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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Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

All the feels.

Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers is the latest reading choice in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’ve had it for years.  I’ve picked it up but never cracked the cover.  I don’t even remember where I got it, and I honestly wasn’t expecting much from it.

From the Cover: Everyone around Prudence Whistler, thirty-six, seems to be settling down. Her once single girlfriends have married and had babies. Her gay best friend is discussing marriage with his partner. Even her irresponsible younger sister, Patsy, is the single mother of a two-year-old. But when Pru panics at losing her mediocre boyfriend of two years-and begins to see the door to her traditional family life closing-she accidentally finds something even better: a new definition of family and happiness. First, it’s the crazy cat who moves into her apartment. Then come Pru’s headstrong sister and two-year-old niece. Then the niece’s dog, the sister’s ex-boyfriend, and, ultimately, Patsy and Pru’s widowed mother. With the strength of her modern new household, Pru musters the confidence to open the dress shop she’s always wanted in town-and discovers an extended family of sorts in the community of shop owners and devoted customers. It’s only then that she ends up with the man of her dreams. Endearing, romantic, and satisfying, Nice to Come Home To is a charming, crowd-pleasing debut.

What I Loved:  This is a book in which nothing happens and yet everything happens.  Pru seems at first to be the kind of person I wouldn’t like.  (I mean, she does have a complete aversion to her boyfriend’s cat.)  But as the story advances and I learned more about her, I began to see more and more of myself in her.  There were times when it was almost too real, as though Flowers had pulled my life into tiny pieces, jumbled them up, and poured some of them into this book.

Nice to Come Home To is about finding love, not only romantic love but self love and familial love.  It’s about learning to accept your own flaws as well as the flaws of others, but still never settling for anything less than you deserve.

The somber and occasionally depressing tone of the book really stood out to me because it worked so well for it.  When I was about three-quarters of the way through, I felt like my best friend was having a hard time and I was helping her through it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I wasn’t always a fan of Flowers’ style when it came to sentence structure.  There were too many commas for my taste, something that pulled me out of the story to ponder whether they were correct or not.  It’s one of those things that comes down to personal preference.

Rating and Recommendation:  Nice to Come Home To is an easy read and yet a deep one.  It delivers so much (deep characters, a cathartic pull of emotions) without demanding much of the reader.  If you enjoy modern fiction, I definitely recommend it.  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.

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: An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen

If you don’t know what it means to pick up a romance novel and not want to put it down, then you haven’t read An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen.

I’ve really been trying to work through my current (giant) stash of books in my bookshelf cleanout, but when I saw this book on the New Arrivals shelf at my local library, I just had to get it.  I’ve been following the author on Facebook for a while, and though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I fell in love with the dresses!

From the Cover:

Rafe Beaumont, fifth son of an earl, uses his irresistible charm with the ladies to glean dangerous war secrets. Now he’s putting those skills to the ultimate test: capturing an elusive assassin by seducing his daughter. The problem? She’s entirely immune to Rafe’s flattery.

Never before has Collette Fortier met a man as attractive as Rafe. But her father’s life is at stake, and succumbing to Rafe would be disastrous. But when Rafe turns the tables on her, offering support and friendship instead of a fleeting affair, Collette finds herself tempted in ways she never could have imagined…

What I Loved:  There’s so much to love about this book!  It’s well-paced, with a good mix of events and evolving emotions moving the story along.  The characters are deep and well-established, so much so that even the side characters are easy to keep track of.  Their backgrounds support the choices they make and the insecurities they have.

The story shows a lot of inner feelings (both physical and emotional), but they’re mixed nicely with descriptions of the setting and the characters to keep the reader deeply rooted in the time period.

This being a romance, I have to say the steamy scenes are beautifully written, building the physical and emotional bond between the characters.  No cheap erotica here!

Collette, raised in France but now in England, occasionally references the mating habits of hedgehogs since she’d learned much of her English from a book about the subject.  She drops facts about hedgehogs when she gets nervous, and it adds just the perfect amount of humor.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really not much to say here.  The only thing I noted was a repeated phrase in one of the later chapters that was missed by the editor.  Can’t really complain about that!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance, historical fiction, and lots of details about beautiful dresses, then An Affair with a Spare is for you!  I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series!  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.

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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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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