Unleash Your Inner Super Powers – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jacqui Letran

Unleash Your Inner Super Powers: and destroy fear and self-doubt by Jacqui Letran is the third in a series of self-help books aimed at teenagers. Letran presents a small handful of attributes and skills called Inner Super Powers (ISPs) and discusses ways that each person can develop these ISPs and use them to better their lives. Specific focus is placed on conquering fears and self-doubt in social situations from small gatherings of friends to high-stakes public speaking assignments.


In Unleash Your Inner Super Powers: and destroy fear and self-doubt the reader is presented with several skills and given exercises to help develop those skills. This book can be slightly overwhelming. The structure of the book is well thought out, but the main takeaways in each chapter do get a bit lost in the verbiage of the piece. This is easily remedied through slightly more concise writing, which would also aid in cutting down on any unnecessary repetition. A glossary would also go a long way in aiding any confusion the reader may experience, by giving them one place to go for all the necessary key terms.


Though this book is aimed at teenagers, and the examples presented are specifically tailored towards that audience, the advice and exercises could be useful to people of all ages. Letran does a solid job of explaining every topic she approaches in a way that emphasizes that feeling inadequate is a universal human experience. She presents the information in such a way that each new topic builds on the one before to encourage the reader to continue improving upon the earlier skills as they learn new ones. Unleash Your Inner Super Powers: and destroy fear and self-doubt by Jacqui Letran is a great resource for anyone, teenager or adult, who is looking for some basic advice on how to begin building self-confidence.

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

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Garden Wisdom – 365 Days – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Cheryl Wilfong

In Garden Wisdom – 365 Days, author Cheryl Wilfong using stories and metaphor to share insights to help readers view mindfulness and perspective differently. She takes the readers on a journey from the first day of spring, March 21st, to the following first day of spring. There are daily snippets of wisdom and insight. On any given day of the year, the reader could flip to that page and get a dose of powerful wisdom or the reader could follow day-by-day from start to finish.

The daily wisdom in Wilfong’s Garden Wisdom – 365 Days is not overly deep. Yet, it offers readers a chance to ponder it on their own and let it flow in and out of their own personal perspectives. Wilfong’s style of writing allows the messages to flow gracefully through the readers’ minds. The pictures are black and white, which is a slight drawback. This almost takes away from the true colorfulness of the beautiful insight shared in the writing. Furthermore, said pictures are grainy and look almost photocopied. The cover has a colorful feel, but the imagery inside is not nearly as appealing.

A very well-written book, Garden Wisdom – 365 Days is broken down into simple digestible daily bits of wisdom. In just a few moments, readers can flip to the current day and read a short snippet that is powerful enough to take them on a deep and evolutionary inner journey if they’re interested in taking it that far. Yet, Cheryl Wilfong wrote her insight in such an easy-to-read and brief way that readers can just take a minute or two to read that day’s insight and let it settle into their soul all on its own if they’d rather take that route. Most interesting is that Garden Wisdom – 365 Days encourages gardeners to explore beyond just the concepts and blend Wilfong’s concepts with their joy of tending their gardens.

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

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Without You – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Brittany Taylor

Without You by Brittany Taylor is an emotional debut novel about one young woman’s struggle to navigate the confusing emotions so often associated with love and heartbreak. The book follows Emiline Ward, a young woman who is struggling to define herself after losing her first love. She has stopped living her life. She merely exists, drifting between her apartment and her job as a server, until one day when Em is introduced to Cameron, a hunky new arrival to their small Texas town.


Without You is an easy, quick read that takes readers through a fully-developed small town populated with young adults just getting started in life. This novel, with its first-person narrative structure, relies heavily on exposition to keep the reader informed about how Em is feeling. Instead of showing the reader conversations, Em will sometimes think about those conversations as they are happening, relaying valuable information through exposition instead of dialogue. Allowing the reader to experience more of what Em is experiencing, as she experiences it, would only heighten the connection between the reader and the protagonist. It would also help to iron out some of the uneven pacing throughout the novel because the reader would get to see Em growing as a person and becoming more self-aware, rather than simply being told that she has undergone these changes.


In Without You, Brittany Taylor has created a world populated with believable, well-constructed characters. A lot of attention has been paid to giving each character sufficient backstory and personality, making it easy to believe that these characters exist. The reader can’t help but be drawn into Em’s loss-ridden life through the clear descriptions of the characters and their relatable personalities. Taylor does an excellent job conveying the mix of emotions that comes with losing your first love, and the excitement and uncertainty that comes with finding someone new. Despite the pacing issues mentioned above, Without You by Brittany Taylor is a quick, light read that would be perfect for anyone who would enjoy an emotional and sexy look at what it is like to navigate relationships as a young woman.

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

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When the Sun Shines Through – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Mary Edwards-Olson

In Mary Edwards-Olson’s book, When the Sun Shines Through, the author takes readers on a simple journey on a topic that is far from simple. She focuses on helping readers deal with the affects of Alzheimer’s disease in a way that is perfect for young readers. Written as a children’s picture book, When the Sun Shines Through is easy-to-read and gets straight to the heart of the matter, but could just as easily touch the hearts of adult readers, too.

Though there is always creative and artistic license there are some grammatical errors that may deter a few readers. It might be better if the punctuation was correct when it is very obvious in such a simple book. Another area that could be improved upon is how the perspective seems to switch from the child’s point of view to that of an adult who might develop the disease. Then it switches back again. This flip-flopping back and forth in perspectives can be a little confusing and hard to follow.

Overall, When the Sun Shines Through by Mary Edwards-Olson is a fantastic little book to express how important it is to understand Alzheimer’s as best as one can while offering support and compassion for those who have the disease. When the Sun Shines Through is filled with beautiful imagery. The soft edges seem to depict the fringes and fuzzy edges of memory as it comes and goes as it does with the disease. Edwards-Olson’s simple images and simple wording express such a deep and powerful message as it urges compassion, understanding and love. When the Sun Shines Through is highly recommended.

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

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Goddess of the Wild Thing – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Paul DeBlassie III

Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III follows a woman named Eve on her quest to find love amidst life, loss, and a metaphysical war between two magical deities. Set in the mystical nation of Aztlan del Sur, Eve finds herself torn between the affections of Sam, a man she doesn’t fully trust, and spending her life entirely without love. Goddess of the Wild Thing is an ambitious novel which attempts to answer the question: is bad love preferable to no love at all?


Goddess of the Wild Thing attempts to do a lot in a short amount of time. It occasionally struggles under the weight of all the worldbuilding necessary to establish the world of Aztlan del Sur, and unfortunately sometimes it falls short. Better attention could be paid to establishing the mythology behind the various deities and why it is that they are so diametrically opposed. This would help to better ground the story in the world in which it is set. Further developing the cast of supporting characters would provide the story with more life and make the buildup to the final battle more satisfying.


Where Goddess of the Wild Thing excels is in its ambition. This novel tries to do so much! From the blending of Mesoamerican and Native American cultures to the conversation about toxic behaviors, both masculine and feminine, in human relationships, there is a lot going on. DeBlassie seamlessly integrates his knowledge of psychology to present the reader with a main character that has a fully developed and nuanced psyche. Situating Aztlan del Sur in the Southwestern United States is a smart move. Clearly grounding the story in a real location, even though Aztlan del Sur differs from modern day America, adds to the magical realism that is inherent in the story. Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III offers an intriguing look at a fantasy world while encouraging the reader to confront their own ideas about love, relationships, and spirituality.

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

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Least Wanted – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Debbi Mack

In Debbi Mack’s Least Wanted, attorney Sam McRae juggles two clients accused of heinous murders. A young black girl named Tina Jackson is accused of bludgeoning her mother to death with a softball bat, and a man alleged to have embezzled money is suspected of murdering his boss. The two cases have more in common than Sam first realizes, leaving her scrambling to find the truth before she becomes the murderer’s next victim.


Though certainly a riveting mystery novel, Least Wanted does feature some rather unbelievable or even cliché characters and plot points. Some characters were a bit too colorful, bordering almost on caricatures, while a few aspects of the plot seem unrealistic or exaggerated. They’re entertaining nonetheless, but in a blockbuster movie sort of way, and not like a real-life crime story. Sam McRae is certainly an attorney who goes above and beyond, which makes for good fiction, but unfortunately, doesn’t resonate quite as much as it could if it was more lifelike.


On the other hand, Least Wanted is an intriguing story, full of dramatic plot twists and a fast-paced narrative that is sure to keep readers hooked. It functions well as a standalone novel despite being part of a series, which is good news for readers looking for a quick thrill. The plot itself is captivating, dark, and even humorous, providing a well-balanced and well-executed novel that is a joy to read. Debbi Mack has crafted a fascinating, multi-faceted mystery in Least Wanted, full of suspense, thrills, and plenty of unsuspected twists along the way; even seasoned mystery/thriller fans will find themselves pleasantly surprised by this gem.

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

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I Hear You – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Michael S. Sorensen

I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen provides readers with a simple and actionable look at the skills necessary to build and sustain meaningful interpersonal relationships. Sorensen uses the book to explain the concept of validation, and he provides readers with numerous examples of how to employ this skill in their everyday lives.


I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships is well structured and formatted the whole way through. The book has an overabundance of examples which provide ways for people to practice validation in their everyday lives, but clustering many of the examples together in “Part III: Putting it All Together” slows the pacing of the final third of the book in a way that is jarring. The commitment to providing a vast selection of examples for the reader to study and learn from is admirable. However, given the number of examples that are worked into the book’s first two sections, eliminating some of the final examples may aid in diminishing the pacing issue.


Sorensen has done a wonderful job of presenting the topic in a way that is approachable. The reader never once feels like they are being talked down to. The choice to make it clear in the introduction that Sorensen himself is not an academic expert on the topic, but rather a person with a personal interest in the subject, assists with the overall approachable tone of the piece. He includes enough citations from reputable, respected minds in the field to show that he has really done his research. The book is also not overly long, something Sorensen himself insisted on, which helps to keep the pace moving. I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen is an excellent choice for readers looking for a friendly and approachable look at interpersonal communications.

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

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All Fish Faces – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Tam Warner Minton

All Fish Faces: Photos & Fun Facts About Tropical Reef Fish (Ocean Friends Book One) by Tam Warner Minton is a highly colorful book filled with tons of beautiful photographs of marine life. Author, travel blogger and photographer, Warner Minton, compiled images and information from her personal travels and diving excursions for this first book in her series. Though children may thoroughly enjoy it adults will likely enjoy seeing the colorful fish and reading about them, too.

There are a few issues with Warner Minton’s All Fish Faces. Grammatical errors and variances in font style in different places in the book may be a determent for some readers. Yet, they are minor and many people can just overlook those. There is a lack of consistency in the placement of the text boxes as well; therefore, that hinders the flow of the book to some extent. Some of the photographs are a little difficult to see the fish in, but that is countered by the fascinating piece that the author is the actual photographer of all of the photos.

All Fish Faces is quite unique in that it can be a great fit for both young and older readers. The variety of species included is quite interesting and Tam Warner Minton shares images of different types of the various species she includes. The book is vividly colorful and a joy to sit and flip through. With tidbits of information it can add to the reader’s knowledge of what lies beneath the surface of the ocean. Warner Minton shares her series in an effort to help save the oceans and their fabulous sea life. This makes All Fish Faces an even more interesting read.

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

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What Does God Think: Transgender People and the Bible – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Cheryl B. Evans

What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible by Cheryl B. Evans is a thoughtful book which attempts to answer the very question from which it gets its title. Cheryl, the mother of a transgender son, is a Christian who went on her own journey of self-discovery and acceptance and wants to help other parents in her situation do the same. She argues, through the inclusion of extensive research and personal experiences, that the transgender community is a vital part of the Christian Church.


Evans presents a book that is thoroughly researched and well-thought-out. She leads the reader purposefully through an exploration of the transgender experience from the point of view of the family members who support the transgender individual. Adequate time is taken to define all terms that the reader may not be familiar with. She also includes a couple of excerpts from discussions with religious experts, which serve to illustrate the intricacies of her argument. In fact, What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible could benefit from the inclusion of additional material from religious and scientific experts to provide further support for the stance that Evans takes in the book.


What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible includes many quotations from the Bible, in addition to the commentary from experts in the field, and does a great job of analyzing the text in support of the overall argument. Evans has created a well structured and coherent exploration of what it is like to raise a transgender child in the Christian community. Her attempt to encourage compassion for the transgender community should be commended. Evans weaves a tapestry of personal anecdotes and experiences together with scientific fact and biblical analysis to present a finished piece that encourages people of all faiths to interrogate their worldview. In What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible, Cheryl B. Evans has created an approachable, non-judgmental exploration of raising a transgender child that everyone should read, regardless of their religious background.

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

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Pawns – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Patrick Hodges

In the first installment of Patrick Hodges’ The Wielders of Arantha series, Pawns, Maeve and her son Davin travel across the galaxy in search of a mysterious energy source – which they need to defeat the Jegg, a dangerous alien race. There, on a distant planet that hides their last hope, they uncover more secrets than they could have ever expected, leading to an inevitable conflict against insurmountable odds.


Firstly, it needs to be said that it is impossible to sum up this book in so short a blurb. There’s a lot going on in Pawns, and its intricacy cannot be given justice with so few words. Much of this is due to Patrick Hodges’ impeccable world building, which accounts for a majority of this first book. Despite this book clearly being intended to “set the scene” for the following entries in the series, it still manages to hold its own with a strong plot at its center. Pawns is a unique blend of futuristic science fiction and otherworldly fantasy, but balances its many facets phenomenally.


Pawns’ greatest strength, however, lies in its spectacular character development. Each character – even the “bad guys” of the story – is unique, captivating, and unbelievably well-written. No matter who the point-of-view character is in any particular chapter, they are always interesting to read about, which is rare in even the best science-fiction and/or fantasy novels. The interwoven storylines that Patrick Hodges has so masterfully concocted are riveting and thrilling, keeping pages turning frantically in this energetic, colorful, expertly-written novel. Pawns is a must-read for new or seasoned fans of science fiction and fantasy alike; it’s most certainly a promising taste of the treasures to come in the rest of this fantastic series.

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

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