Category Archives: Book Reviews

Open for Submissions!

I’m happy to say that my blog is once again open for submissions! Acceptable topics for guest posts include book reviews, just about anything regarding reading and writing, short fiction, and poetry. I’m also open for book review requests if you’re interested in getting a little more traffic for your novel.

You can check out my Contact and Submissions page for more information. Please feel free to ask any questions, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

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Book Review: The Chase by Clive Cussler

When selecting a book from my overloaded shelves, it’s always easy to pick up a Clive Cussler novel. I’ve read several of his novels before, and I figured it was about time to grab The Chase.

From the Cover: In 1906, the western states of America suffer a string of bank robberies by a single man who then cold-bloodedly murders any and all witnesses, and vanishes without a trace. Fed up by the depredations of “The Butcher Bandit,” the U.S. government brings in the best man it can find: a tall, lean, no-nonsense detective named Isaac Bell, who has caught thieves and killers from coast to coast.
 
But Bell has never had a challenge like this one. From Arizona to Colorado to the streets of San Francisco during its calamitous earthquake and fire, he pursues a fiend who seems to draw pleasure from the challenge and a woman who may to hold the key to the man’s identity. As Bell begins to suspect a new term used among top psychologists, sociopath, may describe his target, the Butcher Bandit turns the chase around on him. The hunter becomes the hunted. And soon, it will take all of Bell’s skills not merely to prevail . . . but to survive.

What I Loved: What’s not to love about a Clive Cussler novel? He was always an absolute master of detail, something that’s extremely important when writing historical fiction. I was completely catapulted back to 1906 as Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency tracked down a murderous bank robber. True historical events were blended seamlessly into the plot with only the most necessary exposition. The characters were deep and well fleshed out, and the plot was twisting and turning every minute. The Chase is a book of action, suspense, intrigue, and even a little bit of romance.

What I Didn’t Love: I wouldn’t consider a novel like this an ‘easy read’ simply because there’s so much to keep track of and so much happening. That’s really my only complaint, but it’s something I knew going in. It’s only really a problem because life has been chaotic lately, and I haven’t had much time to just settle down and focus on a book.

Rating and Recommendation: It’s no surprise that The Chase is a 5-star book. Clive Cussler was an absolute master.

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Book Review: Moonfall by Jack McDevitt

The last two books I read (reviews here and here) left a lot to be desired, so I was feeling a little gun-shy when I went to grab something else from my shelf. I’ve been really trying to get through the massive amount of books I’ve acquired in my Bookshelf Cleanout project!

The universe decided to make it up to me when I grabbed Moonfall by Jack McDevitt. Right off the bat, I got excited that the opening scene takes place during the solar eclipse of April 2024. Our location in Southern Illinois was dubbed the “Eclipse Crossroads” back in 2017, because both that eclipse and the one in 2024 will be fully visible here. To boot, I was even wearing my commemorative eclipse t-shirt!

Okay, personal coincidences aside, it’s important to talk a little bit about the plot (without giving too much away, of course). A comet is discovered, and it’s heading straight for the Moon, where Moonbase has just been officially opened in a ceremony that includes the Vice President of the U.S. The story is told from multiple POVs, just like any good disaster movie.

I couldn’t help but note as I read all the similarities to our current times that McDevitt predicted way back in 1999. The book is only three years ahead of the present, after all! There is talk about increased mileage on electric car batteries, everyone has cell phones, and all the news is online. Unfortunately, Moonfall mentions the Arecibo telescope, which didn’t make it, and yet it predicts that Sears will still be around.

I was definitly impressed with how well McDevitt predicted the divisive political climate that surrounds a global disaster. Some think the coming comet is only a political stunt to gain votes. Those in charge are forced to contemplate whether they should let the populace know just how bad things are and risk panic, or play it cool and risk lives. There was so much more, and it was all shockingly familiar.

Overall, there wasn’t a thing I didn’t liked about Moonfall. The characters were deep and relatable, the technology was fantastic, and I got so wrapped up in the suspense sometimes that I thought I might have a panic attack. 5 stars! While my ultimate goal is to pare down the sheer number of books I have, this one is going on the Keep shelf!

Have you read Moonfall or another book by Jack McDevitt? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

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Book Review: The Private Life of The Cat Who by Lillian Jackson Braun

I write a lot of cozy mysteries in my freelance work, so it would only make sense that I also read a lot of them, right? The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun is one that I’ve returned to over and over throughout the last several years. I managed to read the entire series (which at 30 books is no small challenge while working and raising a family). Even though I have plenty of other books on the shelves at home, I’ve gone to the library and turned to the internet to make sure I found every single one.

It seemed only fitting to also pick up The Private Life of the Cat Who: Tales of Koko and Yum Yum from the Journal of James Mackintosh Qwilleran. It’s a slim little volume of what I don’t even think I’d call short stories necessarily. They’re more like reflections of the main protagonist James Qwilleran on his cats. He recalls how he got them and reminisces on some of their adventures.

It’s a very quick and light read, and it serves as a fun refresher of many of the stories I’d already read in the series. While I highly recommend The Private Life for anyone who has read the other books, you may not want to pick this up if you haven’t already come to know Koko and Yum Yum quite well. I wouldn’t want you to spoil the fun for yourself!

Have you read any of That Cat Who series? What did you think? Feel free to use my link to purchase from Amazon, or you can find my copy for sale on eBay!

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Book Review/Rant: Dangerous to Know by Barbara Taylor Bradford

I really need to do a better job of playing book roulette.

Although I’d taken a bit of a break from my bookshelf cleanout while I worked on some other projects, the cold rainy weather has put me in the mood to curl up with a hot mug of coffee and a good book.

I got the coffee part right.

I selected Dangerous to Know by Barbara Taylor Bradford mostly because the volume contained two novels and I’d already read one of them. (That was probably about ten years ago…oops!) This made for a quick way to clear out some shelf space.

As I usually do in a book review, I’ll start with what I liked. Bradford uses her eloquent descriptive powers to create gorgeous backdrops in the mind’s eye. The flawless writing made the beginning of Dangerous to Know an intriguing read with distinctive characters and the sense that a major revelation would be divulged at every turn.

Then things got weird.

I don’t want to give away too much, in case you’re determined to read this book, but I certainly wish I hadn’t. While things are a little uncomfortable when it’s revealed that a woman ends up marrying her own guardian, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What starts out like a classic murder mystery turns into fictional dirty laundry that I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would want to write or publish.

And when it comes to the structure of the plot, holy exposition, Batman! Aside from a few arguments, lunches, and memorial services, Dangerous to Know gives several main characters the chance to unload every grievance they’ve ever suffered. This reflective diarrhea isn’t unpleasant to read, but it kept me wondering when the real story was about to start. It turns out that’s not until the very end, when an elderly deus ex machina steps forward to save the reader from the monotony of it all and fill us in on just how screwed up her family truly is.

Overall, I’m glad this experience is over. Wish me luck as I head to the bookshelf for my next 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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

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.

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Book Review/Rant: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

I almost drowned this book in the bathtub. That’s where I was when it really started to piss me off.

I’ll try to be as fair as possible and start off with what I did like about The Missing Ink. Olson does a good job of establishing the main characters and the feel of Las Vegas from a non-tourist perspective (at least as far as I can tell, never having been there myself). She keeps the story moving with new clues around every corner and lots of action scenes.

Now, in regard to establishing characters, it seems Olson wanted the main character to be a real jerk. Brett Kavanaugh (nice choice of names, not that she would’ve known that back in 2009) is a tattoo artist. I get that maybe she’s not going to be the most sophisticated person around, but it seems Olson forgot that the main character has to be at least somewhat likeable.

Brett’s coworker is a little person. Her name is Bitsy (really?) and she drives a Mini Cooper (double really?). Brett gets frustrated with the noise of Bitsy dragging around a wooden stool, which she needs in order to be able to reach things around the shop. At one point, Brett hears Bitsy getting really excited about something in the other room and says to herself, “It was like she’d finally found the Emerald City.”

It was at this point that I nearly drowned the book.

I didn’t, which is how I know that Brett also makes a lot of mental comments about her other coworker, Joel, who’s 300 pounds. He’ll slow her down when she’s trying to follow someone. He stands out in a crowd when wearing a white t-shirt. He won’t fit in Bitsy’s car. He never needs an excuse for sweets. Weight Watchers would make a lot of money off him. All probably true, but not very nice. And then Brett has the nerve to judge someone else for being judgy.

Brett is further established as being kind of an idiot. Her brother is a detective, and she constantly withholds evidence from him just so she can check things out herself. I completely understand that any mystery is going to demand that the main character do some of this, but it’s just way too much. In fact, Brett was avoiding her brother so much that I was starting to think he must be the bad guy. (Spoiler alert: he’s not.)

The mystery itself was somewhat decent for the most part, but by the time I finally got to the finale where all was revealed, it just wasn’t worth all the frustration of having to deal with the main character.

Now, I know this book was published in 2009, and a lot of things have changed over the last few years. Even so, I don’t think I’ll be picking up another book by this Karen.

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Contemplations on Romance as a Genre

I did a book review a while back on a Nora Roberts book. Someone left a rather snide remark on the shared post on my Facebook page, basically saying I was wrong for enjoying the book. I’ve thought about it a lot since then.

Romance as a genre is often thought about as smut for lonely moms that’s poorly written. I’ve caught myself thinking the same as I read for research. (Despite my passion for dragons and fantasy, most of my freelance work involves ghostwriting romance.) I’ve got plenty of books on the shelf from library book sales or that have been passed on by friends, and I dove into them expecting them to be terrible. I’ve actually found there are some really great stories between those cheesy covers.

Obviously, there’s got to be sort of appeal to the boy-meets-girl story. Even in action movies, the guy has to get the girl at the end, right? I personally find Die Hard to be an incredibly romantic story.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with romantic notions but in marketing. Current romance covers have changed quite a bit, no doubt in an effort to be appealing as a thumbnail for digital purchases. Shana Galen‘s books are an excellent example. I admit I always found the classic covers to be pretty amusing, with Fabio’s hair blowing in the wind and a simpering woman in a gauzy dress groveling at his feet. It’s corny, and it invites potential readers to judge the book by its cover. But hey, if you’re looking to get swept away by a romantic story, I guess that cover says it all!

I think we could also tackle the rather unhealthy relationships that are, well, romanticized in the genre. A couple who doesn’t communicate well enough to admit they’re crazy about each other can’t really have a happily-ever-after, can they? And why wouldn’t any reasonable woman run screaming for the hills when the man who’s so interested in her is known for being dangerous, either physically or mentally? I’ve thought a lot about whether romance creates unrealistic expectations. It might, but I think it’s also important for us to consider that real-life people aren’t perfect. You’ll find any number of people in the world who are bad with money or lose their temper or who suck at communicating or who leave their dirty socks on the floor, and yet they still manage to find The One. Maybe the romances we’re reading about are just far more relatable than we’d like to admit.

If you’re offended by the romance genre because of the sex, then I suggest you sell your television, cut up your library card, and trade your smartphone in for an old-fashioned flip phone. It’s everywhere. I’ve seen ‘worse’ stuff in music videos than I’ve read in some novels. In fact, most romance novels are about the emotional connection instead of explicit bedroom scenes. Sex is used as a marketing tool for men all the time, so what’s the problem if it’s marketed toward women? Would a cheap romance novel be an unacceptable marketing tool for a woman who has a lot of cooking and cleaning to do?

I certainly don’t have all the answers on this, but it’s something to think about. If you think romance novels are terrible, you might want to read a few and give them a fair shake. (Suggestions below) If you have read them and still hate them, then maybe just scroll along and let someone else enjoy the genre. It isn’t as though romance is going away any time soon!

For historical romance, try Shana Galen and Susie Murphy.

For something more modern, Nora Roberts is always a good start.

For fantasy romance, try Susan Carroll or J.R. Ward.

Who’s your favorite romance author, book, or series? 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 DetectiveHer 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.

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A Class Forsaken by Susie Murphy

If you’ve been reading Susie Murphy’s A Matter of Class series, then rejoice! A Class Forsaken is now available! I’m thrilled to be helping such a talented author get word of her latest release out into the world.

Since A Class Forsaken is the third in the series, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. I do have to say that Murphy must own a time machine, or else she couldn’t possibly do such a good job of sucking a modern-day reader completely back into 1800’s Ireland. The story of Bridget and Cormac comes vividly to life in this sweeping tale of romance and the societal boundaries that make it so difficult.

If you’d like to read an excerpt of A Class Forsaken, you can download it here. You can also check out my reviews of A Class Apart and A Class Entwined.

And can we take a moment to appreciate these beautiful covers? I see so many that are just thrown together, but that’s absolutely not the case with this series! They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but in this case you’re safe to do so!

If you’re interested in checking out the rest of the book tour, here are the links:

Monday 24th August

Book Reviews for U 
The Writing Desk 

Tuesday 25th August
Between My Lines 

Wednesday 26th August
The Lit Bitch 
Lisa Reads Books 

Thursday 27th August
Pursuing Stacie 
Coffee, Books and China Cups 

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

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Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Wow. Whew. Whoa.

I finished reading this book almost a week ago and I’m still not sure what I want to say about it. I suppose that’s saying something in itself though, right?

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was the first pick of a virtual book club I joined. I didn’t really join for the book itself, but just for the chance to discuss reading with other adults. I suppose, mostly based on the title and a quick skim of the blurb, that I was just expecting a housewife who finds her inner badass and slays a vamp or two.

What I didn’t expect was to find horrific scenes written in such vivid detail that made me want to stop reading and continue reading at the same time.

The old woman hauled herself up Patricia’s body, mouth open, slaver swinging from it in glistening ribbons, eyes wide and mindless like a bird’s. One of her filthy hands, tacky and rough with raccoon gore, burrowed past Patricia’s collar and clutched the side of her neck, and then she dragged her body, warm and soft like a slug’s, completely over Patricia’s front.

How’s that for a lighthearted tale? This scene (which that excerpt is only a small part of) has really stuck with me. There are plenty of others like it in the book, too. The problem is that while it’s disturbing, frustrating, and just gross, it’s also really well written.

There’s excellent character development, with Patricia and each of her book club friends having a distinct personality. Hendrix does an excellent job of transporting the reader to an upper-middle class neighborhood in 1990s Charleston. The plot is rich as Patricia deals not only with her vampire problem but also the typical issues of husband, children, and home.

I was actually kind of mad at how well it was written, because if it was crap I could just not read it and not have all those haunting scenes in my head. It wasn’t, so I didn’t. Instead, I had to plow on through and find out just what happens.

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of vampire books. All that blood talk grosses me out. This was…not typical. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but just know that this book is so much more than blood.

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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 Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer 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.

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Book Review: The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

I expected a light and quick book, but The Penny Pinchers Club really made me think about how money impacts our lives.

From the Cover: Living in suburban New Jersey, Kat has a pretty serious retail habit. Now it looks like her husband Griff is having an affair…and setting up a secret bank account in preparation for a divorce. Suspecting her spending habits may be driving him away, Kat’s determined to save her marriage by saving some money. But when her rich ex-fiancé turns up with a tempting bargain, she’ll have to decide whether love conquers mall…

What I Loved:  The Penny Pinchers Club was better written than I’d expected, with very real characters, backstory, description, depth, and some funny scenes that literally made me laugh out loud.

The story follows Kat as she struggles to save up enough money to afford an attorney when her husband finally decides to leave her.  It puts her in some precarious positions, forces her to learn about couponing and cutting back, and makes her really think about her relationship (both with money and with her husband).

Honestly, this book reminded me about couponing for myself.  I used to do a lot of it back when you could actually clip coupons from the Sunday paper.  Everything’s digital now, and it’s a whole new world that I’m diving back into!

What I Didn’t Love As Much:  I don’t believe in including spoilers in book reviews, so let’s just say I didn’t like the way it ended.  It wasn’t what I wanted for Kat.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you want a fun read that might even inspire you to pinch a few of your own pennies, then The Penny Pinchers Cluis 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.

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