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General Fiction

  • Going Widdershins

    by Sherrye Cohn

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This novel is perfectly plotted, fascinating, well-paced, and full of surprises. Readers will be delighted.

    Prose: The commonsense voice is spot-on and appropriate to the material. The writing is clean, clear, and, at times, lovely.

    Originality: This novel is unique and engaging. The characters and their stories feel original.

    Character Development: The characterization here is exceptional. Dr. Atkins and Emilena are flawlessly rendered, while additional characters are multidimensional.

  • Beside the Music

    by BJ Knapp

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This novel is skillfully plotted and well paced. It's a book that readers won't want to put down.

    Prose: The prose is smooth and conversational, featuring subtle humor, great turns of phrase, and a contemporary voice.

    Originality: There are plenty of books about crumbling marriages, but this one is unique thanks to the original characters and winning premise, which the author somehow makes believable.

    Character Development: All of the characters are distinct and feature realistic flaws and qualities. Brenda and Tim's interactions are authentic, with all the tics and quirks of a marriage. The rock band characters are also exceptionally well portrayed.

    Blurb: Knapp turns the potential tragedy of a troubled marriage into smart satire. Rock groupies ranging from tame to obsessed will have a great time indulging in this fantasy of an idol sleeping in the guest bed.

  • Ellen's Song

    by Ben Kalland

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: Ellen's Song is a page-turner with superb foreshadowing and a gradually developing plot. Readers will be captivated and find the ending powerful.

    Prose: Kalland's novel features beautiful, insightful, smart, and witty prose with lovely phrasing throughout.

    Originality: This story of a fractured family takes a fresh turn with plenty of emotional adventures and spiritual angles that are unique and fascinating.

    Character Development: This character-driven story masterfully defines individuals on many levels: physical descriptions, personality traits, and flaws. All the characters are well developed.

    Blurb: This family's tragic story is cleverly composed with depth, wit, and breadth.

  • Infants of the Brush: A Chimney Sweep's Story

    by A. M. Watson

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: The novel is well paced and skillfully plotted with gripping moments of tension.The climax will capture readers as completely as the sense of bittersweet relief at the end.

    Prose: This prose is utterly engaging, straightforward, and rhythmic—featuring excellent descriptions of people and places.

    Originality: Although this book features a classical Dickensian theme and voice, the story feels original and unique.

    Character Development: The characters superbly developed, vivid, and realistic.

    Blurb: Watson's winning novel inspires compassion for these small boys, and relief that England's age of forced child labor has passed.

  • The Lost Chord

    by Aleks Matza

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: Matza tells a multilayered story from two POV narratives. The storylines appear disparate at first as one catalogues a carefree life while the other ruminates on contentment rediscovered after an attempted suicide. It’s only near the end that the two narratives are powerfully linked.

    Prose: Eloquent and evocative prose combines with dialogue so natural that readers may feel as though they are silent observers within the story.

    Originality: Matza takes risks with the unconventional narrative structure, which ultimately results in a unique and innovative story.

    Character Development: Although the narrator remains a shadowy figure throughout, Matza manages to convey a strong sense of growth and dimension through the separate stories. The structure keeps the reader guessing as to whether the two central characters are truly the same person. Dialogue and description provide a vivid understanding of secondary characters.

  • The Song of Sadie Sparrow

    by Kitty Foth-Regner

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: While the story flows at an even pace and the characters are distinct and likable, the religious overtones here are heavy-handed and excessive. The author could easily scale this back and still maintain the integrity of the work and original intent. Otherwise, the plot is engaging and holds reader interest.

    Prose: Foth-Regner is a gifted writer whose prose flows smoothly. She creates a compelling, beautifully written story with subtle nuances.

    Originality: This is a touching, well-told story that feels original and fresh.

    Character Development: Foth-Regner creates memorable characters. The reader sympathizes with them in their struggles and roots for them to find fulfillment and contentment.

    Blurb: A thoughtful and touching story about the life lessons being taught all around us, if only we dare to pay attention.

  • Island Legacy

    by Linda Cardillo

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: This quietly moving novel explores the power of family bonds, nostalgic memories, and the wounds of trauma.  

    Prose: Cardillo's prose is clean and eloquent. Poetic reminiscence  centers on life changing moments and intricate family histories, with wise and memorable reflections from the novel’s central matriarch and patriarch.

    Originality: Underlying Cardillo’s focus on particular family histories, is a more universal exploration of how genealogy defines individuality, as well as the potential healing powers of home. While the story’s themes are archetypal, Cardillo’s approach is emotional and engrossing.

    Character Development: Cardillo’s cast of strong central characters drive the novel forward; the author describes their individual struggles and collective pasts with astute awareness.

    Blurb: Cardillo’s poignant novel is a winding, intriguing story of relatable suffering—the sorrow of losing loved ones, traversing long distances to visit those dear to us, and the pain (and growth) that arises through profound life changes.

  • Medals & Memoirs: Wings

    by Scott Harding

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Excellent pacing and effective foreshadowing are among this novel's strengths. And while there are some problems with transitions, the story strengths are greater than its weaknesses.

    Prose: The voice is emotional and sympathetic; there are some charming turns of phrase.

    Originality: While the novel covers many familiar issues, the author puts an interesting spin on things and this gives the story a fresh feel.

    Character Development: The characters—primary and secondary—are well rendered and believable. However, the narrator's voice is very much like that of the main protagonist.

     

  • Plot: Browne utilizes real-life events surrounding Lord Byron to create a quasi-fictional historical tale that moves along at a moderate pace and discusses much of the poet’s life. The major moving parts of the novel are separated by relevant quotes about Byron, while a few minor storylines about other poets and their lives are included.

    Prose: Browne’s prose is clean, clear, and eloquent. The writing hints at a historically accurate vocabulary and speaking style, but not to the point where readers will be distracted or confused.

    Originality: Browne’s novel boasts a vibrant, fresh storyline. Bryon's poetry and story are vividly brought to life.

    Character Development: The characters in this novel are fully developed and will delight readers. The introduction of other contemporary poets to the cast of characters is a bonus to literature lovers.

    Blurb: A well-researched and fantastically embellished novel of Lord Byron and the life of his close, contemporary circle. Wonderful for history buffs and drama lovers alike. 

  • A Clean Death

    by Adriaan Verheul

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: The story unfolds at a steady pace, but some subplots could be tightened to improve the pacing. Extraneous details also slow the narrative down.

    Prose: The prose is sound, though there are some grammatical issues that could be addressed. Also, the writing could be tightened significantly to remove unnecessary words that detract from the narrative flow and overall story.

    Originality: Though the general premise may be familiar to some readers, the storyline of this work is highly original and will expose readers to an unfamiliar world.

    Character Development: The author does a solid job with character development. Oliver and Davey are well drawn and vivid, as is Captain Christmas, though he can be over the top at times.

  • Missing Mr. Wingfield

    by E. Christopher Clark

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: As it morphs from reality to dream state and back, Clark's solidly constructed storyline both demands and rewards a close reading.

    Prose: The author's crisp, colorful prose provides a smooth entry into a complex narrative; it's a treat to encounter an author with a pronounced  understanding of how cadence enhances the reading experience.

    Originality: Clark incorporates contemporary themes that are frequently the domain of coming-of-age novels, but the author enlivens and enriches this content with nimble writing.

    Character Development: Clark ably juggles a large cast of both core and (perhaps too many) peripheral characters, charting their evolution from teens to adults with a sure hand.

  • The Rescue Ecstasy: A Novel

    by Nachshon Rothstein

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: The plot of this novel is often hard to follow, though it does, more or less, come together in the end. However, there are significant plot holes and the pace is often erratic.

    Prose: The writing here is inconsistent. Sometimes it is clumsy and confusing. But at other times it features wonderful phrasing.

    Originality: The story is refreshingly original, albeit disturbingly dark. Additionally, the complex voice is unique and helps make the book feel fresh.

    Character Development: The characters are expertly developed. Gedaliah is engaging and complicated. The supporting cast is equally engaging.

  • The People's Crusade

    by Val Jensen II

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: The People's Crusade is a little slow at the start, but once it picks up steam readers won't be able to stop turning pages until they slam into the cliff-hanger and are left eager for the next book.

    Prose: Jensen clearly has a way with words and his prose draws readers into the story. However, his habit of inserting modern phrases into what should be historical dialogue is a bit jarring.

    Originality: The People's Crusade is a fresh, interesting novel featuring a strong storyline and original characters that feel and act like real people.

    Character Development: The characters, especially the main characters, are strong and well-developed. They grow and mature over the course of the novel and readers will find themselves genuinely interested in what happens to them.

  • Strutting and Fretting

    by Kevin McKeon

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: McKeon's ability to blend drama of the stage with real-life events packs a powerful punch for readers, leaving them stinging long after the book has been set down. The author's balancing act between absurd humor and existential philosophy makes his story a paragon of Bukowski's dirty realism.

    Prose: McKeon's prose boasts some clever, often vulgar turns of phrase and dazzling metaphors and similes. His ability to keep the language fresh without reverting to purple prose is impressive.

    Originality: While the book is not entirely original, the author creates a unique character with a fresh voice.

    Character Development: His brutally honest and often obscene observations of life make Bob a frustrating but lovable protagonist. His overt cynicism and inadvertent escapism likens him to characters as noteworthy as Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Though the unrestricted access to Bob's psychology can be somewhat uncomfortable at times, it is needed for the reader to remain emotionally invested in the work.

  • The Brotherhood of the Black Flag

    by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot: Cohen delivers a solid, compelling, and briskly paced story that blends adventure and romance within a rich historical setting.

    Prose: The author layers his clear and engaging prose with historically resonant detail.

    Originality: The narrative is evocative of classic adventure stories; the story's freshness arises from its attention to detail and historical verisimilitude.

    Character Development: Cohen writes characters with agency and grit. Heroes and villains both maintain a degree of moral complexity.

  • Running from Color

    by Morenike' Matory

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Moreniké paints a vivid portrait of a family living in the deep south during the 1920s. The novel addresses complex issues of the time and presents intriguing stories along the way. However, some of the plot lines are left unresolved, which may leave readers with significant questions.

    Prose: Moreniké uses some beautiful imagery to describe the hard and complicated lives of the Grass sisters, Olive and Wheat. While the dialogue enhances the plot and characters, it sometimes feels out of place or explanatory.

    Originality: Moreniké takes on a host of serious topics in an attempt to discuss a subject that is not frequently broached in fiction. 

    Character Development: Readers are quickly brought into the world of the Grass sisters and will be eager to see their stories through to their conclusion. Both Olive and Wheat face multiple devastating hardships; readers may wish their motivations and thoughts were more fleshed out in the face of their adversities.

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