2016 ATAI Book Award Contest Winners



The HomePort Journals by A.C. Burch

The Homeport Journals, written by AC Burch, is an absolutely lovely story.  There’s romantic love, familial love, and a clear love of the quaint town of Provincetown.  Marc Nugent escaped from a traumatic experience involving his now ex-boyfriend, but he felt a bit lost and alone.  With time and with the hilarious and charismatic Helena, the snarky, yet adorable older ladies, Lola and Dorrie and the efferevescent and artistic aura of Provincetown, Marc overcame his fears and saw his life blossom.  Helena played such a fascinating role in the story.  Not only was she a highly lively character, but one might say she was a master of disguise.  The familial love that Lola and Dorrie developed for the young men in this story was quite heartwarming. When Marc faced the challenges of new suitors, as well as his former boyfriend showing up, the support he discovered in his new “family” was beautiful.

Wow, The Homeport Journals runs deep and wide.  In fact, my brief review just can’t do it justice.  From the very beginning, AC Burch offers readers a clear, flowing description that makes one see the houses, the views and the overall picturesque setting of Provincetown.  This elegant writing style continues through the entire story.  In fact, I fell in love with this little piece of paradise just by reading The Homeport Journals.  On top of that, AC has such skill in the way he writes that the characters are very easy to visualize and remember.  I just didn’t want to put The Homeport Journals down.  I continue to laugh, smile, and chuckle and feel my heart warm as I reflect back on the story as I write this review.  I truly hope that AC Burch releases a sequel to The Homeport Journals because I would love to read the next one.  Highly recommended!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


Hellbound: The Tally Man by David McCaffrey

David McCaffrey has crafted a story that’ll make you think twice about death and what comes after. In Hellbound: The Tally Man, McCaffrey takes readers on a twisted, yet fascinating, journey of possible conspiracy, murder, and the unknown. Serial killer, Obadiah Stark a.k.a. The Tally Man, is put to death through lethal injection, but does he really die? Not only is Stark utterly confused as to where he is when he “awakes” from his execution, but why he’s experiencing it. However, Hellbound is not solely focused on Obadiah Stark, there is another storyline around Joe O’Connell, a journalist who is trying to write a book on The Tally Man. Joe studied this serial killer’s horrendous twenty-year-span of controlling and murdering innocent victims. He attended the execution and saw Obadiah die, but he soon comes to realize he may know far less than he thought. Interviewing family members of the victims and prison staff from ADX Absolom, where Stark was imprisoned and executed, O’Connell comes to realize that there’s something off – a possible conspiracy even. As readers move through the twists and turns of Hellbound, they’ll wonder if there will be justice for The Tally Man. Yet, at the same time McCaffrey has written in a way that really makes one take a deep dive into their own psyche and their view of justice.

Hellbound: The Tally Man is a gripping read that’ll involve readers’ hearts. Their heart rates will rise from the edgy anticipation of what will happen next while the love in their hearts will expand with compassion for victims, victims’ families and Stark’s wife and daughter in the after-life. Is it possible that readers might even find compassion for Obadiah Stark? You’ll have to read it, and figure that out for yourself.

This is one of the most unique thrillers I’ve read in quite some time. It makes readers stop and think about what might be – what might be real, what might be illusion, what the present really is. On top of the deep contemplation McCaffrey opens readers to, he wrote Hellbound from both Joe O’Connell’s perspective and from Obadiah Stark’s, and he shares cases notes from the psychologist who worked with Stark. I reiterate, Hellbound is quite a unique thriller, and I highly recommend it.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


The Chapel of Eternal Love by Stephen Murray

I have fallen in love with Stephen Murray’s book, The Chapel of Eternal Love. This amazing little book is filled with fascinating love stories of couples. They range from a couple of Harley riders who unexpectedly fall in love to a lady of the night to two sets of twins to a couple from vastly different religious backgrounds. Rosemary, who runs the chapel, is interwoven throughout each of the stories. Furthermore, Buster, Rosemary’s sweet little dachshund, is always at the chapel. He has a nose for simply knowing whether or not a couple is going to make it or not. There is even a hint at romance for Rosemary. With so many stories, you just have to keep turning pages – you want to know who will show up at the chapel next.

Extremely well written, The Chapel of Eternal Love is really, really good from page one. I am blown away and very impressed by how easily Stephen Murray gets you to understand the characters almost instantly. With each couple’s story only lasting for that chapter, I was shocked at how much information and depth Murray was able to give to each character and Buster. Love, love, love Buster – what a fun piece to add to the overall ambiance of the chapel. Ultimately, The Chapel of Eternal Love is like a peek into a day-in-the-life of Rosemary and her little dachshund, Buster. Yet, Murray has a way with words and style of writing that opens your heart to each character and their love stories. He makes it easy to fall in love with not only the chapel and Buster, but with each and every person chapter after chapter. I can hardly wait to read the sequel, Return to The Chapel of Eternal Love. If I could give The Chapel of Eternal Love six stars, I would!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


Red Lakes by Joshua Harding

Joshua Harding’s Red Lakes depicts our world set in the future, after a nuclear war has devastated humanity. Set in what was once Russia and Ukraine, the NSSR (New Soviet Socialist Republic) maintains absolute power over its citizens by controlling what they eat. The people are kept fat, lethargic, and ill by feeding them only foods from the approved “Holy Menu” as conveyed by the Savior Rahnuld – burgers, fries, and cola. Reminiscent of Soviet Russia, people inform on each other to Main Authoritative Komitet (MAKs) to keep themselves safe, lest they be the ones tortured for being suspected of consuming vegetables or turning against the regime. There is a black market for fresh vegetables, and the rebels fighting the NSSR are known as Vegeterrorists. The Premier, MigLenin, is a clone of the founder of the state, and the story follows the life of Sergei Aleksandrevich as he discovers he is also an enhanced clone of the founder to be trained as MigLenin’s successor. As he is kidnapped, separated from his pregnant wife, and groomed for his new path in life, he faces the decision to either become the future Premier or join the Vegeterrorists in changing the future.

This novel was a well-written, fascinating read. Red Lakes may be set in the future, but it bears a striking resemblance to the current social and political environment. In a world in which it is easier to find processed junk food than fresh, organic produce, and where the government creates laws around reproduction, Sergei must make a choice: to maintain the status quo, or fight for a better system. Each twist brings the reader deeper into the novel, and pushes the reader to find out what decision Sergei will make. It is not a light, easy read, but it is brilliantly written and hard to put down.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


Coriander by Keely BiBeau

In Keely Bibeau’s debut novel, Coriander, a Blythe doll of the same name finds herself caught in the midst of an unusual adventure. Her owner, a crotchety old woman named Moira, brought her and her other doll friends to life with her mysterious animate soup. They all used to be animals, but now they’re Moira’s helpers, with only small mannerisms of their old selves left as proof of what they once were. Coriander was happy enough with Moira for some time, until a series of unexpected events drove her into the dreaded outside world. There, Cori soon realized that all was not as it seemed. There was an evil darkness behind Moira’s obsession with reanimation- and it could cost Cori and her friends their lives.

Coriander is a bizarre hybrid of Toy Story and Goosebumps, but for some strange reason, it just works. It was equal parts humorous and unsettling, but with just enough suspense to keep the story moving smoothly. The dolls’ adventures were never slow or tedious, and there were countless twists and turns in the plot to keep the story interesting and fresh. Although it was very silly at times, the over-the-top moments helped to balance out the darker parts of the book, such as the real origin and purpose of Moira’s animate soup. There are themes of horror like that throughout the book, but none too disturbing for a child to read, albeit an older one; Coriander is NOT the book you’d want to read to your preschooler before they go to bed. Again, it’s a lot like Goosebumps in that regard.

After reading Coriander, you’ll never look at dolls in the same way. Keely Bibeau’s imagination is truly fantastic; the strange uniqueness of her story was refreshing (although occasionally unnerving) and a joy to read. Her writing was superb, loaded with great imagery and scene descriptions. Coriander was enjoyable from beginning to end, and holds a lot of promise for possible future sequels. Let’s just hope there’s not any pie tins in the next one.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life by Antonia Hall, MA

Antonia Hall, MA, brings women inspiration and permission to more fully live their lives filled with passion and joy in every aspect in her book, The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life.  This book offers powerful insight, sacred wisdom, and eye-opening concepts in an effort to help others “find greater fulfillment – in and out of the bedroom.”  Readers will discover ways to explore their lives in seemingly new ways.  Yet, these ways are based on tried and true Tantric teachings that are thousands and thousands of years old.  Each of the six main sections are broken down into smaller, easily understandable chunks.  Then, Ms. Hall follows up with an exercise and an affirmation for each of these smaller sections.  

Will readers find the opportunity to uplevel their sexual lives by reading this book, doing the exercises and implementing the affirmations?  Absolutely!  But, I remind potential readers that The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life truly offers the opportunity to uplevel more than just one’s sex life.  In fact, Antonia Hall’s book gives readers the chance to do exactly what the first affirmation says, “…permission to express [oneself] in new and creative ways.”  From the beautiful and inviting cover to the wealth of sensual, yet straightforward, content inside, The Ultimate Guide to a Mutli-Orgasmic Life is a glorious combination of western, modernized life and sexuality with ancient eastern views of the divine sacredness of fully merging one’s sexuality into their lives. Highly recommend for all women – single, married, heterosexual or not!    

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.