SciFi / Fantasy / Horror
by Jerry Jay Carroll
Plot: The Horror Writer offers a highly original plot that keeps the reader intrigued and invested. The author reveals details little by little, building up to a tense and riveting conclusion.
Prose: Carroll is a superb writer, with a clear gift for not only prose but for plotting, pacing, and characterization.
Originality: The author offers up an inventive, unique story that, like the best plots in the horror genre, makes the impossible seem plausible and allows the reader to suspend disbelief.
Character Development: Carroll's characters are masterfully created, warts and all. As a result, his protagonist, Thom Hearn, is a living, breathing being with qualities and personality traits that readers will immediately associate with someone they know.
Blurb: With a gripping narrative that will hook the reader from the very first page, this haunting story is the stuff nightmares are made of.
by D.L. Orton
Plot: This is a well plotted novel. Shannon’s forced marriage and escape from her kidnappers was an attention grabber. Diego encountering and reacting to alternate versions of his wife and daughter was also compelling. However, the story felt rushed near the end when, as if the author was trying to wrap everything up.
Prose: The writing flowed very well and the movement between the characters’ POVs from chapter to chapter was smooth.
Originality: A virus that wipes out most of humankind, a time traveler whose blood may contain a vaccine, and the threat of the biodome malfunctioning provide for a unique story.
Character Development: Shannon’s and Diego’s situations and their desires reflect how their characters can change and adapt to events, giving them a realistic feel. Unfortunately, Lani’s main focus for the majority of the novel is wishing for Shannon’s return, giving her character little depth.
by Rosemary A Johns
Plot: The well constructed novel is filled with adventure and intrigue—and a side of romance that does not overwhelm the plot.
Prose: The narrative voice is strong, engaging, appropriate to the material, and one of the book's greatest strengths.
Originality: While not breaking new ground, Johns's novel is set apart from others in the genre by an engaging narrative voice that grabs readers and doesn't let go.
Character Development: The characters here are well developed and compelling. Johns's vampires learn hard lessons that leave them better prepared for dangers to come.
by Lee Baldwin
Plot: The plot of Baldwin’s novel zips along until Anna Lewis descends into the archeological dig pit in Colombia -- to this point the reader has inferred much about Anna and her world without spoon-fed explanations from the author. The pot slows considerably once Anna rides the wormhole to the realm of Thiele, where info-dumps await. Still, the book retains enough momentum to propel the reader to the end.
Prose: Baldwin’s prose is punchy and laced with wit, especially in the edgy banter between feisty Anna and antagonists Gonzalo Sandoval and Carl Mumford. Even when characters are discussing scientific and technological information at length, their language is streamlined enough to provide details without overwhelming the reader with jargon.
Originality: The idea of an ancient extraterrestrial race that over millions of years has seeded the stars with colonies that believe they are alone in the universe is not new in science fiction. But, Baldwin deploys interesting variations on the theme through Anna’s encounters with the Cuz of Thiele, and the aliens' ambition to improve Anna and the millions of others they have abducted so that they can return to Earth and rehabilitate it.
Character Development: The main characters in Baldwin’s novel are well developed and hit all of the right notes: Anna is appealingly feisty in her interactions with her male colleagues and appropriately wary of the professed beneficence of the Cuz of Thiele; Carl Mumford, Anna’s main antagonist, reveals schemes and motives for his behavior toward her; and Gonzalo Sandoval, who at first seems as sinister as Mumford, shows a refreshing capacity for change when he learns the true story about what behind the archeological dig.
by Greg Mongrain
Plot: Mongrain takes what could have been a series of disastrously clichéd tropes and weaves them together into an entertaining and thrilling fantasy that manages to be dark and lighthearted in good balance.
Prose: The book moved at just the right clip, the dialogue was usually crisp, and the prose (both at sentence level and overall) hit its targets.
Originality: While no single element of the book was particularly unique, they were thrown together in an interesting and entertaining way: the immortal with the vampire lover, hunting a ritualistic killer, getting help from police and spectral dogs, and so on.
Character Development: With just slight nudges away from cliché and towards depth, Mongrain makes human even the non-human characters, giving them souls both metaphorically and, in the case of the vampires, literally. They are at their best and develop the most when their weaknesses and preconceptions are severely challenged.
Blurb: An enticing mash-up of immortals, vampires, dark magic, and hard-nosed police officers (who don't believe in immortals, vampires, or dark magic—yet) results in that most spectral of creatures: a fun thriller.
by Josen Llave
Plot: This novel is a fun, fast paced page-turner with lots of action.
Prose: The writing is succinct and moves along at a quick pace, which lends itself to the near constant action the book provides. The author describes the environments and the action vividly without allowing the narrative momentum to get bogged down by too many unnecessary details.
Originality: The novel is heavily influenced by video game conventions—and this works in its favor. The author assumes little, and relies on the brisk and detailed writing to build a universe that features elements that will be familiar to many while at the same time wholly original.
Character Development: Paul Benedict is both an action hero and a family man. In a lesser book this might make for a laborious dichotomy, but here it greatly supports the motivation of the protagonist. AI Siren is handled well and given enough humanity to be a strong supporting character. Some other characters, such as evil Shadow and benevolent Kaiser, can occasionally feel more like types than fleshed-out characters with their own motivations—but this does not detract from the book.
Blurb: An adrenaline-fueled thrill ride seasoned with a hint of family values that will satisfy action junkies and video gamers alike.
by Alan Joshua
Plot: The book is well plotted, but it takes a while for the story to really get going.
Prose: The prose here is excellent. The language is crisp, the dialogue almost wholly individual to each character, and the storyline full of thrilling moments.
Originality: The combination of science fiction, paranormal, and mythology is intriguing, but the elements often had trouble coalescing early on. Still, when everything finally does come together, the mashup works well.
Character Development: The characterization is superb, with dialogue distinct enough that a reader might pick out who is speaking without tags. The characters themselves, rigid or flexible to start, were all believably transformed by the book's end.
by D.L. Orton
Plot: This second book in the Between Two Evils series features an intriguing opening with Diego dropped into the wrong place and wrong time. After that, the narrative pace slows as he recovers from his injuries. Still, fans of the series will stick around to see what happens next.
Prose: Orton's writing is excellent both overall and at sentence level. The novel flows in a conversational way, and the dialogue is realistic. From a stylistic perspective the book is a page-turner.
Originality: There are numerous hints at deeper waters and a broader world, but readers ultimately see little of what is beyond Diego’s recovery room for much of the book. While the characters shine through, much of the novel adheres to a standard post-apocalypse formula with only those hints staking out unique territory.
Character Development: The characters are far and away the highlight of the book, primarily Lani, with her tortured past, and brilliant young Shannon’s attempts to see the best of her world and find a way to return humans and animals to the outside world.