Authors Talk About It

Book Award Contest & Indie Support

Enlightened – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Billie Kowalewski

In Billie Kowalewski’s Enlightened, Veronica Edwards is mourning the untimely death of her boyfriend, Seth. After a gut-wrenching visit to his grave, Veronica is overcome with a terrible migraine and collapses, dead. When she wakes, she is no longer Veronica, but a spiritual being named Harmony. Harmony has been many different people and lived many different lives, but her time on Earth is always limited. She must return to the spirit world after each of her deaths to relive it all and begin again, life by tragic life.

Enlightened has a bit of a rocky start; with a bizarre prologue that makes little sense before reading the rest of the book and the sudden death of the supposed main character only a few pages in, it’s difficult to tell where this plot intends to go at first. Also, much of the narrative is a bit too conversational, which damages the integrity of the complex plot. Despite having an interesting premise, some of the execution seems to fall a bit short.

However, Enlightened is still a most fascinating novel. Its plot is dripping in philosophical “what-ifs,” leaving the reader to ponder its story in wonder. Billie Kowalewski writes with creativity and imagination; her story is unique, thoughtful, and so very deep. Enlightened is exactly the sort of book that remains in your mind long after you’ve read it, for all the best reasons. At its very core, it leaves behind one torturously unanswerable question: what is the true meaning of life?

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Scott M. Graffius

Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions is a manual written by Scott M. Graffius for business owners looking to improve their management and development. It details how to use the Agile Scrum method to plan, execute, and track the development of a business’s products. Each step in the cycle is broken down, point by point, so that business owners can quickly learn how to efficiently use this method to further enhance their business’s production model.

Agile Scrum is straightforward and to the point; it gets straight down to business from the very first page. While its information is useful and certainly helpful to owners of any sort of business, it’s a bit dry. There’s no doubt about it; this is a textbook, and not a particularly exciting one, either. Perhaps, interjecting some humor or real-life examples would serve it well. It’s short and sweet and gets the job done, but it lacks a certain flavor that would make it memorable. Instead, Agile Scrum is the sort of study guide that business owners might need to keep going back to, which isn’t necessarily something negative.

However, Agile Scrum certainly has everything it needs to be an essential handbook for any business owner. Scott M. Graffius included lots of helpful, colorful infographics to supplement his text, which makes the content easier to understand. Each point is broken down into easy-to-follow bullet points, so that even the most inexperienced business owners will have no trouble learning the method. Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions is a no-nonsense, concise manual that will surely help any sort of business owner improve their business with the Agile Scrum production cycle.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Looking Out From the Inside – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Click here to get your copy!

Tressa Mitchener

Looking Out From the Inside by Tressa Mitchener is an autobiography that recounts Mitchener’s troubled past and ultimate faith journey. Dispersed with Bible verses, Mitchener aims to use her life as a teaching tool in the hopes that her journey to God, even from within a jail cell, will inspire others to rekindle, or start a relationship with God.

Mitchener retells her life story with a real warmth but also brutal honesty. She is not afraid to admit to her mistakes and how her life unraveled the way that it did. There are passages that speak of real pain, and yet Mitchener has an ability to look back with clarity and wisdom. The story is simply written and while primarily a story about God’s influence and power, the biographical aspects of Mitchener’s life make this an interesting read for anyone.

While the writing is simple, there are major issues with the style and editing of this novel. There are fragmented sentences and change in tone and style that do not seem deliberate. This novel needs to be re-edited, the same style kept consistently and text divided into chapters if this novel wants to be taken seriously.

Even with the above mentioned mistakes, there are some life lessons to be learned from Mitchener’s life, and this novel does achieve its goal in showing how one woman can change her life thanks to her faith and belief. Readers will be touched by this story, and it could be a useful tool in Sunday schools and faith-based organizations.

Overall, Looking Out From the Inside is a story of perseverance and how a relationship with God can be life changing. There are true teachable moments thought the novel and the story is easy to read and interesting. Readers who need to kindle their relationship with God.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

No Place Like Home – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Christina Butrum

No Place Like Home – Love in Seattle, written by Christina Butrum, is a sweet wholesome romance novel. The main character, Janelle Harper, makes arrangements with her boss to work from home for the summer and travels across the country to Seattle. Janelle’s mother and father had urged her to go into journalism, which had landed her a position in Cincinnati. But when a chance to travel came up for them, they expected her to run their coffee shop while they were away. Somewhat stereotypically, Janelle runs into a former college classmate in her hometown. Colin and she were at odds during college, but he’s certainly taken a liking to her since she left town. Now that she’s back he pursues a romantic relationship with her. Beyond that, he supports her dreams of opening a bakery -something her mother had been adamantly against. Will Janelle decide there’s really something for her in Seattle and that the cliche is true? Is there really No Place Like Home?

Butrum’s novel is very innocent and sweet, but it’s lacking in page-turning urgency. It’s never really clear what type of issue originally came between Janelle and Colin in college. Having a bigger and clearer problem between them would have led to more sparks. On a positive note, Janelle is portrayed mostly as a strong independent young woman. She’s willing to stand up to her mother and make decisions on her own. Yet, at times there seems to be contradiction within the story as to the relationship between Janelle and her mother. One minute there’s said to be best friends, but Janelle has always had to walk on egg shells around mother and she’s quite overbearing and not very supportive. This can lead to reader confusion. The dynamics between these two women could be fleshed out a bit more, but it would still need to be fludily interwoven with the angst Janelle feels towards Colin as those feelings shift to romantic tendencies. No Place Like Home has potential. It just needs a little more tension within the plot to keep readers excitedly turning pages.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Splintered Reflections – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Laura Kelly

In Laura Kelly’s Splintered Reflections, Cathy is a troubled young woman, struggling with the reality of being abandoned by her parents. She never knew her father, and her emotionally abusive mother simply disappeared one day, never to return. Now, every morning, Cathy stands in front of the bathroom mirror and asks, “Who am I?” Her guilt and loneliness have resulted in her building a wall around herself, refusing to let anyone in. Then, she starts college, and all that changes. She meets a series of new people – each different, yet essential to Cathy in their own way – who slowly help Cathy tear down her walls and discover her own identity.


Splintered Reflections’ plot is not overly complicated; at first glance, a parentless girl going to college and finding herself doesn’t seem like the grandest of adventures. However, it is far deeper than it seems. Cathy’s journey is impressive and impactful not because she is a quintessential hero, but because she is so very human. Her internal dilemmas and pursuit of a purpose in life are aspects that all readers could relate to in some way. At its very core, Splintered Reflections is an in-depth examination of humanity, told through the eyes of a young woman trying to find a place in this world.


Laura Kelly’s style of writing makes this theme all the more captivating. Her beautiful descriptions and reliance on honest introspection make Cathy and her struggles overwhelmingly believable. This character is simultaneously someone to learn from and someone whom we all see in ourselves. Splintered Reflections is a window into heavy topics like depression, anxiety, loss, and relationships, while also serving as a portrait into our own lives; this is most profound, and makes Splintered Reflections a necessary read for almost any reader.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Diamonds 101: A Buyer’s Guide – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Dirk Rendel

In Diamonds 101: A Diamond Buyers Guide, Dirk Rendel shares a series of tips and secrets about the complex process of buying diamond jewelry. In this book, Rendel addresses the components of diamond jewelry and the six C’s of diamond grading: Cut, Clarity, Color, Carat, Cost, and Confidence. He also explains why each of those factors matters and how to appraise them like a true expert. His accredited expertise will help readers identify the true value of diamonds – and the sneaky tricks retailers use to deceive their customers.


In some areas, Diamonds 101 appeared to be a bit disorganized. Although not severely so, certain passages seemed to interrupt the flow of information, and would have been better suited elsewhere. Also, there was a fair bit of inconsistency; sometimes, the vocabulary terms were capitalized for easy recognition, and other times, they were not. Sometimes, terms were mentioned or referred to before they were clearly defined, leading to some confusion for the reader. Diamonds 101 could certainly use a bit of re-organization.


However, there is a ton of incredibly useful information in this book. It’s narrated in a conversational tone that casually relays information without ever feeling like a formal textbook. Dirk Rendel’s use of humor and real-life analogies is witty and infectiously funny, lending a light-hearted tone to an otherwise straightforward buyer’s guide. Diamonds 101: A Diamond Buyers Guide is an insanely helpful book, giving readers a practical approach to buying diamonds like a real expert in just a short number of pages. After finishing it, any reader should be able to walk into a jewelry store and buy diamonds with confidence.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Pigeon Blood Red – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Ed Duncan

In Ed Duncan’s Pigeon-Blood Red, Rico is a hit man tasked with finding his boss’s stolen ruby necklace and punishing the man who took it. However, what should have been an ordinary job quickly becomes complicated. The thief he’s pursuing has run off to Honolulu, taking the necklace with him. When he’s found, the necklace is already long gone, leaving Rico scrambling to find a solution before it’s too late. Meanwhile, the constant bloodshed and ruthless life of crime is wearing on Rico; part of him wants to leave and never look back, but disobeying his orders could mean death – or worse.

For the most part, Pigeon-Blood Red was an excellent crime novel. However, it did have a less-than-pleasant tendency to shift between different characters’ perspectives often and without warning. This is typically jarring or confusing for readers; devoting an entire chapter to a single perspective and only maintaining the perspectives of the main characters would have been more effective. Also, the main character, Rico, seemed a bit of a cliché, James Bond-style male protagonist; it would have been interesting to see him be developed with a bit more depth.

Regardless, Pigeon-Blood Red was highly entertaining, with Ed Duncan’s casual narrative style and plenty of well-written detail. The pacing, action scenes, and dramatic conclusion all contributed to this novel’s ability to captivate its readers. It has a certain sense of familiarity, without stepping into copycat territory, that guarantees that fans of crime thrillers will fall in love with Pigeon-Blood Red, too. Pigeon-Blood Red may need some organizational editing, but the rest of it is well-done and well worth the read.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Bumbling Bea – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Click here to get your copy!

Deborah Baldwin

In Deborah Baldwin’s Bumbling Bea, Beatrice is an eighth-grade student who is excited to audition for the lead role in her school’s annual play, “John Smith and Pocahontas.” However, the new student, a girl from Japan named Michiko, lands the coveted role of Pocahontas, leaving Beatrice fuming. That’s when “Bumbling Bea,” her alter ego that makes her say and do mean things that she wouldn’t ordinarily do, appears. Beatrice and Michiko struggle to get along and settle their differences – especially when “Bumbling Bea” comes out to play.

Frankly, a lot of Beatrice’s behavior in Bumbling Bea is downright cringe-worthy, particularly when it comes to her brazen comments about Michiko and her Japanese heritage. There were many times where she toed the line between nervous babbling and unacceptable bullying, which was seldom addressed. That may not be the best way for the protagonist in a children’s novel to behave. Also, there were a few important themes that, although they could have been used to teach young readers valuable lessons, were barely touched upon in passing; these included divorce/parental separation, racism, and death. In some ways, not discussing these topics in more depth seemed a lot like Deborah Baldwin dropped the ball.

However, there are several aspects of Bumbling Bea that are wonderfully executed. One of these is the detailed introduction to theater that Deborah Baldwin provides for young readers. It serves nicely in giving children a new means of expressing themselves, one that is seldom focused on in children’s literature. Also, Bumbling Bea is a good tool to use to start a discussion with children about how their words have an impact on others. Bumbling Bea is off to a good start; however, if there are future sequels, perhaps Beatrice’s attitude should be readdressed.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

The Kingdom of Oceana – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Mitchell Charles

The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles is an enchanting story that transports its readers to a mythological age of Hawaii. The story follows Price Ailani as he sets out on a quest to save his island from an evil curse. There are adventurous sea quests, magical shape shifters, family infighting and a blossoming young love.

Charles is a talented writer, and his simple yet descriptive style brings to life the world of sea creatures and magic. The mythology is well researched, and the inclusion of Hawaiian words brings a sense of realism to a story steeped in mysticism. The Kingdom of Oceana is well paced, and readers will be quickly drawn into the action and the development of Ailani, his relationship with his ill-fated brother Nahoa, as well as the over-arching plot.

The story flows like ancient story-telling, and this quality makes it special in modern literature. The shape-shifting magician and dark magic are coupled with landscapes that bring the real Hawaii to life. The success of this story stands comparable to the recent Disney hit Moana, and there is no doubt that Charles has created a spectacular hit with this story.

The one minor let down of the novel is the cover because the artwork seems clichéd for a book set in a tropical location. While the tiki head (depicted on the cover) holds significance in the story, the overall power of the book is lost with the stereotypical cover.

That being said, The Kingdom of Oceana is a timeless story that readers of all ages will enjoy. It is easy enough for young readers to read and holds enough literary power for any adult to appreciate. There is an enduring wonder to The Kingdom of Oceana and being the first in a series, there is no doubt that what comes next will be just as imaginative.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Jorie and the Magic Stones – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

A. H. Richardson

In A. H. Richardson’s Jorie and the Magic Stones, Marjorie Weaver, who prefers to be called Jorie, is a spunky almost-nine-year-old with a personality as bright as her long red hair. After going to live with her aunt in the intimidating Mortimer Manor, Jorie discovers a mysterious book about dragons under the floorboards of her room. Soon after, she finds herself magically transported to the mystical land of Cabrynthius. There, Jorie discovers that she is the prophesied “Child with the Hair of Fire,” who must locate the three Stones of Maalog and return them to the great dragon, Grootmonya. She returns with her friend, Rufus, and the two children then embark on an imaginative adventure, full of dragons, magic, and peril around every corner.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a wonderfully creative chapter book for children, similar to classics like The Chronicles of Narnia in depth and content. It’s full of complex magic and an alternate world detailed enough to satisfy adult readers, while narrated by the innocent, age-appropriate voice of a child. While Jorie and the Magic Stones does contain themes of darkness and/or evil, it never feels too scary. Rather, it promotes kindness, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance in a manner that is both straightforward and thought-provoking.

A. H. Richardson’s descriptive writing style and pure creativity made Jorie and the Magic Stones a pure joy to read. It’s exciting and immersive, and chock full of humor, adventure, and magic that will thrill readers of all ages. Although it is meant to be a children’s book, Jorie and the Magic Stones is the type of exhilarating fantasy book that the whole family will enjoy.

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

Click here to learn more and enter!

Page 1 of 45

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén