Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Review of

The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard

4star.jpg General Fiction

Life should have been good for Emily. She had a lovely husband, Steven, who was a speech therapist. We'll pass over the fact that they rarely speak to each other and don't even sleep in the same bed. It isn't so much that Emily has left the marital bed as that she's sharing a bed with one of her children as it's the only way to get him to sleep during the night. Arthur and Matty are gorgeous but they are a handful and Emily has a job to cope with too - she teaches drama two days a week. They've not long moved into a new home in Criterion Gardens: it's a trendy area that has been gentrified and it's run on semi-communal lines. The residents even share eco-friendly electric cars rather than owning their own. Full Review

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Review of

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech

4star.jpg General Fiction

Veronica is a devoted single mother to her son, Sebastian - but she can't give him everything he wants. Sebastian has decided that it's time for him to have sex. But as an autistic 20 year-old, that's easier said than done. And it's starting to cause them both problems. Full Review

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Review of

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi

4star.jpg General Fiction

At not even 200 pages, Eve Out of Her Ruins is one of the shortest books I've read in a long while, but it's one of the most dramatic. It's also told in a way that I can only describe as brutal: it spares nothing and pulls very few punches, the descriptions stark and unromantic. Full Review

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Review of

Widowland by C J Carey

4star.jpg General Fiction

It's April 1953, and Adolf Hitler's schedule includes going to Moscow to attend the state funeral of Joseph Stalin then within weeks coming to London, parading around a bit, and watching over the sanctioned return to the throne of Edward VIII with his wife, Queen Wallis. For yes, Britain caved in the lead-up to the World War Two that certainly didn't happen as we know it, and we are now a protectorate – well, we share enough of the same blood as the Germanic peoples on the mainland. But this is most certainly a different Britain, for Nazi-styled phrenology, and ideas of female purpose, has put all of that gender into a caste system, ranging from high-brow office bigwigs to the drudges, and beyond those, right on down to the childless, the husbandless and the widows. Female literacy is actively discouraged. And in this puritanical existence, our heroine, Rose Ransom, is employed with the task of bowdlerising classical literature to take all encouragement for female emancipation out of it – after all, not every book can be banned, and not every story excised immediately from British civilisation, and so they just get a hefty tweak towards the party line before they're stamped ready for reprint. That is her job, at least, until the first emerging signs of female protest come to light, with their potential to spoil Hitler's visit. Full Review

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Review of

Dog Days by Ericka Waller

5star.jpg General Fiction

George Dempsey is exceedingly angry. It's eight days since his wife, Ellen, died and it's the first time that she's let him down. He's lost, bereft without her ( he needs his wife, like a snail needs its shell). He misses their ordered life and rather than bringing him meals to leave on the doorstep, he'd much rather have a good row with someone. He's particularly angry about the dachshund puppy which Helen brought home just three weeks before she died. She even dared to contradict him when he told her that the dog wasn't staying. Now he's lumbered with a dog he doesn't want and a load of busybodies who are trying to interfere in his life. Worst of all is Betty, who won't take no for an answer. Betty knits jumpers for Lucky, her greyhound. Lucky spends a lot of time trying to escape from and destroy them. Full Review

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Review of

The Primary Objective by Martin Venning

2star.jpg General Fiction

Sometimes a book starts off slowly, but eventually draws you in to caring about the characters or simply wanting to know what happens next. Sometimes it doesn't. The basic premise is a good one – a clandestine organisation, operating as a charity, but funded by various governments around the world and partially (maybe, I'm not sure) under the auspices of the UN, with the primary objective of keeping the peace, by any means possible. Diplomacy is always the first option and sometimes one that needs to be carried out by third parties, but for situations when that looks unlikely to yield results Peace International maintains a call-on list of field operatives, ex-military, medics, scientists or anyone else with a taste for adventure and willing to risk their life for the sake of it. Full Review

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Review of

The Cousins by Karen M McManus

5star.jpg General Fiction

The rich and famous Story family led a life of luxury on Gull Cove Island, until 25 years ago when each of the Story children - Anders, Archer, Adam and Allison - received a mysterious letter from their mother and were cut off completely. But now, a quarter of a century later, their children have been called to return to the island for the summer by their grandmother. What does she want with the cousins? Why did she cut off her children all those years ago? Are the deaths on Gull Cove Island really what they seem? The dark web of twisted lies, secrets and tragedy that has held the Story family up - and held them apart - for a quarter of a century is about to come crashing down. Full Review

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Review of

Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

This book lets us discover several people in different stages of life in the early 1970s, all vaguely connected. So we have a bullied half-cast boy (as he would have been called then), a girl in a humdrum job wanting to become a singer, and chiefly, Imelda, the third generation of Madame Burova, Tarot-Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant, to use her family's sea-front booth. The singer, the scryer and the sufferer's mother will all become staff at a revamped holiday camp, but just before then we see Imelda fly solo for the first time in the family stall. We also see her on her last day, fifty years later, in possession of a pair of letters that will change everything for a woman called Billie. Just who is she, and who delivered the secrets about her to Imelda, and why did it have to remain a secret all this time? Full Review

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Review of

The Spy Who Inspired Me by Stephen Clarke

4star.jpg General Fiction

This is a spoof spy story, that isn't about James Bond. Or Ian Fleming. But it features a man called Ian Lemming, who dresses well and 'likes the ladies' and who works for the secret service, but in the planning side of things more than the active service. Lemming finds himself put on a mission with a female spy called Margaux, and the pair end up stranded in Normandy, with Margaux on a desperate mission to unearth traitors in the resistance network, and Lemming desperately trying to keep up with her! Full Review

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Review of

If You Kept a Record of Sins by Andrea Bajani and Elizabeth Harris (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This was an incredibly readable novella, but one that left me a little conflicted. We start as our hero arrives at Bucharest airport, and before we even know his gender or the nature of the person he's addressing in his second person monologue of a narration, we see him picked up by his mother's chauffeur, and carted off to do all the necessary introductions before said mother is buried the following day. The mother was a businesswoman, who clearly left northern Italy and settled in Romania with her (night-time and business) partner, and feelings of abandonment are still strong. And so we flit from current (well, this came out in the original Italian in 2007, so moderately current) Bucharest, to the lad's childhood, and see just what he has to tell her as a private farewell address. Full Review

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Review of

There's Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Years ago, Danny Garvey was a footballing prodigy playing for his local club. Everyone predicted a bright future – but his career in professional football never quite worked out. Thirteen years on, convinced to return home by his "uncle" Higgy to visit his dying mother, Danny takes over the shambolic and once-great team he used to play for and tries to reform them. Full Review

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Review of

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Eleanor Oliphant is almost 30. She lives in Glasgow, alone. And she likes it that way. She works 9-5, 5 days a week, and spends the weekend not drunk, but not sober. alone. And she likes it that way. She lives by a routine, and that's fine, thankyouverymuch. Nothing is missing from her life. Except everything is. Until one day, at a concert she won tickets for in an office raffle, she sees the man she is sure will be her husband. Eleanor begins a journey to make herself the best version of herself that she can, in order to secure this beautiful musician. Then, as she's on her way home one Friday, she and the new IT guy at her office see a man collapse in the street and stay close to him in hospital. Then, before she knows it, her once quiet life becomes a hubbub of social engagements with the man's family and friends, with Raymond from IT and of course her side project of falling in love with Johnnie Lomond. But just as her life seems to be looking up, things take a turn for the worse. Is Johnnie all he's cracked up to be? What secrets does Eleanor have from her childhood? Eleanor's walls have been broken down and she has to fight her way out of the shadows - but maybe she doesn't have to do it alone. Full Review

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Review of

The Karma Trap by Lisette Boyd

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

George Jackson is thirty-three years old, absolutely gorgeous to look at - and single. She's not had sex for eight months and she's stuck in the karma trap: an awful lot of bad luck is being visited on her and she has a real talent for attracting drama. Her life's chaotic: she dealt with the leak from the shower by putting something down at the bottom of the stairs to absorb the water - then the shower fell through the roof whilst she was in it and left her, stark naked, staring at the pervy postman. She only has to take her mother's dog out for a walk for her to end up with dog poo spattered across her face - and a photo being taken by someone who shares it around the office. Full Review

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Review of

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

5star.jpg General Fiction

Between life and death there is a library. And so, 38 minutes after Nora decided to die, she finds herself in the Midnight Library. Everything that could've gone wrong in Nora's life has. Her cat died, she lost her job, her brother won't speak to her, her parents are dead, the boy she teaches piano to no longer cares about piano, she called off her wedding, and old Mr Banerjee next door no longer needs her help. She gave up on all the things that would've let her escape the wet, cold town of Bedford and given her life some purposeful direction. So at 23:22, she realises that she isn't made for life and decides to die. But instead of death, she finds the library. Each infinite shelf is filled with books, each book providing a chance to try another life she could have lived, in a parallel time. And so, just after midnight on Tuesday the 18th of April, Nora Seed begins to live every life she could've. Full Review

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Review of

These Thy Gifts by Vincent Panettiere

4star.jpg General Fiction

2006 is a tumultuous year for the Catholic Church. Reports of horrific sexual abuse are becoming widespread. Monsignor Steven Trimboli is troubled. He worries for the future of the church—and rightly so. A new crime will soon reverberate throughout his church and hit closer to home than he ever imagined.

As ageing priest Steve Trimboli begins to try to make sense of the child sexual abuse scandal that is rocking his beloved Catholic church, he discovers that one child in his own parish has been abused by a priest sent by his bishop. And this isn't just any boy: this is Steve's grandson whose mother is the offspring of a long past relationship between Steve and a gangster's widow. Steve is determined to seek justice for this boy and all children victimised by priests who have been protected by his church. But he must also face up to his own failings, going right back to his breaking of the celibacy vows. Full Review

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Review of

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5star.jpg General Fiction

In 1952, Kya's mother disappeared up the dirt track to town, wearing her alligator heels, and never came home. Then one by one her siblings left, ran from the shack on the North Carolina marsh that served as home and the life that would lead to nothing but suffering, leaving 7-year-old Kya with her drunken father. Years pass and Kya - now nicknamed 'Marsh-Girl' – still yearns for a mother that would never return and grew up far too fast for a girl who can neither read nor write. Finally, one night her father never came home leaving Kya completely alone to survive on the marsh. Eventually, as the years drift painfully by, the time comes when Kya, now an emotional and vastly intelligent young woman, yearns for company besides the gulls and the land, yearning to be loved and to be held. So, when 2 boys from the town of Barkley Cove find their way to her, she finds a new way of life. But in 1969, the body of former star quarterback and new husband Chase Andrews is found lying in the mud of the marsh, and everyone in town immediately suspects the mysterious, run-down Marsh-Girl. Who is Kya now, after years of isolation and a broken, hardened heart? Is she really capable of murder? Full Review

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Review of

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

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Dawn Edelstein is a death doula: that's someone who is there for the person who is dying, to make their passage to whatever they believe in as easy as possible and to support their carers. It's a rewarding, caring occupation and Dawn puts her heart and soul into it but this wasn't always her life. Some fifteen years ago she was a graduate student at Yale working towards her doctorate: as an Egyptologist, she was working with her supervisor, Professor Ian Dumphries, on the Djehutyakht tombs at Deir el-Bersha on the Nile in Middle Egypt. Then she was Dawn McDowell: that was her maiden name, the name she published under. Full Review

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Review of

Trio by William Boyd

5star.jpg General Fiction

It was 1968: the year when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. It's also the year when YSK Films are making a movie in Brighton. It's called Emily Bracegirdle's Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon, or Ladder the Moon as it's known on set. Anny Viklund is the female star in a production which is proving to be just a little bit rackety. There are odd pressures on the producer, Talbot Kydd, to employ this old actor friend for a couple of days because he needs the money, allow a fading star to use his catchphrase, or include a song from the leading man, whose musical star is fading. Full Review

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Review of

Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno

2star.jpg General Fiction

Some books either grab you or bore you. And this was one that I wanted so badly to like but unfortunately, I just wasn't hooked. Full Review

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Review of

Jamie's Keepsake by Michael Gallagher

4.5star.jpg Teens

When we first meet Alex Hannah, he's just being released from the Southern General Hospital. The nurse thinks he'll come back to visit the other patients but Alex has no intention of doing that: he's been there for a year, on the same ward where his brother died and now, with his hair all shorn off, he's going home in his dead brother's clothes. He wants to get outside and back with his friends: his brother, Forbes, says that the fresh air will do him good and his mother tells him that he's not to mention TB and to say it was tonsillitis. Good luck with that one, Alex. Full Review

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Review of

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Faye lost her mum when she was very young. She was raised by some elderly neighbours after her mum died from a cold that got worse, and although they were kind and very good to her she of course missed her mum enormously. So when, unexpectedly, she discovers a time travel conduit (via an old space hopper box in her attic) that takes her back to the 70's and her mum, she revels in the chance to create some memories and get to know the woman who meant so much to her. The time travelling, however, is neither easy nor safe, and Faye fears that her husband won't believe what's happening and so lies to him instead. The lies grow more tangled, and Faye begins to wonder if it's safe for her to return one last time to the past. Should she try to see her mum one last time before her mum's death, or will it change her own future forever to attempt it? Full Review

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