September Book Giveaway!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again to win a free book!  This month, is J.S. Frankel’s Outcasts.  Just click here!

outcasts

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Game Review: Exploding Kittens

The title sounds terrible, but this game is fast and fun!  Even if you don’t think you like card games, you’ll probably end up liking this one!

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Note that there are two version of this game.  One is safe for families, which is what we bought since we have kids, and the other is NSFW.  There’s also an expansion pack called Imploding Kittens.

Objective:  Don’t find an Exploding Kitten unless you have a card to defuse it.  The last person who doesn’t get blown up wins!

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Ease of Play:  Very.  There are only so many moves you can make, and you can even refuse to play a card if you want.  The most difficult thing about this game is that you draw a card to end your turn instead of drawing at the beginning.  Some cards will force the other players to draw two cards (increasing their chances of drawing an Exploding Kitten) or allow you to skip your own turn.

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Fun:  Quite!  It’s a simple game, but we were squealing when we thought we might get an Exploding Kitten!  The artwork and humor on the cards only adds to the game.

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Rating and Recommendation:  If you like a simple game with a little bit of suspense that allows you to sabotage your friends, and if you like hilarious cat humor, then this is the game for you!  5 out of 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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

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Book Review: Always Darkest by Jess and Keith Flaherty

What’s better than winning a book giveaway?  Maybe finding out that it’s a paperback (because I’m just an old-fashioned girl, after all)?  Or that it’s signed?  Or that it’s just really, really good.  Always Darkest was all of that and more.

From the Back Cover:  

Everybody loves a hero.
Everybody loves an antihero with a heart of gold.
Nobody loves a demon.
Nobody but Mal Sinclair, though she doesn’t know it.
Ben was just looking for a vacation from hell, but wound up finding his life’s purpose instead.
Always Darkest, Book I of The Arbitratus Trilogy, draws you into a world of angels and demons walking among us, a world where good and evil are not absolutes. An ancient prophesy sets the stage, but the players will decide the outcome.
And the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Always Darkest

What I Loved:  While I can’t say that I’m usually into the demons-and-angels genre, I really got sucked in by this book.  The premise was highly intriguing, especially as I started to get about a quarter of the way in.

One of the main characters is a demon, but he’s a surprisingly likable demon.  He’s easy to relate to, and I found myself rooting for him early on.  (What does it say about me that I’m on a demon’s side?)  But that was the case with several of the characters.  They had distinct personalities that made them memorable and delightful.

Interestingly enough, the book is written from an omniscient point of view.  This isn’t something I’ve come across very often, and I think it takes a lot of talent to pull it off successfully without making it seem like the author had just forgotten what POV he or she was using.  But the Flahertys really make it work.  It not only helps the depth of the book unfold, but also seems incredibly relevant considering the subject matter.  (Is God, in his omniscience, witnessing all of this?)

The descriptions are just wonderful!  I truly felt like I was in the story, whether I was meeting a character or exploring a new place.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“She had once been almost forbiddingly beautiful, but whatever she had been doing had corrupted her exterior and she was beginning to resemble her true nature; her former rich colors fading to grey, her teeth sharpening, her skin starting to crepe and sag.  She had all the warmth of a pit viper and made no secret of her contempt for demons.  The unblinking way she stared at him made Ben certain she was fantasizing about turning him inside out and leaving him hanging from a tree at midnight.”

“She spent some of her early years around New Englad, was born in Boston, but she had no memory of real time here, save for a vague sense she would like the smell of a Christmas tree in the house, and she might want to try her painfully underdeveloped artsy side by paining with her dad when the leaves changed.”  (Honestly, this is just a small part of about two pages that made me feel as though I was completely immersed in autumn.  Crisp air, sweatshirts, and hot coffee.  I loved it.)

“Life, after all, was cruel, and no one had ever promised him the afterlife wouldn’t be.”

I also have to say that any book that makes several mentions of Star Trek and mentions one of my favorite dishes to make that nobody has ever heard of (cassoulet) gets several points in my book.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Right at first, it’s a little difficult to keep track of the characters because there are so many demons, fallen angels, and other various roles.  Fortunately, this clears itself up after the first couple of chapters.

Also, I think this book might make a little more sense to me if I knew more about the Bible, but that’s all on me.

Most of all, I just hated that it had to end.  I’m ready for the next one!

Rating and Recommendation:  5 stars

If you like intrigue, romance, ancient history brought to life, fantastical creatures, great dialogue, battle scenes, and the way you feel in the pit of your stomach when the seasons change, then you’ll love Always Darkest.

If you don’t like any of that, then you must be dead.

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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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us 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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The 90s are Back! Making Nice with Generational Appropriation

Little black backpack purses.  Chokers.  Cute dresses with big black combat boots.  Ringer tees.  Welcome to my teenage years…and apparently those of my kids as well.

I was overwhelmed by the 90s elements I noticed when I went to the mall a few weeks ago with my girls.  As I looked at my own daughter with her short overalls with one strap undone, I realized just how much my own past had snuck up on me.  (There’s a nice little splash of the mid-to-late 80s in there as well.)

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At first, I thought it was great!  I loved seeing my  daughter dress the way I always wanted to.  I remember how my mom loved it when I wore bell bottoms as a kid.

But then I had to wonder how my parents’ generation actually felt about us when we walked around in our flared jeans with our hippie sunglasses and wore happy faces and flowers on everything.  Sure, the clothes were somewhat similar to what they had worn back in the 60s, but they weren’t born of any actual culture or trends that related to those times.  We hadn’t lived back then, and we didn’t know the significance of it. Were we taking anything away from that era by mocking it, or were we honoring it through imitation?

I didn’t think about it at all back then, but I am now.  For me, life during that decade was incredibly heavy and real.  Sometimes it was a good thing and sometimes bad, but it was a very vivid experience for me.  If I heard a 90s song on the radio, I remember just how much it impacted me when it was brand new. That doesn’t mean someone else can’t enjoy it, but I just don’t see how it can mean the same thing to them.  And the cargo pants, Skecher boots, and baby tees were just as significant.

The really interesting thing is that I can’t tell you just what made it all so significant.  I remember Operation Desert Storm, Lorena Bobbitt, the O.J. Simpson trial, and Dolly the sheep, but I don’t know how much these things actually affected me.  I honestly think it was more about the trials and tribulations of just being a teen and figuring things out, which is a difficult thing for most people.  Still, it’s hard to really say.

When we were prancing around in our velvet shirts and platform shoes, did the older generation wonder how we could possibly know what it was like to go through the civil rights movement, the first moon landing, or the assassination of JFK?  Or were they just happy to reminisce over their childhood?  (I mean, they didn’t have Facebook constantly asking them to take the ultimate Friends quiz or count down a list of the top toys from their youth.)

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I don’t know the answers.  I just know that my daughter dresses like Daria, and I think it’s adorable.

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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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

 

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Book Review: A Class Apart by Susie Murphy

Romance, drama, suspense, and beautiful scenery reign supreme in A Class Apart by Susie Murphy.  I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

a class apart

From the Cover:  It’s 1828, and Ireland is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords.
Nineteen-year-old Bridget Muldowney is thrilled to return to the estate in Carlow she’ll inherit when she comes of age. But since she left for Dublin seven years earlier, the tomboy has become a refined young lady, engaged to be married to a dashing English gentleman.
Cormac McGovern, now a stable hand on the estate, has missed his childhood friend. He and Bridget had once been thick as thieves, running wild around the countryside together.
When Bridget and Cormac meet again their friendship begins to rekindle, but it’s different now that they are adults. Bridget’s overbearing mother, determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries, conspires with Bridget’s fiancé to keep the pair apart.
With the odds stacked against them, can Bridget and Cormac’s childhood attachment blossom into something more?

What I Loved:  A Class Apart is a breathtaking piece of historical fiction that made me turn the pages so fast I thought my fingers might catch on fire.  The descriptions completely transported me.  The characters were clear, believable, and relatable.  There is genuinely something happening in every chapter, so this isn’t a tale of ladies sitting in the parlor and gossiping over tea.  The story encompasses the real truths that the people in Ireland had to face in their time, weaving a heartrending tale that’s impossible not to read.

I usually make notes as I read a book when I know I’m going to review it, but I didn’t want to put this book down long enough to do so.  There’s so much more I wish I could say about it, because A Class Apart deserves heaps of praise.  It’s a true testament to the fact that indie authors can and do take pride in creating literary art.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Nothing!  That it ended, maybe?  I want more!  Since this is noted as the first book in a series, I can’t wait for the next volume!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love to see a place and time in history come to life, if you love romance, glorious prose, and a read that will keep you on your couch well past the time you should have gotten up to make dinner, then A Class Apart is for you.  I wish I could award more, but I give it 5 out of 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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

Once A Wanderer Cover - ebook

 

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Beating Writer Burnout

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had your coffee, your avocado toast, and your obligatory half hour in front of the TV before it’s time to shuffle across the house to your desk. But for some reason, you just can’t do it.

Or maybe it’s after dinner, when you normally take a break from the real world to work on your novel. But as soon as you grab your laptop, you know your eyes will cross if you have to read your own story yet again. It isn’t bad writing, you just can’t do it.

Dog Sleeping after Studying

You may have writer burnout. This isn’t quite the same as writer’s block, because in that situation you want to write but can’t.  When you’re burned out, you don’t even want to pick up a pen.  It happens to all of us, whether we’re getting paid or not. For me, I freelance for a living and write my own stories when I find the time. I’m always writing. Most of the time I’m thrilled to be doing so, but there are days when I just want to sit around in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and watch Star Trek.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help stave off burnout:

Give Yourself Goals: It’s too easy to just not write, even if it’s your livelihood. Give yourself a goal every month. If you’re writing for yourself, make it a word count or a certain number of stories. If you’re freelancing, make it a dollar amount. When you reach your goal, treat yourself to that video game that you’ve been wanting or a new shirt. People working “regular” jobs get bonuses, so why shouldn’t you?

Buy a How-to Book: There are tons of books out there on writing, and they can be just the inspiration you need to get back on track. Find one that deals specifically with the type of writing you’re trying to do, whether it’s crafting the perfect murder mystery or learning how to boost your freelancing business. This also gives you an excuse to go out to the bookstore and get some coffee!

Take a Break: When you just can’t do it anymore, don’t! There are lots of techniques for working through writer’s block, but if you’re burned out its a good idea to walk away for a little while. It gives your brain a chance to focus on something else, and maybe come up with some great ideas in the meantime!  Just make sure you go back and hit the keyboard after an hour or so.

Balance Your Checkbook: If your freelance work seems like the last thing you want to do, balance your checkbook and look at upcoming bills and expenses. For me, that’s usually enough to get my head back in the game!

Work on Something Different: There’s no written rule that you can’t have more than one story going. Tired of trying to figure out what your main character is going to do in chapter 5? Go find a new character to stalk!

While these methods aren’t going to be perfect for everyone, it’s important to give yourself scheduled breaks and avoid working too hard on one project.  Find what works for you, and keep it going even when you don’t feel burned out.  It’ll prevent future episodes and make sure those words keep coming.  Good 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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

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Book Review – The Troubled Youth by Anthony Miner

When two people are forced to confront their past and their future all at once, how can they possibly handle it?  That’s what you’ll discover in The Troubled Youth by Anthony Miner.

From the Cover:  Jackson and Samantha live modestly in a small apartment in Upstate New York when tragedy strikes Jackson’s family back in his hometown of Lake Joy, Massachusetts. Now the couple, along with their two cats, pack up their lives to take care of the family he left behind years ago.
The Troubled Youth is a novel about the two of the most drastic parts of life; heartache and love. For Jackson, it follows his journey back to a place he long forgot with the added pressure of grieving over the loss of a loved one. And for Samantha, the story shows growth and pain of adjusting to a new life. As a couple, they will struggle and mature. But the more they seem to learn from each other, the more their past mistakes will come back to push them away.
Regular everyday life rarely offers a clear cut good and evil. There is just opinions mixed with choices. Read the story of this fiction and follow a realistic story of a young couple that make plenty of mistakes along their path to understanding the losses of loved ones and finding a life they never expected.

What I Loved:  There is a very real love between the two main characters that’s palpable throughout the book.  Despite all the problems they’re facing, it’s obvious just how much they care about each other and that their love is the central core of their entire being.

The Troubled Youth deals with the very real problems of adulthood.  While Jackson’s family tragedy is (hopefully) much more than most of us would ever have to deal with, it asks the questions:  What would we do if we had to make the toughest decisions in life?  Where do we draw the line when it comes to our loved ones?  Is there a line?

This book has a very distinct feel and tone to it that makes it incredibly real.  While the characters could have been sitting in any old kitchen, I immediately envisioned them as being in the house I grew up in.  That might not have been what the author intended, but it worked very well at keeping this a relatable story.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  While the flashbacks do a great job of revealing the character’s backgrounds, they tend to jump out and take the forefront of the story.  For example:

At the very beginning, when Jackson is getting some horrible news, we take a big side step into the other times the main character has cried in front of his fiancé.  It feels like such an awkward thing to do at that moment, especially when the author begins talking about the montage at the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.  He mentions a speech by President George W. Bush right after 9/11, and I immediately opened a new tab to look it up.  I had completely forgotten about this particular moment, and it was quite moving just as the main character had promised.  I’m not sure, though, that this was the right place to bring it up.  It makes this whole section very jumbled.

Also, this book could have been better edited.  There were quite a few awkward sentences, as well as some incomplete sentences, missing words, or misplaced commas.  Sometimes the wrong tense is used.  Some of this is more acceptable than it might be in a different piece due to the casual tone of the book, but I still found it distracting.

Rating and Recommendation:  While there were some editing issues, I think overall this is a really great story.  I don’t typically go for real-life dramas, but I’m happy that I read it.  There’s something different about it, and it truly made me feel as though I was going back home and having to deal with all the consequences that come along with that.  I give The Troubled Youth 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a cathartic and emotional read.

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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.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and giveaways!

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