Authors Talk About It

Book Award Contest & Indie Support

Category: non-fiction (Page 1 of 11)

The Life You Crave – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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April B. Jones

The Life You Crave: The Business of You is a self-help book penned by April B. Jones, aimed at helping readers achieve their goals. In it, Jones helps her readers visualize their wildest dreams for the future and plan a way to conquer them little by little, using “stepping stones, not leaping stones.” Through each step, Jones guides her readers as they rid themselves of naysayers, take responsibility for their own lives, and create their own success. She also provides journal questions and note pages so that, upon completion, readers know exactly what they will do to achieve the life they crave.

The Life You Crave is an interesting self-help book, largely because it relies heavily on the “self” aspect of that. There is plenty of advice to be found, sure, but April B. Jones’s approach is one more about encouragement than supplying answers. She prompts the readers with straightforward questions and guides them as they brainstorm solutions to their own problems. The Life You Crave is open-ended enough to apply to everyone who reads it, while still being personal in its scope.

The exercises and writing prompts are also a lovely inclusion. This is not a book for the idle reader; rather, it encourages readers to get involved and stay involved as they read. April B. Jones has given her readers a wonderful tool with which to shape their own lives, without ever presuming that she can magically solve everything for them. It is a book about finding one’s own strength and determination to solve their problems on their own, which again, sets it apart from many other members of the self-help genre. Paired with a conversational narrative and theme of friendly advice, The Life You Crave: The Business of You is a great read for anyone looking to make some positive changes in their life – so, in truth, everyone.

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

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Barnstorming America – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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John A. Molina

Barnstorming America by John A. Molina is a non-fiction book that retells the history of women’s basketball in America and provides profiles on some of the women who pushed the sport into the public eye. Not only does this book act as a quintessential reference book but history and sports fans alike will enjoy reading this well researched and visually engaging book.

Barnstorming America is a passion project for Molina, and his genuine interest and love for his subject matter is felt on every page. The inclusion of photographs and well-documented evidence make this book a great coffee table book that is still well-researched and easy to read. Barnstorming is well written, and readers will enjoy looking at all the photos and visual evidence that Molina integrates into the text. What makes Barnstorming America such a success, is its ability to weave the sport’s history with that of female empowerment. Above all, this book highlights the achievements of great women that many of us will know little about.

However, the one stylistic problem with the book is the in-depth focus on individual players. While this may be great as a reference for readers who are highly invested in the topic, it does not read as cleanly as the preceding chapters that are divided into themes. These profiles are interesting but easily glossed over, which is a pity as they have something to offer the narrative.

Overall, Barnstorming America is an interesting book that showcases a history that seems to be forgotten. Molina’s genuine passion and historical tie with females’ basketball makes this read interesting for both avid sports fans, history buffs and should be a staple in every library around the country.

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

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Living in Italy: The Real Deal – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Stef Smulders

In Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life, Stef Smulders details how he, his partner, Nico, and their dog left their lives behind to start a new life in Italy. Once there, they aspired to start their own bed and breakfast, Villa I Due Padroni. However, as Dutchmen, Stef and Nico were completely out of their comfort zone in the eccentric Italian landscape. Thrust into the midst of a difficult restoration project and a sea of quirky characters, Stef and Nico struggled to find their way. They needed to discover, as the title suggests, “how to survive the good life.”

At first glance, Living in Italy seems to be a sort of travel guide or emigrant’s handbook. However, it is nothing of the sort. In fact, it is primarily a memoir about two immigrants and their hilarious escapades in Italy. Although there are bits of advice sprinkled throughout, there is not nearly enough to fully commit to the genre it appears to be. Aside from its misleading first impression, Living in Italy has a few other quirks, as well. It’s poorly organized in some areas, jumping around a lot in focus and setting. Some chapters seemed entirely disjointed because of this. Other times, there seems to be errors in the translation of the book; abundant grammatical errors and untranslated Italian phrases can lead to a fair bit of confusion for readers. Much Stef Smulder’s writing was quite abrupt, too; chapters seemed to end as soon as they started and the storytelling was not as strong as it could have been. 

Despite its lack of organization and clarity, Living in Italy was certainly an interesting read. The characters that Stef and Nico encounter during their exploits are humorous and entertaining, as are their stories about acclimating to Italian culture. Also, for fans of home renovations and DIY projects, this book has plenty to interest you. Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Live the Good Life could use a bit of renovation itself, but is still a fascinating read for anyone considering moving to Italy and starting anew, as Stef and Nico did.

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

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The Healing Wound – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Cristina Dior

Cristina Dior’s The Healing Wound is her personal memoir about her complicated and often traumatic childhood. Born to teenage, interracial parents, Cristina was immediately thrust into a situation she never asked for. Her father, Steven, had a nasty temper and was prone to violent outbursts, often beating her young mother. To protect her infant daughter, Tama allowed her foster family to adopt Cristina. Cristina’s new adoptive family was not as Tama remembered it, though, and they inflicted tremendous abuse on their new ward. When Cristina finally escaped, her new haven was not at all how she imagined it. From then on, Cristina funneled her strength and spirit into breaking the cycles of abuse, racism, and depression she had endured and finally, once and for all, healing.

Though undoubtedly intriguing and immersive, The Healing Wound is a bit of an exhausting read. Ripe with child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, attempted suicide, and mental illness, this book forces a lifetime of pain and sadness on its readers with little relief. Though it is a story that deserves to be told, it’s a difficult one to endure as a reader. It takes a strong mind and a healthy amount of determination to reach the end of The Healing Wound. Aside from the themes of negativity, the promised themes of healing felt rushed and like an afterthought. An entire book later, only a mere chapter or two seemed to contain any hint of healing, and even then, it was not as fully or deeply explored as it could have been. In that regard, readers are given little resemblance of a positive note to end this book on.

Despite its difficult premise, The Healing Wound did have its redeeming moments. Cristina Dior’s writing seems honest and forthright, descriptive without being too graphic, and fully captivating. Her story is striking and vivid, carrying readers along on her journey to healing. The Healing Wound is well-written and interesting, to be sure, but it still would have far more impact if, among all the wounds explored, Cristina Dior had thoroughly discussed her supposed healing, too.

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

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How Mommy Got Her Groove Back – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Rebecca Undem

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is Rebecca Undem’s touching memoir about her departure from and eventual return to her rural upbringing. Raised in Oakes, North Dakota, Rebecca cherished growing up in the country with her loving family. However, she yearned for a more exciting life in the city. After a series of corporate jobs in big cities, though, Rebecca began to feel like her heart wasn’t really in it. She and her husband, Jeremiah, returned to Oakes to help her parents with the family business. Once there, she struggled to balance her desire for a successful career, her familial role as a farmer’s wife, and her new, most important job as a mother to their three young children. A long, zig-zagged road of trial and error later, Rebecca found herself and her calling in the one place she least expected to do so: her own hometown.

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a true gem in a dozen different ways. The most significant is that it is so easy to relate to; at times, it feels so very personal. Although it is a memoir of her own life, Rebecca Undem’s trials and triumphs are ones that we all, as human beings, have faced at one point or another. She is all of us, in that she is a determined woman who is just trying to do the right thing for herself and her family. Her words are poignant, yet casual; witty, yet friendly; humorous, yet so strikingly hard-hitting. It is sometimes difficult to become so wholly invested in the life of another, but Rebecca Undem achieves that captivation immediately and maintains it until her last page.

This book is anything but just a memoir. How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is an epic adventure, full of love, sadness, faith, and above all, life. Also, perhaps without intention, it is brimming with friendly advice and confident support. All in one short book, How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a shoulder to lean on, a picture of nostalgic love, and a beacon of light to lead its readers to their own callings, serving to cement Rebecca Undem as a forever “Nestie” for all of us.

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

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Shame Proof Parenting – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mercedes Samudio

Mercedes Samudio’s Shame-Proof Parenting is a helpful guide to aiding parents in becoming the best parents they can be. Through sharing her own childhood experiences and her experience as a family counselor, Samudio provides valuable insight on overcoming the crushing weight of shame and societal criticisms about parenting. By utilizing reflective parenting methods and acknowledging the various sources of the shame inflicted upon parents, Samudio argues that parents will then be able to better communicate and grow with their children. Above all, she hopes to help parents feel empowered and confident in their ability to “raise whole, healthy children.”

Shame-Proof Parenting is not an omniscient, one-answer-solves-all book; rather, Samudio acknowledges all different sorts of family structures and parenting styles, and the fact that there is no truly “perfect” way to be a parent. Her approach is wise and supportive, simultaneously letting parents know that it’s okay to not be perfect and that they’re not alone in their daily stresses and worries. Her advice is vague enough to be relatable to anyone, while still feeling overwhelmingly personal; oftentimes, reading Shame-Proof Parenting felt like Samudio was speaking directly to me, like she understood. And, of course, she does.

Especially reading this as a parent, Shame-Proof Parenting was a refreshing and incredibly kind approach to a parenting book. Mercedes Samudio removes all guilt or blame from her narrative, and never pretends to be a magical genie who can solve every parent’s problems with an on-trend, bottom-line solution. Her guidance can be summed up as, “Hey, I get it. Let’s try this instead.” That gentle support is a welcome embrace for struggling parents; in that regard, no matter what their struggles may be, Shame-Proof Parenting is a must-read for all parents. Ditch all the other so-called parenting books; this is the one that will really help you.

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

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The Sparrow’s Spirit – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Bill Welker

The Sparrow’s Spirit is Bill Welker’s autobiographical memoir about the tumultuous early years of his life. Having come from a long line of champion wrestlers, it was expected that Bill would wrestle in school, too – and he did. Nothing mattered more to Bill than wrestling, and after a series of impressive victories, he even received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Pittsburgh. Once there, though, his life began to spiral out of control. Bill’s struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and depression caused him to abandon wrestling and turn to alcohol, subsequently getting in trouble often. From then on, Bill Welker was faced with defeating his most challenging opponent to date: himself.

Unfortunately, it is almost immediately evident that The Sparrow’s Spirit is quite poorly organized. Many of its passages (notably those about his elementary years) read more like individual diary entry blurbs than a connected, coherent memoir. Sometimes, certain stories within this memoir feel like irrelevant tangents. Other times, the storyline jumps around a bit, which can lead to confusion. This lack of organization is especially disappointing because Bill Welker’s memories are fascinating and well-written; they could just use some reorganization and better transitions between them.

Aside from this one glaring drawback, The Sparrow’s Spirit is an enchanting and overwhelmingly relatable memoir. Bill Welker manages to capture the naïve innocence of childhood, the uncertainty of adolescence, and the dark reality of depression all in this short book. Although some of his content is certainly more serious and straightforward, Welker’s narrative is always compassionate and introspective, injected with just enough humor to leave the reader feeling lighthearted and engaged. This book is sure to resonate with any reader, as we can all surely see bits of our own transformative journeys in the one that Bill Welker shares with us in The Sparrow’s Spirit.

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

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Black Sky – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Dr. Y

Black Sky: On Addiction and Awakening of the Human Being by Dr. Y is a personal account of the author’s struggles with pill addiction and alcoholism. Beyond the factual accounts, the book is dispersed with Dr. Y’s take on topics around the human condition as well as the effects of addiction on the mind and soul.

While Dr. Y’s battle with addiction is interesting, the style of this book is heavy and smothers the biographical plot. This makes the book easy to put down and the story becomes lost within a preachy, almost academic voice even though it is written in the first person. The clichéd pictures with overlying quotes do nothing to push the story forward, and the long tangents and historical teachings remove the focus from Dr. Y’s story, which is the real gem.

These faults are a pity as Black Sky is a nonfiction book written with sharp honesty. Dr. Y tells of his struggles and victories with a strong voice and this novel, if reworked, would be both a wonderful self-help book as it would an insight into the life of an addict. Another commendable aspect of the book is Dr. Y’s ability to tell the story of his life and look back with a sharp and critical eye.

Overall, Black Sky: On Addiction and Awakening of the Human Being is a book with an important story at its core. It speaks to the issues of depression, self-loathing and though Dr. Y’s genuine experience, we are given an opportunity to learn about addiction. Sadly, readers will not be compelled to finish this book due to stylistic issues, and so may never learn the lessons Dr.Y so honestly teaches.

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

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Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Scott M. Graffius

Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions is a manual written by Scott M. Graffius for business owners looking to improve their management and development. It details how to use the Agile Scrum method to plan, execute, and track the development of a business’s products. Each step in the cycle is broken down, point by point, so that business owners can quickly learn how to efficiently use this method to further enhance their business’s production model.

Agile Scrum is straightforward and to the point; it gets straight down to business from the very first page. While its information is useful and certainly helpful to owners of any sort of business, it’s a bit dry. There’s no doubt about it; this is a textbook, and not a particularly exciting one, either. Perhaps, interjecting some humor or real-life examples would serve it well. It’s short and sweet and gets the job done, but it lacks a certain flavor that would make it memorable. Instead, Agile Scrum is the sort of study guide that business owners might need to keep going back to, which isn’t necessarily something negative.

However, Agile Scrum certainly has everything it needs to be an essential handbook for any business owner. Scott M. Graffius included lots of helpful, colorful infographics to supplement his text, which makes the content easier to understand. Each point is broken down into easy-to-follow bullet points, so that even the most inexperienced business owners will have no trouble learning the method. Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions is a no-nonsense, concise manual that will surely help any sort of business owner improve their business with the Agile Scrum production cycle.

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

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Looking Out From the Inside – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Tressa Mitchener

Looking Out From the Inside by Tressa Mitchener is an autobiography that recounts Mitchener’s troubled past and ultimate faith journey. Dispersed with Bible verses, Mitchener aims to use her life as a teaching tool in the hopes that her journey to God, even from within a jail cell, will inspire others to rekindle, or start a relationship with God.

Mitchener retells her life story with a real warmth but also brutal honesty. She is not afraid to admit to her mistakes and how her life unraveled the way that it did. There are passages that speak of real pain, and yet Mitchener has an ability to look back with clarity and wisdom. The story is simply written and while primarily a story about God’s influence and power, the biographical aspects of Mitchener’s life make this an interesting read for anyone.

While the writing is simple, there are major issues with the style and editing of this novel. There are fragmented sentences and change in tone and style that do not seem deliberate. This novel needs to be re-edited, the same style kept consistently and text divided into chapters if this novel wants to be taken seriously.

Even with the above mentioned mistakes, there are some life lessons to be learned from Mitchener’s life, and this novel does achieve its goal in showing how one woman can change her life thanks to her faith and belief. Readers will be touched by this story, and it could be a useful tool in Sunday schools and faith-based organizations.

Overall, Looking Out From the Inside is a story of perseverance and how a relationship with God can be life changing. There are true teachable moments thought the novel and the story is easy to read and interesting. Readers who need to kindle their relationship with God.

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

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