Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

I didn’t know I was looking for a story that combined my love of sci-fi shows and sci-fi books, but I found it anyway in Redshirts.

From the Cover:  

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

What I Loved:  Redshirts begins with a humorous dedication and then dives head-first into a prologue that immediately pulls you into the storyline.  This book is written with a humorous and casual tone, even though there are lives on the line.  It’s a much lighter read than pretty much any other science fiction book you could pick up, even though it involves alternate dimensions, time travel, and other typical sci-fi problems.  There are constant plot twists and one hilarious fourth-wall break that I made my husband listen to me read out loud because I had to share it with someone.  This story is character and plot driven without a lot of extraneous descriptions, which works really well for it.

One of my favorite quotes:  But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.

As I said, I didn’t go looking for this book specifically.  We spend a lot of time at the library, and I just happened to wander through the sci-fi section on our way out.  Being a fan of Star Trek, I just had to get it.  Absolutely worth it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really nothing to write here.  Redshirts is unique and entertaining.  Once the main characters get their problem solved, the books goes on to show how the original story affected other characters along the way.  It’s fantastic.

Rating and Review:  If you like science fiction with a bit of humor, and if you don’t demand all the tiny details about how space travel or time travel work, and if you know what a redshirt is, then Redshirts is absolutely for you.  5 stars.

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Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Yep.  I couldn’t help myself.  Another Neil Gaiman.  I told you after Neverwhere that I was addicted.  I wasn’t kidding, and I’ve got very good reason to be addicted.

This is a story about a man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and reflects on the strange things that happened when he was just seven years old.  A man’s suicide caused a series of dark and terrifying events.  Lettie, the mysterious and magical girl down the road, protects the boy in ways he still doesn’t fully understand.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a slim little volume that goes quickly, but I have the distinct feeling it would pass by quickly anyway.  It’s vivid and spellbinding.  Gaiman has a way of describing things that’s utterly simple and yet so thorough, whether it be a physical description or conveying how a character feels.

Something came through the woods above our heads.  I glanced up, saw something brown and furry, but flat, like a huge rug, flapping and curling at the edges, and, at the front of the rug, a mouth, filled with dozens of tiny sharp teeth, facing down.

It flapped and floated above us, and then it was gone.

“What was that?” I asked, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I did not know if I would be able to stand again.

“Manta wolf,” said Lettie.

Throughout the entire book, I felt as though there was something so much bigger than myself, much bigger than any of us, something we could only know as children but have forgotten because of this terrible thing called growing up, and that maybe growing up was just our coping mechanism to help us deal with all the things we actually once knew.

At the end, as the main character is reflecting on his childhood memories and isn’t certain that he remembers it all correctly, I get the impression that this book is all about the way our memories work and how they change over time.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane gets five stars only because there aren’t any more to give it.  It was absolutely astounding.

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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, Siren’s Call, 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: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

If you’ve ever read anything by Neil Gaiman, and if you understand that this is the first book of his that I have read, then you probably already know everything I’m going to write here.

I picked up a copy of Neverwhere at my local library.  I’m supposed to be cleaning out my bookshelves and reading all the numerous books I already have, but after I’d listened to his interview on The Tim Ferriss Show, I knew I needed to get a hold of one of his books.

I know, I know.  I’m probably the only person who loves to read who hasn’t read any Neil Gaiman yet.  Well, now I have, and I’m addicted.

Neverwhere tells the story of a man who has a very average and boring life when a pure accident leads him to discover just how much there is around him he’s been missing.

Gaiman doesn’t write books.  He creates worlds that are bubbles adjacent to our own world, ones that we think we want to go to if only we were brave enough.  He pulls the magic from the furthest reaches of our dreams and our childhoods and shows it to us, holding it up like a PSA poster reminding us to have a little bit of fantasy now and then because it’s good for us.

The descriptions, the characters, the plot.  All of it is amazing.  Normally, when I do book reviews, I say what I liked and what I didn’t like.  There’s no way to categorize that for Neverwhere because I loved all of it.  Even the parts that were a little bit uncomfortable because they were so real and visceral still demanded to be read.

I reserve my 5-star ratings for works that are truly mind-blowing or life-changing, for books that, when I close them at the end, make me think, “Oh, I wish I could have written that!”  I give Neverwhere 5 big fat gold stars with the crispest points and the shiniest surfaces.

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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, Siren’s Call, 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: Charmed and Enchanted by Nora Roberts

A beautiful, fantastical pair of stories, Charmed and Enchanted by Nora Roberts was my latest choice for my bookshelf cleanout.

From the Cover:

Charmed

Her legacy had been as much a curse as a blessing, so Anastasia Donovan had learned to keep it hidden. But when single dad Boone Sawyer swept into her heart, she longed to reveal everything despite her fear of the consequences. Then fate stepped in….

Enchanted

Lovely, guileless Rowan Murray was drawn to darkly enigmatic Liam Donovan with a force she’d never imagined could exist. But before Liam could give Rowan his love, he first had to trust her with the incredible truth about himself…and his family.

What I Loved:

Both of these stories incorporate magic and fantasy into the real world, or perhaps it’s more that there’s a little bit of real world among the magic and the fantasy.  The third-person omniscient viewpoint provides a lot of head-hopping even within scenes, but it serves to really show how the characters are thinking and feeling about each other.  There’s a very real sense of who each character is, even those that aren’t all that important to the story.

What I Didn’t Love As Much:

When I skimmed over other reviews for this book on Amazon, I noticed there were several that criticized these stories for being too warm and gooey and too predictable.  I thought it was interesting that some of these reviewers were upset that the two main characters should meet, feel that they were supposed to be together, have some sort of falling out, and then get together at the end.  That’s a pretty normal romance trope, and that’s exactly what we read romance for!  We all want to see them live happily ever after, right?

I do have to say that one scene in Charmed was pretty cheesy, with rainbows and billowing curtains and birds outside the window.

Rating and Review:

If romance, witches, magic, and loads of great descriptions are your thing, then Charmed and Enchanted is for you. 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 Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, 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: Take No Prisoners by Gayle Wilson

As yet another selection from my bookshelf cleanout (yeah, this is going to take a while…sorry), I picked up Take No Prisoners by Gayle Wilson.

From the Cover:

Kidnapped by marauding tribesmen when her helicopter went down outside Kabul, tough-skinned CIA operative Grace Chancellor had little choice but to entrust her life to the only man she’d ever loved—and lost.

Years earlier, tough-as-nails special agent Landon James made a harsh choice: duty over personal life. Now, he was single-handedly going in to rescue Grace and prove how wrong he was. As Landon and Grace fled through the mountains, faced with heat, thirst and gunfire, would old wounds reopen and turn them into permanent strangers—or would old desires be reignited?

What I Loved:

If I’m really honest, I didn’t expect to like this book.  I didn’t think a Harlequin romance set in the Middle East sounded all that exciting.  I didn’t think I’d enjoy reading about CIA operatives battling their love for each other while also battling their way out of a very dangerous and uncertain situation.  But I was pleasantly surprised.

Take No Prisoners starts off with a great action scene, with Grace’s helicopter going down in dangerous territory.  Her backstory is nicely sprinkled in throughout the rest of the book without long stretches of exposition.  Most of the time, our characters are moving, thinking, and planning.  The plot definitely thickened toward the end.  I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but the author did a great job of describing and creating this foreign land our heroes are stuck in.

What I Didn’t Love:

While I can’t claim that this is some astonishing literary masterpiece, it really did keep me going and wanting to know what would happen.  That being said, it’s not really anything special that changed my life.  There were a few typos and grammatical mistakes here and there, but nothing that made it unreadable.

Rating and Recommendation:

Take No Prisoners is a quick, easy read.  If you like military heroes, larger-than-life bad guys, and foreign settings, it’s definitely for you.  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 Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, 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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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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