Tag Archives: Reading

Your Reads, Our Reads, ALBTALBS March Reads!

So … we’re pretending it’s April for this post, okay? I’ve had a time of it, and then just stuff, and simply standing up feels like quite an accomplishment. Accordingly, I’m off schedule. Although, we should all know I should know better than to try to have a schedule, right? 😛 But on to the important stuff! Books! I know reviews have been sparse … none have been sent in, requests are piecemeal and I can’t handle email, so that’s what happens. (Or review myself, clearly.) Continue reading

What the ALBTALBS Crew Read: February Edition

Hi friends! So we’re back again with a list of everything I read in February! And some of the Review Crew’s read books or recommendations! Some of the books are/will be reviewed… Most will not. I’m just not built that way anymore. I do leave pseudo review/streams of consciousness over at Goodreads if you ever have the burning desire to understand the further ramblings of my brain. I’ll try to get the Review Crew members to write reviews to go live at ALBTALBS. 😉

As you see, this time I got the review crew in on it! I asked members of the review crew to send me a comprehensive list, or the books that they felt the most strongly about – either love or hate. (Of course they went positive. :P) Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading: January Edition

Hello hello helloooooooo lady! Ladies. I’m clawing my way out of a ~seven year reading slump, and I figured I’d do something new. At the end of each month I’m going to list what I’ve read in the prior month. (This will *knocks on wood* give me enough time to update Goodreads, which is something I’m determined to do this year. Cuz I swear I’m fucking re-reading books without knowing it >.<)

In no real particular order… these are the books I read in January 2015. (This isn’t an exhaustive list … because certain books it was so complicated even a simple listing would be too much trouble.) I’ve been on a total Entangled Brazen kick. Somebody stop me. I’m just going to list the title, author, and grade. If I said anything more, it’d be in GoodReads. Continue reading

Reading Like Mad

Trying to meet a “deadline.”

I’ve been reading more than I have in quite some time, which is lovely. I’ve read a few books by Christine Bell that I’ve enjoyed – and many others I :X can’t remember at the moment.

This is just a quick update – with more substance to follow when I don’t have the “eek panic rush” thing.

But I wanted to know – what are you reading? And what books would you recommend?

What’re You Reading?

Not that I’m procrastinating or anything, or wishing one of you would come and stab me in the head … Of course not. >.>

I am curious though. What’ve you been reading? Anything good?

I finished Unwound by Lorelie James, and Sinners at the Altar by Olivia Cunning. I liked the first more than the second… but I won’t talk about the book because *fingers crossed* I’ll be doing a review for it for the TBR challenge. 😛

Any recommendations for me? >.> Any books I should avoid? I’ve had pretty good reading luck lately, but some DNF disappointments – and nothing that I just loved – although I definitely recommend Hard Time by Cara McKenna. You wanna get your little paws on this book. (Heh – maybe I should do a review on this book.)

Guest: Alix Rickloff

Hi friends! A brand new guest to ALBTALBS today! I’m very excited about that! 😀 Yes! We’ve got Alix Rickloff visiting with us! I’d also like to say thanks for sticking with me through the scheduled yet not back to original steady times. (And to Alix as well for her patience with the craziness here.) I hope you all give her a warm welcome! Not to mention she’s very kindly offered a book to one lucky commenter!

Stay Tuned… The Unfinished Series

You’ve found that perfect series. The world building is magical, the characters are compelling, and the plots sing. You read one book, maybe two or three. Then suddenly… inexplicably…the books stop.

It could be that the publisher has decided the series wasn’t as  big a seller as they’d hoped or it could be that the author has decided they want to move in a new direction. Either way,  the series is over. Maybe the loose ends were tied up. Maybe not. But you’re still left wanting.

Sound familiar?

A few years back, I was left stranded midway through Bernard Cornwell’s Starbuck Chronicles. I had devoured the Richard Sharpe books like a woman obsessed and was looking for more. Enter Nate Starbuck who seemed like the answer to a prayer. Unfortunately, four books and half a war later, the series ended. I was left waiting…wondering…waiting… waiting…you get the idea.

I vowed I would never do that to my readers.

And then—I did.

My Bligh family series published by Kensington was set in an alternate Regency universe, one in which the Other, a race of men and women bearing the magical blood of the Fey lived in secret side by side with humans.

The series began with Lost in You in which Conor Bligh, the soldier of the family is the only one who stands between the demon Asher and the destruction he plans for mortal and Fey alike. And the only way to the end that threat is to sacrifice Ellery Reskeen, the woman he’s come to love.

The second book was Dangerous as Sin, the story of Morgan Bligh, the cousin who trades in her needle and thread for a sword and shield. She’s been given the job of locating the stolen sword of the goddess Andraste, a blade capable of creating an un-killable army. Her partner? Cam Sinclair, the assassin who broke her heart once and would do it again if he got the chance.

These two books introduced a cast of characters who all deserved their happy ever afters. They planted seeds for later books and hinted at mysteries not yet solved

And then I moved on, leaving the Blighs and their world behind.

But those characters stayed with me. They clamored for my attention and whispered their stories in my ear. Do Brodie MacKay and Euna Sinclair ever find each other again? Will Jamys Bligh ever be more than a friend to the woman he loves? And what ever happened to Richard Bligh who disappeared without a trace at the age of eight?

The answers are out there, and soon I hope to offer them to readers in new books. The first of these, tentatively titled Lady Immortal, is close to completion and—fingers and toes crossed—will be out by Christmas.

Mariah Penkevil wants nothing more to do with magic…ever again. But then the mysterious Rhyse MacAillse appears on her doorstep claiming she’s the reincarnation of a dark sorceress, and Mariah finds herself dragged back into the dangerous world of the Other whether she likes it or not. Soon she’s on the run with a man who tempts her with his touch but whose secrets could place her in the path of a Fey-born killer.

If things go as planned, I’ll follow this book up with more that will round out the series and perhaps even expand it into un-thought of directions. You never know, but all I can say for certain is stay tuned…there’s always more to come. ☺

Have you ever been faced with a series that’s ended before “The End” or maybe one in which it feels like forever between books? Do you wait until a series is complete before starting it? Or do you plunge in heedlessly and take your chances?

Let me know and be entered for a chance to win Earl of Darkness, the first book in my Heirs Of Kilronan series. (And yes, the series is concluded)

A Primer on Scandinavian Crime Fiction AKA Special Guest: Keishon

My name is Keishon and I’m a romance reader whose latest interest in Scandinavian crime fiction prompted me to shut down my old blog and start a new one devoted to nothing but crime fiction. I started reading crime fiction when my favorite romance writers started disappearing on me (Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory for starters). So, I started branching out and reading mystery and discovered that some mystery novels had a very strong romantic subplot in them that I enjoyed and I wanted to read more of these. Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few mysteries that feature some sort of romance in them but some authors do a better job than most. Also the subject matter sometimes would be too taboo for romance which was another plus for me leaving the nest. Let’s talk about: Scandinavian crime fiction.

Are you interested in reading Scandinavian crime fiction and don’t know where to start? I hope to offer you some titles of interest to get you started. What do you all know about Scandinavian crime fiction? Did you know that the roots of this sub-genre started with Sjöwall and Wahlöö? They wrote the popular Martin Beck series set in Sweden. There are ten books in the completed series that started with Rosanna. Well most people credit them for starting the trend but the interest didn’t really gain momentum until Stieg Larsson published The Millennium Trilogy.  Then people started throwing out other authors of note in this area, Henning Mankell and Peter Høeg (Smila’s Sense of Snow). I haven’t read any of those authors yet but I’ll get there.

Meanwhile, I want to share with you some of my favorite writers. You see, I have a specific interest in reading European crime fiction. Why? There are several reasons I can list right off the bat: atmosphere.  I love a book that lays out the landscape and weather and makes both a significant part of the story. Novels like these tend to give you a good sense of time and place. I have authors I can recommend who add these elements to their stories and do this very well. Johan Theorin leads the pack of authors who writes/sets most of his stories in different seasons (winter, autumn and spring). His loosely connected quartets of books that start with Echoes from the Dead is set off the Baltic Sea have minor supernatural overtones and are character driven stories.

Second, I like stories with intelligent plots that don’t, preferably follow convention. Karin Fossum would fit that bill as her stories tend to focus more on the effects crimes have on regular people or she can be seen to spotlight regular people making bad decisions. She tends to humanize her characters even the bad ones. Her books are definitely atypical but there is violence that varies from book to book.

Sometimes themes are not all that original and have included at times the age old battle between men and women but what I’ve mostly read has heavily relied on revenge or scorn. I don’t much care for serial killers so I tend to avoid those at all costs. Although, in the right hands…I must mention Arne Dahl’s Misterioso, which featured a serial killer targeting the titans of the business industry in Sweden. The lack of evidence instigates the police to create a task force just to find him. Very action paced novel with a large cast of characters but I didn’t have a problem keeping up.

Do you like a strong female protagonist? Well, guess what? You can find a bunch of them in Scandinavian crime fiction. Asa Larsson is one author I personally love. Her debut novel, Sun Storm (The Savage Altar, UK) gives you two strong female protagonists: a workaholic attorney, Rebecca Martinsson and Anna-Maria Mella with a husband and kids and you see her juggle between having a successful family life and a career as a detective.  The author made both women very strong characters in her four book, continuing series set in Sweden. You shouldn’t miss her. Cravat: Her books have been labeled as having animal cruelty in them and I understand the complaint but I didn’t have an issue with that nor did I see that as being prevalent. The author herself is an animal lover and I don’t ascribe the actions of fictional characters to that of the creator. YMMV.

Do you like police procedurals with psychological suspense? How about giving Jo Nesbo a shot as he seems to be very popular right now and sells all over the globe. He writes the Harry Hole series set in Oslo, Norway. I like Jo Nesbo because his plots are tight and he loves adding elements of misdirection and suspense. Of course his main character is a bit of a cliché – a romantic loner, a maverick who fights his demons with alcohol. He’s disliked by some of his co-workers and he has problems with authority figures. Harry tends to throw us some surprises every once and awhile. He’s a man of routine. He loves to test out his new partners. There’s a subtle romance in the series as he has a thing for single mother Rakel and her young son, Oleg. Jo Nesbo’s books are always character driven and the violence can be pretty bad but the level of violence varies from book to book. There is a very interesting subplot that included three books in the series that dealt with police corruption. It starts with The Redbreast and ends with The Devil’s Star. Jo Neso seems to be well versed in American pop culture and politics, foreign politics and wars. I always feel like he knows his subject matter very well errors aside. Alas, the best book in the series has yet to be published in the U.S. It is The Redeemer  and can stand alone very well.

There is one last author I’d like to give a shout out to and that would be Arnaldur Indriðason. His stories are set in Iceland and feature yet another loner but more melancholy detective  – Erlendur. He has a continued embattled relationship with his drug addict daughter, Eva Lind. I think the author does such an excellent job of joining the personal life of his character with that of the everyday working of murder cases which tend to be old murder cases. Arnaldur Indriðason writes what he describes as “social criticism.” I’ve read three of his books already and they have been consistently strong stories. The first book in the series is Tainted Blood (or Jar City) and as I write this there is a new book coming out in the UK, Black Skies (2012) to continue the series.

Scandinavian crime fiction contains some commonality: most of these stories tend to be very bleak and melancholy. Do you mind dark stories? They tend to be very dark and also very atmospheric. Exotic settings are another plus. It’s the cheapest way to travel to say Norway or South Africa. If you enjoy Scandinavian crime stories, please share some of your favorites. I’m bound to have missed some. Thanks.

Special Reader Guest: Stacy!

Another Saturday in June, another special reader guest post! (Confused? It’s explained here.) I “met” Stacy on twitter, and then in person at the Reader Author Get Together in 2010. She adores giving me a hard time… but I like her anyway. ;P

Hi all.  My name is Stacy and I am a life-long romance reader.  The devious, er, lovely! Limecello here asked me about a million years ago to write up a post.  It’s finally time to pay the piper.  So here goes…..

I started reading teen romances probably around 8 or 9 years old, and eventually graduated to my mom’s adult romances soon thereafter.  See, like most of us, I was always an insatiable reader, glomming everything in writing from magazines and books, to cereal and Kleenex boxes that told brief stories.  I grew up in the country and did not have easy access to a library, but we did have the book mobile that showed up every week or so, and when I ran out of books to read between visits, I would sneak my mom’s “grown-up” books, thinking she didn’t have a clue.  But of course she did, she knew just about everything (like the time me and my brothers started setting fires…but that’s way off-topic) yet obviously didn’t feel they were risque enough to keep away from me.  However, thinking back to some of those scandalous passages, I would say they make even some of today’s stories pale in comparison.  It was one hell of an education.  I distinctly remember one story that involved a cucumber and- ahem! I digress.  (Though I wonder whatever happened to that book….)

Anyway, I read romances for a variety of reasons.  I think stories about relationships can be the most complex, and the most interesting.  People are fascinating, and watching two dynamic characters dramatically fall in love amidst a zombie apocalypse or slowly yet engagingly transform from friends into lovers in a quaint small town is actually quite wonderful.  Nothing can beat that.

One thing I really enjoy about romances is that, in the 25+ years I’ve been reading them, the storylines have evolved tremendously.  Back in the 80’s, the majority of the books, whether they were historicals or contemporaries, almost always had a virginal, naive heroine and a rugged, arrogant hero.  In most cases, there was a significant age difference between the two, generally where the hero was 15-20 years older than our nubile heroine.  And the heroine always ended up being dependent upon the hero to save her from something – a lecherous uncle, war, losing the family home, you name it.  And once all the obstacles were overcome and “twu luv” was realized, the birds sang, the sky was filled with brilliant rainbows, and nowhere on earth was there a greater or stronger love to be found.  Nowadays, romance novels are less fairy tale and more love story.  Women are independent, some older than the hero, almost all able to take care of themselves because they have a working brain, employment, and the confidence and ability to support themselves.  It isn’t about needing a man.  It’s about finding someone who enhances your life.  And perhaps the two get married, or maybe they never even get around to declarations of love.  You just know that by the end of the book, these are two people who have discovered an equal partner, and maybe one they will spend the rest of their life with.  Or not.  And that is quite okay.  Happily Ever After has become Happy For Now.  Not every story needs to be about soulmates.  As I’ve gotten older and collected my own experiences, I am completely open to either of those options.  It’s what makes life exciting.

Another thing I am extremely happy to see is the continued increase in gay romances.  And…it’s about damn time!  Love is love, and I especially enjoy reading romances about two men, especially if it’s two extremely masculine and sexually aggressive men.  Oh baby.  *fans self*  Admittedly, I have not read much lesbian romance, and the reason being is, I confess, I read romance mainly for the drool-worthy men.  But if it’s a compelling story and gets positive feedback from fellow readers, I would love to read it.  In fact I should really make it a point this year to seek them out.  Who know what gems I have been missing because I have been so focused on the guys.  A romantic story, told well, will make my heart flutter, regardless who the characters are.

The last thing I would also like to address about my love of today’s romance books is  the varying levels of sexuality you can find out there in today’s stories.  I admit I like a more sexually explicit storyline.  Other readers prefer less.  Nothing wrong with that at all.   We all have our comfort levels.  The one thing I feel is most important is that others should not be ashamed of their sexuality.  It is not something to ridicule or sneer at.  Case in point: I never thought I would say this, but I actually enjoy reading books with a BDSM theme to them.  And by that, I do not refer to the recent phenomenon 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, although I know they are quite popular these days, what with local radio personalities sharing passages on the air.  In recent years, through social media and meeting other book lovers, I have actually gotten to know some people who are involved in BDSM relationships.  Some of them have become good friends of mine.  Chicago has quite an active kink community, and in taking the time to educate myself on the lifestyle, I have really come to understand a lot about the dynamics of these relationships, and I have a healthy respect for anyone who exists within a healthy, honest, and consensual partnership.  And because of that, I like knowing there are books out there that appeal to everyone’s personal preference.

The world of romance novels is a vast, complex, interesting and ever-evolving one.  I cannot imagine ever being bored in what this genre – and all the subsequent subgenres attached to it – has to offer to its readership.  In fact I look forward to all the fantastic stories that are yet to be told.  So authors, please, keep on writing.

Sincerely & with much love,

Stacy ~

What are your thoughts? Has your reading journey been anything like Stacy’s? When did you start reading? What are your genres of choice? Got any book recommendations for us? 😀

Guest: Sarah Mayberry talks Keeper Shelves

Look who we have visiting with us, you guys! It’s Sarah Mayberry!!! Hold on a sec – *squeeee*  – okay. Just had to get that out. 😉 If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Mayberry before, you simply must. I read her Blaze books and was hooked. Whenever someone looked at me and said “Well I don’t read categories because they’re a horrible.” I’d respond, “Go read a Sarah Mayberry and come back and say that to my face.” (There are a few*coughs* many other authors on that list too, of course.)

My Keeper Shelf

Before I start, a big thanks to Limecello for having me here today – I love talking to romance readers and readers in general. In fact, the love of reading is pretty much what I wanted to talk about today.

People who love to read have a lot of stuff in common. We all know what it’s like to be so entranced with a story that when life calls us away before it’s finished we spend the intervening time with one ear/eye on the conversation/event/job at hand while the rest of our brain is back in the story, wondering what’s going to happen next. We all have massive TBR piles (and we know that TBR means To Be Read without asking!) and Keeper Shelves. And we all have our own personal metric for what makes a book good, bad or awesome.

For me, that measure is whether it made my chest ache. Now, I’m not talking cardiac pain here ( at least, I hope I’m not!). I’m talking about the physical sensation of tightness I get in my upper chest when I am reading a book that has engaged my emotions so deeply that I literally feel pain for them. Usually this is because the writer has done a great job of showing me the characters’ inner pain – the conflict within them that stops the world (and the hero or heroine) from seeing who they really are. Well motivated, deeply felt emotional misunderstandings absolutely kill me and almost guarantee a book a place on my keeper shelf.

Don’t get me wrong, I love light and fluffy, funny stuff, too. That’s another way to make it onto my Keeper shelf – make me laugh out loud. Even better, make me laugh out loud AND want to share the relevant passage with my husband so he can enjoy it, too. But generally speaking, it’s a deep emotional engagement with the story that really hooks me into a book.

Because it’s what I like to read, it’s also what I try to write. I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters before I start in on the first chapter. I don’t do checklists like some ‘how-to’ books advise – frankly, I’m not too fussed about what my heroine’s favourite color is! – but I do think about their relationships with their parents and siblings, what their school years were like and how they view the world. I think about events that have shaped that view, too. Pivotal things like childhood trauma or a messy divorce or a horrible romantic break up. I want my characters to feel as though they have a life before the book came along and that that life will continue once the last page is read. I want readers to feel for these people I am creating, because I certainly do. I don’t consider my work done as a writer unless I cry at least once while writing a book. Sometimes it’s more than once. Some books, I cried every time I went over certain scenes or passages as the book made its way through the production process.

But I also try to make readers laugh in amongst all that angst and emotion, because that’s what I like, too. The ups and downs and absurdities. Life is like that, don’t you think? And that’s what I try to convey.

The heroine of my current release, More Than One Night, wound up being one of those characters who really touched me as I wrote. Charlie is such a staunch, solid person, so determined to do the right thing by everyone, but she has such a warped view of her place in the world because of a withholding father who never showed her that she was loved. Charlie has spent her adult life trying to be worthy, looking for connection and, when she fails to find it, blaming herself. I found her incredibly moving to write, because who of us has never craved the love and approval of a parent, and who of us has never felt unloveable on some occasion? (If you’re reading this and thinking “me” in answer to that question, I want your childhood and your self esteem!)

If More Than One Night makes it onto some keeper shelves because of the emotion I have invested in this story, then I will be a very happy and humble writer, because I know that means the story will be re-read and will live long in a reader’s memory, in the same way that my keeper books live long in mine. Whenever I want a guaranteed good read, I peruse the shelf for something that suits my mood and settle in for some good times. Because I know I’d be curious if I was reading this blog by another author, I’m going to share a few of my favourite keeper books with you. I adore Lisa Kleypas’ Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger. Kristin Higgins Just One Of The Guys gets me every time. I adore Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On and Mary Balogh’s The Secret Pearl  nearly killed me I wanted the hero and heroine to get together so much. There are more, but I won’t bore you.

I’d love to hear what makes a book a keeper for you. Is it heartfelt angst? Smokin’ hot sexy stuff? Laughs? Silliness and escapism and fun? And what books are on your keeper shelf?

I’m giving away two copies of More Than One Night today. All you have to do is comment to be in the running. Looking forward to reading your responses.

Guest Post: Lisa

Hi everyone! So I “met” Lisa on twitter and she was all “omg! I watch those shows too! Let’s talk!” And then I was all like “you should do a guest post for me!” *all innocence* and there you have it. 😀 This is Lisa’s first ever blog post, she tells me, so everyone please give her a warm welcome!

When and Why I First Started Reading Romance

I was about 13 or 14 years old when I first started reading romances. I was at a local bookstore in town browsing the shelves, and ended up in front of the romance section. Something made me actually stop and check out the titles instead of just walking past like I normally do. The one book that caught my eye was Nora’s The MacGregor Brides (hey, if you’re going to start, you might as well start with one of the best, right?) Back then, I still had the mentality that romances were naughty books with little to no redeeming value, and I shouldn’t be reading them. But something pushed me to take the book off the shelf and check it out. I read the back blurb about three cousins (Laura, Julia, and Gwen) who fall in love at Christmas, all due to the machinations and plotting of a larger than life, meddling, matchmaking grandfather, Daniel MacGregor, aka,“The MacGregor.”. So despite myself, I found the premise fun and intriguing enough to start thumbing through and reading a bit of the book.

I immediately fell in love with the book, and was completely swept up in Laura, Gwen, and Julia’s story. Not because of the sexy parts, though of course that played a part in it. I loved the sense of family Nora built into the story. The three cousins live together in Boston, and the friendship and bond between them immediately reminds you of hanging out with your girlfriends. Each novella also includes a scene where the whole entire family comes together that reminds you of a Norman Rockwell holiday. But instead of it being overly sappy and sentimental, it just made you want to imagine yourself right there as an honorary MacGregor celebrating Christmas with a family who loves each other and support and care for each other, no matter what. Very fitting, as the holidays are all about family togetherness right?

And the book was funny. The scene when Julia and Cullum fight at her Christmas party/housewarming party and he picks her up and throws her over his shoulder while she’s cursing and spitting mad always makes me laugh, as well as the scene when security expert Royce (hired of course by Grandpa Daniel) walks into the house and sees Laura with her head in the fridge, butt wiggling as she’s dancing to the music in her earphones.

Our heroine is no weakling naturally, and faces Royce down with a kitchen knife before he can get a word out.

Most of all, the heart and romance in the story is what won me over. Branson wins Gwen over by giving her all twelve gifts from the song “12 Days of Christmas”. I defy anyone not to be charmed by a ceramic bowl painted with eight maids a milking, or nine music boxes with dancing ladies on top. Julia is in the business of developing and rehabbing real estate properties and Cullum is the contractor who’s hired to do the work, even though they couldn’t stand each other. (Of course, we all know that it’s all the unresolved sexual tension that’s the cause of all the sniping). Julia has just bought a new house she’s rehabbing. Watching the house come together and come alive as a physical manifestation of Julia and Cullum’s growing love and relationship was lovely. You know, by the end, that this is the house they’re going to live in and raise their family.

Of course, I then went on a mission to devour any other Nora Roberts’ books I could get my hands on. I sped through the rest of the MacGregor series (Ian and Naomi’s story in The MacGregor Grooms is my favorite), and went on to her Chesapeake Bay series. By then, I was a full on convert. Because after all, even under my pragmatic exterior, I am a romantic sap who wants to believe in the true love and happily ever after of it all. Nora’s books and the other romances I read reinforce for me the idea that there is nothing more important in life than love and friends and family, and love is more than just sex. Finding the right person for you, and demanding nothing less than a relationship built on love, trust, respect, commitment, as well as passion is worth waiting for and fighting for.

So my question for you lovely people: What was the book that turned you into a romance fan? What was it about the book that won you over?