2016 Book Award Contest Entrants

3-5 Stars

We take pride in the fact that it is not easy to earn 4 or 5 stars from our team.  So, all the books on this page have a lot of great content!!

*When an entrant’s book earns less than 3 stars, we send them critique only vs. sharing it here as well.


5 Stars

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James Nathaniel Miller II

No Pit So Deep by James Nathaniel Miller II is Book 1 in a new historical romance fiction series. This first book is an exceptional story of a former US Marine and baseball player, Cody Musket, and Brandi Barnes, a journalist.  Brandi’s current work led her to expose a child trafficking ring, but this placed her in serious danger.  When three men in ski masks attacked and attempted to abduct her, she said a silent prayer for help.  Cody, seeming like an angel in disguise, arrived to rescue her.  The two of them eventually developed a close relationship as they shared their deepest and darkest secrets with one another.  

Author James Nathaniel Miller II did a great job expressing the tortures both Cody and Brandi lived through in their lives.  In fact, it is told in such detail that readers will likely feel the author must have personally lived through something similar himself.  Cody couldn’t seem to escape the flashbacks and nightmares while Brandi’s mother went through a suicidal period in her life when she was pregnant with Brandi.

This is a gripping story, but it unfolded in a way that was humorous as well as filled with extraordinary, suspenseful tales.  Miller blended Biblical perspectives and Christian values into the story as well, which added to the book for those who have a strong religious faith.  In fact, the title seemed to come from a quote that Brandi’s mother recalled when considering suicide, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still,” by Corrie ten Boom.

With a hopeful premise behind the story and the author’s encouragement to trust in one’s faith, James Nathaniel Miller II’s No Pit So Deep is an extraordinary story.   

Originally reviewed by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Cheryl Evans

Non-Fiction

I Promised Not to Tell: Raising a Transgender Child, written under the pen name Cheryl B. Evans, is the true story of one mother’s struggle to help her child transition from the female he was born as to the male he was meant to be. Cheryl’s oldest daughter, Mariah, always exhibited the stereotypical traits of a little girl. However, her youngest, Jordan, always gravitated towards “boy” things, like trucks, karate, and swim trunks. At first, Cheryl shrugged Jordan off as a tomboy, but it soon became very clear to her and the rest of her family that there was a huge difference between tomboy and just boy. I Promised Not to Tell follows Jordan’s journey from birth until adulthood, with all the emotional turmoil and joyous inspiration that comes with trying to find oneself while being trapped in the wrong body. 

I Promised Not to Tell was not only an emotionally heavy book, but also a very personal one. Even if it is not directly relatable, Cheryl B. Evans has a way of writing that is so honest and forthright that by the end of the novel, it is easy to feel as if you personally know her and her family. The perspective of Jordan’s mother was heartwarming and incredibly introspective; perhaps she even developed more of an emotional growth and understanding than her son did by the end of the novel. Her journey, thoughts, and determination to support her son no matter what was truly delightful to experience. 

Perhaps the only downfall of I Promised Not to Tell was its organization. Often, the timeline seemed a bit all over the place, with jumps between early childhood to teenage years and back again. However, due to the weight of the content alone, this is certainly forgivable. The value in Cheryl B. Evans’ stories is immeasurable, even if they are a bit scattered. Whether or not this particular societal issue is relevant to you, I Promised Not to Tell is more than worth the read. There is inspiration and love on every page that will surely resonate with readers from all walks of life. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Rena Winters

Non-fiction

Rena C. Winter’s In Lieu of Therapy is a lengthy collection of valuable insights. They are presented in many forms, such as poetry, short stories, and loving Christian prayers. In each are observations about life, love, nature, or spirituality, and sometimes all of them at once. Within these pages, readers will find prose to inspire peace, happiness, and acceptance through Winters’ honest and raw introspection.

In Lieu of Therapy is a bit misleading; at first glance, it seems to be a self-help book, but it very quickly becomes unclear whether the help is aimed towards the reader or as self-therapy for the author. The collection of short stories and prose is an insightful one, certainly, but whether a reader may find any useful advice in it depends on how well they can relate Rena C. Winters’ words to their own life. To an average outsider, In Lieu of Therapy seems much more like a hastily combined bunch of diary entries than a well organized, straightforward self-help book.

Despite having an ambiguous purpose and choppy organization, In Lieu of Therapy is still a valuable, entertaining read. Rena C. Winters’ use of imagery and detail in her writing is phenomenal; even if readers can’t relate to her words, they would surely appreciate the raw talent she has to offer. The poetry especially was beautiful, centered in reality but with fantastic descriptive wording that gave the poems an almost mystical feel. So while In Lieu of Therapy doesn’t quite cut it as a self-help book, it is inspiring in its own right, and so achieves its purpose in an entirely different way. It is certainly a book worth exploring more deeply.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Kathy Weyer

General Fiction

In Stitches, penned by Kathy Weyer, Jen Conrad is a socialite and philanthropist, dedicated to social appearances and upper class life. However, after the death of her husband of thirty-seven years, Arthur, she begins to suffer from an identity crisis. She had always assumed the role of Arthur’s wife and nothing more, but now she is left to discover who she really is. Jen opens a needlework shop called, as the title would suggest, Stitches, and begins the slow uphill battle of trying to piece her life together- her new life, that is, because now she is determined to be so much more than just the dutiful wife she was expected to be. 

At first glance, Stitches seems like it would be mundane; however, this is far from the case here. There is so much more to this middle-aged woman enduring a mid-life crisis than meets the eye. It was a risky choice for a novel’s protagonist, but it paid off so well, in part because of how realistic it was. Kathy Weyer’s writing, and subsequently her characters, is believable and heartfelt. It may very well hit home for many readers, either because they identify with the story themselves, or know someone who can. Despite being fiction, there is an overwhelming amount of truth to be found in this novel. 

Stitches was intriguing immediately, from the very first page, and in it unfolded an emotional journey with more depth than was honestly expected. Despite seeming plain, this book is actually quite a little treasure. Stitches is a wonderful read, full of honesty, introspection, and the relatable struggle to discover one’s own identity; surely any reader would find something to enjoy in this novel.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Vicki B. Williamson

Mystery/Thriller

In Vicki B. Williamson’s debut mystery novel, Finding Poppies, Ellen Thompson is enjoying her dream job as a Curator at the Detroit Institute of Art. She is content and at peace with her comfortable life, until things suddenly take a turn for the worse after she purchases a strange mirror from a mysterious stranger. Soon after, she discovers the man’s dead body, obviously murdered, and a series of strange clues leading to a larger, darker secret. With the help of the handsome detective James Russell, Ellen embarks on a fervent quest to unravel the mystery of the mirror and its possible connection to an infamous art theft, all while being hunted by a dangerous force that could cost her and James their lives.

Finding Poppies has a few eerie similarities to The DaVinci Code, with its tie to museums and art, historical secrets, and deadly enemies around every turn. While it does maintain its own originality, there were too many cliches and traits comparable to other works to ignore. There were many other aspects of Finding Poppies that weren’t very enjoyable, too; one of the most notable being the main character’s off-putting, overwhelmingly redundant tendency to mentally or verbally narrate every move she makes, often with humor that just falls flat. 

However, Finding Poppies was still entertaining for the most part. Vicki B. Williamson’s descriptive language was fantastic, though for this reason, the scenery often stole the spotlight from the storyline. This mystery was gratifying to read both for its style of writing and its short, immediately satisfying length. Finding Poppies could use a bit of work, sure, but it is still a fine novel and worth the read. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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R.T. Worth

Children/Young Adult

O’DUSURA is the story of the fearless Templar Isthmo as he battles monsters, the workings of the underworld, the police, and his own demons. R.T. Worth treats us to a new genre. He tries to bring together elements of fantasy and crime in a cyberpunk world. There are exciting battles against ghouls and witches, fast paced joy rides and some quieter moments between the mob family. But the concept is not fully realized, and this new genre is buried under problems that are all too evident.

The book is poorly edited, and the dialogue is written in a theatrical style sometimes and other times in prose. The pace of the plot is poorly managed with moments of extreme violence that do not seem to aid in pushing the plot forward or giving us character development.The change in narrative voice is also disorientating, and we are never given an opportunity to envision the city of Efika or the mystical outskirts of Dusani due to a lack of scene-setting.  Worth’s neologisms suffer a similar fate. We are not given an opportunity to appreciate them, and they fade into the story before we are allowed to understand them. Even the book’s namesake is simply a renaming of Halloween.

Overall, O’dusura is a unique story that needs to see an editor. The genre is fresh and exciting and has something to offer both adult and young adult readers. There are some gritty characters who could grow to become fan favorites. That being said, O’DUSURA is a novel that has bitten off more than even its ghouls could hope to chew.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Angie Mattson Stegall

Non-Fiction

Angie Mattson Stegall’s self-help book, Ponder This, is aimed towards aiding people in their process of discovering peace and creativity in their business and personal lives. It is centered around a lengthy collection of “Angie-isms,” which are short, inspirational sayings that the author collected and elaborated on in her book. Paired with each “Angie-ism” is a short blurb about how or why that inspiration came to be, and tips for incorporating them into the reader’s life as well. There are also introspective questions for the reader to ponder, as the title suggests. From this combination, the reader will be able to find “how everyday experiences deliver unexpected insights in business and life.”

Truthfully, Ponder This was quite redundant. It began with a Table of Contents that showed what each section was going to be about, followed by a long list of all of the “Angie-isms” that showed what each section was going to be about…which was then followed by the “Angie-isms” again, this time finally paired with their respective blurbs. While the blurbs were interesting enough, they often read more like diary entries than straightforward advice. Plus, a lot of the time, it seemed like there wasn’t enough focus on the business side of things; it was too ambiguous. Why mention business at all if that wasn’t the primary focus? 

This is all rather unfortunate, because it is clear that Angie Mattson Stegall had a wonderful idea. The concept behind her self-help book was excellent and could certainly be a wonderful inspiration to its readers; however, Ponder This was lacking in development. Perhaps it should have been pondered just a little bit longer. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Andy Luke

General Fiction

Axel America and the U.S. Election Race is a satirical take on the current 2016 election, penned by Andy Luke. Axel is the host of Truth Live, a radio show devoted to exposing corruption with a large online cult following. He has set his sights on Rump, who is a billionaire, Presidential candidate, and one of many known as “The Enemy.” Branded as a conspiracy theorist, Axel and his all-American family are set against the impossible force of a corrupt, morally lacking corporate power struggle- all in the name of the next Presidential election.

Axel America comes on very strong from the front cover all the way to the last page. While this is indeed the point of satire, it is still possible to be too strong. None of the analogies in this book were subtle, tactful, or sometimes even in good taste (Axel’s wife, son, and dog were named Liberty, Constitution, and 1776, respectively- and gee, who could Rump be based on?). While mildly humorous at first, Andy Luke’s blunt and unapologetic style of humor can get to be a bit tedious. 

However, it is a bit refreshing to see such a lighthearted, funny twist on a very serious, certainly tumultuous election year. Andy Luke clearly had good intentions with Axel America, but it would have benefited with a bit more development, and perhaps a bit more tact as well. Whether a reader would find this book enjoyable or not depends on two sensitive factors: their sense of humor and their political views. For this reason alone, Axel America and the U.S. Election Race is definitely not for everyone.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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RT Worth

Children/Young Adult

Heretic is the sequel to R. T. Worth’s previous novel, Doom Absolute. It continues the story of Alma, a young girl who has been offered a second chance at life- quite literally, as she used to be dead. Now, she is known as Simone, and she must constantly wear heavy makeup and overly modest clothes to hide the scars of death. At first, it seems that all Alma has to worry about are the bullies she and her friends encounter at school, but it soon becomes clear that there are greater problems in store for her. The events of Doom Absolute are catching up to her now, and possibly with even greater threats than before. 

Amidst the overwhelming popularity of zombies and tales of the undead, Heretic is quite a refreshing take on the subject of resurrection after death. It is ripe with imagination and creativity, and includes a well-balanced mix of science fiction, paranormal fantasy, horror, and young adult angst. The world that R. T. Worth conjured in Heretic is a fascinating one that is wonderfully unique and incomparable to any other novels in its genre. 

However, Heretic was not imperfect. There were often times when the plot seemed either too rushed or too drawn out; it lacked that happy medium. There were also constant changes in perspective, switching from one character to another, often with little warning and not even so much as a break between paragraphs. For these reasons, Heretic’s plot was sometimes difficult to follow, especially when even one line was accidentally skimmed. That’s not to say that any of this is a certain deal breaker, because Heretic is still a highly entertaining read. R. T. Worth has a strangely wonderful mind for quirky fiction, so surely the story is worth enduring the few flaws.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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RT Worth

Children/Young Adult

In R.T. Worth’s Doom Absolute, Alma is broken out of maximum security prison by Fantastic Cactus but when an explosion hits, Alma finds herself unconscious, eventually waking up in a room with greenmen, fruitmen, a bookworm and a bodybuilding young man. Once a news report is out stating there’s a search for an escapee, Alma and her friends, Sid Banana (fruitmen), Bulip (bodybuilder), Nim (bookworm) and Fantastic Cactus (greenmen) find themselves either in hiding or constantly on the run. Soon enough, The Count, a 14-year-old boy who is king of this earth-like world called Illumina, meets with evil gnomes who assure him that Alma’s death will soon come.

Alma finds herself in a dark place with no beginning nor end, described almost as purgatory, where she meets The Black Cockerel who offers her a chance to return back to life. While Alma considers, he explains that there’s an ancient task that she must complete in order to return back to life – she must find her dead body in order to return to it. Alma accepts the challenge with no second guesses and finds herself in a bigger quandary than expected seeing as the journey didn’t turn out to be as easy as it sounded.

R.T. Worth has a beautifully large imagination with intricate ideas, however, the poor spelling and grammar mistakes along with the lack of scene description in many chapters leaves one feeling lost. Worth dives right into action with Doom Absolute with very little background or explaining as to what these characters may be – are they fruit/plants or are they humans, maybe both? Doom Absolute leaves many questions behind, such as: why is a 14-year-old boy the ruler of this earthlike world? What did Alma’s past consist of in terms of her parents/guardians? What in Illumina’s evolution brought forth language to fruits, plants, animals, insects and inanimate objects? Worth could have developed the characters and storyline further by bringing in some character and event history into play, allowing the reader to feel for situations and relate to the characters a little more. Nonetheless, all of the questions that linger would definitely make for both a great prequel and a great sequel. Despite the difficulties reading, Doom Absolute was a pleasant read, especially for those who enjoy a little escape in their books.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

thelastmayorssonebook

Leslie Heath

General Fiction

In Leslie Heath’s The Last Mayor’s Son, Aibek is a skilled fighter who has been training at the Xona Military Academy since he was a child. Raised by his uncle, Aibek knows little of his parents, save for the fact that his father used to be the mayor of a nearby town, Nivaka. Then he receives a mysterious letter from his native village, detailing the deaths of his parents and the terrifying regime of the criminals who overthrew and murdered them. Nivaka needs him now to return and help them fight against their invaders. Aibek possesses the fighting skills to do so, but he isn’t sure he’s quite up to the task of leading a successful, organized rebellion. However, he is, as the title says, the last mayor’s son, and so it is his duty to protect his people at any cost. 

The Last Mayor’s Son has the classic- perhaps even cliche- plot of the prophesied young-adult savior thrust into the difficult position of unwanted leadership; however, it is well executed and maintains just enough originality to stand out. The entire novel has an air of mystery about it, as details are slowly unraveled and the plot is developed further. This definitely keeps the pages turning. 

This same mystery might very well have been its downfall, though. There really wasn’t enough background or adequate development in the beginning of The Last Mayor’s Son to warrant full support of the protagonist or his mission. The plot seemed rushed, as if Leslie Heath was too eager to get to the meat of the novel, and too impatient to set up a war worth getting behind. While it was still well written and an excellent read, The Last Mayor’s Son could have certainly benefited from a bit more elaboration.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Radine Trees Nehring

Mystery/Thriller

A Portrait to Die For is the eighth book in Radine Trees Nehring’s “To Die For” series. It follows the series’ familiar heroine Carrie, who has once again found herself drawn into another curious mystery. While volunteering at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Carrie notices a discrepancy with a supposedly authentic and original portrait. After bringing attention to the matter, the reporter who interviewed her goes missing. Carrie must then decide whether she is going to stay out of it, as she promised her husband, or dive headfirst into another irresistible crime-solving spree. 

From the very first page, it is clear that A Portrait to Die For is a late installment of a long series; there are several sometimes confusing allusions to previous events that readers may not be familiar with without having read the other seven books in the series. For that reason, it does not fare well as a stand-alone piece. It also has a very tired feel to it; also from the first page, it is clear that the characters revolving around Carrie are exasperated by her continuous involvement in all of these mysteries, so perhaps readers might be too by the eighth book. Besides, it is unclear why Carrie would even wish to be involved in the first place, as she seems like a very average woman with little cause to concern herself with such matters. She is an odd protagonist, for sure. 

However, A Portrait to Die For was still quite enjoyable. Radine Trees Nehring writes her characters and scenes well, and evidently has very interesting ideas for unique mysteries. The inclusion of religion was particularly interesting; it is not often that readers encounter a wholesome, Christian protagonist in a mystery book, let alone series. Despite not standing out much as a phenomenal work, A Portrait to Die For is still a fairly well-rounded, decent read that shouldn’t disappoint. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Katherine Prairie

Mystery/Thriller

In Katherine Prairie’s Thirst, geologist Alex Graham is determined to find a lucrative silver mine amongst the mountains of Slocan Valley, Canada. However, her suspicions are aroused when her tent is burned down by a mysterious arsonist, followed by a gruesome discovery in an abandoned mine. She is certain that something sinister is going on, but between the military presence on the Keenleyside dam after an attempted bombing and the sensitivity of her own geological work, she is hesitant to bring attention to the situation. Meanwhile, martial law has been declared in an effort to solve the increasingly violent protests after the dam debacle, sending the entire area into a turbulent mess of politics, activism, murder, and mystery. Alex is left to figure out whether the recent crimes against her have to do with the situation at the dam, or something much worse. 

Thirst is a fantastic mystery, loaded with suspense and intrigue from the very first page. It has a pleasant blend of science, politics, activism, and mystery, yet is overdone in none of these things. The plot is wonderfully unique thanks to this winning combination, especially with the protagonist being a geologist, which is something very rarely seen in fictional literature. Katherine Prairie, the author of Thirst, is a geologist herself, and the expertise she lent to her written work made it all the more believable. 

Also, each character was wonderfully written to be complex and so very human, making the characters easy to relate to and root for as the story goes on. Aside from that, the general story as a whole was a great read; the pure talent that Katherine Prairie exhibited in every descriptive sentence was truly phenomenal. Thirst is easily one of the best modern mysteries to recently grace the shelves, with enough unique content to entertain fans of any genre. Hopefully Alex Graham will make another literary appearance in the future, because her adventures are more than worth the read.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Gayle Carline

Mystery/Thriller

A More Deadly Union is the fourth installment of Gayle Carline’s Peri Minneopa mystery series. Peri is a private investigator, who takes on a case from her close friend, Jared, who believes he is being stalked. Years ago, Jared had a homosexual affair with a man named Rick, but now Rick is running for mayor and playing the wholesome family man, and wants Jared to disappear. The tension and aggression escalates dangerously, leaving Peri to navigate a mess of politically fueled scare tactics in order to protect her friend. Meanwhile, her detective boyfriend is in a medically induced coma after an altercation on the job, meaning she has to cope with a difficult case of her own at the same time, and hopefully come out on top. 

At first glance, A More Deadly Union seems a bit silly, from the unusual names of some of the characters to the general plot line. However, it is wonderfully written, and much deeper than it appears to be. The characters are fairly complex and many interesting perspectives are explored, including that of a character with mental disabilities. Gayle Carline writes with a good mix of humor, sadness, suspense, and great insight, making A More Deadly Union a delightful literary experience. Also, it is worth mentioning that although A More Deadly Union is the fourth book in a series, it holds well as a stand-alone piece; even without reading the rest of the books first, the characters are introduced and explained well and the storyline is easy to follow. All in all, this was a novel full of surprises, albeit very good ones. It is certainly worth the read, and perhaps the others in the Peri Minneopa series will be too.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Angie Mattson Stegall

Non-Fiction

Angie Mattson Stegall’s Make Some Room is a guide for how to simplify, so you can live a more fulfilling life. After taking a life changing rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, Angie realized how unsatisfied and overwhelmed she had been in her day- to-day life. This trip gave her the chance to evaluate what was truly important and the things that needed to change once her and her husband returned home. She created the “Make Some Room Manifesto”, consisting of 20 lessons she learned on her trip. In her book, these lessons are explained in depth using examples from her trip, descriptions of the way that these apply to real life, and action steps to implement these lessons in your own life.

Overall, this book is remarkably helpful. The set up is simple, the lessons straightforward, and action steps accomplishable. The author does a great job of using statistics and referencing other sources to support her ideas. The overarching theme of mindfully living a simpler life is one that many people are feeling the need for in this day and age. Her useful lessons such as disconnecting from technology to reconnect in relationships or decluttering your home and schedule are not revolutionary, but the straightforward manner she describes these topics makes these goals seem achievable. The only complaint is the use of hashtags in the writing, especially when the author is talking about disconnecting from social media. That said, the action step guide at the end of the book is a great touch, since you can go through all the steps without having to search through the book. Make Some Room is a great, quick read for those who are looking to find a little more meaning and purpose in life.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Antonia Hall

Non-Fiction

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.


4 Stars

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Duncan Thompson

Horror

In Duncan Thompson’s horror novella Within the Dark Places, Joe and a few close friends are planning to spend the weekend camping in the eerie Druid Wood, as an impromptu bachelor party before Joe gets married. However, the promise of a fun weekend is soon marred by an ominous presence in the forest around them. Faceless shadow creatures lurk amongst the trees, slowly picking off victims one by one. The men captured by the shadows are held hostage in a dark cave, where fear is allowed to run rampant in strange dreams that threaten their sanity. What began as a lighthearted bit of fun has since transformed into a desperate struggle for survival and, perhaps most important of all, answers. 

There were a lot of cliches in Within the Dark Places, from the creepy camping trip in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception, to the stereotypical character profiles (dashing hero, damsel in distress, etc.). For this reason, readers shouldn’t expect any phenomenal plot content in this book; it is not much different from any other camping horror story. Also, the plot was a bit unsatisfactory in other ways too; there was no explanation of what the shadow creatures were or why they were, and the novella’s conclusion was sudden and rather unsatisfying. 

However, Within the Dark Places is spared from being too horribly mundane by Duncan Thompson’s unique writing style. He is quite good at describing creepy circumstances and holding suspense in his words, making the short novella much more interesting than it seems. With this ability at hand, it is a wonder that Within the Dark Places was not as captivating as it could have been; perhaps with a bit more development, it would be the phenomenally horrifying tale it has the potential to be.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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John Beyer

Mystery/Thriller

In the crime novel Hunted, written by John R. Beyers, Detective Jonas Peters responds to an active crime scene at a local bank that is being robbed, but finds more than he bargained for. Upon being cornered by Jonas and his partner, mysterious criminal Zachary Marshall turns his weapon onto nearby civilians, murdering a bank teller, the young girl she was protecting, and Jonas’s own partner, Steve. To make matters worse, Zachary escapes, leaving no evidence behind to help Jonas identify and catch him. Driven to near madness by the heinous crimes he witnessed and his inability to catch the perpetrator responsible, Jonas doesn’t think matters could get much worse- until Zachary Marshall sets his sights on Jonas himself.

In truth, Hunted does not have much original content to offer die-hard fans of mystery or crime novels. The dashing hero cop who is on a fervent solo mission to capture the depraved, psychotic criminal that just keeps eluding him has been seen a thousand times before, with Hunted being the thousand-and-first. Aside from that, the antagonist isn’t a very terrifying one; it’s hard to be scary with ridiculous behaviors and cartoon-esque monologuing, and besides, Marshall lacks the methodical intelligence (or so it seems, anyway) to be a realistic uncatchable bad guy. Paired with several instances of plot inconsistencies, Hunted was lacking significantly in entertainment and believability.

However, that is not to say that Hunted was a complete flop, because it wasn’t. John R. Beyer clearly did a fair amount of research pertaining to the novel, and a good amount of the language and dynamics surrounding the police force seemed accurate enough. Most of the characters were likable in their own way, if a bit silly at times, and the story was developed well. When it comes right down to it, Hunted almost had it; but instead, it seemed to come off as a reenactment of a plethora of popular cop shows and crime novels, rather than the unique and gripping mystery it could have been.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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John Beyer

Mystery/Thriller

In John R. Beyer’s Soft Target, Captain Yuri Shakirov witnesses a terrifying attack on Russian children by a group of Islamic extremists. Ten years later, long after Yuri moved to California, he discovers that the same group is threatening to attack a middle school in his neighborhood. Still struggling with the trauma from the first incident, Yuri must gather the emotional strength to try to put an end to this attack before it happens. His worst fear is another heinous act of terrorism by these extremists, and now he must do everything he can to prevent that from happening.

Soft Target is, in short, one giant political statement. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is a bit overdone. The plot seems to play on every current media-fed fear prevalent in American culture these days, from Islamophobia to paranoia about school shootings. None of these issues are dealt with subtly or tactfully; rather, they are very forcefully thrust into the reader’s face from the very first page. Perhaps this was John R. Beyer’s intention, but it was a bit off-putting at times. Soft Target reads very strongly of anti-Muslim prejudice, so for this reason, perhaps it might not be suitable for all readers; some may find it too extreme or offensive.

However, Soft Target is a fairly well-written novel, if a bit opinionated. The descriptive passages were clear and vivid, and it cannot be denied that the writing was passionate. Whether it is appropriate is another matter entirely, one that is solely up to the reader to decide.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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J.J.White

Mystery/Thriller

Nisei is an emotional historical fiction novel, written by JJ White, about the plight of a Japanese-American man during World War II. Hideo Takahashi, who went by “Bobby,”was what was referred to as “nisei,” meaning that he was second generation Japanese-American. As a teenager, Bobby lived a simple life and dreamed of joining the Navy. However, after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, discrimination against Japanese-Americans escalated dangerously, and Bobby and his family were soon captured and sent to an internment camp. He was eventually allowed to join the Army- not the Navy as he had hoped- yet faced even more hatred and racial prejudice there. Amidst the horrors of war, Bobby was determined to fight honorably and courageously, and once and for all prove that he was a true American. Decades later, Bobby’s depressed and suicidal son discovers his deceased father’s memoir about those tumultuous years, but he is not prepared for what he will find within those dusty pages. 

Nisei is a very well researched, honest portrayal of the lives of Japanese-Americans during World War II. JJ White explores issues of race, prejudice, identity, and patriotism deeply and thoroughly in his novel, while remaining true to its historical roots. However, Nisei is also dripping in emotion; Bobby’s story is equal parts enlightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. The emotional weight never smothers the heaviness of tragic truth; rather, they are balanced wonderfully in a well-rounded, page-turning novel. 

There are occasions where Nisei is a bit hard to follow, as some of the pidgin and broken language could be difficult to understand. This is not a momentous problem, though, as it accurately portrays language barriers between Japanese immigrants, their Americanized children, and the people of Hawaii, where the book takes place. The patience required to sort out these bits of jumbled language does nothing to taint the overall value of this gut-wrenching tale. Nisei remains an enlightening glance into a dark chapter of American history, honest and raw in its portrayal of a brave Japanese-American man fighting to prove himself to the country he called home.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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J.J. White

Mystery/Thriller

In JJ White’s thriller, Deviant Acts, Jackson Hurst is a Vietnam veteran struggling to adjust to the struggles that post-war life brings, specifically his crippling heroin addiction. Then Jackson is contacted by his estranged, wealthy Aunt Camille, who has a life-changing proposition for him: find her missing daughter, Cheryl, and punish the men responsible for taking her. Camille is correct in assuming that Jackson has the skills required to kill the bad guys she’s after, but whether he is still mentally capable of murder after Vietnam is questionable. But he needs the money she’s offering, and so he reluctantly accepts. From then on, Jackson and Cheryl are thrown into a multitude of dangerous situations, all while Jackson continuously battles the emotional trauma he sustained in the Vietnam War. 

From Jackson’s pitiful heroin addiction to his emotional frailty after the war, JJ White’s exploration of difficult internal conflicts is truly phenomenal. The drug-induced highs are described in sickening clarity, while the flashbacks to Vietnam are heartbreaking, and at times a bit difficult to read. Despite its heavy subject matter, the raw, blunt descriptions only add to the complexity of Deviant Acts’ characters’ development. However, the story was a bit lacking in some places, specifically in dialogue; some of the dialogue between characters seemed forced or unnatural. The wealthy aunt, in particular, seemed more a character of cliche convenience than of anything else. The spectacular internal dialogue balances this out some, but that is not to say that Deviant Acts was flawless; it wasn’t, though still an enjoyable read nevertheless. 

Perhaps it is also worth noting that this may not be suitable for any readers suffering from PTSD, most notably veterans. While some may see it as a refreshing glance into the mindset of a battle few understand, Deviant Acts may also serve as a trigger for others. It should be read at one’s own discretion, but if deemed acceptable, it won’t disappoint. The insight and depth that JJ White incorporated into this novel makes Deviant Acts an unsettlingly enlightening exploration of the mind at its weakest points.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Donna Solecka Urbikas

Non-Fiction

My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia, written by Donna Solecka Urbikas, gives readers an opportunity to see into the life of a Polish family who endured the turmoil, fear and forced poverty of World War II.  Urbikas asked her mother numerous times if she could interview her and write down her stories.  Eventually, Janina Slarzynska agreed, but it was still many years before the memoir was published.  Sharing stories of her mother and sister’s dangerous experiences from Poland as well as numerous experiences of her own with her parents in more modern mid-western America, Urbikas opens her heart to readers.  Pulling back the curtain on her family’s deep wounds may very likely offer others comfort and a sense of solice.

Few people recognize how much Polish families went through during this time, and Donna Solecka Urbikas gives readers a chance to feel part of it.  The premise of My Sister’s Mother, is a good concept, but the author bounces back and forth so much between time frames and experiences that the memoir is difficult to follow.  On some levels, it makes me ask whose memoir this really is – the author’s or her mother’s.  I would like to have seen a better flow to the timeline, and more depth in the stories.  One knows there had to have been tremendous fear, anger and pain during this time in history, and sharing that in a more descriptive way to help readers really feel like they were there would have been beneficial.  Overall, it is a touching book, and without the expansive descriptiveness I would prefer to have seen My Sister’s Mother may allow those who would be too deeply affected otherwise to pick it up and read it.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Juliette Douglas

General Fiction

Juliette Douglas’ third installment in the highly acclaimed Freckled Venom western novel series is Freckled Venom: Skeletons.  This third book, set in the year 1888, is a thrilling, action-packed, suspense story of eight outlaws with Big Joe Kannon as the main antagonist.  These outlaws steal children, and sell them to Del Rio, a human trafficker in Mexico, for slave labor.  The Marshal, Rawley, of White River, Wyoming and his wife and deputy marshal, Lacy, a former bounty hunter, are hated by Kannon.  This leads Kannon, as the ringleader, to arrange to have fourteen children stolen from the local school.  Two of the children are the marshal’s children. These youngins don’t take lightly to being kidnapped.  Three of the young boys and one of the girls take charge.  Eventually, they escape the clutches of the bad guys, but the young leaders have to remain strong to keep their young group together.

Skeletons is an extremely interesting story.  In fact, I didn’t want to put it down.  Author, Juliette Douglas, tells this intriguing story with a fabulous blend of authentic old west dialect and humor.  Though the story expresses the terribly challenging conditions the children endured it is a story that will pull you in and warm your heart.  The only drawback was that I had not read the previous two books in the Freckled Venom series.  I believe that had I read them first, Skeletons would have been even more capitivating.  Anyone that loves old west stories with strong female characters and the firey energy and strength children often show will really enjoy Freckled Venom: Skeletons by Juliette Douglas.  I highly recommend it.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Jamie Cortland

Mystery/Thriller

In Jamie Cortland’s What Lies Within, recently divorced Evelyn Valentino finds herself entranced by a handsome stranger in a coffee shop. James McMann, as she soon discovers, is her dream man, an attractive, ambitious, and charming real estate developer. Despite warnings from her friends, family, and even her young daughter, Chrissie, about this mysterious stranger, Evelyn falls for him, quickly and strongly. However, the truth is revealed as James’ and Evelyn’s lives grow deeper intertwined, finally showing James for the unexpectedly dangerous man that he really is. Terrified, Evelyn must try to escape the web of lies she has found herself in, and get away from James before it is too late. 

What Lies Within’s plot is a bit cliche, to say the least; the tale of the mysterious, handsome stranger who rides in like Prince Charming and then suddenly turns out to be a royal jerk instead is overdone. It would take a great deal of creativity and uniqueness to make a story like this stand out, but in this regard, this novel failed considerably. Aside from its tired storyline, the characters were often bland, with forced dialogue and rushed development, especially in the romantic area. Also, it is worth noting that What Lies Within bears a considerable resemblance to another novel also by Jamie Cortland, Dying to Dance– complete with the handsome stranger who wreaks havoc, and even a killer car accident in the early pages of each novel. 

For the most part, the intended suspensefulness of the novel fell short; however, there were great instances of mystery and intrigue throughout. For example, many of the flashback scenes were framed very nicely, with just enough information to keep the story interesting without giving too much away too quickly. So, while some of What Lies Within was not exactly anything stellar, there were enough passages that were well done to still make it a fairly enjoyable read.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Jamie Cortland

Mystery/Thriller

A good majority of Dying to Dance was sadly lacking in any real substance. Despite having an interesting premise (the combination of dance, mental illness, romance, and mystery is an intriguing, if strange, concept), this novel fell short when it came to execution. There was little attention paid to detail or pacing of the story, as if the author was hurriedly jotting down her ideas for the story’s events without ever taking the time to actually formulate a comprehensive plot. Some of the scenes were so rushed that they required a second read-through to determine what had just happened, while others had such trivial details written in that did not need to be there (for example, the main characters’ parents’ deadly accident was maybe a few sentences long and almost missable, while the outfits the parents wore that night and their motives for doing so- the restaurant workers cut off people’s’ ties- were very clearly established). Also, the character development was a bit weak; often, the characters seemed very one-dimensional, with muted emotions (a woman who is being notified that her parents have just been murdered should show a bit more emotion than drooped shoulders) and forced dialogue. 

The plot, for the most part, was a bit all over the place. There were so many odd elements that seemed like throwaway points, such as the haunted hotel that the main characters stayed in. Perhaps the most well-written elements were the ones that involved dance; here, there was great detail and expertise that really showed. If the rest of the novel were to be cleaned up a bit, with trivial details removed, characters and dialogue developed more thoroughly, and a greater revolution around dance, Dying to Dance could be a great novel. In its current state, however, it needs a lot of work.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Judy Alter

General Fiction

The Gilded Cage, an historical fiction penned by Judy Alter, details the industrialization of Chicago, Illinois in the late 1800s. It focuses specifically on the lives and accomplishments of several prominent members of Chicagoan society, among which include Potter Palmer, the wealthy entrepreneur who built the still renowned Palmer House Hotel; Bertha “Cissy” Honore, Palmer’s young bride and philanthropist; Carter Harrison, the eventual mayor of Chicago; Daniel Burnham, architect of the rebuilt Chicago; and many others as well. From good deeds to great misfortunes, The Gilded Cage offers an in-depth, albeit fictionalized, glance into the fascinating history of one of the greatest American cities of the time, Chicago. 

Despite being a rather embellished portrayal of the lives of actual people, there is a great deal of historical truth to The Gilded Cage. There were many infamous events included in its plot, such as Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871 and the Columbian Exposition. However, this novel never once reads like a textbook for a history class. Rather, it seems very much like fiction, and it is easy to forget that many of the events of The Gilded Cage actually happened. The blend of truth and embellishment is nearly seamless, if not for previous knowledge of American history. 

Judy Alter did a spectacular job with the personalization of her characters, who were once real people. They do not seem like historical figures within her book, but rather very human, often flawed, people; their tales are a joy to read. Aside from a few gaps in the chronological storytelling and some out-of-place modern “slang” phrases thrown in, The Gilded Cage was true to its real roots. There are some instances of embellishment to drive the story along and make it more reader-friendly, but none so harmful as to taint the original sources. The end result is a wonderful historical fiction piece that offers within its skillfully written pages an enlightening walk through the famous- and often tumultuous- history of the great city of Chicago.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Betty Jean Craige

Mystery Thriller

Fairfield’s Auction is the second installment of Betty Jean Craige’s A Witherston Murder Mystery series. The citizens of Witherston, Georgia have just begun to settle back into normal, everyday life after the mysterious murder of the wealthy benefactor, Francis Withers. Then, Hempton Fairfield holds an auction to sell rare Cherokee artifacts, as well as his African Gray parrot, Doolittle. Witherston’s founders allegedly had a severe hatred of the Cherokee people, and supported the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that resulted in the infamous Trail of Tears, which makes the auction all the more insulting. After the auction ends, a blizzard strikes the small town. In its aftermath, two dead bodies are discovered in the snow, and Doolittle is missing. The people of Witherston are then sent reeling into another murder mystery, as they also tackle the ethics of the eradication of Native Americans and their sacred lands and artifacts. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that Betty Jean Craige’s work mostly revolves around some sort of social or environmental issue. However, rather than lightly cover each throughout a well-connected series, she has chosen to focus on a single theme for each book, and perhaps done so too strongly. While the first book, Downstream, dealt with the questionable morality of the pharmaceutical industry, its sequel is focused solely on the desecration of Native American land, people, and artifacts. This makes the theme of each book feel disjointed; despite vaguely referencing the events of Downstream, Fairfield’s Auction feels more like a stand-alone piece. It was still a fairly pleasant read, though. Native Americans are typically underrepresented in modern literature, so this was a refreshing and unique plot to discover. 

However, in many ways, Fairfield’s Auction is still very similar to its predecessor. It, too, follows the (sometimes confusing) perspectives of multiple townspeople, and includes interesting newspaper articles and other such materials throughout. The dynamic of Betty Jean Craige’s storytelling has not changed much from book to book, guaranteeing that fans of Downstream will surely fall in love with Fairfield’s Auction too.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Betty Jean Craige

Mystery Thriller

In Betty Jean Craige’s mystery novel, Downstream: A Witherston Murder Mystery, well-known billionaire Francis Hearty Withers gathers the citizens of Witherston together to celebrate his hundredth birthday. There, he announces that in his will, he will be leaving one billion dollars to the town of Witherston, and another billion equally divided amongst its people. To much protest, he also declares that he is endorsing the construction of a pharmaceutical factory on his property. The company that will be moving in manufactures Senextra, a mysterious drug that supposedly allows people to live incredibly long lives. When protesters express their insistence to “keep nature natural” and reject the construction plans, Francis is furious and decides that he will amend his will and write all of Witherston’s citizens out of it. However, before he has the chance to do so, Francis is mysteriously and suddenly murdered. The townspeople must then unravel who is behind the death of their most wealthy resident and what, if anything, is up with that mysterious Senextra. 

For the most part, Downstream read like a plethora of green propaganda. The stance taken in this novel is not subtle by any means; it is very vocally against the destruction of nature and the implementation of harmful chemical drugs. Combined with an Agatha Christie-style small-town murder mystery, it could have made for a fascinating and unique modern mystery novel. However, this potential was marred slightly by the abundant political statements throughout, which became suffocatingly redundant as the story went on. 

Also, Downstream was developed a bit strangely. It was confusing at times to follow what was happening in the story, as the perspective changed so often between so many characters, some of which were not relevant to the plot at all. However, the newspaper articles and police blotters included throughout the book were a nice touch, and amusing to read. The book’s conclusion was a bit odd and not necessarily satisfying, but otherwise it was well-written and entertaining enough. All in all, Betty Jean Craige’s Downstream: A Witherston Murder Mystery was an adequate mystery novel, although it would surely have benefited from toning down the repetitive “keep nature natural” ramblings a bit. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Fiza Pathan

General Fiction

Nirmala: The Mud Blossom, written by Fiza Pathan, is the heartbreaking fictional tale of the horrible plight of a young female in Mumbai, India. Nirmala, a victim of the stigma attached to female children in India, was abandoned amongst the garbage soon after her birth. However, she was discovered and returned to her family, who detested her. Her parents nicknamed her “Mud Blossom” because of her filthy societal status, and abused her daily. She was only permitted an education so that she could assist her four younger brothers with their own schooling. When Nirmala eventually married, all seemed well at first; her new husband was deeply religious and seemed very fond of her. This soon changed, after she gave birth to three young daughters, and no coveted sons. Her loving husband then transformed before her eyes, forcing her to endure illegal and unsanitary abortions each time it was discovered that she was carrying another female child, which resulted in her contracting HIV. Ostracized from her family and society as a whole, Nirmala found herself caught in the most difficult challenge of her life- survival.

From its first sentence until its last, Nirmala: The Mud Blossom was a truly gut wrenching read. The abuse Nirmala endured was horrific and deeply disturbing; its emotional content may not be suitable for all readers. This is certainly a “read at your own risk” novel. However, the stigma it discusses is an important one to be aware of. The deplorable treatment that young girls in India face every day is a subject that ought to be acknowledged more fully in mainstream culture; for that reason, Nirmala: The Mud Blossom is an eye-opening masterpiece.

Perhaps its only downfall as a literary work is that it was not longer and more deeply developed. There were only three chapters, albeit fairly long ones. While this particular subject matter is a difficult one to confront, and perhaps a lengthy novel about it would be a surely distressing read, its importance and emotional weight could have only been improved by a deeper exploration. The heartache that will result from reading about Nirmala’s sad life is a bittersweet one; while it is heartbreaking to know that Nirmala’s plight is not fiction to everyone, one can only hope that there is a young girl much like Nirmala somewhere who will find relief in her story finally being told. Fiza Pathan’s honest and straightforward style of writing helps to bring illumination to this cold reality, and while one should not expect a happy ending amongst its pages, Nirmala: The Mud Blossom is a necessary and enlightening read. Nirmala’s story, and the many real stories like it, very much deserve to be heard.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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H.R. Jakes

General Fiction

The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes is an unusual collection of memories from an even more unusual (though one might even say batty) woman. Transcribed by her loving son, H.R. Jakes, after her passing, Elaine’s memoir is full to the brim of wit, humor, and magnificent storytelling. Her far-fetched tales revolve around joyriding black bears, frightening cheese plates, daring sword fights, cross-dressing monkeys, pungent Welsh cheese, and dingle berries, to name a few. Amidst the rampant humor, there is also a sense of somber honesty as Elaine confronts her mistakes and faults throughout her life; she boldly bares all in her quest to discover the truth behind her own spirituality, family’s history, and her often ambiguous identity. 

Despite some of her stories presumably being fairly embellished, they are nevertheless more than entertaining to read. More than once, Elaine’s outrageous (and sometimes even downright ridiculous) memories warrant out-loud chuckles as the reader is brought along on this wacky journey of hers. However, it was a bit confusing to follow sometimes, as none of the stories were presented in chronological order. Rather, they were grouped according to general theme or revelation. This style of organization made it difficult to grasp the exact timeline, yet clearly showcased Elaine’s spectacular growth and evolution throughout her exciting life. 

What it lacked in organizational development, The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes more than made up for in its humorous and engaging narrative. It is captivating in both its funny moments and its somber ones, resulting in a more than delightful read. H.R. Jakes did a fantastic job at capturing his mother’s unique voice and spirit. His transcription of the notes she jotted down while on her deathbed exposes to all, as Elaine once learned herself, the true values of life, love, God, and strong Welsh cheese.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Ed Ryder

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

In Ed Ryder’s debut novel, In Vitro Lottery, Kate and her sister, Emily, live in a dystopian future in which a modern plague has eradicated the natural ability to reproduce. Only the powerful and elite can afford the in vitro procedure required to have children. For the common people, a public lottery is held to determine who will win the right to bear a child. Kate wins the top prize, but has little interest in raising a child, so she passes on the honor to her sister. All seems well, until Emily is suddenly and mysteriously murdered. Then, in investigating her sister’s untimely death, Kate finds herself in the midst of a whirlwind of injustice, lies, and ethical dilemmas.

In Vitro Lottery has a very interesting concept; with all the current concern for overpopulation and interest in scientific conception, this novel’s plot doesn’t seem all that far fetched. Despite being a dystopian science fiction piece, it is fairly believable. There is an air of contemplation and, perhaps, warning throughout the novel that lends to its unique plot. And Ed Ryder’s description of this alternate reality is fantastic; its intrigue and mystery keeps it interesting throughout. 

However, the narrative had a tendency to ramble unnecessarily; perhaps it was an attempt at introducing backstory, albeit not a flawless one. There were many details that could have been omitted without harming the plot. Because of this, after its exciting introductory chapter, In Vitro Lottery’s storyline drags along for a little while after it. It does pick up again, though, and is well worth the read. Ed Ryder has a great mind for dystopian fiction; the refreshing uniqueness of In Vitro Lottery is good proof of that. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Betty Withrow

Non-Fiction

Prevail: Seven Keys to Create a Personal Victory is an emotional self-help book penned by life coach Betty Withrow. In it, the “seven keys” are: cheerfulness, patience, friendliness, creativity, fortitude, perseverance, and completion. For each, Withrow utilizes her own enlightening, and sometimes horrific, personal experiences as educational tools with which to inspire her readers. She shares them, along with her methods of coping, in an effort to help others achieve the level of blissful victory that she has in her own life. 

Despite Withrow’s insistence that “this isn’t an autobiography,” it certainly reads like one for a good portion of the book. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Her stories are poignant and insightful, without being plagued by trivial or irrelevant details. They are connected well into the main points that she makes, too, so that it is not a constant flip-flop between advice and story time. Rather, it is a very well-thought-out collection of anecdotes, reflections, and guidance that is sure to resonate with any reader. 

Betty Withrow’s writing is warm and inviting, with the kindly presence of a sweet conversation with a grandparent. It is also clear and blunt, with straightforward lessons and brilliantly proposed ideals. This combination makes Prevail: Seven Keys to Create a Personal Victory unique in its genre; it was as entertaining as it was inspirational. It is evident that there was a great deal of Withrow’s heart and soul put into this book, and for that reason, it is a most worthwhile read.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Shira Gura

Non-Fiction

In Getting unStuck: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being, Shira Taylor Gura shares her process of achieving inner peace with one’s emotions. Gura calls it the S.T.U.C.K. Method, and uses it to identify negative feelings and their often unreasonable sources. From there, she encourages honest introspection and acknowledgement of other points of view, in order to effectively solve emotional turmoil. Paired with her own personal stories and examples, clear infographics, and helpful worksheets, Gura’s Getting unStuck is an enlightening read. The S.T.U.C.K. Method lays a definite path to an emotional awakening that should solve any feeling-based problem. 

Shira Taylor Gura has a bare, honest style of writing that not only draws readers in, but allows them to relate in some way to each of her stories. Despite being a self-help book, it does not always read like one; rather, it is more like a friend giving advice than a self-titled expert lecturing the reader into submission. This friendly tone makes Getting unStuck so much more effective. In her author’s bio, Gura attributes her inspiration for the S.T.U.C.K. Method to her experiences as an occupational therapist and yoga instructor; it is this calm wisdom that is evident on every page of her book. 

The S.T.U.C.K. Method is simple and straightforward, but has a lot of promise. It demands honesty with oneself, which may be difficult for some, but would surely be worthwhile in the long run. As far as self-help books go, it’s definitely a great one. There are no false promises or tedious tasks, only honesty and reflection. This alone makes Getting unStuck a truly introspective, inspirational piece of literature. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Keely Bibeau

Children/Young Adult

Parabo is the second novel by Keely Bibeau, who also penned the children’s book, Coriander. In Parabo, a group of young campers gather around the fire to tell a spooky tale of a strange old woman and her demon offspring that both haunt the island they are on. However, they soon begin to realize that the story is more than just that – it’s their new reality. Plagued by mysterious infections, killer plants, mutant wildlife, and that disturbing demon, the group must try to survive in any way that they can. That task soon becomes more and more difficult, as the scared teenagers are forced to turn on each other, and even resort to murder, in their struggle for survival. 

Keely Bibeau’s ideas are as fascinating as they are creepy. Despite starting off as a cliche camping-trip-turned-slasher, there were several unique elements to Parabo. It seemed to borrow inspiration from several different horror films, while still maintaining its own voice. The fate of the campers and the demon that stalked them was an eerily fantastic premise. However, it was, for the most part, only these ideas that carried this novella to completion. In execution, it seemed a bit lacking, as if it was rushed to publication. There could have easily been more material added to Parabo, to help better develop scenes and plot points, without making the story seem tedious. That material was not there, though, which was disappointing. Parabo could have been a really amazing read, had it been developed just a bit more extensively. 

Also, it is worth noting that Parabo is much, much different than Bibeau’s other work. While Coriander was still a bit on the scary side, it was still somewhat suitable for children to read. Parabo, however, is not. It has instances of minor swearing and not-so-minor sexual references that would not be remotely acceptable for a young child to read. From both of these pieces, though, it is clear that Keely Bibeau’s specialty is young adult horror. She’s got a great mind for frightful things, and writes with an intriguing balance of humor, horror, and imagery. While Parabo could stand for some improvements in plot development, it was not at all a disappointment. Rather, it was just the sort of weird, skin-crawling goodness that Keely Bibeau seems to always have up her sleeve. Or under her skin.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Keely Bibeau

Children/Young Adult

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.


3 Stars

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Rosemary Fonseca

Non-Fiction

A Collection of Inspirations is a compilation of thoughtful poetry penned by Rosemary Fonseca. After an enlightening encounter with a Wiccan couple in their place of spiritual practice, Fonseca was, as the title would suggest, inspired to write. Her poems encompass topics such as death, love, aging, and spiritual awakenings not unlike the one she experienced herself. Categorized by subject matter, each poem conveys a thought-provoking message within its descriptive prose. Fonseca insists that her insightful words are bestowed upon her by her Spirit Guides, as a necessary element to her unexpected spiritual kindling. 

Despite coming from the same place of inspiration, each of the poems within A Collection of Inspirations is unique in its own right. The emotion and thought behind each word is clear, yet leaves its message open to interpretation for the reader to perhaps see their own divine moral as they read. Even with this ambiguity, Rosemary Fonseca’s intentions are plain; A Collection of Inspirations is meant to be a tale of her own journey to enlightenment. Beginning with the first poem she ever wrote, her beautiful words expand and improve along the way, as she once did. It is an intriguing concept and a rewarding path to read of. 

However, that is not to say that A Collection of Inspirations is without fault entirely; in fact, there is plenty. Most resides in the abundance of grammatical and spelling errors. While some are forgivable, due to the vague or often nonexistent rules of poetry, others are not; these errors taint the work a bit and draw from its potential. Perhaps with a good, solid read-through with a careful editor, Fonseca’s poems could be presented as grandly as they are promised. It does create a bit of a dilemma to point this out, however, as the poems were clearly not desired to be carefully constructed. Rather, Rosemary Fonseca insists that each was written in a matter of minutes, as soon as inspiration struck, and spit out onto the page before the words could be forgotten or misconstrued. While this is a noble idea in theory, it gives the thoughtful words a rushed feeling, which does not aid the fantastic message within; rather, it hinders it. If more care were to be placed into the coherence of the work, A Collection of Inspirations would undoubtedly be the grand masterpiece of spiritual grace it was intended to be.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Shauna Pendleton

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Kiss Me Deadly is Shauna Pendleton’s debut novel, in which a young woman named Marjolaine finds herself entranced by a handsome and mysterious stranger. This stranger, Durante, promises her forever and whisks her away from her mundane life on her family’s farm, into greater adventures than she ever imagined. However, his love comes with a price, and she is soon transformed into a deadly beast of mythical proportions. Along with Durante, Marjolaine finds herself at the head of a Cullen-esque “family” of dangerous, aristocratic creatures that prey on innocent souls. After turning her back on the destruction and assimilating into modern human culture, Marjolaine befriends an innocent human girl who is determined to set her on the path to righteousness. Unbeknownst to anyone, the ghosts from Marjolaine’s past lie in wait, plotting to use those she loves most as a weapon to destroy what little humanity she has left and finally transform her into the soulless monster she was always meant to be. 

Despite having a fairly predictable plot, Kiss Me Deadly was still wonderfully unique in many ways. In contemporary literature, there is an abundance of vampire and werewolf fiction, and in the beginning chapters, that certainly seems like the path that this novel will take as well. However, it instead delves into the more abstract and intriguing world of succubi, which are enchanting creatures that feed off of passion and lustful desires. Although interesting in concept, Kiss Me Deadly did have a few executional errors; there were a few minor instances of plot confusion and typos throughout, but none so serious as to gravely harm the story. 

The general plot is familiar and, at times, perhaps a bit cliche, but Shauna Pendleton’s writing style is what really sets this novel apart. Her writing is beautifully dark and riveting, and captivating from the first page until the last. The care put into the details and description throughout the story was impeccable; every character, scene, and action was described thoroughly and fantastically without ever interrupting or distracting from the plot. The conclusion was rewarding, although unsatisfying, in the best way; it inspires longing for more adventures in the future. Kiss Me Deadly could have twenty sequels to come, and they would all be undoubtedly as great as the first. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Ica Iova

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

She Never Got to Say Goodbye, written by Ica Iova, is a suspenseful tale about a ghostly woman’s determination to find her murderer. Olivia Jeffries had what seemed like the perfect life; a loving husband, an adorable baby son, and the home of her dreams. After a heartbreaking tragedy at work, her husband, Brandon, succumbed to alcoholism and began to become increasingly violent with her. Right as she was considering leaving him, Olivia was brutally murdered in her own home by an unknown assailant, presumably her once-adoring husband. However, he was soon proven innocent, sending Olivia and all who loved her on a dangerous quest for answers and justice. 

In truth, this novel was largely disappointing. It held such promise in its concept; however, this potential was not executed as well as it could have been. The storyline was extremely rushed and often inconsistent, making the novel read like a hurried collection of notes, rather than a comprehensive, in-depth work. Plot holes were abundant, and the perspectives and events jumped around so often that it became difficult to keep track of what was happening. The novel’s conclusion seemed to come out of nowhere; it was unsatisfyingly anti-climatic. There were also several rather cliche elements to the story, such as the existence of a “white room” after death. Basically, the entirety of She Never Got to Say Goodbye read as if Ica Iova had a great idea and ran a 50-meter dash to spit it all out onto paper, without taking the time to go back and develop it into the novel it could have been. 

However, it wasn’t a terrible read by any means. It still maintained just enough suspense to leave the reader interested in discovering the outcome, and most of the passages were well-written and intriguing. The truth of the matter remains, though, that She Never Got to Say Goodbye is unremarkable and in need of some serious improvements before it can live up to its great potential. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Sheila Cash

Non-Fiction

Sheila Cash’s self help book Evolve Your Life is a broad overview of how living an authentic, conscious life can make your time on this earth feel more purposeful and meaningful. Rather than providing a step-by-step guide, Cash endeavors to help readers get closer to enlightenment by prompting them to carefully evaluate many of their thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. A subject or concept is briefly discussed, followed by questions for reflection. Comprised of her notes, thoughts, and previous experiences, this book guides those interested in new age spirituality and anyone interested in living a more conscious existence.

While the concept behind Evolve Your Life is an interesting take on discussing this topic, overall this book was mildly frustrating. Yet, Cash does do a good job at providing a broad overview and encouraging self-exploration rather than being an instruction manual to achieve enlightenment. There are many great topics that she brings up, such as examining old beliefs, having honest, authentic conversations rather than polite ones, finding harmony between community and individuality, and the idea of letting go of the anxiety of choices. However, there are points when the discussion of a topic is so vague that it begs the question of the purpose of bringing it up. She skims over subjects that could use a little more explanation, especially since some of the topics are extremely complex. There are also times when Cash brings up controversial topics in a manner that at times come across as inflammatory and judgmental. That being said, the questions for reflection are very thought provoking, insightful, and are easily the best part of this book. Evolve Your Life seems like it may be a helpful tool for self exploration, but only if the reader has been studying new age spirituality in depth and has a solid understanding of the concepts beforehand.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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William Darrah Whitaker

General Fiction

William Darrah Whitaker’s My Life as a Sperm: One Man’s Quest to Save the World is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.  Buddy Price is a Hollywood talent agent who ends up having numerous experiences with God.  He gets wrapped up in a religious cult, for no better word, and even though his life becomes endangered he believes that the threat is about the whole world’s survival and not just his own.  The pastor of this religious group has something called the Jeremiah Box, and when he comes under law enforcement investigation Buddy ends up with the box, and it remains at the core of the story.  The book has a strong satirical view around good and evil as Buddy does his level best to not only survive the challenges he faces but to ultimately to save humanity.

My Life as a Sperm has a deep and powerful message that can really make you think.  Unfortunately, it is buried under the weight of a confusing storyline.  Far too often, I had to go back and reread because the scenes jumped in a way that made me feel as I though I must’ve missed something.  These jumps left a lot of gaps in the development of the story.  This style also led to a lack of believability in the story.  Whitaker took a lot of artistic license, which of course is perfectly fine, but in this case it just led to a disconnect from one scene to the next often enough that it was confusing.  In the end, Whitaker created a very unique and unexpected twist to the story. 

My Life as a Sperm is a love it or hate it kind of story.  For those readers who are looking for something with a dry sense of humor and a very different angle, I would recommend it.  Yet, be prepared for a weird ride between Heaven and Earth. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Christopher George

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Mage Catalyst is Christopher George’s debut novel, in which eighteen-year-old Devon Wills discovers extraordinary magical powers within himself. It resides in the form of mana, causing bizarre blue particles to snake across his skin. With the mana comes unusual telekinetic abilities, including levitation and invisibility, among others. He soon meets another person with abilities like his, a mysterious woman named Renee, and learns the title attributed to his newfound powers: mage. With Renee’s help, Devon must learn to control and expand his powers, all while struggling to maintain the normalcy and anonymity of the average life he had before everything changed. 

All in all, Mage Catalyst was an entertaining read. Its storyline was a bit slow and tedious at times, but the magical portions were fascinating and worth reading through the awkward rambling teenage diary-esque bits. It was also very interesting to see that all of the magical phenomena had roots in scientific truth, using basic laws of physics to justify the mystical properties Devon had discovered. These details made it all more believable, less a fantasy and more grounded in reality. While the magic in Mage Catalyst isn’t entirely “new,” so to speak, in the world of literature, it does not have a cliche feel to it; rather, it was engaging and intriguing, as it should be. It was also a refreshing touch for Christopher George to highlight the downfalls of magical ability as well, rather than just the awe and fun of it. 

In truth, Mage Catalyst could have definitely benefited from some additional backstory on mages and their history. Information like this could have improved Christopher George’s already decent story tenfold, into something much greater and more in-depth. However, even without tidbits like this, Mage Catalyst was an all around good read, with a great ending that concluded the story in a definite and satisfying way, but also left the door open for another fascinating taste of magic in the future. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Donna Lee Gauntlett

Non-Fiction

Finding Pockets of Happiness: An Illustrated Memoir, written by author and artist Donna Lee Gauntlett, is a beautifully inspiring book.  Donna shares her story of going through illness and a lot of pain, but she expresses how she was able to find the pockets of happiness and connect with her inner joy.  She discovered how revealing her passion made her life worth living again.  She asks you, the reader, to be like a kid again, find those pockets of happiness in unexpected places and just honestly enjoy being yourself.  In fact, she encourages you to enjoy spending time alone.  And, she reminds you that giving to others is far greater than receiving from others.  Gauntlett’s book offers you an opportunity to realize you aren’t alone, and that you CAN find your own inner happiness.

Donna Lee Guantlett chunked down the powerful message in her book by inserting her glorious full-color illustrations throughout.  These gorgeous pictures make you want to turn the page to see the next one as much or more than the content itself.  The text is also engaging in a unique way as it is printed in a font that is fun and playful versus traditional fonts for text reading.  Guantlett really found a creative and magnificent way to share with others a story of hope and a story of how to see the silver lining in every cloud.  There is a uniqueness to Finding Pockets of Happiness that few other books on the market offer today.  I highly encourage you to pick it up and open to discovering your happiness in innumerable ways in your daily life.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Daphne Lamb

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Author Daphne Lamb’s debut novel, The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse, is a satirical fiction about how the supposedly average person would handle a catastrophic overturn of civilized society. After a series of earthquakes and a deadly virus runs rampant through the world, Verdell and her fellow office employees must band together to try to survive in any way they can. From the fight for humanity to the fight to find a working bathroom, The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse is a humorous portrait about the end of the modern world as we know it. 

In truth, this novel was excellent in theory; however, its appeal ends there. The point of view of the average person that does not bloom into some sort of super-human warrior five pages in seemed promising, but did not deliver as well as it could have. Despite trying to portray a funny outlook on an apocalyptic scenario, a good deal of its humor fell flat and ended up being a bit obnoxious. The story itself was often hard to follow or contradicting itself, and the characters were often too far exaggerated and unlikeable. There is a line between humorous and annoying, and this novel walked it from beginning to end. 

However, at times it was interesting or somewhat enjoyable to read. There were bits of uncomfortable truth to be found amongst the flopped comedy. To be sure, what most modern people would miss first would be the internet. Would we all be so wildly unprepared for the end of the world that we would find ourselves trading nail polish and lip gloss for a chance at survival? Probably. It was all a really great idea. The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse holds a lot of promise and potential, but it could definitely benefit from a bit of work.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Raquel Dove

Children/Young Adult

The First Book of Demons is, as its name suggests, the first installment of Raquel Dove’s The Book of Demons saga. It follows a beautiful young girl named Alexandra as she struggles to cope with the unusual occurrences surrounding her. After a series of odd, unexplainable dreams and the murder of her beloved caretaker and aunt, Alexandra is kidnapped during a consolation camping trip with her friends. Upon waking up, she finds herself in the presence of demons, specifically demons of political prowess and nobility. A tense romance forms between Alexandra and the prince of demons, Balthazar, who is in the center of a political power struggle after the murder of his father, their previous leader. Together, they encounter numerous otherworldly dangers and obstacles that change them both forever.

Perhaps this novel would have been better, had it not seemed so terribly unoriginal. It almost read as if Raquel Dove borrowed the plot of Twilight, replaced the watered-down vampires with watered-down demons, and named the awkward, bland, and boring main character Alexandra instead of Bella. Although it was meant to be a romance, the romantic feelings between characters were almost nonexistent, and sometimes borderline abusive in nature. There was plenty of sexual tension, but it all seemed underdeveloped. Most of the plot was rushed or skipped about too much, so much so that the few bits that had potential or interest in them were hurried through to have another description of someone’s muscles. It really is unfortunate, because the concepts of magic, demons, and a fantasy world beyond anyone’s wildest dreams are attractive ones, but in this case, they were not executed as well as they could have been.

That is not to say that The First Book of Demons is entirely detestable, because it is not. There were enjoyable moments and loads of potential, and any fan of teen romances such as Twilight would surely love it. For most, however, it cannot be said that Raquel Dove’s debut Demons novel would make much of a lasting impression.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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David Taylor II

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Lucifer: Soldiers, Serpents, and Sin, penned by David Taylor II, is a fantastical twist on the well-known tale of the angel-turned-devil, Lucifer. Its first installment, A Clash of Lightning and Thunder, the reader is carried on a journey from the perspective of Lucifer himself through his creation, rise to glory and, ultimately, his rebellion. Despite its biblical themes and characters, this story is told from beneath a cloak of science fiction, placing a creative and unique spin on one of the most widely known stories from the Bible. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Lucifer is its originality. Although its roots are biblical in nature, David Taylor II’s writing style is quite different from what one might expect. At times, it is casual and humorous (who knew that the angels called each other “bro” and invented peanut butter?), while at others, it is more serious and complex. The level of detail and ingenuity that went into the general plot was fascinating. 

However, Lucifer’s story development was marred in part by its rambling narration; often, the character of Lucifer drifted from the current events happening in the story to focus on a long and seemingly unnecessary tidbit of information that was, frankly, irrelevant to what was going on. Also, some bits of the story line were difficult to follow or confusing, especially in the beginning (although this is a somewhat common trait of science fiction novels). Despite its few shortcomings, book one of Lucifer: Soldiers, Serpents, and Sin was an entertaining and unique read. Surely the next works by David Taylor II will be just as good; in which case, they will be highly anticipated by fans of Lucifer’s introductory novel. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Joshua Harding

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

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.


4 Stars

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Linda B. Myers

General Fiction

The truth behind the closed doors of a long-term care facility is often not shared with others.  That is the core piece of Linda B. Myers’ fictional story, Fun House Chronicles: Life continues in surprising ways if you just let it.  The story is based around an outspoken, older lady named Lily.  Her daughter, Sylvia, researched quite a few places her mother might need to end up living, and discovered numerous accounts of unpleasantness.  Lily did end up having to spend time in a nursing facility, and though they called it the fun house it was not a place filled with fun and games.  However, Lily met a number of people, who ultimately became her dear friends.  A substory focused around Lily’s caretaker that she had when still living at home.  This woman, Jessica, not only continued to help with Lily’s errands and garden, but she played a powerful role in helping a number of the other residents.  Myers even wrote a romance for Jessica into the story.  

A story of friendship, family, love and overcoming the challenges of elder care, Fun House Chronicles was a touching tale.  Linda Myers made it easy to connect to the characters throughout the story.  On the other hand, it was somewhat confusing at times as there were so many characters, and at the beginning of each chapter there was a snippet about a character or a scenario in italics that often didn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of the chapter or the story overall.  Therefore, the book started out slow in the beginning, but by the end I was capitvated and really enjoyed it.  Linda B. Myers truly captured what it is like to experience life in a nursing home.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Cathy McGough

Children/Young Adult

A Mathematical State of Grace, written by author, Cathy McGough, is a pair of two novels about two unlikely youths who find themselves in an extraordinary situation. Grace Greenway is an aspiring mathematician, studious and intelligent, while her counterpart, Vincente Marino, is a talented athlete who values popularity and sports above all else. After a series of health complications, Grace wakes up in a hospital room with only Vincente to help her find her way. Together, they become trapped in a bizarre apocalyptic world, but nothing is ever as it seems. 

Despite being built on a highly stereotypical premise – awkward, nerdy girl and high school jock dynamo is extremely cliche, McGough’s A Mathematical State of Grace is unique in its constant interwoven threads of reality and fantasy. However, this flip-flopping was confusing at the best of times, sometimes making the storyline hard to follow. Most of the two novels seemed rushed and disjointed, as if they were still in a drafting stage and not fully pieced together yet. The conclusion left more questions than answers, making it a rather unsatisfying read; there was no concrete closure. This duo would likely be best suited for those with quizzical minds who enjoy deep analyses of mysterious pieces; on the contrary, the average reader would probably not find much enjoyment out of Cathy McGough’s A Mathematical State.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Mary Coley

Mystery/Thriller

Mary Coley’s Beehives is a page turning supsense novel and the third book in the Family Secret Series.  Readers get to experience more adventures with Jamie Aldrich, and they won’t be disappointed.  Jamie meets up with her fiancé, Sam Mazie, at Osage Hills State Park in Oklahoma, so they can plan their wedding and their future.  But, they end up discovering family secrets alongside threats to their lives.  Danger seems to find them soon after they arrive. Not only is there a suspicious death, Sam and Queenie, their dog, suddenly disappear from their smoke-filled cabin.  But thanks to Jamie’s wit and perserverance she eventually finds Sam and the three of them survive.  The twists and turns that take places throughout the story and the secrets that are revealed will change their lives forever.  

Beehives honestly is abuzz with suspense and action-filled scenes, and the red herrings keep readers guessing throughout the story.  Mary Coley is a masterful writer.  Not only do her descriptions of Osage Hills State Park make you feel like you are there, they made me want to actually visit the location.  Her ability to keep readers on their toes as they move through the story is top-notch.  Readers may be able to guess who the murderer is, but Coley creates more than one suspect and skillfully keeps readers guessing.  Even though Beehives is the third book in a series, it can easily be read as a stand alone.  Of course, after reading it, now I want to go back and read the first two books.  Kudos to Mary Coley for crafting a unique and entertaining series.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Alexis Kennedy

Mystery/Thriller

Alexis Kennedy’s Déjà Vu is a suspense novel that follows the lives of two women, Elena Clark and Brooke Daniels, as they try to solve a string of murders related to Elena’s past. When Elena was ten years old, she watched as her parents were brutally murdered while the murderer spared her life. Twenty years later there are multiple murders that mimic the event that took Elena’s family from her, and she begins receiving threatening messages. Brooke Daniels is the lead detective responsible for finding who is committing these gruesome murders – could it be the same man who killed Elena’s parents decades ago?

While the story is initially hard to be drawn into, Alexis Kennedy does do a great job of building suspense as the storyline develops. The perspective alternates each chapter, which builds suspense and draws the reader deeper into the plot. The person ultimately revealed as the murderer was a surprise, and tied up many of the loose ends in the story. However, many of the characters are hard to relate to, particularly Elena. It was also hard to follow the sub-storyline of the detectives, as they were a part of the first novel in this series. The author does do an adequate job of explaining some of the character’s histories, but many details are not explained or simply do not fit in this novel. In addition, there are entire characters and plot points that are out of place in this storyline, such as a character being a werewolf. If these sub-stories were removed, this would be a good novel for those looking for an easy, suspenseful read. As it stands, the story in its entirety leaves the reader feeling rather confused and frustrated.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Kelly Preston

Children/Young Adult

Kelly Preston’s Real Dogs Don’t Whisper is an autobiographical memoir of one woman’s challenging, and often heartbreaking, experiences with dogs with special needs. Among these dogs are Gizmo, Betty Boop, Carla Mae, Buffy, and the feisty Mr. MaGoo, whose interesting perspective is lent to several of the chapters. In the passages not claimed by Mr. MaGoo’s humorous narrative, the author tackles several emotionally heavy tales. She recounts the dogs’ devastating back stories from before she found them, often full of abuse and trauma, and their inspirational journeys to recovery and acceptance. She also bravely lays bare her own struggles and accomplishments, noting how these five sad little dogs who almost never had a chance ended up forever changing her life for the better. 

Most of Preston’s novel was, despite its darker moments, encouraging and uplifting in nature. It was heartbreaking to read about the deplorable past of some of these dogs, yet so inspiring to read of their progress and love for one another and their owner. Photographs of each dog decorating its pages lent a personal touch to the novel that helped its included memories to resonate even more. This effect was slightly marred, however, by the bizarre ramblings of “Mr. MaGoo,” whose strange soliloquies weakened the strength of the rest of the novel. Putting all of that aside, Real Dogs Don’t Whisper was an enjoyable and emotional read, giving readers a glimpse into the awe-inspiring bond that can exist between a lovable dog and its human. It would surely inspire its readers to adopt their own dog in need, and maybe do their part to make a difference in one more desperate canine life. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Kelly Preston

Children/Young Adult

Mister Spunky and His Friends, written by Kelly Preston, is an adorable children’s tale about a happy little dog who, while on a vacation to the beach, meets three unlikely friends. Each new dog he comes across has a problem – one that Mister Spunky would much rather avoid. However, he learns that through showing kindness and compassion to all, even in their lowest moments, valuable friendships can be formed. 

There are many things to love about this book, the first of which being its muses. The short blurb about the author and her dogs with special needs was almost more heartwarming than the book itself. For a child, however, the sweet moral behind Mister Spunky’s adventures is a valuable one. To teach a child compassion is always important, but for them to learn that kindness should know no boundaries is even more important. In the face of detrimental emotions and physical limitations, acceptance is the greatest gift. This plot, paired with the cute animated images of puppies at play, is sure to resonate with young children, and perhaps even inspire them. The coloring pages at the end of the book are also a unique and lovely touch, to aid in engaging the children who read this story. It is an enchanting little book that any young child would likely enjoy.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Alexis Kennedy

General Fiction

Two Faced is a modern crime novel that follows the exciting adventures of CIA agent Scarlett Vanderwall. Scarlett is a strong, beautiful woman whose unique skills aid her in solving crimes involving notorious arms dealers throughout Europe. Along with DEA agent Aiden Bradley and infamous criminal Ivan Stanislovsky, she makes it her mission to take down a group of elite bosses who specialize in the trafficking of various weapons, illegal drugs, and sex slaves. From one chapter to the next, Scarlett and her accomplices find themselves caught in endless shenanigans, making Two Faced a page turner until the very end. 

Although many of the basic ideas and plot developments in this novel were cliche or, perhaps, overdone, it still manages to draw the reader into the story. The desire to know what happens next gets stronger and stronger as the story goes on, and the author’s blunt style of writing and short chapters provide instant gratification. The ending was predictable and not at all surprising, but succeeded in tying loose ends while simultaneously leaving the door open for a sequel. While not an extraordinary or unique book by any means, Two Faced is still entertaining and is especially nice for some light, pass-the-time reading. Any fan of crime novels or strong-willed heroines would not be disappointed by this story, though they should not expect to find anything within its pages that would be strikingly different from any other novel of the same sort. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Amy DuBoff

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Bonds of Resolve is the third volume in the Cadicle science fiction series, written by Amy DuBoff.  Saera, a 15-year-old teenager from Earth, has been sent to Tararia to train, so that she can become a new agent for the Tararian Selective Service.  She is a brilliant young woman and quickly develops skills and abilities that normally take many years to develop.  From telepathic abilities to telekinetics, her skills are surprising.  She meets Will, a young man who is a junior agent for the TSS.  It doesn’t take long for them to develop a romantic relationship, which they have to get approval for from the high commander.  Will is then sent off to another planet to help the inhabitants overcome the struggles and challenges they are facing, and he’s gone for many months.  What will happen upon his return?

Amy DuBoff has created almost an entire second story within the main plot of Bonds of Resolve.  The time that Will is gone truly has a storyline of its own, but she does bring it all back together once Will returns home and to Saera.  However, this also leads to a little of confusion for some readers.  Bonds of Resolve is certainly not a stand alone novel as there are a number of times that it would’ve been helpful to have read the previous two volumes to help understand what was happening.  That is a bit of a drawback.  The only other drawback was that DuBoff has opted to use a lot of technical and scientific words that the average reader are not likely to know.  For some, this can offer a chance to learn something new.  For others, this may feel challenging and confusing.  Overall, Bonds of Resolve has a interesting storyline and Amy DuBoff has done a good job prepping readers for the next volume in the series.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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RC Dilan

General Fiction

Blood on the Table, by RC Dilan, is a dystopian novel that follows protagonist Jackson Elliott and his misfit band of revolutionaries on their quest to overthrow their corrupt government, referred to only as “the Republic.” After spending a long and traumatic decade in prison for political crimes his parents committed, Jackson, along with the help of a few other prison inmates, decide to break out and rally the masses to fight for their cause alongside them. Themes of violence and corruption occur throughout, and the characters continuously struggle to do what is right even in emotionally difficult situations. The novel is meant to be inspiring and to provoke thought and analyses of our reality as we know it, leaving the reader to wonder just how alike their own government may be to the fictional Republic. 

In the end, Blood on the Table really comes down to being a book of “almost”s. It was almost a brilliant idea, but the storyline seemed rushed and unedited, letting the abundant grammatical errors and inconsistencies in plot taint what would have been a good story. The main protagonist was almost likeable, but his selfish motivations and apathy towards the hundreds of innocent civilians, even children, that he allowed to die as a result of his actions was bothersome and, frankly, detestable. It was almost a Hunger Games-esque portrait of the flaws of modern society, but the incessant rambling, undeveloped characters and plot, and bizarre detours in the story telling took away from that. Honestly, a little more patience and a few more weeks of writing and editing could have made this a five-star novel, joining the ranks of accomplished dystopian tales like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Fahrenheit 451, among others. Instead, it’s as if the author gave up when he was almost there, and the reader is left to navigate a confusing and nonsensical book composed of improbable dialogue and rushed plot development. The ideas and potential are there, but in its current state, Blood on the Table is a waste of time, at best. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Bradon Nave

General Fiction

Thirty years ago the AIDS epidemic was spreading like wildfire and taking the lives of young men faster than one could imagine.  Bradon Nave has crafted a beautiful story of love, fear, resentment and friendship in his novel, Copper Lillies.  He takes readers through the experience of AIDS through the eyes of a young woman, Nora.  She escaped her predjudiced and fanatical religious family, and found herself helping those suffering from the terminal disease.  She helped them and was there for them as they crossed.  Unexpectedly, she found not only deep and life-long friendships, but she found romantic love.  

Copper Lillies is based mainly upon Nora’s experiences, but there are a wealth of other characters that bring depth to the story and shine a light upon this tragic time.  Bradon Nave writes with an elegance and grace that will have readers angry one minute and laughing the next.  Further, he opens reader’s hearts to the fear and deep sadness of the loss of young life and dear friends.  Copper Lillies carries an extraordinarily powerful message, but Bradon Nave has interwoven this message into the story in a way that keeps readers entertained and turning pages.  Some of the characters are only around for short periods of time, but it represents what happens in life sometimes, especially during the AIDS epidemic.  A person might come into one’s life for only a blip before they are gone again.  That doesn’t necessarily lessen the impact that they can have on each other.  Copper Lillies is exceptionally well-written and highly recommended.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Raquel Dove

Science Fiction/Paranormal

Death Angel is a very unique paranormal story.  Author Raquel Dove, has come up with an idea that seems unique.  Gabrielle, the main character, suddenly finds herself living in a world between life and death or at least between the Earth plane and the spiritual realm of eternity.  She is quickly selected to become a higher ranking member of the Death Angel Society, but her position is one that causes many others in the realm to dislike her.  Amongst the paranormal storyline, Gabrielle ends up having two suitors striving for her affection.  These two men have fallen for her and do their best to help her and protect her while there are others who try to undermine her.  

Overall the storyline of Death Angel is difficult to follow.  It is quite confusing and lacks the foundational support it needs.  There is a battle between good and evil, which is evident even in the piece around some loving Gabrielle and others wanting to harm her in some way.  But, it goes farther than that because the Death Angel Society must battle the Darklings.  And, there are secrets held by different characters as well as a deeper secret within the Death Angel Society itself, but I reiterate that overall it is very hard to follow.  Also, I recognize that this is the first book in a series, but the ending is abrupt and has no resolution.  Yes, it needs a hook to get readers to read the next book in the series, but Raquel Dove’s hook needs some work, in my opinion.  With that being said, I’m curious about what happens next, but I’m just not sure it’s enough to get readers to actually get the next book.  Death Angel has potential, but it needs more work.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Miki Bennett

Romance

Forever in the Keys is the second book of author, Miki Bennett, that I’ve read.  I’m just as thrilled with this book as I was the first one.  She does a beautiful job of connecting Forever in the Keys to The Keys to Love, which are both books in her series that focuses around the Florida Keys, but these are absolutely stand alone books as well.  Abbey Wallace moves from North Carolina to Key West on a bit of a whim, and takes the risk of pursuing her dream of being artist for a living.  She meets a neighbor, Josie, who has deep emotional wounds, but Abbey is determined to break through the barriers.  Not only does Abbey eventually discover romance, but Bennett shares a wonderful substory involving romance for Josie.  

Miki Bennett doesn’t write fluffy, silly romance.  Instead, she brings readers depth and deeper messages than one might expect when picking up a romance novel.  Forever in the Keys has a profound message about depression and what it can do to you if you don’t find a way to overcome it and a profound message about the beautiful things that can happen if you’re willing to take risks in life.  It’s a very emotional  book.  Not only did the book bring me to tears at times, but writing this review caused tears to come to my eyes again.  Very touching!  I’ve said it before, but when it comes to romance novels Miki Bennett is one of the best authors I’ve ever read. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Miki Bennett

Romance

Miki Bennett’s The Keys to Love is a beautifully written romance novel.  I was enraptured from the beginning.  The main character, Maddy, suffers from Mastocytosis, which is a rare chronic disorder that causes her to tire extremely easily and even black out occasionally.  This is a powerful aspect of the story that Bennett wove into the plot in an elegant and fluid manner.  Maddy decides to take off from her home in South Carolina and take a much needed vacation in the Florida Keys.  This leads her to meet a neighbor, who just happens to be a hunk.  As one would expect, there are trials and tribulations between Maddy and Jason, the neighbor, but The Keys to Love is filled with depth and very interesting substories.  There’s even a spiritual or metaphysical component surrounding Maddy’s health and her falling in love with Jason.

After reading literally of thousands of romance novels over the years, I’ve found The Keys to Love to be one of my absolute favorites!  I can hardly wait to read more of Miki Bennett’s books.  She explains the scenes so well that readers can easily feel that they are right there in the middle of the scene.  On top of her ability to write with phenonmenal detail, she brings in the deeper messages in her story to the forefront with ease.  And, finally the icing on the cake is the wholesomeness of the romance.  For those who love to read about beautiful love without all the graphic details, Miki Bennett’s books are for you.  Highly recommended!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Kim Golden

General Fiction

Kim Golden’s Maybe Baby is the first book in her Maybe series.  A multi-cultural and interracial love story, it has a unique storyline.  Laney Halliwell lives with her wealthy boyfriend, Niklas, and his badly behaved children in Sweden.  After being in a relationship with this man for quite some time, she decides she wants a child of her own, but he can’t father anymore children and isn’t willing to reverse his vasectomy.  Eventually, she checks out a sperm bank, and lo and behold she falls in love with one of the donors after meeting him.  Laney has an affair with the second man, Mads.  She believes her boyfriend is having an affair as well with his ex-wife.  Eventually, it has a typical ending to a love story, with a happily ever after ending.

There are interesting pieces to Maybe Baby with the interracial relationship and transitions between Sweden and Copenhagen.  Golden gives a background story as well with the terrible behavior of Niklas’ children.  Unfortunately, there just isn’t much excitement overall in the story.  There is very little to keep the reader enticed and excited to turn the next page.  It’s okay, but yet, it’s ho-hum.  I wanted more depth.  I felt it needed a deeper challenge in the story to give readers a better reason to continue reading.  Kim Golden appears to have potential in Maybe Baby, but the characters and the story overall need a richness and a texture that they just don’t have.  I hope she gives more in the next stories in the Maybe series.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Christina Weigand

Children/Young Adult

Christina Weigand’s Sanctuary of Nine Dragons, the third book in the Palace of The Twelve Pillars series, was the best book of the three.  The story continued around the two brothers, King Joachim and Brandan, and their families including King Joachim’s wife, Queen Maeve.  However, it had a strong focus on their children, two boys and a girl.  Joachim’s son was kidnapped right out of the cradle, and had not been found as of yet even though he was actually being raised by a close family friend.  At the same time, his twin sister, encountered struggles due to their father persistently searching for his heir to the throne.  Eventually, the king’s son was found though. There was a coming of age aspect to the story around Joachim and Brandan’s children as well as the continued battle of good and evil.  Even the dragons engaged in a battle of good and evil within themselves.  

A good story, Sanctuary of Nine Dragons, had much more depth to the story than Palace of the Twelve Pillars or Palace of the Three Crosses.  It was well written, and author Christina Weigand did a nice job progressing the characters through the book.  She did a nice job of interweaving the story of the family as well as guardian dragons and the gods.  We all know there is a delicate balance of good and evil in the world, and Weigand’s mystical land was no different.  With all of the typical pieces in place, kings, queens, dragons, and a kidnapped heir to the throne, Sanctuary of Nine Dragons will take readers to another place and time while keeping their curiosity alit.  Weigand does not disappoint in this third book.  Well done. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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J. Michael Neal

General Fiction

Becoming Phoebe is an interesting new coming of age story that captured my attention from the first few lines.  Written by J. Michael Neal, it focuses on a young woman who faces seemingly insurmountable odds throughout her life.  However, she overcomes those infathomable challenges again and again.  Phoebe didn’t have a lovely childhood as she went from foster home to foster home.  Moreover the outlet that she found that brought light to her life was the male dominated sport of hockey, which helped her survive in numerous ways while she figured out who she was as a person.  Neal offers a unique opportunity for other young women to see themselves in Phoebe and how they can experience personal growth through sports – something not normally expressed when it comes to girls and young women.    

Throughout Becoming Phoebe, the narrarator, which is Phoebe, reflects back upon different aspects of her life.  From chapter to chapter, the reader needs to pay attention as the story may jump back a year or ten years.  However, J. Michael Neal does a nice job storytelling, and for the most part it wasn’t too hard to follow.  But, occasionally the reader may find themselves needing to stop and think about where that piece of the story fits into Phoebe’s life.  Overall, the author has created a story that is an inspiration for young women, and though the timeline may be a tad bit confusing at times Becoming Phoebe is a fairly quick read.  J. Michael Neal’s new novel, Becoming Phoebe, is a great read particularly for high school and college age young women. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Judy Shine Logan

General Fiction

A heartwrenching story about domestic violence and spousal abuse, Shelter Me will touch reader’s hearts and open their eyes to what really happens behind closed doors for so many women (and a few men).  In this fictional story, Judy Shine Logan shares Terry Woods’ story of living with a violent and rage-filled husband.  Her mental state as well as her physical being and the lives of her children are ultimately at risk.  Along the way Terry meets Anne Craig, a widow who nearly gave up on life after her husband’s death, but they became good friends and pulled each other from the depths of despair.  

Overall, Shelter Me, is powerful and can, hopefully, be an inspiration to others as well as helping those not in domestic situations see what it can really be like.  The characters are fairly well-developed and Logan has the ability to take the reader into scenes easily.  Yet, there are bits and pieces that seem to be missing.  For example, Terry’s husband was angry with her for writing in a journal, but what she was writing nor the journal itself were ever mentioned again.  Another piece that seemed off is how lost and almost incapable Anne was – she didn’t even know how to put gas in her car before her husband passed, but suddenly she was a strong woman that was brave enough to help Terry take a stand against her abuser.  There seems to be a bit of a disconnect there in Anne’s character traits.  How/when did she gain so much strength?  The ending left me wondering.  What was the real resolution to Terry’s situation?  What about her mental state and that of her children?  Would she somehow fall for the lies and apologies of her husband again, or had she finally experienced enough to move forward with her life?  Though I believe there could be more depth to fill out the story, it is such a powerful piece that needs to be shared with the world that I commend Judy Shine Logan for writing it.  And, I encourage you to pick it up and read it.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 StarsPrint

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Magus Tor

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Magus Tor has crafted another phenomenal story in his sci-fi novel, Want: Trust no one, no one trusts.  A woman by the name of Aurelia finds herself in a shocking situation during her transport to Lunar City, which is located on the moon.  Having been raised on Earth where life is completely different and far more controlled by government officials, the opportunity to relocate to Lunar City as a med worker is exciting for the young 17-year-old.  Even though Lunar City has some level of a freer society, it still has very big issues to overcome.  Aurelia ends up joining a resistance group alongside the next potential president as well as a clone.  In fact, both of these men are love interests for her.  But, though romance is a part of the story the bigger piece is the war against killing innocent people and clones.  The question remains as to what will happen in the next book in the series.

Want: Trust no one, no one trusts is a beautiful book inside and out.  The storyline spans only three days, but it is fascinating and kept me intrigued from start to finish.  Author Magus Tor fills those days with excitement, fear, love, and a deep desire to overcome the challenges the societies on both the Earth and the Moon are facing.  With a strong science fiction theme it is written in a way that makes it seem quite possible that it could actually happen.  I highly recommend Magus Tor’s Want and can hardly wait to pick up the second book in the series and read it.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Lauren Jensen-Kimball

Children/Young Adult

Moms everywhere, have you ever turned into a bit of a monster when your children misbehave?  Well, Laura Jensen-Kimball’s book, Momster, may just be the perfect book for you to share with your little tykes.  A young boy, somewhere between the ages of seven and ten, shares a tale in the middle of the park with other young children.  It’s a tale of bad behavior and how that can often lead to their beautiful, loving mommies transforming into chilling momsters.  The moral of Jensen-Kimball’s book is to respect your mothers while remembering that just under the surface…lives the momster.

Momster is a full-color, adorable, if not somewhat chilling, book for ages four to ten.  The illustrations embrace a variety of races and even a few pets.  It is an exaggerated version of what happens to children’s mothers when said children repeatedly ignore mom’s requests.  Though moms may not like to admit turning into a momster, more probably have than have not.  After all, just like the household in Momster, toys and clothes may be strewn on the floor while the baby goes from teething on the television remote to trying to nibble on the pet turtle’s tail.  Mom is trying to put groceries away, cook dinner, and keep an eye on the baby and maintain some semblance of order in the house.  Unfortunately, the oldest child in Momster is a bit too concerned with cartoons to offer a helping hand.  Perhaps, Laura Jensen-Kimball’s cute and a little creepy book, Momster, can help your children better grasp the concept of action and reaction.  Read this book to your kiddos…and good luck moms!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Magus Tor

Romance

My Ladybird Story is an excellent story written by author, Magus Tor.  A coming of age story focused on the confusion and psychological constraints placed upon those born into a body that just doesn’t feel like their own.  The reader is taken on the journey of John Bird’s life from high school through a few years beyond his college graduation.  John, called LadyBird by the school bully, always felt like a freak in school and in his body, for that matter.  But, Aureus befriends him  early on and a beautiful friendship develops.  They really save each other not only in high school but into their adult lives, too.  John’s deepest desires are kept hidden until Aureus unwittingly brings them to the surface.  However, she is shocked and frightened by what she eventually learns about John.  The question then is whether or not the two long-time friends can heal their relationship and move forward. Magus Tor honors those who are mistreated and bullied for the beautiful souls they truly are.  The writing was so clear it made it easy to understand the fascinating and love-filled plot from beginning to end.  My Ladybird Story is absolutely unforgettable.  I didn’t want to lay it down.  The message within its pages reaches far beyond just the transgender and lesbian communities.  It truly is a message filled with light and love that can touch the heart and soul of anyone has ever experienced feeling as though he or she was an outcast.  I highly recommend reading Magus Tor’s My Ladybird Story Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Magus Tor

General Fiction

What would you do if the devil presented you with millions of dollars that would take care of you your entire lifetime?  Well, there are consequences, of course.  In Magus Tor’s Life Bank: Selling life for money, the main character, Daniel, has to make such a decision.  Shortly after graduating college, he struggles to find a job, but Raphael offers him an opportunity to have access to more than seven million dollars, which he can use over the course of his life.  Basically he would be selling his life, in other words his soul, a month at a time to this man.  Though Daniel was unsure at first, he eventually began writing checks against his life.  Not only was he depleting his life bank quicker than he might have realized he was actually taking from his loved ones.  His mother, his wife, and his children all eventually suffered due to his decision to sign this life bank contract.  Throughout Life Bank the reader will wonder if he can break the contract, if God can save him or if he will lose his soul in the end. Life Bank is not necessarily a unique concept, but the ending might be different than what most would expect.  One aspect of this short story that was unique was the chapter titles.  Magus Tor displayed the bank balance in Daniel’s bankbook as the chapter title.  The balance decreased quicker than one might expect.  Unfortunately, it was often difficult to follow the progress of the story.  Years pass without a clear explanation of that, and it happens more than once.  It is just up to the reader to catch on.  There is also some confusion around the supporting characters here and there with a handful of scences that seem out of context.  Overall, Life Bank is a good story that with some work could be further developed and improved upon. Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Christina Weigand

Children/Young Adult

Palace of the Three Crosses, written by Christina Weigand, is Book Two following up on Palace of the Twelve Pillars.  Again, I’m confused by the perception that this is a strongly Christian focused book.  In fact, the three crosses on the cover led me to believe it would have something to do with the crucifixtion, but the gods or spiritual beings mentioned included Ishtar and Asha not Jesus or God. Here’s the thing, I don’t want the that to stop you from reading Palace of the Three Crosses or on the other hand, perhaps, you’ll be more open to reading it knowing it isn’t heavily Christian focused.  So, is it medival fantasy for young adults?  Yes!

The battle between good and evil continue in the Palace of the Three Crosses.  Joachim and Brandan both marry and rule kingdoms, but Brandan’s castle is so filled with negative energy that when Joachim’s wife suffers complications during her first pregnancy the healers aren’t able to help her.  As time moves on, both Joachim and Brandan sire children, and the gods inform the dragons that all three children must be kept safe as one of them is the chosen one.  Weigand doesn’t go into what the chosen one is meant to do though.  Eventually, Brandan is banished from Joachim’s kingdom and is sent away in exile.  In fact, most of his powers have been stripped from him.  Christina Weigand does a nice job of leaving the reader anxiously anticipating the third book, Sanctuary of Nine Dragons.  Though I can’t say it was a page turner for me, Palace of the Three Crosses is quite an interesting story and held my interest. 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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Christina Weigand

Children/Young Adult

Palace of the Twelve Pillars by Christina Weigand is a good fantasy fiction story for young adults that kept me enthralled.  Though it is listed as a Christian story, I didn’t really see why.  In fact, the claim of it being a Christian story is confusing as monotheism does not appear within the plot.  There are dragons, magic, gods, healers, and even dream manipulation, which all lead to interesting plot concepts, but modern views of Christianity are lacking in my opinion.  Twin brothers, Brandan and Joachim, are princes in their kingdom.  Ultimately, the Palace of Twelve Pillars is a story of the battle between good and evil.  Weigand explores the balance of the dark and the light between the brothers as well as within themselves.  There is a lot of family drama at the core of this story.  It’s certainly held my interest, but I wanted more – more depth overall.

Christina Weigand focuses almost solely on the constant struggle between the two brothers.  In fact, it almost seemed like they never left the castle.  I wanted to know about the kindom and the delicate balance of light and dark that was happening outside the walls of the family castle.  The author does a good job of describing the story and the main characters, but I was confused at times by the supporting characters.  It was often too hard to tell if they were good or evil – what was their actual intent.  Palace of the Twelve Pillars also felt like a coming of age story alongside the delicate balance and sometimes the fullblown war between the dark side and the light side everyone has within.  An interesting story, it leaves you ready for Book Two, Palace of the Three Crosses

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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David McCaffrey

Mystery/Thriller

With intriguing artistic license, David McCaffrey has crafted a prequel to his thriller, Hellbound. In Extremis: A Hellbound Novella, starts off fairly gruesome, but it’s easy to see why as the reader progresses into the story. McCaffrey ends up insinuating that Obadiah Stark, of Hellbound, is somehow Jack the Ripper from the late 1800s. The details within In Extremis aren’t overly gruesome, except for just a couple of parts. Instead, it is very much a mystery, thriller with a psychological twist. The unique way that McCaffrey involves Obadiah Stark leaves the reader to wonder, to ponder. What is going on? What if?

Taking a famous story of the unsolved case of the serial killer, Jack the Ripper, David McCaffrey has added a whole new depth to Obadiah Stark. For the most part, In Extremis: A Hellbound Novella, is a stand alone story. The reader will wonder at the end just who is Obadiah Stark and what does he and Joe O’Connell have to do with In Extremis. It makes for a good segway into Hellbound. Also, David McCaffrey does a wonderful job of bringing in some of the history of Jack the Ripper, his wife, a secret society that somehow unleashed him onto innocent people, and continued secret of Jack the Ripper’s journal. It is very well-written, and will no doubt keep the reader wondering throughout this quick read. For those who’ve already read Hellbound, it may make them want to go back and read it again with a new perspective on Obadiah Stark. Well done!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


5 Stars

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Krysten Lindsay Hager

Children/Young Adult

Krysten Lindsay Hager has written a great story for teenage girls in True Colors. Thirteen-year-old Landry Albright had friends convince her to enter a modeling competition. Unfortunately, this led to those same friends turning against her and stabbing her in the back. Landry made a number of new friends within the modeling world though, and learned a lot about relationships and trust. True Colors embraces other issues that young teenage girls deal with as well. Landry’s parents had to take jobs in different cities from one another, which caused them to basically live apart. At times, they faced a bit of a parenting power struggle. All of the experiences that Hager takes Landry and the reader through really help uncover the characters true colors.

Like most people, Landry had a deep desire to belong – at school, in the modeling world and at home with her parents. Through typical teenage experiences Hager showed a number of experiences that make it sometimes feel quite difficult to belong. Overall, she does a wonderful job of displaying how positives can be found in new experiences and in the opportunities for growth that many challenges bring. She made it very easy to follow the numerous characters throughout the story as she displayed their True Colors. Krysten Lindsay Hager’s True Colors is a good story for middle school age girls. Nicely done!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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LS Cahn

Mystery/Thriller

You’ll need to be fully prepared before you open the pages of The Trust Game, written by LS Cahn. This story, billed as a psychological thriller, takes the reader on a journey into the extremes of BDSM and the lifestyle of submissives and dominants. Though Cahn does not share explicit or graphic details in The Trust Game, she does write about one of the main characters, Shannon Sloan, desiring a relationship as a submissive even when she is whipped or beaten to the point of having oozing wounds. Sloan’s boss died – probably murdered – in the first pages of the book. To Sloan’s shock, she eventually discovered that her now deceased boss was involved in breathplay, which ultimately led to her demise. After experiencing a complete lack of social life for many years, Sloan falls under the false perception that Daniel, as her dominant, actually loves her. Before she realizes what is happening, she gets wrapped up in the middle of a very dangerous game – one that is directly related to the death of her beloved boss, Alessandra Patel.

Other than the extreme beliefs of the submissive/dominant lifestyle, the biggest concern for me with Cahn’s book, The Trust Game, is the flipping back and forth between characters from chapter to chapter and the lack of fluidity of the story overall. The first third of the book focuses mainly on Shannon Sloan’s experience of being a submissive to Daniel DeSaulniers. Yet, at the same time it has a mix of Daniel apparently being interrogated by the police. The chapters expressing the perspectives of Daniel, Denise and Mattea are confusing. For the most part, they are a monologue of what that character is saying or thinking whereas the chapters focused on Shannon are written in first person style telling the story and interacting with others. The excessive story telling and almost ranting of the other three characters makes the story seem unbelievable. Overall, the story does have a psychological twist to it, and though the reader will probably believe they know who the murderer is from the beginning there is a surprise in the very end. The Trust Game is a book that will get your mind wondering just why some people are drawn to this type of power and control – taking it and giving it up.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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AC Burch

Romance

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


5 Stars

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CM Shelton

Children/Young Adult

A really cool story, Cosmic Chaos by CM Shelton is an easy read for tweens and young teens.  Logan has been living on the moon for five years because Earth experienced grave events.  He and his father fled with hopes of his mother joining them soon.  Unfortunately, his mom was never able to leave Earth and meet up with them.  In fact, Logan hasn’t had much contact with his mother recently.  The government leaders on the moon may be up to no good, but Logan finds an unexpected way to access Earth.  Shelton does a very good job keeping the reader on edge when it comes to the Nanny Express Five Thousand, Logan’s new robot caregiver.  Whether or not Logan finds his mom and escapes with his father…or is able to finish his homework while he’s at it remains to be seen.

Author CM Shelton, fluidly wrote in a couple of perspectives around creation and theology without pushing any particular view.  Dinosaurs, the Garden of Eden, science and Christianity walk side-by-side in the background of this fascinating tale of Cosmic Chaos.  The chapters are short, and readers can’t help reading the next one and the one after that and the one after that.  There are even a handful of drawings to help the reader visiualize the characters and events.  They’re simplistic, which allows readers to continue to expand their own imagination around the scenes and characters.  If young readers are looking for a touching story with a bit of time travel, I highly recommend CM Shelton’s Cosmic Chaos.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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J. Steven Young

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

The Hashtag Magic series by J. Steven Young has a very interesting concept.  Unfortunately, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, Blue Screen of Death, then the second one, Control Alt Delete, will be exceptionally confusing.  Colby Stevens is a teenager, who has recently discovered he has magic powers.  It seems that he may be a chosen one in a sense.  His family appears to have supernatural powers as well even if some of them haven’t fully acquired their powers as of yet.  There are beings that want to stop him or at the very least steal something important from him.  But, again there is so much confusion from the start that it was quite hard to follow.  

With such an interesting concept, I just wanted more depth to the story.  It needs more clarity while keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.  Without background from Blue Screen of Death being merged into Control Alt Delete I felt like I picked up a book and started in the middle.  Confused, lost and ultimately, frustrated.  This took away from the enjoyment of the story.  One example comes from fairly early on in the story – Colby notices a man on television speaking about the blue screen of death it seems, and Colby is upset and concerned about this speech.  But, there is little else said about it at that point to help engage the reader’s interest.  J. Steven Young has a unique concept for a story line.  It just needs content editing and better flow to Control Alt Delete.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


4 Stars

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J. Steven Young

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

Set thousands of years ago, The Balance by J. Steven Young is the first book in the Chronicles of Aurderia. Shuran, the reincarnation of Shin’ar, was born as the third child out of a set of triplets. He was whisked away to ensure his safety. He grew at a shocking rate. For example, at just 4 days old he was the size of a six-month old. Shuran had special abilities and seems to have been the chosen one to balance the light and the dark amongst the seven races. In fact, by the time he is just 10-years-old he was leading a number of the races, including the elves and dwarves, against the evil beings in The Balance. He could even access ancient spells that no others were able to gain access to. With this power or essence, he was able to return very precious items to different races. He continued to move towards defeating the evil beings from taking over The Great Council in their efforts to gain control over the world.

J. Steven Young has an interesting concept and a few surprising twists and turns within The Balance, but it was quite slow to start. The vast number of characters was quite confusing as well as the complex names and terms. Young has included a glossary in the back of the book, but when reading the Kindle version it makes it more difficult to flip back and forth between it and the story. Another issue I had is that too often you’ll be reading along when the story jumps to something completely different, and you’re left to wonder what’s going on. This makes readers feel lost. The Balance needs more fluidity in the development of the story as well as more depth to more fully help readers feel the story and see it in their mind’s eye. Already at over 400 pages, there is quite a lot that could be taken out. Young’s writing could stand to be crisper and more concise. Finally, the ending needs a cliff hanger. It needs something to make me want to read the next book in the series. Good potential even though it still needs some more revisions.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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J. Steven Young

Sci-Fi Paranormal

Somewhat of a coming of age story, Blue Screen of Death is the first book in the Hashtag Magic series written by J. Steven Young.  Colby Stevens, a teenage boy, deals not only with bullying in school and the nervousness and challenges of liking girls but with coming into his supernatural powers.  Even though his family all has a tendancy to be magical, Colby didn’t realize this and he was quite suprised when it began happening for him.  Fizzlewink, a cat/little old man, is in Colby’s life as his overseer and protector, but when he tries to start teaching him how to construct Runes to create spells Colby just can’t grasp it.  So, he builds an app that will do it for him.  Yet, the problem in the story is not clear.  Colby deals with the typical challenges of being a teenager and he deals a little with the fact that his father disappeared about a decade ago, but the overall point of the story is missing.

The first half of Blue Screen of Death held my interest, and I was really looking forward to what would happen once Colby came into and began developing his powers.  Unfortunately, once he recognized his powers and started experimenting with them, the story fizzled out – or I might say it “fizzlewinked out”.  The last half of the story just felt chaotic and confusing.  The Dreggs, which are not the good guys, showed up momentarily, but there was no depth to what was going on with them.  Colby and some of his classmates were trying to put together a trip to Chichen Itza, but there was nothing as to why.  There is a moment that Colby and his sister sees negative energy around a group of people, but again there was no depth and seemingly no point to it.  It just felt like Young rushed through the last half of the story.  Then, all of sudden Blue Screen of Death abruptly ended.  There was nothing to compel readers to read the second book in the series.  A story with potential that left me disappointed in the end.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.


3 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of My Extraordinary Life

Monica Sucha Vickers

Non-fiction

Monica Sucha Vickers most certainly has an extraordinary life.  In her book, My Extraordinary Life, she shares all that she has accomplished even though she is a triple amputee.  Her story is in no way a poor-me story. Instead, she has left me utterly amazed at all she has done with her extraordinary circumstances. She was born severly deformed due to anti-morning sickness medication her mother was prescribed during Monica’s time in the womb, but she never let her differences hold her back. Reading Monica’s book made it easy to see that she is a beautiful light in this world. In this quick read, she shares her amazing achievements, and includes lots of pictures to help readers grasp her story. And, she tells of how she even turned rejection into an entrepreneurial journey.

I was and am in awe of Monica Sucha Vickers and her story. However, the book itself is lacking.  It reads more like a timeline or a history textbook than an emotional story of struggles and triumph. I have no doubt that there is so much more to her story, and I wanted to read that, feel that, and be touched by that in the book. For example, she talked about getting a vehicle she could drive, but she didn’t express what is what like to learn to drive. Was she nervous? What challenges did it bring her? Did it give her a new sense of freedom? That aspect of the story is missing in the book. My Extraordinary Life could be so much more. It could be amazing because I can see that Monica’s life was and is amazing, and I wanted that piece and depth to shine through in the pages of her book. I wanted more, and I believe other readers would want more, too.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Onyx Webb – Book One

Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz

Mystery/Thriller

Onyx Webb, written by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz, is the first book in the series.  It is a fiction series that comes to readers in the form of episodes.  The uniqueness of Onyx Webb is without question. There seem to be three very different and separate stories at first, but it didn’t take long to realize that Fenton and Waltz begin to connect the dots between them. From a twisted old woman being a seriel killer to a twenty-something spoiled brat of a young man, this new series runs the gamut. Yet, there are supernatural and magical pieces interwoven that keep readers on the edge of their seats or perhaps, you might say hiding under the blankets while keeping the lights on. With ghosts and seriel killers, readers might expect exceptionally frightening tales and graphic violence.  However, even though there is horror and frightening scenes, the episodes of Onyx Webb are not graphic.  

In the midst of the almost individual stories and the various episodes, Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz share excerpts from the journal of Onyx Webb.  What I found most intriguing about those journal entries are that they occur after Onyx’s death. She wrote them after she became a ghost. Ah, this concept is actually the heart of the series. This is not a typical story with a conclusion at the end. No. Instead, the Fenton and Waltz’s Onyx Webb series is one that will have readers anxiously anticipating the next episode or next book of episodes. It’s a quick and easy read. In fact, it’s one that readers will likely not be able to put down; therefore, inhaling it in one sitting. Onyx Webb will engross readers’ senses, emotions and minds. Two thumbs up!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


4 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Darkly Dreaming

Chloe Hammond

Sci-Fi Paranormal

Darkly Dreaming is the first book in the Darkly Trilogy written by Chloe Hammond. It is a very different perspective of vampiric fiction. There were quite a few characters throughout the story, which often made it a bit hard to follow, but the main two were Rae and Layla. These two women were humans partying their way through the stress and discouraging aspects of divorce from their partners. Along with a couple of friends, they chose to take a trip to France. This idea did not bode well for them as their partying and drinking led them into a situation with rogue vampires. Yep, they ended up bitten and turned. The next thing they knew they were living on a vampire farm operated by the Pride. Their challenges had only just begun. One of their friends, who was also turned even lost her life. The difficulties they yet had to face were long and hard.

Chloe Hammond goes into great detail as to the experiences of Rae and Layla and the rest of the Pride these so-called Pretty Ones had unwillingly become a part of. These details helped express Hammond’s unique concept of vampires. So many vampires are portrayed as beautiful and sexy creatures who can hide in plain site, but not those in Darkly Dreaming. In fact, most weren’t handsome at all, and when in public they would transform into very different beings from normal humans. The story became more interesting as I got further into it, but it was very slow to start for me. It barely kept my interest in the first few chapters. Ultimately, in the end, Hammond did create a nice storyline that left me curious as to what might happen in the second book in the series, and I was glad to see that. Overall, Hammond’s Darkly Dreaming was interesting enough that I’d be willing to read Book Two.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


4 Stars

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Pauline Kerkhoff

Non-Fiction

Pauline Kerkhoff takes readers on a quick exploration of the importance of healing their emotional and spiritual selves in order to create a healthy physical self.  Turning Fat into Love: Downsizing Your Body by Supersizing Your Mind & Heart has three sections starting with Kerkhoff’s personal story.  One of her first major challenges was being diagnosed with MS at a young age, but she overcame that hurdle.  However, as she grew into a career as a nurtitionist and dietician, she came to a point that she realized she wasn’t walking her talk.  The pounds were adding up, and she recognized that she needed to experience self love and stop letting eating be a crutch.  The second section is a how to section with practical tools as well as spiritual tools with a metaphysical approach to develop self love and stop using food as a void filler.  The final part of Turning Fat into Love focuses on the benefits readers can reap when they take this message to heart.  In fact, the final chapter expresses clearly that you can “change the world, but [you have to] begin within.”  

Even though Turning Fat Into Love is only 5 chapters long, it’s very nicely laid out.  Colors are infused throughout the book to highlight important pieces and gives an overall aesthetic appeal.  Kerkhoff embraces the concept that there is great importance in connecting to one’s emotional self and spiritual self as well as one’s physical self.  She gets the point across that just dropping pounds and focusing solely on the physical body will not make for a permanent change. Instead, she expresses that making these changes and developing self-love should be viewed as a practice.  With that being said and with no pun intended, Turning Fat into Love: Downsizing Your Body by Supersizing Your Mind & Heart needs more meat and potatoes though.  It has a lot of great information, but it left me hungry for more.  It’s a great to start to what could be a very beneficial and wonderful book.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of His Wicked Desire (Vieux Carré Witch Sister)

 

Dawn Chartier

Sci-Fi/Paranormal

His Wicked Desire, the second Vieux Carré Witch Sister book, has an intriguing story that will capture readers’ attention. Brye Morgeaux struggles to protect herself and her loved ones. With a battle between witches and warlocks, Brye has an internal battle as well as an outer one. After all, she is half-witch and half-warlock herself. Her internal struggle rages even more as she tries to turn her back on the man she loves – Josh. She does this in an effort to protect him, but the evil warlock that’s threatened Brye isn’t about to leave Josh out of it. When Brye and her sisters come to Josh’s rescue he ends up rejecting her and the reality of what happened to him. Is it possible that Brye will be able to protect Josh and love him at the same time? He’s not a witch or a warlock, so the question persists as to whether or not he’ll come to grips with the truth, and whether or not their love can survive.

Dawn Chartier has written a very good story in His Wicked Desire. Even though I did not read the first Vieux Carré Witch Sister book, Bewitching the Enemy, I found His Wicked Desire to be easily understood and quite enjoyable as a stand alone book. The storyline flowed well, and I found it easy to get into the story from the beginning. Chartier made it easy to understand the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. She also expressed the difference between witches and warlocks. That is that stereotypically people tend to think of witches as female and warlocks as male, but Chartier avoided this misconception. I very much enjoyed reading Dawn Chartier’s His Wicked Desire, and hope to see a third book released in the Vieux Carré Witch Sister series.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love

Stephen Murray

General Fiction

Stephen Murray has written another heart-warmingly, gentle romance that is like nothing else out there. Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love is the sequel to Murray’s 5 star rated, The Chapel of Eternal Love. Having read the first book of unique fictional wedding stories, I was very excited to read the sequel. There are numerous couples and individuals whose stories range from a former owner of an escort service to a family in witness protection to a congresswoman and her husband. Of course, Buster, the intuitive little dachshund from the first book, is back and his story continues as well. Just as in The Chapel of Eternal Love, there are joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. Murray elegantly takes readers on a journey of discovery right along side the characters. In Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love, the characters take a quick, yet powerful, trip down memory lane when the current pastor, Father Mark Roads, contacts them out of the blue. There’s a compelling reason that calls them to return to the chapel.

Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love is so unique and beautiful that I couldn’t put it down. Before I knew it, I’d stayed up and read the entire book. Stephen Murray is very talented when it comes to getting readers to truly feel the characters in the space of individual chapters. Even with so many characters involved throughout The Chapel of Eternal Love and Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love, they are all well developed. That in of itself is almost impossible to do in such a short time span, but Murray just has a knack for expressing them so clearly. Can you pick up Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love and read it as a stand alone? Sure, but I highly recommend you read the first as well because they are both so truly enjoyable. Stephen Murray has hit a home run with these two. The Chapel of Eternal Love and Return to the Chapel of Eternal Love are sweet, romantic, charming and downright classy. Well done!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of The SHIVA Syndrome

Alan Joshua

Science Fiction/Paranormal

Science clashes against spirituality in this fascinating science fiction story by Alan Joshua. The SHIVA Syndrome will take readers on a metaphysical journey alongside the main character, Beau Walker. A researcher of parapsychology and a professor, Beau was kicked off of a government project as somewhat of a scapegoat. However, the project he was working on has caused a crater to appear in Russia. This isn’t just any crater. In fact, an entire town and all of it’s people simply vanished into a mile deep hole. Beau’s knowledge and expertise is now of great use to the government, and they basically force him into helping them. What they don’t know is that there’s more to Beau than meets the eye. He has supernatural abilities from being psychic to his uncanny ability to heal others. This is something he’s kept hidden and even rejected after a tragic event involving his sister. Yet, it’s vital that he help discover the cause of the devastation in Russia while protecting humanity.

Alan Joshua does a good job of giving readers a very interesting story while really building strong characters. Yet, there was so much information in regards to religions and spiritual traditions that I believe a lot of readers may feel bombarded. Without some grasp of these various belief systems, readers may feel lost or have to go back and reread some sections. Also, throughout The SHIVA Syndrome the story often jumps to a shamanic-like journey of Beau’s. These sudden jumps were confusing at times. Even so, The SHIVA Syndrome has a wonderful spiritual message around seeing what we believe in or in seeing what we know. Overall, Alan Joshua’s The SHIVA Syndrome allows readers to dive into a metaphysical, yet scientific, read that will have them curious until the very end.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Amina: The Silent One

Fiza Pathan

General Fiction

A powerfully gripping tale told by Fiza Pathan, Amina: The Silent One will fire up reader’s emotions while bringing them to tears. Amina, born in India as the third daughter in her family is unwanted and viewed as a burden by her parents and abusive grandmother. Their belief of daughters being burdens is heightened as her mother gives birth to two more daughters. Tragedy strikes Amina’s family bringing devastation to her, her father and her grandmother. Yet, Amina’s tragic circumstances have only begun. Her father unknowingly marries her off to a man who turns her into a sex slave. The beauty of Amina’s musical skill, which has been her saving grace throughout her life, helps her once again within the prison of her marriage. But, will it be enough to save her and the others that are victims of her husband and mother-in-law?

Fiza Pathan is a compelling storyteller, and even though Amina: The Silent One is a little slow to start, it becomes a story that readers won’t be able to put down. They’ll want to know what happens to Amina and her music. They’ll want to know what happens to the other girls forced into sexual slavery by Amina’s husband as well as the husband’s fate. Fiza shares a story that portrays more truth than most people realize exists. It is heart-wrenching, while at the same time it is inspiring. Amina: The Silent One gives hope to women around the world even when they are innately afraid to speak out loud. This is an eye-opening story with a message that needs to be shared far and wide. Highly recommended.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


4 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Inherit the Texas Earth

Vicki Schoen

General Fiction

Vicki Schoen’s book, Inherit the Texas Earth is an interesting story that brings forward the historical struggles of a family during the Dust Bowl. Though they had no rain to speak of, and couldn’t even get grass to grow, some families were determined to stay and survive while others fled the Texas Panhandle. Willy Gil’s grandfather wanted him to promise to keep the land the same, but with all of the top soil being blown away or washed away by the occasional, torrential rains that was a nearly impossible task. Yet, the struggles Schoen writes about go beyond the terrible conditions of dust being in everything. There are three love stories inside the overall story – two human love stories and a love story with the land. The dust storms turned the skies black, took lives, scarred others emotionally and physically, but still those who loved their land refused to leave. They stayed even when they had no food to eat; their livestock were more dust than meat. The entire country was facing the depression, and the government could do little to help. Reading Inherit the Texas Earth gives you a strong sense of what it must have been like for those who lived the deep challenges of the Dust Bowl during the 1930s.

With a personal tie to the Dust Bowl, Vicki Schoen wrote this historical fiction while developing strong characters and scenes and events that make the reader feel as though they were there. There is actually more than one family saga within the story, but in the beginning the story was a bit slow and somewhat confusing. With so many characters in the first couple of chapters, I believe it would’ve been helpful to have had a list of characters and a bit about each of them in the front of the book. About the third chapter, Schoen wrote, “The moon refused to give up the sky.” From there onward, the author held my attention. Overall, Inherit the Texas Earth seems to have been well researched. It’ll touch readers’ hearts and make them think differently about other’s problems as well as other’s family histories.

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of The Corridor of Uncertainty

Nihar Suthar

Non-Fiction

Nihar Suthar captures the emotional upheaval and eventual mending of a war torn nation and its refugees in his new book, The Corridor of Uncertainty: How Cricket Mended a Torn Nation. Tens of thousands of people fled Afghanistan during the 1980s. They fled with their families to refugee camps in Pakistan in an attempt to find safety and security. Three of the young boys who grew up in the stark conditions of the camps unexpectedly fell in love with the game of cricket. Though their parents were adamantly against the boys playing, the boys’ love for the game overrode their parents’ wishes. Soon they dreamed of starting a national Afghan cricket team with hopes of bringing hope and joy to their homeland. They certainly faced many challenges, but by the 2015 World Cup the game had united a nation once again.

The Corridor of Uncertainty is a powerful rendition of Afghanistan’s recent history. Inspirational storyteller, Nihar Suthar, has written this heart-wrenching true story in a way that can touch your soul. Even those who know nothing about the game of cricket or Afghan culture will quickly develop a connection to Taj, Karim, and Raees, the three young men who are at the core of this story. To add to the reader’s experience, the book includes a number of full-color images of the refugee camp as well as images of the Afghan national cricket team. The Corridor of Uncertainty is a great read – especially for young adults. Not only is it eye-opening but it’s inspirational. No matter what your circumstances you can overcome them. Nihar Suthar has written this historical drama with depth, compassion, and grace. Highly recommended!

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com


 

5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of The Chapel of Eternal Love

Stephen Murray

General Fiction

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


5 Stars

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Click here to get your copy of Hellbound: The Tally Man

David McCaffrey

Mystery/Thriller

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


4 Stars

Print Click to get your copy of Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues

Fiza Pathan

Children/Young Adult

A story focused on twin boys and their trials and tribulations, Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues, will touch your heart and open your mind.  Author Fiza Pathan, takes readers along the journey of twin brothers, Raman and Sunny, as their close relationship falls apart during their middle school years.  It is more than just drifting apart though.  Together, Sunny and the “worst enemy” in school, Amanda, begin to bully Raman.  Amanda even throws things such as chalk sticks, candy wrappers and more at Raman during school.  It finally got to a point that Raman lost his temper, and retaliated by burning Sunny’s school books.  Unfortunately, this led to him getting into a heap of trouble.  He was sent to an orphanage for a week, which he was actually excited about.  There he believed he could be an individual and be himself instead of being a twin and bullied at school.  Sure enough, he made friends and did exceptionally well.  After his return to his regular school, Raman recognized that he and his brother needed to reconcile and regain their brotherly connection.  
Pathan created an interesting substory within Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues as well.  Sunil Sir, a teacher at the boys’ school, wanted the principle to incorporate a new method of teaching that would take the children on a deeper dive into their studies.  However, the other teachers were adamantly against this, and Sunil Sir faced his own bullying and dire consequences due to the manipulation of a few of his fellow staff members.  There was a question throughout as to whether or not Sunil Sir’s teaching methods would be shunned forever.
The message of bullying and opening to new possibilities shined through not just with Raman and Sunny, but with their teacher, Sunil Sir, too.  Therefore, overall, Fiza Pathan did a wonderful job at bringing an important message forth.  On the downside, there is an excessive use of descriptive words though, and the story is fairly slow and unentertaining until about 10% of the way through.  Readers need to get passed the first five or six chapters, then they will begin to discover the beautiful depth within the story.  From sibling love to sibling rivalry, from bullying to friendship, from lackluster education to expansive and new study methods, Raman and Sunny is a story readers will remember!  Well, worth your time, and a good read for middle schoolers.

 

 Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com

4 Stars

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Click to Get Your Copy of Four Days to Fusion

Lira Brannon

Children/Young Adult

Tweens, teens and adults will all be captured by Lira Brannon’s new book, Four Days to Fusion.  A young teenage girl, Seren, wakes up to her parents acting exceptionally strange – even more peculiar than they normally behave.  What she doesn’t understand is that she is actually a star – not a human girl.  Seren’s destiny is to assume the role as queen as a beautiful gaseous, celestial body.  However, due to the fact that she is being hidden on Earth with the mask of a human body, she can’t comprehend the war that is raging within the Universe.  There are beings that wish to end her life and prevent her from taking her rightful place in the heavens.  Unfortunately, this war is torturous to Earth, and most likely every living creature will be wiped out.  Seren, her bizarre protectors, and her friends are in grave danger as they try to survive the war.  Survival is even more challenging when they don’t fully understand what is happening.  

Author, Lira Brannon, has written a fantastic supernatural story that will keep readers turning page after page.  She heads each chapter with how many hours are left until fusion.  Yet, she only hints at what will happen to Seren upon fusion.  Therefore, there is a great question in readers’ minds as they move through the story.  This, alone, sustains their curiosity.  Of course, there are a number of questions to be answered. Are Seren’s parents still alive?  Who are her parents actually?  Are her friends just normal teenage human beings or is there more to them than that?  What is Seren’s true destiny?  What will happen if she turns into a star?  Brannon holds readers attention with these questions while she adds depth through a variety of characters.  She even endears readers to a dying star with the star’s moments of something similar to Alzheimer’s.  Four Days to Fusion is a fantastic and fun read, and it offers a wealth of directions for deep consideration and conversations.  Well done!

 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com

3 Stars

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Click to Get Your Copy of The Caleb Years

 David Ingerson

Non-Fiction

David Ingerson and his wife, Kathy, faced a shocking and devastating time in their lives with the birth of the their fourth child.  The Caleb Years is a brutally honest look behind the curtains of what David and Kathy went through.  Ingerson is blunt when it comes to describing the doctors’ perspectives on whether or not to try and save baby Caleb.  He’s continues to be blunt when he shares the raw emotions and experiences both he and Kathy traversed together.  There is a very strong theme throughout the book that David Ingerson believed it was up to him to make the best decisions for his child over and above the doctors and even beyond Kathy’s input.  In fact, approximately two-thirds of the way through the book, Ingerson describes a situation in which he was “seething with rage because [his] wife [dared] to defy [his] word.”  The Ingerson’s extremely devout Christian views are what they give credit to for surviving the trauma of The Caleb Years.

If you, as a reader, are similar in extreme devout Christian faith, then David Ingerson’s The Caleb Years may very well resonate with you.  Reading about their ordeal from start to finish may give you strength or at least touch your heart.  On the other hand, if you are not fully immersed in the beliefs of the Old Testament, then you very well might find the author’s beliefs and behaviors to be quite upsetting.  Therefore, proceed with caution.  Beyond this aspect, The Caleb Years is flooded with an over abundance of adjectives and adverbs.  Their excessive use detracts from the story itself though it is quite evident that Ingerson was doing his best to help readers create a vivid picture in their minds.  This is a story of an adorable little boy, who went through horrendous times during his brief time on Earth, while in the end taught his parents to be grateful for every day.

 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com

4 Stars

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Click to Get Your Copy of Self-Care for Hairdressers

 

Rebecca Beardsley

Non-Fiction

Hairdressers often discover just how stressful of a job they in the midst of the beauty surrounding them. That same beauty that they are expected to bring to their clients day-in and day-out.  Rebecca Beardsley has written a new book to reach her fellow hairdressers before the stress burns them out. Her book, Self-Care for Hairdressers: How to Prevent Stress and Burnout and Step Into the Professional You Were Meant To Be, fully intends to do exactly what the title claims. She shares why stylists burn out, and offers some of her favorite tips on how to rid oneself of the inner tension and reconnect with the passion and purpose of doing work they love. Beardsley gives hope to exhausted stylists with her simple, yet powerful suggestions.  

 

Self-Care for Hairdressers is a very quick read, and Rebecca Beardsley’s tips and exercises are brief, but her passion and empathy for her fellow hairdressers shines through. For those stylists, who are swamped trying to make ends meet, this short book is a chance to give themselves a boost in the right direction. The exercises and suggestions Beardsley shares are simple and easy, which makes them quite practical. In fact, readers can implement these strategies into their lives immediately upon reading Self-Care for Hairdressers. And, for those who want more, Rebecca Beardsley shares a free gift right from the start. Readers will receive 5 Amazingly Simple and Effective Self-Care Strategies that Will Lead Hairdressers to a More Joyful Career. Yes, readers have to go to her site to get it, but it is available as a complementary piece to the book. If you’re a hairdresser, you’ll most likely relate to Self-Care for Hairdressers. And, if you’re not, your hairstylist, probably would. This little book could very easily make you view your career (or your stylist’s) in a very different light.  

 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com

5 Stars

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Click to Get Your Copy of The Unholy

 

Paul DeBlassie III

Mystery/Thriller

The dark and frightening depths of radical religious leaders, as well as their followers, is blatantly displayed in Paul DeBlassie III’s book, The Unholy. Claire Sanchez is a woman who continues to deny to herself or anyone else that she is a medicine woman, a healer. Tragedy in her childhood pushed her away such acceptance. Yet, she ultimately has no choice but to face her own personal demons as evil surrounds her from the bowels of the church or is it, in this case, really the bowels of Hell? The Ecclesia Dei, a “wealthy, centuries-old church”, maintains control over its members and the community through the manipulations of Archbishop William Anarch. Not only does Claire have to choose her path spiritually, but DeBlassie interweaves the challenge of choosing her path in other areas of her life, including her love life. The question really is whether or not Claire will be able to make her own decision – that is, if she is even allowed to survive. 

 

Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D. has crafted a tale of tragedy and upheaval with a full scoop of mystery mixed in. Readers may be shocked at the psychotic and twisted mind of not only Archbishop Anarch, but of others around him. This thriller will keep readers turning pages with bated breath.  DeBlassie’s ability to paint a picture with words helps readers easily imagine the details of each scene. Though the plot is complex, and one readers need to give their full attention to, it is a story that will have them anxious to find out what happens next. The Unholy will lead readers on a path to wonder what really is holy as well as what really is unholy.    

 

Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com