Tag Archives: Grade B

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review/Thoughts: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu & Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
4th Century BC Philosophical and Religious Text – this version released by Road to Success/De Marque on April 3, 2020

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu book coverLao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching”, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living and one of the wonders of the world. In eighty-one brief chapters, the “Tao Te Ching” llods at the basic predicatment of being alive and gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit. This book is about wisdom in action. It teaches how wo work for the good with the efforless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao (the basic principle of the universe) and applies equally to good government and sexual love, to childrearing, business, and ecology.

The Tao Te Ching is the most widely traslated book in world literature, after the Bible. Yet the gemlike lucidity of the original has eluded most previous translations, and they have obscured some of its central ideas.

Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath
Historical romance released by Harper Collins on June 28, 2011

Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath book coverThey are masters of seduction, London’s greatest lovers …
Renowned for his bedchamber prowess, Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, owes a debt to a friend. But the payment expected is most shocking, even to an unrepentant rake—for he’s being asked to provide his friend’s exquisite wife with what she most dearly covets: a child.

Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one …
Lady Jayne Seymour, Marchioness of Walfort, is furious that such a scandalous agreement would be made. If she acquiesces, there must be rules: no kissing . . . and, certainly, no pleasure.

Until love takes them by surprise.
But unexpected things occur with the surprisingly tender duke—especially once Lady Jayne discovers the rogue can make her dream again . . . and Ransom realizes he’s found the one woman he truly cannot live without.

The prompt for this month’s TBR challenge was “old school” which I think is usually meant to be “something published 10 or more years ago” and … I went really old school. All the way back to the 4th century BC so … here we are. I’d never read it before, and De Marque was offering all these classics and such free in kindle format, and I thought “why the hell not? I’ve never read it before and have always meant to …” I mean, we’re living through a pandemic. Everything is all over the place. Including my brain. (This did nothing to help reset it.)

Tao Te Ching is eminently quotable, but I didn’t care for it. The … honestly I kept wondering if the translation I was reading was terrible. It’s not just a lot of the “poems” at the beginning of chapters really didn’t read like something written in Chinese/they took major liberties, but that was definitely part of it. And I kept getting flashbacks to the classical Chinese course I took at university (which is more equivalent to ancient Greek or Latin … and/but the characters were more like traditional characters than pictographs…) So then I kept thinking about the importance of how works are translated. And of course I had also picked this book because it was short, so I didn’t bother researching it. I didn’t read the blurb until now, and I have to say it amused me/made me >.>. I don’t think I’m wrong about my “badly translated” guess, especially considering the typos in the blurb… Continue reading

Release Day Review: The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham

The Rakess (Society of Sirens #1) by Scarlett Peckham
Historical romance published by Avon on April 28, 2020

The Rackess by Sarlett Peckham book coverMeet the SOCIETY OF SIRENS—three radical, libertine ladies determined to weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve…

She’s a Rakess on a quest for women’s rights…

Seraphina Arden’s passions include equality, amorous affairs, and wild, wine-soaked nights. To raise funds for her cause, she’s set to publish explosive memoirs exposing the powerful man who ruined her. Her ideals are her purpose, her friends are her family, and her paramours are forbidden to linger in the morning.

He’s not looking for a summer lover…

Adam Anderson is a wholesome, handsome, widowed Scottish architect, with two young children, a business to protect, and an aversion to scandal. He could never, ever afford to fall for Seraphina. But her indecent proposal—one month, no strings, no future—proves too tempting for a man who strains to keep his passions buried with the losses of his past.

But one night changes everything…

What began as a fling soon forces them to confront painful secrets—and yearnings they thought they’d never have again. But when Seraphina discovers Adam’s future depends on the man she’s about to destroy, she must decide what to protect… her desire for justice, or her heart.

The cover and title drew me to this book when it was first announced. I was hoping for a 180 on the rake-who’s-sworn-off-marriage story and it did that and more. I’m happy to write it lived up to my high expectations. There’s a lot happening in this story and it was a lot for me when I was reading it. I smiled, I cried, I was shouting “yes!” in my head and doing an imaginary fist pump. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu

Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu
Paranormal romance released by Dorchester on March 1, 2005

Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. LiuLong ago they roamed the earth —dragons, tigers . . . shapeshifters — men who wore the forms of beasts. Their world was magic. Now it is gone.But some remain . . .

He looks out of place in Dela Reese’s Beijing hotel room—exotic and poignant, some mythic, tragic hero of an epic tale.With his feline yellow eyes, he’s like nothing from her world. Yet Dela has danced through the echo of his soul and knows this warrior will obey her every command.

Hari has been used and abused for millennia. But he sees,upon his release from the riddle box, that this new mistress is different. There is a hidden power in Dela’s eyes—and with her, he may regain all that was lost to him. Where once he savaged, now he must protect; where before he knew only hatred, now he must embrace love. Dela is the key. For Dela, he will risk all.

I have a huge TBR, so large I really don’t want to know how many books I have hidden around the house or stored on my ereader. When Lime told me I could review any book from my TBR for the ALBTALBS TBR Challenge this year, I was excited. And then I froze. How do I go about choosing a book from the hundreds I own? After I stopped hyperventilating, I settled on finding a paranormal romance novel to review. I used to read a lot of paranormal romance and realized I haven’t read from this genre is a few years, and I kind of miss the over the top stories that take place in a world that’s a bit more magical than our own.

I’m a big comic book fan, and especially love Marjorie Liu’s original Monstress series. I have read almost every comic Marjorie has worked on and her storytelling is sparse and yet contains a world of meaning and action. While I started reading Marjorie because of her work in comic books, I also read her Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series. But, I had never read the series that started her career as a writer, and since I had apparently purchased all the Dirk & Steele novels, why not read her very first book. Continue reading

Aidee’s “Lightning Reviews” of the Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews (+ discounted books!)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews book coverKate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way our of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way…

This edition includes in-depth information about the world of Kate Daniels with descriptions of its characters and factions. Explore Kate’s Atlanta like never before with a quiz to find your place there and with answers to frequently asked questions. And don’t miss the prequel story “A Questionable Client” as well as scenes of events in Magic Bites from Curran’s point of view.

This book is the epitome of urban fantasy, and yet it also bucks tradition in many ways; it has a strong, mysterious heroine and all sorts of magic, heavily influenced by Russian folklore. If I tell you that Kate manages to fail spectacularly in this book, would that be considered a spoiler? I liked that because usually in the first few books of a series, the protagonist fails in smaller ways and the failures escalate the further along we get into the series.

Grade: A Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Release Day Review: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep

Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep
Adult high fantasy published by Harper Voyager on March 17, 2020

Crush the King by Jennifer Estep book coverA fierce gladiator queen must face off against her enemies in an epic battle in this next thrilling installment of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series—an action-packed adventure full of magic, murderous machinations, courtly intrigue, and pulse-pounding romance.

Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.

There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.

Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king.

I’m a big fan of this series and really enjoyed Crush the King. Not much can take me out of my weeks long Schitt’s Creek fan fiction glom right now but this book did! I like the fast-moving story, action sequences, and royal intrigue. It’s hard for me to avoid spoilers for the previous books since this book wraps up some things that have been running through all the books. So proceed with caution if you haven’t read the previous books! Continue reading

Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Historical romance released by Avon on August 28, 2018

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare book coverHe’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

This is a delightful take on the governess-nobleman trope found in rmance land, with an astronomer as the governess (Alex/Alexandra) and a duke’s heir as the nobleman (Chase). I really enjoyed Alex and Chase’s banter, and also their voices—despite some very angsty moments, they don’t take everything seriously.; they’re both logically romantic, Alex more so than Chase. There are also two children who somehow don’t turn into plot moppets. The only thing that I wasn’t entirely happy with was how quickly the conflict between Alex and Chase felt resolved. Continue reading

Review: Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr
Contemporary own voices romance published by Mercy Zephyr on November 14, 2019

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr book coverHer intimately familiar voice whispered softly in his ear, “Pretend you know me.”
Lynn Hall has a formula for success. As a child in the rural island town of Selaruk, Alaska, she ate ramen; now, she’s an aspiring accountant. The last step of her plan: Liquidate her family’s Selaruk assets for her mother, then leave those memories behind for good.
Keith Kendall’s parents threw him away years ago. Now they are gone, and Keith is back to forge a new life…surrounded by painful memories. But his favorite memory—his high school sweetheart, Lynn—just walked back into his life….Too bad she doesn’t recognize her high school girlfriend.

I read this book because it’s an #ownvoices romance and I like to give those any boost I can, which includes writing reviews. Also gender roles in romance are something I’m interested in, and I wanted to see how this novel would take on the challenge. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an effectively cis-gendered mostly-hetero lady. I say effectively cis and mostly hetero because while I am comfortable with being female I am bad at being femme, and I tend to be attracted to androgyny. (I have read exactly one (1) romance novel which featured a hero who is the exact kind of person I’m attracted to, and it is Untamed by Anna Cowan.) All of this is to say, I read this as part of an active effort to diversify my romance reading experience and learn something about the genre as a whole while, hopefully, having a good time. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons Book 1) by Milla Vane
Dark adult high fantasy romance released by Berkley on February 4, 2020

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane book coverA generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

I am extremely all over the place about this review. First of all, let me say that I enjoyed reading A Heart of Blood and Ashes very much. I could not put the book down. I read until 5 AM and was like “ok I need to get some sleep…” And anyway I finished reading it in less than a day. Upon finishing it I immediately went to check when the next book was out – and was like “!!!” If you like high fantasy romances, I think you’ll very much enjoy this book. I do want to say though – I think people have labeled it “dark” and … it definitely fits that, for the heroine. It is a cruel harsh world, and the “civilized” societies don’t mean people act better. At all. (Although for this book the setting is mostly traveling across plains – there’s a lot of action.) I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, and I think a good starting place would be the content warnings on Milla Vane’s page.
 
As stated, this is a dark adult high fantasy romance which means there are situations and circumstances that will disturb some readers. The world itself, the mythology contains violence – it isn’t described but it’s matter of fact there. The hero and most of the other main characters are barbarians. Here it just means their social [niceties] differ from ours. The heroine has suffered deeply as well. It’s a very harsh, matter of fact world that is trying to recover being decimated by “the destroyer” – with the threat of his return. I think part of it was separating my social expectations and adjusting to how that world operates. There are still universal things that are not okay, of course – but what Maddek and Yvenne find acceptable and normal differ from what we generally would.

Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance

Brave the Tempest (Cassie Palmer book 9) by Karen Chance
Urban fantasy released by Berkley on July 30, 2019

Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance book coverCassie Palmer, chief seer of the supernatural world, faces her biggest challenge yet—her own allies! Everything’s on the line in the latest thrilling entry in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart.

If paranormal romance/urban fantasy were on a spectrum, from vampires and shapeshifters being members of the mainstream society, to “the world will end if we’re exposed, but also, exploding buildings due to magical battles are a regular occurrence” then this series falls closer to the more over-the-top end of the spectrum. This series is, at the writing of this review, on its ninth full-length published novel and scheduled to have two more books released in the next year or so. And there’s a spin-off series that is up to its fourth full-length novel. So, if you’re one of those people who can’t handle reading incomplete series, I suggest that you go find something else to read for another year and then check back in on this one. If you don’t mind reading incomplete series that are over-the-top, then this is your series, and probably your book. This series is told from Cassie’s point of view, in first-person, very much in keeping with the urban fantasy tradition. What I like most about Cassie is that she’s new to her power and we’ve had to see her figure out how to wield it, and how to avoid being controlled by others who want to benefit from it. What is this power, you may be asking? Well, the cover copy doesn’t lie; Cassie is a time-traveling clairvoyant. I liked the book overall–Cassie has emotional and political conflicts–but I found myself losing track of time within the book, and I was sometimes a little overwhelmed by everything going on, much like the main character. Continue reading

What I (Limecello) Read the Second Half of 2019

Hi friends! As you may know, here at ALBTALBS we try to provide comprehensive lists of what we’ve read during the year. (Some of us split  the year in half, some of us do it in one go.)

ICYMI there was a lot of health stuff for me this year, and my brain is pretty broken, so if things don’t make sense I apologize.

As you may have figured, I’m a major mood and comfort [re]reader. I tried to denote re-reads within the [same month] with an asterisk after the author name. (That’s what that means, I think.) If there’s an asterisk before the title, that means it’s a general re-read. [I know, even “tricked” myself with this damn system/had forgotten about it, because I couldn’t figure out why my numbers were off. Anyway, without further ado … my 2019 Part II list! (The list might be slightly off, because my computer is ancient and wants to die – if I leave it unplugged overnight it goes from 100% charge to 0%. And my internet connection isn’t great either. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We’re struggling over here, kay?) The vast majority of the books I read are from the library. And if you’re familiar with KU, you can probably tell the periods where I took advantage of a promotional [membership] :P. Continue reading