Pen Review: Sheaffer Ferrari 100 Fountain Pen

I might not have a true sports car, but the Ferrari 100 truly lives up to its name!

This pen came in the July 2018 iPenBox.  I’ve been meaning to post a review about it ever since!  The theme of the box was “fast,” and that seems very appropriate in this case.  Not only is the pen named after the iconic vehicle, it writes swiftly, efficiently, and smoothly.

The pen came with two cartridges, but the converter included also works beautifully.  There are no skips, and the pen has a nice heavy weight to it.  The Ferrari really lays down some ink, so whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing just depends on your use.  If you’re a fountain pen connoisseur and you typically use premium paper, then I think you’ll absolutely love it.  If you just use regular paper (like me), then be prepared to only use one side of it.

Like any sports car, looks are just as important as performance.  The smooth red pen is good looking on its own, and it doesn’t hurt to have the Ferrari logo on the end of the cap!

The Ferrari with the rest of the iPenBox from July of 2018.

What’s even better than having a nice pen to write with that also looks great on your desk?  Texting your friends and family and telling them you now own a Ferrari!

This pen can still be purchased through the iPenstore or Amazon.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

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As Long as You’re Writing…A Note to Myself

It’s not always easy to write.  For me, lately, it’s been pretty hard.  I’m constantly distracted (thank you, Internet).  Or tired.  Or I have other things I feel I should be taking care of.  Or I’m just not feeling it.

It’s difficult to find a moment of silence when you have a full house and you work from home.  It’s sometimes impossible to drown out the sound of my kids fighting right behind me or playing around with various car crash sounds on the keyboard.

And I fully admit I get frustrated when I can’t find the time to write.  It seems like I shouldn’t have to fight so hard to get past the mom-and-wife stuff just to get a few words on the page.  You know what I mean.  You’ve felt it, too.

But that’s when you have to make a fresh cup of coffee, grab your headphones, blow the cat hair off your computer, and just go for it.  Even if it’s not what you were supposed to be writing.   Maybe you should be working on a freelance job or your next great novel, but you just aren’t feeling it at all.  It’s okay.  Even if it’s something that doesn’t turn out the way you wanted and you’ll erase it later (or the cat will).  As long as you’re writing, it’s okay.

Not even kidding about the cat hair thing…

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Book Review: The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul

I apologize that it’s been a while since you’ve seen a book review on here.  I had really been doing a great job of finding time to read (something that’s always difficult between work and kids) and using that time to clean out my bookshelves.  Unfortunately, it took me several weeks to get through The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul.

From the Cover: In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

What I Loved:  Paul’s writing is easy to read, with varied sentence structure and variable word use to keep things moving.  With the main characters, she does a good job of establishing their personalities and how they think about the world.  One character in particular who stands out is Lady Peg, Tipper’s mother.  Her mind wanders off into odd places, and her dialogue is usually quite entertaining.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Unfortunately, there’s a lot I didn’t like about this book.  It’s a bit difficult to keep track not of the characters but of their world.  There are too many references to types of people or places or animals without some sort of description of them.  I feel that a fantasy book that introduces us to an entirely new world needs to be a little bit less abstract.  Otherwise, it just feels like the story is one big dream.

Another thing that contributes to this abstract feeling is that questions continue to arise along the way without ever getting answered at the end.  We never understand exactly why Tipper’s father disappears all the time.  He and his friends think they have a solution to this problem, but we’re never told why this solution should work.  There are hints about Lady Peg’s past, but again these never come full-circle.  It made the ending very frustrating.

I believe it was this dreamlike quality that kept me from truly getting into the book and why it took me so long to finish it.  I always feel guilty if I don’t finish a book once I’ve started, but since the end provided so few answers I’m not sure it was worth pushing through.

I think it’s interesting that this is supposed to be a book that, according to the summary on Amazon, is supposed to help readers “discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.”  There were references to a deity, but I couldn’t see any real links that would tie this into the real world.

Rating and Recommendation:  While I wasn’t happy with this book, the writing itself (stylistically and grammatically) was perfectly fine.  I give it two stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective.  Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

Historical fiction, fantasy, and romance collide in this hypnotic book.

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll is the latest episode in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’d acquired this battered copy at a library book sale, and it’d been gathering dust for probably a couple of years.

From the Cover: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

What I Loved:  As The Dark Queen tells the story of Ariane Cheney and the comte de Renard, it reveals a tale of passion, duty, and magic.  The characters are very well-developed, even the side characters who could’ve gotten away with being a little flat.  Their depth only continues to increase as the story goes on.

Carroll does an excellent job of establishing the setting in Renaissance France.  The reader can see every building, every chamber, every gown, and even the finer details of the candles and bowls and rings.  She accomplishes this without great lengths of flowery prose, keeping The Dark Queen driven by its plot and characters.

The romance between the two main characters is sweet and compelling, pulling the reader even further into the story.

This was a book I didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much, but it was also one that I couldn’t wait to finish because I was dying to see how it ended.  This book is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Favorite Quote:  Never trust a man over your cat.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Probably my least favorite parts of the book were the ones that showed Catherine de Medici’s side of the tale.  It wasn’t that these scenes were poorly written, and in fact they served to give a detailed picture of the force Ariane Cheney is up against.  But I was so intrigued by the Cheney side of the story that I didn’t want to read anything else!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a twist of magic and fantasy, you must read The Dark Queen.  The whole idea of my Bookshelf Cleanout is to read the books I’ve got so I can decide which ones to keep.  I think this one is a keeper!  5 stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

I’m a sucker for signed books, and apparently that even counts for books I’ve never read.  Every now and then, Barnes and Noble carries signed book on their shelves, and that’s how I ended up reading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition by [Juster, Norton]

Now, I realize there are probably a lot of people who read this book as children, and those same people may find themselves wondering why I would choose to read a book meant for kids at the ripe old age of thirty-*coughcough*.  To them I say, pick it up and read it again.  Maybe you’re not as grown-up as you think.

Synopsis:  Milo, who’s generally a little bored with life, finds himself on a thrilling adventure in a distant fantasy land.  He encounters wild and magnificent creatures and people along the way.

What I Loved:  There’s just so much to love about this book, and I doubt I’d manage to get it all into this review.  This work of pure genius is like a thesaurus set to fiction.  It’s Labyrinth meets Willy Wonka meets Alice in Wonderland meets A Wrinkle in Timewith a little bit of Monty Python thrown in.  It’s goofy and ridiculous but completely engaging.

Juster created not just a world of nonsense where everything in we know in our reality is skewed and taken out of context, but a fun story that might even be thinly veiled social commentary.  After all, there’s a lot of chaos when the Princesses Rhyme and Reason are in exile.

With endless wordplay and marvelous fantasy worlds, The Phantom Tollbooth is highly entertaining.  Even the introduction was worth reading, as were the notes from other authors in the back.

My Favorite Quotes:

It seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.

If you want sense, you’ll have to make it yourself.

“You’ll find,” he remarked gently, “that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I honestly don’t think I have anything to say here!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you enjoy fantasy, puns, and playful dialogue, or maybe if you’re just a kid at heart, I highly recommend The Phantom Tollbooth.  

This book is technically part of my Bookshelf Cleanout, and it’s one I’ll be keeping with the rest of my signed copies.

5 stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

 

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Book Review: Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake

A captivating romance that transports the reader completely!

I don’t usually read romance novels.  I know–I’m a woman in my thirties.  Isn’t that what I’m supposed to read?  At least, when I was a kid I assumed that was what moms always read.  I often choose my reading material based on what I’m currently writing, and I felt I needed to step up my game when it comes to the romantic aspect of my ghostwriting projects.  My book of choice is now also based on my Bookshelf Cleanout.

Enter Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake, a book that had probably been sitting on my shelf for at least a couple of years.  I’d grabbed it from a library book sale, filed it away with the other numerous books I hadn’t gotten around to yet, and pretty much forgotten about it until now.

From the Cover: Lisette Moisant is desperate. She had no love for the husband foisted upon her in an arranged marriage, but his death in a duel with famed fencing master Caid O’Neill has left her at the mercy of her rapacious father-in-law. As Caid is the only man in New Orleans he fears, as well as the cause of her misfortune, she requests the sword master’s protection.

Guilt, fairness and reluctant attraction to the valiant widow compel Caid’s agreement. He expects the arrangement to be short-lived, but that’s before the whispering campaign begins. Lisette is accused of being a wanton who persuaded Caid to trick her husband into a duel. Caid is labeled a murderer. Public sentiment rises against them along with the demand for punishment—and who better to mete it out than the dead husband’s father?

Caid and Lisette may overcome the sordid and deadly forces ranged against them—but how are they to fight the convention that forbids love between an heiress and a master at arms?

What I Loved:  I have to be honest here.  I was expecting flat characters, simpering women, and men who were reckless jerks.  But I was very pleased to find deep characters with fully-fleshed backgrounds and sensible emotional reactions.  Sure, you throw in a bit of stubbornness and a few impetuous decisions to keep the main characters apart for a while, but not the unbearable stereotypes I was expecting.

This is actually the second book in the series, which is something I didn’t even realize until I pulled it up on Amazon while writing this review!  I think that’s impressive, considering I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything.

What’s even more pleasing is the fact that Jennifer Blake has either done her research on New Orleans in 1840 or she has a time machine.  While you might not typically think of a book as being visually stunning, Dawn Encounter definitely is.  Historical fiction is a genre I’ve returned to many times over the past decade or so, and there were many instances when I felt this book fell just as equally in that category as romance.

What I Didn’t Love:  This is still a romance novel at heart, so it does contain some pretty typical tropes:  the woman who’s determined to be independent no matter what a bad idea it is, the stubborn man who refuses to acknowledge his own feelings, and the horrific villain he must save the heroine from.  But I can’t really complain about any of that, since I think this is what we’ve come to expect from a romance novel.  And since it does help the plot along, it works.

There were a few minor typos, but in a book of this length I would expect that.  It was nothing major and didn’t detract from the story.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance and historical fiction, then I highly recommend Dawn Encounter.  You can even read it for free right now through Kindle Unlimited! It was an intriguing read that was so much more than I expected.  I do believe (once I’ve made a little more progress on my Bookshelf Cleanout) that I’ll be picking up the first in the series.  4 stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Bookshelf Cleanout!

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have too many books.  I know, I know.  There’s no such thing, right?  But after several library book sales, the closing down of our local used book store during which I got almost a trunk full of free books, and a few too many episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I’ve decided I need to start clearing some space on my shelves.

Now, that’s not to say I’ll be getting rid of everything.  If you live in a house without books, are you really living at all?  And anyway, some books are just too special to ever part with.  I have a lovely wall shelf my husband built that I’d like to dedicate only to my signed copies and the books that were true lifechangers.  I hope it’s big enough.

Okay, well my problem isn’t this bad…yet.
Image by Eli Digital Creative from Pixabay

The problem is that most of the books I need to (or could possibly, maybe) get rid of are ones I haven’t read yet!  I can’t just pack them all up without at least giving them a shot, right?

So pretty soon you should start seeing a fresh flood of book reviews from me as I go through the shelf of random paperbacks in the dining room, the shelf of hardbacks that don’t fit anywhere else in the living room, the shelf of freebie fantasies from that store closing I mentioned, and the second shelf from that book store closing I mentioned…Oh, and there is a box (or two, or three) in the attic.

 

Wish me luck!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

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