Category Archives: Book Reviews

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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Book Review: The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

Historical fiction, fantasy, and romance collide in this hypnotic book.

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll is the latest episode in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’d acquired this battered copy at a library book sale, and it’d been gathering dust for probably a couple of years.

From the Cover: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

What I Loved:  As The Dark Queen tells the story of Ariane Cheney and the comte de Renard, it reveals a tale of passion, duty, and magic.  The characters are very well-developed, even the side characters who could’ve gotten away with being a little flat.  Their depth only continues to increase as the story goes on.

Carroll does an excellent job of establishing the setting in Renaissance France.  The reader can see every building, every chamber, every gown, and even the finer details of the candles and bowls and rings.  She accomplishes this without great lengths of flowery prose, keeping The Dark Queen driven by its plot and characters.

The romance between the two main characters is sweet and compelling, pulling the reader even further into the story.

This was a book I didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much, but it was also one that I couldn’t wait to finish because I was dying to see how it ended.  This book is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Favorite Quote:  Never trust a man over your cat.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Probably my least favorite parts of the book were the ones that showed Catherine de Medici’s side of the tale.  It wasn’t that these scenes were poorly written, and in fact they served to give a detailed picture of the force Ariane Cheney is up against.  But I was so intrigued by the Cheney side of the story that I didn’t want to read anything else!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a twist of magic and fantasy, you must read The Dark Queen.  The whole idea of my Bookshelf Cleanout is to read the books I’ve got so I can decide which ones to keep.  I think this one is a keeper!  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.

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: The Phantom Tollbooth

I’m a sucker for signed books, and apparently that even counts for books I’ve never read.  Every now and then, Barnes and Noble carries signed book on their shelves, and that’s how I ended up reading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition by [Juster, Norton]

Now, I realize there are probably a lot of people who read this book as children, and those same people may find themselves wondering why I would choose to read a book meant for kids at the ripe old age of thirty-*coughcough*.  To them I say, pick it up and read it again.  Maybe you’re not as grown-up as you think.

Synopsis:  Milo, who’s generally a little bored with life, finds himself on a thrilling adventure in a distant fantasy land.  He encounters wild and magnificent creatures and people along the way.

What I Loved:  There’s just so much to love about this book, and I doubt I’d manage to get it all into this review.  This work of pure genius is like a thesaurus set to fiction.  It’s Labyrinth meets Willy Wonka meets Alice in Wonderland meets A Wrinkle in Timewith a little bit of Monty Python thrown in.  It’s goofy and ridiculous but completely engaging.

Juster created not just a world of nonsense where everything in we know in our reality is skewed and taken out of context, but a fun story that might even be thinly veiled social commentary.  After all, there’s a lot of chaos when the Princesses Rhyme and Reason are in exile.

With endless wordplay and marvelous fantasy worlds, The Phantom Tollbooth is highly entertaining.  Even the introduction was worth reading, as were the notes from other authors in the back.

My Favorite Quotes:

It seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.

If you want sense, you’ll have to make it yourself.

“You’ll find,” he remarked gently, “that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I honestly don’t think I have anything to say here!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you enjoy fantasy, puns, and playful dialogue, or maybe if you’re just a kid at heart, I highly recommend The Phantom Tollbooth.  

This book is technically part of my Bookshelf Cleanout, and it’s one I’ll be keeping with the rest of my signed copies.

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.

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: Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake

A captivating romance that transports the reader completely!

I don’t usually read romance novels.  I know–I’m a woman in my thirties.  Isn’t that what I’m supposed to read?  At least, when I was a kid I assumed that was what moms always read.  I often choose my reading material based on what I’m currently writing, and I felt I needed to step up my game when it comes to the romantic aspect of my ghostwriting projects.  My book of choice is now also based on my Bookshelf Cleanout.

Enter Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake, a book that had probably been sitting on my shelf for at least a couple of years.  I’d grabbed it from a library book sale, filed it away with the other numerous books I hadn’t gotten around to yet, and pretty much forgotten about it until now.

From the Cover: Lisette Moisant is desperate. She had no love for the husband foisted upon her in an arranged marriage, but his death in a duel with famed fencing master Caid O’Neill has left her at the mercy of her rapacious father-in-law. As Caid is the only man in New Orleans he fears, as well as the cause of her misfortune, she requests the sword master’s protection.

Guilt, fairness and reluctant attraction to the valiant widow compel Caid’s agreement. He expects the arrangement to be short-lived, but that’s before the whispering campaign begins. Lisette is accused of being a wanton who persuaded Caid to trick her husband into a duel. Caid is labeled a murderer. Public sentiment rises against them along with the demand for punishment—and who better to mete it out than the dead husband’s father?

Caid and Lisette may overcome the sordid and deadly forces ranged against them—but how are they to fight the convention that forbids love between an heiress and a master at arms?

What I Loved:  I have to be honest here.  I was expecting flat characters, simpering women, and men who were reckless jerks.  But I was very pleased to find deep characters with fully-fleshed backgrounds and sensible emotional reactions.  Sure, you throw in a bit of stubbornness and a few impetuous decisions to keep the main characters apart for a while, but not the unbearable stereotypes I was expecting.

This is actually the second book in the series, which is something I didn’t even realize until I pulled it up on Amazon while writing this review!  I think that’s impressive, considering I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything.

What’s even more pleasing is the fact that Jennifer Blake has either done her research on New Orleans in 1840 or she has a time machine.  While you might not typically think of a book as being visually stunning, Dawn Encounter definitely is.  Historical fiction is a genre I’ve returned to many times over the past decade or so, and there were many instances when I felt this book fell just as equally in that category as romance.

What I Didn’t Love:  This is still a romance novel at heart, so it does contain some pretty typical tropes:  the woman who’s determined to be independent no matter what a bad idea it is, the stubborn man who refuses to acknowledge his own feelings, and the horrific villain he must save the heroine from.  But I can’t really complain about any of that, since I think this is what we’ve come to expect from a romance novel.  And since it does help the plot along, it works.

There were a few minor typos, but in a book of this length I would expect that.  It was nothing major and didn’t detract from the story.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance and historical fiction, then I highly recommend Dawn Encounter.  You can even read it for free right now through Kindle Unlimited! It was an intriguing read that was so much more than I expected.  I do believe (once I’ve made a little more progress on my Bookshelf Cleanout) that I’ll be picking up the first in the series.  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.

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: The Mystery of Flight 2222 by Thomas Neviaser

If you’re looking for a book that carries you along by the seat of your pants, setting you down only to land on your head, then check out The Mystery of Flight 2222 by Thomas Neviaser.

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.

I knew from my previous encounter with one of Neviaser’s books, You Dear, Sweet Man, to expect the unusual.  At first, however, this book seems like a fairly “normal” journey of a man and his fellow passengers after their plane crashes and they’re lost at sea.  We get just a taste of the background of each character as they’re introduced, and it’s just enough to keep the reader wondering why these particular people become a part of the story.

During their time at sea, this book reminded me a lot of Life of Pia novel that has stuck with me for many years for its stunning imagery and tone.  The Mystery of Flight 2222 pulled me in, making me wonder just how these people were going to get through their ordeal.  It was at times frightfully realistic and disturbingly uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put it down.

It’s not until the very end that the real twist–the one I’ve come to expect now from the author–comes along.  I won’t spoil it for you.  Go find out for yourself.

What I Loved:  Deep, realistic characters, fantastic imagery, and a dynamic plot.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  At first, I wished the characters had a little bit more depth on their backgrounds as they were introduced.  By the end, I realized that this was completely intentional.  While this isn’t your standard Hollywood ending–and I admit I do like a good Happily Ever After–it was the perfect conclusion.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you like a good adventure and survival story that’ll throw you for a loop at the end, I highly recommend The Mystery of Flight 2222.

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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Book Review: A Class Entwined (A Matter of Class Book 2)

What do you love in a story?  Is it one that makes you laugh and cry?  One with both romance and adventure?  A tale that transports you to another time and place with vivid detail and excellent description?  How about a book that you can’t stop reading because you want to see how it ends, and yet you never want it to end?  A Class Entwined is all that and more.

From the Back Cover:  Trapped in a loveless marriage far from home, Bridget does what she can to fill her lonely days. She throws herself into charitable work, but her cherished daughter, Emily, is her only true source of happiness.
Meanwhile, Cormac’s own life unravels and he finds himself doing unspeakable things just to survive.
Neither of them dream they will ever meet again, but fate brings them back together in the most unexpected of ways.
Can Bridget rediscover her love for the man Cormac has become? And how will Cormac react when he learns Bridget’s secret?
A Class Entwined is the second book in Susie Murphy’s A Matter of Class series.

A Class Entwined

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.

In the continuation of A Class Apartauthor Susie Murphy picks up the story of Bridget and Cormac.  I absolutely adored the first in the series!  When I found out the sequel was about to be released, I literally jumped up and down and clapped my hands.  I couldn’t wait for more.

I wasn’t disappointed.  A Class Entwined picks up with the same engaging characters, captivating scenery, and heart wrenching storyline.  While I can’t say that I did any fact-checking, it’s obvious Murphy did a lot of research to make this story come alive.

Susie Murphy.jpg

What I Loved:  Everything!  Really!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I honestly don’t have a single complaint about A Class Entwined, except that I wish I’d written it myself.  Susie Murphy is becoming one of my favorite authors.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance and historical fiction, I highly recommend both A Class Apart and A Class Entwined.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Five golden stars isolated on white background

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Blog tour schedule

Friday 1st February

The Lit Bitch

Suzy Approved

Saturday 2nd February

Ashley O’Melia

Book Reviews for U

Sunday 3rd February

Pursuing Stacie

History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday 4th February

Lisa Reads Books

Books of All Kinds

Tuesday 5th February

Coffee, Books and China Cups

Celticlady’s Reviews

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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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Book Review: A Husband for Christmas by Paty Jager

Do you ever stumble across a book that looks good, download it to your Kindle, and then never get around to reading it?  Just me?  Okay.  I’ll work on that.

At some point, I downloaded A Husband for Christmas by Paty Jager.  The only real reason I didn’t get around to reading it right away was that I don’t really like reading Christmas stories at any other time of the year than December. But when I found myself in a bit of a book hole just after Thanksgiving, that forgotten download was around to save the day!

a husband for christmas cover

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.

From the Cover:

Shayla Halsey wanted to be home for Christmas, but never imagined her travels would include spending the night in a brooding stranger’s cabin. Snowballing events cause her to look inside herself and recognize maybe it wasn’t being home she wanted as much as it was to have a home.

Mace Walker has his life in order and doesn’t want it disrupted again. Yet, when he discovers a woman stranded in the snow, he has to help her—despite her overbearing and reckless fiancé. In a matter of days, Shayla turns his life upside down and forces him to decide if he should leave town or face the consequences.

What I Loved:  A Husband for Christmas is a novella, so it’s a nice quick read.  It’s the final in a series, but it stand well enough on its own that I didn’t feel I was missing out by not having read the rest of the books.

The characters, if a bit stereotypical, have very distinct personalities.  It’s easy to distinguish between them, something I always appreciate in a book.

When it comes to descriptions and scenery, I definitely felt as though I was transported to Oregon in 1904.  To make it even better, this was sprinkled in throughout the story so that it was never overwhelming or boring.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Honestly, there isn’t much!  As mentioned above, a few of the characters were stereotypical, but that’s something that’s difficult to develop further in a shorter book.

Rating and Recommendation:

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys historical romance.  The Christmas element was there, but not so much that you couldn’t read it any time of the year.  It’s a sweet book with a happy ending (yay!) that I highly recommend.

Five golden stars isolated on white background

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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