BookLife Prize in Fiction
- by Hal Levey
This action-packed novel recounts the wages of wars and the war on drugs, asking why countries have historically relied on mass murder to settle differences of opinion. While the book features authentic descriptions that add to its lively pace, the inevitable love affair between American soldier Mike Cagle and Maimunah is riddled with stilted dialogue. The book’s pacing and plot development are steady and strong, until the abrupt and unlikely conclusion.
- by Mike MacCarthy
This novel based on Joan of Arc has a descriptive and well-crafted setting, and dialogue that is not only true to the period, but also works to help develop each character. Based on real people and events, the story is well plotted, the characters fully developed -- and the author is true to history. This book will appeal and be an enjoyable read to lovers of historical fiction.
- by Michael Rumpf
In Rumpf's fun, cleverly titled coming-of-age college novel that follows the exploits of Jonathan Tollhausler, the author uses realistic dialogue to give the characters -- even the minor ones -- distinct voices. Although the book's pacing is a little slow and the plot familiar, the characters -- including the detailed, ably rendered setting, which seems like a character itself -- are interesting and well drawn enough to pull the reader along for the ride.
- by TJ Slee
In Slee's novel, female Viking Freya sets out to attempt what her brother Leif could not do: find Vinland. Setting sail with her crew, she is resourceful and strong in the face of adversity and challenges along the way. Based on factual information, the novel is well researched and true to the time period. Even though it is predictable at times, authentic language and intriguing characters help carry the plot, which is full of adventure. Fans of historical fiction will find a lot to like here.
- by Nina Abrams
Abrams' novel depicts the harshness of life in 1870s Nebraska, following young, quiet Mary Harrington and her malnourished son Ezekiel as they struggle to survive. Reliant on employment as a cook after her husband abandons her, Mary gains inner strength and certainty even as she nearly loses everything to starvation, fire, locusts, and more. Abrams' sere novel overcomes several continuity errors and other inconsistencies with its evocative portrayal of a woman pushed to her limits. Mary's death from tuberculosis, while realistic, makes for an abrupt, unsatisfying conclusion to what is otherwise an engrossing story.
- by Elizabeth J. Sparrow
Sparrow's novel about two aristocratic families coping with World War I and the Irish War of Independence is expertly plotted and features well drawn characters and solid prose. The female protagonist, Lacey, is a headstrong heroine, but nonetheless nuanced. She’s equally drawn to a family friend 10 years her senior and a street-tough orphan closer in age. Both could be described as bad boys, a choice guaranteed to heat up the sex scenes.
- by Magus Tor
Tor’s successful redemption tale combines a poignant storyline, skillful foreshadowing, and a precise portrayal of the flawed and sickly protagonist, Kell S. Mocking, as he undertakes an arduous journey to seek mercy from his true love Angelius. A mysterious stranger known as “the Girl” accompanies Kell on his trip -- and proves critical to the emotional novel and its eagerly anticipated dénouement.
- by David Z Hirsch
Hirsch's novel follows Seth Levine through four years of medical school as he grows in knowledge, forms strong peer friendships, and grieves over lost love. The witty first-person narrative moves at a nice clip, and the story feels like a true account of the medical school experience, but doesn’t lose the reader with too much medical jargon. The novel's greatest weakness is occasional passages that are too expository. However, this is well offset by its greatest strength, the demonstrated growth of its protagonist into a capable, empathetic professional.
- by Marcus Paul Cootsona
Cootsona's novel follows the adventures of tennis pro Wally Wilson and his wife, Danielle. Wally plays in the Davis Cup, while Danielle poses for a photographer, but life goes awry when Wally is framed for stealing a valuable painting. While readers will wonder about the outcome of this mystery/family drama, the author offers a strong theme about participating in one’s life and relying on goodwill as opposed to destiny. Likable main characters will maintain reader interest -- and while only true fans will appreciate the detailed tennis action, all will find the thievery intriguing.
- by Michael Atchison
After a months-long media circus, Mike McAfee's missing fiancee has turned up completely unharmed, but the spotlight and heartbreak remain. Fleeing Denver for his small Illinois hometown, Mike spends the next few weeks hiding out in the titular record store/sandwich shop, owned by his old friend Greg. There are few groundbreaking twists here, but ample humor and appealing characters -- not to mention an eatery every reader will want to visit -- make the journey enjoyable.
- by Harvey Goodman
In Goodman's novel, American power is on the wane, but super-rich Landon Lassiter has a plan to save the country. While the idea of an America in decline is not unique, the author gives the reader much to think about. Additionally, Goodman's characters are pitch perfect; the dialogue is true to life -- each voice is unique and works to develop the characters; and the omniscient point of view is executed seamlessly. And while the novel is a bit slow and has some pacing issues, overall it is an interesting and entertaining book.