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Category: Fiction (Page 1 of 19)

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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Happy! And Other Feelings – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jeff Whitcher

A wonderfully themed collection of poems for children, by Jeff Whitcher, Happy! And Other Feelings was a joy to read. The poems in this book are based on dozens of different emotions. They range from the basic emotions of feeling happy or feeling sad to feeling safe, ignored, overwhelmed or even adventurous. Jeff Whitcher does an excellent job painting a colorful picture of each of these emotions from a child viewpoint. He also includes a number of basic, but impactful handdrawn images as well. With rhyme and flow, these poems can help children realize they are not alone when they encounter one or more of these emotions.

Without question Happy! And Other Feelings: Poems and drawings by Jeff Whitcher would be a great addition to any child’s home library. This book would also make a great addition in educational settings as teachers could use some of the poems to help students talk about different emotions or behaviors -of their own, of classmates or those surrounding current events. Likely my favorite was “Empathy”. It is short, but it clearly expresses the concept that we’re all alike in some way, that we’ve all had similar emotions and experiences now and again. Furthermore, it expresses the importance of just being with another instead of leaving them suffer (or celebrate) alone. I highly recommend parents, teachers, librarians, homeschool parents, etc. pick up a copy of Happy! And Other Feelings to help the youth in their charge to better understand and embrace the various feelings we all experience as human beings.

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

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Retaliation: Earth Reclamation Force – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

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Martin Wallace

Retaliation is the first installment of Martin Wallace’s Earth Reclamation Force series, in which Earth has been decimated by extraterrestrial beings. Human survivors were forced to flee their dead planet and seek refuge in outer space. Once there, they join in a militarized union called the Earth Reclamation Force; their primary objective is to seek vengeance against the creatures that destroyed Earth. Lieutenant Commander Scott Cave leads a renowned fighter battalion within the ERF and makes it his personal mission to retaliate against the destructive aliens at any cost.

Retaliation is a bit of a difficult read, largely because of its lack of coherent sentences. Navigating the run-on sentences, odd formatting, occasional plot holes, and winding, distracted narration is a chore; it takes a fair bit of determination to read it through to the end. This is incredibly unfortunate, as Retaliation’s concept is intriguing and has great potential. It just needs an extensive edit to reach that promising potential.

Despite its notable drawbacks, there is a most interesting story in Retaliation. In some respects, it seems to be inspired by some of science fiction’s greatest, like Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, or even Star Wars. In other areas, though, Retaliation is entirely unique. Martin Wallace’s writing is full of imagination, fantasy, and ominous foreshadowing of reality. The promise is there; Retaliation has the potential to join the ranks of science fiction’s greatest, too. It needs a bit of work to achieve that, to be sure, but it’s certainly within reach for this dramatic space adventure.

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

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Where Shall We Go? – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Vera Harris

Where Shall We Go? is a children’s story about going on vacation. Author Vera Harris compiled a cute little tale about a young girl, Josie, and her mother as they tried to decide where to spend their vacation. With adorable illustrations by Fanny Liem, Where Shall We Go? is likely to draw attention to parents’ eyes as well as their young children’s. The cover clearly depicts what the core of the story is all about. The little girl, Josie can’t decide what she wants to do on her vacation, and her mother is allowing Josie to have a big say in where they will go as a family. This sets a great example for parents, but it also sets a good example for children because Josie’s mother only lets her pick one place for their upcoming vacation time. Therefore, the author has Josie go through different possibilities for each vacation option before choosing. In the end, she comes up with the perfect solution for their summer family vacation.

The illustrations in Where Shall We Go? are fabulous and offer a tremendous amount of potential for the book. The story concept proposed by Vera Harris has a lot of promise as well. Unfortunately, there is an exceptional lack of grammatical skill and punctuational skill within such a simple book. An error can happen, but it is quite evident that Where Shall We Go? has not been edited by an editor with basic writing knowledge. This was a great disappointment. There are some other concerns in regards to development throughout the story as well. For example, Josie’s mother says they’ll make the decision together, but later Josie decides to just put all three options in a bag and randomly draw one out. With such a wonderful chance to have created an adorable story, Vera Harris needs to turn the copy over to a quality editor before releasing Where Shall We Go? to the world. If that is done, then Where Shall We Go? has the potential to go a lot of wonderful places.

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

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The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Florenza Lee

The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog: A Children’s Book on Mindfulness, written by Florenza Lee, is quite similar in style to Wayner Dyer’s children’s books and Byron Katie’s children’s books. Oftentimes, children’s personal struggles are overlooked by adults or the children are told to turn off their emotions. But Florenza Lee offers a beautifully illustrated tale about a little puppy, Max, who had a tendency to run in circles chasing a tail he simply couldn’t catch. While some of the puppy’s friends turned away from him, one of them came to his rescue and taught him how to practice mindfulness using his breath. This changed Max’s life.

The issue that Max faced believing his tail hurt him all the time and was the cause of his problems ran throughout The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog. Florenza Lee did a good job offering parents or other adults reading to children a chance to connect personal issues to tail chasing. The concept is a deep one and often a confusing one, but if parents, teachers, therapists, counselors, or other adult helpers use the analogy of tail chasing along with reading The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog aloud with the youngsters they are guiding, they will find it much easier to help those in their care. Beyond the powerful message within, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is filled with illustrations by Michelle Wynn that convey the emotions and the messages clearly page after page. Florenza Lee’s children’s book, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is a must for every child’s bookshelf.

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

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