Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Review of

Partitions of Unity by Jennifer Mason

4star.jpg General Fiction

Here at Bookbag Towers, we first met Elizabeth Cromwell, dominatrix and unintentional detective in Preposterous, when she investigated and unravelled a series of disappearances. In Partitions of Unity, she sets her mind to solving a murder.... Full Review

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Review of

The Daves Next Door by Will Carver

4star.jpg General Fiction

Five strangers come together in one moment as a suicide bomber prepares to detonate his vest on a London tube line. As their fates overlap, the story is told in backwards order, leading up to the fateful moment. Full Review

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Review of

Preposterous: An Elizabeth Cromwell Mystery by Jennifer Mason

4star.jpg General Fiction

A struggling poetry zine, a mom-and-pop mobile diner in the Northern California redwoods, a 400-meter hurdler who just missed the 2004 Olympics, a women's track coach with a yen for bullwhips, a billionaire with a state-of-the-art S&M dungeon, a man serving a life sentence in Alabama, an enigmatic signature, K(s, x), on a cheap oil painting, an erotic art dealer in Georgia...

This is just a sample of the cast of characters and settings in Preposterous. As you can see, some keeping up will be required! The basic premise of this mystery story goes like this... Full Review

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Review of

The Calculations of Rational Men by Daniel Godfrey

5star.jpg General Fiction

It's the 10th of December 1962 when we first meet Dr Joseph Marr. Just to put what happens in context, the Cuban missile crisis is still very fresh in people's minds. The world has barely had a chance to breathe out. But for Joe Marr, it's not the missile crisis that's at the front of his mind. He's been convicted of murder. With the current state of medical knowledge, it's hard to think otherwise than that the prosecution would never have been brought but Joe Marr has spent his first few days in HMP Queen's Bench, a relatively new prison. He's just getting used to his roommate, Mervyn, and learning to be wary of the McArthur brothers. Full Review

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Review of

Hooked by A C Wise

4star.jpg General Fiction

It’s been twenty two years since Captain Hook, now going by just ‘James’, has been in Neverland. Living a new life in London, he has never completely escaped his past. But now he senses the edges of the beast circling around his life in London, and when suddenly he finds himself face to face in the street with Wendy, he knows that the line between this world and Neverland is growing thin. The beast is finally coming to get him, and in the process will pull Wendy and her daughter Jane back into their past once again. Full Review

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Review of

Greetings, aliens!: (do pop in for tea) by Richard F Walker

4star.jpg General Fiction

Anything can happen at a birthday party, particularly when the birthday boy is the young Lord of the Manor. But when an eerie signal is picked up in the early hours, George and his new girlfriend, the vivacious Lady Antonia, embark on a quest to uncover its incredible message. Things get complicated when some total spoilsport lets the cat out of the bag and the world goes into a state of panic.

Could it be? Could it? Have aliens reached out and contacted Earth? George and Antonia find themselves lifted out of their privileged lives of parties and drunken shenanigans and catapulted into the world of advanced science, secret agents.and politicians hungry for power. Full Review

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Review of

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

When we first meet Meredith Maggs it's Wednesday 14 November 2018 and she's not left her home for 1,214 days. She'd like to: in fact, she so nearly does. Her outdoor clothes are on and she's even considered which shoes to wear if she's going to catch her train. Then, she can't. She simply can't force herself to leave the safety of her home. She's fortunate that she has a good friend, Sadie, who visits regularly with her two children, James and Matilda. Sadie's a cardiac nurse and full of sound common sense. In fact it was Sadie who gave Meredith her cat, Fred. Groceries are online deliveries and there's also an internet-based support group where you'll find Meredith as JIGSAWGIRL, so you can guess what she does in her spare time. Then Tom McDermott arrives. He's from Holding Hands, a charity which supports people with problems such as Meredith's. Full Review

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Review of

Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz and Rachel Ward (translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Sally is a teenager who has run away from an anorexia treatment clinic. She just wants space, and for people to stop questioning her, tiptoeing around her, and trying to fix her without ever truly understanding her. She finds herself on some farmland with a woman called Liss who is in her forties and seems to live alone. Liss is unlike any other adult Sally has ever met. She just accepts Sally as she is, giving her a room to sleep in, and the space to just be. As they work together on the farm, a closeness develops between them, becoming a beautiful, powerful friendship. Full Review

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Review of

Me and My Shadow by Deborah Stone

4star.jpg General Fiction

What happens when someone is pushed too far and they begin to lose their grip on reality? How would you cope if you felt that no one loved you? And how far would you go to be happy? Accompany Rachel as she tries to shake off the shadows of her past and attempts to repair decades worth of pain.

Rachel is in a current conversation with her psychiatrist, who pushes her to recall her life from very young childhood onwards. But Rachel is combative with Doctor Blake, sometimes even contemptuous of her. You can see that it's not an easy therapeutic relationship. Rachel's recall of her life is in remarkable detail. She remembers each minor slight and each major betrayal in perfect detail with absolute and unforgiving clarity. Full Review

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Review of

The Woke Iliad by George Boreas

4star.jpg General Fiction

Helen is a popular activist. Or should we call her a popular influencer? Or perhaps a popular franchise owner? Anyway, Helen is so popular that the United States government has made her its Ambassador of Woke. Helen runs all sorts of initiatives on behalf of the government, including the Shaming Conference and the Permissible Entertainment Committee - for indoctrinating and legislating against summer fun for any who still knew how to have it. Ouch! Full Review

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Review of

Other Parents by Sarah Stovell

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Jo Fairburn knew that she was under intense pressure as the new head of West Burntridge First School: if she didn't live up to her retired predecessor there could well be a house price slump in that part of the town. The school had an active Parent Teacher Association and the funds which they raised were a considerable benefit to the school. There was one difficulty, though - they were devastatingly shockable, with two members, in particular, causing problems for the head. Laura Spence and Kate Monroe objected to Jo's restrictions on the toys children could bring in on Toy Day but that was just a warm-up act for their real gripe: LGBTQ education. Full Review

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Review of

Walking on Sunshine by Giovanna Fletcher

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Mike's wife, Pia, who he was with for seventeen years, has died. And whilst he is dealing with his grief, so are their best friends, Vicky and Zaza. But Pia left them all some 'rules' to follow, knowing that she was dying and that they would need help to carry on living. Whilst some of the rules are around practicalities such as clearing out her wardrobe, another one that Mike discovers one day encourages him to take one of their trips away, and Vicky and Zaza, struggling with their grief and their own life troubles, decide to drop everything in their own lives, and go along with him. Full Review

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Review of

Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, Le Sonneur and Jane Aitken (translator)

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Antoine Laurain books have always been black and white and read in my house. And so was this one, although I could have spelled that more accurately – this one was, and is, black and white and red. Yes, he has an artistic collaborator on this piece, and I think it's possible to say not one page lacks the influence of some striking visual ideas. Full Review

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Review of

The Chef, the Bird and the Blessing by Andrew Sharp

4star.jpg General Fiction

Chef Mlantushi - Mozzy to his employer - is, in his mind, the head chef of a safari business catering to VIP guests in an unnamed African country. Mozzy is earnest and dedicated to his task and he puts all of himself into creating fine cuisine dishes for the guests at BOD-W safaris but his dream is to become the head chef of a restaurant in London or a big American city. Even to win a Michelin star. He is thwarted in this ambition by his boss, Mr Bin (Ben to you and me) who incurs Mozzy's disapproval for his scruffy ways, his uninterest in his guests and - shock, horror - his allowing of bush animals into the house. Full Review

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Review of

There's a Problem With Dad by Carlos Alba

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Life is different for George Lovelace and he can't really understand why. He's always done everything he ought to: steady worker, husband and father - and a father who was always there for school plays and sports days. So why is he never quite in tune with those around him? Why does he upset people? Why is someone with such a good mind unable to progress at work or to relate to his colleagues? Why does he make so many breath-taking gaffes? It's almost become a cliche these days to suggest that someone who is a little different is 'on the spectrum', but George Lovelace has all the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome: high-functioning autism. Full Review

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Review of

The Last Library by Freya Sampson

4star.jpg General Fiction

I am always a little nervous to start a story about a library, since I am a librarian. I always grit my teeth slightly at the thought of the incoming cardigan-wearing, hair in a bun, cat-owning, glasses on a chain stereotypes! In this story, the main character, June, does put her hair in a bun, and she does own a cat (called Alan Bennett), and she has barely any friends and spends her evenings eating the same Chinese takeaway meal once a week whilst reading books alone! But I didn't immediately throw the book out of the window, because I found I was interested in June, and why she lived as she did. Her mum used to be a librarian at the village library, but when she got sick, June gave up on going to University and stayed at home to take care of her mum, as well as taking on a job as library assistant at the local library. And even though her mum sadly died some years ago, she is still working there, still eating her mum's favourite takeaway meal, and still reading her mum's old books. June is stuck, but little does she know, everything in her life is about the change. Full Review

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Review of

The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers by Emily Critchley

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The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers had all the hallmarks of something good. I was intrigued by the plot, liked the design of the book, and thought the author's work sounded interesting. From the outset it all looked incredibly promising. So what on earth went wrong here? Full Review

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Review of

Cape Henry House by Jolly Walker Bittick

4star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Bosner, or, to give him his full title, Petty Officer Third Class Bosner. We never really find out if he has a first name: there's merely a hint that he had the nickname 'Secretary' at one point. He's simply Bosner to one and all. When we first encounter him he's exploring his memories of 2008 when he was a greaser on helicopters (or helos, as they were called) at a naval establishment. The hours could be long and he was often working nights but at the age of twenty-one, there was always a way to work some fun (think drinking and eating) into his day. Full Review

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Review of

Autumn Camp by Barry Fowler

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

It was to be Brian's last camp. He'd founded the organisation some four years ago and had done all the organisation since but he was leaving school and the time had come to hand the reins to someone else. The obvious person was Gary, who'd always been the fun element of the camps and Brian had said that on this camp, Gary should act as the leader and he'd just be there to observe. The problem with this was that Gary wasn't really an organiser, an administrator if you like. He was the entertainer, the person who basked in the spotlight and made things fun - so Brian stepped in and did the organising. He handed the camp over - and then took it back. And Gary determined to have his revenge. This should have been his camp. Full Review

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Review of

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

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Meet George Cleverley. He is self-defined as "one of the few television personalities over the age of fifty without a criminal record". He starts this book a bit worried when his mistress tells him she's carrying his child, but then his author wife is getting her kicks with the Ukrainian partner "Strictly Come Dancing" paired her with. They have three children, who are a sad-sack with absolutely no social skills whatsoever, a girl who hangs around with a virtue-signalling, keyboard warrior "wokester" who wants to save the world's homeless with out-of-date food, and a fit young lad doing the gay hustle thing. Add in a few other characters – therapists, lawyers, random transgender types – that all have two very different connections to his life, and you have something that suggests an almost farcical approach to the modern world. What suggests the farcical approach even more, however, is the fact this is bloody funny. Full Review

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Review of

The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard

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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

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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

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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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