Tag Archives: Grade A

My Epic Quest for Adult High Fantasy Romances – aka what I read in the second half of 2017

Hi friends! I’ve been talking about books for quite some time, and it’s been really easy for those conversations to get lost in the mix, but especially these days. Nevertheless, here at ALBTALBS we’ve taken to posting comprehensive lists of the books we’ve read annually … and here’s mine for the ~second half of 2017. It was also heavily focused on high fantasy fiction, because frankly, this is my sentiment: the world is a garbage fire and fuck all that shit. >.>

High fantasy is in general and here “as defined by me” [only not really] – that it has nothing to do with the real world. (Some people say high fantasy requires a “noble quest” … which most of these stories do as well. … All?) ANYWAY. None of this “the hero and/or heroine start out in Chicago and travel to another world.”

Of course I did read some other sub-genres too … but the majority of what I read and what I was looking for was high fantasy ADULT romances. And let me tell you, there aren’t that many. Authors – if any if you are reading this, PLEASE CONSIDER WRITING THIS/TELLING YOUR FRIENDS. Readers are DESPERATE for these books and voracious. There are many more ~YA [older teens/considered ~adults in their world] stories … so I branched out in to that, but I’d love to see adult adult ones. (No, not [just] sex 😛 – but with mature, grown characters.) Continue reading

Review: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh

Aidee’s Review of Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
Paranormal romance released by Berkley on September 26, 2017

Archangel's Viper Cover and Link

Enter New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s breathtakingly passionate Guild Hunter world with the story of a woman who isn’t a vampire or an angel…or human…

Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman—it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself—because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…

No one is safe.

I really enjoy Nalini Singh’s writing, I’m fairly patient when it comes to long-running series, and I’ve been curious about many of the characters Singh introduced earlier in this particular series. This is the most recent book in Singh’s Guild Hunter series, featuring two characters that were introduced in the first book, Angel’s Blood, Venom and Holly. What I loved most about this book is that Holly got to save herself, in the end, and both characters have a lot they have to come to terms with individually. Other components of the book I enjoyed include Singh’s depiction of the various relationships that Holly and Venom have with other characters in the series. I’d like to note, though, that this is part of a series, and might not be the best book to start with. Continue reading

What We Read in 2017 Part 2: Karen & Aidee’s Lists

Hi friends! This post [only] has Karen and Aidee’s reads because … well, they’re the ones who most have their shit together. 😛 Mine will go up … at some point. (And I maybe not expect, but hope others in the review crew will provide theirs too!) Anyway, this is Karen’s July-December list, because her first part can be found here, and Aidee’s 2017 list because she’s an ALBTALBS newcomer, so I’m very happy to be able to include her reads!

As a refresher, this is the basic ALBTALBS “Grading Scale.”

A – Amazing
B – Very Good
C – Good
D – Bad
F – Terrible
DNF – Did Not Finish (Reasons Vary)

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From Karen: (Some of) What I’ve Been Reading

December – July 2017: This year I have read less, but made a effort only to read what I like the look of, and generally I have read a lot of good books, and been a happier person. Continue reading

Review: A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole

Aidee’s Review of A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole
Historical romance released by Kensington on November 28, 2017

The Civil War has turned neighbor against neighbor—but for one scientist spy and her philosopher soldier, war could bind them together . . .
For all of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother’s traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her—until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie’s home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.
Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.
When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie’s freedom on the line,  she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love—and freedom—before they ever cross state lines.

I really enjoyed An Extraordinary Union, which is the prequel to A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole, so I kept an eye out for it. I am here to tell all of you to go and read it right now. You are wasting your time with my review. However, since I suspect you’re here for a review, read on. There are intelligent protagonists being wonderfully competent in their own ways, and equivalent character development in a historical setting I didn’t know much about beforehand. Continue reading

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Aidee’s review of Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh
Contemporary romance released by TKA Distribution

Book CoverNew York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

I picked up this book because it is a spinoff of Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss books—the hero of this book is the brother of one of the heroes from that series. Apparently, the family of the hero of Rock Hard—the second full-length book in the Rock Kiss series–was so popular when Singh first introduced them in Rock Kiss that she has decided to write books for the rest of the brothers—also known as the Hard Play series. I’m totally here for that. So of course I made grabby hands (virtually) when I saw that Cherish Hard was coming out in November. I really liked what I saw of Sailor and Ísa in Rock Hard, and I enjoyed getting to know their backstory in Cherish Hard. Continue reading

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

Aidee’s review of Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole
Historical romance anthology released on October 17, 2017

Book CoverLove in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs—but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…

THE PURSUIT OF… by Courtney Milan

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.
•They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
• They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
• They are not falling in love with each other.
• They are not falling in love with each other.
• They are… Oh, no.


Mercy Stiel knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Broadnax shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her world view, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

Anthologies are strange creatures, in that they’re collections of novellas or short stories, loosely bound by a theme—sometimes. They’re great for seeing snippets of an author’s writing, although, shorter stories being what they are—namely, not a novel—they can be inaccurate representations of what an author can do. But fear not! I’m here to tell you, in case you haven’t heard it from someone else, that Hamilton’s Battalion is the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, the dark chocolate of anthologies. (Okay, maybe not dark chocolate, but definitely a really fine dessert of your choice.) All three novellas stick to the theme in the blurb, and they’re wonderful in their own ways. This is, also, quite possibly the most diverse collection of characters I’ve seen in a month, at least. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Captured Shadows by Richard Rider

Karen’s review of Captured Shadows by Richard Rider
Historical Romance published by Lulu on October 19, 2014

Captured ShadowsJim Sinnett spends his days on respectable portrait photography and his nights creating scandalous erotic pictures for men who hide their desires in locked cabinets and between the pages of books. When a new friendship leads to a secret opportunity, one more dangerous than ever before, Jim agrees to step in front of the camera but finds himself baring much more than his skin.

A twisting historical romance set in the fog of Victorian London, Captured Shadows follows the path of love, blackmail and obsession to a devastating climax.

*As of writing, this book is still free/ pay what you fancy here. Continue reading

What We’ve Been Reading in 2017

Hi friends! I always like to know what people have been reading, and more importantly, what they recommend. While this isn’t exactly that … (those posts come in reviews and later), this list and our grades should give you some sort of indication. This time, you’ll get a comprehensive lists from me, a general list from Babs, and Karen’s highlights.
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them! [I’m also as usual it seems like treading through quicksand, so we’ll see how we go with links.]
I also want to note, Babs put me to shame with her organization. While I then also separated my books out by month, I can’t speak to accuracy of timing. Especially since you know, I was loopy for most of it.
As a refresher, this is the basic ALBTALBS “Grading Scale.”
B = Really great book. You should read it.
C = Good book. Average, enjoyable read.
D = It was good, but there were some problems, or the reader had [significant] issues with certain aspects.
F = this was not a good book. I am angry I read it.
DNF = Did Not Finish (Either the book was truly that terrible, or I wasn’t in the mood, or whatever else. I just didn’t finish.)

Team TBR Challenge Review: The A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy (A Court of Thorn and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin) by Sarah J. Maas

The A Court of Thorn and Roses Trilogy (A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin) by Sarah J. Maas
Fantasy romance released by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 5, 2015, May 3, 2016, and May 2, 2017, respectively.

A Court of Thorns and Roses Feyre is a huntress. She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price …Follow Feyre’s journey into the dangerous, alluring world of the Fae, where she will lose her heart, face her demons and learn what she is truly capable of. This stunning, three-book box set of the #1 New York Times bestselling series by Sarah J. Maas includes A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin. Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.
This month’s TBR Challenge is “series catch up.” Which, technically I’m catching up with the series since the first book was released in 2015 … but honestly I read the entire trilogy for the first time last week. And I loved it. I’ve been on a massive fantasy romance kick for the past month, which is a deviation from my usual reading. This is my escape from reality, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’ve always loved the fantasy genre, and it was a big part of what I read as a kid. (Maybe this was because I re-read On Fortune’s Wheel/The Tale of Birle while recovering. Which I’m still doing. Anyway.) Y’all. The A Court of Thorn and Roses (ACOTAR) trilogy is fantastic. You all need to read it. Full disclosure – I’m not trying to, and in fact am trying not to write spoilers, but some of them might slip out. (Scroll to the bottom for the individual book covers and blurbs.)

Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Tale of Birle née On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt

The Tale of Birle née On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt
Young Adult Speculative Fiction originally published by Atheneum on March 1, 1990, Reprinted and titled May 26, 2015

On Fortune's WheelBirle has agreed to be wed to the huntsman Muir as an escape from the drudgery of life at her father’s inn—but the moment she looks into the bellflower-blue eyes of the man she comes upon stealing one of her father’s boats, Birle knows she cannot marry Muir. Even after she discovers the mysterious stranger is Orien, a lord, and as unreachable to an innkeeper’s daughter as a star, Birle is determined to travel with him as far as he will allow. Their journey takes Birle to a world far from home, a world where lords may become slaves, where princes rule by fear, and where fortune’s wheel turns more swiftly and dangerously than Birle could have ever imagined.

I have a 1991 print of this book, but stairs are beyond me so I can’t get it and type out that blurb/back cover copy, which is annoying me. Anyway, this is a “cheat” because it hadn’t been in my TBR pile, but I was struck with the sudden urge to re-read it, and I think it fits the “something different” because it is rare I read something that isn’t romance. (Or law.)

I have to admit, I pretty much always skip Part I: The Inkeeper’s Daughter in my re-reads. While yes, it’s where Birle and Orien meet, I feel there’s too much disparity between them. Orien is clearly a nobleman, while Birle is “of the people.” He’s older, worldlier, and on a mission. Birle goes along with him because she falls in love the first time she truly sees him. (And she doesn’t have much in her current life.) She’s smitten as only a young girl can be the first time she sees a dashing man. It’s the journey they’re forced to take together that makes things different, and I feel parity is only beginning when we hit Part II: The Philosopher’s Amanuensis. And that’s where the story truly begins. Continue reading