an easy one for me because it would be harder to find a book that is set in my country (The Netherlands). I chose The Weight of It All by N.R Walker (Australia). This book just released this week and i’m a huge fan of this author so i just had to read it.
    After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.
    He joins a gym. Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.

    I really enjoyed this one. It was especially nice to see that Henry hasn’t got the perfect body with the perfect abs but is overweight (as his dick of an (ex) boyfriend so nicely pointed out). But then again Reed does LOL. Both main character are very nice and i liked the snarky comments Henry makes and Reed who is Henry’s personal trainer is sweet, encouraging, and looks like a God and he too loves Henry’s snarky comments . This is a slow burn romance with lots of Humor, exercise, friendship and Romance. Henry and Reed are just perfect for each other.

  10. I chose more than anything by TT KTwenty-two years old Jørgen Lister is a broken man. Victim of abuse as a child, he cannot stand being touched or even being around people. He believes he is condemned to loneliness until he meets Geir Berger. Geir is sixteen and suffers from epilepsy. Despite their age difference, they fall in love. But things won’t be easy for them…
    Beautiful and full of angst, More Than Anything is told from a first person bouncing point of view. Each of its five sections is narrated from Jørgen’s or Geir’s point of view, that way the story progresses with us knowing both characters’ impressions without ever breaking the narrative pace, as each section starts exactly where the previous one finished. It is a really sad story, as both characters are deeply damaged in a very different way. Jørgen has to face PTSD, which makes him unable to relate to people in a normal way. He suffers flashbacks and panic attacks, and cannot stand being surrounded or touched by anyone… until he finds Geir. As for Geir, he suffers from bullying at school, and spends most of his time on his own because his father works off-shore for long periods. He’s got no friends and he has to fend with an incapacitating illness on his own. Their relationship progresses slowly, and it is a very innocent one, due to Jørgen’s inability to face human contact. By the end of the book, circumstances force them apart, causing Jørgen’s to crumble…
    As I said, it is a beautiful and sad story, which ends in a cliffhanger as the lovers are torn apart and we do not know if they’ll ever continue their relationship. As for the challenge, there is not much of the Norwegian culture in the book, but the weather seems to reflect the evolution of the lovers, as they move from a frozen Winter to a hesitant spring, as their relationship progresses.

  11. Fairly easy theme this week – being non US based, most books qualify!!
    I read the last of the Sugar Tree books, Go Tell it to the Mountains.
    The family dramas continue, especially as it starts appx 6 yrs from the end of Stones in the Road with lots of changes.
    The heartstrings are definitely tugged, as expected, with Noah’s death having happened and Tony and Amelia’s back stories.
    Much more Mrs L as it is set in Boston but after three books I was looking forward to  non-confrontational character – they just got a bit wearing for me by the end.
    Lots of resolution and a happier place for them all, despite Tony’s health issues. 

  12. I wanted to stay out of the UK on this around the world challenge because it’s either the US or the UK for so many of my reads. Well, that didn’t work. I ended up in the UK anyway, in Cornwall, England. A haunted moor in Cornwall to be more precise. I read Harper Fox’s Once Upon a Haunted Moor, which is from the Tyack & Frayne series. If you see the cover and you look at the name, you expect a moody, atmospheric read, which it definitely was. Constable Gideon Frayne is working a missing child case in his village, an unusual event. He’s despondent not only over his inability to find the child but also still dealing with the loneliness after his ex moved out over Gideon not being able to be public about their relationship. Enter Lee Tyack, a psychic who comes to help the mother find her little girl. Gideon is sensible and calls Lee out. Gideon experiences something frightening on the moor late at night and then again as he watched Lee deal with a vision. The two team up to find the girl and Gideon softens up towards Lee when he sees how much it affects him to have visions and that he really is trying to help. It was wonderful to watch Gideon open up to possibilities and trust his instincts where Lee was concerned, and Lee was such a good, strong person that I’m loving these two together. I kept buying each new story as it came out over the years because I know Harper Fox always delivers a great story, and it’ll take a lot for me not to binge read all of them next even when I want to draw out the goodness.

  13. I chose Do-Gooder, by J. Leigh Bailey, which is a YA story primarily set in Cameroon -in Africa – and I loved it! It had a lot of action, two sweet main characters, and a premise that was different than anything I’ve previously read. Also, there’s a drawn-out complication that isn’t mentioned in the blurb, so learning about that and watching everyone deal with it (or not) was a cool surprise. I’ll absolutely be checking out this author’s other work in the future.

  14. I just read Myths, Mayhem, & Sweet Tea for a Bingo challenge, and it takes place in South America. There’s not much about local/culture, considering the characters are isolated at an archeological dig, but I loved the book despite its flaws. 😀

    I love some good ol’-fashioned mythology, so this seemed like a good book to pick on a whim. And while Hunter’s take on mythology isn’t at all traditional, it made for an awesome read! The gods are real, and Loki is on a mission given by Gaia herself–the Mother. Someone is conspiring to release one of the Sleepers, which could spell doom for humanity, and it’s up to Loki, with help from some allies, to stop it.

    The plot may not be completely unique and original, but the characters hooked me right away, as did the world of pantheons and gods that Hunter creates. Loki and Creed get sucked into an unexpected relationship that could’ve been a sad case of insta-love, but that pitfall is avoided, and instead their relationship is sweet and romantic despite the whirlwind of it. This definitely feels like the start of a series, and I really hope we get more of it!

  15. Based on a review here, I decided to read I See You by Susan Reeves. Overall I enjoyed the story. I give it a 3.5. For the most part it was light & sweet. There was the attack near the beginning which was the catalyst for Ben & Christian’s romance; and the arc involving Ben’s mother’s addiction. There were some times when Ben & Christian argued, but IMO that best served to show they weren’t perfect people. When people are living in close proximity & there is stress or in Ben’s case both stress & injury, there’s bound to be some instances when a person isn’t always happy & agreeable. I thought it was more realistic to show them disagreeing with each other occasionally. I did like that they communicated with each other to work out their problems. Other than those few issues, things seemed to go rather smoothly for the couple. Christian’s parents were outstanding, his downstairs neighbor was sweet, & their co-workers mostly all accepting. It was a low-angst, friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story. I did notice a few editing errors but they were fairly minor & didn’t pull me out of the story.

  16. I ended up choosing Blue Notes by Shira Anthony.
    It’s about an American lawyer that has a personal crisis and takes a 2 month leave of absence from work. He goes to his sister’s house in Paris to get away from it all.
    Of course, this is an m/m romance so he almost immediately runs into a young violin genius and they click.
    He hasn’t admitted he’s gay so we have the issue of him coming to terms with his sexuality. Things are good, then bad, then good again.
    I actually really enjoyed reading it, and there are a lot of references to French landmarks, tourist attractions and
    lifestyles. I’ve never been to Paris so I don’t know how authentic it was, but it sounded good to me.
    I would give it at least 4 stars, and who knows, I might even read it again someday.

  17. I love reading m/m. I think it’s made me a more open-minded, compassionate person, and if you’re looking for something to usher you out of a fundamentalist upbringing, m/m is it. That being said, I’ve decided to read literary fiction for this month’s reading challenge. And this week, I experienced life in Afghanistan (and San Francisco and Pakistan) in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. It’s almost impossible to summarize the book in a paragraph. Two boys, one the son of a wealthy widower, the other the son of his servant, come of age together, chasing each other through fields, sharing stories, flying kites. But their friendship is not equal: one would give up anything for his friend, the other is more selective with his attention. And then a tragic event occurs that shows each boy for who he truly is. The rest of the book deals with the aftermath of that event and explores the question, What does redemption look like when you can’t go back and fix it? Hosseini is masterful at delivering history lessons while you’re absorbed in the story. I saw, heard, smelled, and tasted Afghanistan, and cried tears for its people. Favourite quote: “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.” 5 stars

  18. I’m from Germany so most book will qualify for this challenge.
    The first book was ” Promises Made Under Fire ” by Charlie Cochrane, a historical set in WWI in France and England. A man learns the true nature of his good friend not before his death. It was written in a calm way. I liked the writing voice very much. A beautiful short story with a Happy End 🙂 . 4,25*

    The second book was “More Than Life” by Garrett Leigh, set in Kosovo and Albania. A short story about love in the Kosovan war between a young man, fighting in the underground resistance and an American CIA operative. The author did not deliver in character building and story telling. She tried to fit a lot of plot in just a short story and it felt very rushed. I really like her longer novels like “misfit” or “Only Love” very much, so if this is a new author for you I would recommend those books instead of “More Than Life”. 3*

    The third book was “The Hand-Me-Down” by Zahra Owens, set in Barcelona, Spain and New York. Nick, a dying man is looking for a replacement to take care of his troubled husband after his death. I wasn’t convinced from the start but then it got surprisingly good. Jamie, one of the main characters was very endearing to me and there was drama without too much dramatic overload. Still, the author touched some big issues here. 3,75*

    The fourth book was “Jungle Heart” by Bonnie Dee, a historical set in the African jungle and in England. This book tells the well known Tarzan story but with a m/m twist and in a quite realistic way. It is all about cultural topics, well written and an entertaining read. 4*

    The fifth book was “Warriors and Healers” by H.J. Brues, set in an Apache reservation in America. I choose this book because it had three main characters from different origin: an Native American Apache, an Irish American and a man from Spain. The cultural differences played a big part in this book. I really don’t know what to say about this one. It is not bad written. The three main characters deal with some heavy topics, there are some interesting aspects. But then everything ends in way too much sex for my liking. I’m sure there are a lot of readers who will like this book much more than I did. 3*

    That was it for this week. I’m looking forward to next week 🙂

  19. For this week, I read Unexpected Mate by Toni Griffin. I don’t think I would have noticed it was set in Australia if I wasn’t reading it for this challenge, actually. It feels like it could have been set in the US.
    I did like the book, though I kind of felt that Marcus accepted he was gay too easily but it iiiiis a shifter romance. Overall, a nice, fun read with just a little drama. 😀

  20. waxapplelover says:

    I read Blowing It by Kate Aaron. Set in London, which is lovingly described.

    A tough one to rate. I did like the book overall because I think that any reader probably likes an “inside” look into the publishing world. However, I felt that the angst from Owen got a little too much for me. And Magnus was the voice of reason. Until suddenly he wasn’t. So a high 3.5 stars for me. Loved the supporting characters, too.

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