BookLife Prize in Fiction
- by Jules Cooper
Despite glossing over some trickier plot points, Cooper's novel skillfully conveys the spirit and pain of Marcea and others who have been sexually abused. Although the book could be improved by slowing down the plot in a few places, this novel is well plotted and compelling, and it boasts an excellent sense of place and a strong and well-developed cast of characters.
- by Timothy Grayson
Grayson's solid technological parable starts out strong when a massive database leak is uncovered at global tech behemoth STANCO. As employee David Boyko works closely with CEO Steve Aniston to control the damage, he examines his complicity in the problems that now face all Internet users. However, this situation is wrapped up fairly easily, and David forges ahead relatively unscathed. Convincingly executed, the novel excels at making complicated technical concepts not only understandable but entertaining. However, Grayson resolves the novel's central crisis too easily rather than pushing the premise further, lowering the stakes and therefore the payoff for the reader.
- by Roberta Kagan
In this ambitious but clichéd novel, Hitler’s power spreads through Germany. As it does, the members of two German families – one Jewish – intersect, changing lives forever. It’s no surprise that two of the family members fall in love: the book is predictable and often leans toward the sentimental. And despite the well developed characters, solid prose, and a wealth of historical detail, few readers will be surprised at the book’s final note.
- by Don Trowden
In Trowden's winning second novel in the Normal Family trilogy, Henry is taking care of his elderly, obstinate father and growing closer to other family members following his brother’s suicide. Throughout, the author deftly weaves humor into tragedy. And while some scenes run long and feature meandering, if colorful, conversation, the descriptions are loaded with original phrasing—at times hilarious, at times cutting. The revelation of family secrets is fitting and poignant, but would -- as with other sections of the book -- be stronger without the on-the-nose commentary that accompanies it.
- by Bette Lee Crosby
After World War II, Benjamin Church returned to his hometown of Grinder's Corner, Alabama, thinking it was a temporary stopover -- he'd strike out and pursue a career as a mechanic. But life has other plans. Over the course of the next decade, he's made aware of the racial and economic injustices endemic to the region until a heartbreaking tragedy drives him to leave. This novel features a compelling setting, fully realized characters, and well-written prose -- though the plot is a bit rushed.
- by Seven Major
Major's compelling novel documents the youthful sins of a plucky lifelong troublemaker and "evil bitch" named Cici Russo. Long and relentlessly grim, the cavalcade of trouble this young woman gets into can become overwhelming. Readers who enjoy bad-girl coming-of-age fiction and stories of the 1980s will revel in this devilish detailing of a girl gone bad -- but one who managed to emerge alive against all odds.
- by Lauren E. Rico
Abandoned by her mother and abused by her father, Julia James overcomes her childhood to become a contestant in the world's most prestigious music prize. But with her career about to take wing, she is targeted by the arrogant Jeremy Corrigan, horn player and sociopath, determined to destroy her simply because he can. The novel turns dark with a murder and graphic sex scenes. Though pretty standard fare for much of its length, the novel soars when describing the relationship between the musician and her music.
- by Bonnie Adams Little
In Adams-Little’s uneven novel, a high-powered senator concerned about the purity of his progeny meets with his future daughter-in-law about her hidden family secrets. While character conversations aren’t dry, too much exposition takes place in unbelievable back-and-forth dialogue with little sense of the characters surroundings. The detail woven in—on matters of science, Peru, Washington DC, etc.—is quite impressive, though descriptive flair is often lacking; both plot and prose are at their strongest when focused on the main character’s area of expertise—astrophysics.