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General Fiction

  • Give My Regards to Nowhere: A Director's Tale

    by Richard Engling

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: This fast-paced novel, set against the backdrop of the glimmering theater world, offers a refreshing change of pace with a show stopping plot and plenty of drama, both on stage and off. Readers will relish following Engling's characters in their amusing spin through the highs and lows of show business.

    Prose: The writing is lively, fun, and welcoming, allowing fans to get lost in the quirky world of theater. Engling—a gifted storyteller—steeps readers in the story's light and entertaining setting, making this novel a pleasure to read.

    Originality: The quirky world of theater is center stage, featuring eccentric and delightful characters as well as oddly relatable interplays that combine to make this a pleasure to read.

    Character/Execution: Characters come to life through reliable and eloquent prose that spotlights not only protagonist Dwayne, but also the many recurring characters who make this a joyful read.

  • Holy Parrot

    by Angel A

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: A 16-year-old girl combats domestic abuse from her father by creating a new leader of religion, becoming the mother of a new Christ, and amassing a following of thousands of people. Starting with a mysterious hook, the story successfully engages the readers from the beginning.


    Prose: Angel A presents a beautiful writing style, with words that fully display the exotic settings and applies detailed descriptions of the protagonist's thoughts about religion to add a bitter ironic tone to the story.

    Originality: By blending the elements of mystery and religion, the story stands out from both traditional mystery and religious fiction.

    Character/Execution: Both the main characters and supporting characters impress the readers with their authenticity and relatability. The protagonist's thoughts ultimately uncover both the mystery and the essence of the religion.


  • Until September

    by Harker Jones

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: As devastating as it is heart-warming, Jones crafts a story that brings together all the best parts of a coming-of-age romance. The novel, a true page turner, moves quickly while still cutting deeply.

    Prose: Throughout the story, Jones's prose is effortless and expressive, subtly infusing the pages with a sense of lyrical beauty.

    Originality: The text tells a unique story that hits all the elements of the romance genre, and readers will enjoy the small twists and turns throughout that make this novel truly its own.

    Character/Execution: Although the narrative unquestionably shines, the characters are the crown jewel. With a cast of ultimately flawed but loveable teenagers, the plot is driven by their deep-rooted characterization. There is always someone to love, someone to hate, and someone readers don't quite understand.

  • The Woman in Green

    by Larry Lockridge

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: The Woman in Green is a delightfully esoteric romp packed with literary and philosophical allusions that explores no less than the entirety of human existence. Plot takes a backseat to questions raised about the meaning of life, or lack thereof; the possible virtues of suicide; and whether or not redemption lies in the cards for the human experiment.

    Prose: The Woman in Green is a work of absurdist literary fiction to be savored on a sentence-by-sentence level. Readers will discover more than a few brushes of brilliance on every page.

    Originality: Lockridge's novel, the third in a series, practically ensnares readers through its narrator's pointed observations about human nature. Readers will be hard-pressed to remember a recent work as delightfully funny or inventive.

    Character/Execution: It's easy to get lost in the novel's cacophony of voices and meandering nature. The idealistic characters, who discover an ancient scroll foretelling world's end, emerge as distinctive and idiosyncratic amidst the lyrical lunacy of the storytelling.

  • The Wandering Jew of St. Salacious

    by Ron Turker

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Readers are first introduced to Dr. Martin Fischer as his research lab is losing funding and support. Marty finds himself accepting a familiar position at St. Salonge Hospital–a place known to serve the wealthiest patients. As he transitions into an environment of big money, power, and egotism, he faces ethical questions.

    Prose: Turker's prose is infused with delightfully dry humor and witty exchanges between characters, while the novel also doesn't shy from focusing on the woes of modern medicine in America. 

    Originality: Turker brings a unique perspective to the medical industry by focusing on a passionate and well-meaning doctor who takes on corruption while also experiencing some of the benefits. 

    Character/Execution: Much of the project's appeal stems from the good-natured relationships built between Marty and everyone at St. Salonge. Marty himself is a truly endearing, well-rounded character with fears, joys, desires, and developed opinions. A reader will trust his narration and his intentions. Other characters are provided with meaningful development as well, particularly Ralph and Sara. 

  • Alice's War


    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: A gripping plot—a grandmother compelled to care for two of her grandchildren during the second World War—develops into a nuanced snapshot of life in Weymouth, England, during the war.

    Prose: Gracefully written, the prose captures Weymouth’s natural beauty as well as the horrors of war and the characters’ emotions as they undergo radical changes and personal transformations.

    Originality: The novel’s structure initially follows Alice, who, as an older woman who’s never truly been on her own before but is looking forward to it, offers an interesting, refreshing perspective. The later chapters that follow Martin are more conventional.

    Character/Execution: Alice is the novel’s central star, and the chapters emphasizing her perspective are the strongest, as they depict her complexities while she works to reinvent herself amidst a war and new, unforeseen responsibilities. Martin’s character is a contradiction, and his self-centered nature stays prominent until the novel’s end. Sonja remains an enigma, with her interiority denied to readers for most of the novel.

    Blurb: Alice’s War is a sweeping, impactful portrait of life in coastal England during the second World War.

  • The Universe in 3/4 Time: A Novel of Old Europe

    by Leona Francombe

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The Universe in 3/4 Time A sweeping, fast-paced story filled with danger, intrigue, and a mysterious piano that will captivate readers.

    Prose: The prose is elegant and drives the plot forward effectively, while terms associated with music provide additional verisimilitude.

    Originality: The Universe in 3/4 Time is an original, intriguing story that spans decades--centuries, in some cases -- with a captivating story that will keep readers guessing. There are moments when the plot leans a bit too heavily on the theoretical aspects of music and Pythagoras (and Zar's philosophy), but overall, Francombe delivers a memorable, far-reaching, and unique tale.

    Character/Execution: The characters are, for the most part, complex and artfully developed individuals. The reader will especially enjoy the rag-tag team that joins together in Nero's van to race across Europe. 


  • Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

    by Alice McVeigh

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: McVeigh adheres closely to the Pride and Prejudice storyline but gives the book extra panache by using Darcy’s viewpoint as the main vehicle for the plot’s progression. 

    Prose: McVeigh is clearly a polished writer, skilled at period-perfect prose that walks the delicate line between comedy, realism, and the favored tropes of the genre. There is a slight overdependence on Jane Austen’s original writing that distracts at times.

    Originality: The viewpoint gleaned from Darcy’s diaries give this Jane Austen reworking a freshness that is often missing in similar titles. McVeigh also spotlights Darcy’s relationships with other characters—such as his affection for opera singer Giuditta Menotti—in a way that adds flair and intrigue to the original material.

    Character/Execution: Characters are richly developed here, and the main players interrelate and intermingle in a way that advances the story. Darcy’s viewpoint is intriguing and allows readers deeper insight into his feelings and perceptions that were more obscured in the original story. Mary Bennet’s excerpts are entertaining and insightful—and a much-appreciated addition to the Pride and Prejudice canon.

  • Pericles and Aspasia

    by Yvonne Korshak

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The novel centers on the growth and change of Aspasia and Pericles against the backdrop Greek politics. Their relationship develops quickly, through private scenes that allow readers intimate glimpses of their love affair—an affair brimming with as much sexual tension as intellectual appreciation. Aspasia's desire to feel at home in Athens and Pericles's drive to build a strong Athenian government are related authentically, and Korshak is clearly knowledgeable when it comes to Greek history. 

    Prose: Readers will appreciate Korshak's deft balancing of contemporary language with Greek diction, though the story has a myriad of unfamiliar names and political jargon. Korshak's technique is quite original, particularly in the choice to spark imagination over detail for the novel's more important scenes.

    Originality: Aspasia's position as a literate prostitute fighting for an independent life alongside a renowned government official (who is hiding a birth defect from the public) is unique, as is their central love story.

    Character/Execution: Aspasia is what many readers will recognize as an obvious survivor. Her intellect is comforting, and readers will cheer for her success. Pericles holds many similarities in his constant fighting to rise politically and in his desire to see Aspasia grow—while still wanting her all to himself. Supporting characters capably motivate the main characters' ambitions.

  • Mark of a Crescent Moon

    by Clara Fay

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Fay twists together fantasy and historical fiction with ease as Fleur tries to make sense of her dreams about a mysterious woman pleading for help. Mystical and enchanting, the plot entrances readers, and Fay tackles time travel with the experience of a master.

    Prose: Fay’s spirited descriptions of historic Scotland evoke strong images, and she breathes a mystical setting into life  with stirring prose.  The sparkling style reminds readers of the innate human need for connection.

    Originality: Comfortably mixing historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy makes this a creative tale, and Fay maintains a fairytale aura throughout.

    Character/Execution: Strong, likable, and self-assured women take centerstage in this novel. Eileen is sweet and a little enigmatic, but she whispers her secrets across the pages, while Fleur is more inquisitive, weaving her mystery slowly around readers.

  • The Little Queen

    by Kevin Hincker

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The Little Queen is an epic tale of speculative fiction that starts with a bee and a boy, both struggling to escape yet connect and move forward, while still looking back. The story is a sweeping chronicle of love and loss, bravery and courage, seamlessly capturing the mysteries of the natural world while also flowing beyond it, imagining an Earth where humankind has attempted to significantly speed up evolution, inadvertently creating a double-edged sword of both beauty and danger.

    Prose: Lyrical, thoughtful, and compelling, Hincker's prose forms the backbone of this magical tale, immersing readers in both worlds: Anthony, a lonely, lost boy with a powerful secret and a need for connection, and the Little Queen, fighting a generations-long battle for survival with intelligence, guile, and powers of her own.

    Originality: The Little Queen's originality shines through on every page, captivating readers with its expressive prose and courageous characters. Most stunning of all is the plot that resonates with imagination, tenderness, and creativity.

    Character/Execution: Anthony and the Little Queen are the heart and soul of the narrative, and both are written with care and brilliantly executed. From the beginning, their stories—which start independently then smoothly dovetail—are not just about survival, but about courage, loss, and the relationships that bind us to those we love—and the natural world around us.

  • Ella's War

    by Russ Allen

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Allen deftly balances three major themes—war, love, and family—without overloading the particulars. While the aspect of Ella taking over the farm and family life takes precedence, Lee's absence is never ignored—especially considering the introduction of Dieter into the family's lives. Despite the familiarity of the story's love triangle, Allen manages to highlight each character's sincerity amidst the societal expectations of the time. World War II plays a central role, but it never overwhelms the idea that during a war, soldiers are not the only ones fighting.

    Prose: Allen beautifully executes dialects, language, war information, character point of view, and contrasting themes. He is judicial with military jargon, allowing just enough to give the setting authenticity, and focuses the narrative more heavily on Ella's journey during the war, embracing the concepts of family, tradition, and love along the way. 

    Originality: Though Ella's War welcomes several romance tropes (star-crossed lovers, affairs, enemies-to-lovers), Allen's approach and attention to prisoners of war makes this novel stand out.  In a setting where characters could easily be painted in a negative light, Allen works hard to crystallize Dieter's humanity, making him a suitable candidate for Ella's affection.

    Character/Execution: Ella is a headstrong, passionate, and intelligent woman desiring commitment and loyalty, all characteristics that brilliantly come through in her approach to taking the lead on the farm while Lee is away. Reese is a young boy, very affected by the war, who is navigating his fear and hate of "the enemy." Even so, he is portrayed as clever and affectionate towards his family, despite their faults. Dieter comes across as a more peaceful counterpart, even when determined to have Ella for himself. Allen's ability to humanize the story's characters amongst their tragic circumstances makes this a truly stellar novel.


  • Eat and Get Gas

    by J.A. Wright

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The novel is a coming-of-age story tied to uncovering family secrets and accepting the flaws that often accompany love. Many of the plot points intersect with the Vietnam War, and much of the characters' personalities and decisions are deeply impacted by the trauma of their involvement in that war. The story is gradually revealed through Evan's point of view, and the book's events are both relatable and unexpected—from the mistreatment of Evan by her father, to the chaotic dynamics between Evan's parents and dysfunction of the family in its entirety

    Prose: Evan's first-person perspective drives home the story's emotional impact, though it limits the interiority of other characters. As Evan discovers more about the world around her, readers will gain an intimate glimpse of her vulnerability and resolve, alongside the forces at work behind the scenes in her family. The short bursts of narration build suspense for later revelations, and the author's transitions are smooth and precise.

    Originality: The story's conclusion wins it major originality points, as the author leaves it satisfyingly open-ended. Readers will be left pondering Evan's future against the backdrop of this powerful portrait of a troubled family.

    Character/Execution: Characters take their time to develop, but through Evan's capable eyes they gradually come to life, replete with raw, palpable emotion and intense decisions. Evan remains the brightest throughout, and her empathy for those around her will draw readers in.

  • Sanctuaries

    by Vince Sgambati

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This stunning novel, set in the 1950s through the early '70s, originates primarily in New York City, although the story takes a brief foray into Vermont. Themes of racism, sexuality, and self-discovery are richly developed through the narrative's multilayered characters and their intense experiences.

    Prose: Dramatic, evocative prose transports readers directly to 1960s New York City: the Village, gay bars, and even parochial schools are forcefully depicted, interspersed with colorful food and clothing descriptions. Communes in Vermont make an appearance as well, dynamic and immersive in their portrayal. 

    Originality: New York City in the '60s is a common setting, but the strength of the characters makes this novel come alive. The story seamlessly melds the Vietnam War, racism, and growing up gay—as well as fragments of the second World War—into a powerful journey of self-discovery and social justice.

    Character/Execution: The characters are multilayered and powerful, with distinctive emotions and experiences that yield meaningful narrative arcs. Especially memorable are central protagonist Gianni; Italian Jewish Holocaust survivor Raffaella; and Black drag queen Gabriel, whose immeasurable kindness gives Gianni a safe place to come into his own.

  • Dunne's Landing

    by kl kiefer

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This is a compelling read, pulling the reader in as events transpire. The pace is even and the story is never rushed.

    Prose: The third-person perspective suits the narrative well, and the language is fluid. Locations, in particular, are treated with detail, so the reader feels quite present and immersed as events unfold.

    Originality: This interesting and original story elucidates the consequences of a series of seemingly benign choices. Although it is essentially a coming-of-age tale, Kiefer skillfully drives home the stark reality of how different Jonna’s life could have been.

    Character/Execution: Jonna’s motivations are presented in such a way that the reader understands how she fell into the situation with Jacko. The journey from young adult into full-fledged adult is well-presented.

  • The Courtesan's Daughter

    by Susanne Dunlap

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Dunlap’s historical New York City-set novel centers on the the aspirations of a daughter as they come into conflict with her mother's expectations for her and her own complex past. The plot builds evenly as Sylvie navigates her way in the world, with several subplots that tie in effortlessly to the main storyline. Though the ending comes across as a touch too smooth after the novel’s intense unfolding, readers will relish the evocative setting, believable circumstances, and fascinating characters.

    Prose: Dunlap uses the alternating perspectives of Sylvie and her mother to bring the plot to life, with clear prose that excels at scene-setting and shows a definitive knack for building suspense. 

    Originality: The story has a rich setting that comes to life through well-developed tension and polished characters. Sylvie’s journey—and her mother’s attempts to save her from dangerous choices—is crafted with finesse and passion.


    Character/Execution: Seventeen-year-old Sylvie is lovable from the start, full of idealism and extravagant dreams, while her mother desperately works to escape the past. The relationship between Sylvie and Paolo takes off quickly, affording Sylvie the opportunities she’s longing for—though those very opportunities open a world of danger for both women.