Category Archives: Book Talk

Aidee’s Top 10 Reads of 2020

*E.N. Aidee added this post on 1/13/21 – so all delays are the fault of one Limecello. 😬

My usual disclaimors about this list apply: the order in which these books appear is not related to how much I recommend them, and there were a lot of good books in 2020 which I recommend that aren’t on this list. The asterisk next to Emerald Blaze means I re-read it.

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (audiobook and e-book) |A- *
Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews Book CoverAs Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart.

What can a Body Do by Sara Hendren | A+
What Can a Body Do? by Sara Hendren book coverFurniture and tools, kitchens and campuses and city streets—nearly everything human beings make and use is assistive technology, meant to bridge the gap between body and world. Yet unless, or until, a misfit between our own body and the world is acute enough to be understood as disability, we may never stop to consider—or reconsider—the hidden assumptions on which our everyday environment is built.

In a series of vivid stories drawn from the lived experience of disability and the ideas and innovations that have emerged from it—from cyborg arms to customizable cardboard chairs to deaf architecture—Sara Hendren invites us to rethink the things and settings we live with. What might assistance based on the body’s stunning capacity for adaptation—rather than a rigid insistence on “normalcy”—look like? Can we foster interdependent, not just independent, living? How do we creatively engineer public spaces that allow us all to navigate our common terrain? By rendering familiar objects and environments newly strange and wondrous, What Can a Body Do? helps us imagine a future that will better meet the extraordinary range of our collective needs and desires.

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas | A
CHINA, 484 A.D.
A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling—the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan | A+
Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

A Dead Djinn in Cairo (novella) by P. Djeli Clark | A
A Tor.com original historcal fantasy set in an alternate early twentieth century infused with the otherworldly.

Egypt, 1912. In Cairo, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine.

What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and a plot that could unravel time itself.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Can’t Even by Ann Helen Petersen | A
Do you feel like your life is an endless to-do list? Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram because you’re too exhausted to pick up a book? Are you mired in debt, or feel like you work all the time, or feel pressure to take whatever gives you joy and turn it into a monetizable hustle? Welcome to burnout culture.

While burnout may seem like the default setting for the modern era, in Can’t Even, BuzzFeed culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen argues that burnout is a definitional condition for the millennial generation, born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace, and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to “perform” our lives online. The genesis for the book is Petersen’s viral BuzzFeed article on the topic, which has amassed over seven million reads since its publication in January 2019.

Can’t Even goes beyond the original article, as Petersen examines how millennials have arrived at this point of burnout (think: unchecked capitalism and changing labor laws) and examines the phenomenon through a variety of lenses—including how burnout affects the way we work, parent, and socialize—describing its resonance in alarming familiarity. Utilizing a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews, and detailed analysis, Can’t Even offers a galvanizing, intimate, and ultimately redemptive look at the lives of this much-maligned generation, and will be required reading for both millennials and the parents and employers trying to understand them.

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole (audiobook) | A-
Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (audiobook) | A-
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
Go camping.
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane (audiobook) | A
A 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…

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (audiobook) | A-
It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

· Never trust an outsider

· Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

· And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

Valentine’s Guests: Bobbi Romans Interviews Carolyn Hector

Hi friends! With time being fluid here in ALBTALBS land, and mixed up dates on my part, I’m glad this all worked out and we’re welcoming the lovely Bobbi Romans who is interviewing her delightful friend Carolyn Hector. I do want to say first – Cocoa Dreams, Carolyn’s newest book just came out this week! Congratulations on your newest release, Carolyn! Anyway, you gotta love a pair who just take care of everything! So without further ado…

Bobbi Romans Interviews Carolyn Hector for Valentine’s Day

Her Mistletoe Bachelor by Carolyn Hector book coverWhoop-Whoop, its Bobbi Romans here interviewing the fabulous Carolyn Hector Hall, AKA my little cuddle buddy, about all kinds of juicy tidbits both Valentines Inspired as well as just nosey darn questions.

Lets jump right in.

Bobbi: Hey cuddle buddy!
Carolyn: I miss you! I can’t wait until we can sleep in the same bed together! And before we start… Happy Birthday weekend to you! 

Bobbi: So for y’all reading this and us for the first time, twice a year (pre-covid) Carolyn, and I, along with some other awesome romance authors got together for a lake house retreat. At these retreats we do get a lot writing done, but we also have fun. One year Carolyn brought us all our own barbies. And let’s just say when we woke up in the morning, someone one (thou shalt not be named) posed the Barbies in some pretty wicked poses. 
Carolyn: What happens at the lake house, stays at the lake house….. or it ends up in a novel or on Facebook.  Continue reading

When So For Real Was Too Real: On Reviewing, with a Shout Out (and Apology) to Rebekah Weatherspoon et al

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon book coverI’ve been thinking about writing this post since October 2016. Rebekah Weatherspoon sent me an ARC of So For Real on October 16, 2016. I read it shortly thereafter. I’d think everyone in the US remembers we were gearing up for a major election … and … welp. So there was a lot going on, and I remember reading So For Real – I had loved So Sweet. I believe I wrote a “First Look” (a review) of that book and for So Right at Heroes & Heartbreakers. (Remember that site?) I’m even blurbed in So Right because I loved it so much! But I remember reading So For Real and – it’s definitely real. Kayla Bradbury née Davis goes through a lot. From what I recall, she’s struggling with newly married life, with friends, with her new business, with life. I meant to review it, but was putting it off because I wanted to love it more than I did … and I just so strongly associate it with the election cycle. I haven’t gone back to re-read it for that very reason. (Unfortunately low key the whole series…) I’m definitely a “mood reader,” which is also why I comfort re-read recent favorites, and sometimes avoid “old favorites” because I’m scared they won’t stand the test of time. Or my bad mood.

I have a highly developed sense of guilt. Not only do I feel bad for not reviewing So For Real (and others) since 2016 … I still feel guilty for agreeing to review a book in like 2005 or 2006 and not getting around to it. (I think I started reviewing books online in ~02-03?) There was a lot of school … and life kicking my ass. Not just the election but a massive cycle of doctors (when I talk about “surgeon #12” sometimes it’s because I literally had to consult with more than 12 orthopedic surgeons across the country. I’m up to at least 14 now…) Then there were the major surgeries… I was thinking the other day that I was pretty much drugged and out of it for a good chunk of the dumpster administration. (Silver linings?) Anesthesia brain is very real too. Unfortunately, that’s also just part of it. Let’s not get into the rest though. Continue reading

A “Crowdsourced” List of Black Romance Authors

Hi friends! It’s February, and I’m trying to bring back the Heritage Month posts … we’ll see how successful (or not) it is – but I wanted to start out with the basics (which I plan to put in a different post). This is more a “me” post than “the blog” post in a way, so I’m leaving it under my account rather than the administrator one. 

Anyway – there are apparently some people who think/say there are “no” romances out there by own voices/Black authors and … *stares.*
For myself, I wanted to make the commitment to not just read more diversely, but to read more Black romance authors. Especially after our Black Lives Matters post I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.

I’m just one person though, and I miss a lot – so I decided to crowd source on social media, and I wrote down every author suggested. The italicized names are ones I added to the list. There are of course many other lists compiled so I wanted to highlight them as well/will add them as I find them in the depths of my terrifying inbox. Continue reading

Sailorstkwrning’s List of Books Read in 2020

Hi friends! I’m the only chatty one of the bunch I think >.> so I do the intros … (purple text is Limecello, just as a refresher. Also, you can always tell who the full post content is from by who the “author” is at the bottom of the post.). But anyway, Sailorstkwrning sent over her list because I asked the review crew for them, and here you go! I’m sure she’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about them in the comments. Or discuss them, because we all love discussing books! (😅 In fact, I’ve already asked my questions in emails…)

 

So without further ado, Sailorstkwrning!) Continue reading

Aidee’s Mid-Year List of Books Read

*Oh. My. Lord. First of all, Aidee posted this list 7/12/2020. I have to acknowledge that because … it’s totally my bad. Anyway please find the list of Aidee’s books read from January 2020 – June 2020! Again, books from the first half of the year. [Yes I am the worst.] Anyway, here’s Aidee. (I believe books marked with an “*” are re-reads.)

Mid-Year List of Books Read — 2020
As per usual, this list is not in order at all. Continue reading

Guest Author Pam Rosenthal on Second Chances: Notes on Reissuing a Story Written Long Ago

Hi friends! Please welcome Pam Rosenthal to ALBTALBS! We’re very excited to have her – and just look at that book cover!

Second Chances: Notes on Reissuing a Story Written Long Ago

A House East of Regent Street by Pam Rosental book coverMy husband Michael and I have often worked together over the course of our more than 50-year-long marriage: from the joint film reviews we wrote in our twenties, to nine years together as booksellers, to our current copyediting business, where we charge by the word so we don’t have to worry about the cost to a client of the occasional time-consuming battle royal over a comma. (And yes, we love editing romance.) When I was writing erotica and romance, Michael’s part in the collaboration sometimes took the form of direct intervention, like his rewrite of my meandering synopsis of The Bookseller’s Daughter. It might also entail his bringing home some new book, casually remarking, as he put it on the coffee table, that I might find it interesting – most notably, an anthology called Erotikon: Essays on Eros, Ancient and Modern, which sparked the thoughts at the heart of my last romance, The Edge of Impropriety. Or it could mean taking my editor’s side when I resisted her request to change a scene in Almost a Gentleman. Bullheaded as I was, Michael changed my mind by convincing me that David and Phoebe would not have done that sex act at that point in their relationship. Continue reading

Guest Author Jackie Barbosa: Sleeping with the Enemy

Please welcome Jackie Barbosa to ALBTALBS. It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest so we hope you enjoy!

On September 15, the fourth and “final” (more about why that’s in quotes toward the end of the post) book in my Lords of Lancashire series comes out. Sleeping with the Enemy is a book I never really planned to write. But then, I didn’t plan to wait to release the third book in what was originally meant to be a trilogy until a full 7 years after the first one, either.

So let’s get into the way-back machine. In the early days of 2011, I had self-published a short story called The Reiver that was originally included in the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. And entirely against my expectations, it did really well, especially on Amazon. The experience galvanized me to write a new series with the intent of self-publishing it. (N.B. The Reiver is currently free for kindle.) Continue reading

Aidee’s List of Reads for the Second Half of *2019*

Hi friends. So, Aidee submitted this post on January 20, 2020 but … it’s been just … a lot this year, so please forgive me for the delay. So no – that’s not a typo. That’s just life kicking my ass and me not getting to this until now. :X

Second Half of 2019 Reads:

This list is not in any particular order, and also reflects that I slowed down and re-read a lot after August. (I believe the asterisks mean a re-read) 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