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Category: 2017 Book Award Contest (Page 1 of 6)

The Life You Crave – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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April B. Jones

The Life You Crave: The Business of You is a self-help book penned by April B. Jones, aimed at helping readers achieve their goals. In it, Jones helps her readers visualize their wildest dreams for the future and plan a way to conquer them little by little, using “stepping stones, not leaping stones.” Through each step, Jones guides her readers as they rid themselves of naysayers, take responsibility for their own lives, and create their own success. She also provides journal questions and note pages so that, upon completion, readers know exactly what they will do to achieve the life they crave.

The Life You Crave is an interesting self-help book, largely because it relies heavily on the “self” aspect of that. There is plenty of advice to be found, sure, but April B. Jones’s approach is one more about encouragement than supplying answers. She prompts the readers with straightforward questions and guides them as they brainstorm solutions to their own problems. The Life You Crave is open-ended enough to apply to everyone who reads it, while still being personal in its scope.

The exercises and writing prompts are also a lovely inclusion. This is not a book for the idle reader; rather, it encourages readers to get involved and stay involved as they read. April B. Jones has given her readers a wonderful tool with which to shape their own lives, without ever presuming that she can magically solve everything for them. It is a book about finding one’s own strength and determination to solve their problems on their own, which again, sets it apart from many other members of the self-help genre. Paired with a conversational narrative and theme of friendly advice, The Life You Crave: The Business of You is a great read for anyone looking to make some positive changes in their life – so, in truth, everyone.

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

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Barnstorming America – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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John A. Molina

Barnstorming America by John A. Molina is a non-fiction book that retells the history of women’s basketball in America and provides profiles on some of the women who pushed the sport into the public eye. Not only does this book act as a quintessential reference book but history and sports fans alike will enjoy reading this well researched and visually engaging book.

Barnstorming America is a passion project for Molina, and his genuine interest and love for his subject matter is felt on every page. The inclusion of photographs and well-documented evidence make this book a great coffee table book that is still well-researched and easy to read. Barnstorming is well written, and readers will enjoy looking at all the photos and visual evidence that Molina integrates into the text. What makes Barnstorming America such a success, is its ability to weave the sport’s history with that of female empowerment. Above all, this book highlights the achievements of great women that many of us will know little about.

However, the one stylistic problem with the book is the in-depth focus on individual players. While this may be great as a reference for readers who are highly invested in the topic, it does not read as cleanly as the preceding chapters that are divided into themes. These profiles are interesting but easily glossed over, which is a pity as they have something to offer the narrative.

Overall, Barnstorming America is an interesting book that showcases a history that seems to be forgotten. Molina’s genuine passion and historical tie with females’ basketball makes this read interesting for both avid sports fans, history buffs and should be a staple in every library around the country.

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

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Miller’s View – The Alley Rat – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Marlene W. Potts

In Marlene W. Potts’s Miller’s View: The Alley Rat, seventeen-year-old Birdy witnesses a brutal murder in a dark alley. Deacon Ashton Bradley is beat to death, and now, the thug who did it is hunting for Birdy, too. His boss, millionaire Cranston Turner, wants him to get rid of “the rat” at any cost. Detective Miller is searching for the answers, but he’s in a race against the clock to crack the case before Birdy meets her demise. With the help of some mysterious rose-colored glasses, he might just find the clues he needs to finally end Cranston Turner’s brutal rampage.

Developmentally, The Alley Rat is a difficult book to get through. It’s nearly impossible to follow references to events in previous books in the Miller’s View series without having read those previous books; new readers who choose to start with this one are going to be in for a bumpy ride. Also, much of The Alley Rat reads more like a rough outline than a fully developed novel. Sudden shifts in perspective and inconsistent timelines are to blame for much of this, as are seemingly incomplete scenes. The Alley Rat’s potential is certainly there, but expansion of several scenes and some thorough editing would improve its readability tenfold.

Despite this, The Alley Rat proved to be a most interesting novel. At first glance, it seems like an ordinary detective mystery, but it turns out to be more than that. The inclusion of the mystical glasses and its curious abilities give The Alley Rat a faint paranormal flavor. Marlene W. Potts’s story is intriguing and different, as are her characters. It certainly piques readers’ interest about the other books in the series, too. Miller’s View: The Alley Rat could benefit from a bit of work, but is an enjoyable mystery nonetheless.

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

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A Tom Collins to Go – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jim Hart

In Jim Hart’s A Tom Collins to Go, down-on-his-luck private investigator Harry Parker is desperate for a new case. Still bitter about his ex-wife’s affair and struggling to make ends meet, he’s taken to alcohol to get him through each day. Then, he receives a mysterious letter about an even more mysterious case. Wealthy stockbroker T.M. Collins has been kidnapped, and his finger severed and mailed to his daughter. Miss Collins enlists Harry to solve the case and get her father back safely – at any cost. Using his trademark combination of snark, wit, and early-morning drinks, Harry Parker resolves himself to crack the case, once and for all.

A Tom Collins to Go is an interesting period mystery, but sometimes, a rather difficult one to follow. Its style of narration is intricate and winding, often embarking on long-winded tangents about seemingly irrelevant details. Coupled with a plethora of run-on sentences and rushed action scenes, A Tom Collins to Go isn’t always the easiest read. It seems that Jim Hart spent far too much time over-developing every little aspect of his historic 1947 New York setting, rather than focusing on the story at hand.

However, A Tom Collins to Go still plays out to be an enjoyable novel. The main character, Harry, is intriguing and colorful, injecting plenty of humor and sarcasm into an otherwise dark plot. He isn’t a quintessential protagonist, but that makes him all the more fascinating to read about; he, and the era he inhabits, seem quite realistic. The plot itself was a well-developed, Agatha Christie-esque mystery, but with a whole lot more grit. Jim Hart’s A Tom Collins to Go could use a bit of fine-tuning, but is still a fantastic historical mystery that die-hard fans of the genre will certainly love.

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

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The House on Hayden Pond – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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J. Monks

In J. Monks’s The House on Hayden Pond, Paul Bolton is excited to move his family into their dream house. Inherited from a deceased family member who curiously left it out of his will, the spacious country home is the answer to Paul’s desperate prayers. However, the house on Hayden Pond has a dark history, eviler than anything Paul could have ever imagined. There’s a demonic presence within its walls that soon begins mercilessly terrorizing his family. The Boltons have an unlikely ally who is trying to protect them, but that may not be enough to help them survive the gruesome horrors in store for them.

The House on Hayden Pond is a good horror story, but perhaps, a bit too cliché. It resembles dozens of other, quite similar haunted house-themed horror stories. Its plot may intrigue readers who are new to this genre, but seasoned horror fans may grow tired of its familiarity. However, what may alienate all readers is The House on Hayden Pond’s odd pacing. The entire plot seems overwhelmingly rushed and unbalanced; J. Monks races through each scene and fumbles with the conclusion, all while trying to juggle too many details at once. Paired with confusing and sudden shifts in point of view, The House on Hayden Pond lacks the gripping suspense that the horror genre requires.

Despite all that, The House on Hayden Pond is, overall, quite an enjoyable book. It is filled with vivid imagery and descriptive details; the pure imagination and vision that went into this novel is impressive. J. Monks writes scary scenes frighteningly well, and shows a lot of promise as a horror writer. The House on Hayden Pond does severely need a developmental overhaul, but it’s also a fantastic hint at what to expect in the future from J. Monks, who already appears to be a rising talent in the horror genre.

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

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Future School – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Eric Pattersonn Eric Patterson’s Future School: Walk Like Lions, twelve-year-old Bridgette is devastated to learn that she has been accepted to the most prestigious school in the country, The Las Vegas School of Excellence. She never wanted to go, but the full scholarship and promise of a bright future would be a great opportunity for her struggling family. Once there, though, Bridgette’s fears quickly escalate. Her new school is using a mysterious brain-enhancing serum on its students, but its harmful effects are quickly brushed under the rug. Along with her new friends, Janice and George, Bridgette must summon the lion’s courage within her and discover the truth, once and for all.


Future School: Walk Like Lions vaguely resembles other literary greats, such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Stephen King’s Carrie. These three stories all incorporate the same aspects of wonder, suspense, and mysterious mental abilities. However, despite likely gathering inspiration from these two works, Future School takes an entirely unique approach to the genre. Rather than featuring just one telepathic protagonist, like in Carrie and Matilda, Future School explores an entire community comprised of these unique characters – and the corrupt practices that gave them those abilities in the first place. The plot that follows these “gifted” children is a most interesting one, full of corruption, fear, and pure determination.


Future School certainly contains its share of drawbacks, though; certain areas of the plot seemed to progress far too slowly, while others raced through aspects that the readers might like to know more about. The occasional interjection of passages or chapters from other characters’ perspectives tended to be confusing, as well. However, the sheer brilliance of Future School’s plot and colorful characters makes it all worthwhile. Future School: Walk Like Lions is an exciting, terrifying, and entirely unique young adult novel that, at the very least, will give its readers loads to think about. In that regard, Eric Patterson surpasses the likes of Carrie and Matilda and takes his story in an entirely new – and consequently, wonderful – direction.

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

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The Severaine – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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K.J. Simmill

The Severaine by K.J. Simmill is a fantasy story that recounts the adventures of a band of heroes, led by a grief-stricken Daniel, as they set off into a world being tormented by the Severaine, a darkness that is set to destroy humanity. Told with action, emotion and packed with recognizable fantasy tropes, The Severaine sets itself up to be a fantasy novel to rival the very best in the genre.

While this is the second book in The Forgotten Legacy Series, the story acts well as a standalone novel, and readers will quickly pick up on the plot. Simmill has worked hard in creating a world and characters that readers will relate to, and with classical themes around revenge, loss and good vs. evil, readers will be quickly drawn into the quest and action sequences. The Severaine also seems to play homage to more traditional quest literature, such as the Odyssey with some glaring references to the Greek Epic as well as other mythologies.

However, while Simmill is creative and her world well fleshed out, it lacks focus, and the inclusion of magic, Greek Gods, portals, medicinal herbs, monsters and new characters hinders the reader’s ability to focus on all these elements; and in turn, forget their relevance to the story. This is a real pity as Simmill has something to offer this genre. Another issue with this novel is the dialogue. Many times, it feels unrealistic and is quickly swallowed up by descriptions and the need to describe every facial cue or action that precedes it. There is no doubt that The Severaine is an ambitious project but with better focus and fewer characters and creations, readers could be more invested in the central quest. The length of the book, at 624 pages, also speaks to the sheer “quest” that the reader must undertake to get through this novel.

Overall, The Severaine is a fantasy novel jam-packed with creative ideas. Fantasy readers will enjoy what Simmill must offer, but may not have time to appreciate and digest one fantastical element before being met with something equally shiny and exciting.

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

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Elicit My Heart – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Shauna Pendleton

A highly unique book, Elicit My Heart is the second book in the Kiss Me Deadly series. Author, Shauna Pendleton continues Marjolaine’s story of tumultuous experiences as she faces life-threatening choices. The excruciatingly destructive consequences she faces if she gives in and makes the wrong choices nearly rip her demon heart in two. Marjolaine’s lost love is in danger and engaged to another woman. Whether or not she’ll be able to save him from the invisible and unknown danger -let alone save him from the danger she herself is- courses throughout Pendletons’s Elicit My Heart. Marjolaine has believed she is utter evil, but in this second book she faces demonic forces stronger and far worse than her own kind. Pendleton keeps readers wondering page after page as to whom will still be standing in the end.

On some levels, Elicit My Heart could be read as a stand alone novel, but it would be easier for readers to relish in the story sooner if they have read the fist book in the series, Kiss Me Deadly. Pendleton doesn’t appear to give much background when it comes to who or what Marjolaine (Len) is. The tale is gripping early on, but it takes a good bit of reading to piece together Marjolaine’s relationship to Jared and her relationship with Durante. Being better prepared to understand the intricacies of these relationships could help readers get into the story a bit quicker, but that is the only real drawback to Elicit My Heart. Shauna Pendleton has written a fascinating, paranormal tale that will not only keep readers turning pages, but Elicit My Heart will have them craving the next book in the Kiss Me Deadly series.

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

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Living in Italy: The Real Deal – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Stef Smulders

In Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life, Stef Smulders details how he, his partner, Nico, and their dog left their lives behind to start a new life in Italy. Once there, they aspired to start their own bed and breakfast, Villa I Due Padroni. However, as Dutchmen, Stef and Nico were completely out of their comfort zone in the eccentric Italian landscape. Thrust into the midst of a difficult restoration project and a sea of quirky characters, Stef and Nico struggled to find their way. They needed to discover, as the title suggests, “how to survive the good life.”

At first glance, Living in Italy seems to be a sort of travel guide or emigrant’s handbook. However, it is nothing of the sort. In fact, it is primarily a memoir about two immigrants and their hilarious escapades in Italy. Although there are bits of advice sprinkled throughout, there is not nearly enough to fully commit to the genre it appears to be. Aside from its misleading first impression, Living in Italy has a few other quirks, as well. It’s poorly organized in some areas, jumping around a lot in focus and setting. Some chapters seemed entirely disjointed because of this. Other times, there seems to be errors in the translation of the book; abundant grammatical errors and untranslated Italian phrases can lead to a fair bit of confusion for readers. Much Stef Smulder’s writing was quite abrupt, too; chapters seemed to end as soon as they started and the storytelling was not as strong as it could have been. 

Despite its lack of organization and clarity, Living in Italy was certainly an interesting read. The characters that Stef and Nico encounter during their exploits are humorous and entertaining, as are their stories about acclimating to Italian culture. Also, for fans of home renovations and DIY projects, this book has plenty to interest you. Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Live the Good Life could use a bit of renovation itself, but is still a fascinating read for anyone considering moving to Italy and starting anew, as Stef and Nico did.

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

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The Healing Wound – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Cristina Dior

Cristina Dior’s The Healing Wound is her personal memoir about her complicated and often traumatic childhood. Born to teenage, interracial parents, Cristina was immediately thrust into a situation she never asked for. Her father, Steven, had a nasty temper and was prone to violent outbursts, often beating her young mother. To protect her infant daughter, Tama allowed her foster family to adopt Cristina. Cristina’s new adoptive family was not as Tama remembered it, though, and they inflicted tremendous abuse on their new ward. When Cristina finally escaped, her new haven was not at all how she imagined it. From then on, Cristina funneled her strength and spirit into breaking the cycles of abuse, racism, and depression she had endured and finally, once and for all, healing.

Though undoubtedly intriguing and immersive, The Healing Wound is a bit of an exhausting read. Ripe with child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, attempted suicide, and mental illness, this book forces a lifetime of pain and sadness on its readers with little relief. Though it is a story that deserves to be told, it’s a difficult one to endure as a reader. It takes a strong mind and a healthy amount of determination to reach the end of The Healing Wound. Aside from the themes of negativity, the promised themes of healing felt rushed and like an afterthought. An entire book later, only a mere chapter or two seemed to contain any hint of healing, and even then, it was not as fully or deeply explored as it could have been. In that regard, readers are given little resemblance of a positive note to end this book on.

Despite its difficult premise, The Healing Wound did have its redeeming moments. Cristina Dior’s writing seems honest and forthright, descriptive without being too graphic, and fully captivating. Her story is striking and vivid, carrying readers along on her journey to healing. The Healing Wound is well-written and interesting, to be sure, but it still would have far more impact if, among all the wounds explored, Cristina Dior had thoroughly discussed her supposed healing, too.

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

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