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ALL FISH FACES – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Tam Warner Minton

In ALL FISH FACES: Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish! (Ocean Friends Book 1), author, world traveler and diver, Tam Warner Minton shares more than just tons of gorgeous personal photos of tropical reef fish. She shares tons of educational information with personal snippets of her personal encounters -sometimes humorous- with these beautiful sea creatures.


Tam Warner Minton has put together a highly enjoyable book that crosses ages, ethnicity, and gender. ALL FISH FACES is highly intriguing with so many pictures of the various different types of the species Warner Minton includes in the book. The e-book version has major formatting issues, but that could be fixed by hiring someone to professionally format the book for digital format. It certainly wouldn’t take away from the print version though. Throughout the book, readers will find sections inserted that focus on preserving the oceans and how to go about it. The drawback to those are simply where they are placed in the book. Perhaps, two parts to the book would have been better -one part focused on the fish and a second part focused on the health and vital importance of the oceans.


ALL FISH FACES is a quick and easy read, but the beautiful pictures captured by Tam Warner Minton just might keep readers entertained for much, much longer. The intent of Warner Minton to bring the beauty and joy of the tropical reef fish to those have not or cannot journey into the sea to witness them for themselves is a wonderful concept for the book. Inspiring others to care for such beautiful, comical, and fascinating creatures makes Tam Warner Minton’s ALL FISH FACES: Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish! a must have for science teachers and children who are curious about what lies just under the surface off the beach.

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

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The Magic Pen: Cindy’s Castle Adventure – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Erin Childs

In The Magic Pen: Cindy’s Castle Adventure, debut children’s author, Erin Childs does a fantastic job of taking young girls on a magical journey of fantasy and wonder in just a few short pages. Cindy’s mother gave her a new coloring book and special glittery markers. With Cindy’s precise outlining and coloring, she transports herself into a magical world through the special magic pen. She enjoys exploring, but misses home. Therefore, she discovers how to return home by using her artistic skills yet again.


Erin Childs is a skillful writer and storyteller expanding on the glorious imagery within The Magic Pen: Cindy’s Castle Adventure, illustrated by René Hartman Domino, through her wondrous and colorful words. The only drawbacks, which are quite minute, are a teeny grammatical error once or twice and the idea that Cindy opts not to color for a while after her wild and exciting experience.


However, those are easy to overlook when there are such inviting and colorful images to entertain young readers, parents and teachers, alike. Even the colorful, yet simple, symbols on each page just above the page numbers are pleasing to the eye. Without question, the talent of Erin Childs and her illustrator, René Hartman Domino have the potential to make The Magic Pen: Cindy’s Castle Adventure a huge hit among young girls everywhere. The story crosses time and space and relishes in the support of a daughter’s artistic abilities by her mother. This is simply a fabulous story that deserves to be on library shelves, school book shelves and tucked lovingly under the pillow of young girls far and wide.

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

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My Dad is Just a Barber – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Donald Conley

Donald Conley’s story, My Dad is Just a Barber, is an excellent tale for your boys. Young Donnie has a career day coming up at his school, but he’s ashamed of the fact that his father is simply a barber. School bullies make fun of Donnie and what his father’s career is; therefore, Donnie is worried about completing his homework. The next few days he pays more attention while he’s at the shop with his father and comes to realize just how much the clients appreciate his father. Donnie’s point of view makes a ninety-degree turn once he realizes this.


My Dad is Just a Barber is a wonderful story for children, especially young boys. Donald Conley does a fabulous job shining a bright light on the important aspects of a job that may seem lesser in value than others. Unfortunately, there are numerous formatting issues in the book, which can be distracting from the amazing illustrations and core of the story. On top of that, the vast number of grammatical errors add to the distraction.


However, with a high quality edit, My Dad is Just a Barber has amazing potential to be a huge hit with elementary school age children and their parents. Hands down, Donald Conley has written a fantastic and deeply important story within the pages My Dad is Just a Barber. The illustrations are so wonderfully expressive and help portray the story. If My Dad is Just a Barber gets a solid edit, it should end up on every young boy’s book shelf.

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

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Doodle and the Magic Christmas Float – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Cindy L. Shirley

Cindy L. Shirley’s Doodle and the Magic Christmas Float is an adorable holiday tale for young children. Young Doodle often has friends come over to her grandparents, and they all enjoy playing on the farm and learning from Paw-Paw, Doodle’s grandfather. One day the children found a trailer in the woods that needed a little fixing up. With the help of Paw-Paw and Mimi, Doodle’s grandmother, Doodle and her friends turned it into a beautiful float for the upcoming Christmas parade. The children’s experience turned out to be downright magical -more than Doodle would’ve ever guessed.


Written as a beautifully sweet story, Doodle and the Magic Christmas Float is embued with more than just decorating an old trailer for a parade. It expresses the emotional joy of friendship and helping another -one who hasn’t had much attention as of late- all while displaying the bond between grandparents and grandchildren. There are some grammatical errors that a more thorough proofreading would fix, but they don’t detract from the charming story.


Due to author, Cindy L. Shirley’s wonderful writing skills and illustrator, Cleoward Sky’s gorgeous illustrations, Doodle and the Magic Christmas Float would make a perfect gift from grandparents to their grandchildren. It would also be a wonderful story read at school or a local library before having a children’s holiday craft workshop. With such a wonderfully written story, there is great potential for where Shirley’s Doodle and the Magic Christmas Float can be read and enjoyed -even though it’s niched into a short period of time each year.

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

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[Author Interview] Bree Stedman | Own Your BS

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Bree Stedman

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Bree:
For the past 4 years I’ve dedicated my working life to helping professional mums find Emotional Confidence – to better understand and address their Head Talk by learning and working with their very unique Female Brain…. But the lead up to me being able to do this was an aggressive, less than ideal rollercoaster for my family and myself.

For more than 6 years I had been building a successful business in the Direct Sales Industry – known as a positive and influential leader, it appeared that I had ‘it all’ together.

Behind closed doors though I hid a dark secret that sabotaged the success and satisfaction I was experiencing in my life.

With 2 young children at home, I found myself frequently feeling angry, ashamed and guilty. The build up of emotions hid a truth I wouldn’t allow anyone to see, and that was the resentment I felt for my mother role. It felt as though I spent my entire day wrestling with negative and destructive self-talk that zapped my energy, diminished my confidence and dragged me away from appreciating the here and now. I got trapped in an Emotional Fog fueled by negative Head Talk.

In 2012 I hit an all-time low – living on the verge of ‘losing it’ all of the time, with bouts of out of control behavior I was only just hanging on when I realized that I hated being a mum! I hated what my life had become – who I had become.

After one particular violent episode, I knew that I had a choice – let the self-talk dominate and control my life, or address my inner voice and commit to becoming the best me I could be.

This decision became a pivotal moment in my life that quickly changed everything. With family relationships improving and my self-belief back in tact, I turned my professional attention to helping other mums and women to gain what I now felt – confidence to create a life of control, self-belief and clarity.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Bree:
Own Your BS is the first book I’ve had the pleasure of writing.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Bree:
Own Your BS: The No-Nonsense guide to addressing your Female Head Talk

Click here to get your copy!

ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Bree:
Although new to the writing world, I most enjoyed the ‘rawness’ and authenticity the experience provided me, to dig deep and share my truth. I’m a big believer in ‘no-fluff’ – getting down to business quickly. And so to be able to shift through the years of experience and knowledge I’ve accumulated and condense it into a book that has the potential to really help a woman with her self-talk was a real privilege.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Bree:
Embracing vulnerability in print – sharing some of the details of my story, particularly the relationship I shared with my son when I was in the ‘crazy-pyscho mumma’ mode. Being honest with my experiences felt necessary, as I know that many mums have the same struggles, however putting it in print knowing that my family, my friends and colleagues would now have insight into how much I struggled was challenging.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Bree:
A combination of my own life experiences and learnings, and the extensive training and studying I’ve participated in at the Institute of Women International over the last 5 years.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Bree:
Thanks to my coaches at the Wellness Leadership Academy, the writing process was simplified into a journey for the reader. I spent a weekend Immersion in Hawaii in December 2016 where I hashed out the plan and feel for the book, and then gave myself a timeframe of one chapter every 4-5 days. I found that having a short term specific focus kept me on track and kept the writing purposeful.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Bree:
The message of my book – to own the role you play with your negative self-talk definitely took on an agenda. It’s something I’m very passionate about in my daily life – whenever I thought of a struggling mum reading the book, the words would just flow with a life of their own.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Bree:
When I decided to write Own Your BS, I wanted it to be a hands-on practical tool that women could not only embrace but physically do something with to bring themselves a sense of peace and control over their head talk. So I think my favorite part of the book is the awareness activities of common limiting language in chapter 3 – the activities I encourage readers (and clients) to do neutralize negative emotions very effectively while highlighting possible choices for readers to take. I also really loved sharing my philosophy on goal setting – bringing the masculine (logical) brain together with the feminine (emotional) brain that really inspires action, no matter what a woman dreams or desires for herself.

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Bree:
I’m currently working on a follow-on program to the book – it’s a 9 week Online Course (called Own Your BS: The Program) that extends the awareness gained in the book with a tool-box of in-the moment life strategies and for women to master, that helps them not only cope with life, but deal with all the challenges that show up. My true passion & vision for my life is to help women to be role models not only for themselves, but also for the people they influence most in their worlds, particularly children. Own Your BS: The Program has been designed so women can start to empower themselves and others simply and effectively.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Bree:
www.breestedman.com
I’m also all over Facebook and have a really active online community called Emotional Confidence for Women – join now.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Bree:
Thank you so much for this opportunity! I hope that I’ve been able to inspire any woman who is struggling with sabotaging and destructive self-talk to know that you’re not alone, and secondly there are really simple things you can do to take back control. Head Talk does not need to consume your day, your relationships or your dreams.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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Kindred Spirits – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Whitney Dineen

Whitney Dineen’s delightful romantic and comedic tale, Kindred Spirits, has a fun paranormal twist to it. Philippa or Pip is a wealthy woman with a strange ability to speak to the dead. She must give the messages she receives to the intended persons or suffer weird and potentially embarrassing consequences. Richard is also wealthy, and he’s tired of the New York City dating scene. He’s so ready to find the love of his life that he hires a matchmaker. Pip’s spiritual contacts take measures to ensure she and Richard meet -in a very peculiar way. Whether or not the two can overcome Pip’s secrets and whether or not Pip can save her latest spiritual contact from being in trouble keeps readers turning pages.

Kindred Spirits is meant to be a romantic comedy, but it isn’t fall-off-your-chair funny. However, it is humorous with a cute love story. The minor proofreading mistakes don’t detract from the story though they are a tad bit annoying. Whitney Dineen has written a sweet and fun story all while blending in ghosts and spiritual mediumship in an unexpected way. It’s much easier to get a grasp on Pip than it is Richard, as Dineen doesn’t really give any insight into what Richard really does. However, readers can easily grow fond of both characters rather quickly.

Whitney Dineen’s Kindred Spirits: A Romantic Comedy About Love, Life and the Afterlife is a breath of fresh air in the world of romance novels. It’s fun and playful in an eccentric sort of way all while giving readers plenty of time to fall head-over-heels for both Pip and Richard. There are a number of supporting characters, but just the right amount to give the plot more depth and deepen the reader’s experience. For those looking for a wholesome and sweet romance with a dash of humor, Whitney Dineen’s Kindred Spirits should be on their list.

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

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A Spot in My Heart: Loving a Special Needs Dog – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Kelly Artieri

A Spot in My Heart: Loving a Special Needs Dog is Kelly Artieri’s touching memoir about her bilaterally deaf Dalmatian, Vinnie. Vinnie was deaf, had OCD and Pica, and found himself in heaps of trouble at times, but always brought joy to his family. In this book, Kelly Artieri shares her tips and tricks for training deaf dogs, statistics on Vinnie’s ailments, and charming stories about Vinnie’s everyday life.


Though delightful to read, A Spot in My Heart suffers from some mild disorganization in places. Intercutting chapters that purely discuss facts and statistics occur often and interrupt the main story; though interesting, they are distracting and sometimes frustrating. Also, the narrative switches from one topic to another rather abruptly each time, rather than flowing into the next smoothly and naturally. Nevertheless, Kelly Artieri’s casual, friendly style of writing makes it easy to follow along and enjoy this short memoir all the same.


It’s Vinnie’s story, though, that really steals the show. From hilarious tales of mishaps and trouble-making to heart-wrenching recollections of illness and pain, A Spot in My Heart captivates from the very first page. Peppered with photographs of the adorable pup, Kelly Artieri’s creative and cheerful memoir is a pure joy to read. Her gentle optimism and unconditional love for her family’s “bad puppy” oozes off the page, carrying readers along on her journey of love and acceptance alongside Vinnie the Dalmatian. A Spot in My Heart: Loving a Special Needs Dog is reminiscent of touching tales like Marley & Me, with the sort of pure love and merriment that can only come from a truly wonderful dog.

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

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Hidden Tears to Healing – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Penny B. Price

Hidden Tears to Healing is Penny B. Price’s autobiographical memoir about her struggles with depression. After a tumultuous family life, her father’s tragic suicide, and a seemingly irreversible flood of sadness, Price was dragged down the rabbit hole of grief and mental illness. However, through treatment, support, and sheer resilience, she came out on top and shares her story in this touching memoir.


Hidden Tears to Healing is a book about the author, but then again, it isn’t at all. Though she shares many of her own personal stories, Penny B. Price shifts the focus away from her in a remarkably selfless way. Instead, she spends the majority of this “memoir” discussing statistics, treatment possibilities, and encouraging words of wisdom for other readers who may be experiencing the same things she did. Rather than just spit out her own life story and call it a day, Price uses her platform to educate and uplift readers who are in a position that she once was herself. Her gentle, “Hey, I’ve been there” tone is not only effective, but also incredibly heartwarming and easy to relate to.


Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Hidden Tears to Healing is that it consistently acts as a helping hand, subtly and appropriately extending almost motherly advice to the reader. Many times, Penny B. Price interrupts her own narrative to share tips about depression and suicide awareness, as well as a plethora of real and helpful resources that readers can reach out to if needed. Though her own personal recollections and her exploration of the causes of mental illness are captivating and interesting to read, it’s really Price’s loving, knowledgeable guidance that steals the show—in the best way possible. Hidden Tears to Healing is a remarkable, poignant, riveting book that is a must-read for readers of any walk of life; there is a priceless value to be found in the peace of support and recovery, and Penny B. Price captures that sentiment perfectly.

 

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

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American Justice on Trial – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Lise Pearlman

In American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton, Lise Pearlman discusses the murder trial—and subsequent appeals—of Huey P. Newton in the 1960s. Charged with killing a white police officer, Newton was the victim of outrageous racism and injustice, much of which is comparable to the modern instances of racism that occur today.


Though clearly biased in terms of the angle at which the story is told (though perhaps not in a negative way), Lise Pearlman maintains a careful and cordial objectivity throughout her telling of the Newton trial. At times, American Justice on Trial may be a bit too objective, reading more like a history textbook than perhaps was intended. Also, this book does not discuss just the Newton trial, but also all the historical events that led up to, are relevant to, or were directly caused by the sensational court case. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives the reader more context and detailed information, it can also lead to a bit of confusion here and there in terms of how everything all fits together.


This richness in detail is still one of the greatest aspects about American Justice on Trial, though. Lise Pearlman has clearly done her research and weaves each fact and narrative into a multi-faceted book that is simultaneously riveting and thought-provoking. American Justice on Trial bravely shines light on the history of racism and inequality in the United States, while also comparing it to similar modern-day cases in an eloquent, poignant manner. As Lise Pearlman pointed out in the book’s opening, “What has changed in this country in the last half century and what has not? How do we best move forward?” Perhaps after reading American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton, readers will be able to form some answers of their own to that intriguing question.

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

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Strain of Resistance – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Michelle Bryan

In Michelle Bryan’s Strain of Resistance, a mysterious crystalline cloud wipes over Earth, leaving only death and destruction in its path. Eight years later, Emma Bixby and her fellow survivors are still fending off the alien leeches that infiltrated the planet. When some of their own go missing, Bixby and her crew set out to find out what happened—and discover something worse than they could have ever imagined.


In some ways, Strain of Resistance seems typical of its genre and overly similar to other apocalyptic survivor stories like it. It channels well-known horror works like The Walking Dead, Alien, and The Mist, but perhaps a bit too much. Unfortunately, the cliché aspects of this novel almost seem to outweigh the wholly original ones. Also, the main character, Bixby, is a difficult one to fully get behind and relate to. She tends to behave more like an exaggerated caricature than a believable protagonist, which can sometimes make her rather unlikable. Together, these aspects result in Strain of Resistance perhaps not living up to its full potential.


However, Strain of Resistance is still an incredibly enjoyable novel. Michelle Bryan has quite the talent as a horror writer; her monsters are delightfully terrifying and her eerily vivid style of writing is sure to please any seasoned fan of the horror genre. The fast-paced narrative doesn’t waste time with filler material, but rather gets right down to the nitty-gritty gore and carnage that captivates from the very first sentence. Strain of Resistance is an exciting, horrifying, exhilarating plunge into one group’s desperate struggle for survival that is guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

 

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

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