Tag Archives: Limecello

Black Lives Matter

I realized a little over a week ago I’d been posting and sharing on various social media platforms – but not here. I then asked the review crew if they had anything to say, and this is what we have.

From Sailorstkwrning, this comic which is a great resource on why saying “All Lives Matter” is just wrong, and illustrates the “house on fire” aspect. I really hope you’ll click over to check it out.

From Aidee: Black lives matter wherever you find yourself reading this. In a genre that is unfriendly to Black authors, I think it is especially important to make an increased sustained effort to read and review Black authors. For me, this has to go beyond this time, or Black History Month, because short-term help doesn’t really help. I particularly want to highlight Black stories of love and joy because, as Tochi Onyebuchi said in a piece earlier this month,” to depict Blackness as existing wholly at the same dolorous register is not only incorrect, it’s boring.” So, highlighting Black voices in romance is one small way I can help. There are many, many other ways to help, now and in the long run, and I strongly encourage you (and myself) to look for those opportunities. Remember, helping is not about you, but about the person(s) you are trying to help.

If more trickle in I’ll add them, but I wanted this posted. So anyway, my thoughts:

Black Lives Matter. Full stop. Nothing else. No ands or buts.  While I was trying to write this post in my drafts google kept giving me the “something’s wrong” message – and obviously it wasn’t related but … it felt too on the nose.

We’ve all seen the protests. Too many times. This time for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more deaths -mostly at the hands of police – that are emerging. Manuel Ellis. David McAtee. More. The pain, the anger, the work. (I’m not here for detractors.) Everyone knows there’s a deadly pandemic – imagine how much it takes to be out there protesting, in the midst of that, as the most vulnerable population. And don’t come at me or for the protests, haircut Karen. Racism is a public health crisis. In fact various jurisdictions and institutions have come out and declared it as thus. I’ve been vocal on other social media, but then it stuck me – I’d been silent on the blog. The thing that costs me the most, and where things stay. We’re at the point where silence is complicity. In fact, I saw this when posted on NPR: A Decade of Watching Black People Die it doesn’t even list everyone – and it’s so much. I really hope you’ll read it.

I’ve been saying this publicly since at least 2016 (I searched twitter for my handle and “diversify your friend group.”) So. Diversify your friend group. Your actual friends, not just your acquaintances.  Don’t gaslight Black or other people of color about microaggressions or “everyday racism” they experience. A big thing on the internet a while back was sympathy vs empathy. If you’re not Black, you can’t understand how it is. I’m not Black – I’m not a parent. I can never fully understand what it is to live as a Black person in America, and especially not what it’s like to live in constant fear for my child – especially parents of young Black men. 

And understand – that’s a huge issue. Black men are 2.5x more likely to be killed by police than white men. (I believe Black men are incarcerated at 6x the rate white men are.) This happens in jurisdictions where the Black population is much smaller than the white population.

It’s not enough to be “not racist.” We all need to be anti-racist. Voting is the very minimum. Make sure you vote in every election. Not just the big ticket ones. Vote in the primaries. Find out what you can about the candidates – which ones will work to demilitarize police? Which ones will work to actually protect and serve the community when it comes to sheriffs, and anyone else in law enforcement you can elect – prosecutors and such. Is the coroner an elected position where you live? The school board – will they work to end the school to prison pipeline? (The last time I looked at the numbers, a child who is put into juvenile detention has a seventy percent adult recidivism rate.)

Volunteer to be a Guardian Ad Litem. Look into your areas CPS – are mostly white kids being put into foster homes while BlPOC are being sent to institutions or locked facilities? Kids have pretty much been my life work so that’s not just where my focus lies but where my expertise is. Ask the questions. Bring your friends to city council meetings and make them uncomfortable. Hell – run for city council. (Or other office!) Write and/or call your representatives and senators. If they’re shitty – work to get them out of office. 

Confront your racist friends and family when they say “all lives matter” or god forbid “blue lives matter.” (NO LIVES ARE BLUE, OKAY.) You don’t have to be aggressive about it of course, but don’t let it slide. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes awful. Sometimes these are people you dearly love. Sometimes they’re your parents. 

And if you’re not Black, you don’t get to just check out. This systemic racism is on us. Take this heartache, sadness, exhaustion, all that. Imagine living it every day of your life. Through nothing you control. It’s the color of your skin. I’ve been seeing a lot of people sharing clips of Jane Elliott’s interviews and experiments. She’s been doing this since 1968
Also, Consider why you think blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin to be the most beautiful. Why you want to color and lighten your hair, or even skin. If you’re not white – especially – why you want to bleach your hair, put in color contacts to look “more white.” Is it sometimes just purely cosmetic? Sure. But it often also is that white supremacy has brainwashed your standard of beauty. (A few years ago – and it’s come back how many items are “default white.” Bandaids. Tights. “Nude” shoes.) 

I know I’m all over the place but it’s because racism has affected all aspects. I’m not an expert. I’m just trying to learn. I’ve been working with underprivileged at risk kids my entire adult life. Honestly more than 90% of the time (probably even higher) they’ve been not-white. And I’ve learned from kids too – changed my assumptions, learned about entirely different life experiences.

Listen, learn, use your privilege when and where you can. Support Black businesses and creators. It’s time to tear down this racist system. Don’t say “oh I don’t want to get political.” How is it POLITICAL to say “police shouldn’t randomly be murdering people – ESPECIALLY NOT BLACK PEOPLE.” HOW?! And this is why silence is not ok. Not just silence though – slacktivism. If you have kids, talk to them. Teach them about racism and privilege. Especially if you’re white. 

For myself … my work involves social justice. All my non-romance reading, other than laws, is about social justice and the disproportionate affects our ~judicial system has on Black and Brown individuals. I’m known to raise holy hell when kids are treated unfairly and especially  when it’s wite/Black kids being treated differently. For myself, I need to step up my leisure reading of Black romances authors too. I have a few go-to’s and a lot in my TBR, but I need to be more deliberate about it.
I’ve also let the Smithsonian Heritage Month posts slide – but I’m really hoping to bring them back next year. And not haphazardly. All authors and individuals are welcome to guest at ALBTALBS at any time – but I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to participate in SHMs and feel it’s lip service when it’s just X times instead of all times. 

It’s a lot. We’re horrified. We’re heartbroken. And we’ve got work to do. I know I’ll mess up. I’m going to keep trying though, and doing the work, and learning.  Join me.

[And some additions… there’s a lot – a lot more – this could go on for 10x the length… so I encourage you to scope out twitter and such for other resources and voices. Experts. Black writers and activists willing to educate.]

And a few things I wanted to add. This is one reason why Drew Brees is being criticized and why he deserves to be criticized. (Since writing my post he’s said a bit more … but …) I really hope you’ll also watch Malcolm Jenkins’ response – he’s one of Drew’s teammates

This is a good resource for your Christian friends.

ETA!: GAH! I KNEW I’D FORGET THINGS! As I said there’s so much. I meant to add this in the original.

And this. (I’m joking but I’m also not when I say … white people like to listen to [only] white people…)

And then I saw this the day after posting. PLEASE if you watch nothing else… watch this one.

And now this from Sadie:

Black lives in this country are treated as though they matter less than white lives. It has been this way ever since white European colonizers invaded Africa and decided the indigenous peoples were, well, less. This shouldn’t be news to any of us who are white. Our ancestors decided Black people were less and therefore could be owned. Our ancestors used eugenics to “scientifically” confirm that white policies and practices built upon racism made white lives superior to Black lives.

When slavery in the United States was abolished, white supremacy wasn’t about to allow Black people to become equal. Every step of the way, policies and practices and beliefs founded within white supremacy were intentionally employed as a means to subjugate Black lives and remind them over and over that this is a white world and they should feel blessed that they even have any place within it.

Any time Black lives build success, wealth and prosperity white lives continue to violently burn it down. Look up the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, OK, and the burning of Rosewood, FL. Look at how we continue to try to abolish Black lives. The lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, David McAtee, and far too many Black lives are mercilessly snuffed out because the systemic racism built from white supremacy leaves no room for them.

The country feels like it’s burning. And may be it should. Maybe it needs to burn so we can to dismantle the systemic racism and white supremacy this country was founded upon. Maybe out of the ashes we will be able to work toward restorative justice. Maybe we should defund the police and narrow the scope of their responsibilities while we build community safety nets and infrastructures necessary to ensure everyone has healthcare, mental health care resources, housing, food, and the security of knowing none of these things can be taken away. Maybe we need to take a hard look at our own belief systems and do the hard work of confronting our inner racists so we can heal and listen and cede space for those who have not been given the time or opportunities to heal from centuries of generational trauma.

Maybe we should dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism because it’s wrong. Black lives matter. They always have.

Release Day Review: Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen

Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen
Contemporary romance released by Tuxbury Publishing LLC on May 12, 2020.

Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen book coverOn the eve of her thirtieth birthday, sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle her personal life with the same zeal that she brings to her successful agency.

A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner with a bad reputation. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.

She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.

Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…

You guys! This book is darling! I’m so glad I got my hands on an ARC of Sure Shot as it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Times as we all know, are … crazy. Unfortunate. Stressful. It’s a fucking goddamn pandemic. So along those lines it was a bit of a mind trip reading a contemporary romance where life is normal. Obviously I understand this was written well before global lockdown happened. (Before there even was an outbreak anywhere in the world …) But you know. I was pretty engaged with the book – but it took a bit. I think it was mostly me/the everything, and not the book – but up until about chapter 17 I kept putting the book down every chapter or so. Nevertheless once things started rolling I couldn’t put it down, I laughed out loud in places, teared up, and basically wanted to hug the book upon finishing it.

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Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Release Day Review: Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas

Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels Book 6) by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 18, 2020

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas book coverEverything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun. . . .

This book filled my heart. It overflows with joy. I cannot contain the emotions – all positive – exploding inside me. Chasing Cassandra is a wonderful conclusion to this series. I might even like it more than Pandora‘s book, and that’s saying something. So I’ve read Lisa Kleypas since I first started reading romances in the early 00s and she’s one of my favorite authors from historical to contemporary romances. I was a bit apprehensive before reading the book, worried my expectations might be too high, as I knew it’s the last of the series, I’ve loved Tom Severin in his cameos, and I wanted so much for Cassandra to have the best happily ever after. 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.

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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

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

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

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Date Dare by Tara Sue Me

The Date Dare by Tara Sue Me
Contemporary romance released by After Six Publishing Co on November 19, 2018

The Date Dare by Tara Sue MeWho knew three words held such destructive power? No, not THOSE three words. I’m talking about the evil word trio that’s my own personal kryptonite, that stole my best friend, and took away the only woman I’ve ever loved:
I dare you.

I was six when Darcy Patrick moved next door.
By the time we were eight, we were best friends.

At fifteen, I gave a classmate a black eye for calling her names.
At sixteen, she talked me through asking my crush to prom.

I helped her get over her first heartbreak at nineteen.
Two years later, she returned the favor.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-nine I realized I loved her.
And because I was too stupid to do anything about it,
at thirty, I lost her for good on a dare.

Darcy Patrick is tried of watching her best friend, Elliott Taber, date the wrong kind of woman. When his latest flavor of the month walks out on him, she dares him to let her find his next date. Elliott agrees, but only after Darcy agrees to allow him to do the same.

The dare is on.

The dates take place on the same night. One is an epic fail. The other is just plain epic.

Elliott isn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotions hitting him as Darcy seemingly finds everything she ever wanted with the man he set her up with. He should be happy for her. He should leave her alone.

But he can’t.

So he makes one more dare….

This month’s TBR Challenge prompt was a short read. I tried a few category romances (the less said there the better)… then this book became available at the library, and win! I’d had it on hold because I thought the premise looked cute. In fact the blurb gives more history/detail about Elliott and Darcy’s childhood friendship than the book, almost, but … you get the gist of it. I love friends to lovers stories, and it was nice to read two characters that are so utterly comfortable not only with each other, but themselves as well. I can’t remember if I’ve read a book by Tara Sue Me before … so this one was a great start. Continue reading

Also Belated Team TBR Challenge Review: Muffin Top by Avery Flynn

Muffin Top by Avery Flynn
Contemporary romance released by Entangled on October 29, 2018

Muffin Top by Avery Flynn Book CoverThe only thing about me that’s a size zero is the filter on my mouth. I’ve got a big personality, a big rack, and a big number on the scale. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

But when some random guy suggests I might not be eating alone if I’d ordered a salad instead of a hamburger I’m shocked silent, which is a feat, trust me.

That brings us to one sexy fireman named Frankie Hartigan. He’s hot. He’s funny… And he’s just apologized for being late for our “date” then glared at the fat-shaming jerk. Next thing I know, he’s sitting down and ordering himself dinner.

I have no problem telling him I don’t need a pity date…unless of course it’s to my high school reunion next week. Oops where did that last bit come from? And what do I do now that he’s said yes?!

Because this is no make-over story, and I think Frankie is using me for something. I just have to figure out what…

I actually read this book a few weeks ago, so bear with me if I mess things up. However, it’s stayed with me, and this book is the reason why I read a number of Avery Flynn’s other backlist titles. These Hartigans though – there’s something about them. However [November’s] challenge prompt was “cover love” and! While this isn’t one of those immediately eye catching covers, or eye poppingly (bad) ones … what I love about it is its simplicity, and the fact that there actually is a plus sized woman on the cover. I know we’ve all talked about problems where the models on a book cover are nothing like the characters in the book. And before authors start running in here with “well actually” … yes I also realize authors have varying levels of control in [traditionally] published books. With all that out of the way … I think this is a really great contemporary romance! Onward! Continue reading

TBR Challenge Review: Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery

Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery
Contemporary erotic romance re-edited and re-released on July 16, 2017 by Beth Kery

Exorcising Sean's Ghost by Beth KeryFrom the New York Times Bestseller Beth Kery comes this sizzling contemporary romance suspense, now re-edited and re-released after former publication by a previous publisher . . .

Belle is forced to mourn in secret after her lover, U.S. Attorney Sean Ryan, is murdered in a terrorist plot. When she has an irrational, intense sexual response to the mysterious stranger Jack Caldwell, Belle wonders if it’s due to delayed grief for Sean. Sean was the only man she’d ever responded to so completely, after all.

When she finds herself submitting wholly to Jack’s dominant, demanding manner in bed Belle begins to live on the sharp edge of doubt and uncertainty, even to the point of questioning her own sanity. Because Belle can’t let go of the crazy, impossible idea that Sean Ryan and Jack Caldwell are one and the same man.

So I never read the original – apparently it was published in 2007 … and I’m kind of happy about that, because everything – the edits etc, were new to me. I love Beth Kery’s writing. I think she’s one of the best authors of erotic romance out there. Even if (and when – because usually it does happen) the characters do something way out there to/for me … it’s still sexy because it works for them. The hero and heroine are always so in tune, and Ms. Kery’s writing has such depth and layers to it. It’s not just the sex – it’s the emotion, the cerebral connection – the full package. The “prompt” of the month’s TBR challenge is PNR or RS … and I’d say this is … peripheral RS? I kept thinking “this is the aftermath – the ‘everything else’ that happens around and after a RS.” It’s the thinking part of it, which makes sense because Ms. Kery (also) has a background in psychology. It’s suspense in and of the mind, not so much in action – as there is a lot of that … but it takes place “off page, off screen.” Can we call this an erotic low key psychological thriller? Because that’s what I’m doing. Continue reading