Category Archives: General

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

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.

Aidee’s Top Ten Reads of 2019

If I could somehow tell you of these books all at once, I would, because I love these books equally for different reasons. So they are not ranked.

Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski book coverThis groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men—and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live a more joyful life.

Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn

• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout

With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach.

I read this book after my first year of law school. I found it to have a lot of insights about how people interact with stress and stressors, and a lot of helpful advice about how to deal with it in healthier ways. 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.

Guest Author: Stephanie Burgis Discusses Her Upcoming Release, Moontangled

Hi friends! Stephanie Burgis reached out to me about reviewing her Hardwood novella – and I asked if she’d be willing to grace us with a guest post! I’ve read the prequel novella to the Hardwood Spellbook series, Spellswept, and really enjoyed it 🙂 So without further ado, Stephanie!

Stephanie Burgis on Moontangled

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis book coverIn the world of 19th-century Angland, no extravagant Prince Regent or parliament of gentlemen rules the nation. Instead, a group of hard-headed and pragmatic women politicians form a ruling Boudiccate, leaving all irrational magic—by tradition—to the more “naturally” emotional and irrational gentlemen.

It’s the way that society has been divided ever since Boudicca first expelled the Romans with the help of her second husband, a mage. Even now, every ambitious young politician is expected to take a mage for her own spouse if she hopes to ever rise to the Boudiccate. Of course, because of all of those ingrained social rules, mages can only ever be male…

Until now. The formation of Thornfell College of Magic for Women (founded by the first known woman mage, Cassandra Harwood, in the novel Thornbound) means that every unthinking social rule is suddenly open to question. Society at large is reeling with the impact—and two young women are hoping to finally seize their chance.

Caroline Fennell has been in strict training to become a member of the Boudiccate ever since she was eight years old, under the patronage (and control) of her famous and powerful aunt—who has ordered Caroline to follow the expected path by marrying a gentleman mage no matter what her private inclinations may be.

Juliana Banks spent her own youth forced to hide all of her brilliance and natural gifts as her family was horrified by her forbidden magic. Finally, as a student at Thornfell College, she’s found a home where she belongs and she can shine. As soon as she graduates, she’ll be a certified mage and thus—if the rest of the nation will accept it—a suitable spouse after all for Caroline Fennell…who’s been her secret fiancée for years, unbeknownst to the rest of the world.

Everything seems to be on track for all their years of passionate hopes and dreams to come true…except that ever since the events of Thornbound, Caroline has suddenly gone strangely distant. Now, as Thornfell College prepares for a magical outdoor ball to be held on the edges of their enchanted woods, Juliana is determined to win back her secret fiancée—but Caroline is equally determined to break her own heart by giving up Juliana for Juliana’s own good…and no one has ever accused Caroline Fennell of being easy to dissuade from any of her principles.

When they sneak into the fey-ruled woods together, every one of their plans will be thrown into turmoil. They’ll need all of Juliana’s magic and Caroline’s tactical brilliance to save each other and their love by the end of the evening. 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

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

SHM: Native American Heritage Month and “Behind the Scenes”

November is Native American Heritage Month. This is a hodgepodge post of … the update, information, etc. I’ll try to keep it upbeat.

One interesting thing I saw and will hopefully remember to follow is this:

The Cherokee Nation says it has a right to a congressional delegate. Now it wants Congress to fulfill its promise.

I saw on twitter that a congressional representative had been selected – we’ll see what the legislative body does. I don’t know if it’s more prevalent, or my timeline, or what, but I’m seeing more and more from Native/First Nations people and I’m glad. The US (and various other countries) have a lot to apologize for, and make up for. 

Compounded by the attitude of this current administration and probably the less I say here the better.

Anyway, I had at least one post lined up but the author has gone MIA – so if you or anyone would like to write a guest post for the month I’d be very very happy to have you. If you don’t know, the Smithsonian Heritage Months – Black History, Women’s History, Asian Pacific American Heritage, Pride, Latinx Heritage, and Native/First Nation Heritage Months are what we try to celebrate here at ALBTALBS. It used to be “limited” to USians who fall under the umbrella category, then to anyone who fell under the umbrella category, and last year or so I opened it to ANYONE who wanted to write a thing. 

We do have a few Native American romance authors out there, and you can see guest posts from years past in the archives

We could probably do with some tag clean up/better tagging but … 🤷🏻‍♀️ this is a money pit pet project, so you get what you see. 😛 Truly though – thanks for sticking with us <3

Oh! And – if you’re interested in more information and education, personally I’ve been checking tweets Rebecca Nagle’s timeline.

Lastly if you or anyone would like to write a guest post for any of the Smithsonian Heritage Months in 2020, or if you’d like to step up and shout out own voices individuals in the community and run the celebrations for any month … please. Do – I’d love to have you. Let’s talk.

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

Guest Author: Nina Bocci on Disregarding the Advice to “Keep Politics Out of Your Books”

Hi friends! So Nina Bocci‘s newest book just came out this past Tuesday! On the Corner of Love and Hate has such an interesting premise, and I’m about to start reading it soon. 😀  It’s also the first of the “Hopeless Romantics” series. Anyway, Nina is a delight, and I hope you enjoy this post, and pick up her newest book! So without further ado … Nina!

On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci book coverWhen Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and current mayor of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania—suggests she help with Cooper Endicott’s campaign, she’s horrified. Cooper, one of her (former) oldest friends, drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, so Emma reluctantly launches her plan to help him win the local election.

It’s not as easy as it looks. Cooper’s colorful love life is the sticking point for many voters, and his opponent is digging up everything he can from his past. It seems that every time Emma puts out the flames from one scandal, another one flares up. Emma knows that if Cooper wants to win, he needs to keep his nose clean. The only problem? She might just be falling in love with the one person she promised never to pursue: the mayoral candidate himself.

Don’t write a book with politics.

You’re a debut (basically), you’re going to kill your chances of people picking it up.

My God, you’re an idiot, why didn’t you listen? Continue reading