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General Fiction

  • 978-1508653752

    by Yvette Carmon Davis

    Rating: 4.75

    In Davis's novel -- the second in a series set in the end times -- George has become the President of the United Earth following the assassination of twin brother Paul. Two sides of the same coin, Paul followed the antichrist while George lives to save. The narrative, long on dogma and short on character development, suffers from unexceptional prose and a meandering plot.


  • The Raven's Economy

    by Helena Golden

    Rating: 4.50

    Golden creates an initially compelling, yet uneasy mashup of fantasy and modernity, set in an imaginary island utopia that is governed by a near-mythic figure known as the Raven. An icon of feminine grace, beauty, and intellect, the Raven nevertheless has little overall substance; as such, her romance with Culkin, a handsome member of a BBC crew documenting the Raven’s life, remains uncomplicated and unsatisfying. Golden's visceral descriptions of the otherworldly setting are  marred by a prose style that tends to explicate rather than unveil.

  • The Beech Tree

    by Don Phelan

    Rating: 4.50

    Strongly rooted in a Michigan beach town, Phelan's sweet, sweeping novel often crosses into sentimental territory. The short chapters tell the stories of many characters who encounter the same beech tree in different parts of the 20th century. The novel would profit from more ambiguity around how the characters' stories intersect as well as from lingering longer and digging deeper into each character's story. As it is, much of the plot is expected, and the characters, while sympathetic, often come across as one-dimensional.

  • When Can I Stop Running?

    by John Podlaski

    Rating: 4.25

    Podlaski's Vietnam War novel follows the adventures of soldiers John Kowalski and Louis Gladwell. While the book offers up great depictions of the Vietnam War and fully realized characters, it does little to set itself apart from similar titles and fails to provide much insight into political events or the meaning behind the war. Recommended for those very interested in the Vietnam War.

  • Pianist in a Bordello

    by Mike C. Erickson

    Rating: 4.00

    Framed as aspiring congressman Dick Youngblood’s autobiography, this satirical novel offers a broadly comic overview of U.S. political history of the last four decades. At times, the over-the-top farce casts in high relief the borderline absurdity of political ambition. The protagonist is affable enough, and his narrative voice -- suitable for a political aspirant -- is charismatic and funny, even if the text is not always convincing as a political memoir. Some of the narrative choices intended for humor ultimately backfire, which only serves to confuse the reader.

  • Near Somewhere

    by Edward Cozza

    Rating: 3.75

    Cozza's tsunami of dialogue engulfs the hackneyed plot of Townes Mantle, a business consultant/musician/writer stuck in a rut and forming a romantic relationship. Mantle's mostly self-focused reflections pale compared to the offbeat zaniness of best friend and fellow musician Zeeder, but the torrent of talk sometimes becomes contrived snappiness. Stereotypical father confessor-type bartenders and casual friends offer little beyond platitudinal insights. An attempt to infuse tension via villainous Clement lags, while Mantle's linkup with actress Ashley and ultimate success are unconvincing.

  • How to Grow an Addict

    by J.A. Wright

    Rating: 3.00

    In Wright's dramatic but underdeveloped novel, Randall Grange recounts how the events of her childhood and teen years led to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Though the events Randall describes are shocking—her father nearly running over his brother, her brother killing a kitten to silence her regarding his homosexuality—they lack the emotional development and detail needed to turn them into powerful scenes. This chronological life report explains Randall’s addiction, certainly, but it reads as a series of isolated travesties with no real sense of momentum.

  • Dateline Baghdad

    by Luke Baker

    Rating: 3.00

    Baker somewhat misses the mark in his too-soon story of a small-time English journalist trying to make it big as a war correspondent in Iraq. The story follows Tom Monroe and his war reporter love interest, the preening Claudia, on their self-absorbed quest to capitalize on the conflict -- the Iraqi people and the war serve merely as a backdrop for their own personal and career development. Aside from a lack of character depth, the events of the story are familiar, and are only interesting when the action of the story pulls away from the protagonist to describe the places and people of the country. Though obviously knowledgeable of the conflict, Baker failed to show us what we didn't already know.