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A Book Review That’s Maybe Sort of Not Really a Book Review

Is there anything worse than a book review from someone who didn’t actually read the book?  If you’re creasing your brow and wondering how that could even be a thing, I’m here to tell you it is.  People do it all the time, and I don’t want to be one of them.

But what do you do when you read a book and you can’t get through it?  I mean, obviously I don’t like the book, but is it really fair to leave a review if I didn’t actually read it?

Out of my rather large stash of used books that I absolutely must read and get rid of as I try to declutter my house, I pulled Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton.  I’d heard good things about the author, and since I do plenty of supernatural stuff in my ghostwriting work I figured it would at least be good research.

I hated it right from the beginning.  I just could not get into it.  I thought maybe I was having a hard time concentrating.  Three kids, three dogs, three cats, and a job make for plenty of distractions.  But I was incredibly turned off when Hamilton began describing the man Anita is supposed to be in love with and find sexy.  Sorry, but a guy rolling around on a bed in a red net shirt and black boots while purring with a French accent is just not attractive.  To each their own, and that’s only my opinion, but no.  I couldn’t get attached to the characters, and they seemed to spend a lot more time talking about the plot than actually doing anything about it.  I was just plain bored.

I get a bit stubborn when it comes to reading books.  I’ve often felt that if I start a book, I have to finish.  Those are just The Rules.  But I also have a lot of other books I’d like to get around to reading and only so much time.  I thought about The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke, in which he emphasizes just how important the beginning of a book is when it comes to captivating your audience.  All right.  I decided I’d give it at least fifty pages and go from there.

Folks, I was dying to see that little 5-0 on the upperhand corner of the page.

Back before I did book reviews online, I read a book that I really struggled to get through.  It was boring and uncomfortable, but I was invested.  I had to follow The Rules.  When I got to the end, the two main characters decided not to change anything about their lives and just go back to how they were at the beginning.  I stared at the book for a moment when I was done, and then I quite literally chucked it across the room.

There’s no point in throwing books when I could just donate this one to the library and grab something different from the shelf.  And while I’ll mention it here, I definitely won’t be leaving a review on Amazon.  Most of the reviews for this book are good ones, so maybe it’s just me?

What do you do when you really hate a book?  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 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: Conqueror’s Moon by Julian May

I’m one book closer to completing my bookshelf cleanout!  Okay, let’s face it.  This is going to take an eternity, but at least I’ll enjoy it in the process!  The latest selection was Conqueror’s Moon by Julian May.

From the Cover:

On a remote island, far in the Boreal Sea, four kingdoms have struggled against one another since time out of mind. Most mysterious is the marshland kingdom of Moss—feared by the others and ruled by the Sorcerers. Soon, all will be put in peril’s way.

In recent years, three of the kingdoms have suffered fearsome volcanic eruptions that choke crops, famine among people, and an ailing leader on his deathbed. Only Moss, poverty-stricken and desolate at the best of times, seems untroubled.

But Prince Conrig of Cathra, who waits patiently as his father, the king, wastes slowly away, is in league with his lover, the seductive sorceress Princess Ullanoth of Moss. And if their secret alliance succeeds in its goal, the warring kingdoms of High Blenholme will be united once and for all—under the iron hand of one supreme rule.

What I Loved:

Conqueror’s Moon is an intriguing tale of royalty and class, romance and politics, and plenty of fantasy and magic!  The first few pages definitely had me hooked and wanting to know what was going to happen next.

What stood out to me a lot with this book is how well-developed the characters are.  Each of them have their own backgrounds and personalities, making this very much a character-driven plot.

The description and setting were also excellent as May painted a picture of a very detailed fantasy world that I could see clearly in my mind as I read.  The maps included at the front of the book are also helpful.

What I Didn’t Love as Much:

This is definitely not what I’d call an easy read.  There are too many characters and places to keep track of, and of course they all have fantastical names that make it a little harder.  That plus the numerous political meetings meant that this book was most enjoyable when I had a nice, quiet space to read in.  I don’t always have that luxury, so about halfway through I wasn’t sure I was ever going to finish.

The end of the book wasn’t as neatly tied up as I would prefer.  I know it’s just the first in a series, and I can appreciate the author wanting to leave the reader craving more.  That part was achieved, but I do wish there had been a little bit more of a conclusion so I’d feel like I truly got to the end of the book.

Rating and Recommendation:

While I think there’s some potential here, it was just too hard to get into the book.  I’m curious to know what happens in the sequels, but I don’t know that I’ll actually read the rest of the series to find out.  Maybe this would be a better fit for me if I wasn’t a busy working mom and had more time to really focus on it, but I can’t say I was extremely impressed.  3 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: Island by Alistair MacLeod

As yet another selection from my bookshelf cleanout, I picked up Island by Alistair MacLeod.  It’s a collection of short stories (not my typical thing to read) that completely blew me away.

From the Cover:

The sixteen exquisitely crafted stories in Island prove Alistair MacLeod to be a master. Quietly, precisely, he has created a body of work that is among the greatest to appear in English in the last fifty years.

What I Loved:

Island is gritty, somber, and muted.  The stories are positively dripping with the tiny details of life, from the way a small boy remembers his father’s sweater to the grim details of a corpse found at sea.  Many of the stories carry themes of death and family relationships.  They revolve around occupations and how they form entire lives and even whole towns.  Island is all about small towns, the love (and burden) of family, coming of age, leaving home, and returning.

There’s only one reason you’ll want to put this book down, and that is to write.  It’s incredibly inspiring from a writer’s perspective, with stories that are poignant, moving, and excellently written.

“The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” was definitely one of my favorites.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:

As I’m sure you can guess, I have very little to say here!  Sometimes the stories were a bit too heavy, but that’s part of what makes them so amazing.

Rating and Recommendation:

If you enjoy short stories, if you want to feel all the feels, or if you want to be inspired to improve your own writing game, then I highly recommend Island.  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: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

A beautifully-written book that grounds the reader in the lives of the past, To Defy a King is not mere historical fiction but a time machine.

From the Cover:  

The spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal, lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls out with the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered.

The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected.

Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone. Caught between the family she was born in and the family she married into, Mahelt is uncertain if she—or her marriage—will survive.

What I Loved:  To Defy a King completely immerses the reader in the past and paints a vivid picture of what it would be like in the thirteenth century, particularly for a young woman whose life is defined by what the men around her want.  The main character, Mahelt, must contend with this on a daily basis.

I was a little hesitant to start this book because it’s the fifth in the series and I haven’t read any of the other ones.  Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter.  Everything was wrapped up well enough in this volume that I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything.

To Defy a King is a rather lengthy book, and the characters are given ample time to develop and show off their depth.  It seems there is nothing that happens without a purpose, so there’s never a dull moment.

This way I would describe the tone of this book is tense.  I felt my entire body going rigid as I read because of everything Mahelt had to go through (but I don’t want to give away any spoilers here).  I guess this could be either a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a relaxing read!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  The characters, especially at first, are a bit difficult to keep track of.  This is mostly in regard to the families of the two main protagonists.  There is a family tree in the front of the book, which helps, but I don’t like to flip back and forth.  Nor do I like to accidentally spoil something for myself and see when they die or get married before it happens in the story!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love historical fiction with a heady mix of action, adventure, and romance, then To Defy a King is for you.  Four 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.

 

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 about an item when linking to it.

 

 

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Book Review: A Harvest of Bones by Yasmine Galenorn

A semi-spooky mystery with ghosts, supernatural powers, and cats.  What more could you need?

I’m presently working on reading through and cleaning out my bookshelves, and A Harvest of Bones was one of my recent selections.  I’ve been writing a lot in the mystery genre lately, so it’s always nice to do a little “research.”

From the Cover:  It’s harvest time in Chiqetaw, Washington; Emerald O’Brien’s favorite season. But this year, nature yields a most supernatural bounty. When Em and her sweetie, Joe, stumble over a bramble-covered foundation that has remained hidden for fifty years in the lot next door, strange events begin to occur. The cat vanishes. Will o’ the Wisps threaten to harm Emerald and her loved ones. And the ghost of a woman named Brigit and her beloved calico make themselves at home in the backyard. Now it’s up to Em and her friends to delve into the past, reveal the secrets of the dead and lay them to rest as they ring in the autumn with a harvest of bones.

What I Loved:  Like I said:  cats!  Okay, yes there are plenty of other good things about this book.  It was a nice combination of murder, ghosts, history, witchcraft, psychic powers, and everyday life.  The characters were mostly relatable and easy to keep track of.  The mystery in question was engaging, and while I had an idea of whodunnit about halfway through, all the little details were held back until the end.  And yes, there really were plenty of cats.

“Even a diary isn’t safe from prying eyes.  But a cat will listen, and keep her silence for you.”

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I grabbed this book at a library booksale with the thought that it was more of a cozy mystery.  A liberal sprinkling of cuss words and a dash of semi-steamy scenes made this not nearly as cozy as I imagined.  I wasn’t offended by any of this; I just didn’t really expect it.  Readers who prefer something a little cleaner might not be interested.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re looking for a good mystery that’s a fun and easy read, I definitely recommend A Harvest of Bones.  I’m giving this book four 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.

 

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 about an item when linking to it.

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Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

All the feels.

Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers is the latest reading choice in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’ve had it for years.  I’ve picked it up but never cracked the cover.  I don’t even remember where I got it, and I honestly wasn’t expecting much from it.

From the Cover: Everyone around Prudence Whistler, thirty-six, seems to be settling down. Her once single girlfriends have married and had babies. Her gay best friend is discussing marriage with his partner. Even her irresponsible younger sister, Patsy, is the single mother of a two-year-old. But when Pru panics at losing her mediocre boyfriend of two years-and begins to see the door to her traditional family life closing-she accidentally finds something even better: a new definition of family and happiness. First, it’s the crazy cat who moves into her apartment. Then come Pru’s headstrong sister and two-year-old niece. Then the niece’s dog, the sister’s ex-boyfriend, and, ultimately, Patsy and Pru’s widowed mother. With the strength of her modern new household, Pru musters the confidence to open the dress shop she’s always wanted in town-and discovers an extended family of sorts in the community of shop owners and devoted customers. It’s only then that she ends up with the man of her dreams. Endearing, romantic, and satisfying, Nice to Come Home To is a charming, crowd-pleasing debut.

What I Loved:  This is a book in which nothing happens and yet everything happens.  Pru seems at first to be the kind of person I wouldn’t like.  (I mean, she does have a complete aversion to her boyfriend’s cat.)  But as the story advances and I learned more about her, I began to see more and more of myself in her.  There were times when it was almost too real, as though Flowers had pulled my life into tiny pieces, jumbled them up, and poured some of them into this book.

Nice to Come Home To is about finding love, not only romantic love but self love and familial love.  It’s about learning to accept your own flaws as well as the flaws of others, but still never settling for anything less than you deserve.

The somber and occasionally depressing tone of the book really stood out to me because it worked so well for it.  When I was about three-quarters of the way through, I felt like my best friend was having a hard time and I was helping her through it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I wasn’t always a fan of Flowers’ style when it came to sentence structure.  There were too many commas for my taste, something that pulled me out of the story to ponder whether they were correct or not.  It’s one of those things that comes down to personal preference.

Rating and Recommendation:  Nice to Come Home To is an easy read and yet a deep one.  It delivers so much (deep characters, a cathartic pull of emotions) without demanding much of the reader.  If you enjoy modern fiction, I definitely recommend 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.

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 about an item when linking to it.

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Book Review: An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen

If you don’t know what it means to pick up a romance novel and not want to put it down, then you haven’t read An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen.

I’ve really been trying to work through my current (giant) stash of books in my bookshelf cleanout, but when I saw this book on the New Arrivals shelf at my local library, I just had to get it.  I’ve been following the author on Facebook for a while, and though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I fell in love with the dresses!

From the Cover:

Rafe Beaumont, fifth son of an earl, uses his irresistible charm with the ladies to glean dangerous war secrets. Now he’s putting those skills to the ultimate test: capturing an elusive assassin by seducing his daughter. The problem? She’s entirely immune to Rafe’s flattery.

Never before has Collette Fortier met a man as attractive as Rafe. But her father’s life is at stake, and succumbing to Rafe would be disastrous. But when Rafe turns the tables on her, offering support and friendship instead of a fleeting affair, Collette finds herself tempted in ways she never could have imagined…

What I Loved:  There’s so much to love about this book!  It’s well-paced, with a good mix of events and evolving emotions moving the story along.  The characters are deep and well-established, so much so that even the side characters are easy to keep track of.  Their backgrounds support the choices they make and the insecurities they have.

The story shows a lot of inner feelings (both physical and emotional), but they’re mixed nicely with descriptions of the setting and the characters to keep the reader deeply rooted in the time period.

This being a romance, I have to say the steamy scenes are beautifully written, building the physical and emotional bond between the characters.  No cheap erotica here!

Collette, raised in France but now in England, occasionally references the mating habits of hedgehogs since she’d learned much of her English from a book about the subject.  She drops facts about hedgehogs when she gets nervous, and it adds just the perfect amount of humor.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really not much to say here.  The only thing I noted was a repeated phrase in one of the later chapters that was missed by the editor.  Can’t really complain about that!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance, historical fiction, and lots of details about beautiful dresses, then An Affair with a Spare is for you!  I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series!  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.

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 about an item when linking to it.

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