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Category: Fiction (Page 1 of 33)

Through the Hostage – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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J C Steel

Through the Hostage by J C Steel is a compelling journey through a fully realized alien world that seems to be teetering on the brink of internal war. This book tells the story of Khyria Ilan, an alien being who is reluctant to accept her role as leader of a potential group of mercenary fighters. Khyria is forced to deal with many obstacles during her journey, from armed rebellions to a government sponsored conspiracy, to establish and maintain authority over her unit.


Through the Hostage is an incredibly well thought out book. Steel has created a fresh, vibrant world full of engaging characters and tense situations. One drawback though is that Steel stumbles a bit in defining and explaining the many alien concepts. This is particularly the case at the beginning of the novel when the reader experiences everything through the eyes of the book’s alien characters. On the one hand, it is refreshing to read an author who trusts that her audience will keep up with her, however the sheer amount of worldbuilding is a lot to keep up with, leaving something to be desired in terms of context.


What misgivings the reader may have at the beginning of the novel all but disappear once a handful of chapters go by. The introduction of Jack helps to give the reader a solid footing, and gives the characters a reason to explain their alien traditions and behaviors. This greatly enhances the experience of reading the book. The pacing is just about perfect, keeping the reader of the edge of their seat as they are never sure if Khyria, her second, Taiva, and their poor hostage, Jack, will make it to the end. Through the Hostage by J C Steel is an excellent first book in The Cortii Series. Fans of science fiction, worldbuilding, or just good storytelling will find themselves thoroughly engrossed in J C Steel’s excellent work.

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

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Trust – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Tabitha Darling

An unlikely fusion of mythic fantasy creatures and modern humans, Trust, by Tabitha Darling, explores the relationship between a stranded centaur from a different planet and the human woman he kidnaps to nurse the newborn in his care. Together, they overcome language barriers, child-rearing, and the terror of an uncertain future, while all along learning to trust and care for one another. The first novel in the Children of Chiron series, Trust introduces readers to a new perspective on modern fantasy.


Trust begins in a centaur village with a rapid series of events that culminate in a magical teleportation to Earth. While the concept is clear, the series of events in the first several pages is not. It can be quite difficult for readers to keep track of characters and actions on top of all the unfamiliar world-building aspects of the scenes. There is extreme urgency to the situation, but the reasons why are difficult to pick out. Without any sort of anchoring expositional information, the quick pace of the dialogue and action could possibly turn readers off the story entirely, despite any course correction the story takes later. Along the same vein, the descriptions for action moments and movement in general could use quite a lot of expansion. The action is very frank, and as a result, uninformative. Poor action description can lead to misunderstanding of the whole scene. For instance, the moment Brenda and Ieang are forced to abandon Tejat is a pivotal moment, but even after several read throughs, it is a confusing moment.


Darling’s decision to write most of Trust through Ieang’s perspective is an ambitious one. The entire experience on Earth is a practice in defamiliarization. Because Ieang does not know what things are or how to describe them, readers are forced to pick up every clue as if it’s a mystery game, providing a steady-yet-mellow layer of tension throughout the whole story. On an entirely different note, the sheer creativity that comes with Darling’s reimagining of mythology and centaurs is commendable. Though the reader does not yet know how the centaurs’ faith and gods relate to what is understood on Earth, the few connections given are exciting and promising for future novels. While Trust is just the first of several novels, the story itself can stand alone as a quest or adventure narrative for both main characters, the unknown elements simply leave the reader waiting and wanting for the next installment in the series.

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

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The Water Kingdom – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Deborah Gray

In Deborah Gray’s The Water Kingdom, Nell Cunningham sneaks along on a field trip to White Shell Lagoon, but finds more than she bargained for—including a violet-eyed boy who clearly isn’t human. Meanwhile, Sebastian has been tasked with finding his lost queen and her priceless locket, but there’s danger around every corner for him—and for Nell, too.


Though its plot is certainly intriguing, The Water Kingdom also has some aspects about it that are a bit too cliché and predictable. Many of these obvious hints and tropes give away the plot twists before they happen, which perhaps takes some of the fun out of the story in general. Also, there were many scenes and plot points that were far too rushed, hurtling the reader through a fast-paced plot that may have been better executed if it had been slowed down a tad. Aside from that, The Water Kingdom is an incredibly entertaining young adult novel that shows a lot of promise.


The Water Kingdom’s greatest strength lies in its imaginative and descriptive storyline. Exciting and fascinating from the first page, this story is full of adventure, mystery, and delightful fantasy. Deborah Gray is a talented writer, seamlessly weaving lifelike characters and impeccable detail into a narrative that is consistently riveting. In many ways, The Water Kingdom is so well-written that it seems overwhelmingly believable at times. The Water Kingdom is a brilliant, creative novel that is impossible to put down—and will certainly inspire many equally great sequels in the future.

 

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

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The Avocadonine and Spring Stone – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Patrick Barnes

In Patrick Barnes’ The Avocadonine and Spring Stone, Rey Naresh visits a psychic and receives a cryptic reading about his future. Then, as he’s entering the ninth grade, Rey learns that some of his classmates are hearing humming noises emitting from their electronics. With the help of his friends, Rey investigates the anomaly, uncovering a secret plot involving mind control, avocados, and a mysterious girl named Spring Stone.


In short, there’s just too much going on in The Avocadonine and Spring Stone. The plot often comes across as convoluted and crowded, with constantly changing points of view and a distracted narrative. There are many scenes that are so busy or vague that it’s difficult to follow along with what’s happening; one can only imagine how confusing it might be for the younger readers that are clearly the target audience here. Also, the heavy prevalence of avocados (of all things) in this story might have been interesting in theory, but in execution, it’s just overly eccentric and almost too strange.


Nevertheless, there is still much to be appreciated in this quirky novel. Patrick Barnes captures the awkward and curious nature of youths perfectly, making the characters of The Avocadonine and Spring Stone all relatable and realistic. The bare plot itself is interesting and unique, with a creative mystery that is engaging and intriguing right up to its resolution. The Avocadonine and the Spring Stone may be a little odd, but it is a charming and amusing coming-of-age story all the same.

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

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The Audric Experiment – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Patrick Barnes

In Patrick Barnes’ The Audric Experiment, Pierre Morena lives in a futuristic society called Audric, in which people are punished for bad financial decisions with a shock from a bracelet and terrifying dreams. After Pierre survives a thirteen-floor fall of which he has little recollection, he crosses paths with a rogue group called Gamblers. The Gamblers have answers for him, but also even more questions, leaving Pierre to reconsider the society of Audric altogether.


Though it certainly has an interesting premise, The Audric Experiment needs a bit of work in terms of plot development. Much of the plot is far too underdeveloped, with essential details that were either too vague or almost nonexistent, making it sometimes difficult to follow along with the story. Also, much of the plot seemed to grow impatient with itself, rushing off to the next plot point without adequately resolving the one before it. Other aspects of the plot seem too convoluted, with too much going on all at once. Because of this severe imbalance, in many ways, The Audric Experiment reads more like a first draft than a completely finished novel.


However, The Audric Experiment is still an incredibly entertaining read. In essence, The Audric Experiment is slightly reminiscent of well-known works like The Giver or Fahrenheit 451, but with a distinctly modern-day flair that keeps the plot interesting and the characters relatable. Patrick Barnes clearly has brilliant ideas for good science fiction stories; his unique concepts and style of writing show an abundance of promise. Perhaps The Audric Experiment missed the mark a bit in execution, but the potential is there; a solid revision or edit can make this the groundbreaking novel it is clearly capable of being.

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

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The Art of Healing – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jeanne Felfe

In Jeanne Felfe’s The Art of Healing, Julianne is devastated by her husband’s infidelity and the eventual demise of their marriage. Meanwhile, photographer Jokob is still reeling from his wife’s tragic death, turning only to his art for comfort. When the two meet at a gallery of Jokob’s work, sparks fly, giving them both an opportunity to heal themselves and each other with new love.


Despite being an excellent story, The Art of Healing seems to be quite disorganized. The plot jumps between characters’ perspectives haphazardly and without reason, and the large skips in the timeline seem nonsensical and almost confusing. Granted, the plot is still interesting enough to carry the reader through to the end regardless, but more careful organization would benefit this novel greatly. Aside from that, there’s no denying that The Art of Healing is a truly fantastic romance novel in every way.


Jeanne Felfe has quite the talent for writing a believable romance with substance; The Art of Healing is not a “love at first sight” story, nor is it superficial or overly cliché. Rather, the characters are well-written and wholly human, making them relatable and interesting in the way a dear friend or beloved family member would be. Their romance is wholesome and genuine, resulting in a romance novel that is truly captivating and a pleasure to read. The Art of Healing is wonderfully real, guaranteed to tug at readers’ heartstrings and give them a romance worth rooting for.

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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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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