Authors Talk About It

Book Award Contest & Indie Support

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2017 ATAI Book Award Contest Finalists Announced

2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Finalists Announced!

 

Children

Finalists

Jorie and The Magic Stones – Angela Richards

Cub’s Wish – Angie Flores

Weeds in Nana’s Garden – Kathryn Harrison

 

Honorable Mention

The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog – Florenza Denise Lee

Diesel the Body Guard – Cindy Shirley

Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas – Sojourner McConnell

The Magic Pen: Cindy’s Castle Adventure – Erin Childs


General Fiction

Finalists

Pyre – Eric Hull & C. M. Stultz

Like Ashes We Scatter – Bradon Nave

Broken Branches – Brenda Spalding

 

Honorable Mention

Splintered Reflections – Laura Kelly

The Everett File – Steven A. Moore


Horror

Finalists

Strain in Resistance – Michelle Bryan

The Muse: A Novel of Unrelenting – Arjay Lewis

Chrysallis and Clan – Jae Mazer


Mystery

Finalists

Lineage – JN Sheats

A Tightening Noose – B.K. Berrell

The Darkness of Water – Matthew Neighbours


Non-fiction

Finalists

The Grand Gypsy – Ottavio Canestrelli with Ottavio Gesmundo

Nowhere Else I Want to Be: Memoir – Carol D. Marsh

Classics: Why and how we can encourage children to read them – Fiza Pathan

 

Honorable Mention

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back – Rebecca Undem

Damn Mind – Jacqui Letran

American Justice on Trial – Lisa Pearlman


Paranormal

Finalists

The Baby Chronicles – Beatrice Bruno

Elicit My Heart – Shauna Pendleton

Purgatorium – J H Carnathan


Romance

Finalists

What It Takes – Sonya Loveday

Rosemary for Remembrance – Nikki Broadwell

Everything She Needed – Christina Butrum


Sci-Fi

Finalists

Pulse: Book One of the Zoya Chronicles – Kate Sander

The Korpes File – JI Rogers

Through the Hostage – JC Steel


Thriller

Finalists

The Darkness of Water – Matthew Neighbours

The Wolves Within our Walls – L.E. Flinders

Thicker Than Blood – James Sumner


Young Adult

Finalists

The Rite of Wands – Mackenzie Flohr

The Good Citizen – Joel Döty

The Water Kingdom – Deborah Gray

 

Honorable Mention

The Kingdom of Oceana – Mitchell Charles

Splintered Reflections – Laura Kelly

Veronica and the Volcano – Geoffrey Cook

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Through the Hostage – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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J C Steel

Through the Hostage by J C Steel is a compelling journey through a fully realized alien world that seems to be teetering on the brink of internal war. This book tells the story of Khyria Ilan, an alien being who is reluctant to accept her role as leader of a potential group of mercenary fighters. Khyria is forced to deal with many obstacles during her journey, from armed rebellions to a government sponsored conspiracy, to establish and maintain authority over her unit.


Through the Hostage is an incredibly well thought out book. Steel has created a fresh, vibrant world full of engaging characters and tense situations. One drawback though is that Steel stumbles a bit in defining and explaining the many alien concepts. This is particularly the case at the beginning of the novel when the reader experiences everything through the eyes of the book’s alien characters. On the one hand, it is refreshing to read an author who trusts that her audience will keep up with her, however the sheer amount of worldbuilding is a lot to keep up with, leaving something to be desired in terms of context.


What misgivings the reader may have at the beginning of the novel all but disappear once a handful of chapters go by. The introduction of Jack helps to give the reader a solid footing, and gives the characters a reason to explain their alien traditions and behaviors. This greatly enhances the experience of reading the book. The pacing is just about perfect, keeping the reader of the edge of their seat as they are never sure if Khyria, her second, Taiva, and their poor hostage, Jack, will make it to the end. Through the Hostage by J C Steel is an excellent first book in The Cortii Series. Fans of science fiction, worldbuilding, or just good storytelling will find themselves thoroughly engrossed in J C Steel’s excellent work.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Trust – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Tabitha Darling

An unlikely fusion of mythic fantasy creatures and modern humans, Trust, by Tabitha Darling, explores the relationship between a stranded centaur from a different planet and the human woman he kidnaps to nurse the newborn in his care. Together, they overcome language barriers, child-rearing, and the terror of an uncertain future, while all along learning to trust and care for one another. The first novel in the Children of Chiron series, Trust introduces readers to a new perspective on modern fantasy.


Trust begins in a centaur village with a rapid series of events that culminate in a magical teleportation to Earth. While the concept is clear, the series of events in the first several pages is not. It can be quite difficult for readers to keep track of characters and actions on top of all the unfamiliar world-building aspects of the scenes. There is extreme urgency to the situation, but the reasons why are difficult to pick out. Without any sort of anchoring expositional information, the quick pace of the dialogue and action could possibly turn readers off the story entirely, despite any course correction the story takes later. Along the same vein, the descriptions for action moments and movement in general could use quite a lot of expansion. The action is very frank, and as a result, uninformative. Poor action description can lead to misunderstanding of the whole scene. For instance, the moment Brenda and Ieang are forced to abandon Tejat is a pivotal moment, but even after several read throughs, it is a confusing moment.


Darling’s decision to write most of Trust through Ieang’s perspective is an ambitious one. The entire experience on Earth is a practice in defamiliarization. Because Ieang does not know what things are or how to describe them, readers are forced to pick up every clue as if it’s a mystery game, providing a steady-yet-mellow layer of tension throughout the whole story. On an entirely different note, the sheer creativity that comes with Darling’s reimagining of mythology and centaurs is commendable. Though the reader does not yet know how the centaurs’ faith and gods relate to what is understood on Earth, the few connections given are exciting and promising for future novels. While Trust is just the first of several novels, the story itself can stand alone as a quest or adventure narrative for both main characters, the unknown elements simply leave the reader waiting and wanting for the next installment in the series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Water Kingdom – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Deborah Gray

In Deborah Gray’s The Water Kingdom, Nell Cunningham sneaks along on a field trip to White Shell Lagoon, but finds more than she bargained for—including a violet-eyed boy who clearly isn’t human. Meanwhile, Sebastian has been tasked with finding his lost queen and her priceless locket, but there’s danger around every corner for him—and for Nell, too.


Though its plot is certainly intriguing, The Water Kingdom also has some aspects about it that are a bit too cliché and predictable. Many of these obvious hints and tropes give away the plot twists before they happen, which perhaps takes some of the fun out of the story in general. Also, there were many scenes and plot points that were far too rushed, hurtling the reader through a fast-paced plot that may have been better executed if it had been slowed down a tad. Aside from that, The Water Kingdom is an incredibly entertaining young adult novel that shows a lot of promise.


The Water Kingdom’s greatest strength lies in its imaginative and descriptive storyline. Exciting and fascinating from the first page, this story is full of adventure, mystery, and delightful fantasy. Deborah Gray is a talented writer, seamlessly weaving lifelike characters and impeccable detail into a narrative that is consistently riveting. In many ways, The Water Kingdom is so well-written that it seems overwhelmingly believable at times. The Water Kingdom is a brilliant, creative novel that is impossible to put down—and will certainly inspire many equally great sequels in the future.

 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Michael Kinyanjui

Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows: My Battles with Bipolar Disorder is Michael Kinyanjui’s powerful memoir about his struggles with mental illness. From his birth in Kenya to his eventual rock bottom, Kinyanjui discusses the many facets of his bipolar disorder and how he eventually tamed his inner demons.


At times, Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows almost seems to lose track of itself or become distracted. There are many instances where Michael Kinyanjui tends to get lost in his own reminiscing, seemingly forgetting what the main purpose of this memoir was intended to be. Instead of discussing his mental illness, he diverts to discussing female exploits and fun shenanigans he got into, without explicitly breaking down these stories or explaining to the reader how or why those events relate to his bipolar disorder. Also, the narrative is not in any sort of direct chronological order, making the timeline sometimes seem confusing.


Nevertheless, Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows is an intriguing and captivating memoir. Michael Kinyanjui writes in a casual, yet descriptive style that breathes life and emotion into his tales, painting a vivid and clear portrait of what his life was like as he struggled with his bipolar disorder. Equally enlightening and alarming, this book sheds light on what mental illness really looks like, as well as providing a helping hand to readers who may be in similar situations. Highest of Highs to Lowest of Lows: My Battles with Bipolar Disorder is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the tumultuous nature of bipolar disorder, as well as how to manage it and maintain bright optimism for the future.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Help, My Horse is Drowning – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Ray Hamill

In Help, My Horse is Drowning!, Ray Hamill explores the unique relationship between sports and their overzealous fans—himself included. Through personal stories of his own, colorful facts and history, and some satirical portraits of sports fans, Hamill delves into what exactly it is that makes people go nuts over sports.


There are some areas within Help, My Horse is Drowning! that seem a bit disorganized or jumbled; many times, Ray Hamill seems to get sidetracked with long-winded stories before returning to his original point. It’s still quite entertaining to read, but might benefit from some more diligent organization. Also, perhaps it should be noted that readers who are not already sports fans may occasionally find themselves having no idea what or whom Hamill is referring to in his tales. It’s not devastating to the book by any means, since it carries itself quite well regardless, but that’s just something to be aware of.


Regardless of whether readers are sports fans or not, though, Help, My Horse is Drowning! is undeniably a hilariously entertaining read. Ray Hamill writes in a casual, infectiously funny style that immediately captivates from the first page and actively keeps the reader engaged right on through to the end. Equally thoughtful and down-to-earth, Help, My Horse is Drowning! is a unique, memoir-style book that is sure to leave a memorable impression on its readers. At the very least, readers will finish Help, My Horse is Drowning! and find themselves still chuckling aloud at the thought of a flying NASCAR race or the image of Ray Hamill “splashiming.”

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Hearing His Voice – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Meredith Swift

In Hearing His Voice: Meeting Jesus in the Garden of Promise, Meredith Swift shares her illuminating encounters with Jesus Christ. In the sanctuary of her own personal “Garden of Promise,” Swift found her faith in her Savior; she shares her profound discoveries with the world in Hearing His Voice.


Though certainly interesting, Hearing His Voice is a bit odd in terms of general construction and development. Much of the book consists of a one-sided “conversation” with Jesus, which the author/narrator does not respond to, elaborate on, or give context for. Occasionally, there is a beautiful description of the imaginary “Garden of Promise,” but the rest of the book is just Jesus talking to the author. This format can be confusing sometimes; it is unclear if Hearing His Voice is meant to be a motivational self-help book through Jesus, a religious memoir, or a work of fiction about what Meredith Swift imagined Jesus would say to her during difficult times in her life. This ambiguity and lack of context makes the entire book perhaps not as effective as it could be.


Nevertheless, Hearing His Voice is certainly an invaluable illustration of faith and love for the Lord. Meredith Swift writes with eloquence and vivid imagery, making her words—and Jesus’—resonate deeply with the reader. There is also an abundant supply of poignant advice to be found in this book, spoken through Jesus’ voice and in a manner that would be incredibly relatable to anyone who reads it. Hearing His Voice: Meeting Jesus in the Garden of Promise is powerful and touching, uplifting and inspirational, gentle and loving—and above all, full of light and promise through the eyes and words of Jesus Christ.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Avocadonine and Spring Stone – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Patrick Barnes

In Patrick Barnes’ The Avocadonine and Spring Stone, Rey Naresh visits a psychic and receives a cryptic reading about his future. Then, as he’s entering the ninth grade, Rey learns that some of his classmates are hearing humming noises emitting from their electronics. With the help of his friends, Rey investigates the anomaly, uncovering a secret plot involving mind control, avocados, and a mysterious girl named Spring Stone.


In short, there’s just too much going on in The Avocadonine and Spring Stone. The plot often comes across as convoluted and crowded, with constantly changing points of view and a distracted narrative. There are many scenes that are so busy or vague that it’s difficult to follow along with what’s happening; one can only imagine how confusing it might be for the younger readers that are clearly the target audience here. Also, the heavy prevalence of avocados (of all things) in this story might have been interesting in theory, but in execution, it’s just overly eccentric and almost too strange.


Nevertheless, there is still much to be appreciated in this quirky novel. Patrick Barnes captures the awkward and curious nature of youths perfectly, making the characters of The Avocadonine and Spring Stone all relatable and realistic. The bare plot itself is interesting and unique, with a creative mystery that is engaging and intriguing right up to its resolution. The Avocadonine and the Spring Stone may be a little odd, but it is a charming and amusing coming-of-age story all the same.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Audric Experiment – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Patrick Barnes

In Patrick Barnes’ The Audric Experiment, Pierre Morena lives in a futuristic society called Audric, in which people are punished for bad financial decisions with a shock from a bracelet and terrifying dreams. After Pierre survives a thirteen-floor fall of which he has little recollection, he crosses paths with a rogue group called Gamblers. The Gamblers have answers for him, but also even more questions, leaving Pierre to reconsider the society of Audric altogether.


Though it certainly has an interesting premise, The Audric Experiment needs a bit of work in terms of plot development. Much of the plot is far too underdeveloped, with essential details that were either too vague or almost nonexistent, making it sometimes difficult to follow along with the story. Also, much of the plot seemed to grow impatient with itself, rushing off to the next plot point without adequately resolving the one before it. Other aspects of the plot seem too convoluted, with too much going on all at once. Because of this severe imbalance, in many ways, The Audric Experiment reads more like a first draft than a completely finished novel.


However, The Audric Experiment is still an incredibly entertaining read. In essence, The Audric Experiment is slightly reminiscent of well-known works like The Giver or Fahrenheit 451, but with a distinctly modern-day flair that keeps the plot interesting and the characters relatable. Patrick Barnes clearly has brilliant ideas for good science fiction stories; his unique concepts and style of writing show an abundance of promise. Perhaps The Audric Experiment missed the mark a bit in execution, but the potential is there; a solid revision or edit can make this the groundbreaking novel it is clearly capable of being.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Art of Healing – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jeanne Felfe

In Jeanne Felfe’s The Art of Healing, Julianne is devastated by her husband’s infidelity and the eventual demise of their marriage. Meanwhile, photographer Jokob is still reeling from his wife’s tragic death, turning only to his art for comfort. When the two meet at a gallery of Jokob’s work, sparks fly, giving them both an opportunity to heal themselves and each other with new love.


Despite being an excellent story, The Art of Healing seems to be quite disorganized. The plot jumps between characters’ perspectives haphazardly and without reason, and the large skips in the timeline seem nonsensical and almost confusing. Granted, the plot is still interesting enough to carry the reader through to the end regardless, but more careful organization would benefit this novel greatly. Aside from that, there’s no denying that The Art of Healing is a truly fantastic romance novel in every way.


Jeanne Felfe has quite the talent for writing a believable romance with substance; The Art of Healing is not a “love at first sight” story, nor is it superficial or overly cliché. Rather, the characters are well-written and wholly human, making them relatable and interesting in the way a dear friend or beloved family member would be. Their romance is wholesome and genuine, resulting in a romance novel that is truly captivating and a pleasure to read. The Art of Healing is wonderfully real, guaranteed to tug at readers’ heartstrings and give them a romance worth rooting for.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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