by Susanne Dunlap
Plot: Dunlap's “Listen to the Wind” keeps readers on their toes. One event continually follows the previous one, and it all feels so incredibly real that the reader will be shocked to learn the twist about where it actually occurs. The world-building here is expert and will leave readers wanting more. Time passes gracefully and excitingly in Dunlap's world.
Prose/Style: There is never a dull moment in Dunlap's prose. She doesn't overdo her details, but instead keeps settings vivid--allowing for the reader to make the novel and story truly their own. The dialogue was well-researched and conscious; it never forced itself and it was natural and elegant, much like the period.
Originality: “Listen to the Wind” is in its own league. Completely imaginative, mature and playful all at once, this book doesn’t compete with any other novel for its spot on the bookshelf, as it will outshine many and sit comfortably among the classics.
Character Development: Dunlap creates memorable characters, each unique, each with his or her own thoughts and personal plagues, each just as worthy of the reader’s sympathy as the last. They will stay with the audience long after the final page.
Blurb: Populated by characters worth rooting for, both the nefarious and the outspoken heroes, this novel is packed with heart, imagination, and incredible testament to the human spirit.
by Zlaikha Y Samad & L'mere Younossi
Plot: The plot to find the unseen blossoms of a fig tree—a tree believed not to produce flowers before its fruit—is intriguing, and sets the folktale-like tone of the book in the first few pages.
Prose/Style: The strongest element to this book is its prose/style. There is a quiet strength and calmness that gives the characters and voices of this story an endearing and comforting quality. Beautifully written, reminiscent of a fine piece of music, this work will captivate the reader.
Originality: The use of a fairytale format to tell this original, spiritual story about finding a magical fig blossom is unique and enchanting.
Character Development: The characters of Zuli and Lamar are well written, brought to life in the readers’ minds in a vivid, memorable setting. The characters’ internal thoughts and descriptions are amazingly organic.
by Tom Sheridan
Plot:The plot is standard in terms of overcoming one’s past, but the presentation of the plot and its unfolding is superior.
Prose/Style:The memorable prose throughout takes on a lyrical bent, at times dropping into a short burst of rap lyricism, which enhances the narration.
Originality:This is not your average coming-of age-tale, but instead it is a coming-to-grips-with-age tale full of humor and heart.
Character Development:The father and son round out an excellent variety of cast members featured in this manuscript. The complexities in these individuals are layered, and their personalities all hold the readers’ interest.
Blurb:“Thrivers” is the tale of a father and son, both on different paths in life. This book is for all of the dreamers and endlessly hopeful in life.
by Victoria Landis
Each page in this book leaps to the next, constantly driving more curiosity about Jordan, the woman with amnesia who, as it turns out, is from mysterious wealthy origins. Local wildlife, especially birds, are drawn to Jordan, and her awe-inspiring ability to heal the sick and injured adds to the speedy pace of this story.
Prose/Style: Although the POV is third-person, the writing is personable, much like someone describing a strange experience in their life. The matter-of-fact voice adds to the believability of the plot, and adept descriptions enable visualization of the settings.
Originality: Stories of amnesia have been told before, and tales of magical healing powers are not uncommon, but the blend of the two and the personalities involved lend a distinctiveness to this modern-day tale with the impacts of technologies and social media.
Character Development: The personalities of Jordan, Petra, and the others in their circle are sharply contrasted with the unpleasant individuals who wish to take advantage of Jordan's situation, or attack her as an “antichrist.” Petra's role as Jordan's helper feels like an “everyperson's” place, with realistic reactions to the phenomenon.
Blurb: This is irresistible reading, hard to put down without knowing what will happen next in the strange situation of Jordan's amnesia, and how she has become capable of miraculous feats.
by Stephen Finlay Archer
Plot: Archer’s novel is well plotted throughout. The novel is clearly written, giving the reader an engaging storyline to follow and the great gift of knowledge of a period in Irish history that is not abundant in historical fiction.
Prose/Style: Overall, the prose is well crafted, providing the reader with a mixture of a love story, brutal battles, and the search for a lost sibling. The novel felt authentic and true to the time period.
Originality: Archer’s exemplary novel is filled with original details and touches. The characters and subplots give the story extra flair, and add even more strength to the novel.
Character Development: The main characters of the novel are well-developed and easy for the reader to connect with. Morgan and Tadgh will have the reader rooting for a happily-ever-after ending, and readers will be rapt while following the adventures of Collin trying to find his long-lost sister.
by Dori Ann Dupre
Plot:While the plot does not contain a lot of riveting twists and turns, there is a certain intrigue to it. However, it would benefit the story to feel less like a passive narration of events and more like a series of events actively happening to the characters.
Prose/Style:The author has penned the story of her characters beautifully. The entire narrative is devoid of major typographical and other errors. This author knows her way around words, but could focus on making the language less passive.
Originality:The premise of 'running away from the past' and 'new identities hiding something terrible' are not exactly novel. But the story is much more than just this, focusing also on the many parent-child relationships.
Character Development:The characters were three-dimensional and well developed, from the major players to the very minor ones. None of the characters possessed stereotypical traits, as is prone to happen with minor characters.
by Joe Costanzo
Plot: Overall, this book is absolutely captivating - it blends philosophy and mystery into a story that feels well-paced and fresh. The somewhat mushy ending might feel unfulfilling to some readers.
Prose/Style: The impeccable spelling and grammar was welcome and delightful. The style was sophisticated, and so smooth that even the most complex topics were easily understood.
Originality: It's easy to find novels where middle-aged professors are solving mysteries or falling into bed with beautiful women. But while the concept wasn't groundbreaking, the author found innovative ways to keep the reader invested and guessing.
Character Development: The majority of the characters were well developed and clearly defined. Yet there were some small bumps in the road: Audrey's email felt like something Edward would write, and the reader is often left wondering why an unrealistic number of women were suddenly trying to sleep with an adjunct professor.
by James Hutson-Wiley
Plot: The plot of “The Sugar Merchant” flows along steadily at an upbeat pace. As the title suggests, the book focuses very heavily on trade and commerce. It is, essentially, a journal of an ancient trader over several years. There are momentary sparks of action, but everything else is fairly mundane. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the look at the other side of the Muslim/Catholic conflicts of the first century.
Prose/Style: Hutson-Wiley's prose is simple, but it effectively captures the atmosphere and voices of the historical people and places. The book would benefit from a light to medium copy edit.
Originality: The originality of the book is in the perspective. Books about the Holy Wars and pilgrimages are common, but are usually told from the point of view of the crusaders. The Sugar Merchant gives readers a look at the other side of the story, even if it is told by a Catholic monk.
Character Development: The characters are all fairly standard, and their personalities would be enhanced by some more delving into their origin stories, motives, and individual emotions – nevertheless, they are realistic and memorable.
by Cassandra Austen
Plot:The novel’s major points of tension are introduced gradually, and Austen captures the stakes of the story without veering into melodrama. As the novel comes to a close, however, some vital exchanges between the two main characters can come off as hasty. The ending could use the same nuance that was granted to the beginning of the novel.
Prose/Style:Austen’s prose is fluid and neat, albeit a bit typical of the historical fiction genre. Still, Austen’s ability to capture both Lady Catherine’s and Captain Averbury’s perspectives seems effortless, and her rich narrative vignettes supplement the stakes of the novel quite nicely.
Originality:Austen’s novel is fairly original, although it does present a few trademark tropes of the historical fiction genre. Overall, Austen’s ability to tap into each character’s highly individual point of view allows for a unique perspective on plot points that might otherwise read as cliché.
Character Development: Lady Catherine and Captain Averbury both read as nuanced, believably flawed characters. Catherine’s disdain for her upbringing, Averbury’s troubled past, and their romantic tension with one another are illustrated capably, providing an enticing and believable narrative arc for readers to enjoy.
Blurb:A thrilling hybrid of mystery, romance, and 19th century scene-setting -- sure to enthrall fans of historical fiction.