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Category: Fiction (Page 2 of 33)

Strain of Resistance – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Michelle Bryan

In Michelle Bryan’s Strain of Resistance, a mysterious crystalline cloud wipes over Earth, leaving only death and destruction in its path. Eight years later, Emma Bixby and her fellow survivors are still fending off the alien leeches that infiltrated the planet. When some of their own go missing, Bixby and her crew set out to find out what happened—and discover something worse than they could have ever imagined.


In some ways, Strain of Resistance seems typical of its genre and overly similar to other apocalyptic survivor stories like it. It channels well-known horror works like The Walking Dead, Alien, and The Mist, but perhaps a bit too much. Unfortunately, the cliché aspects of this novel almost seem to outweigh the wholly original ones. Also, the main character, Bixby, is a difficult one to fully get behind and relate to. She tends to behave more like an exaggerated caricature than a believable protagonist, which can sometimes make her rather unlikable. Together, these aspects result in Strain of Resistance perhaps not living up to its full potential.


However, Strain of Resistance is still an incredibly enjoyable novel. Michelle Bryan has quite the talent as a horror writer; her monsters are delightfully terrifying and her eerily vivid style of writing is sure to please any seasoned fan of the horror genre. The fast-paced narrative doesn’t waste time with filler material, but rather gets right down to the nitty-gritty gore and carnage that captivates from the very first sentence. Strain of Resistance is an exciting, horrifying, exhilarating plunge into one group’s desperate struggle for survival that is guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

 

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

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Epiphany – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Sonya Deanna Terry


Epiphany is the collection of two books in Sonya Deanna Terry’s Epiphany series, The Golding and The Silvering. When Rosetta begins reading Our True Ancient History by Edward Lillibridge, she wonders what it would be like if the events of the book were real—and finds far more than she bargained for.


Though Epiphany’s rich complexity is wonderful to read, it does tend to be slightly confusing at times. The pacing is a bit off sometimes, and there are other times where the two fictional worlds in the story—one based in fantasy, the other in modern reality—don’t quite mesh as well as they could. Also, perhaps there is just a bit too much going on in this pairing of stories; the self-proclaimed “story within a story” is certainly that, but it may not always be an effective approach. Epiphany is certainly not a read for the faint-hearted, nor for those who are expecting a quick and easy beach read.


With that being said, it is abundantly clear that seasoned fans of the fantasy genre are going to find a lot to love in this quirky series. The plots of both The Golding and The Silvering are unique, colorful, and riveting, keeping the reader actively engaged and turning pages. Sonya Deanna Terry is a brilliant fantasy writer, incorporating vivid imagery and imaginative characters into a pure knock-out of a story. Epiphany is unlike any other fantasy series, but in the best ways; this is a fantastic, immersive, truly wonderful series that is sure to capture attention and leave a memorable impression on its readers.

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

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The Forgotten Age: Book 2, Druid Ascendant – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Wayne M Sefton

In the second installment of Wayne M Sefton’s The Forgotten Age series, Druid Ascendant, Kelly and Jason resume their fantasy adventures right where they left off. However, there is heightened danger for them and their new allies as a deadly war between the trolls and the elves looms ominously on the horizon.


Unfortunately, Druid Ascendant is not at all a standalone novel. In fact, it is near impossible to understand what is going on without having previously read the first book in The Forgotten Age series. Although there is a “recap” of the first novel’s events, it is not enough to give the reader a clear picture of who the characters are and what this fantasy world is like. For this reason, the plot of Druid Ascendant can sometimes seem confusing or difficult to follow along with, which is a shame since it’s quite a well-written fantasy novel. However, for those readers who have diligently read the entire series, there will likely not be a problem with this method of development at all.


Either way, Druid Ascendant—and the entire series it is a part of, for that matter—is more than worth the read. Wayne M Sefton’s fantasy world is interesting and engaging, as are his plethora of unique characters. Though there are certainly staples of the fantasy genre in this book (like elves, druids, and trolls), nothing about Druid Ascendant seems cliché or borrowed from another work. Druid Ascendant is entirely its own beast, full of captivating storylines and page-turning adventures; this intriguing world that Wayne M Sefton has cooked up is sure to thrill fantasy readers of all kinds.

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

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Ulfbehrt’s Legacy – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Holly Bargo

In Holly Bargo’s Ulfbehrt’s Legacy, Lars and Zoe find each other when they are both in need of healing. Lars suffered numerous wounds from a fierce battle as he’s in the Royal Norwegian Navy, and Zoe, along with her history of deep and traumatic wounds, is searching for a new place to live and a new job so she can finish her graduate degree at a Norwegian university. They experience what seems to be love-at-first-sight or “pow” as Lars’ father calls it, but both of their pasts come back to haunt them and threaten to tear them apart.


Ulfbehrt’s Legacy is a stereotypical romance novel. Guy meets girl through his sister. Girl has dark and traumatic past. Guy is a tough guy and believes he needs to protect her. The pace set early on was a bit slow moving, but if readers are patient they’ll discover a real page-turner in the last two-thirds of the story. Unfortunately for Bargo, the tone is set for Ulfbehrt’s Legacy by misspelling “Ulfberht” and by entitling the story as though the sword and the legacy is a major focus -it is not. As long as readers can move past that, they can find a sexy romance inside the pages of Bargo’s story though.


Sexy scenes throughout, danger near the end, and evidence of a strong woman save Ulfbehrt’s Legacy just as Lars believes he needs to save Zoe. For readers who crave women that need strong alpha males to come to their aid to make them feel safe and to keep them safe, this story will likely light their fire. The last third of the story really shines a light on Holly Bargo’s potential skills as a wonderful writer, who can keep readers enthralled. If more attention is given to details, Holly Bargo has great potential as a romance author and thought there are some issues with Ulfbehrt’s Legacy it’s a romantic and sexy example of her potential.

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

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Veronica and the Volcano – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Geoffrey Cook

A young adult story best suited for middle school and beyond youths, Geoffrey Cook’s Veronica and the Volcano, is a gripping tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and unable to put the book down. Veronica wants to make a special gift for her mother and convinces her father (and her mother) to let her go to Mount Mystery to retrieve special pearls. Veronica’s father, her best friend, Maddy and Maddy’s father go with her. Encountering life-threatening danger again and again throughout their journey, they find more than they ever dreamed of. Cook wraps up the story with an odd twist at the end – one readers won’t see coming.


As thrilling and fascinating as Veronica and the Volcano is, parents must use extreme caution when allowing their children to read it. There are numerous scenes within Cook’s story that are on the edge of fitting into a horror novel, and at the least a highly frightening thriller. These are an odd mix with the colorful, child-focused illustrations in Veronica and the Volcano. There is also an odd jump as though the story has two unique and different parts about two-thirds of the way through the story. Perhaps it would have been better to have ended before the last set of thrilling scenes because they don’t really fit.


With that being said and with conscious awareness and caution used, Geoffrey Cook’s Veronica and the Volcano can be a very exciting read for middle schoolers and potentially high schoolers. There is a good deal of science and information on volcanoes, which can add an educational edge while being written in such a skillful manner so that readers will not be able to put the book down. Veronica and the Volcano is certainly not like any other book. It’s paradoxical nature of being written for younger readers with an older and heavier storyline might just be the perfect fit for more mature young adult readers.

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

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The Darkness of Water – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Matthew Neighbours

Questions and deep, dark secrets abound in Matthew Neighbours’ The Darkness of Water. This story encompasses the darker side of life for four individuals. James and Elena meet after she falls or jumps into the cold dark waters off a cliff in Alaska. George and Anna go through pure hell only to escape to Alaska believing, foolishly, their hellish life will become a peaceful one. Darkness and evil sets at the feet of all four of the unsuspecting characters.

Matthew Neighbours created a chilling and thrilling tale in the pages of The Darkness of Water. There is a good deal of secretiveness early on in the story and though that continues for most of the book, there comes a point where the direction of the story seems to completely shift. It is certainly an unexpected twist. Some may find it intriguing, but it almost seemed so out of context that it didn’t fit in smoothly. Perhaps an introduction including a background on Elena, as well as some background on Anna, could really benefit the story. With that kind of background, the The Darkness of Water would feel more cohesive.

A gripping tale from the first page, The Darkness of Water has the potential to create raving fans for Matthew Neighbours’ writing. Though there were a few issues with the pacing and plot, The Darkness of Water was written with the skillfullness to keep readers on the edge of their seats and turning pages with anxious curiosity. There’s no doubt that Matthew Neighbours has a creative mind and knows how to write an eerie tale that’ll not only make readers question their own thoughts and decisions, but they’ll be greatly anticipating a potential sequel.

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

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Remedy – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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K.J. Simmill

Remedy is the third book in K.J. Simmill’s fantasy series, The Forgotten Legacy. Taya is a demi-human known as a Méros-Génos, but her unique wings cause her to be labelled as a harpy and ostracized by fearful townsfolk. Plagued by horrific delusions and inexplicable visions of carnage and fire, Taya struggles to differentiate truth from fiction. However, the reality is more terrible than even Taya could have ever imagined.


Despite being the third in a series, Remedy serves quite well as a standalone novel; readers do not necessarily have to read the preceding two books first to enjoy this one. However, there are still notable instances of confusion throughout Remedy. Many scenes switch to another character’s point of view abruptly and without warning, while others seem too slow-paced or vague. Also, perhaps Remedy has too large of a cast of characters; though they all are well-developed, it can be frustrating to become invested in one set of characters just to have to switch to another for a while.


Despite this, Remedy is an intriguing and captivating fantasy novel, full of lively characters and surprising plot twists. K.J. Simmill writes in a vividly descriptive manner, simultaneously breathing extraordinary life into her fantasy world and capturing readers’ attention with her unique storytelling. The rich complexity of Remedy’s plot is equally enchanting and riveting, capable of enthralling new readers in a way that is not typically achievable for a book in the middle of a series. Remedy not only exhibits fantastic promise for The Forgotten Legacy series as a whole, but also for K.J. Simmill as a talented fantasy writer.

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

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The Good Citizen – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Joël Henning Doty

Joël Henning Doty’s The Good Citizen takes place in a futuristic society where all citizens are required by the powerful Govencorp to carry and use firearms called Protectors. Jenny, a life-long citizen, treasures the rigid rules of her society and aspires to be a safety officer when she grows up. Hannah, on the other hand, is a new inductee and has reservations about the use of Protectors and society’s discrimination against her and her fellow immigrants. When these two girls meet, Jenny and Hannah will be forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about what it means to be a good citizen.


The Good Citizen’s only notable drawback is that there isn’t more of it. Additional details about this fascinating, yet terrible society would only be a bonus—one that readers would certainly eat up after reading this book. That’s not to say, though, that what’s already in The Good Citizen isn’t enough, because it certainly is in many ways. The societal structure represented in this book is reminiscent of other popular young adult novels like The Giver or Divergent, but with a unique, modern-day twist that is absolutely captivating.


Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about this young adult novel is how Joël Henning Doty seamlessly blends prevalent issues from today—consumerism, surveillance, immigration, protesting, and guns—into a narrative that is simultaneously innovative and age-appropriate. The characters are well-rounded and well-developed and the plot itself is eerily believable, only serving to draw the reader in even more. The Good Citizen is a thrilling, thoughtful, poignant novel that will leave its readers with lots to ponder and discuss. One can only hope that there will be sequels to The Good Citizen in the future, since this is a book that certainly deserves and inspires them.

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

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Charley’s Cat Family – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jeff Magnuson

A very sweet children’s story, Charley’s Cat Family, written by Jeff Magnuson and illustrated by Bettina Braskó, is sure to have young cat lovers reading it again and again. Charley is single guy working hard everyday, but he misses having a feline companion like he did as a youth. Eventually, he decides to adopt a cat from the local shelter and ends up with two kitties. There are some struggles, but Magnuson does a great job helping Charley and his new cats overcome them.

Charley’s Cat Family is an easy read for younger readers. There is a time or two that some readers might catch a grammatical error, but those are quite rare in this sweet story. Finding any real drawbacks in Jeff Magnuson’s Charley’s Cat Family was a bit challenging. However, one thing that could’ve made the story a bit stronger would’ve been if Magnuson changed something in Charley’s work life that gave him more time for his new pets. The move to a bigger place is helpful, but doesn’t fix the issue of working all the time, and having a house takes more time to care for than an apartment.

With that being said, Jeff Magnuson’s Charley’s Cat Family is an adorable tale for children who would love to get a pet. It offers an opportunity for parents to open a door to a conversation about what having a new pet my entails. It’s excellent at showing responsibilty and how to handle a new challenge without giving up. Charley’s Cat Family is a beautiful story of love, companionship and new friendships -even with animal friends. Jeff Magnuson’s debut children’s book is a perfect fit for hopeful, young, future pet owners.

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

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Fire and Ice – Entered 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jessica Victoria Fisette

The first book in Jessica Victoria Fisette’s The Aldurian Chronicles, Fire and Ice follows teenaged Allie as she struggles to cope with her boyfriend’s mysterious disappearance. All that she remembers is a destructive fire, totaling her car over the Asher Creek bridge, and the mysterious stranger who saved her. Then, more strange things begin to happen, causing Allie to have to flee for her life—but there are secrets in store for her that could change everything.


In many ways, Fire and Ice reads more like the second book in the series than an adequate introduction into it all. Although plenty of fascinating events happened before Fire and Ice begins, the reader is only treated to those events through intercutting flashback scenes and spoken memories, which interrupts the plot and can lead to a fair bit of confusion. Perhaps the inclusion of an earlier book in The Aldurian Chronicles—or even just a prologue in Fire and Ice—would have made this book progress a bit more smoothly. Also, the plot development of the story in Fire and Ice seems a bit uneven; some scenes drag on forever while others are over too quickly, and the reader is left with too many questions.


However, Fire and Ice is most certainly a worthwhile read. Jessica Victoria Fisette expertly blends fantasy, science fiction, and young adult fiction into this fascinating novel. Her mysterious, descriptive style of writing only adds to the experience, making Fire and Ice even more memorable and enchanting. With a captivating, unique plot and relatable, multi-faceted characters, Fire and Ice shows a great deal of promise for its future sequels in The Aldurian Chronicles.

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

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