Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Let’s Sell Your First Book by Amrita Chowdhury

These days, writers don’t have the privilege of just writing.  We have to become marketers.  And it’s not because we want to stand on street corners handing out flyers and begging people to read our stuff.  (Trust me, we don’t.)  I’m sure most of us would be more than happy to sit at home creating our worlds and leave all the selling to someone else.

But the fact of the matter is that, no matter if you self-publish or go the traditional route, almost all of the marketing is left on the author’s shoulders.

Let’s Sell Your First Book focuses on just that.  I received an advanced reader copy of the book from the author for free, but I promise I would have paid quite a bit for it!  This book is absolutely packed with information.  It breaks your marketing down into what strategies you should be using before you start writing, while you’re in the process, once the book is finished, and after it’s published.

Don’t think that because you’ve already written a book (or several) that this information isn’t for you.  You can easily go back and do everything you didn’t think about or missed out on the first time around.

There’s so much information here.  Not only does Amrita share her insights on marketing, but she includes links to numerous (and I mean, really, there’s a lot) of other articles on the subject matter.  It’s the kind of book you have to read through once, and then go back over with a fine-tooth comb just to make sure you get everything out of it.  A writer could spend so much time with this book.

I have to admit that there are times I get excited about marketing my books, but they come and go.  (We all get in our slumps, right?)  Let’s Sell Your First Book is very inspirational when you don’t feel like working on your social media platform or setting up your email newsletter.

I have absolutely no choice but to give this book a 5-star rating.  There’s a ton of information, it’s easy to understand and apply, and it’s increased my summer To Do list by about 5000%.  You go buy the book, and I’ll be selling mine!

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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.

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Book Review – You Dear, Sweet Man by Thomas Neviaser

How much attention do you give to the advertisements that surround you every day?  They’re constantly there, and many of them barely even register.  But what if one of them insisted that you pay attention?  Such is the case in You Dear, Sweet Man.

Note:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  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.

You Dear, Sweet Man is the story of a burger joint that will go to any lengths needed to redesign its marketing campaign and keep up with the times.  It’s also the story of a burned out man in search of something new in his life.  There’s also the story of the two young-and-hungry men who are desperate to help make the ad happen, and the woman who is manipulating all of them.

What I Loved:  This story was so very different from anything I’ve read recently, and I mean that in a good way.  It wasn’t just your average genre fiction.  The characters were well-developed and described, making them easy to differentiate from each other and to envision as I read.  The story held my attention even when I really wasn’t certain what direction the story was heading.  I think this is in large part because the opening chapter was such a great hook, and it made me want to know more.  There’s also just a great sense of suspense.  Once I finished, I felt that You Dear, Sweet Man had an ending reminiscent of something out of the Twilight Zone.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Unfortunately, this book could really use some better editing.  There were repeated or missing words and redundant phrasing that needed to be taken care of.  Overall, the story was well-written, but I found these distracting.

I also felt that the ending could have used a little bit more explanation.  I don’t want to go into anything specific in order to avoid spoilers, but I wish there was a little bit more clarification.  Perhaps it was meant to be somewhat mysterious, and I can see how that works, but I’m one of those people who really likes to understand what’s going on.

Rating and Recommendations:  I hovered back and forth for the star rating on this one because I was slightly disappointed at the end.  Since it is so innovative and well-written, though, I’m giving it 4 stars.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes science fiction when it’s incorporated into our current way of life.

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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.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.

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Book Review – Outcasts by J.S. Frankel

It’s not easy to write a book that not only addresses current issues but also entertains.  J.S. Frankel, however, has done exactly that with Outcasts.

Note:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  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 on something before linking to it.

From the back cover:  Mitch Kessler, teenage high school dropout, jobless and mostly friendless, lives a life of solitude, but not by choice. Endowed with the ability to bring wings out of his body as well as claws, and transform himself into a fierce creature of the night, he’s picked up a nickname from the general public that he hates: gargoyle. However, that’s the least of his worries. His girlfriend, Callie, can’t keep her genders straight, his best friend is a spinning top, and his other acquaintance is made of rock. It’s obviously a government plot, but Mitch doesn’t know who’s behind it or why. Worse, various and sundry creations have now appeared out of the woodwork and are out to kill him. Aided by his friends, the four outcasts attempt to find out who’s running the show. They’re out to stop the forces of evil before they can do more damage. That is, if they survive.

outcasts

As teen mutants who have yet to figure out their place in the world, the main characters go through quite a bit.  They deal with typical teen issues, which are compounded by the fact that they have superpowers.  To make matters even more difficult, the main character finds himself falling for a person who constantly switches genders.  The gender issue is a big one these days, and I think this makes the book very relevant to today’s youth.  There is gender and sexuality confusion not only for the Callie, who is sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl, but also for Mitch, who has to figure out how he feels about him/her.

The book starts off with action, and we slowly learn more and more over time about Mitch and his friends.  The time frames switch back and forth between the present and the past, but these are clearly labeled to avoid confusion.  Outcasts has a casual tone that I think YA readers would really enjoy:

“Screw getting the football back. We trudged on home. Joe lived ten minutes away from me, very convenient for hanging out with each other. Fact was, we visited each other’s houses on an almost daily occurrence, either playing sports after school or fooling around with video games.”

While there are some sentence structure choices that are a little bit awkward and I feel the book could have been better edited, overall I think this is a great book.  I recommend it for anyone who enjoys modern fantasy and is looking for a fun read.

Rating:  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 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.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan

I won this book in a silent auction basket at my local library.  I mean, I had to bid on it since it was nothing but books about cats, right?  I also happen to like cozy mysteries, so this was an easy entry on my To Read list.

The first thing I have to say about Mayhem is that it’s not quite as cozy as other books in the genre that I’ve read.  While I’ve really only gotten into this type of book over the last few years and I can’t say I’ve delved extensively into the genre, I was surprised to find that there were quite a few cuss words.  There’s also the mention of condoms and more than an insinuation that two characters are having sex.  I’m not offended by any of this, but it stood out to me as unusual.

Mayhem is written in first person in a very casual, sarcastic style that I really enjoyed.  Bea Cartwright is sassy and a little crabby, and she doesn’t hesitate to talk about it.  The book is fast-paced and well put together with a good mystery.  The clues and the red herrings are intermixed, keeping the real mystery for the very end.  Along the way, we discover that Bea has a secret of her own, which just adds to the plot.

At the beginning of the book, the main characters have been in court far too many times complaining about each other.  The local judge sentences them to join the library’s book club.  While this seems pretty far-fetched and made for a bit of a bumpy start to the book, it was a good way to draw the characters together.  Things picked up quickly, and then I couldn’t put it down.

As you may have guessed, Murder on the Orient Express is featured in this mystery.  While I think the book would still be enjoyable if you haven’t read Christie’s classic, I think it’s better for having done so.  I just read MOE a few months ago, so a lot of the elements were still fresh in my mind.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.  My one disappointment is that the cat on the cover was only a very minor part of the book, mentioned maybe two or three times.  If you’re expecting a cat mystery, this isn’t it.  But it was a quick, fun read, and I’ll definitely read more by the same author.

 

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Book Review: The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Have you ever read a book that just reached right out and punched you in the heart?  The kind of book that made you stare at it for a while after you finished it, wondering just how your life was going to be different from then on?  Because it had to be different, simply because of that book.

For me, The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford was one of those books.  I picked it up on a random trip to Barnes & Noble, when I peeked at the bargain rack and immediately snatched it up.  This book practically jumped into my hands and demanded, “Read me!”

The tone of the book very well portrays the loneliness and the magic of living near the sea, combined with the solemn desperation of infertility.  What struck me most was the exploration of sirenomelia, also known as mermaid syndrome.  Having had a daughter born with a cancerous tumor, any plot element around a baby with a birth defect or a miscarriage gets me right away.  I’ll be honest, it didn’t help that my last name is part of the name of the syndrome.  Let’s just say there’s some significant water damage to the pages of this book.

The book switches back and forth between Alexander Ferguson, a vicar and evolutionary scientist in 1860, and Ruth and Michael, who have purchased a house by the sea in the hopes of making it a home for their future family.  They find the bones of a baby with mermaid syndrome under the floorboards, causing Ruth to not only pursue the truth behind the deceased child but behind her own relationship with her mother.

I’ve had The Sea House sitting on the corner of my desk for a while, planning to write a review.  But I was so involved in the reading that I didn’t even make any notes, and I couldn’t think of anything quite sufficient to say about it.  It’s just that good.  It’s unique, it’s haunting, and it thrashed my heart into a hundred pieces.  This volume has earned a permanent place on my shelf.

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Book Review: Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein

Okay, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I completely did.  I mean, just look at this thing.  Every time I went to Barnes & Noble, this book was practically dancing and singing on the shelf, begging me to take it home.

I resisted at first, but that’s pretty much just because I’m a ridiculous tightwad unless I’m buying something for my kids.  Also, I was a little worried that it might be too “heavy.”  It’s about a mission to Saturn, and while I’m not afraid of heavy reading, I’m not always in the mood for it.

It turns out I didn’t have to be.  When I finally decided that I had to buy the book even if it was just so I could look at the pretty cover on my shelf, I discovered a story that was riveting and thrilling while also being very real.  It was surprisingly down-to-Earth for a story about space, and I loved it.

Saturn Run is the story of an urgent flight to Saturn (and a race against the Chinese to get there first) when the possibility of a visit by an alien spaceship is discovered.  You couldn’t possibly tell a story so big from just one viewpoint, so the authors didn’t.  This a character-driven plot, focusing on how the mission affected the different people involved in it.  There are a lot of characters, but they’re all very deep, distinguishable, and memorable.  While the novel outlines the political aspects of space travel, it emphasizes the direct impact on the characters involved.  The viewpoint changes numerous times, even within chapters, but it’s so seamless that it only adds to the story.

Although Saturn Run falls doubtlessly in the category of science fiction, it also just might be creating a new genre of “science really-could-happen-in-the-timeframe-specified.”  The author’s note in the back (which you can’t read until you’ve read the story) shows just how much prep work the authors did for this novel, including plotting orbits and calculating the engine specifics of the starships involved.  While the science is not what we have today, there was nothing as Star Trek-y as a transporter or a tractor beam (although those could have been quite useful to some of the characters).  Sandford and Ctein took current science and advanced it by fifty years without throwing in a lot of magic and fantasy.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in science fiction.  I even finished the last third of it with a terrible head cold because I just couldn’t put it down!

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Book Review: Go Set a Watchman

I know a lot of people read To Kill a Mockingbird sometime around junior high, but I wasn’t one of them.  Somehow, I missed this one.  Maybe it was because we moved around a little bit, or maybe I had teachers who weren’t interested in it.  I finally read it a few years ago and loved it, so I was excited when I picked up a copy of Go Set a Watchman.

This book has a very similar tone to Mockingbird, somewhere between ideal summer days and the painful smack of real life.  While Mockingbird was a coming-of-age story for a child version of Jean Louis “Scout” Finch, Watchman is a coming-of-age story for her as an adult.  She returns to Maycomb thinking she understands where she has come from now that she’s been living in New York City for a while, but soon comes to realized that you can never go home again:

Hell is eternal apartness.  What had she done that she must spend the rest of her years reaching out with yearning for them, making secret trips to long ago, making no journey to the present?  I am their blood and bones, I have dug in this ground, this is my home.  But I am not their blood, the ground doesn’t care who digs it, I am a stranger at a cocktail party.

It’s the kind of thing that makes the book relatable, because many of us realize eventually that even though we are adults, we aren’t quite grown.

The repeated themes of life in the South, racism, and the importance of family aren’t a surprise, since this book is focused on the same characters as Mockingbird and essentially served as a first draft for the novel that would come to win Harper Lee so many accolades.

What I believe made Lee such a well-known writer was her excellent use of description.  Her word choice could make nothing sound like something and make it seem far more important to the story than it really was:

On any other day she would have stood barefoot on the wet grass listening to the mockingbirds’ early service; she would have pondered over the meaninglessness of silent, austere beauty renewing itself with every sunrise and going ungazed at by half the world.  She would have walked beneath yellow-ringed pines rising to a brilliant eastern sky, and her senses would have succumbed to the joy of the morning.

While nobody can debate that Lee was a talented writer and that she tackled subjects that might make other authors turn toward something a little less realistic, I can’t say this is my favorite book.  There were plenty of times when it was too boring, focusing so much on the character arc that there was little action.  The massive amount of contemporary references–which would require me to stop and look them up on the internet if I truly wanted to understand the point a character was making–made it a bit of a difficult read.  One thing that especially bothered me towards the end of the book was that Dr. Finch and Atticus spoke in very indirect, beat-around-the-bush sort of ways that were more confusing that intriguing.  I didn’t come to this book looking for a light read, and I certainly didn’t find one.

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