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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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Book Review: Bridge of the Gods by C.J. Rose

Hey, everyone!  I hope your new year is going great!  As usual, I’ve been using this time to get some things back on track, and I’ve dropped the ball on my blog over the last several months.  So, to kick things off, let’s get back to book reviews!

Bridge of the Gods: A Generation Son Chronicle (Generation Chronicles Book 1) by [Rose, C.J.]

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.

I recently finished Bridge of the Gods by C.J. Rose.  This book was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review.  Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

Move over Percy Jackson; Luthor McAlester is here. Bridge of the Gods, the first book in the Generation Chronicles series, follows Luthor McAlester, a teenage boy living in San Diego, California. His father, dying when he was a child, left him to become man of the house, to care for his mother and younger sister. On his 18th birthday he discovers a power that has been held dormant until now; unsure what to do with it in the absence of his father’s guidance. His best friend Gwen, who claims to be oblivious, knows more than she is telling. With just the help of his best friend, can Luthor figure out how to use his power and help the Gods like they ask? Or will the lack of guidance from his father prove to be more than Luthor can handle?

What I Loved:  I’m always up for a coming-of-age story that holds some magic in it.  My favorite books are those that take real-world people and inject something different and extraordinary in their lives.  The idea of a boy who finds out he’s descended from the gods definitely fits that bill.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Unfortunately, I really didn’t enjoy this book much at all.  While the author definitely strove to jump into the action, I wish we could have had more of an established normal before things started.  And on the other side of that, even though the main character was seeing a change in his life right away, I was pretty bored by most of the book.  There was a lot of waiting, thinking about things, and reading.

Much of the wording seemed too stiff and formal for teens, and yet at other times it was far too lax.  I would’ve liked to see more consistency with this, though that’s not one of the main issues.

Bridge of the Gods really needs more editing.  Quotations around dialog were misused, there were missing words, and the tense wasn’t consistent throughout the story.  This makes it very difficult to get absorbed into the story.

This book is very similar to Percy Jackson.  While I understand that popular books often inspire authors, I felt it was a little too similar on some aspects.  I also feel that this book would be a lot more enjoyable if I had all this mythology memorized.  It was too hard to keep track of the characters, and even though some of the mythology was inserted here and there to help with the backstory, it was difficult to follow.

Rating:  Guys, I seriously don’t like to leave a bad review for anyone.  It breaks my heart as a fellow author, and I feel bad, but I just didn’t enjoy this book at all.  I had to force myself to read it to the end, because I didn’t feel it was fair to write a review without doing so.  It could be something incredible with a lot of development, but it’s just not there for me right now.

Golden star

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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.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

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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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