Mysterious Moments – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jane Williams, Ph.D.

Jane Williams, Ph.D. has written a powerful and impactful little book in Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief. This quick and easy read is filled with a compilation of stories about grief. Dr. Williams was a clinical psychologist for over two decades in a hospital setting and shares a number of stories from her professional experience within the pages of her book in the hopes those stories can help others realize they are not alone in their grief.

For those who are in the throws of grief, it might be wise to use caution when reading Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief. It may very well be helpful, but due to the fact that Williams is very skillful at writing in vivid detail and is straightforward some of the stories are likely to connect with the reader on an emotional level. That is a good reason for readers, who may have experienced a traumatic death of a loved one, to make sure they are prepared as they begin to read the stories included.

With that being said, Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief is exactly what it says it is. The stories Jane Williams chose to include offer unique and various moments in which people experienced grief not only in different ways but in the ahas that they unexpectedly had. Beyond the intent to help those who are in the midst of grief, Williams’ Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief can also be quite beneficial for those who are trying to understand why or how others are moving through their personal grief differently. A tenderness lies within the pages and offers hope to readers far and wide.

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

Watcher – Entered in 2018 Contest

5 Stars

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AJ Eversley

Watcher by AJ Eversley is set after World War III, during which much of North America was obliterated by nuclear war. The book follows Sawyer, a young girl who had spent the last ten years of her life training as a Watcher. The Watchers are an elite group of human survivors whose purpose is to protect humanity from the Bots and Carbons, robots that have seized control and reigned destruction down on those who survived the war.


Watcher is a great introduction to a new young adult series. This book has a little bit of everything: action, suspense, and romance, all set in a dystopian future. Where Watcher could be stronger is in the characterization of Kenzie. Kenzie plays opposite Sawyer for most of the novel and is, in many ways, a foil for the heroine. The reader spends so little time with him at the beginning, however, that it takes too much work to form the connection with him required to empathize with his position. Giving Kenzie just a little more time to be introspective would help the reader connect with him earlier in the book.


Eversley’s Watcher is a solid contribution to the world of young adult fiction. The characters are largely relatable, grappling with many of the issues that young adults face today, albeit in an entirely fictional setting. The novel moves at a break-neck pace, which fits the dystopian setting and the reality that danger really does lurk around every corner for poor Sawyer. Eversley has created a fully-realized dystopian future full of formidable enemies. Watcher by AJ Eversley is a heart-pounding adventure that is sure to appeal to anyone looking for an entertaining read that also challenges the reader to ask questions about the future of humanity.

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

Pigeon – Entered in 2018 Contest

4 Stars

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Daniel Zadow

Pigeon by Daniel Zadow is a unique, post-modern trip through the mind of a reclusive man as he uncovers suppressed truths about his history. The book follows Simon, a man who lives alone except for his dog and the specters that visit him late at night, on his quest to uncover the meaning behind these visits. This is a huge undertaking, and one that reveals hidden truths that Simon has gone out of his way to keep buried.


Pigeon is an ambitious project. Zadow attempts to write a post-modernist tale about a man on a journey of self-discovery, but the book ultimately leaves the reader wondering what actually has been discovered. The language and narrative structure of Pigeon is necessarily overwhelming. The creative choices Zadow makes help to put the reader firmly in Simon’s skewed perspective. This does make the events of the book difficult to follow. Pigeon could benefit from a little more explanation of the plot aspects of the story including the Intractable Energy Agency and the Many Worlds Portal. Clearing up these plot ambiguities would assist the reader in focusing their attention on the existential crisis unfolding before them.


This book is a one-of-kind story that demands to be read multiple times. The plot is thoroughly unique and engrossing. There are multiple layers of meaning to what Simon is going through, the reader is bound to miss some of the story the first time through. Zadow is incredibly ambitious with his free use of language and syntax, he really gets the reader into Simon’s head. This choice does make it difficult to keep up with the story, but the effort is worth it in the end. Readers who enjoy post-modern storytelling, science fiction, and emotional catharsis will find something to like in this novel.

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

Elements – Entered in 2018 Contest

4 Stars

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Nia Markos

Elements by Nia Markos is a paranormal fantasy novel aimed at a young adult audience. It tells the story of Alexa, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood who is about to find out that the world is more complicated than she ever imagined. Alexa is forced to come to grips with her emerging powers and newly uncovered ancestry while racing against the clock to stop an evil warlock from destroying the world.


The biggest problem with Elements is the pacing. It is too rushed. So much time is spent establishing the world and then rushing from plot point to plot point, there is very little time to really get to know the characters. This seems partly by design; Alexa and Aiden are fighting against the clock, after all. However, the book would benefit from slowing down a bit more. This would allow the reader to spend more time getting to know who the characters are rather than just how the characters function within the plot. The story elements that a reader would expect in a novel of this type are present, there just needs to be a little more of everything.


Alexa’s story is set against a richly described, fully-imagined backdrop. Nia Markos has worked to create a well-defined magical realm within our own modern world. More than that the existence of this other realm is completely believable. A lot of time and effort has been put into defining and building the kingdom of Eruva, which is no small feat. Markos has done an excellent job of illustrating the teenage experience, not shying away from how emotionally overwhelming and confusing it often is. Alexa is a solid character, she has just as many flaws as she does strengths. Elements is a good introduction to The Crystal Series; readers looking for a quick read set in a contemporary fantasy world will not be disappointed.

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

Queens – Entered in 2018 Contest

5 Stars

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Patrick Hodges

Queens by Patrick Hodges is the second book in The Wielders of Arantha series. This book follows Maeve and her son Davin after their ship lands on the far-off world of Elystra. Maeve and Davin form an alliance with the Ixtrayu, a reclusive tribe of women, as they prepare to play their part in the upcoming conflict. Elsewhere, war is on the horizon as Elzor and his wielding sister Elzaria set their plan for world conquest into motion.


Patrick Hodges has created a fully-realized fantasy world, which he uses to tackle issues that are prevalent in our own society. The characters are well-constructed and believable as real people. One thing that this book could benefit from is spending a bit more time exploring the younger characters, particularly Davin and Nyla. A good section of the book is spent with Vaxi, a delightful young Ixtrayu huntress, exploring her history and her part in the coming war. Spending an equal amount of time with Davin and Nyla would more clearly establish the younger generation as up-and-coming players in this game.


Queens is a well-written, thrilling second chapter in this story of cosmic chess. The characters are all realistically constructed with both strengths and weaknesses. The world of Elystra is fully-envisioned with distinct and varied cultures that have full and complete histories with each other. A lot of time was spent creating the world of Elystra, and it really pays off. Hodges uses this world to explore issues of abandonment, religion, gender relations, and power while always keeping the reader fully immersed in this fantasy world. Queens, and The Wielder of Arantha series, by Patrick Hodges is an excellent choice for any fans of science fiction and fantasy, but especially those who enjoy books that go out of their way to tackle difficult issues.

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

Searching for Sam – Entered in 2018 Contest

4 Stars

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M.G. Atkinson

Searching for Sam by M. G. Atkinson follows Graham and Sophie, two Interpol agents whose job it is to track down serial killers. They have been hunting a mysterious killer named Finn for years when they finally get a break in the case. Little do they know things are not as they seem, and this case is about to bigger than either of them ever imagined.


The biggest issue with Searching for Sam is the pacing. Atkinson spends so much time expertly crafting the action sequences, filling each scene with vivid details, that the rest of the novel drags in comparison. The slower, dialogue-based scenes contain far less descriptive detail which has the tendency to slow them to a crawl. This could be remedied by including further description of the physical actions that take place in these scenes, rather than relying solely on the dialogue to convey what is happening. Additionally, the dialogue is, at times, unrealistic. Few people talk the way these characters speak, and the characters are, in general, way too accepting of every piece of information they receive. This disconnect can pull the reader out of the story as they try to uncover why the dialogue doesn’t quite sound right. Showing the characters grappling with each new discovery or interaction would do wonders to alleviate this issue.


Where Searching for Sam excels is in its action sequences. These scenes are clearly the part of the novel that Atkinson enjoyed writing the most. Each action sequence is described in such colorful detail that it is easy to get swept up in the moment, reading page after page, heart pounding in your chest. This novel confronts a very serious subject, and for that Atkinson should be applauded. While occasionally lacking in descriptive language, Atkinson always approaches the sensitive subjects of slavery and sex trafficking with the respect that the victims of these crimes deserve. Searching for Sam by M. G. Atkinson offers readers a look at the darker side of our world, while conveying a sense of hope for the future and telling a fairly solid crime story.

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

Men, Djinn & Angels – Entered in 2018 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Anton D. Morris

Men, Djinn & Angels: Awakening by Anton D. Morris tells the story of a young Palestinian man named Talib as he sets out on a mission to Cairo, Egypt. Talib is hoping to dedicate himself to the cause of Palestinian freedom, along the way he meets a man named Theodore. Theodore introduces Talib to a world filled supernatural beings and conspiracies.


Men, Djinn & Angels: Awakening is a meticulously plotted novel. Where this book falls short is in the portrayal of its characters, specifically Talib, Fiona, and Kate. The reader is given no reason to emotionally connect with Talib until halfway through the novel. This is too late. Kate and Fiona, while integral to the plot, remain two-dimensional devices through which the reader learns about Talib’s past and the greater conspiracy at work in the novel. One way to counter this would be introduce more conflict into the story. Most of the story is told through Talib’s dreams and visions, as such there is very little active conflict brewing throughout the novel. Introducing some current conflicts for Talib and the sisters to grapple with would help the reader to better connect to the characters and give a reason to care about what they are going through.


Where Men, Djinn, & Angels: Awakening really shines is in the worldbuilding. Morris thoroughly researched numerous historical events and movements when crafting this story, and it shows. The inclusion of references to so many historical moments helps in the creation of a vast conspiracy that is the basis for much of Talib’s current situation. The rich tapestry of historical events and world mythologies that Morris weaves is really something to behold. Men, Djinn, & Angels: Awakening is an intriguing beginning to what may prove to be a well-thought out, meticulously crafted, fictional commentary on modern society.

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

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Author

In The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, Fiza Pathan presents a collection of twenty-one incredibly moving short stories. The stories included in this collection highlight the devastating struggle of LGBTQ youth and adults all over the world. In contrast, Pathan also includes a handful of stories that emphasize compassion, perseverance, and love.


The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name is a thoroughly engrossing read that plunges the reader into the lives of many different LGBTQ characters. Pathan explores the ways in which, regardless of country or cultural background, LGBTQ youth struggle through their lives. Where this collection itself ultimately struggles is with the mechanics of the writing. The stories are all well-structured and the characters are clearly established, but the syntax is, in general, awkward. Though the mechanical issues do not interfere with the reader’s ability to enjoy the work, they could be mitigated by an editor who is a native English speaker.


The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name forces the reader to confront the horrible reality that many LGBTQ youth and adults live with every day. The choice to set the stories in countries from all over the world, even those generally considered accepting of the LGBTQ community, is a powerful one which forces the reader to confront the reality of what the LGBTQ community faces every day. These stories do not shy away from the horrific! Pathan strikes a good balance between the depressing and the uplifting, presenting the reader with a handful of stories that end on a positive note. Each story in this collection is cleverly constructed to force the reader to think about LGBTQ issues from a different perspective. The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name by Fiza Pathan is a powerful book that everyone should read, regardless of what community they identify with.

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

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Lexie: From Kitty to Cat – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Louise. S.G. 

Lexie: From Kitty to Cat in Barnyard Adventures, written by author Louise S. G., is a children’s story of a beautiful black cat who is quite frightened about her new move. She has no friends and feels afraid as she is so tiny. Eventually, she finds more courage and begins to make friends. With support from friends, Lexie finds her way and discovers a sense of comfort and pride in the end.

As a picture book, Lexie: From Kitty to Cat in Barnyard Adventures, is cute, but some of the images inside the book seem to be cut and pasted together. If the photographs had more fluidity to them, they would be more appealing. The cutting and pasting of the imagery makes the book feel unprofessional. The font is quite large, which can be nice on one hand, but it pushes nearly to the edges of the pages. It might be more pleasing to the eye if the font was smaller and allowed for the pages to have larger margins.

With that being said, the overall concept of Louise S. G.’s book, Lexie: From Kitty to Cat in Barnyard Adventures, is a sweet book that can inspire young children and school age children who are entering into new situations – be that a new school, new community, new church, or something else – to trust that things will improve for them and help them calm their nerves. This heartwarming tale can help them understand to appreciate the differences of others as well as embrace the idea that their new venture is just an exploratory journey in life.

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

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Sword of Dragonblood – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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L.S. Goulet

Sword of Dragonblood is Book One in the Down Dreamer Trilogy, written by L.S. Goulet. A fantastic young adult tale placing the young teenage Darrel Sak on a wild mission to save his father. Along the way, Darrel comes to learn that he and his father are not what he thought. In fact, many people and classmates aren’t either. This first book kicks off an exciting tale that leaves readers anxiously anticipating what will happen next in the series.

There are few to no complaints or concerns with this wonderfully written fantasy. The only real drawback to be found is the cover. It just doesn’t do the story justice. The cover gives the impression the story is younger and more childlike whereas the actual story is a powerful tale of friendship, deep loyalty and bravery. Not only does young Darrel face his own fears and terrifying monsters but he develops a wonderful friendship with Maisy. The only other concern that might be mentioned is that there isn’t a lot written around the down dreaming, which is in the series title. That leaves a reader to wonder a bit and perhaps, feel as though they missed out on an important part of the initial concept.

However, the overall story is quite intriguing from start to finish. It is packed full of action and adventure all while displaying excellent development in the main two characters of Darrel and Maisy. L.S. Goulet has created a fun and exciting new series for young adult readers and started off the journey within the pages of Sword of Dragonblood: Book One of the Down Dreamer Trilogy. For any young adults who love reading fantasy with a smattering of shapeshifting, dragons, ogres and battles, Sword of Dragonblood is an excellent choice.

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

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