by David Fiore
Plot: Fiore's novel is a wild, exuberant ride through a picturesque Italy, its plot offering as many twists and turns as a Bolognese street. Incorporating an art heist, a murder mystery, and an entertaining dose of marital strife, the book is difficult to put down and perfectly engrossing.
Prose: Agile prose and laugh-out-loud humor enliven the tale, which delights with its many original turns of phrase. Fiore's verbal dexterity and creative swagger bring freshness to every page.
Originality: Sympathetic characters, pitch-perfect dialogue, and clever problem solving bring a refreshing originality to this art heist/murder mystery story. Readers who enjoy these action-packed genres will find much to love in Fiore's inventive approach.
Character Development: The main characters, Scott and Holly, are sympathetic, fully realized, and frequently humorous. The secondary characters, often a bit archetypal, provide a fine foil to the story's flustered protagonists.
Blurb: An exuberant, wickedly funny mystery that delights from beginning to end.
by Edward Arruns Mulhorn
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.
by Igor Eliseev
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!
by Karen Perkins
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.
by Sheila Martin
Plot: The sometimes cartoonish, sometimes sleazy, always strange Coney Island, described here in vivid detail, is an ideal backdrop for the action, which meanders a bit on its way to a slightly-too-neat conclusion. But overall, it's a weird, wonderful journey.
Prose: Brooklyn's voice is fully believable as a child relaying a story; her unreliable narration adds to the uncertainty about whether the action can be taken at face value or as the manifestations of an child's overactive imagination.
Originality: The seamless interweaving of multicultural folklore, blues music, and an urban coming-of-age story makes for a fresh, compelling read.
Character Development: From evil Aunt Suzie to the mysterious old lady who rents rooms to the kindly bluesman who helps her find her voice, Brooklyn's world is populated with fascinating, quirky characters (even if some occasionally fall into stereotypes).
Blurb: A strange, dark, whimsical journey that overlays a smorgasbord of death-related mythology onto the tale of a young girl coming of age in 1950s Brooklyn.
by Anne Moose
Plot: The plot is well-executed. Set primarily in the Jim Crow South, the danger posed to a budding interracial relationship rings true.
Prose: The prose shines when conveying the details of the couple's budding romance, a deft illustration of the tenderness, discovery, and sense of invulnerability that comes with new love. But, in the preponderance of the novel, the writing is more workmanlike. There is a lot of hate in the small town, and in these portions of the book more showing and less telling is needed.
Originality: The work's plot is unique and engaging. While readers will see the interracial relationship coming, the conclusion of the work is a surprise. Readers have been lulled into a false sense of plot predictability, and are instead rewarded with a satisfying twist.
Character Development: The protagonists are well developed and feel like real people. The supporting characters read more like types than real people and could use further development.
by Art Rosch
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.
by Joan Druett
Plot: This skillfully plotted novel delivers as much historical information as it does story. Only at the end, which is somewhat predictable, does the plotting falter, with loose ends that are wrapped up a little too neatly
Prose: The prose is true to the time period, contains great details, and delivers the flavor and style of the era. The writing keeps the reader in the story, but never in an overly showy fashion.
Originality: This historical maritime adventure is original and engaging. The author's knowledge of sailing, the time period, the South China Sea, and the economics of the day is evident -- and this information is deftly incorporated into the story. Much of the spirit of the time is captured in this intriguing tale.
Character Development: The characters here are very well developed for the most part. The author provides backstory for each main character and follows the characters' evolution over the course of years. Though their stories are interesting, some of the characters' motivations could be clearer.