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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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Pen Review: Baoer 801 Slim

This pen came in the June 2018 iPen subscription box and I really only have one thing to say:  I’m in love!

Baoer 801 Slim

This pen is lightweight but is balanced beautifully.  Everything on it exudes quality, from the way the lid attaches to the top to the way it comes apart.  The nib is technically a medium, but it’s very much a fine (my favorite).  It writes so smoothly and easily that I have occasionally forgotten I’m not writing with a ballpoint.  As soon as I got this pen, I went through three converters full of ink.

Baoer sample

You want to hear the kicker?  This pen is less than $7!  It feels and writes like it’s much more expensive.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.  I recommend the Baoer to anyone who likes writing with a nice fountain pen but doesn’t want to invest a lot of money.

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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 work featured here?  Contact me.

Sign up for the monthly newsletter here.

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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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