Author 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.

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: 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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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