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General Fiction

  • Quarter Finalist

    I, Sarah Steinway

    by Mary Carter

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Carter's captivating, vividly imagined tale unfolds with terrifying beauty as protagonist Sarah Steinway grapples with survival in a future climate change disaster. The story relies on Steinway's tenacity and wit to navigate her new life in a drowned world, drawing the reader into the life of a mind so alive and singular that at times the work feels like memoir.

    Prose: Carter is a true craftswoman, nimble and inventive and unafraid to take risks. Though dialogue can at times feel less than real, the narrative, told from Steinway's perspective, offers such breadth of mood--playful humor to dreadful illness, determination to aching nostalgia--that its emotional truths resonate deeply.

    Originality: Carter's novel is an utterly original imagining of a post-apocalyptic world, lightly using the tropes of dystopian and disaster fiction while depending on ingenuity and emotional depth to carry the story. Savvy cultural references bring an immediacy and freshness to the text.

    Character Development: Sarah Steinway is the most capable of protagonists--an elderly woman living in isolation, yet able to carry the full weight of this lucid and eloquent tale on her shoulders. The questions asked by the text--what could you endure, and how might you thrive, at the end of the world--are capably answered by her character, in a way that leaves the reader with a sense of hope.


  • Quarter Finalist

    Leaving The Beach

    by Mary Rowen

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This is an outstanding novel. The success of the plot depends on the strength of the protagonist, and Erin is a perfectly flawed heroine.

    Prose: This novel is a pleasure to read. The prose is of the highest quality and perfectly suited to the story.

    Originality: Erin's voice and fantasy life are original and drive this poignant story.

    Character Development: The characters are all well rendered. The ending might be the strongest part of the book: emotional and close to perfect.

    Burb: A misfit bulimic whose fantasy life both protects and isolates her finds a real musician to save. A quirky read with a lovable, flawed protagonist.

  • One-Two

    by Igor Eliseev

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Thought provoking and well-executed; characters are truly in turmoil and a metaphor for the human condition. The reader is left a little heartbroken yet hopeful at the end.

    Prose: Fluid and well-crafted prose. The reader will find herself rereading sentences and reflecting on her own life; the writer has a knack for finding just the right words.

    Originality: The novel feels fresh and new. Conjoined twins named Hope and Faith – when there is none – is worth contemplating.

    Character Development: The reader sympathizes with the weak and hopeful and criticizes those that cause harm. The characters are true to life and walk among us.

    Blurb: Thought provoking -- book clubs will rejoice!

  • Cities of the Common Man

    by Ben Hasskamp

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This entertaining novel moves along at a good clip and is well structured. The beginning is often funny, with the main character finding himself in some awkward predicaments. However, after he leaves his family, the story loses its comedic flair and becomes more serious. The author may want to consider keeping the humor consistent throughout.

    Prose: The writing here is straightforward and easy to follow. Dialogue flows well as characters interact. Awkward situations are conveyed to the reader skillfully.

    Originality: This is a cleverly spun tale that includes a collectible out of the 1985 film Back to the Future, which is used to visit friends from the past.

    Character Development: The novel features strong, consistent characters attempting to find their fate; readers will recognize these people in their daily lives. The author has done a good job of focusing in on the main character as he interacts with others.