Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

4star.jpg General Fiction

This book is essentially a cautionary family tale of four brothers and the way they react to a prophecy about them by the local madman. It is also, in a sense, a coming-of-age story where Ben, the young narrator, is plunged into premature adulthood under the most brutal of circumstances. And it is about brotherly love. None of these descriptions, however, convey the fact that this book is written by an exciting new voice in African literary fiction. Full review...

Ghosting by Jonathan Kemp

5star.jpg General Fiction

Grace Wellbeck is 64 - living on a canal boat in London with her second husband, she lives a relatively settled life of routine. A chance encounter with a man in the street changes everything though - a man who is the spitting image of her first, deceased husband. Is he a ghost? Is Grace going mad? Full review...

Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's New Year's Eve and the nightclub is pulsating with sound. The revellers heave and swell in oceanic waves and Jack is preparing to call it a night, when he is presented with Elsa. She is small; delicate and pretty and alluringly confident - a heady combination for a man like Jack - and though he wants, with every fibre of his being, to walk away, to go home and forget her, he doesn't. Full review...

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

4star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

Sixteen year old Lalla has spent her life in London – mostly inside her family home. Because this is not the London of today, or any other day. When Lalla was seven, the apocalypse arrived; banks crashed, flood defences failed, power failed – and the world could only focus on survival. Now the Nazareth Act is in force and without your identity card, you don’t exist – literally, as you will be shot if you don't produce it. Full review...

The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer

4star.jpg General Fiction

The Restoration of Otto Laird is an interesting concept for a story. It pitches an ageing architect against an ageing building that was built early in Otto's career. When Otto makes the trip from Switzerland to London to try and save Marlowe house from demolition, he takes an unwilling journey down his own past. Full review...

The Complex Chemistry of Loss by Ian Walthew

5star.jpg General Fiction

Deep in rural France James Kerr was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. His mental problems were deep and intractable. Superficially he seemed never to have got over the sudden death of his mother and sister when he was a child and after their death his relationship with his father had deteriorated because his father refused to speak of their loss. There were additional factors too: Kerr had spent some time in Afghanistan in a secret capacity. In fact much of his life since he went to university had involved putting up a front, but doing something else in the background. Full review...

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

5star.jpg General Fiction

Millie Bird keeps a notebook. She writes in it all of the Dead Things that she sees. Her Very First Dead Thing was her dog Rambo. Then there were other things a spider, a Bird… but then there was number 28. The twenty-eighth dead thing than Millie Bird noticed was her Dad. Full review...

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem

5star.jpg General Fiction

Rose Zimmer, a feisty American communist radical, takes on many good and great causes. These include everything from feminism and racism to the changing course of Stalinism in the American C.P. but most of all; her biggest causes are the people around her. The effects upon them are diverse and devastating. She often propels them to success but at the same time they feel battered and must escape according to their own needs. Her affections are real but invasive. Rose keeps a shrine to Abraham Lincoln. Rose’s self-assertion within the perimeters of the German-designed 20th Century New York suburb of Queens, a multi-cultural suburb and a planned housing development similar to Hampstead Garden City provide the setting for Jonathan Lethem’s Tour de Force. Full review...

The Virtuoso by Virginia Burges

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

The title character of The Virtuoso is Isabelle Bryant, a professional violinist who has earned the affectionate nickname of 'Beethoven's Babe'. She was the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and gave her first solo performance, of Beethoven's violin concerto, at Royal Albert Hall. 'Her violin represented another limb to her, it was that precious. It felt so natural, like an extension of her body.' It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the violin is Isabelle's life. Full review...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Every family has its tales which are told and retold and in the Whitshank family it was the story of how Abby and Red had fallen in love one beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon in July 1959. It would usually be told on the porch of the Baltimore house which Red's father had built, but on this final time of its telling the circumstances are different. Abby and Red are aging - even the glorious house is beginning to show its age - and decisions have to be made about how to look after them. All the family are there, even Denny, who can generally be relied on to do only what pleases him. Full review...

Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Yesterday, Sally was living in a rambling farmstead with her teenage daughter Gigi. Now Sally is dead, murdered, and Gigi is alone in the world. Full review...

Esperanza Street by Niyati Keni

5star.jpg General Fiction

Joseph's parents send him to work for Auntie Mary and her B&B business on Esperanza Street. Over the years there life for Joseph goes on the way it has for countless other youngsters from this Filipino town of Puerto. His mother may have died too young and Joseph only sees his father one day a week (and has to suffer church for part of that!) but there's a rhythm to the market outside and foreign visitors within Auntie Mary's walls that's familiar and comforting. It's a rhythm that's been there for generations but things change, sometimes with catastrophic results. Full review...

A Word Glittering with Spikes by Nigel McClea

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

We're going to follow the fortunes of two couples (or are they 'would-be couples' or 'might-have-been couples'?) as they navigate the treacherous waters of love. David Castledine's first meeting with Jenny could hardly have been less auspicious: he hit her. He didn't actually mean to hit her but he threw a stick for his aunt's dog to chase and it caught her on the head. Head wounds bleed profusely and this one was no exception, so David had to take her back to his aunt's apartment to clean her up. I suppose there have been worse meetings, but it's difficult to think of one! Full review...

Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator)

4star.jpg Confident Readers

What little I know of Patrick Modiano was gained from the number of 'no, we've never heard of him, either' articles and summaries that came our way when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the end of 2014. They suggested his oeuvre was mature, slightly thriller-based but not exclusively so, and asked lots of accumulative questions regarding identity with regard to the Vichy government during WWII. Identity is a lot more fixed in this musing little piece, for the adult voice-over looks back over a wide remove, and says there will always be a little bit of her living the events and situations of the book. Those situations are of a young dance-school attendee, and her loving and much-loved father, living a cosy life in Paris – even if the girl never once really works out what it is her father does for a living… Full review...

A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

The castle of Delzean's walls have always protected Emperor Eli, his sons, sister, niece and nephew from the ravages and poverty of the people in the city beyond. However the days may be numbered as a burgeoning revolution has infiltrated its walls thanks to the rebel movement known as The Eyes. Their plan necessitates the unwitting involvement of the spoilt, egotistical aforementioned niece, Princess Ava. Unfortunately there will be collateral damage with tragic effects. Full review...

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

4star.jpg General Fiction

Battle-weary and suffering from PTSD, 40-year-old Sergeant Lester Ferris is posted to the island of Mancreu to mark time till his retirement. With no family of his own, Lester takes a local lad under his wing; an adolescent who lives his own life through comic books and superheroes in the hope that he can be adopted. Despite Mancreu beginning to churn with more than its customary black marketeering, Lester realises that he has a job on his hands, not only to take care of an island that sees him as a government puppet but also convince someone that he is the stuff of heroism and to convince himself while he's at it. Full review...

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

4star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

The Age of Miracles was one of those much-talked about books that I never got the time to read on its first go around. I'm not sure how I managed that, but I did. Anyway, it got debut author Thompson Walker a seven figure deal after a bidding war and it has dystopian themes, so it is right up my alley and not the sort of thing I'd usually miss. And so, I was happy that Simon & Schuster decided to reissue it for a YA market and even happier that they decided to send me a copy. Full review...

The Seventh Simian by Gary Kurylo

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Edith has lived alone for many years and she has become irascible and rather anti-social. She avoids even going into the nearby village to do her shopping and the only human being she sees with any regularity is the local shopkeeper who makes grocery deliveries to her and makes an art form of palming off the strange old lady with overpriced, underweight goods. If it weren't for her cat, Edith would have no companionship at all. Full review...

After the Storm by Jane Lythell

4star.jpg Thrillers

Rob and Anna are nearing the Honduras leg of their South American travels. Here they meet Kimberley and Owen, an American couple who charter out their own boat for sailing trips around the local islands. Rob persuades Anna it will be a fun way to end their holiday but Anna isn't so sure. There's something about Owen and Kimberley that makes her hesitant about being shut away on a boat at sea with them. Perhaps it's the way that he never sleeps or the mystery as to why there are no knives in the cutlery drawer. Rob thinks Anna's just overly imaginative, but time will tell. Full review...

We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Tom and Jack are 18 today. Not that they have much cause for celebration - stuck in a home for troubled children, they are constantly examined and questioned by doctors, when all they want is to be left alone to live life together. Full review...

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

4star.jpg Teens

Mare is a Red - a race kept in lives of poverty and servitude by the Silvers, a race with wealth and mutant powers that allow them to live lives of luxury. Learning to survive amongst the slum like conditions that the Reds inhabit, Mare is swiftly thrown into the world of the Silvers - one that proves to be more dangerous than she had ever imagined, with treachery, plots and deadly games lurking round every corner. Full review...

The Vanishing Moment by Margaret Wild

4star.jpg Teens

This book appealed to me on various grounds. It is teen fiction (and, joy of joys, devoid of werewolves and dystopia), it is by an Australian author (under-represented on UK shelves), and it involves parallel universes (tantalising philosophical what-ifs). I was intrigued to see if the author could live up to my expectations. Full review...

Silent Night by Jack Sheffield

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

I read a couple of Jack Sheffield’s books about five years ago, and enjoyed them very much. They were written in a similar style to those popularised by, for instance, James Herriot or Gervase Phinn, told mostly in the first person, describing the author’s first couple of years as Headmaster at a small village primary school in Yorkshire. The village of Ragley is fictional, as are most of the characters, but the incidents and situations encountered are based on the author’s experience. Full review...

Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Brother of Sleep tells the story of Elias Johannes Alder, a child born into a god forsaken village high in the Austrian Vorarlberg. He came into the world as a silent child, while his mother was screaming and the midwife wasn't really paying attention. It took a couple of loud intonations of the Te Deum from the neglectful nurse before he finally uttered a sound. Full review...

To The Edge of Shadows by Joanne Graham

4star.jpg General Fiction

Sarah awakes from a coma to find her world destroyed, a long lost aunt her only remaining family, and life as she knows it irrevocably changed forever. Moving to a new town and a new school, making new friends is the least of her challenges as she struggles to regain her physical and mental health following the accident. Full review...

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

4.5star.jpg Teens

This is Shyness is an unusual and brilliant story about Wolfboy and Wildgirl, two strangers who meet in a pub in the town of Shyness. The teenagers are drawn together, each adopting a different identity so for the night they can be anyone but themselves. Full review...

Loser's Corner by Antonin Varenne and Frank Wynne (translator)

4star.jpg Thrillers

Meet Georges Crozat. He's a policeman in Paris, who boxes on the side. After a bout that leads to an almost embarrassing victory, he is made two offers – one from a clearly corrupt man behind the scenes in the sport, who seems to offer a few thrown fights for Georges, then some kind of status as assistant – training, guiding, profiteering; the other comes from a man known always as the Pakistani (or an unkind abbreviation of that), who has a friend of a friend who wants someone to do an enemy a mischief with their fists. Georges doesn't take too long to choose the latter. In alternating chapters, however, we're in the 1950s, and a rookie to the forces, Pascal Verini, is being shipped out to Algeria to work on the civil war causing the republic to break away and become independent from France. Like Georges, he finds his situation one which also causes what may be misguided violence, even if he has a very different attitude to it. Full review...

See You In Paradise by J Robert Lennon

3star.jpg Short Stories

Lennon writes with a relaxed, easy style and his characters are instantly recognisable as people from everyday walks of life, without being in any way stereotypical. Many of the people in these stories are dealing with normal frustrations, and Lennon is cleverly detached enough not to make them individuals that you're obviously supposed to root for (the only exception is the industrialist in the eponymous tale, who is an archetypal capitalist fat cat). There are some very clever characterisations – in Weber’s Head, for example, the narrator is a flawed individual whose opinions of his housemate are gradually revealed to be unreliable and unfair. For me, the most unsettling story is No Life, because it portrays a decent couple at the mercy of people more powerful and influential than them. There is no supernatural or bizarre element at work here, just ordinary characters at the mercy of social power. Full review...