Tag Archives: Grade A

Review: Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy released by NYLA on June 26, 2018

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews Book CoverNo day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both.

Iron and Magic is an urban fantasy with elements of romance set in the same world as Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. It is a story of redemption and a marriage of convenience with main characters who are not easy; I read this book 2 or 3 times before sitting down to write a review because I couldn’t get enough of it. For those who are not familiar with the Kate Daniels series, Hugh is a character who has done bad things in service to the big bad guy, but who has been exiled and now needs to figure out who he is and what his values are when he’s not serving the big bad guy. A lot of Kate Daniels fans do not like Hugh, but enough of them were interested in Hugh’s story that what started out as an April Fool’s joke turned into this marvelous novel, for which I am very grateful. Because of certain events in this book, it is not required that you read all of the Kate Daniels books, although it does help to know just why Hugh is despised by so many people. Before going any further, I must warn you all that this is a very violent, graphic book; there is a lot of blood and gore and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a steamy read, the sex is explicit. Both Hugh and Elara are intense characters, and Hugh has a lot to deal with, but Andrews manages to fit this in as well as move the book into the overarching plotline of the Kate Daniels world. Continue reading

Guest Release Day Review: Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Laura’s Review of Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
Historical romance released by Avon on June 19, 2018

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean Book CoverWhen Wicked Comes Calling . . .
When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain . . .
Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion . . .
But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted . . . and the only thing he’s ever desired.

Sarah MacLean has wrecked me. This book. THIS BOOK.

I wanted to read this book because Sarah MacLean has never let me down. One of my favorite books of all time is Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and with that book, MacLean hooked me. Add that to the fact that I’m a sucker for a wallflower/bad boy romance, and I’m hooked. With this book, she showed me once more what love really is, or what I want it to be. In Wicked and the Wallflower we see the heroine embarrassingly announce to a room full of the ton’s biggest gossips that she has landed the reclusive Duke of Marwick. (spoiler alert: she hasn’t. In fact they’ve never met). And the man who offers to help her land him in truth becomes the man she actually wants. I LOVE this trope! Continue reading

Review Deux: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity Book 2) by Nalini Singh
Paranormal romance released by Berkley on June 12, 2018

Ocean Light by Nalini SinghNew York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh dives beneath the surface of her Psy-Changeling world into a story of passionate devotion and selfless love…

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there’s a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment–taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he’s at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling…

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won’t hide the facts of Bo’s condition from him or herself. She’s suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine…

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back–even if it means striking a devil’s bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy…

This is one out of two books that left me feeling utterly satiated once I finished it, and yet completely desolate because I finished the book. Nalini Singh is an author I will follow anywhere she feels like going in terms of her writing. Ocean Light is part of the continuation of the Psy-Changeling series, which is in its “second season” to paraphrase Singh. It tells the story of Bowen Knight, a key secondary character up until recently, and Kaia Luna, a scientist turned chef sea changeling. It’s forced proximity, political intrigue, a wonderful romance, lush prose, and so much more in a book-shaped bundle, and not necessarily in that order. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Contemporary Romance released by Kensington on December 26, 2017

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev Book Cover

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.

I read Sonali Dev’s first book and loved it, it was fun and light and yet complex and filled with such lovely details. I heard that the next book was the opposite of those things—it was not light and fun at all. I don’t really like contemporary suspense romances so I opted out of that experience. All this to say, I’m reconsidering my decision not to read the books before A Distant Heart, because this book was everything I didn’t know I needed. Dev slowly rips apart the characters and their actions and emotions and then puts them back together; in the case of the hero and heroine—Rahul and Kimi—this results in a happy ending. She also conveys the way people perceive their surroundings, even when those surroundings might be considered worthy of elaborate detail. If you like friends to lovers kinds of romances, this might be your cup of tea, but be warned that their is a lot of emotional tension, because Dev goes into people’s motivations and the way their past experiences shape their actions in a way that makes the reading experience very acute. Continue reading

Review: Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
Contemporary romance released by Avon on November 28, 2017

He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…

Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.

Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.

An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past…and step into a future together.

I read this book very slowly, not because it was bad, but because I was at a point where I would have read any book slowly. That being said, I think I liked this book more than Hate to Want You, which is the book that precedes this one. More of the collective family drama unfolds in Wrong to Need You, which I will not spoil for you. I enjoyed getting to know Jackson and Sadia better, and seeing their perspectives on stuff was interesting. I’d like to note that mental health comes up a lot in the book, hence it comes up in this review. Sadia’s connections to her family and her anxieties played a substantial role in her character, but so did other aspects; the same can be said of Jackson, in different ways. Continue reading

Review Deux: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai
Contemporary romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.
Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

As the blurb says, this book is about Eve Chandler and Gabe Hunter—who is Livvy’s boss. I really enjoyed this book. Eve was likeable and multifaceted—she has issues resulting from her childhood, but she’s working through them, even before she starts having sex with Gabe. Gabe also has issues, which he is not working on. They both have pants feelings for each other, and they have both bought into this idea that having a relationship would be bad. As I’ve gotten older, this she’s-untouchable-because-she’s-my-best-friend’s-sister trope has also gotten old. But Rai made it work. Technically, it isn’t so much that Eve is Gabe’s friend’s younger sister—it’s that she is several years younger than Gabe, and he has a complicated relationship with her family. It was wonderful coming along for the ride with this couple, even though it’s the last book in this series. There are discussions of psychological abuse in this book, as well as anxiety and other mental health issues. There are great revelations in this book, and all the family drama is lanced—popped?—so if you really wanted to know all the truth, this is the pot of gold you were hoping for. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai
Contemporary romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.
Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

I’m a big fan of Alisha Rai. A Gentleman in the Street, Serving Pleasure, and The Fantasy Series were some of my favorite reads the years I read them and I can’t recommend them enough to readers who like hot romance. Before I dive in, first things first—if you haven’t read the first two books in the Forbidden Hearts series (Hate you Want You and Wrong to Need You), stop right now and go fix that. Because they’re awesome books and need to be read immediately. Oh, and also I think it will help frame the story in this book since some events have been building up and the couples from the previous books feature prominently in this story. Continue reading

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