by Maureen Mylander
Plot: Mylander's plot is an intense, densely packed, and quickly paced read. Maggie's story is difficult to read as she navigates the sexist, abusive reality of the military. Occasionally, however, cogent critiques of the system get lost in weeds of the story.
Prose: Mylander's prose is compulsively readable though more for its subject matter than anything else. As the story moves into the halls and offices of Senators tends to lean a bit more educational and reads like non-fiction vs. novel-level prose.
Originality: A difficult and often harrowing addition to literary fiction, but there's much here to engage readers concerned about sexual assault and discrimination against women by those in uniform.
Character/Execution: Maggie's a whip-smart and compelling protagonist whose strength is apparent from the first page. Her resilience in the face of persistent adversity is inspiring in its confidence and heartbreaking in its necessity.
by Roy Calvin Moore
Plot: Moore delivers a solid, cinematic Western that vividly establishes its historical and dramatic setting.
Prose: Moore’s prose is abundantly clear, measured, and evenly paced. While rather unadorned, it suits the narrative and delivers on reader expectations.
Originality: While The Showdown at San Benito doesn’t deliver substantial novelty, it provides a satisfying escape into a world of gunfights, lawlessness, grudges, and grievances with a few unexpected twists along the way.
Character/Execution: This novel is populated with appealing archetypal characters who allow the gritty South Texas landscape to come to life.
by J. A. Nelson
Plot: Nelson’s novel reimagines the life and times of a perennially intriguing and under-explored Shakespearean character.
Prose: Nelson’s prose effectively channels the language of Shakespeare while remaining clear and accessible to modern readers.
Originality: Stories that draw from Shakespeare are hardly novel, but this work’s direct focus on Horatio in the aftermath of Hamlet’s death, provides a welcome degree of novelty.
Character/Execution: A Man of Honor begins where the tragedy concludes. Nelson provides Horatio with agency and depth, while remaining living characters of the play are offered additional stage time. New characters are well integrated and the historical setting is vivid.
by Anne Marie Bennett
Plot: The plot of Bennett's novel unfolds at a measured pace that allows the character arcs and relationships to develop genuinely. The interludes from Deirdre and Savannah add a level of complexity and deeper emotion to the plot that will likely delight romance readers.
Prose/Style: Neither overwrought or overly simplistic, Bennett's prose is serviceable and easily readable.
Originality: Readers will find many standard contemporary romance trappings in this novel, making for an entertaining if not particularly exciting addition to the genre.
Character Development: Readers will be moved by the relationships throughout the novel, particularly that of Savannah and her mother Deirdre. Though the core romance between Savannah and Ben is interesting, and there are many reasons to root for them, at times Deirdre's interludes threaten to overshadow the central story.
by Thomas Duffy
Plot: The narrative here is easy to follow and the author writes with intention. While the novel’s thematic pieces don’t entirely coalesce meaningfully, the relationship at the heart of the story is ultimately compelling.
Prose/Style: The novel employs much conversation and dialogue, some of it stilted. Sentences are clear, but often blunt in their delivery, with a reliance on exposition.
Originality: The plot line about the relationship between a social worker and her client seems quite original, as do the parallels of searching for love and meaningful work in their lives.
Character Development: While each primary character carries great potential, in execution, neither is afforded sufficient emotional and psychological development or motivation. Marc is afflicted with schizo-affective disorder, which provides dimension to his character, but is not always consistently or believability portrayed.
by Thomas Duffy
Plot: Duffy's intriguing but somewhat convoluted plot falls short of enrapturing the reader due to a lack of clarity and structure. The pace here is strong, but Phillip's choices are confusing and difficult to track, and his fluctuating feelings for Melissa and Leann nearly pull the pace of the story to halt.
Prose/Style: Duffy's prose is clear, if at times stilted and fairly plain; additional flair and stylistic embellishment would much enhance the storytelling. Conversations between characters feel uncomfortable and strained, with short, clipped sentences that do not always convey real emotion or carry weight.
Originality: Here are all the standard trappings of a "mid-life crisis" novel, from Phillip's stalled writing career to his static relationship. Though the author explores intriguing interpersonal relationships, the story lacks elements that elevate the tale or add drama, making for a rather uninspired read.
Character/Execution: Phillip is decently sympathetic by nature of his current situation, but it's difficult to root for him; even as his narrative evolves, he does not captivate as a character. His fiancé Melissa is more of a dynamic individual, and readers will likely be happy about their separation and, thus, feel their reconciliation is unearned.
by Catherine Bellizzi
Plot: Bellizzi’s novel is a melancholy story of an elderly woman reflecting on the events of her long, illustrious, and eventful life.
Prose/Style: The prose is balanced and clear, if somewhat dry in its storytelling style, relying upon stating the protagonist’s circumstances and emotions rather than allowing them to unfold organically through action.
Originality: A novel of looking back with longing, The 86-Year-Old Orphan is unique in its intimate, poignant focus on one individual’s life circumstances.
Character Development: Although Tessie’s narrative does not always fully come alive on the page, readers will surely empathize with her struggle to reconcile old age with what once so vibrantly was.
by Andrew Lafleche
Plot: In this raw, rowdy, and disturbing story, a young man pursued the next high. Shallow relationships come and go; no one is to be trusted in this narrative. In the end, Troy’s deeds catch up with him, but just barely.
Prose/Style: Written in a stream of consciousness style, the work is heady and disjointed. The author frankly portrays the characters’ heinous actions and sexual appetites. Dialogue, on the other hand, is clear and fast-paced, though often veering toward misogynistic.
Originality: This feels original, as it seems the author writes from experience. Troy and his friends are constantly high, often in trouble, and their thinking patterns and subsequent actions stem from this disordered state of mind.
Character Development: Troy and his friends are not likable characters, although the reader will feel empathy for Casy, his best childhood friend, who eventually attempts suicide after confiding intimate details of his tragic childhood to Troy. The young people here often come across as archetypes of a young slacker generation.