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General Fiction

  • Snake

    by Edward Arruns Mulhorn

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: The pacing ebbs and flows, but Mulhorn's talent for prose carries it well. A subtle uncertainty about climactic events requires good, old-fashioned reader involvement. Sentience is breathed into Earth and animals, and the use of an “Optional Penultimate Chapter” is intriguing.

    Prose: The prose is reminiscent of Proust or Thomas Wolfe, if they favored shorter sentences. The simultaneous classic and contemporary feel is impressive. At times, the book reads like an extended poem.

    Originality: This book offers a fully unique approach to illustrating how a special child can be damaged. The girl's reality—raw and often dark—is occasionally tinged with sweet magic. It sometimes hurts to read about the girl's pain; it is both vibrant and dense.

    Character Development: The author employs a fascinating approach to characterization: none of the human beings have names -- and they are not necessary. The girl is fully formed, the man slightly less-so, while the parents and the aunt are relatively (and usefully) static.

    Blurb: This emotional adventure is about the darkness of humanity and nature, told in a haunting, poetic style.

  • Parliament of Rooks: Haunting Brontë Country

    by Karen Perkins

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: The plot moves at a good clip, most notably due to the elements of supernatural suspense and the presence of melodramatic ghosts from England's past. The suspense ratchets up as the ghosts slowly become a reality and the reason for their being comes to light.

    Prose: Smooth, detailed prose make reading a pleasure, while vividly evocative writing places each alternating chapter firmly within the confines of its respective era.

    Originality: Lush and atmospheric, this novel is dark and moody with supernatural elements and accurate historical details. There are also elements of superstition, which will entice readers of horror and mystical suspense. Combining 1800s Haworth and present-day Britain makes for a wonderful mix of historical and contemporary within the context of this ghost story.

    Character Development: The characters are distinct and each one has quirks and tendencies that make him or her stand out within the narrative. As the ghosts of the past begin to make themselves known to the characters, they begin to show cracks in their resolve to stay strong. The author is talented at keeping both past and present characters authentic and accurate to their their eras.

  • Confessions Of An Honest Man

    by Art Rosch

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot: There’s an overabundance of plot stuffed into this intriguing story of how a mother’s mental illness impacted the lives of her children. The main thread involves Aaron, who becomes a talented jazz musician and drug addict. A effective secondary thread follows his sister’s emotional breakdown. However, two additional subplots about their siblings, Mark and Marilee, add nothing but melodrama.

    Prose: Rosch’s vivid prose is descriptive and often devastating—particularly scenes of Esther Kantro’s cruelty and Aaron’s time in Afghanistan.

    Originality: Aaron’s story is unique, and his flirtation as a Jew with Nazism—to gain the friendship of a popular boy—was out-and-out bizarre, but it works and stands out as fresh.

    Character Development: Aaron was the most fully developed character, while Sarah is also well rendered. Siblings Mark and Marilee are a little one-note and unlikable, while their father, Max, is almost always reactive rather than active.

  • Return to Lesbos

    by Lin Sten

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: Return to Lesbos is the final book of a tetralogy, and it presumably picks up where the previous installment left off. New readers will find themselves scrambling to keep track of the characters, their histories, and their motivations. Nonetheless, the book is well plotted with some fun moments of action that punctuate the novel.

    Prose: Though the descriptions tend to be a tad verbose, the prose strikes a fine balance between denseness and clarity. The dialogue is snappy, and the author has made efforts to keep it historically consistent.

    Originality: The plot and characters are original and interesting, though they fit too easily into archetypal roles. The authentic use of historical figures and landmarks serves the story well, portraying a vibrant civilization full of enlightenment and treachery. Indeed, the author displays a fastidious attention to historical detail, though it sometimes slows the story's momentum.

    Character Development: While there are certainly many characters of varying importance (and a lengthy glossary to help lost readers regain their bearings), there is little in the way of meaningful development for the key characters. Perhaps more of the ground work was done in the previous installments, but the primary characters, Arion and Smerdis, each have a singular focus and are lacking in depth.


  • The Legacy of John: A Journey of Wisdom

    by Peter Lago

    Rating: 5.75

    Plot: This novel is well plotted and well paced, if a bit cliche in some of its details. Additionally some events seem implausible, and readers will likely feel that the ending strains credulity.

    Prose: The prose is solid and the text flows easily with the narrative holding reader attention throughout. That said, there are a few errors in word choice and punctuation.

    Originality: The plot is not particularly original, though this is compelling book -- and at times the characters travails feel like fresh takes on familiar themes.

    Character Development: John Hanover is a very well developed character. However, Paul is less developed, while minor characters read more like archetypes or caricatures.