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Down in Monterey – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest – Young Adult

5 Stars

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Steven A. Moore

Down in Monterey: The Summer of Love by Steven A. Moore is a colorful, nostalgic trip down the Northern California coast. Wyatt, a seventeen-year-old boy upset with his home life, meets a girl named Dusty Bedingham at a convenience store. Dusty promises him a day of adventure as the two set off down the coast towards the Monterey Pop Festival. Hijinks ensue as the two cross paths with rock stars, classmates, and drug dealers.

Meticulously paced and plotted, Down in Monterey: The Summer of Love unfortunately stumbles slightly at the end. The resolution of the novel comes suddenly and almost without warning, bringing the momentum that has been slowly building to a screeching halt. This abrupt resolution has the effect of making the conclusion of the novel feel superficial and rushed, as if the novel itself is actively more interested in the journey than in the destination. This could be remedied if a little more attention were paid to Wyatt’s relationship with his family and his friend Eric.

Down in Monterey: The Summer of Love is a road trip tale that nimbly weaves together the lives of its many characters. Set during the 1960s, the novel plucks at the heartstrings of any reader who has a nostalgia for this time in American history. The world is described in careful and loving detail. Moore does an excellent job of painting a vibrant picture of hitchhiking down the Northern California coast. Although the plot verges on the improbable at times, the reader cannot help but be swept along in the current of chaste rebellion, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Down in Monterey: The Summer of Love by Steven A. Moore is sure to appeal to any reader with an interest in, or nostalgia for, the 1960s, as well as anyone looking for a quick, yet well-written, read.

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

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100 Wild Mushrooms – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest – Memoir

4 Stars

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Eva Pasco

100 Wild Mushrooms: Memoirs of the ‘60s is Eva Pasco’s collection of one hundred mini-memoirs and personal stories about her life in the sixties. From touching recollections about family life to humorous tales of defrosting refrigerators and crouching under school desks, Eva Pasco takes readers on a journey through one of the most colorful, eccentric decades in history.

Though it certainly has an excellent and intriguing premise, 100 Wild Mushrooms unfortunately falls quite short in terms of execution. It is presented as a mis-matched, seemingly unconnected group of stories; these stories read more like sporadic, random thoughts haphazardly thrown together than fully-fledged chapters of a memoir. Also, the topics of these stories skip around too much and too often, jumping from one subject to the next without flowing naturally into one another. In many ways, 100 Wild Mushrooms seems more like a digest of vaguely related blog posts than a cohesive, complete memoir.

100 Wild Mushrooms is still a most worthwhile read, though, largely because of Eva Pasco’s delightfully descriptive and energetic style of writing. She captures the essence of the 1960s perfectly; aside from the tumultuous political dilemmas of the decade, there was also plenty of joy and wonder to be found, which is captured brilliantly in 100 Wild Mushrooms. In each story, Eva Pasco gives readers a colorful snapshot of daily life in the sixties, peppered with humor and trivia. 100 Wild Mushrooms: Memoirs of the ‘60s is a charming, hilarious collection of short memoirs that is sure to inspire heartfelt nostalgia in all who read it.

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

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Twisted Threads – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest – Thriller

4 Stars

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Kaylin McFarren

In Kaylin McFarren’s Twisted Threads, Akira is an assassin tasked with hunting down a dangerous murderer aboard a cruise ship. The culprit is presumably one half of a married couple, but Akira can’t decide who’s at fault. Desperate for a lead, Akira seduces the couple’s nephew, Devon, but soon finds more than she bargained for.

Though certainly a riveting mystery, Twisted Threads unfortunately suffers from some issues with its plot development—albeit somewhat minor ones. Several character introductions tend to be confusing or unclear, leading to uncertainty as to who each character is and how they relate to one another. Perhaps they were covered in previous books in the series and thus, are rushed in this entry; therefore, this isn’t entirely suitable as a standalone novel. Also, some aspects of the timeline and plethora of subplots tend to be vague, or perhaps not as well-defined and well-developed as they could be.

Nevertheless, Twisted Threads is a most entertaining read for several notable reasons. Kaylin McFarren’s descriptive style of writing is phenomenally done, expertly crafting each scene, setting, and character in vivid detail. The intertwining dramas and mysteries are delightfully intriguing and suspenseful, making this book a real page-turner. With a load of steamy romance as the cherry on top, this book is a fantastic experience that’s sure to delight its readers. It’s easy to get sucked into this story from beginning to end, journeying along with the characters as they unravel the dangerous mystery. Twisted Threads is one tumultuous, exhilarating cruise that no one is likely to forget.

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

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Night Walker – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest – Thriller

4 Stars

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Aaron L. Speer

Night Walker by Aaron L. Speer is the first book in the Undeadly Secrets series. Night Walker tells the story of Alex, a young twenty-something school teacher living in Sydney, Australia. Alex’s life takes a turn for the bizarre after a fateful trip to the hottest nightclub in town, T. While there she meets the owner of the club, the mysterious Dante Delavega. She soon finds herself immersed in a world she thought only existed in fiction.

Night Walker, though strong in many ways, struggles a bit with pacing. The novel places a heavy emphasis on plot and action, which is not inherently a negative characteristic. In this case however, the plot takes priority over character development and introspection. Oftentimes Alex functions as a character simply getting through the events as they unfold, with very little reflection on the things that have occurred. This has the effect of speeding up the pace of the novel to an uncomfortable degree. These pacing issues could be avoided by spending just a little more time with the characters. Doing so would help the developing relationships between Alex, Michelle, and Dante feel more organic and convincing.

Despite these issues, Night Walker is an engrossing read! An excellent addition to the already vibrant world of paranormal fiction. Speer does an excellent job of utilizing existing vampire mythology and adapting it to the needs of his story. Likewise, the inclusion of historical anecdotes serves only to enhance the world that Speer has built. The novel is written in a very approachable way, making it an excellent choice for an easy, quick, thoroughly entertaining read. Readers who can’t get enough vampire tales, love a bit of tension, or are looking for a quick, exciting read will certainly enjoy Night Walker by Aaron L. Speer!

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

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Arte Blanche – Entered in 2018 Book Award Contest – Horror

5 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

David W. Coons JR

Frightening and suspenseful, David W Coons, Jr., makes readers’ hearts palpitate with Arte Blanche. Gabe Daniels is anxiously awaiting the end of the night to arrive after his date with Becca. He has thrilling plans, but he promised he would attend the opening of a new art gallery with her. The dread of moving through the exhibits of Arte Blanche turns into far more than Gabe could’ve ever dreamed of. What’s real, what’s possible and where the art really derived from keeps readers on the edge of their seats. David W Coons, Jr. crafted a surprise ending that readers will almost certainly not see coming. To top it off, a short story, “The Black Ring” is included at the end of the book.

If there is a drawback to be found in David W Coons, Jr.’s horror Arte Blanche, it might be the crude sexual language. It starts off in the very first sentence. However, it’s unlikely that readers who enjoy reading gruesome horror novels will be put off by that type of writing. In fact, some readers might well find it as a sexier piece of the novel as it pertains to Gabe and Becca and their potential sexual relationship. There are hints early on as to what the surprising outcome might be, but for the most part even the areas that may be guessed or considered as possibilities by readers still have unexpected twists and turns to them.

Arte Blanche by David W Coons, Jr. knocks it out of the park when it comes to suspense and coldly calculated, thrilling scenes. Without a doubt this is a book that will keep readers turning pages as fast as they can and one of those books they won’t be able to put down. Yet, it’s unique enough and frightening enough that it won’t be just “one of those books” because it is thoroughly unforgettable. Being memorable is not an easy task to achieve, but David W Coons, Jr. did it with Arte Blanche through profound skill and talent. Reader’s will probably never look at art in an art gallery the same way again. Well done!

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

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This Week’s Non-fiction Books of the Week!

This Week’s Featured Non-fiction Books

Carol D. Marsh founded, directed, and lived at Miriam’s House, a Washington, DC, residence for homeless women living with AIDS. In this powerful memoir, Marsh recalls how she came to confront issues far removed from her own experience: addiction, poverty, and the institutional racism that permeates our society on every level. From the humorous to the tragic, the mundane to the sublime, Marsh offers a gripping view into a world where the stakes are high and love is pushed to its limit.

Nowhere Else I Want to Be is the story of the inspiring women who transformed Marsh’s life. From Kimberly, who triumphs over a lifelong alcohol addiction, to Alyssa, who dies reaching out for the mother who abandoned her, Marsh witnesses the spectrum of human experience and the depth of the human spirit.

More books to check out…

You decide if they’re rock stars!


Project Domino Effect  by Vanessa Gowora

Are you stuck in a dead-end job that gives you absolute no satisfaction?

Do you want to let go of the limiting beliefs holding you back? Do you feel as though you have no idea what your purpose in life is?

What if you could learn the skills and strategies today that will drastically improve your life and the way you see the world?

Project Domino Effect takes you by the hand and shows you the necessary steps to take so you can achieve success and greatness.

This book will help you overcome fear, anxiety and help you to find out what your calling is. It will help put an end to limiting beliefs, low self-esteem and build up your confidence. No longer will you be too afraid to face your fears, achieve your dreams and build the life you want?

Improve Your Self-worth, Find Your Calling And Become a Better Version of Yourself.

  • Overcome limiting beliefs.
  • Learn to be more productive so you can have the life you want.
  • Find your self-worth.
  • Discover your calling.
  • Learn what makes people successful in life and how you can achieve the same results.
  • Learn how to overcome rejection and become more confident.
  • Learn from those who have achieved success using these methods.

Project Domino Effect will teach you how you can work on your goals so you can improve your life. It will also help you understand your potential, stop negative emotions from affecting your life and focus on self-love.

In this book…

  • You will learn what is holding you back and how to overcome it.
  • You will learn how to love yourself more.
  • You will build an amazing self-image.
  • Confidence in yourself and abilities will greatly be improved.
  • Create a circle of influence that will help you accomplish your goals.
  • Achieve fulfillment in your life and relationships.


 I Swear to Tell the Tooth by Dr. Carroll James

Quirky patients, one-of-a-kind employees, and farm animals set the stage for this humorous, tender, and sometimes irreverent saga of Dr. Carroll James’s dental practice. Headphone-clad patients bop in the dental chair while Dr. James tries to work on the moving target; a long-timer happily drops her pants to show off her latest surgical scar; and a lost cell phone drops out of a patient’s boxer shorts.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Working from his rural home office, Dr. James juggles family, patients, staff, and occasional livestock as he struggles to maintain his professional decorum. After thirty years of scatterbrained staff and distinct clientele, he often finds himself simply shaking his head with a laugh. Alongside the colorful assistants and hilarious antics, we learn just how challenging–and perilous–dental school can be, as well as witness the acquisition of a half-built farmette certain to take years to finish, a few errant horses, an intriguing trip to Russia with US-USSR Bridges for Peace, and poignant lessons that, when you’re not chuckling at the author’s childhood (and sometimes adult) mischief, are sure to touch your heart.


 Finding FabYOUlous by Melissa Venable

Does this sound like you? 

  • You work and work but never feel like you’re making any real progress toward your goals?
  • You know that you were created for more, but can’t for the life of you, figure out what that more is? 
  • You see other people living their dreams and wonder how the heck they got so lucky? 
  • You long to make an impact in the world but can’t seem to muster the energy or enthusiasm to get going? 
  • You feel stuck in a rut and can’t seem to find your way out? 

If any of these statements resonate with you, you have come to the right place at the right time.

Finding FabYOUlous: A “Self-Help with Sass” Guide to Finding, Celebrating and Capitalizing on the FabYOUlousness that Makes You, YOU, will take you on a journey to discover all of the unique and FabYOUlous gifts that you have to offer the world; and then guide you as you learn to cultivate, celebrate and capitalize on those gifts as you create the life of your dreams.

Finding FabYOUlous offers inspiration that goes far beyond just a motivational pep-talk. Each chapter of Finding FabYOUlous is chock full of actionable steps that (if taken) will guide the reader ever closer to the fullest expression of her unique and FabYOUlous purpose. PLUS–Finding FabYOUlous readers will enjoy exclusive access to a private website full of additional exercises and material to supplement what they are reading in the book. This elevates Finding FabYOUlous from just a book, to an EXPERIENCE. The practical wisdom, applicable action steps and gentle guidance provided throughout the pages of Finding FabYOUlous are sure to provide any woman with the tools and confidence she needs to “ditch the drab and find her FAB”. Additionally, the personal stories from the author’s own experience of battling a debilitating Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis and escaping from a dangerously toxic marriage, will provide the inspiration to show that no one is ever “too far gone” to get back on track, find her FabYOUlous, and live an amazing, purpose filled life.


This Week’s Featured Thrillers – Thicker Than Blood by James P. Sumner

This Week’s Featured Thrillers

All roads have led to this…

The world’s greatest assassin returns in Thicker Than Blood, where the conspiracy that has captivated readers finally reaches its jaw-dropping conclusion.

Adrian Hell is still struggling to adjust to his life in The Order of Sabbah. His next target is the last person he ever wanted in his crosshairs – a final reprimand for his previous defiance.

But as the true motives of the shadowy organization become clear, he realizes his toughest choice is really no choice at all. He stands against the full might of The Order, relentlessly pursued by the best killers in the world, desperate to put an end to them before they change the course of history forever.

Thicker Than Blood is the seventh gripping thriller in the bestselling Adrian Hell series. It offers a thought-provoking story, laced with explosive action and razor-sharp dialogue, that will keep you turning the pages as you race to the end. Perfect for fans of Lee Child, Vince Flynn, and Mark Dawson.

Check out the Adrian Hell Series (listed in chronological reading order)

A Hero of War – An Adrian Hell novella
True Conviction
Hunter’s Games
One Last Bullet
Deadly Intent
D.E.A.D. Till I Die – A GlobaTech novella
A Necessary Kill
Good Intentions
Thicker Than Blood

More books to check out…

You decide if they’re rock stars!


Death by the Jaguar  by James Ruby

A Vietnam veteran, wounded and returning home, was not looking forward to spending the rest of his life tied to some wheel chair. He had planned to make this homecoming the beginning of a new life with the woman he was to marry. A barrage of mortar shells had changed all that, now nothing would ever be right again! He wasn’t going to ask Nickie to be his future wife, knowing what would be involved and the sacrifices she would have to make. What he hadn’t realized was the strength and tenacity of this beautiful person who would bring him back from despair to begin a new life, have his Son, and enjoy life to the fullest. The inseparable three, along with their ever-present Maltese Lulu, enjoyed leisure time aboard their trawler, in the California Delta. His world is to be forever changed when his treasured wife, and son are taken from him violently, in the river they so loved. The only other survivor, Lulu, is a constant reminder of what was lost yet gives the man comfort until it is no longer safe. His search for those accountable and thirst for vengeance, takes him deep into those dark place’s designed only for those responsible and where his anger is transferred into a physical reality of manmade horror. Follow his grisly punishments and the final explosive ending.


The Devil in Black Creek by D.R. Bartlette

1986 is the year everything blew apart …

Twelve-year-old tomboy Cassie lives a pretty boring life in small-town Black Creek, Arkansas, until her mom and dad divorce, throwing her into poverty and shattering her sheltered life.

Then the rich, elderly Henson sisters take pity on her, taking her under their wings and into the church. Except the handsome, charming new preacher has something strange going on in his shed.

When Cassie starts snooping around his property looking for her lost dog, she discovers something so awful, no one will believe her – and that may put her own life in danger.


The Killing Collective by Gary Starta and Robin Firestone

Longtime detective Stanford Carter and his wife, forensic scientist Jill Seacrest, have always felt one was the yin to the other’s yang.

Carter is formal, logical, detached and incredibly reserved. As team leader, he displays an unflagging commitment to duty, a keen sense of logic and strategy, and the poker face of a true champion. Despite his ardent desire to learn the secrets of the universe and its plan for us all, the introspective student of Zen demonstrates an extraordinary inability to understand himself or anyone else.

Seacrest, on the other hand, is a scientific steamroller, often intimidating even the most seasoned veteran agents. Possessing a strong and fiery personality, her determination to find the truth often clashes with a quick and sarcastic wit, a fiery personality, and the tendency to leap before she looks.

Together, they’ve made the tough decision to leave their home town of Boston to move to the Big Apple, where they have accepted new positions with the F.B.I. to help solve a string of murders.

When Shania Deeprose joins the team, the overly enthusiastic, down-to-earth rookie from Alabama provides a spark that forges the immediate and unbreakable bonds of heart, mind, and courage.

In this stand-alone mystery/thriller the team must break the biggest case of their careers while confronting personal and social truths that change them forever.

Will they be able to expose a secret so old and far reaching that it has already begun to impact the very fabric of society?


This Week’s Featured Romance Books! – What It Takes by Sonya Loveday

This Week’s Featured

What It Takes
by Sonya Loveday

Gracen Lowell is on the hunt for a man—but not just any man. He has to be ‘the one’. Her only problem is that no one she’s dated has ever measured up to the charming qualities of her best friend. 

Slade Owens knows no matter how much he loves Gracen, he’ll never be what she’s looking for. And he dang sure isn’t going to stick around to watch her fall in love with someone else. Slade leaving the Owens’ family farm for an out-of-state job should put enough distance between the two to allow him to move on with his life and Gracen to search for her happily-ever-after. 

Gracen knows asking him to stay isn’t fair. Slade thinks leaving her behind is the only thing to do. Inexplicably drawn together, the best friends must decide if they have what it takes to own up to their feelings… before it’s too late.

More books to check out!

You decide if they’re rock stars.


From the Shadow
by Jessica Jessinghaus

What makes a man a monster?

For too long Jacob has lived in isolation. Forsaken by God and cursed by a Shadow, he is doomed to an eternity of solitude with only the demons of his past for company. For nearly two hundred years, he has longed for that which he knows he can never have: forgiveness, love, and redemption. 

A chance encounter could hold the key…

When Jacob meets Lynn, she shines a ray of hope across his bleak existence. But will she be strong enough to shoulder the truth of his past? Can she forgive the horrors he has wrought? Can she help him come to terms with his past and move with him into a brighter future?

An old nemesis threatens…

Confronted by an ancient enemy, Lynn and Jacob travel halfway around the world. There, they face the daunting task of sifting through ancient history for clues to their tormentor’s weaknesses and a way to loose his grip on their future.

What good can come From the Shadow?


The Honeypot Chronicles 2
by R. Marlaan Rush


R. Marlaan Rush is handing you another tantalizing buffet of sexual escapades! You can dine on stories such as a admiring husband teasing his wife in a restaurant, a kinky game of hide and seek in the woods and more!


Shifted by Fate
by S.R. Mitchell


Kelly had a history of picking the wrong guy, but destiny had its own twisted plan for her. She could not change what destiny had in store for her, but she could learn to accept it. With change came Eric and he was one-hundred percent Alpha bad boy. Kelly knew one thing when it came to Eric… 

He drove her absolutely crazy.

Eric knew as soon as he scented her, and her smell invaded his senses, that she was his mate. 

An alpha did not let go of his mate for anything…. she was his.
He would fight for her. 
He would guide her.
He would love her.

And with other wolves now after her… he would protect her at all cost.


2017 ATAI Book Award Contest Finalists Announced

2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Finalists Announced!




Jorie and The Magic Stones – A.H. 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


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



Strain in Resistance – Michelle Bryan

The Muse: A Novel of Unrelenting – Arjay Lewis

Chrysallis and Clan – Jae Mazer



Lineage – JN Sheats

A Tightening Noose – B.K. Berrell

The Darkness of Water – Matthew Neighbours



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



The Baby Chronicles – Beatrice Bruno

Elicit My Heart – Shauna Pendleton

Purgatorium – J H Carnathan



What It Takes – Sonya Loveday

Rosemary for Remembrance – Nikki Broadwell

Everything She Needed – Christina Butrum



Pulse: Book One of the Zoya Chronicles – Kate Sander

The Korpes File – JI Rogers

Through the Hostage – JC Steel



The Darkness of Water – Matthew Neighbours

The Wolves Within our Walls – L.E. Flinders

Thicker Than Blood – James Sumner

Young Adult


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

Through the Hostage – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

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.

Click here to learn more and enter!

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