by Rod Palmer
Plot/Idea: While The Things We Bring To The Table has an impressively ambitious plot, involving both realist elements and fantasy sections related to the multiverse, these two aspects of the narrative could converge more clearly for readers. The ultimate speculative ending also feels a bit easy, considering the complexity of the preceding story.
Prose: Palmer's prose positively lends a frenetic energy to a fast-paced novel where a lot happens, but the way the story relies on dialogue for exposition can read awkwardly and often occurs too quickly, making the plot confusing to follow at times. Necessary information also comes in information dumps outside of scenes, which unfortunately pulls the reader out of the narrative flow.
Originality: The way that The Things We Bring To The Table attempts to reconcile a plot about multiple worlds with a Christian element involving an angelic figure is original among titles discussing the multiverse. The novel could benefit from this element of the plot being further fleshed out and explored with more nuance.
Character Development/Execution: Palmer's characterizations are a mixed bag, with some characters developing into well-rounded figures, while others could be developed more. Cree comes off like a rich caricature, but she transforms into a figure with complex emotional depth. Nathaniel, on the other hand, could benefit from deeper characterization, as he currently reads like an angel-like device to forward the plot.
by Karen Kiefer
Plot/Idea: Ways of Man is a striking commentary about political control and media manipulation of the truth. Sometimes the text jumps forward in ways that can be jarring, and the cruelty of certain scenes can be challenging to read, but overall the book successfully describes how reconciliation between different groups can be possible, given enough time.
Prose: Kiefer's prose is a mixed bag. Strong moments of writing include the numerous funny descriptive passages throughout the novel, as well as sections of character interiority. The dialogue, structured in long paragraphs, and often in very punctuated dialect, can be confusing at times.
Originality: Kiefer's slapstick sense of humor is novel, but the book follows a fairly traditional plot arc in general, including star-crossed lovers and enemies becoming friends.
Character Development/Execution: Much of the cast of Ways of Man appear as goofy caricatures for satirical purposes, as opposed to well-rounded people. Kiefer's characters are the most successful in the moments when they're given more elaborate inner lives and feelings, like when Shirley appreciates Theo's gift or when Mikey has a revelation about what he wants.
by Joe Pace
Plot/Idea: Oscar Kendall hates his famous writer father who has just died, is a writer himself, and unexpectedly inherits a cottage. As he considers the women who have influenced him and learns about his father's relationships, he finds an unpublished manuscript and struggles with whether to accept credit for it himself. The book follows his journey in learning how to write his own story.
Prose: The writing is smooth and often eloquent, with fine use of alliteration. References to Greek mythology and a sometimes grandiose tone can at times overwhelm the storytelling.
Originality: The concept behind Pace's novel is an intriguing one that allows for reflection on father-son relationships, creativity, and emerging from behind another's shadow.
Character Development/Execution: Readers may struggle to fully sympathize with the protagonist, as some of his characteristics lack originality or nuance.