When the Sun Shines Through – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Mary Edwards-Olson

In Mary Edwards-Olson’s book, When the Sun Shines Through, the author takes readers on a simple journey on a topic that is far from simple. She focuses on helping readers deal with the affects of Alzheimer’s disease in a way that is perfect for young readers. Written as a children’s picture book, When the Sun Shines Through is easy-to-read and gets straight to the heart of the matter, but could just as easily touch the hearts of adult readers, too.

Though there is always creative and artistic license there are some grammatical errors that may deter a few readers. It might be better if the punctuation was correct when it is very obvious in such a simple book. Another area that could be improved upon is how the perspective seems to switch from the child’s point of view to that of an adult who might develop the disease. Then it switches back again. This flip-flopping back and forth in perspectives can be a little confusing and hard to follow.

Overall, When the Sun Shines Through by Mary Edwards-Olson is a fantastic little book to express how important it is to understand Alzheimer’s as best as one can while offering support and compassion for those who have the disease. When the Sun Shines Through is filled with beautiful imagery. The soft edges seem to depict the fringes and fuzzy edges of memory as it comes and goes as it does with the disease. Edwards-Olson’s simple images and simple wording express such a deep and powerful message as it urges compassion, understanding and love. When the Sun Shines Through is highly recommended.

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

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Goddess of the Wild Thing – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Paul DeBlassie III

Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III follows a woman named Eve on her quest to find love amidst life, loss, and a metaphysical war between two magical deities. Set in the mystical nation of Aztlan del Sur, Eve finds herself torn between the affections of Sam, a man she doesn’t fully trust, and spending her life entirely without love. Goddess of the Wild Thing is an ambitious novel which attempts to answer the question: is bad love preferable to no love at all?


Goddess of the Wild Thing attempts to do a lot in a short amount of time. It occasionally struggles under the weight of all the worldbuilding necessary to establish the world of Aztlan del Sur, and unfortunately sometimes it falls short. Better attention could be paid to establishing the mythology behind the various deities and why it is that they are so diametrically opposed. This would help to better ground the story in the world in which it is set. Further developing the cast of supporting characters would provide the story with more life and make the buildup to the final battle more satisfying.


Where Goddess of the Wild Thing excels is in its ambition. This novel tries to do so much! From the blending of Mesoamerican and Native American cultures to the conversation about toxic behaviors, both masculine and feminine, in human relationships, there is a lot going on. DeBlassie seamlessly integrates his knowledge of psychology to present the reader with a main character that has a fully developed and nuanced psyche. Situating Aztlan del Sur in the Southwestern United States is a smart move. Clearly grounding the story in a real location, even though Aztlan del Sur differs from modern day America, adds to the magical realism that is inherent in the story. Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III offers an intriguing look at a fantasy world while encouraging the reader to confront their own ideas about love, relationships, and spirituality.

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

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Least Wanted – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Debbi Mack

In Debbi Mack’s Least Wanted, attorney Sam McRae juggles two clients accused of heinous murders. A young black girl named Tina Jackson is accused of bludgeoning her mother to death with a softball bat, and a man alleged to have embezzled money is suspected of murdering his boss. The two cases have more in common than Sam first realizes, leaving her scrambling to find the truth before she becomes the murderer’s next victim.


Though certainly a riveting mystery novel, Least Wanted does feature some rather unbelievable or even cliché characters and plot points. Some characters were a bit too colorful, bordering almost on caricatures, while a few aspects of the plot seem unrealistic or exaggerated. They’re entertaining nonetheless, but in a blockbuster movie sort of way, and not like a real-life crime story. Sam McRae is certainly an attorney who goes above and beyond, which makes for good fiction, but unfortunately, doesn’t resonate quite as much as it could if it was more lifelike.


On the other hand, Least Wanted is an intriguing story, full of dramatic plot twists and a fast-paced narrative that is sure to keep readers hooked. It functions well as a standalone novel despite being part of a series, which is good news for readers looking for a quick thrill. The plot itself is captivating, dark, and even humorous, providing a well-balanced and well-executed novel that is a joy to read. Debbi Mack has crafted a fascinating, multi-faceted mystery in Least Wanted, full of suspense, thrills, and plenty of unsuspected twists along the way; even seasoned mystery/thriller fans will find themselves pleasantly surprised by this gem.

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

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I Hear You – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Michael S. Sorensen

I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen provides readers with a simple and actionable look at the skills necessary to build and sustain meaningful interpersonal relationships. Sorensen uses the book to explain the concept of validation, and he provides readers with numerous examples of how to employ this skill in their everyday lives.


I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships is well structured and formatted the whole way through. The book has an overabundance of examples which provide ways for people to practice validation in their everyday lives, but clustering many of the examples together in “Part III: Putting it All Together” slows the pacing of the final third of the book in a way that is jarring. The commitment to providing a vast selection of examples for the reader to study and learn from is admirable. However, given the number of examples that are worked into the book’s first two sections, eliminating some of the final examples may aid in diminishing the pacing issue.


Sorensen has done a wonderful job of presenting the topic in a way that is approachable. The reader never once feels like they are being talked down to. The choice to make it clear in the introduction that Sorensen himself is not an academic expert on the topic, but rather a person with a personal interest in the subject, assists with the overall approachable tone of the piece. He includes enough citations from reputable, respected minds in the field to show that he has really done his research. The book is also not overly long, something Sorensen himself insisted on, which helps to keep the pace moving. I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen is an excellent choice for readers looking for a friendly and approachable look at interpersonal communications.

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

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All Fish Faces – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Tam Warner Minton

All Fish Faces: Photos & Fun Facts About Tropical Reef Fish (Ocean Friends Book One) by Tam Warner Minton is a highly colorful book filled with tons of beautiful photographs of marine life. Author, travel blogger and photographer, Warner Minton, compiled images and information from her personal travels and diving excursions for this first book in her series. Though children may thoroughly enjoy it adults will likely enjoy seeing the colorful fish and reading about them, too.

There are a few issues with Warner Minton’s All Fish Faces. Grammatical errors and variances in font style in different places in the book may be a determent for some readers. Yet, they are minor and many people can just overlook those. There is a lack of consistency in the placement of the text boxes as well; therefore, that hinders the flow of the book to some extent. Some of the photographs are a little difficult to see the fish in, but that is countered by the fascinating piece that the author is the actual photographer of all of the photos.

All Fish Faces is quite unique in that it can be a great fit for both young and older readers. The variety of species included is quite interesting and Tam Warner Minton shares images of different types of the various species she includes. The book is vividly colorful and a joy to sit and flip through. With tidbits of information it can add to the reader’s knowledge of what lies beneath the surface of the ocean. Warner Minton shares her series in an effort to help save the oceans and their fabulous sea life. This makes All Fish Faces an even more interesting read.

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

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Fateful Italian Passion – Entered in the Winter-Spring 2018 Book Blurb Contest

Entered in the Winter/Spring 2018 Book Blurb Contest

A dark romance about two broken people. Milano and Veronica on their journey of love and darkness as they try to fill the hole in their lives. Will they heal each other or will they burn together?

Veronica was adopted by her aunt in her early childhood. She didn’t know anything about her biological parents and now lived just for her Aunt Henrietta. Veronica finished her penultimate fourth year in her university and wanted to escape from her so-called friends who insult her constantly because of her lineage. Henrietta decided to gift Veronica a trip to Italy to give her the best vacation ever and some much-needed space.

Veronica arrives in Italy and in Rome she meets a young man, Milano Veneziani, who seems to be a really nice guy. But Veronica doesn’t know his past or his present and what tomorrow holds for her. After getting into a passionate relationship with him, she feels that she is falling in love with Milano.

But will their passion kill her? Or will it make Veronica more alive than she has ever been before? Or will she fall into the abyss of his consuming passion, without anyone to help her?

Meet the badass alpha male and sexy jerk Milano and the strong female leader Veronica! Immerse in a world of their shattered souls and fiery hearts!

This billionaire suspense dark romance book will paint your Christmas Holidays with new emotions and sensuality!

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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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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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