Author Archives: Limecello

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

SBHM 2020 & Generally re: the SHMs

Hi friends! Indicative of how 🤦🏻‍♀️ is for me I accidentally first put “2019.” …

SBHM stands for “Smithsonian Black History Month.” To be honest, so far we have nothing lined up – for any of the months. Everyone’s exhausted, and I definitely understand Black [romance] authors (always, but especially with this RWA shit show) feeling exhausted and Some Type of Way.

To explain the Smithsonian Heritage Month posts… ANYONE now is welcome to write posts for ANY months. International friends, regardless of race/background. It just has to be relevant to the month (unless you fall under the umbrella month). So if you’re white I welcome you to step up to the place and research a person, an event, celebrate someone, whatever, and write a guest post for either Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Latinx Heritage Month, or Native American/First Nations Heritage Month.

I’m hoping to line something up – but also to maybe feature previous posts which you might have missed. Through the years if you’ve followed the Smithsonian Heritage Months you might’ve noticed really interesting and different tones to posts and months too.

Anyway, today is obviously the the start of Black History Month – and it so happens to also be the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment and the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Thank you to the SPLC for bringing that to my attention – and they can say everything much better than I could ever hope to, so I hope you check out their article:

2020: African Americans and the Vote.

And this. February 1 is a truly historic day.

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

HNY: Welcome 2020! ALBTALBS Is Old As Shit!

… So that title is pretty indicative of my mood.

But! Before we get there – Happy New Year, Lovelies! <3 🎉🎊🍾🥂

ALBTALBS turns 9 this year. (I guess there are a few posts from December 2010 but … whatever those were kinda tacked on I think so we’ll just go with January 2011 being the official start so I can [hah!] perhaps plan some sort of big blogiversary bash for next year. >.>)

It’s been kinda a rough year for Team ALBTALBS, and Babs is our (only) rockstar reviewer. Shout out to Babs, who is the absolute best.

The rest of us are, uh, gonna try to do better. (Honestly our baseline shouldn’t make it that difficult … >.>)

And now … I didn’t talk about the Cristiane Serruya plagiarism mess last year because I felt like so many other people had covered it better. And I believe it was right before I was put out of commission for a few months. There was the “Cocky”™ mess … as well as a number of other trademark messes … But if you don’t know about what’s happening with RWA … the last time I read it (last week?) Claire Ryan had one of the best timeline/summaries. I’d also like to note – I’m not calling it “drama” or a “kerfluffle” because this isn’t some whatever shit. It’s serious on multiple levels – the racism, the implosion of a major professional organization … the multiple (unending it seems) levels of bad actions and bad actors…

So yeah. We’re just gonna truck along. Hopefully blogs make something of a comeback. And hopefully A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet is along for that ride.

Thanks so much for sticking with us! <3 I often wonder if I should just shutter the whole thing. But for now … we’ll be here. I’d love to know if you’re still here with us too. <3

On Sportsball/Social Media for Social Good, and Latinx Heritage Month

Hi friends! If you’re a longtime reader you might maybe have thought “hey I wonder what’s up with SMSG this year?” Well … it’s like this – if The Ohio State University Buckeyes break 70 points and win their game, I’ll donate $10 to a non-profit charity. (This seemed like something that might happen a few times at the beginning of the season … but so far it’s only happened once. Fingers crossed they do more.)

ANYWAY. I kept meaning to throw this post up, but life and such and ALBTALBS is clearly on a bit of a hiatus, and the only “good kid” of the crowd is Babs – who is the hero of the site. (I’m definitely in the “bad child” camp myself :X) Continue reading

[Adult] High Fantasy Romances: A Quest (+ Books I’ve Read in this Genre)

Hi friends! As you know, I’ve been on a big kick for adult high fantasy romances! I’m pretty sure I’ve explained “high fantasy” in previous posts … not sure about the other so … By adult I don’t mean “adult situations” I mean “the main characters are considered to have reached the age of majority in their world/culture.” (Although you know, adult situations are good too 😛 ) It seems this is still a genre dominated by YA but … you know. Also, one of my “quirks” is I hold off on reading a series until it’s finished. (Mostly because I’ll blow through an entire series in just a few days.) I do sometimes make an exception but … it’s rare. (And I also need to be assured each book can stand sufficiently alone/doesn’t end on a massive cliffhanger.)

Anyway, here’s my updated list! I would like to note… I’ve branched into YA. I mean – see above, right? I thought about trying to find some symbol to denote YA titles but … that seems too daunting. I periodically make these posts because I ask for recommendations on social media a lot, and a lot of people are always interested, so hopefully this helps us all out. 😀

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson book cover

Here’s what I’ve read: 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

July 4th in America

Hi friends! So … I thought about doing something like I did four years ago, sharing the entire text of the Declaration of Independence. However, it’s easy enough to just click over.

Also, the state of the country is just … such a mess now that … well, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the ideas of democracy and to work for one. A lot of people are feeling burnout and such, and I can’t even articulate how I feel about this administration so … here’s this.

Enjoy the tongue in cheek “America Yay” – I hope if you’re stateside you have a lovely, safe, and fun holiday. (And hat tip to Manda Collins for bringing the video to my attention.)

SAPAHM Guest: Ekaterine Xia On the Portrayal of Mothers … and then Confucius!

Hi friends! I’m glad to welcome back Ekaterine Xia to ALBTALBS! She’s going to be out APAHM hero this year, and has written other really thoughtful posts before, which  I hope you’ll check out of you missed them. (Lime, WTF are all those letters and what do they mean? SAPAHM = Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!) So without further ado… another incredible post by Ekaterine!

On the Portrayal of Mothers … and Confucius!

I have mommy issues.

Specifically, I have issues with how mothers are portrayed in fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy.

Even within Romancelandia, SFFR has a lot of mommy issues. Contemporary does much better, and I have to ask if it’s because contemporary wasn’t influenced by men and their favorite tropes in the same way science fiction and fantasy romance was.

It took me a long time to put that niggling unease into concrete examples, but once you start the list, things start to look pretty bad really quickly. Continue reading

“Desperately” Seeking: [Privately] Pierced Heroes

Hi friends! So … usually these posts are OMG I WANT/NEED THEM NOW! But … this one happened because of twitter. If you follow me you might know periodically I tweet [kindle] freebies and books on sale. It’s ~scary out there in bookworld now (so much to eventually talk about…) but anyway – so these lists are more and more curtailed – but! This was one I’d read before and enjoyed:

Rock Me by Cherrie Lynn book coverAt the time, Rock Me by Cherrie Lynn was free for kindle. Anyway, this was the tweet that set it off – and people began listing other books, but I’m in recovery and this didn’t happen as quickly as I’d like so… whatever. Good news, Maneuver by Chelle Bliss (I haven’t read/finished this one yet) also has a pierced hero.

I want to say this was a “trend” that was pretty popular in the late 00s/early 10s but it seems to be less common now. I know there are more but these are the books off the top of my head I remember… and some crowdsourced from conversations where people gave me permission to use their replies. 🙂 Continue reading