Rising to the Challenge!

open-booksBack in 2008, a conversation on the Romance Potpourri Message Board revealed two things:  Many of us had massive to be read piles and most of us had no real motivation to pull books off of them.  In order to conquer those dual issues we created the Unofficial 9 in 2009 AAR Reading Challenge.  The goal was to read at least nine books on your TBR.  I did it, loved it (as did several others) and we have been doing the Reading Challenges ever since.

Here’s why the challenges are so great.  Reason one is that it has definitely helped expand my reading experiences.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I will often read a review on AAR, buy the book – and then let it languish in the TBR pile.  Because a part of the challenge is often to tackle new to you authors, it inspires me to tackle those books which were well reviewed at AAR written by authors unfamiliar to me.  I’ve found several DIK’s (and new authors to glom) thanks to that aspect of the challenge.

I also discovered a new sub genre thanks to the challenge: one notable year I […]

By | December 9th, 2016|Categories: Maggie AAR, Reading, Romance reading|Tags: |7 Comments

Being Swedish but Writing in English by Asa Maria Bradley

When people hear that English is not my native language, they often ask me why I decided to write in English instead of Swedish. I don’t really have a clear answer for how that happened. I wrote stories in Swedish when I lived in Sweden. But once I moved the US, all my writing has been in English. Maybe it’s just a case of ‘when in Rome write in Latin.’ But, although I don’t write fiction in Swedish, my heritage definitely colors my work.

My paranormal Viking Warrior series is based on the Norse mythology and archaeology that surrounded me while growing up. As a child, I adored the picture books I had based on Norse mythology and once I could read more complex sentences, I read every book I could find in the library that had to do with Vikings and Valkyries. It was my seventh grade history teacher who first showed me historical fiction based on the Norse Sagas. He noticed my interest and gave me a list of books to read.

My books are contemporary paranormal romance, so my research is usually more focused on Norse […]

By | December 8th, 2016|Categories: Authors, Guest Posts|Tags: |0 Comments

Horror and Romance: The Evil Twin by KJ Charles (plus a giveaway!)

Want something a bit different for the holidays? Horror has never looked this enticing! All in Fear is a gorgeous collection of horror tales from some of the hottest names in queer fiction. Be prepared to be titillated…and terrified.

(The authors are giving away three ebook copies. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.)


Back in the day when I worked at Harlequin, various editors including me were sent to a massive cross-global-company ideas brainstorming meeting. This entailed having to come up with ideas for a bunch of new lines to present to the assembled most senior people of the entire company, one of which had to be wild and “out there” and “outside the box” and “blue-sky thinking” and probably involved moving your cheese in order to get all your ducks in a row oh my god I hated corporate life. My personal horror novel would basically be me in a meeting and every time it got to the last agenda point someone would say, “Just one more thing…” FOR EVER.

Anyway, there we were trying to come up with new romance series ideas […]

By | December 6th, 2016|Categories: Authors, giveaways, Guest Posts|Tags: |10 Comments

Eagerly Awaited December Releases

fourweddings Ah…coasting into the holidays. For me personally, December tends to be a month where I binge-read holiday romances and sneak in portions of anthologies or short category romances during breaks in the holiday madness. While most of my holiday reads are oldies-but-goodies, I’ve scouted out a promising-sounding anthology and some category romance goodness that I can’t wait to read. This may be a busy time of year, but the reading lists turned in by my fellow AAR-ers show that we all want to make time to read.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence (anthology)

I love anthologies, and this one features authors I have enjoyed in the past. I’ll have to wait until after Christmas to get my hands on it, and I can’t wait! – Lynn

I love Julia Quinn.  No scratch that – I adore Julia Quinn and her heroes and heroine and am excited for her latest. – Lisa

I am not usually much of an anthology fan as I like meaty stories, but this one is chock full of talent, so I will give it a try. – Mary

not so secretly love anthologies, and Quinn and Guhrke are on my shortlist of favorite historical romance authors. […]

By | December 5th, 2016|Categories: All About Romance, Eagerly Awaiting, Lynn AAR|Tags: |2 Comments

Before the End: The Beyond Series by Kit Rocha

buy links: A/iB/BN/K

The erotic dystopian Beyond series didn’t really come onto my reading radar until mid-2014, though the first book, Beyond Shame was released in 2012. Even then, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading them. I was happy with my contemporary and historical romances and hadn’t branched out too much into other romantic sub-genres. But I had some reviewer friends who couldn’t stop talking about them. “They are so dirty!” “’They are so addictive!” “The worldbuilding is fantastic!” and so on. Reluctantly, I picked up Beyond Shame (which is free) just so I could say that I’d tried it and it wasn’t for me.

I was so wrong. I devoured that first book. I checked back to my review on Goodreads (this was before I was reviewing regularly) and all it says is “well, that was something.” Apparently, I couldn’t put my thoughts about the story into actual worthwhile words because I was too busy buying the next books in the series that were out and binge-reading […]

By | December 3rd, 2016|Categories: Books with Buzz, E-books, Maria Rose, Reading, Romance reading|2 Comments

Chatting with Julie Anne Long

Today we’re talking with Julie Anne Long. Wild at Whiskey Creek, the second book in her contemporary series Hellcat Canyon, releases on the 29th of this month. Here’s the blurb:

Everyone knows the Greenleaf family puts the “Hell” in Hellcat Canyon—legend has it the only way they ever leave is in a cop car or a casket. But Glory Greenleaf has a different getaway vehicle in mind: her guitar. She has a Texas-sized talent and the ambition (and attitude) to match, but only two people have ever believed in her: her brother, who’s in jail, and his best friend . . . who put him there.

Sheriff Eli Barlow has secretly been in love with Glory since he was twelve years old. Which is how he knows her head is as hard as her heart is soft—and why she can’t forgive him for fracturing her family . . . or forget that night they surrendered to an explosive, long-simmering passion. But when a betrayal threatens Glory’s big break, Eli will risk everything to make it right . . . because the best way to love the girl from Whiskey […]

Nov TBR Challenge

countessshshameless When I started reading romance, I stuck almost entirely to historicals and romantic suspense. When I saw this month’s TBR Challenge prompt, I knew I had no shortage of historical reading in my closet o’TBR. I decided to go with a new-to-me author and picked up Liana LeFey’s 2012 debut, Countess So Shameless. This Georgian historical, set in France and England during the reign of George II, has enough intelligence and unique characterization to keep me reading but also enough eyeroll-inducing plot twists to make it difficult for me to recommend.

The novel opens at Versailles where the teenaged Melisande Compton has come to court with her French mother and English father. We learn very quickly that this isn’t entirely a pleasure visit and while in France, Melisande learns a dangerous and devastating family secret. Overcome with emotion, she runs headlong into Lord Alessandro Orsini, a rakish diplomat for the Papal States. Though warned early and often by her mother of Alessandro’s unsuitability and danger to properly brought up young women, Melisande finds herself enjoying his company and is quite swept off her feet.

Alessandro feels likewise and when the two cross paths again some years […]

You need to watch this show. Right now.  

crazy-ex-girlfriend-first-season-38605So I didn’t use the show’s name in the title on purpose, because if you’re like me you’d be put off and wouldn’t even read below the break. Which is fine, except you’d be missing one of the most amazing shows currently on TV.

Still here? Okay: the show’s called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – don’t run away!

If you’re anything like me you won’t have seen it (very likely – the ratings suck), you’ll read that, and you’ll think “not in a bajillion years”. That’s what I thought. Show with a title like that? Probably kooky characters who are adorbs even if they’ve got lots of troubles. Love triangles.  Lots of cringing that comes with artificial situations that only happen on TV. Exhausting and phony.

You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, because CEG does all of that. Except it’s not exhausting or phony. It takes every one of those situations and turns them on their heads. It approaches all characters with nuance and honesty, maintains a crackerjack sense of humour, has the most authentically diverse cast on television, depicts mental illness with sincerity and kindness, and punches you right in the gut.

Oh, and it’s a musical.

Rachel Bloom plays Rebecca Bunch, the  crazy ex-girlfriend: […]

By | November 12th, 2016|Categories: Jean AAR, Music, Pop Culture, Television|Tags: , , , |9 Comments

Midweek minis

AAR staffers Kristen, LinnieGayl, Maria Rose, Dabney, and Sara have been hard at work reading and reviewing even more books! Here are their thoughts on some of their most recent reads in another of our occasional series of mini reviews.

Kristen’s Reads:

Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger

Marisol Gutierrez travels to the U.S. to pitch their nonprofit at a grant conference. The competition is stiff, Marisol is not usually the organization’s spokesperson, and she is especially nervous to do it all in her second language of English, but has stepped in at the last minute and is determined to do well. The future of the organisation depends on getting this grant and the pressure overwhelms Marisol, stealing her of her usual joy and plunging her into a permanent state of panic.

Since she’s in L.A. a few days before she has to begin the conference, she decides to try to attend a taping of her favorite show, a Price is Right-esque competition show. For a whole lot of reasons and plot contrivances, she ends up at the taping and as a guest on a late night chat show instead. […]

By | November 9th, 2016|Categories: Dabney AAR, Kristen D, LinnieGayl AAR, Maria Rose, Mini reviews, Romance, Romance reading, Sara AAR|5 Comments

Meet… Emily Larkin

A few years back I randomly picked up a book called The Spinster’s Secret, by a new-to-me author named Emily Larkin, purely because the premise sounded interesting; a spinster living in a cold, bleak, grey home who writes erotic novels in order to earn enough money to be able to move out and set up on her own, meets a scarred war hero – sent to unmask her – with whom she falls in love. (This was a few years ago, so the spinster/erotic novelist trope wasn’t something I’d come across often, whereas at the moment, that character seems to be in one in every three books I pick up!)

I was captivated by the story and the quality of the writing and eagerly sought out the-spinsters-secretmore books by Ms. Larkin, only to be disappointed to discover there weren’t any 🙁 Fortunately, however, I found she’d written some other historical romances under a pseudonym (books she is soon planning to republish under her own name), and now she’s back with a series of books under the […]

By | November 4th, 2016|Categories: Authors, Caz AAR, giveaways, Historicals, Interviews, Romance, Romance reading|8 Comments