Tag Archives: Grade B

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.

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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

Release Day Review: My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh

My Fake Rake (Union of the Rakes #1) by Eva Leigh
Historical Romance published by Avon on November 26, 2019

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh book coverIn the first book in Eva Leigh’s new Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking enlists a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband only to be blindsided by real desire…

Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.

To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else…

Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.

Read this book ASAP! I highly recommend it for fans of historical romance. I haven’t read much historical romance this year, especially stories published by the New York / traditional publishers. If they’re like this now, sign me up for more! This book is doing a lot and I am here for all of it. There are so many things I liked, many of them just little acknowledgements or references I’m not used to reading in “traditional” Regency historical romance and I loved it! Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese
Contemporary romance published by Avian30 on March 28, 2017

The Art of Three 24-year-old Jamie Conway has just moved to London, is starring in his first feature film, and hasn’t yet figured out how to navigate fame, adulthood, or being bisexual in public.

When Jamie hooks up with his much older polyamorous costar Callum Griffith-Davies, he sets off a chain of delightful complications, including an unexpected affair with Callum’s no-nonsense wife, Nerea.

This Rainbow Awards-winning romance features three countries, two men, one woman, and absolutely no love triangles.

I read The Art of Three for the November #TBRChallenge and enjoyed it. It was a quick, relatively low angst read for me. They’re just so nice to each other and happy to be together! I’m a fan of MMF romances and when I heard about this book, I immediately put it in my TBR list. It’s not what I’m used to reading in a MMF / ménage / poly relationship story and I liked that! Continue reading

Release Day Guest Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Guest review of The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
High fantasy released by Penguin on September 3, 2019

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier book coverEighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

Juliet Marillier is one of my insta-buy authors and this book just confirms why that’s the case. The Harp of Kings launches a new series, Warrior Bards. I’m not sure if it will follow the same format as the Blackthorn & Grim series (following the same set of characters; more mystery, slow burn romance) or the Sevenwaters series (a different couple in each book; very much historical fantasy romance), but I suspect it will be the former. This story also nicely intersects the two established series in this world (the aforementioned Sevenwaters and Blackthorn & Grim). If you’re new to Marillier, this book is a good place to start! Continue reading

Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga, #1) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy published by Kensington on August 27, 2019

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken book coverThe Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

I have been waiting not so patiently for this book since it was announced and I was not disappointed! I love the zaniness of the author’s Shelly Laurenston urban fantasy/paranormal romance books and am just now making my way through her fantasy romance Dragon Kin series as G.A. Aiken. The Blacksmith Queen has family squabbles and insults aplenty like the other series. To me the silliness is a little dialed down from the Dragon Kin series or the Shelly Laurenston books but the book is still funny and overall delightful! There are plenty of battles and fantastical creatures although it’s light on kissing and sexy times in case that’s something you’re after! Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Unraveled by Lauren Dane

Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp book 1) by Lauren Dane
Contemporary romance released by Carina Press on January 30, 2018

Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled by Lauren Dane book coverThe sharpest ache comes from wanting what you think you can’t have…

Maybe Dolan has lived independent, free-spirited and unattached since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle’s sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job—and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she’s got it good.

But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better.

Maybe’s blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his…even if she doesn’t know it. Yet. He can’t help himself from wanting to protect and care for her.

But Maybe’s fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he’s not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants—her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe’s more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf…and he’s not afraid to ride the blade’s edge to bind her to him.

My TBR is massive, I don’t think I’ve read 40 new to me books in the last two years. I have reread several Lauren Danes though, so when thinking about what to read and review for ALBTALBS, this book from January of last year was the first to come to mind.

** TW/Spoiler: Maybe suffered severe emotional abuse at the hands of her parents and this is a main plot point in the first two books in the series.** Continue reading

What I (Limecello) Read the First Half of 2019

Indicative of how things are going, for the year I first typed 2018, and then 2010 and … yeah. If you haven’t noticed we’ve mostly been on hiatus here at ALBTALBS, with only rockstar Babs being on point and writing all the reviews and such as expected. The Heritage Months … I so hate giving up but might be a bust. I joked about next year for APAHM and then Pride (being my birthday month) my “gift to myself” would be… totally taking both months off… BUT ANYWAY. You’re not here to listen to me whine. You’re here to see what I’ve been reading. And it didn’t seem like a lot but … I guess it has been! So whee! There have also been some gems in there that I really hope you’ll pick up!

The asterisk before means I’ve read the book in the past and re-read it this year. Or that I read it this year, and then have re-read it again since the first read. The asterisk after the author name means the book was new to me, but since reading it in 2019 I’ve re-read it. Close to one of those “I got to ‘the end’ and flipped the book around and started from page 1 and read it through all over again.” … Because yes some people do do that! … 😛 Generally not me but I’ve done something close! 😀 Continue reading

Aidee’s List of Books Read from August 2018 through June 2019

I am a terrible, overwhelmed human being, so here is my list for the last year. As you will probably realize, I’ve done a lot less reading, and a lot of re-reading. I’ve put an asterisk “*” by the books I’ve re-read. Continue reading