Category Archives: Book Talk

Guest Author Anna Kashina on Romance in Blade Fights + An Exclusive Excerpt of Shadowblade AND a Giveaway!

Hi friends! You might know that [adult] high fantasy romance is totally “my thing.” So when Anna Kashina contacted me about reviewing her upcoming book I was first, pretty starstruck, then [pretty immediately] was like “DOES IT FEATURE ADULT CHARACTERS AND IS THERE ROMANCE?!” And when she answered “yes” I was like “WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO BE A GUEST AT ALBTALBS?!!?” And she said yes!!! So here we are! I’m so excited to welcome Anna Kashina today! Her newest book Shadowblade is out today!

Romance in blade fights

There are two things I find irresistible in fantasy novels. One is a good romantic subplot, well balanced and integral to the story. The other is a good blade fight – especially the kind with a lot of cool technique behind it. It’s an additional bonus – as well as a challenge – to make these fights emotionally gripping, as well as being technically cool. But if one manages to achieve all this, there is only one more step to the ultimate prize: to combine the two, using blade fights as a tool to advance the romance. It’s so rewarding when it’s done well.

I am a sucker for a dark and dangerous male lead with a morally complex character. A superb swordsman, trained to become an elite assassin, in my mind, cannot fail as a romantic hero. In my books, I love to match these kind of guys with strong women who can stand up to them, and have hidden strengths of their own. When developing these characters and their relationships, a sword fight can become more engaging than a love scene, and so much more effective in showing off their strengths and limitations, as well as their morally complex sides. Continue reading

SAPAHM Post: Amara Royce Discusses Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient

Hi friends, so it’s a guest review, I suppose is the best way to describe it. I’m thrilled that Amara Royce contributed this post, and as you might know, Hoang’s next book The Bride Test is now out! (Amara sent me this post on the 4th.)

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Contemporary romance released by Berkley on June 8, 2018

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang book cover

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

I generally don’t write reviews of the books I read, not even on Amazon or Goodreads. So I’m not going to try to be clever, and  I can’t guarantee I will be entirely coherent. But I cannot help gushing about this book effusively! I can’t adequately express how much I adore this book—and its author, Helen Hoang, for writing it! I’m also squee-ing because her next book is due out for release on May 7th!!
Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient truly wrecked me in all the best ways. I loved the main characters and many of the supporting characters. I adored the depiction of the female main character Stella’s subjective autistic perspective, as well as the male main character Michael’s handling of the heroine without realizing she’s on the autism spectrum. I adored the depictions of Michael’s family life, especially his mother. I adored the integral issues of consent, and I want everyone to read this book! That’s what the tl;dr boils down to, but for more details, keep reading.

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“Desperately” Seeking: [Privately] Pierced Heroes

Hi friends! So … usually these posts are OMG I WANT/NEED THEM NOW! But … this one happened because of twitter. If you follow me you might know periodically I tweet [kindle] freebies and books on sale. It’s ~scary out there in bookworld now (so much to eventually talk about…) but anyway – so these lists are more and more curtailed – but! This was one I’d read before and enjoyed:

Rock Me by Cherrie Lynn book coverAt the time, Rock Me by Cherrie Lynn was free for kindle. Anyway, this was the tweet that set it off – and people began listing other books, but I’m in recovery and this didn’t happen as quickly as I’d like so… whatever. Good news, Maneuver by Chelle Bliss (I haven’t read/finished this one yet) also has a pierced hero.

I want to say this was a “trend” that was pretty popular in the late 00s/early 10s but it seems to be less common now. I know there are more but these are the books off the top of my head I remember… and some crowdsourced from conversations where people gave me permission to use their replies. 🙂 Continue reading

Desperately Seeking: Smitten Heroes

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas Book CoverHi friends! Back with a quiet feature of ALBTALBS – where I (and anyone else can!) look for recommendations from the community. It’s pretty self explanatory … but I am desperately seeking them! I’m in a Mood what with recovery and such, and … I just want books with a strong strong strong romance/pursuit from the start.

Merriam Webster defines smitten as: deeply affected with or struck by strong feelings of attraction, affection, or infatuation

Which … yeah. I want your favorite books where the hero is taken from the start. He’s head over heels for the his love interest, whether overtly or not – but he’s now pursuing her, courting her … or him! M/F or M/M … or other pairings are welcome. I just want a romance where one of the characters is gaga for the other(s) from go. If you have F/F recs I’d love to hear them too. F/F is definitely a genre I’m not very familiar with, but I’m very glad to see there are more stories being written in Romanceland/more visibility.

Off the top of my head … Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas would be one such book. In fact … I’ll list them, in no particular order. Continue reading

Guest Author: Beth Kery On Genre Bending

Hi friends! I’m so excited to welcome back Beth Kery! Her most recent release is Swim Deep, which I even reviewed (a rarity!) We also had an exclusive excerpt of the book which you can check out if you missed it earlier. I think this post really helps sum up how I felt about the book upon reading it. I really do hope you read it because I need to talk to someone about it. You guys!!! Anyway, without further ado…. Beth!

Genre Bender
By Beth Kery

For almost everyone who did an early read of my new novel, Swim Deep, I heard a similar theme: What would you call it in regard to genre? Was it a suspense? A thriller? A romance? Maybe a contemporary suspense/thriller with romantic and paranormal elements? That’s too much of a mouthful . . . plus it leaves way too many possibilities. When it comes to Swim Deep, I have a feeling that every reader will have a different idea of how to label this novel. No matter what the reader calls it, my hope is that it takes her on an entertaining, thrilling ride for a few hours.

I get the idea of wanting to pin down a genre before I read a book. It helps you to choose a book based on your mood. Do I feel curling up with a cozy mystery, or freaking myself out a little bit with a horror or a thriller? Usually, a writer starts out knowing before she ever places the first word on the page what it is she’s writing, be it a romance with a happily-ever-after, a suspense, or a paranormal tale. That knowledge guides the way the story begins, unfolds and ends, and tells her the expectations for the hero and heroine. When it came to Swim Deep, though, it was the story that came to me first. It was the plot and certain vivid scenes in my mind that guided me more than any rigid rules in regard to genre. Continue reading

WHM: Cynthia Sax on Trailblazing Women In Science Fiction Romance

Hi friends! We have Cynthia Sax back with us today, and I’m thrilled to have our first official Smithsonian Heritage post of 2019, for Women’s History Month, and such a great topic. I’m out of it so you’ll have to forgive me on timing and mistakes etc – especially when we’ve got such a wonderful guest and post!

Trailblazing Women In Science Fiction Romance By Cynthia Sax

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley book coverWhen Limecello suggested this topic, I immediately agreed to cover it, thinking it would be an easy post to write. I’d search on Google, read a couple of posts on the history of Science Fiction Romance, add my own experience in this wonderful subgenre and bam, my post would be done.

Except when I searched on this topic, very few posts were mentioned. Wikipedia’s coverage of Science Fiction Romance was sparse and mentioned only one book, a book I knew couldn’t have been the first Science Fiction Romance.

This can’t be right, I thought. There must be more articles. My mad Google skillz must be failing me. So I put out a call in a SciFi Romance group for reference articles. A couple more resources were mentioned (including Heather Massey’s A Brief History Of Science Fiction Romance) but it was clear much of the history of this female writer dominated subgenre hasn’t be recorded and, if it isn’t recorded soon, it might never be noted. It would be lost. Forever. Continue reading

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: Swim Deep by Beth Kery

Hi friends! I’m so excited to tell you about Beth Kery’s upcoming book Swim Deep. I’m not even quite sure how to describe it. A psychological thriller with romantic elements? A contemporary romance with some magical realism? A really great read that will scare you and thrill you but also warm your heart? ALL OF THE ABOVE?! Anyway it’s a deviation from most of Ms. Kery’s other books, so if you’re going in expecting a super steamy erotic romance (especially with BDSM) … don’t. This isn’t that book. This book gets all in your head though, and I loved that.

Anyway without further ado … the book info and excerpt! Enjoy!

Swim Deep by Beth Kery Book CoverShe’d made a career out of studying light, but now she’s entered a seductive, dangerous world of shadow and lies . . .
Anna Solas, poor artist working two jobs, is swept away by Evan Halifax, his charm and his good looks, and marries too quickly for her family’s comfort. Evan takes Anna to his stunning lakeside mansion the North Twin on the Les Jumeaux estate, where she discovers he lived with his first wife Elizabeth until her disappearance and presumed death. He says they can live anywhere Anna wants to, but his explanations unravel bit by bit. Anna is increasingly uneasy, wondering what really went on in the decadent home theatre, who is watching her from the South Twin—the matching home on Lake Tahoe’s shore, and the identity of the nightmare woman who appears to her at night, whispering a message she dreads hearing. She becomes determined to uncover the truth behind Elizabeth’s life in order to save her own sanity.

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BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!!! … For Shipping. Another Partial Giveaway

Hi friends!

So I f i n a l l y :X mailed out books that I got/were promised from RWA. Which I guess has … spurred me on to some USPS trips?

Basically – I wanted to know if anyone would be interested in boxes of books for the price of shipping. Most are new, never read. Some might have been very gently read once. (Although those are much fewer and far between.) There are some titles from 2018 … but the books I’m mostly talking about are from the 00s. There are a LOT of Harlequin titles – Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Desire, Special Editions, and Harlequin Blaze. Then also a bunch of single title mass market paperbacks. Also some hard covers and trade paperbacks. Some of them may be signed as well. Some books I did list are here/there are some still available. 

If you’re interested only in particular genres I can try to accommodate that – I’m not going to list each title because I probably have 300 books or more stacked up and I don’t have the time/energy to make lists. Also you know, free box of new books for media mail prices. Unless you want me to ship it first class, or something else.

Would anyone be interested in a box or as many boxes as you like?

Let me know please and we can discuss details! Thanks!

 

 

Team ALBTALBS Reads: Limecello’s 2018 Part 2.0

Hi friends! So, I always like listing what all of the review crew read for the year. Anyone is welcome to participate, to be honest, so if you’d ever like to be a guest and share your reading list you’re more than welcome! (In fact, please do!) Just contact me and we’ll set something up!

Anyway, this is the list of all the books I read from July through December of 2018. If you want to see my thoughts on them you’ll have to check my GR. I also didn’t list all my DNF books because … well that seems unnecessary here. If you have any questions about these books, please let me know! Commentary is of course welcome too! I’d love to know if you read any of these books and what you thought!

To be honest I’m also a huge “mood” reader so … it’s very possible I’d feel quite differently about any of these books if I read them today. >.> Or on a good day. Each title also takes you to the Amazon page … if you want to throw a few pennies our way. 😇 Continue reading

Debut Author Ainsley Wynter on Writing Her First Scene

Hi friends! I met Ainsley Wynter in person at RWA this summer (it was her birthday!!!) and I’m thrilled to have her as a guest today! I hope you all give her a warm welcome – and congratulate her on her first book, Kissed at Midnight!

Kissed at Midnight by Ainsley Wynter Book CoverPrincess Sidony of L’Ortagia serves as the queen’s hostess, leaving affairs of state to her sister Zara. During a masquerade ball, Sidony kisses a handsome stranger only to discover he’s Prince Adrian of Embury, a man with a fearsome reputation and the emissary sent to arrange her sister’s marriage. Worried her actions will damage the budding alliance, she convinces Adrian to forget the incident…even if she cannot.

Adrian roots out traitors in his uncle’s kingdom of Embury using his magical abilities. When he’s sent to arrange a wedding for his cousin, a kiss in the moonlight gives him a taste of what he’s been missing. Sidony is everything his life is not: laughter, warmth, and passion. But the king maintains an unbreakable hold over him, hiding his family in exchange for Adrian’s loyalty to the crown.

After Zara disappears on the eve of the royal wedding, Adrian’s orders are to stay and maintain the alliance with L’Ortagia. But Sidony’s effect on his powers and his heart becomes too strong to deny. When he has a chance to rescue his family and throw off his royal ties, will he take it, knowing he’ll have to leave Sidony? Or will the dark prince abandon his past to be with the one woman who brought his cold heart to life?

Kissed at Midnight: The First Scene I Wrote

Sidony knocked on Adrian’s door before she lost her nerve. She twirled one of her rings. She jumped at a rumbling in the hallway, but it was only one of the castle’s cats pausing on the rug to wash its face. Striving for a similar nonchalance, Sidony softly recited lines from the current play she was reading before knocking again. Still nothing. Surely at this late hour he was in his suite.

This is in chapter seventeen, but it was the first paragraph I wrote of Kissed at Midnight. Continue reading