What Does God Think: Transgender People and the Bible – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Cheryl B. Evans

What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible by Cheryl B. Evans is a thoughtful book which attempts to answer the very question from which it gets its title. Cheryl, the mother of a transgender son, is a Christian who went on her own journey of self-discovery and acceptance and wants to help other parents in her situation do the same. She argues, through the inclusion of extensive research and personal experiences, that the transgender community is a vital part of the Christian Church.


Evans presents a book that is thoroughly researched and well-thought-out. She leads the reader purposefully through an exploration of the transgender experience from the point of view of the family members who support the transgender individual. Adequate time is taken to define all terms that the reader may not be familiar with. She also includes a couple of excerpts from discussions with religious experts, which serve to illustrate the intricacies of her argument. In fact, What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible could benefit from the inclusion of additional material from religious and scientific experts to provide further support for the stance that Evans takes in the book.


What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible includes many quotations from the Bible, in addition to the commentary from experts in the field, and does a great job of analyzing the text in support of the overall argument. Evans has created a well structured and coherent exploration of what it is like to raise a transgender child in the Christian community. Her attempt to encourage compassion for the transgender community should be commended. Evans weaves a tapestry of personal anecdotes and experiences together with scientific fact and biblical analysis to present a finished piece that encourages people of all faiths to interrogate their worldview. In What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible, Cheryl B. Evans has created an approachable, non-judgmental exploration of raising a transgender child that everyone should read, regardless of their religious background.

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

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Pawns – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Patrick Hodges

In the first installment of Patrick Hodges’ The Wielders of Arantha series, Pawns, Maeve and her son Davin travel across the galaxy in search of a mysterious energy source – which they need to defeat the Jegg, a dangerous alien race. There, on a distant planet that hides their last hope, they uncover more secrets than they could have ever expected, leading to an inevitable conflict against insurmountable odds.


Firstly, it needs to be said that it is impossible to sum up this book in so short a blurb. There’s a lot going on in Pawns, and its intricacy cannot be given justice with so few words. Much of this is due to Patrick Hodges’ impeccable world building, which accounts for a majority of this first book. Despite this book clearly being intended to “set the scene” for the following entries in the series, it still manages to hold its own with a strong plot at its center. Pawns is a unique blend of futuristic science fiction and otherworldly fantasy, but balances its many facets phenomenally.


Pawns’ greatest strength, however, lies in its spectacular character development. Each character – even the “bad guys” of the story – is unique, captivating, and unbelievably well-written. No matter who the point-of-view character is in any particular chapter, they are always interesting to read about, which is rare in even the best science-fiction and/or fantasy novels. The interwoven storylines that Patrick Hodges has so masterfully concocted are riveting and thrilling, keeping pages turning frantically in this energetic, colorful, expertly-written novel. Pawns is a must-read for new or seasoned fans of science fiction and fantasy alike; it’s most certainly a promising taste of the treasures to come in the rest of this fantastic series.

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

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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

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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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