Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery

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At a quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon in August Rose disappeared - completely. It didn't look as though there had been a crime - there were no signs of violence and some of her clothes and a rucksack were missing. It was possible that she had simply gone of her own accord: she was beautiful, headstrong and just slightly wilful. Twenty years later her younger sister, Anna has still not come to terms with what happened and it's affecting her whole life. Her relationship with Martin is foundering and she can't make up her mind whether it's what she wants - or doesn't want, with probably a slight bias to the latter. Finally she decides that she must try and find Rose for herself. Full review...

The Ascendant by Alethea Crowe

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The Greek Gods never died - in fact, they are still very much on this planet, causing chaos and interfering with the lives of mortals, albeit on a much smaller scale than in their heyday. Whilst the front cover suggests a thriller much in the vein of The Da Vinci Code or something of its ilk, Alathea Crowe has created something with excellent characters and interesting prose. It's just a shame she didn't stick to the thriller aspect more, as I felt the book lost its hold on me fairly early on. Full review...

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith

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So, Fatty is from Fayetteville in Arkansas and he and his wife Betty do, it has to be said, err on the rather large side. At home in Fayetteville their size causes them no problems but when Betty books her Irish-American husband a trip to Ireland for his birthday the problems begin. Poor Fatty. It seems the calamities start from the beginning of their trip and they are both funny and painful to read at times. Just when you think things can't possibly get any worse for Fatty they do indeed get worse. And then worse again. And again! The escapades are so gently, lovingly written then I felt nothing but sympathy for poor Fatty. Full review...

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe

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What's that about treating an ending purely as another beginning? When the marriage of Elizabeth's parents ends, the foursome of Lizzie, her older (and wiser beyond her years) sister and kid brother and the mum move to a Leicestershire village to begin again. But things don't start swimmingly – the entire village seems to turn against them and maintain their outsider status. Thinking this down to the D-notice put on their parents (for divorce means a woman being unacceptably short of trustworthiness in the early 1970s) the girls put their efforts into match-making. Little do they realise the lack of options they face – and the life-changing events that arise when they witness a glimmer of success… Full review...

In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomas Gonzalez

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In the Beginning Was the Sea is the first novel written by Colombian author Tomas Gonzalez. It was written over 30 years ago but the work has only just been translated into English. It tells the story of J. and Elena, two intellectuals who have grown sick of their life of endless parties and highbrow conversations and have decided to move away from the mainland to set up a new life that focuses on nature and the purity of hard work and the elements. They bicker and alienate the locals, and neither of them is prepared for the brutal weather and the microscope that such surroundings put on their less-than-perfect relationship. Full review...

All Cut Up by Bruce Crowther

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Jimmy and his Mum were at the supermarket when she disappeared. He didn't immediately think that it was a problem - after all she was suffering from dementia and out of roughly the last hundred and fifty visits to GetItAll he'd lost his mother on thirty five of them. But - she wasn't usually gone for this long and then there was the nagging worry that she might have become the latest victim of the Acton Axeman - a serial killer who was targeting blond, slightly-plump women wearing green - a description which fitted Jimmy's Mum to a tee. Full review...

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

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A young teacher is kidnapped leaving her family distraught. Wealthy and influential, they call in the big guns to find their daughter, but is there more to the story, and indeed to the family, than meets the eye? Full review...

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

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Milo is 9 years old and slowly going blind. He lives with his Mum, his Gran and Hamlet the pet pig but not Dad. Milo's Dad lives in Abu Dhabi because Dad made The Tart pregnant. One day, once the emergency services go away, Mum breaks it to Milo that Gran can't live with them anymore and has to go into a home. It doesn't end there though. Milo is on a mission; he and Hamlet will bring Gran back. It's a bit of a difficult mission for a 9-year-old and pig to accomplish alone though so first he needs to convince at least one adult. Good luck Milo! Full review...

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

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Ajastashatru Oghash Rathod is an Indian fakir or an Indian conman, depending on your viewpoint. The day he decides to buy a new bed of nails he does what any of us would do: jumps on a plane from the Indian sub-continent to Paris with some misappropriated money in order to shop at Ikea. His nefarious means will only go so far, therefore he decides to sleep in the store overnight. What’s the problem? Ikea has bedrooms and everything. However, Ikea also has security which is how Ajatashatru gets to travel around Europe in a less than conventional way chased by a homicidal taxi driver. That's the sort of thing that could happen to anyone though, isn't it? Full review...

Without You by Saskia Sarginson

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Eva is 17 years old and missing following a sailing disaster. Most people presume she died at sea, but her sister Faith has, well, faith. And in fact, Eva is not dead, but she’s not safe either. Held captive on an island just off the coast, she is so near and yet so far from home, and with every day, week, month that passes, her desperation grows. Full review...

The Deaths by Mark Lawson

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In an idyllic enclave in Buckinghamshire, within spitting distance of Milton Keynes, there are four houses. You might even call them mansions, as they are not the sort of homes to which most people can aspire. But the residents are not most people - they are rich and the lives they lead are different. They're not the old aristocracy for whom the houses were built, but the new elite - barristers, business tycoons, bankers, magistrates, doctors. One of their number runs a security business, so they're all protected by expensive security systems and when they leave their little haven it's usually to travel first class to London or on their way to catch a flight. The Eight seem to lead charmed lives - but the financial world is changing and there isn't the money around that there used to be. Full review...

Her by Harriet Lane

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Emma is a harassed young mother to a toddler with another baby on the way. Used to being a successful professional, she is finding it difficult to cope with everything on a daily basis. Therefore, it hardly surprises her to receive a call from a stranger telling her that she has found her wallet which Emma did not even realise that she had lost. Nina calls round with the offending wallet and Emma is immediately drawn to this composed, organised, successful woman whose life seems to epitomise everything that Emma wishes for. However, as their friendship blossoms, it becomes apparent to the reader, although not to Emma, that things are not what they seem. Apparently when Nina first set eyes on Emma, she recognised her as a face from the past, and an unwelcome one at that. We soon discover that Nina has an ulterior motive for befriending Emma as she sets out to seek revenge for something that Emma did many years ago. Full review...

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Ove (pronounced 'Oo-veh') is a man of principle who tries to do the right thing, ensure the no parking area remains so, is a good Swedish citizen and tries to be civil to his neighbours (even the foreign ones). However he comes over as a total grump. He was even ousted from his position as Chairman of the Residents Association by a vicious coup. Indeed, he's the sort of person who, when life gives him lemons, finds that they're rotting in the middle. There's so much more to his story than that though; a story that started a long time ago. Full review...

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Georgie McCool has always known what she's wanted and pursued it until she has it. She got her dream job writing comedy, she's about to get her own show, and she got her dream guy, Neal.

Only, she's not so sure she has him anymore. Full review...

Shifting Colours by Fiona Sussman

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Celia works as a maid for the Steiners in South Africa; a safe job in a white household for a 'black' to have at a time when the country lurches from suspicion to brutality and back again. At least it was a safe job. The Steiners have decided to move to England and, after difficulty in having their own children, want to adopt Miriam, Celia's youngest child. For so many reasons Celia can't refuse. Rita Steiner promises Miriam an exciting adventure and she promises Celia regular contact. When mother and daughter are miles apart, they both come to realise the same thing: sometimes promises are only as good as the people making them and that goes for promised lands too. Full review...

Touched by Joanna Briscoe

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Rowena Crale and her family have moved to a new home, having uprooted an ill and unwilling mother in law to take possession of it. There are five children in the family...but six if you count young Eva’s imaginary friend. Eva is the family outcast; dressed in her grandmother’s clothes and preparing to attend a different school to her siblings, she is often away from her family, who seem to care little for her or her whereabouts. Full review...

The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

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The Saddeq family are an example of success for their friends and neighbours in Lahore. Mr Saddeq is a doctor with his own practice, sons Sully and Jakie are studying medicine in the US and UK respectively and daughters Mae and Lana have made good marriage matches. However the four 'good' children would view their success differently. Each reacts differently to the futures that their caring father and calculating mother have mapped out for them and plough their own furrows as far as they're permitted but the gravitational pull of home remains a constant through their lives and also, to some extent, for the generation that follows. Full review...

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

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Four years ago, a family lost their brother, their older son, their grandchild. One day he was there, and the next he was gone. Missing. Presumed kidnapped or perhaps worse. Their lives have moved on, but their hearts haven’t. Walls have gone up around them, though, to protect from the pain, the crank calls, the false leads. So when news comes that Justin Campbell has been spotted, alive and, seemingly, well, it’s quite a lot to take in. Full review...

Skid by Roland Watson-Grant

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Things have changed in the Beaumont household since they lived in the Louisiana swampland. Skid (or Terence when he's bad), his mother Valerie and brother Frico have moved to an apartment in the city. The two older brothers have left home and the lads' father is still missing, presumed dead, after he disappeared beneath the alligator-filled water back home. The city is a weird place for our hero as he becomes 16. It's just as dangerous as the swamp ever was as gangs that roam the streets seeking outsiders like Skid. Skid is realising that girls can be a problem too, although neighbourly Claire may be a bit different. She worries about him though; it seems that Skid isn't so much a name as a curse. Full review...

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

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Sugar Hall is a place of transitions. It has recently gained new residents – Lilia Sugar, and her children Saskia and Dieter. It has lost several portions of the estate, however – several valuable trinkets, the billiard table – as Lilia has to sell things to keep the family from poverty. But apart from things arriving and things going, there are things moving – possibly the objects left, possibly the butterfly patterns on the wallpapers. And there are things appearing – such as a lot of actual, living insects, and the naked boy who sometimes appears only as a disembodied head to the young exploring Dieter… Full review...

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

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The Bradley family are constantly busy as you might expect when there are four children but their most testing time comes on seven-year-old Jacob's birthday. His elder sister, Zippy and elder brother Alma have other things going on in their lives but his little sister isn't feeling well. Four-year-old Issy has retreated to bed and she's rather hoping that her mother will come and make her better, but Claire is trying to cope with Jacob's birthday party and it's quite a while before the family realise that Issy is very ill. She has meningitis and that night she dies in hospital. Full review...

All Our Days by Dinaw Mengestu

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Isaac is a refugee from Ethiopia who finds a home in Uganda. At the university he's taken under the wing of a political activist also called Isaac. The 1970s is a dangerous time to be in Uganda as their world is about to explode. Years later Isaac the Ethiopian finds himself in America and lives under the care of social worker Helen. Slowly they form a less than professional relationship and Helen realises that what little she knows of him may not be the truth. Gradually his past is revealed as the guilt he carries comes to the surface. Full review...

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

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Maud is a little forgetful as the rows of cooling cups of tea will attest. She also has a cupboard full of peaches for some reason but not to worry. She has a family who love her and rally round, a home help and her great friend Elizabeth. Come to think of it, Elizabeth seems to be missing and the notes that Maud writes herself each day keep reminding her of this. The problem is that no one will listen to her, let alone believe her. It also reminds Maud of something else; another disappearance a long, long time ago. Full review...

Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery

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Rilla of Ingleside is an interesting novel for many reasons. Being the only fictional book written by a Canadian woman just after the war, about the war, it is an incredibly important work. It tells of what happened to the women who stayed at home, the limited aspects of war work that they were able to do, the endless fear and dread they felt for their loved ones far away, and all of the emotional highs and lows they experienced during such a heightened time. The novel begins as Europe is on the brink of war, and Rilla is only 15 years old and, still, a rather silly young girl. I have to say, I never much cared for Rilla. In Rainbow Valley' the book that precedes this one, she's just a spoilt baby and at the start of this story it seems that nothing much has changed. However, just as the world goes through a dramatic change during this period of time, Rilla herself grows from a child to a woman. Full review...

Travelling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker

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Meet Nicholson Baker. Now, I know I normally introduce a book with such a phrase, and every time before now I've used the name of the main character. But I feel such is the nature of Baker's books that he is the greatest character therein, and the one most important for the potential reader to understand, however close he may or may not be to his fictional creations. Baker is a very stylised author, intricately bound up in providing amusing evidence of the value of all the small things in our world. If anybody can rustle up thousands of words about those baby nubbins that are left when you split a sheet of paper across a ready-made perforation – you know the tiny scads that are left dangling outwards – it's Baker. His early books practically were a day spent in real-time, and by rights you'd think this book should not exist – surely he's covered the world already. But no – here is love, poetry, drone warfare, Debussy, and a view of dance music production as seen from the prospect of a 55-year old American male. Full review...

Someday We'll Tell Each Other Everything by Daniela Krien

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Eastern Germany, and the country is in the limbo-land of time that lay between the end of the Communist state of the DDR and reunification. Teenager Maria is also in a limbo-land of a kind herself, living on a farm with the Brendels family, but not one of them. The matriarch still speaks to her in the third person for one, and while she does some of the house- and farm-work, and is in a relationship with the wannabe photographer son of the family, she knows she's not quite settled within those walls. Especially, as she is to learn, when there is a neighbour who can stir passionate emotions inside her… Full review...