Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul

I apologize that it’s been a while since you’ve seen a book review on here.  I had really been doing a great job of finding time to read (something that’s always difficult between work and kids) and using that time to clean out my bookshelves.  Unfortunately, it took me several weeks to get through The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul.

From the Cover: In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

What I Loved:  Paul’s writing is easy to read, with varied sentence structure and variable word use to keep things moving.  With the main characters, she does a good job of establishing their personalities and how they think about the world.  One character in particular who stands out is Lady Peg, Tipper’s mother.  Her mind wanders off into odd places, and her dialogue is usually quite entertaining.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Unfortunately, there’s a lot I didn’t like about this book.  It’s a bit difficult to keep track not of the characters but of their world.  There are too many references to types of people or places or animals without some sort of description of them.  I feel that a fantasy book that introduces us to an entirely new world needs to be a little bit less abstract.  Otherwise, it just feels like the story is one big dream.

Another thing that contributes to this abstract feeling is that questions continue to arise along the way without ever getting answered at the end.  We never understand exactly why Tipper’s father disappears all the time.  He and his friends think they have a solution to this problem, but we’re never told why this solution should work.  There are hints about Lady Peg’s past, but again these never come full-circle.  It made the ending very frustrating.

I believe it was this dreamlike quality that kept me from truly getting into the book and why it took me so long to finish it.  I always feel guilty if I don’t finish a book once I’ve started, but since the end provided so few answers I’m not sure it was worth pushing through.

I think it’s interesting that this is supposed to be a book that, according to the summary on Amazon, is supposed to help readers “discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.”  There were references to a deity, but I couldn’t see any real links that would tie this into the real world.

Rating and Recommendation:  While I wasn’t happy with this book, the writing itself (stylistically and grammatically) was perfectly fine.  I give it two 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: The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

Historical fiction, fantasy, and romance collide in this hypnotic book.

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll is the latest episode in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’d acquired this battered copy at a library book sale, and it’d been gathering dust for probably a couple of years.

From the Cover: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

What I Loved:  As The Dark Queen tells the story of Ariane Cheney and the comte de Renard, it reveals a tale of passion, duty, and magic.  The characters are very well-developed, even the side characters who could’ve gotten away with being a little flat.  Their depth only continues to increase as the story goes on.

Carroll does an excellent job of establishing the setting in Renaissance France.  The reader can see every building, every chamber, every gown, and even the finer details of the candles and bowls and rings.  She accomplishes this without great lengths of flowery prose, keeping The Dark Queen driven by its plot and characters.

The romance between the two main characters is sweet and compelling, pulling the reader even further into the story.

This was a book I didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much, but it was also one that I couldn’t wait to finish because I was dying to see how it ended.  This book is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Favorite Quote:  Never trust a man over your cat.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Probably my least favorite parts of the book were the ones that showed Catherine de Medici’s side of the tale.  It wasn’t that these scenes were poorly written, and in fact they served to give a detailed picture of the force Ariane Cheney is up against.  But I was so intrigued by the Cheney side of the story that I didn’t want to read anything else!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a twist of magic and fantasy, you must read The Dark Queen.  The whole idea of my Bookshelf Cleanout is to read the books I’ve got so I can decide which ones to keep.  I think this one is a keeper!  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: 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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Guest Post: Silently Watching by Coral McCallum, Part 1

Pulling the laces tight on his well-worn running shoes, he glanced out of the patio doors at the reddening sky. Another beautiful summer evening for a long training run. With a nod to his wife, who was curled up on the opposite couch engrossed in a trashy TV soap opera, he slipped out of the front door, closing it quietly behind him so as not to disturb their sleeping children. Nestling his earphones into place, he pressed play on his iPod and set off down the hill at a leisurely pace. No sense in heading off too fast too soon since he had his sights set on at least twelve miles. As the hill began to level off he had a choice – go straight through more houses or take the right fork down a narrow single track road. The sight of a group of kids playing football in the middle of the road ahead made the decision an easy one and he turned off to his right into the immediate shade of the overhanging trees and into a cloud of midgies.

In front of him an elderly woman was walking an equally elderly looking terrier. He regularly ran passed them on his evening training runs and knew the dog wouldn’t give him a second glance, unlike the dog at the house next to the church. It would dearly love to sink its teeth into his tattooed calf! The old woman gave him a smile and a nod as he loped passed her towards the cemetery. Surrounded by crumbling dry stone walls, the village’s crowded cemetery lay a few yards further down the road to his left. At the first sight of the walls, he picked up his pace. Something about that short stretch of road sent icy chills to his very core, despite the warmth of the summer evening.

On the aged stone steps opposite the graveyard, the fallen angel sat hidden by the long evening shadows. She had heard his footsteps the moment he turned down the narrow road and had slipped out from the cool sanctuary of the ruined mausoleum that lay forgotten far back in the trees, to watch for him. For weeks she had observed him as he ran up and down the hill. It was the rich metallic scent of his blood mingled with sweat that had first attracted her. Resisting was becoming more of a challenge each time he was within her range. Once she had followed him as he ran down through the village and along the coast road towards the next town. Soundlessly she had flown just above the tree line until his route had reached the lighthouse. With no trees to shelter her and the risk that the lighthouse’s lamp would expose her, she had reluctantly flown home, tasting his scent in air as she retraced her path.

Tonight the air was perfectly still, no wind to rustle the leaves, and his musk was strong. It had been three days since she had last fed and the mere sight of the ripe veins pulsing in his neck as he ran passed her was almost too much. Licking her lips, she slipped further back into the shadows, deciding to wait for his return journey. She was patient; she could wait….for now.

Two hours later in the last dusky light of the day, he turned off the main street to run back up the hill, safe in the knowledge that a hot shower and a clean bed were waiting at the top. His muscles were screaming at him as he dug deep into the last of his reserves and powered his way passed the church. Loud rock music filled his head, keeping his mind from lingering on the hot pain that had crept into his right foot. Another blister was not what he needed.

The turn off to the single track cemetery road was just up ahead. If he took it the route was shorter but steeper; if he took the longer route he had to make it safely passed that nippy dog. Short and steep won. He turned off and was level with the gates of the cemetery when he spotted the old woman’s little dog sitting at the side of the road. There was no sign of its mistress. He paused to rub its ears, glancing round trying to spot the old woman in the fading light. A rustling from behind the walls of the cemetery suggested to him, in his tired state, that she may be on the far side paying her respects to a long gone loved one. Without a backward glance he picked up his pace once more and headed home.

In the graveyard the angel stood up, spreading her magnificent black purple tinged wings out behind her. Carefully she dabbed at her mouth with her long pale fingers, removing the last traces of blood from her full red lips. She had resisted the temptation of him for now. At her feet lay the drained corpse of the old woman, eyes vacantly staring up into the night sky.

Find Part 2 here.

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From author Coral McCallum:

I live on the West Coast of Scotland and am married with two student age children and am the human slave of four cats. I still work full time for a retail bank as a manager and write in my spare time. It’s my escape and my “me time.”

I’ve been writing stories/poems for a long as I can remember but only sat down to attempt to write my first novel 5 years ago. I write my first drafts long hand then use typing them up as my first re-draft.  My biggest fear as a writer is letting people read what I write so I started my blog at the tale end of 2013 to try to help me overcome that crippling fear. I set myself the challenge to post one “blog” a week for every week of 2014. I managed it and have been posting once a week ever since. I am still very nervous hitting “publish” on each blog though! I use my blog as a playground to try out short fiction pieces or to introduce characters that I am thinking of adding to my books. I’ve interviewed some of my characters to give insight into the books too. The blog is a good medium to connect with readers and give them an update on “book baby” progress.
Currently I am typing/editing/proofreading Book Baby 4 with the aim of publishing it in September. It is a standalone spin off from the Silver Lake series and features the band that appear as a “support act” for Silver Lake called After Life.  I’ve also included a few cameo appearances from other characters in the Silver Lake series so my readers will meet a few “old friends” in the pages.
Silently Watching as a short fiction series has been ongoing for 4 years. I let my dark angel out to play a couple of times a year and hope to add another installment at the end of the summer. I try to tie them into Pagan festivals.
So apart from working full time, writing and blogging, I love my rock music and run two social media fanpages supporting Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge. I also write a music blog on occasion covering gig reviews and album releases –  The 525 to Glasgow. I use my own photos in my concert reviews and am a keen amateur photographer.
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Interested in having your work featured on this blog?  Contact me.

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Dragon Tears…The Mourning Period

As I’ve mentioned before, The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping is a project I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.  It’s changed names, characters, and even the basic plot, but it’s still a dream come true to know that very soon people will be reading it!  It seems, however, that I am in book mourning.

You know that feeling when you finish reading a book, and it’s so good that you just can’t possibly turn right around and pick up something different?  Like it would be an insult to the characters and the story to move on to something else so quickly?  Well, it’s the same way when you’ve finished writing.  And I’ve spent A LOT more time writing this book than anyone will ever spend reading it.

Sure, I have other book projects that have been floating around for awhile, waiting for their turn.  The sequel for The Graveside Detective  (for which I also mourned greatly….I was so attached to Frank) is just begging to be written.  But for the moment, it’s going to have to wait.  I need some time to get over this one.

Want to help me cast off the black veil?  You can pre-order an autographed copy here and join my release event here.  May you mourn as I do.  🙂

 

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Here Be Pre-Ordered Dragons!

Dragon Keeper Thumbnail

Hello everyone! I am thoroughly enjoying Dragon Month both here and on my Facebook page!  Sure, it might be Shark Week for some, but who can turn down a whole month of mystical creatures?  Big thanks to everyone who has joined my release event so far!  The main thing I want to let you know about today in the progression of my new release is that you can pre-order an autographed copy of The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping right here through my Facebook store!  I’ve already had quite a few pre-orders come in, and it gives me little dragonflies in my stomach to see the numbers tick up!  So thank you again to everyone who has helped me out with this, and if you haven’t yet, well, come join the party!

 

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Release Event for The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping

Hello everyone! I’m sure you know by now that The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping, a book that’s been in the making for over 15 years, will be released on Amazon at the end of the month! I’m inviting you to come join my release event on Facebook.
What will you get out of it?

-You’ll be among the first to purchase this awesome book (which is enough in itself, right?)

-Purchasing The Wanderer’s Guide as soon as it comes out means you get it for the special release price.

-Joining this event automatically enters you in the upcoming giveaways! (FREE STUFF!)

Why am I having this event?

-What better way to get the word out there than having a party?  (Okay, there won’t be a disco ball or any spiked punch, but you can bring your own and come hang out with me anyway.)

-The more people that purchase this book within a short time frame the better its ranking will be on Amazon, which leads to more sales, which leads to me bringing you more delightful reads!

Thanks in advance for all of your support.  Feel free to share this event with your friends and invite them to join the party as well.

Every girl needs a dragon.

Every girl needs a dragon.

 

 

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