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General Fiction

  • Brooklyn Valentine

    by Rachel A Levine

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Brooklyn Valentine is a quirky and endearing romantic novel that centers on two characters who cross paths against the lively backdrop of Brooklyn. Levine capably captures the experience of finding unexpected romance, while the environs of Coney Island, Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other locales, are rendered beautifully. 

    Prose: Levine pulls readers into the story, immediately creating a cozy atmosphere. Dialogue allows the characters to come to life, while Sal's loving descriptions of Brooklyn are immersive. 

    Originality: This charming New York story eschews Manhattan sight seeing in favor of the many authentic flavors of Brooklyn. Levine offers her protagonists a second chance at love and underscores the importance of community. 

    Character/Execution: Levine has a knack for character development. Sal and Terry are relatable characters whose personal struggles are convincingly portrayed. Individually intriguing, the pair have a subtle chemistry, and readers will enjoy witnessing them overcome their marked differences. The broader cast of characters, including Sal's family members and unusual, unerringly loyal friends, are fully formed. 

  • Wreck and Return

    by Tom Kranz

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: Wreck and Return offers a fascinating look inside the life of a volunteer EMT. Griffin Ambrose and his coworkers see a lot while they are on the job: everything from funny to tragic to macabre. Despite the richness of the set-up and circumstances, the novel would benefit from additional plot development and a more pronounced through-line.

    Prose: The novel's prose is effective in telling the story, without any particular stylistic flourishes. The author convincingly conveys the individual characters' opinions and perspectives, often espousing their short-sighted and bigoted ideology.

    Originality: Wreck and Return has an interesting, novel concept, especially in terms of a main character who embarks on something new later in life. Griffin is flawed but not irredeemable, making him a highly relatable character readers will root for.

    Character/Execution: Griffin Ambrose appropriately drives the story. Readers will feel deeply for him as he grapples with painful past mistakes and finds the courage to afford himself a second chance. Additional characters in the novel are somewhat uneven in their development; the world of the novel would be much richer if the cast of supporting characters had more dimension.

  • A Kind of Hush

    by JoDee Neathery

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: A Kind of Hush conveys the grief of a family’s tragic misfortune with great tenderness, but the forward momentum is blunted by a focus on day-to-day activities rather than forensic details pertinent to the novel's central mystery. When daughter Willa conveys a stunning revelation in a Wattpad story, the two prime suspects in the case quickly become red herrings, leaving readers with a sense of subtle disappointment over the time spent analyzing their involvement.

    Prose: Neathery's prose is highly readable, with ample time for the relationships between the characters to be understood and developed over the course of the story. Long passages of extraneous exposition detract from the tension, and side plots—like the interlude when Kurtz spends time with the Jones family while in hiding—sometimes slow the action.

    Originality: A Kind of Hush hosts a fascinating central mystery that will prove absorbing for readers. However, the work never seems to pin down its genre—missing details of the police investigation crucial to a mystery, while giving too much detail about people, places, and everyday activities which prevent a deeper emotional resonance one might expect in a family drama.

    Character/Execution: Characters are well rounded, and Neathery allows them plenty of time to interact and develop emotionally, though not always with fruitful results. The dialogue, used as a conduit to dispense details, sometimes leans toward an overly formal tone.

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