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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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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