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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: The Duchess by Bertrice Small

My most recent choice for my Bookshelf Cleanout was The Duchess by Bertrice Small. Historical fiction of any sort is always interesting for me, and since I do write a lot of romance I end up reading a lot of it, too!

The Duchess: A Novel by [Bertrice Small]

From the Cover:

As the daughter of the richest man in England, Allegra Morgan attracts a number of fortune hunters willing to overlook her flawed pedigree to gain her enormous wealth. Her most ardent suitor is the arrogant but impoverished Quinton Hunter, duke of Sedgwick, who has little to offer a prospective wife except his grand title. Allegra decides that if she must marry, she might as well be a duchess. So she agrees to the match with one condition: her husband must never ask for her love. She has seen the misery love can cause and has vowed to give her heart to no man–especially a dangerously alluring duke.

Quinton is dazzled by his new wife’s grace and fortitude, as well as the fierce desire that rages between them. Despite his best intentions, he finds himself falling in love with her. Then the terrors of the French Revolution hit close to home, and the two of them set off on a treacherous adventure that could cost them everything . . . including their final chance at happiness.

What I Loved: Bertrice Small certainly did her research on the period. I know what a difficult task that can be, especially when it comes to clothing. Given the detailed description of every outfit, this was clearly not a problem for the author. The political happenings of the world are often mentioned, and these do have some impact on the characters. The dialog was well written, and most of the main characters were fleshed out and easily distinguishable.

What I Didn’t Love: While there’s plenty of historical detail, some of it is dumped into the story in a heap of exposition that’s poorly disguised as dialog. I wouldn’t mind this method too much, except that I don’t think anything more than a line or two was needed in these instances.

While I was interested to see how a very poor man with a title and a very rich girl without one would work out, I thought the first half of the book dragged quite a bit. Toward the end, the main characters go on an adventure that, while not unenjoyable, felt like it was just dropped in to give the plot some oomph before the end.

I have to be honest here: I really didn’t like the love scenes. While they were passionate, they were rather unrealistic. I can’t say I was a fan of the word choice in these scenes, either, but I acknowledge that’s often a matter of preference.

Rating and Recommendation: There are definitely some things about The Duchess that had me complaining, but considering that there really is a story here (and an arc for both of the main characters), I have to give credit where due. It wasn’t my cup of tea, and I probably won’t seek out more by this author, but I can’t say it was particularly bad, either. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I think, if anything, this book proves that everyone is looking for something different.

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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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The Lost Manuscript Publishing Company

Someday, I’ll share with you the story of how this publishing company came to be. For now, since it’s late and I’m sure I should be in bed, just do me a favor and visit The Lost Manuscript Publishing Company. It’s still under contruction, but check back for more info!

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Thinking of a Veteran I Don’t Know

There are plenty of veterans I could write about today, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about one in particular.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take a few college classes for free during the summer.  My speech class had kids my age, college students, and one older guy who always sat off by himself.  His age made him more of an outsider than his scruffy hair and old clothes.

We had to do that lovely introduction thing teachers make you do, and though I don’t remember his name I do remember that he was a Vietnam veteran.  Most of us didn’t particularly enjoy getting up to talk in front of the crowd, but it was especially hard for him.  He’d freeze up and have to sit down, even though his speeches were interesting and well-prepared.

The one moment where he really shone was his demonstration speech.  This guy was amazing with jewelry, making beautiful glass beads and wrapping them in twisted wire to create gorgeous pendants.  He had the whole class crowded around a big table while he worked.  He was in his element, and he was so proud when he was done.  He gave a few of us the pendants he’d made, and I wore it all the time.

On his next speech, he froze up again.  I could see how much it bothered him, and when I saw him outside I tried to encourage him.  Now, I don’t see how a fifteen-year-old girl could possibly help a full grown man.  It seemed right at the time, and I can only hope that he wasn’t offended.

But he never came to class again.

I still don’t know his name.  At the time, I didn’t understand anything about PTSD or what it would be like to go back to school when you’re twice the age of everyone else there.  Every now and then, he pops in my mind and I wonder what happened to him after that last unfinished speech.

And while I doubt he’d ever possibly read this, I hope he does and knows that someone is thinking about him on Veterans Day. (And I still have that pendant twenty years later!)

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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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Book Review: Always Darkest by Jess and Keith Flaherty

What’s better than winning a book giveaway?  Maybe finding out that it’s a paperback (because I’m just an old-fashioned girl, after all)?  Or that it’s signed?  Or that it’s just really, really good.  Always Darkest was all of that and more.

From the Back Cover:  

Everybody loves a hero.
Everybody loves an antihero with a heart of gold.
Nobody loves a demon.
Nobody but Mal Sinclair, though she doesn’t know it.
Ben was just looking for a vacation from hell, but wound up finding his life’s purpose instead.
Always Darkest, Book I of The Arbitratus Trilogy, draws you into a world of angels and demons walking among us, a world where good and evil are not absolutes. An ancient prophesy sets the stage, but the players will decide the outcome.
And the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Always Darkest

What I Loved:  While I can’t say that I’m usually into the demons-and-angels genre, I really got sucked in by this book.  The premise was highly intriguing, especially as I started to get about a quarter of the way in.

One of the main characters is a demon, but he’s a surprisingly likable demon.  He’s easy to relate to, and I found myself rooting for him early on.  (What does it say about me that I’m on a demon’s side?)  But that was the case with several of the characters.  They had distinct personalities that made them memorable and delightful.

Interestingly enough, the book is written from an omniscient point of view.  This isn’t something I’ve come across very often, and I think it takes a lot of talent to pull it off successfully without making it seem like the author had just forgotten what POV he or she was using.  But the Flahertys really make it work.  It not only helps the depth of the book unfold, but also seems incredibly relevant considering the subject matter.  (Is God, in his omniscience, witnessing all of this?)

The descriptions are just wonderful!  I truly felt like I was in the story, whether I was meeting a character or exploring a new place.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“She had once been almost forbiddingly beautiful, but whatever she had been doing had corrupted her exterior and she was beginning to resemble her true nature; her former rich colors fading to grey, her teeth sharpening, her skin starting to crepe and sag.  She had all the warmth of a pit viper and made no secret of her contempt for demons.  The unblinking way she stared at him made Ben certain she was fantasizing about turning him inside out and leaving him hanging from a tree at midnight.”

“She spent some of her early years around New Englad, was born in Boston, but she had no memory of real time here, save for a vague sense she would like the smell of a Christmas tree in the house, and she might want to try her painfully underdeveloped artsy side by paining with her dad when the leaves changed.”  (Honestly, this is just a small part of about two pages that made me feel as though I was completely immersed in autumn.  Crisp air, sweatshirts, and hot coffee.  I loved it.)

“Life, after all, was cruel, and no one had ever promised him the afterlife wouldn’t be.”

I also have to say that any book that makes several mentions of Star Trek and mentions one of my favorite dishes to make that nobody has ever heard of (cassoulet) gets several points in my book.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Right at first, it’s a little difficult to keep track of the characters because there are so many demons, fallen angels, and other various roles.  Fortunately, this clears itself up after the first couple of chapters.

Also, I think this book might make a little more sense to me if I knew more about the Bible, but that’s all on me.

Most of all, I just hated that it had to end.  I’m ready for the next one!

Rating and Recommendation:  5 stars

If you like intrigue, romance, ancient history brought to life, fantastical creatures, great dialogue, battle scenes, and the way you feel in the pit of your stomach when the seasons change, then you’ll love Always Darkest.

If you don’t like any of that, then you must be dead.

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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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

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 about an item when linking to it.

 

 

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The 90s are Back! Making Nice with Generational Appropriation

Little black backpack purses.  Chokers.  Cute dresses with big black combat boots.  Ringer tees.  Welcome to my teenage years…and apparently those of my kids as well.

I was overwhelmed by the 90s elements I noticed when I went to the mall a few weeks ago with my girls.  As I looked at my own daughter with her short overalls with one strap undone, I realized just how much my own past had snuck up on me.  (There’s a nice little splash of the mid-to-late 80s in there as well.)

thumbs up

At first, I thought it was great!  I loved seeing my  daughter dress the way I always wanted to.  I remember how my mom loved it when I wore bell bottoms as a kid.

But then I had to wonder how my parents’ generation actually felt about us when we walked around in our flared jeans with our hippie sunglasses and wore happy faces and flowers on everything.  Sure, the clothes were somewhat similar to what they had worn back in the 60s, but they weren’t born of any actual culture or trends that related to those times.  We hadn’t lived back then, and we didn’t know the significance of it. Were we taking anything away from that era by mocking it, or were we honoring it through imitation?

I didn’t think about it at all back then, but I am now.  For me, life during that decade was incredibly heavy and real.  Sometimes it was a good thing and sometimes bad, but it was a very vivid experience for me.  If I heard a 90s song on the radio, I remember just how much it impacted me when it was brand new. That doesn’t mean someone else can’t enjoy it, but I just don’t see how it can mean the same thing to them.  And the cargo pants, Skecher boots, and baby tees were just as significant.

The really interesting thing is that I can’t tell you just what made it all so significant.  I remember Operation Desert Storm, Lorena Bobbitt, the O.J. Simpson trial, and Dolly the sheep, but I don’t know how much these things actually affected me.  I honestly think it was more about the trials and tribulations of just being a teen and figuring things out, which is a difficult thing for most people.  Still, it’s hard to really say.

When we were prancing around in our velvet shirts and platform shoes, did the older generation wonder how we could possibly know what it was like to go through the civil rights movement, the first moon landing, or the assassination of JFK?  Or were they just happy to reminisce over their childhood?  (I mean, they didn’t have Facebook constantly asking them to take the ultimate Friends quiz or count down a list of the top toys from their youth.)

friends

I don’t know the answers.  I just know that my daughter dresses like Daria, and I think it’s adorable.

daria

 

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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

 

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Book Review: A Class Apart by Susie Murphy

Romance, drama, suspense, and beautiful scenery reign supreme in A Class Apart by Susie Murphy.  I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

a class apart

From the Cover:  It’s 1828, and Ireland is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords.
Nineteen-year-old Bridget Muldowney is thrilled to return to the estate in Carlow she’ll inherit when she comes of age. But since she left for Dublin seven years earlier, the tomboy has become a refined young lady, engaged to be married to a dashing English gentleman.
Cormac McGovern, now a stable hand on the estate, has missed his childhood friend. He and Bridget had once been thick as thieves, running wild around the countryside together.
When Bridget and Cormac meet again their friendship begins to rekindle, but it’s different now that they are adults. Bridget’s overbearing mother, determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries, conspires with Bridget’s fiancé to keep the pair apart.
With the odds stacked against them, can Bridget and Cormac’s childhood attachment blossom into something more?

What I Loved:  A Class Apart is a breathtaking piece of historical fiction that made me turn the pages so fast I thought my fingers might catch on fire.  The descriptions completely transported me.  The characters were clear, believable, and relatable.  There is genuinely something happening in every chapter, so this isn’t a tale of ladies sitting in the parlor and gossiping over tea.  The story encompasses the real truths that the people in Ireland had to face in their time, weaving a heartrending tale that’s impossible not to read.

I usually make notes as I read a book when I know I’m going to review it, but I didn’t want to put this book down long enough to do so.  There’s so much more I wish I could say about it, because A Class Apart deserves heaps of praise.  It’s a true testament to the fact that indie authors can and do take pride in creating literary art.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Nothing!  That it ended, maybe?  I want more!  Since this is noted as the first book in a series, I can’t wait for the next volume!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love to see a place and time in history come to life, if you love romance, glorious prose, and a read that will keep you on your couch well past the time you should have gotten up to make dinner, then A Class Apart is for you.  I wish I could award more, but I give it 5 out of 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.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

Once A Wanderer Cover - ebook

 

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Book Review: The Cat Who Had 14 Tales by Lillian Jackson Braun

With a plane trip ahead of me last month, I made sure to grab a paperback before I headed out the door.  Sure, my phone and my tablet are both loaded with ebooks, but there’s something I find incredibly satisfying about an actual book.  A collection of short stories was particularly appealing, since I would be traveling and likely too tired to have much of an attention span.

14 Tales

What I Loved:  I’ve read almost all of the other books in Braun’s Cat Who series, and I’ve loved them.  These short stories were just as good, but they revolved around different characters.  It was a nice change of pace, but of course there were still lots of cats!  It was a nice fast read, and I read almost the entire thing on the plane.  Braun was always excellent with description and characterization, and she accomplished this even in short stories.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There are a few cats that die on these pages.  If you’re the type that absolutely can’t stand to have animals die in a story, then this might not be the book for you.  Nothing is graphically described, but it’s there.

Rating and Recommendation:  This is a great book for anyone who loves cats, mysteries, and short stories, or a combination of at least two of those elements.  Since I was bummed when it was over, I have to give it 5 stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.

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Giveaway Alert!

I’ve recently done an interview with Susie Murphy about her new book, A Class Apart, and she’s giving away a free ebook copy!  Be sure to enter by visiting the pinned post on my Facebook page or commenting on the interview on my blog.  A random winner will be drawn on Saturday!

ENTER TO WIN blue text frames.

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