I Have … An Imposter? O_o

My mind is a wasteland these days. I’m a mess, I don’t have any of my shit together, my kids are getting murdered, and their killers are walking away without convictions. So … that’s where I am.

But the purpose of this post … is to tell you all that someone out there may be … pretending to be me? I’m not quite sure but I think this is important enough to mention. Last week I got home and saw that Harper Collins was having its Fall Preview Blogger Chat. You all know I always have lofty ideas of being up to date and on top of things so I thought “well, how fortuitous! I’ll join in!”

However, when I tried to sign in as Limecello (who and what else?!) The box firmly told me “There is already someone signed in with that name.” … Or whatever the particular language was. I wish I had screencapped it. And stayed in the chat to see wtf “[not me] Limecello” said. I did mention it on Twitter, and FB, and some of the ladies at Harper Collins did see my posts. [Pam told me that Caro didn’t notice fake Limecello say anything untoward… so, small mercies?]

But here’s the thing. Limecello is not at all a common name. If it was “Mary” or “Sue” or “Lynn” sure – but … Lime itself isn’t a normal “name.” Limecello? That … has got to be intentional. Especially in a book world blogging thing. If it was some mixologist, or whatever, possibly.

So, I wanted to let you know … if there are things out there on social media posting as “Limecello” … it may or may not be me. :\ And in fact, unless it’s on my own Twitter of FB accounts (unless/until I get hacked) … it probably isn’t me considering how little I’ve been able to do lately. [If you want to keep up to date with me, I’m fairly active in both places, and discuss industry issues, books, my life, and world issues I find important. It’s just easier to do something that requires less of a commitment and is more ephemeral.]

If you see someone running around posting as Limecello, joining chats as Limecello and such … please let me know? Feel free to try to confirm identity? It’s just … shadypants to me. And if by some insanely odd chance that person who signed into the chat as Limecello reads this … please let me know why? We can talk, and I promise to do my best to be open minded.

Anyway, I’ve also been wanting to make changes to ALBTALBS – more book talk, reader focus, and also talk about any damn thing I want to. Which, for this post … is just the update.

Thanks for sticking around, y’all! *muah!* I appreciate you more than I can say. <3

TBR Challenge Review: Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood

Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood
Contemporary romance novella released by Cosmopolitan Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin on July 15, 2014
Boys and Toys

Every girl has a goody drawer.
Sex toy party hostess Liv Tanaka has a collection. Vibrating purple rabbits, cherry-flavored edible underwear, flavored oils… Hey, wearing a leather corset and stilettos (while selling dildos) pays the bills. Just don’t tell her very conservative parents. Because if they discovered Liv’s sex-toy-selling “Asian Elvira” alter ego, her parents would disown her.
So far, Liv’s doing a bang-up job of keeping her two worlds separate…until Porter Benjamin shows up at her party. Tall and too-tasty-to-resist Porter, who works for her father. Porter, who wants Liv to host a party just for him.

And oh, she’s tempted. But getting involved with Porter means mixing those two worlds that Liv desperately needs to keep separate. And now Liv’s Naughty Toybox is starting to look a lot like Pandora’s box….

I haven’t read one of the Harlequin/Cosmo Red Hot Reads in a while … and it was good to do so again. (Yes I know this was published in 2014, that’s okay.) The premise drew my attention – well the cover is eye catching, but the “good girl gone bad” and the hero working for her father … a total mess too irresistible for this reader.

Liv Tanaka is someone I think many people can relate to. She’s trapped by her parents idea of her – and her conservative upbringing. Conservative and religious. Liv sells sex toys. Obviously her parents don’t know what she does, but she manages to make it on her own and support herself. I respect that. I also liked how she established boundaries and stood up for herself (by the end). It was nice that Liv was adaptable and she gets everything she wants (albeit in a somewhat roundabout way).

Porter Benjamin. He just sounds like a lawyer, doesn’t he? I actually didn’t want to like him (what basically amounts to blackmail is definitely a black mark in my book) – but he’s so charming. Porter is clearly into Liv, and wants a relationship with her. He’s just a bit clunky in the manner he goes about getting it. The fact that he’s willing to put himself out there for Liv, and come to the rescue (regardless of how big or small the issue) really won me over. His easy going attitude and charm help too.

The little scenes between Liv and her parents provided both humor and frustration which was an impressive mix. I liked that their interaction really developed the story and showed different facets of everyone’s character. Especially when Porter is thrown into the mix, and it’s believable because as Mr. Tanaka’s employee, he knows the whole family.

I did wish for more development on how the actual relationship developed. You have the ~blackmail and the hookup, the sex and the barbecue, and then … bam – fully committed couple. I know there are constraints with the length, but there you have it. Then also some character/language issues. (Liv’s mom is Chinese and her dad is Japanese. … If it’s going to bother you, that statement alone explains it. If not … it won’t.) That plus … her mom’s word (it bugged me so much I don’t even want to type it) clearly annoyed me.

Boys with Toys is a cute and quick read, and I’d definitely look for more books by Ms. Lockwood.

Grade: C-

You can buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun
Contemporary [erotic] romance released by Penguin Intermix on August 18, 2015

Evening StormWhen it comes to the wolves of Wall Street, Ryan Hamilton is the leader of the pack. But his bravado is all bluff. The bank he works for is up to it’s assets in fraud and shady deals. And thanks to pressure from the NYPD and FBI, Ryan is working as both a trader and a whistleblower. His only respite from the tension is when he parades his latest arm candy at a fancy lingerie shop.

Simone Demarchelier owns Irresistible, crafting custom high-end lingerie. So she’s more than happy that Ryan is spending a fortune on his women. But she senses that behind the hotshot facade there is something more. Something tortured and sad. And when he flies her out to the Hamptons in the shadow of a summer thunderstorm in order to fix one of her designs, she instead finds herself stuck in the opulent home with a distraught Ryan.

Is Simone the one person who can mend Ryan’s heart and soul?

​Anne Calhoun wrote one of my favorite erotic romances – Liberating Lacey, so I’m always willing to give one of her books a try. I read the previous book in this series (The List), and I liked Evening Storm [even] more. There’s something about it that keeps me from loving it, but I did find the book very sexy, and an enjoyable read. I can’t quite put my finger on what was “off” for me because the premise while potentially off putting for people, didn’t bother me. There’s a stark and rather grim undertone throughout the novel, which makes everything unique. The back cover copy is itself unique because it describes something that happens near the end of the story.

Simone Demarchelier is a heroine who is comfortable in her own skin. She knows who she is, and likes who she is – that’s unique enough amongst romance heroines, much less women in general. Simone designs and sells high end lingerie, which makes her profession inherently sensual, if not sexual. She understand that and goes with it. She’s attracted to Ryan but keeps her distance as she meets him basically as a client first. And then because of who he is – he’s a player, and Simone is too smart to be taken in by that, or involved with someone like that. I liked that Simone was willing to stand in place and do what she liked without changing for Ryan. Especially because they only had a tentative friendship. She values and respects herself, and is the steady presence in Evening Storm.

Ryan Hamilton is a really interesting character. He’s a romance hero – but he’s not very heroic in a way. While he’s pictured as your stereotypical high flying asshole investment banker, his despair negates the behavior. It’s hard to explain without reading it. Ryan himself says that he hit rock bottom when it comes to humanity, and almost surprised himself by doing the right thing. And in this case, doing the right thing is more than even a good person might do. It’s a difficult journey for Ryan throughout, and Ms. Calhoun does an excellent job of conveying how difficult and precarious the situation is. Then there’s also the fact that he yearns for Simone, but is essentially romancing other high profile women. He and the actress(es) are using each other, but it’s still unusual.

It’s clear from the start is that Ryan and Simone are going to end up together. What adds another level to Evening Storm is that they aren’t together, and that as I stated, Ryan is “dating” other women through most of the book. In fact, he uses stories of his exploits to tempt and seduce Simone. He’s ridiculously extravagant and romantic in his gestures to Simone. Almost obscenely so, but it fits. He’s a splashy guy who gets what he wants, and money is no object for him. He’s also working toward a goal that will basically destroy his life. Somehow Ms. Calhoun takes all this, and crafts a romance from the mess.

I found Evening Storm to be a compelling read, and I look forward to Anne Calhoun’s next book. I can definitely see myself re-reading this book in the future.

Grade: B–
You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe

The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents on October 1, 2004

The Italian's Suitable WifeEnrico DiRinaldi wants a wife and children, even though an accident has left him unable to walk. So he proposes a marriage of convenience to Gianna Lakewood. Having always longed for a baby herself — and having secretly loved Enrico since she was a teenager — Gianna can’t say no.

The passion Enrico ignites in his innocent bride leaves her breathless. But when she realizes that his full recovery is imminent, and his beautiful ex-fiancée is waiting in the wings, Gianna is sure he won’t want her any more. So why is Enrico so intent on keeping his convenient wife by his side?

It’s TBR Challenge Time and I’m a day late and a dollar short, as usual. This month we were supposed to read a “RITA book” – whether it be a winner, or a nominee I believe. I have to be honest, I’ve never had much luck with RITA books, and aside from being happy for authors with their nominations and/or wins, I don’t take them into consideration. Accordingly, I went with a comfort read. I want to say I first read this book right around the time it was published, and have re-read it numerous times since.

Gianna is something of an atypical Harlequin Presents heroine, especially for 2004. She’s not a total doormat, and although she’s a total emotional pushover when it comes to Rico, she does get some of her own back. Gianna is warm, loving, uncertain, and passionate. I found her character and age realistic, especially as someone who had been pining for a man since ~girlhood. It was nice that Gianna gets along so well with the DiRinaldi family and already has an established relationship with all of them. It saved her from being too put-upon, and gave her the support and confidence she needed.

Enrico DiRinaldi is your typical Harlequin Presents hero. A take charge tycoon, Latin Lover, and something of an asshole. I liked that we got his perspective at time, and a look into his uncertainties. It was also nice that he admitted them to Gianna in the end, which really cements the fact that they have a real, believable relationship, not just something that happened because it’s the formula of the book/publisher line. Rico experiences all sorts of new emotions, and realizes he’s fallen in love in typical emotionally stunted male fashion. Lucy Monroe is a really great writer that digs into your emotions, and you really feel for Rico, even when he’s being a jerk outwardly.

There were a few things that I didn’t find believable – that she was an assistant  professor at age 23. I found that unrealistic even in 2004. Also the evil model ex-fiancée was borderline evil mustache twirling villain, but what mostly makes up for it is that Rico takes care of things in the end. The first intimate scene(s) are a bit extreme, but I’d put that down mostly to the Harlequin category format. (And the year.)

If you enjoy category and/or Harlequin romances, I definitely recommend this one. It made me tear up on the metro when I read it this most recent time. Yes, even knowing what was coming and on public transport. It might be a little bit of nostalgia and emotional attachment for me, but I really like The Italian’s Suitable Wife. I think it’s how Rico comes around and his character growth that forms his relationship with Gianna that does it for me.

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: Lawless in Leather by Melanie Scott

Lawless in Leather by Melanie Scott
Contemporary romance released by St. Martin’s Press on May 5, 2015

Lawless in LeatherSHE’S GOOD AT HER GAME.
Raina Easton never dreamed she’d end up playing ring master to a bunch of baseball cheerleaders. But when the New York Saints offers her a job to coach its new squad–the Fallen Angels–Raina can’t refuse. As the owner of a burlesque club, she can certainly show the girls more than a few good moves. But as for her new boss? That is, as they say, a whole ‘nother story. . .

Army veteran, biker, and all-around tough guy, Malachi Coulter isn’t your typical sports-team owner. For one thing, he doesn’t think cheerleaders belong on the baseball field. Another: he can’t seem to separate business and pleasure when he meets his somewhat scandalous new employee. Seems the major-league bad boy has met his match in the gorgeous, feisty Raina. All’s fair in love and baseball…could it be that, after all this time, Malachi is playing to win?

​I’ve been meaning to review this book, and the TBR Challenge is the perfect time for it! I’ve read book two (and talked about it over at H&H), and I was glad when I got the email about Lawless in Leather being available. I think I liked this book more than Angel in Armani. I read it a while ago, so forgive me for any mistakes … here we go!

​I really liked Raina Easton is a fantastic heroine. I liked that she was so self assured, practical, and – unusual to some, sex positive. (I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter about how this doesn’t exist, or isn’t the norm, and I think that thought [or truth] is a shame.) I do want to say the “cheerleaders” are actually the dance team, and … well there is a difference, as sports fans will know. It also makes more sense for a dancer/burlesque club owner to be their “coach.” I liked that Raina knows when to take a step back and take care of herself. She’s smart, and knows how to act for what is best not necessarily what she wants at the moment. Raina is someone I think everyone would want as a friend.

Malachi is … well he’s a workacholic and something of an ass, but he’s Raina’s ass, and she’s more than capable of keeping him in line. Mal is ex special forces, co-owner of a baseball team (the New York Saints)… but also head of security for the enterprise. I loved how taken he was with Raina from the start, and how is is a good guy. Just rather gruff and abrupt – we all know how people like a recalcitrant alpha hero though right? For all that Mal is a planner, I think this book is all about him going out of his mind, [and this is going to be hokey but bear with me…] because he’s in love for the first time and is bowled over by it. It’s rather sweet. And he is willing to admit when he’s wrong and crosses the line.

I will say I was “fooled” about who the “villain” of the book was, although I felt it was something of a letdown. I know, I’m contrary – I wouldn’t have been happy if it was obvious, but I just felt it was a bit to hurried/dropped in there. I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to give it away. Although it isn’t really a major plot point (in my opinion) I suppose it does inform – or influence really – the characters actions.

I quite liked Lawless in Leather and I think a number of you will too. It’s a well written, fun, and entertaining romance. Adult characters who are realistic, flawed, but impressive. The secondary characters are fun – there are the four+ from the two previous books, and a few new fun ones as well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future Melanie Scott books.

Grade: B

There is no excerpt, but you can buy a copy here.

Birthday Month of Random

So … if you’ve been around ALBTALBS for any amount of time you know I always LIKE to and TRY to do it up big.

No idea how that’s going to pan out, or if scheduled things are going to happen in 2015 as planned… and I kinda can’t find it in myself to care at this very moment. I tried last night, and it just resulted in me wanting to set things on fire … so you know what? Why would I want to do stuff that will only make me suffer, in an attempt to celebrate? Not only was I sick for about a month, the first time I think “hey – I can almost breathe normally again and only wheezing when I laugh!” …  I’m relapsing.

As such, my gift to ME this month, is the freedom to fuck up as much and as often as I like. And to feel – at least less guilty than I normally do. If authors I arranged to guest send their posts in, then awesome. I’ll do my best to have it go live when it should. If not … well, we’re all adults. Sometimes shit happens like death or other tragedy, and sometimes we don’t know how to use calendars. I don’t care to figure out which happens when right now.

My prize to you … um, random snarkery and posts like this that I’ll probably regret in the morning?

Oh and you know, if my mood improves, maybe a kindle or something. Or maybe a box of books. Or maybe such a creatively formed string of swear words that you’d make a sailor blush if you let that loose in front of him. OR HER. You never know. (No really – we none of us know how I’ll be feeling a few weeks from now. Especially since I’ll be traveling.)

So to all the haters out there… 😀

One year I’ll learn how to be an adult. Clearly this one is not it. (And anyway, I won’t technically be a year older until the end of the month, so maybe I’ll mature in a few weeks. We’ll see.) 😉

So you know, Happy Fucking Birthday Month to Me.

Xoxo!!! Thanks for sticking around, loves! <3

TBR Challenge Review: It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre

It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre
Contemporary romance released by Oak Press, LLC on November 20, 2013

It Must Be Your LoveSuccessful Seattle Realtor Mia Sullivan is nobody’s fool…apart from that one week five years ago when she gave her heart to a sexy musician who gave her nothing in return but a few sinfully perfect days—and nights—in his bed. Though she swears she never wants to see him again, he’s the one man she’s never been able to forget.

One of the hottest rock stars in the world, Ford Vincent can have any woman he wants…except Mia Sullivan. But he knows millions of strangers singing along with his songs can’t fill the hole inside him. Only Mia’s love has the power to do that—so he vows to do anything and everything it takes to win her heart again.

From the first moment they see each other again, intense sparks of attraction fly. But can Mia and Ford finally rediscover a love strong enough to last forever?

I’ve wanted to read the Sullivan books for quite some time. I’ve started a few, but life always happened, so I’m really happy I made the effort to read It Must Be Your Love.​ I want to say this is the first time I’ve intentionally broke TBR review challenge “protocol.” I did initially plan on reading a book that was published 10 years ago. I got a lot of great suggestions and decided to read one that is basically universally loved. … I couldn’t get into it. I’m not going to say which book because I don’t want to be pilloried and run out of the community. I decided to read It Must Be Your Love because it’s basically hit all my reader buttons. Successful heroine, rockstar hero, hero that is desperately in love, and lots of hero grovel. Yes please. It also is perfect (in my mind) because it’s also APAHM, and Bella Andre was the first guest of the month.

I usually talk about the character individually, but today I want to address another aspect first. Mia Sullivan ​is the youngest sibling with four older brothers. I think that really helped build her character. It gave her a great backstory, support network, and explained how she’s so strong and independent. As someone who wanted to tag along with her older brothers and as a girl she always had to work that much harder to keep up, and be kept in the fun. It’s a contributing factor to what drove her in childhood and stayed with her, making her an incredibly successful realtor with her own business at age 28. (I’m sure her family and their connections helped too, but the book doesn’t focus on that.) Mia knows who she is and what she wants. I liked that she made Ford work for it, but she didn’t act to her (or their) detriment out of pride. Mia’s a great girl and she’s someone you want as your best friend. In fact it wouldn’t hurt being her either.

Ford Vincent was an interesting twist in my opinion, with his “poor little rich boy” back story. I liked that he didn’t let it damage or define him though. Sure it affected him, but didn’t let that hold him back. Mia and Ford have their history from five years back, and while he was an asshole, I don’t think his childhood was the deciding factor. In fact I think any guy around 25 (the book actually never says Ford’s current age) with the world at his feet would have made the same demands and assumptions that he as the rockstar should have his way. Full stop. I like that from the beginning of the book once he makes up his mind to see Mia he is all in. All the way. He’s willing to make the same “sacrifices” he asked Mia to make five years ago. It’s quite the gesture.

Breaking more protocol, no real character analysis this time because while I think Mia and Ford are great, it’s the usual suspect of adjectives thrown out there. Definitely they’re people that you’ll enjoy reading about – and would want to know in real life too. They’re friendly, fun, loving, and grounded. Throw in the massive success and wealth? What’s not to love.

The romance picks up pretty much as soon as Mia and Ford meet again. It’s as if they never spent five years apart, which I found interesting. Mia makes noises and some lip service about resisting at first but in actuality does nothing of the sort. That, and the fact that (in her mind) the relationship was so “all or nothing” bothered me. Those were the only two things. On Ford’s part, it made sense, because he has to show that he’s willing to make the grand gesture by “giving up everything” – the lifestyle he’s had since ~highschool, and has changed. On Mia’s part … I wondered where her basic problem solving skills went.

The writing and characterization in It Must Be Your Love are of course excellent. Bella Andre is a wonderful writer and story teller, and everything fits in so seamlessly you don’t even think about how many little details there are that all work together. I liked fact that Ms. Andre paints a vivid picture of each character’s life, but doesn’t get bogged down in the descriptions. You get the feel of how much Mia loves houses and her jobs. How Ford commands a stadium when playing a show. Their families and the love – or lack thereof. It was a good balance I think of Mia and Ford, and with Mia as the one dragging her feet it was nice to see her family encouraging her. (Or her brothers acting like … hilarious awesome stereotypical big brothers.)

I definitely recommend It Must Be Your Love to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, and I’m glad there’s such a backlist for me to go through. The Sullivans are a really large family, and there’s something for everyone, with a variety of characters and professions, I’m sure there’s “reader catnip” for all in this series.
Grade: B
You can buy a copy here.