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General Fiction

  • This Crumbling Pageant

    by David Fiore

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: Fiore's novel is a wild, exuberant ride through a picturesque Italy, its plot offering as many twists and turns as a Bolognese street. Incorporating an art heist, a murder mystery, and an entertaining dose of marital strife, the book is difficult to put down and perfectly engrossing.

    Prose: Agile prose and laugh-out-loud humor enliven the tale, which delights with its many original turns of phrase. Fiore's verbal dexterity and creative swagger bring freshness to every page.

    Originality: Sympathetic characters, pitch-perfect dialogue, and clever problem solving bring a refreshing originality to this art heist/murder mystery story. Readers who enjoy these action-packed genres will find much to love in Fiore's inventive approach.

    Character Development: The main characters, Scott and Holly, are sympathetic, fully realized, and frequently humorous. The secondary characters, often a bit archetypal, provide a fine foil to the story's flustered protagonists.

    Blurb: An exuberant, wickedly funny mystery that delights from beginning to end.

  • The Binding of Saint Barbara

    by Stephanie Carroll

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: This powerful story, based on an actual events, is engaging and will stick with readers. Well plotted, the novel will grab readers and offers a plot twist they won't see coming.

    Prose: Well crafted prose mixed with news articles brings the characters and their story to life.

    Originality: While the story is built around actual events, the mix of truth and fiction is well done and balanced.

    Character Development: The characters here are skillfully developed. They are manipulative, God fearing, religious, caring, young and eager, ambitious, reasonable, cunning, egotistical—like people who walk among us.

    Blurb: A well-researched piece of historical fiction for all readers not just history buffs.

  • Snake

    by Edward Arruns Mulhorn

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: The pacing ebbs and flows, but Mulhorn's talent for prose carries it well. A subtle uncertainty about climactic events requires good, old-fashioned reader involvement. Sentience is breathed into Earth and animals, and the use of an “Optional Penultimate Chapter” is intriguing.

    Prose: The prose is reminiscent of Proust or Thomas Wolfe, if they favored shorter sentences. The simultaneous classic and contemporary feel is impressive. At times, the book reads like an extended poem.

    Originality: This book offers a fully unique approach to illustrating how a special child can be damaged. The girl's reality—raw and often dark—is occasionally tinged with sweet magic. It sometimes hurts to read about the girl's pain; it is both vibrant and dense.

    Character Development: The author employs a fascinating approach to characterization: none of the human beings have names -- and they are not necessary. The girl is fully formed, the man slightly less-so, while the parents and the aunt are relatively (and usefully) static.

    Blurb: This emotional adventure is about the darkness of humanity and nature, told in a haunting, poetic style.

  • The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age

    by E. Thomas Behr

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: This novel is a rip-roaring adventure: well plotted, well paced, and full of action that will keep readers turning pages.

    Prose: The book is well researched and boasts clear, skillfully crafted, sometimes philosophical, and thoroughly enjoyable prose.

    Originality: This is a historical adventure in the tradition of Patrick O'Brian that is nonetheless fresh and original.

    Character Development: The characters are vivid, consistent, and varied. Female characters are as multi-dimensional as their male counterparts. Character interactions are authentic and interesting.

    Blurb: A fast-paced, skillfully told, and thoughtful adventure. Fans of Patrick O'Brian will be delighted.

  • Adjusting The Rear View

    by Hilari Cohen

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: A dead husband, two longtime friends, and a road trip to visit their past. It’s an intriguing combination. What could possibly go wrong?

    Prose: Although some of the dialogue could benefit from fewer adverbs, the prose is strong and true to the characters.

    Originality: Although road-trip stories are part of our culture and our literature, this one offers a narrative that moves both forward and backward—in search of the past.

    Character Development: By the time the book ends, the characters have developed, changed, and faced each other and the truth. This is a compelling, honest, and enjoyable book about two friends who confront their pasts and are changed by what they discover.

    Blurb: Readers of women's fiction will appreciate and relate to this novel of missed (and second) chances. 

  • One-Two

    by Igor Eliseev

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Thought provoking and well-executed; characters are truly in turmoil and a metaphor for the human condition. The reader is left a little heartbroken yet hopeful at the end.

    Prose: Fluid and well-crafted prose. The reader will find herself rereading sentences and reflecting on her own life; the writer has a knack for finding just the right words.

    Originality: The novel feels fresh and new. Conjoined twins named Hope and Faith – when there is none – is worth contemplating.

    Character Development: The reader sympathizes with the weak and hopeful and criticizes those that cause harm. The characters are true to life and walk among us.

    Blurb: Thought provoking -- book clubs will rejoice!

  • Cities of the Common Man

    by Ben Hasskamp

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This entertaining novel moves along at a good clip and is well structured. The beginning is often funny, with the main character finding himself in some awkward predicaments. However, after he leaves his family, the story loses its comedic flair and becomes more serious. The author may want to consider keeping the humor consistent throughout.

    Prose: The writing here is straightforward and easy to follow. Dialogue flows well as characters interact. Awkward situations are conveyed to the reader skillfully.

    Originality: This is a cleverly spun tale that includes a collectible out of the 1985 film Back to the Future, which is used to visit friends from the past.

    Character Development: The novel features strong, consistent characters attempting to find their fate; readers will recognize these people in their daily lives. The author has done a good job of focusing in on the main character as he interacts with others.

  • Parliament of Rooks: Haunting Brontë Country

    by Karen Perkins

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: The plot moves at a good clip, most notably due to the elements of supernatural suspense and the presence of melodramatic ghosts from England's past. The suspense ratchets up as the ghosts slowly become a reality and the reason for their being comes to light.

    Prose: Smooth, detailed prose make reading a pleasure, while vividly evocative writing places each alternating chapter firmly within the confines of its respective era.

    Originality: Lush and atmospheric, this novel is dark and moody with supernatural elements and accurate historical details. There are also elements of superstition, which will entice readers of horror and mystical suspense. Combining 1800s Haworth and present-day Britain makes for a wonderful mix of historical and contemporary within the context of this ghost story.

    Character Development: The characters are distinct and each one has quirks and tendencies that make him or her stand out within the narrative. As the ghosts of the past begin to make themselves known to the characters, they begin to show cracks in their resolve to stay strong. The author is talented at keeping both past and present characters authentic and accurate to their their eras.