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General Fiction

  • A Strange Beginning

    by Gretta Curran Browne

    Rating: 7.50

    In this rich biographical novel, we meet George Gordon first as a boy, crippled and lambasted by his mother, and follow his development as Lord Byron through her death. Browne’s narrative voice easily welds wry objective observations with character voice, often to humorous effect. The book doesn’t always work—frequent italicization distracts, descriptions taking on the lofty can be too generic or cloying, and too often sections packed with satisfying detail finish with lines summarizing or interpreting the material—but overall, Browne has created a fascinated portrait of an enduring legend.

  • Ashes on His Boot

    by Robert Wuench

    Rating: 7.50

    In Wuench’s sweeping historical novel focused broadly on the American West and specifically on Texas Ranger John “Jack” Coffee Hays, occasional overly-obvious observations and clunky metaphors are balanced by a great deal of fresh phrasing that does justice to the idea of the tough, whiskey-soaked West. The pacing shows some finesse, with quick, staccato sentences used in fight scenes and intense exchanges. While the book would benefit from fewer Western-genre clichés, overall it offers a fun and lively representation of a storied time in the country’s past.

  • Marcea of the Dust: The Lost Girls

    by Jules Cooper

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • Internet Exodus

    by Timothy Grayson

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • All My Love, Detrick

    by Roberta Kagan

    Rating: 7.25

    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.  

  • No One Ran to the Altar

    by Don Trowden

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • Passing through Perfect

    by Bette Lee Crosby

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • 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.

  • Reverie

    by Lauren E. Rico

    Rating: 7.00

    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.

  • The Aclla's Legacy

    by Bonnie Adams Little

    Rating: 7.00

    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.

  • Colored Floodlights: a novel

    by Frank Drury

    Rating: 7.00

    Drury's fast-paced novel chronicles veteran Roy Calhoun's return home from the War in Afghanistan. The book's pacing is excellent, while the author's use of dialogue is effective and works to move the story forward. Each of the characters is well developed and has a distinct voice. However, the author frequently tells instead of shows and the book suffers from an overabundance of characters, which dilutes the story story and hinders reader engagement


  • Return to Taylor's Crossing

    by Janie Watts

    Rating: 7.00

    Taylor’s Crossing, Georgia, was – in 1959 – the picture of a small segregated Southern town. The only two black workers are Abednego, 19, and Lola, 17.  They fall hard for each other and are planning a future together until hate and racism get in the way. This story, written from the heart, paints a vivid picture of lives changed by hatred, prejudice, and ignorance. The characters -- with the exception of a one-dimensional villain -- are compelling and believable, and they propel the reader through the tale.

  • The Ash Tree

    by Daniel Melnick

    Rating: 7.00

    Armen emigrates to California after the 1915 Armenian genocide. He meets and marries Artemis and they raise two sons and a daughter. Family is the focal point of this tale of an Armenian experience that spans 1925 to 1972 in the U.S., a rich soup of custom, family, and community. This is a character-driven work and the writing effectively captures the nuances of a singular community. The novel would, however, benefit from some tightening, particular during expository passages.

  • Anna & Elizabeth: A Novel

    by Sophie Cook

    Rating: 6.50

    Set mostly in what is now Hungary, this century-spanning account of friendship between two women and their families has a straightforward, authoritative voice, thanks to the author’s use of her own background and many graceful, modest turns of phrase. But ,while the reader learns much about both history and day-to-day life through several generations, the story rushes through many key events and missed opportunities; the uneven mix of POVs is unpredictable and the epistolary sections are too many and too expository. Still, the novel is a pleasurable read.

  • The Passage

    by Michael Hurley

    Rating: 6.50

    In Hurley's novel set in Charleston, self-loathing Fitz discovers a stowaway named Gemma on his sailboat -- and finds that his life will never be the same. The author's prose is solid and the story well paced, although Fitz’s conversations on big ideas – love, religion, abortion – can veer heavily toward the didactic. Still, Hurley keeps readers guessing: the book's plot twists are highly unpredictable and nothing ends up as one might predict. And while some plot elements don’t always hang together, the story is interesting and unusual -- and readers will keep turning pages.

  • River Card

    by Joan Destino

    Rating: 6.25

    Destino's novel set in 1990s Las Vegas follows gambling addict Georgia Kassov Cates as she encounters various casino patrons -- all with ties to WWII -- during a black out. The book is well written and well plotted -- if at times confusing during time jumps. The voices the author creates are unique, allowing readers to invest in the characters. The vivid descriptions bring the settling alive and prove to be strongest element of the novel. Despite a little more telling than showing, readers will find this an enjoyable read.