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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: Moonfall by Jack McDevitt

The last two books I read (reviews here and here) left a lot to be desired, so I was feeling a little gun-shy when I went to grab something else from my shelf. I’ve been really trying to get through the massive amount of books I’ve acquired in my Bookshelf Cleanout project!

The universe decided to make it up to me when I grabbed Moonfall by Jack McDevitt. Right off the bat, I got excited that the opening scene takes place during the solar eclipse of April 2024. Our location in Southern Illinois was dubbed the “Eclipse Crossroads” back in 2017, because both that eclipse and the one in 2024 will be fully visible here. To boot, I was even wearing my commemorative eclipse t-shirt!

Okay, personal coincidences aside, it’s important to talk a little bit about the plot (without giving too much away, of course). A comet is discovered, and it’s heading straight for the Moon, where Moonbase has just been officially opened in a ceremony that includes the Vice President of the U.S. The story is told from multiple POVs, just like any good disaster movie.

I couldn’t help but note as I read all the similarities to our current times that McDevitt predicted way back in 1999. The book is only three years ahead of the present, after all! There is talk about increased mileage on electric car batteries, everyone has cell phones, and all the news is online. Unfortunately, Moonfall mentions the Arecibo telescope, which didn’t make it, and yet it predicts that Sears will still be around.

I was definitly impressed with how well McDevitt predicted the divisive political climate that surrounds a global disaster. Some think the coming comet is only a political stunt to gain votes. Those in charge are forced to contemplate whether they should let the populace know just how bad things are and risk panic, or play it cool and risk lives. There was so much more, and it was all shockingly familiar.

Overall, there wasn’t a thing I didn’t liked about Moonfall. The characters were deep and relatable, the technology was fantastic, and I got so wrapped up in the suspense sometimes that I thought I might have a panic attack. 5 stars! While my ultimate goal is to pare down the sheer number of books I have, this one is going on the Keep shelf!

Have you read Moonfall or another book by Jack McDevitt? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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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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Book Review: The Private Life of The Cat Who by Lillian Jackson Braun

I write a lot of cozy mysteries in my freelance work, so it would only make sense that I also read a lot of them, right? The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun is one that I’ve returned to over and over throughout the last several years. I managed to read the entire series (which at 30 books is no small challenge while working and raising a family). Even though I have plenty of other books on the shelves at home, I’ve gone to the library and turned to the internet to make sure I found every single one.

It seemed only fitting to also pick up The Private Life of the Cat Who: Tales of Koko and Yum Yum from the Journal of James Mackintosh Qwilleran. It’s a slim little volume of what I don’t even think I’d call short stories necessarily. They’re more like reflections of the main protagonist James Qwilleran on his cats. He recalls how he got them and reminisces on some of their adventures.

It’s a very quick and light read, and it serves as a fun refresher of many of the stories I’d already read in the series. While I highly recommend The Private Life for anyone who has read the other books, you may not want to pick this up if you haven’t already come to know Koko and Yum Yum quite well. I wouldn’t want you to spoil the fun for yourself!

Have you read any of That Cat Who series? What did you think? Feel free to use my link to purchase from Amazon, or you can find my copy for sale on eBay!

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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/Rant: Dangerous to Know by Barbara Taylor Bradford

I really need to do a better job of playing book roulette.

Although I’d taken a bit of a break from my bookshelf cleanout while I worked on some other projects, the cold rainy weather has put me in the mood to curl up with a hot mug of coffee and a good book.

I got the coffee part right.

I selected Dangerous to Know by Barbara Taylor Bradford mostly because the volume contained two novels and I’d already read one of them. (That was probably about ten years ago…oops!) This made for a quick way to clear out some shelf space.

As I usually do in a book review, I’ll start with what I liked. Bradford uses her eloquent descriptive powers to create gorgeous backdrops in the mind’s eye. The flawless writing made the beginning of Dangerous to Know an intriguing read with distinctive characters and the sense that a major revelation would be divulged at every turn.

Then things got weird.

I don’t want to give away too much, in case you’re determined to read this book, but I certainly wish I hadn’t. While things are a little uncomfortable when it’s revealed that a woman ends up marrying her own guardian, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What starts out like a classic murder mystery turns into fictional dirty laundry that I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would want to write or publish.

And when it comes to the structure of the plot, holy exposition, Batman! Aside from a few arguments, lunches, and memorial services, Dangerous to Know gives several main characters the chance to unload every grievance they’ve ever suffered. This reflective diarrhea isn’t unpleasant to read, but it kept me wondering when the real story was about to start. It turns out that’s not until the very end, when an elderly deus ex machina steps forward to save the reader from the monotony of it all and fill us in on just how screwed up her family truly is.

Overall, I’m glad this experience is over. Wish me luck as I head to the bookshelf for my next read!

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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.

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.

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Book Review/Rant: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

I almost drowned this book in the bathtub. That’s where I was when it really started to piss me off.

I’ll try to be as fair as possible and start off with what I did like about The Missing Ink. Olson does a good job of establishing the main characters and the feel of Las Vegas from a non-tourist perspective (at least as far as I can tell, never having been there myself). She keeps the story moving with new clues around every corner and lots of action scenes.

Now, in regard to establishing characters, it seems Olson wanted the main character to be a real jerk. Brett Kavanaugh (nice choice of names, not that she would’ve known that back in 2009) is a tattoo artist. I get that maybe she’s not going to be the most sophisticated person around, but it seems Olson forgot that the main character has to be at least somewhat likeable.

Brett’s coworker is a little person. Her name is Bitsy (really?) and she drives a Mini Cooper (double really?). Brett gets frustrated with the noise of Bitsy dragging around a wooden stool, which she needs in order to be able to reach things around the shop. At one point, Brett hears Bitsy getting really excited about something in the other room and says to herself, “It was like she’d finally found the Emerald City.”

It was at this point that I nearly drowned the book.

I didn’t, which is how I know that Brett also makes a lot of mental comments about her other coworker, Joel, who’s 300 pounds. He’ll slow her down when she’s trying to follow someone. He stands out in a crowd when wearing a white t-shirt. He won’t fit in Bitsy’s car. He never needs an excuse for sweets. Weight Watchers would make a lot of money off him. All probably true, but not very nice. And then Brett has the nerve to judge someone else for being judgy.

Brett is further established as being kind of an idiot. Her brother is a detective, and she constantly withholds evidence from him just so she can check things out herself. I completely understand that any mystery is going to demand that the main character do some of this, but it’s just way too much. In fact, Brett was avoiding her brother so much that I was starting to think he must be the bad guy. (Spoiler alert: he’s not.)

The mystery itself was somewhat decent for the most part, but by the time I finally got to the finale where all was revealed, it just wasn’t worth all the frustration of having to deal with the main character.

Now, I know this book was published in 2009, and a lot of things have changed over the last few years. Even so, I don’t think I’ll be picking up another book by this Karen.

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Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Wow. Whew. Whoa.

I finished reading this book almost a week ago and I’m still not sure what I want to say about it. I suppose that’s saying something in itself though, right?

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was the first pick of a virtual book club I joined. I didn’t really join for the book itself, but just for the chance to discuss reading with other adults. I suppose, mostly based on the title and a quick skim of the blurb, that I was just expecting a housewife who finds her inner badass and slays a vamp or two.

What I didn’t expect was to find horrific scenes written in such vivid detail that made me want to stop reading and continue reading at the same time.

The old woman hauled herself up Patricia’s body, mouth open, slaver swinging from it in glistening ribbons, eyes wide and mindless like a bird’s. One of her filthy hands, tacky and rough with raccoon gore, burrowed past Patricia’s collar and clutched the side of her neck, and then she dragged her body, warm and soft like a slug’s, completely over Patricia’s front.

How’s that for a lighthearted tale? This scene (which that excerpt is only a small part of) has really stuck with me. There are plenty of others like it in the book, too. The problem is that while it’s disturbing, frustrating, and just gross, it’s also really well written.

There’s excellent character development, with Patricia and each of her book club friends having a distinct personality. Hendrix does an excellent job of transporting the reader to an upper-middle class neighborhood in 1990s Charleston. The plot is rich as Patricia deals not only with her vampire problem but also the typical issues of husband, children, and home.

I was actually kind of mad at how well it was written, because if it was crap I could just not read it and not have all those haunting scenes in my head. It wasn’t, so I didn’t. Instead, I had to plow on through and find out just what happens.

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of vampire books. All that blood talk grosses me out. This was…not typical. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but just know that this book is so much more than blood.

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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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Book Review: The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

I expected a light and quick book, but The Penny Pinchers Club really made me think about how money impacts our lives.

From the Cover: Living in suburban New Jersey, Kat has a pretty serious retail habit. Now it looks like her husband Griff is having an affair…and setting up a secret bank account in preparation for a divorce. Suspecting her spending habits may be driving him away, Kat’s determined to save her marriage by saving some money. But when her rich ex-fiancé turns up with a tempting bargain, she’ll have to decide whether love conquers mall…

What I Loved:  The Penny Pinchers Club was better written than I’d expected, with very real characters, backstory, description, depth, and some funny scenes that literally made me laugh out loud.

The story follows Kat as she struggles to save up enough money to afford an attorney when her husband finally decides to leave her.  It puts her in some precarious positions, forces her to learn about couponing and cutting back, and makes her really think about her relationship (both with money and with her husband).

Honestly, this book reminded me about couponing for myself.  I used to do a lot of it back when you could actually clip coupons from the Sunday paper.  Everything’s digital now, and it’s a whole new world that I’m diving back into!

What I Didn’t Love As Much:  I don’t believe in including spoilers in book reviews, so let’s just say I didn’t like the way it ended.  It wasn’t what I wanted for Kat.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you want a fun read that might even inspire you to pinch a few of your own pennies, then The Penny Pinchers Cluis for you!  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 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: Redshirts by John Scalzi

I didn’t know I was looking for a story that combined my love of sci-fi shows and sci-fi books, but I found it anyway in Redshirts.

From the Cover:  

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

What I Loved:  Redshirts begins with a humorous dedication and then dives head-first into a prologue that immediately pulls you into the storyline.  This book is written with a humorous and casual tone, even though there are lives on the line.  It’s a much lighter read than pretty much any other science fiction book you could pick up, even though it involves alternate dimensions, time travel, and other typical sci-fi problems.  There are constant plot twists and one hilarious fourth-wall break that I made my husband listen to me read out loud because I had to share it with someone.  This story is character and plot driven without a lot of extraneous descriptions, which works really well for it.

One of my favorite quotes:  But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.

As I said, I didn’t go looking for this book specifically.  We spend a lot of time at the library, and I just happened to wander through the sci-fi section on our way out.  Being a fan of Star Trek, I just had to get it.  Absolutely worth it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really nothing to write here.  Redshirts is unique and entertaining.  Once the main characters get their problem solved, the books goes on to show how the original story affected other characters along the way.  It’s fantastic.

Rating and Review:  If you like science fiction with a bit of humor, and if you don’t demand all the tiny details about how space travel or time travel work, and if you know what a redshirt is, then Redshirts is absolutely for you.  5 stars.

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Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Yep.  I couldn’t help myself.  Another Neil Gaiman.  I told you after Neverwhere that I was addicted.  I wasn’t kidding, and I’ve got very good reason to be addicted.

This is a story about a man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and reflects on the strange things that happened when he was just seven years old.  A man’s suicide caused a series of dark and terrifying events.  Lettie, the mysterious and magical girl down the road, protects the boy in ways he still doesn’t fully understand.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a slim little volume that goes quickly, but I have the distinct feeling it would pass by quickly anyway.  It’s vivid and spellbinding.  Gaiman has a way of describing things that’s utterly simple and yet so thorough, whether it be a physical description or conveying how a character feels.

Something came through the woods above our heads.  I glanced up, saw something brown and furry, but flat, like a huge rug, flapping and curling at the edges, and, at the front of the rug, a mouth, filled with dozens of tiny sharp teeth, facing down.

It flapped and floated above us, and then it was gone.

“What was that?” I asked, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I did not know if I would be able to stand again.

“Manta wolf,” said Lettie.

Throughout the entire book, I felt as though there was something so much bigger than myself, much bigger than any of us, something we could only know as children but have forgotten because of this terrible thing called growing up, and that maybe growing up was just our coping mechanism to help us deal with all the things we actually once knew.

At the end, as the main character is reflecting on his childhood memories and isn’t certain that he remembers it all correctly, I get the impression that this book is all about the way our memories work and how they change over time.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane gets five stars only because there aren’t any more to give it.  It was absolutely astounding.

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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.

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: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

If you’ve ever read anything by Neil Gaiman, and if you understand that this is the first book of his that I have read, then you probably already know everything I’m going to write here.

I picked up a copy of Neverwhere at my local library.  I’m supposed to be cleaning out my bookshelves and reading all the numerous books I already have, but after I’d listened to his interview on The Tim Ferriss Show, I knew I needed to get a hold of one of his books.

I know, I know.  I’m probably the only person who loves to read who hasn’t read any Neil Gaiman yet.  Well, now I have, and I’m addicted.

Neverwhere tells the story of a man who has a very average and boring life when a pure accident leads him to discover just how much there is around him he’s been missing.

Gaiman doesn’t write books.  He creates worlds that are bubbles adjacent to our own world, ones that we think we want to go to if only we were brave enough.  He pulls the magic from the furthest reaches of our dreams and our childhoods and shows it to us, holding it up like a PSA poster reminding us to have a little bit of fantasy now and then because it’s good for us.

The descriptions, the characters, the plot.  All of it is amazing.  Normally, when I do book reviews, I say what I liked and what I didn’t like.  There’s no way to categorize that for Neverwhere because I loved all of it.  Even the parts that were a little bit uncomfortable because they were so real and visceral still demanded to be read.

I reserve my 5-star ratings for works that are truly mind-blowing or life-changing, for books that, when I close them at the end, make me think, “Oh, I wish I could have written that!”  I give Neverwhere 5 big fat gold stars with the crispest points and the shiniest surfaces.

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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.

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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