A Book Review That’s Maybe Sort of Not Really a Book Review

Is there anything worse than a book review from someone who didn’t actually read the book?  If you’re creasing your brow and wondering how that could even be a thing, I’m here to tell you it is.  People do it all the time, and I don’t want to be one of them.

But what do you do when you read a book and you can’t get through it?  I mean, obviously I don’t like the book, but is it really fair to leave a review if I didn’t actually read it?

Out of my rather large stash of used books that I absolutely must read and get rid of as I try to declutter my house, I pulled Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton.  I’d heard good things about the author, and since I do plenty of supernatural stuff in my ghostwriting work I figured it would at least be good research.

I hated it right from the beginning.  I just could not get into it.  I thought maybe I was having a hard time concentrating.  Three kids, three dogs, three cats, and a job make for plenty of distractions.  But I was incredibly turned off when Hamilton began describing the man Anita is supposed to be in love with and find sexy.  Sorry, but a guy rolling around on a bed in a red net shirt and black boots while purring with a French accent is just not attractive.  To each their own, and that’s only my opinion, but no.  I couldn’t get attached to the characters, and they seemed to spend a lot more time talking about the plot than actually doing anything about it.  I was just plain bored.

I get a bit stubborn when it comes to reading books.  I’ve often felt that if I start a book, I have to finish.  Those are just The Rules.  But I also have a lot of other books I’d like to get around to reading and only so much time.  I thought about The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke, in which he emphasizes just how important the beginning of a book is when it comes to captivating your audience.  All right.  I decided I’d give it at least fifty pages and go from there.

Folks, I was dying to see that little 5-0 on the upperhand corner of the page.

Back before I did book reviews online, I read a book that I really struggled to get through.  It was boring and uncomfortable, but I was invested.  I had to follow The Rules.  When I got to the end, the two main characters decided not to change anything about their lives and just go back to how they were at the beginning.  I stared at the book for a moment when I was done, and then I quite literally chucked it across the room.

There’s no point in throwing books when I could just donate this one to the library and grab something different from the shelf.  And while I’ll mention it here, I definitely won’t be leaving a review on Amazon.  Most of the reviews for this book are good ones, so maybe it’s just me?

What do you do when you really hate a book?  I’d love to know!

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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: Conqueror’s Moon by Julian May

I’m one book closer to completing my bookshelf cleanout!  Okay, let’s face it.  This is going to take an eternity, but at least I’ll enjoy it in the process!  The latest selection was Conqueror’s Moon by Julian May.

From the Cover:

On a remote island, far in the Boreal Sea, four kingdoms have struggled against one another since time out of mind. Most mysterious is the marshland kingdom of Moss—feared by the others and ruled by the Sorcerers. Soon, all will be put in peril’s way.

In recent years, three of the kingdoms have suffered fearsome volcanic eruptions that choke crops, famine among people, and an ailing leader on his deathbed. Only Moss, poverty-stricken and desolate at the best of times, seems untroubled.

But Prince Conrig of Cathra, who waits patiently as his father, the king, wastes slowly away, is in league with his lover, the seductive sorceress Princess Ullanoth of Moss. And if their secret alliance succeeds in its goal, the warring kingdoms of High Blenholme will be united once and for all—under the iron hand of one supreme rule.

What I Loved:

Conqueror’s Moon is an intriguing tale of royalty and class, romance and politics, and plenty of fantasy and magic!  The first few pages definitely had me hooked and wanting to know what was going to happen next.

What stood out to me a lot with this book is how well-developed the characters are.  Each of them have their own backgrounds and personalities, making this very much a character-driven plot.

The description and setting were also excellent as May painted a picture of a very detailed fantasy world that I could see clearly in my mind as I read.  The maps included at the front of the book are also helpful.

What I Didn’t Love as Much:

This is definitely not what I’d call an easy read.  There are too many characters and places to keep track of, and of course they all have fantastical names that make it a little harder.  That plus the numerous political meetings meant that this book was most enjoyable when I had a nice, quiet space to read in.  I don’t always have that luxury, so about halfway through I wasn’t sure I was ever going to finish.

The end of the book wasn’t as neatly tied up as I would prefer.  I know it’s just the first in a series, and I can appreciate the author wanting to leave the reader craving more.  That part was achieved, but I do wish there had been a little bit more of a conclusion so I’d feel like I truly got to the end of the book.

Rating and Recommendation:

While I think there’s some potential here, it was just too hard to get into the book.  I’m curious to know what happens in the sequels, but I don’t know that I’ll actually read the rest of the series to find out.  Maybe this would be a better fit for me if I wasn’t a busy working mom and had more time to really focus on it, but I can’t say I was extremely impressed.  3 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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Okay, There’s One Downside to Fountain Pens…

Why not end the summer with a small disaster, right?

I was quietly working away at my desk, handwriting a story I’ve been wanting to write for months.  I didn’t have any upcoming deadlines with my freelance work, the kids were all occupied, and everything was perfect.

Then my pen ran out of ink.  That’s not really a problem, since I keep several bottles of fountain pen ink on hand (and I’d love to have many, many more, like this one).  But just as I set my bottle of Noodler’s North African Violet on my desk and turned to the shelf to grab a secondary pen to fill, the cat jumped on my desk.

Taken during a much more peaceful time…

Now I should say here that I’ve let him on my desk before.  But I’ve tried to stop this habit, since Elwood has very little concern for what he might knock out of the way to make himself comfortable.  He oozes out over the surface of the desk, pushing aside my computer and my notebooks, sending my planner slipping down between the cracks of the furniture, and has even once spilled an entire (and rather large) cup of water in my desk drawer.  Then, of course, there are the necessary deposits of fluffy orange hair he leaves behind.

This time, the ink was the victim.  It crashed to the floor, cracking the cap and sending purple ink splattering all over the vintage hardwood.  The thin finish had no chance of keeping that dark liquid from seeping into all the tiny cracks.  My kids came rushing in when they heard the commotion and readily volunteered to help.  They brought paper towels and rags as we assessed the damage, discovering that North African Violet had splattered onto the rug and splashed onto the sofa.  We scrubbed drops of purple from the bottom of my desk chair and our feet and the fireplace hearth.

That was enough of a catastrophe, but amaranthine streaks on the kitchen floor (three rooms away) indicated that the mess had become mobile.  Two of my dogs, who’d been so faithfully resting under my desk at the time of the incident, now looked like they’d tried to steal an expensive coat at Macy’s.

Not my dog, but I was a little too preoccupied to take a picture…

Is there an upside to any of this, you may be asking?  Well, yes.  The dogs needed baths, anyway, and the ink came out of their fur better than it came out of anything else.  The rug is heavily patterned, so the hundreds of little purple spots aren’t all that visible.  And it’s always an excuse to buy more ink, right?

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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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How We Stopped Using Paper Towels (Mostly): Minimalism, Environmentalism, and Marie Kondo

Several months ago, I did what a lot of other people were doing and watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  I was excited for this.  I’ve found great inspiration from cleaning shows before (like the ladies on How Clean is Your House?), and I was eager for some fantastic tips to keep my home pristine.

While I wish there had been more specific tips than the basic mantra of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” it definitely inspired a wave of decluttering and organizing in my home.  Unlike the people on the show, I didn’t do it all in one week!  I’m still working on it, little by little.  It’s more of a lifestyle change than a one-time spring cleaning.  I attack a drawer or a shelf as I have the time, and I’m loving the results.  The areas I’ve Kondo’d are much easier to keep clean, and I never thought I’d be so happy to open my sock drawer every morning.

A month or two later, I happened to watch a documentary simply entitled Minimalism (check out the book that goes along with it here).  I might never have watched it except that I was on a documentary kick at the time.  It only strengthened my urge to get rid of all the extra stuff.  Why keep socks I don’t wear?  Why buy another knickknack to gather dust?  If I buy this thing I think I want, where am I going to put it?  The documentary really spoke to my need for less clutter (both physically and mentally) and more time for the important things in life.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not going too crazy with this stuff.  You won’t find me living in a “tiny house” or traveling across the U.S. with nothing but a toothbrush.

What really hit me while watching Minimalism was the idea (from one of the numerous people interviewed) that often the cheapest way to live is also the best for the environment.  I believe he was referring to having a smaller living space that’s cheaper on climate control and building materials (and therefore more environmentally friendly), but this really struck a chord with me.  I’m all about saving money and saving the planet, and it’s even better to do both at the same time!

I couldn’t say why, exactly, but the first thing I attacked was our paper towel usage.  With a family of five, we go through quite a few of them.  Just for the paper towels we use for napkins with meals, at $0.0139 per sheet, times five people, times three meals a day, times 365 days a year, we’re saving over $75 a year.  And that doesn’t even include paper towels used for cleaning!  Sure, we still buy paper towels for those times when they’re just the perfect solution for a problem, but our output is greatly reduced.  If the 315.41 million Americans who use paper towels (as of 2017) were to stop using them just for napkins at meals, it would save them over 4.8 BILLION dollars.  That’s a lot of cash, people.

For the environmental concerns, I’ll let you read this amazing article with all the details.

Okay, that was a long story to let you know we use cloth napkins and cleaning rags now, but it might not’ve happened otherwise.  Paper towels are just an everyday thing we don’t think about.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we’re creating less waste and saving money, and these napkins truly do spark joy in me every time I grab one.  This idea has led to several other small changes in our lives, which I’ll outline for you soon.

What are your feelings on minimalism, purging, and saving the planet?  I’d love to know, so feel free to comment!

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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.

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: Island by Alistair MacLeod

As yet another selection from my bookshelf cleanout, I picked up Island by Alistair MacLeod.  It’s a collection of short stories (not my typical thing to read) that completely blew me away.

From the Cover:

The sixteen exquisitely crafted stories in Island prove Alistair MacLeod to be a master. Quietly, precisely, he has created a body of work that is among the greatest to appear in English in the last fifty years.

What I Loved:

Island is gritty, somber, and muted.  The stories are positively dripping with the tiny details of life, from the way a small boy remembers his father’s sweater to the grim details of a corpse found at sea.  Many of the stories carry themes of death and family relationships.  They revolve around occupations and how they form entire lives and even whole towns.  Island is all about small towns, the love (and burden) of family, coming of age, leaving home, and returning.

There’s only one reason you’ll want to put this book down, and that is to write.  It’s incredibly inspiring from a writer’s perspective, with stories that are poignant, moving, and excellently written.

“The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” was definitely one of my favorites.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:

As I’m sure you can guess, I have very little to say here!  Sometimes the stories were a bit too heavy, but that’s part of what makes them so amazing.

Rating and Recommendation:

If you enjoy short stories, if you want to feel all the feels, or if you want to be inspired to improve your own writing game, then I highly recommend Island.  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: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

A beautifully-written book that grounds the reader in the lives of the past, To Defy a King is not mere historical fiction but a time machine.

From the Cover:  

The spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal, lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls out with the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered.

The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected.

Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone. Caught between the family she was born in and the family she married into, Mahelt is uncertain if she—or her marriage—will survive.

What I Loved:  To Defy a King completely immerses the reader in the past and paints a vivid picture of what it would be like in the thirteenth century, particularly for a young woman whose life is defined by what the men around her want.  The main character, Mahelt, must contend with this on a daily basis.

I was a little hesitant to start this book because it’s the fifth in the series and I haven’t read any of the other ones.  Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter.  Everything was wrapped up well enough in this volume that I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything.

To Defy a King is a rather lengthy book, and the characters are given ample time to develop and show off their depth.  It seems there is nothing that happens without a purpose, so there’s never a dull moment.

This way I would describe the tone of this book is tense.  I felt my entire body going rigid as I read because of everything Mahelt had to go through (but I don’t want to give away any spoilers here).  I guess this could be either a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a relaxing read!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  The characters, especially at first, are a bit difficult to keep track of.  This is mostly in regard to the families of the two main protagonists.  There is a family tree in the front of the book, which helps, but I don’t like to flip back and forth.  Nor do I like to accidentally spoil something for myself and see when they die or get married before it happens in the story!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love historical fiction with a heady mix of action, adventure, and romance, then To Defy a King is for you.  Four 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.

 

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 about an item when linking to it.

 

 

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Book Review: A Harvest of Bones by Yasmine Galenorn

A semi-spooky mystery with ghosts, supernatural powers, and cats.  What more could you need?

I’m presently working on reading through and cleaning out my bookshelves, and A Harvest of Bones was one of my recent selections.  I’ve been writing a lot in the mystery genre lately, so it’s always nice to do a little “research.”

From the Cover:  It’s harvest time in Chiqetaw, Washington; Emerald O’Brien’s favorite season. But this year, nature yields a most supernatural bounty. When Em and her sweetie, Joe, stumble over a bramble-covered foundation that has remained hidden for fifty years in the lot next door, strange events begin to occur. The cat vanishes. Will o’ the Wisps threaten to harm Emerald and her loved ones. And the ghost of a woman named Brigit and her beloved calico make themselves at home in the backyard. Now it’s up to Em and her friends to delve into the past, reveal the secrets of the dead and lay them to rest as they ring in the autumn with a harvest of bones.

What I Loved:  Like I said:  cats!  Okay, yes there are plenty of other good things about this book.  It was a nice combination of murder, ghosts, history, witchcraft, psychic powers, and everyday life.  The characters were mostly relatable and easy to keep track of.  The mystery in question was engaging, and while I had an idea of whodunnit about halfway through, all the little details were held back until the end.  And yes, there really were plenty of cats.

“Even a diary isn’t safe from prying eyes.  But a cat will listen, and keep her silence for you.”

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I grabbed this book at a library booksale with the thought that it was more of a cozy mystery.  A liberal sprinkling of cuss words and a dash of semi-steamy scenes made this not nearly as cozy as I imagined.  I wasn’t offended by any of this; I just didn’t really expect it.  Readers who prefer something a little cleaner might not be interested.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re looking for a good mystery that’s a fun and easy read, I definitely recommend A Harvest of Bones.  I’m giving this book four 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.

 

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 about an item when linking to it.

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