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.
by Catherine Magia
Plot: This first installment in a projected series is well paced and plotted, offering a unique perspective on well-known Bible stories as well as the culture of the time.
Prose: The prose successfully balances reverence for its setting and themes with a modern sensibility, making for a readable and engaging account.
Originality: The author does an admirable job of balancing well-known Biblical stories with original episodes that feel, for the most part, authentic to the spirit of the characters and the time.
Character Development: The characters here are solidly crafted and the narrative offers insights not only into Biblical stories, but also into the otherwise little-known lives of women at that time.
by Linda Watkins
Plot: A poignant story told from the perspectives of two teenagers lovers, Andi and Jake, separated on a tragic night and reunited 20 years later. The story is structured as two reminiscences, and while lacking in a driving plot, provides the reader with steady-enough suspense that curiosity will propel the reader to peel back the layers of Andi's tragic story, and root for both to abandon their lives and families for a chance at what-could-have-been.
Prose: Dialogue flows effectively, while expository sections read with ease. The novel is not without its moments of melodrama and significant periods of time are glossed over in summarizing sections. Still, there is much to enjoy in this breezy romance.
Originality: A familiar tale of star-crossed lovers, this novel carries its own unique charms and players. The purposefully ambiguous ending is the book's most original aspect, leaving its readers with bittersweet blend of hope and anxiety in its final mystery.
Character Development: The book's two halves each offer a summary of their respective protagonists' lives, giving the impression that for both lovers, the substance of each life was prelude to their reunion. Beyond the protagonists, the other characters serve primarily as role players.
by Lin Sten
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.
by Leesa Joy
Plot: Joy's plot is a neverending trip down a dark, winding staircase of emotions and macabre events, culminating in several surprising revelations about characters and their mysterious backstories.
Prose: Joy's attempts to capture the confusion and angst of high school mindsets are uncannily accurate, but sometimes disturbing. More attention could be paid grammatically/mechanically.
Originality: Bonds is certainly a unique book, a novel with several sharp, wicked twists and turns and an ability to cultivate a foreboding sense of dread in the reader.
Character Development: Joy captures the innermost emotions, fears, and desires of her characters, as well as their outward demeanors and appearances, to remind us that monsters are hiding everywhere.
by Peter Lago
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.
by Luis Rousset
Plot: Rousett's novel tumbles forward much like many romantic dramas—at a breakneck pace and like an emotional rollercoaster. There is an excess of didactic narration during much of the storyline, however, and uncanny coincidences.
Prose: Rousset's prose is awkward and contrived at times, unintentionally causing characters to sound robotic and rusty, especially in their dialogue and thoughts . Spelling, grammatical, and mechanical errors abound, which makes reader engagement difficult.
Originality: Rousset's unique love story can be hard for readers to connect with at points, mainly because of the fantastical nature of many of the main characters and their jetset lifestyles. Readers will, however, appreciate the story being told from the perspectives of the main characters.
Character Development: Unfortunately, many of the characters in The Kurdish Woman are two-dimensional and deflated of vibrant personalities—or, rather, only characterized by their materialistic or lustful appetites. And this will make it hard for readers to engage with their stories.