Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

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Long-time followers of The Bookbag will know I'm a die-hard fan of AMS. So you can imagine my excitement at reading a brand new book in a brand new series, described by the author himself as Scandi Blanc (as opposed to Scandi Noir)! Here we meet a new detective named Ulf Varg, who works in the Department for Sensitive Crimes, solving those crimes that perhaps fall outside the usual police parameters. This particular book deals with crimes including someone who is stabbed in the knee, the disappearance of an imaginary boyfriend, and a case of potential werewolves. They're the crimes that perhaps nobody else would bother to deal with, and I rather enjoyed them, especially the stabbing where you find that actually, you identify with the person who committed the crime, rather than the victim. Full Review

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The Things That are Lost by Alan Kennedy

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The final novel in Alan Kennedy's WW2 trilogy sees Captain Alex Vere taken off active duty and banished to Scotland, providing trade craft spy training. It's stifling and suffocating and feels as much like a prison to Alex as anything the Germans would provide. And where is Justine? Alex hasn't seen her since he went to that disastrous meeting with John Cabot, instigator of the disinformation campaign, and returned to find her missing. A failed mission is one thing but no Justine is quite another. Alex can't get Justine out of his head. Has she left the service? Does she know too much? Is she even still alive? Full Review

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A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens, General Fiction

They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances. Seventeen year old Hannah Gold was born mature – or so her parents tell her. She has dined in fancy restaurants, explored the most sophisticated corners of the globe and lived a life of luxury. Full Review

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Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

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What would you be like, right now, if you'd been born a different gender? Would it simply be a matter of genetics, and your life would still have unfolded in the same way? Or would the way you had been raised affect who you became in life? This latest novel by Julie Cohen looks at all of the above, covering the stories of Louis and Louise, born on the same day, to the same parents, but in one storyline Lou is a boy, and in the other a girl. Does it really make a difference, the gender box that is ticked when we arrive in this world? We all know that men and women are treated differently, but this story really highlights how things have been in the past, how they still are, and prompts you to think about how they could be... Full Review

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M for Mammy by Eleanor O'Reilly

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The Augustts are, like all families, a bit complicated. A loving irish family, their love binds them together – but all express that in very different ways. However, when misfortune strikes the family they are forced to work together in order to understand each other again, as with a family as complicated as the Augustts it's not always what is spoken that makes the most sense. Things are shaken up further when Granny Mae-Anne moves in and takes charge. Full of stern words and common sense, she's a force of nature who must try her hardest to hold the family together. Full Review

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Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Humour, Paranormal

Tilda returns to Brighton, to tidy away the remains of her mother's life after her death. Whilst there, she returns to the Paradise hotel, a haven for eccentrics and misfits. A place where people can be themselves, and let go of thoughts that torment them elsewhere. Little wonder that Tilda cannot forgive her mother for banishing her as a child, from this place of wonder. With the help of Queenie Malone, caring, and gregarious, Tilda begins to pick apart the tricky and uncertain relationship she had with her sometimes cruel and distant mother. Full Review

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The Man Who Came to London by A S Cookson

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In 1948, the first set of Caribbean nationals arrived in Great Britain on a ship called "Empire Windrush". They struggled to find housing. They worked as labourers. They faced open discrimination, forcing them to quickly form their own community. Decades later, Freddy makes the same journey.

Does he find a place to live? Does he face stereotypes? Has Britain moved forward?

Freddie arrives in London in the early 2000s, answering the call for teachers. He thinks about his own Jamaican education, based on the British system, and the way he was taught English nursery rhymes and about the River Thames. He thinks about the love of cricket and football, shared by both countries. And he thinks of the generations of the diaspora who came before him. Freddy does well in his job in East London but he does have to face down some stereotypical attitudes from his pupils - all Jamaicans smoke weed, don't they? Everybody knows that! Full Review

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Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction, General Fiction

In an alternate 1952, Soviet Troops control British Streets. After D-Day goes horribly wrong, Britain is first occupied by Nazi Germany – only to be rescued by Russian soldiers from the East, and Americans from the west. Dividing the nation between them, London soon finds itself split in two, a wall running through it like a scar. When Jane Cawson's husband is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Jane is determined to clear his name. In doing so, Jane follows a trail of corruption that leads her right to the highest levels of the state – and soon finds herself desperate to stay one step ahead of the murderous secret police… Full Review

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When You Read This by Mary Adkins

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Smith Simonyi and Iris Massey worked together for four years, during which time Iris left her husband at the altar on their wedding day. Smith, meanwhile, relied on Iris, but his attention was on making enough money to cover his mother's nursing home fees in Wisconsin, running the branding agency in New York and losing money gambling when the pressures got too much for him. He was devastated when Iris developed a terminal cancer and died at the age of thirty three. He was surprised too when he discovered that Iris had been writing a blog in the last six months of her life and her final request of Smith is that he gets the blog published as a book. Full Review

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Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon

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I have murdered three husbands.

As an opening line that must take some beating, but Vera's telling us the truth. The first two husbands, Gary and Harry were abusive, but Larry was a treasure, a keeper, and it's difficult to understand why Vera would have killed him, particularly when she was likely to get found out very quickly and now she's in prison with a mandatory life sentence. Her only friend is Shirley, a lesbian, but Vera's not one to let herself be a victim. She's not keen on having a sexual relationship with Shirley (she wouldn't risk the security of her life in prison for the sake of a fling), but she is keen on getting an education and she's studying for a degree in English Literature. Full Review

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Black Light by Laura Solomon

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Jim is a university student and, as the saying goes, he hasn't got his troubles to seek. His father committed suicide when he was young and somehow he's never really managed to connect with his step-father. His younger brother would be kindly described as having learning difficulties: if you were being honest you'd just say that he was very difficult, but Jim does his best with and for him. Jim's in love with a woman, but she finds him repulsive and you can understand why: the looks, the attitude, the (lack of) conversational ability and the clothing all leave a lot to be desired. Despite all that's he's not about to sit back and allow his life to drift: he's actually writing two novels and he reads excerpts from these to his friends in the pub. Full Review


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Redemptor Domus by Gamelyn Chase

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A young boy arrives at an exclusive faith school on the scenic North Wales coast, sent far from his family in the Far East. As the boy travels to the school, a family tragedy causes the boy to arrive at the school a vulnerable orphan, with an uncertain future. Plunged into a school full of danger and betrayal, the boy is seen as a trophy by friends and enemies alike. With them locked into their scheming and plotting, it comes to the boy to attempt to clean up the pit of filth that the school has become. Full Review

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The Long Path To Wisdom by Jan-Philipp Sendker

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Short Stories, General Fiction

On my travels around the world, I have a tendency to end up in any bookshop that is selling English-language books, and while I buy as many second-hand escapist tales as the next person, what I'm really looking for is the 'local' – the cookbook maybe, the maps definitely, but above all: the folk tales. If I ever get to Burma, I won't need to hunt, I can read before I go. Full Review

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Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

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This is a story about the past. A specific past, certainly, in the form of pre-war Budapest, but also a story about how that past can impact on the present and the future. In this book, the first of three Magda Szabó wrote on the same theme between 1969 and 1987 and now newly translated and reissued, we witness a heart-rending nostalgia for happier days, guilt about those who did not survive, and a dogged but doomed determination to cling to long-gone times, feelings and experiences which mark the here and now, staining and warping it into another, subtler misery. Full Review


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Santa Goes on Strike by Jem Vanston

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Something's gone horribly wrong. It's Christmas Eve and everything is very busy in Santa's grotto. The presents are all ready and waiting to be loaded onto the sleigh and the reindeer are itching to get going. But Santa? Santa is just not in the mood. He is tired of delivering the latest toys to children who only play with them for five minutes. He wishes people would remember what Christmas is really about - a time for families to come together for love and friendship and goodwill to one another. Full Review

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Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

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Zoe believes in adding life to years as well as years to life. Her world, like her name, is bursting with life and colour. She is the sort of girl who would sing a rainbow is she could. Tristan (or Tree as she calls him) is the opposite. Fresh out of hospital following a prolonged stay in a psychiatric unit, he sees a world as a grey place. Full Review

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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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The Center is the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi and is the source of great controversy when it comes to the Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice debate. It is at The Center where one man, George Goddard, takes it upon himself to get revenge for the loss of his grandchild, in the form of a mass-shooting. What arises is a novel that details the lives of the remaining hostages, as well as other characters central to the story. One of these characters is Hugh McElroy, a hostage negotiator called in to help deflate the situation, who soon discovers that his sister and daughter, Wren, happened to be at the clinic that day. Full Review

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Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Crime

Dr Jess Castle, the self proclaimed failure of the prestigious Castle family has returned home to the sleepy, idyllic chocolate box town of Castle Kidbury. Rather than being delighted, her family are suspicious, especially her father, the judge. Luckily for Jess, she doesn't have to try too hard to dodge her family's suspicions as a series of gruesome local murders are taking place and that's all anyone is talking about. Jess accidentally finds herself in the thick of the investigation, and to her delight finds that she can actually be useful. But with the small population dwindling and the sense of danger moving ever closer to home, has Jess made a grave mistake getting involved? Full Review

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What's Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone

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Sasha has a lot on her plate. Husband Jeremy is distant and absent and the marriage needs work. Son Zac is entering a rebellious adolescent phase and it's hard to know how to redirect him. Mother Annie, an alcoholic, is beginning the journey into dementia and has never been an easy person at the best of times. Thank heavens for her lovely dog, Sebastian, and his unconditional love. Full Review

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The Place Where Love Should Be by Elizabeth Ellis

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Edward is six weeks old and I’ve had no sleep. I had thirty stitches in my perineum, the wounds still tug and itch. They had to do the stitches twice because the first lot became infected. The old-school midwife told me I wasn’t paying enough attention to personal hygiene. I must shower twice a day, or better still, take a salt bath. Do they really expect me to do that? Have they ever tried to shower when a baby is crying and you’re so tired you can barely stand and your partner is banging around downstairs because he’s late for work again?

I think most women have felt like this shortly after having a baby. Many of them simply managed to put one foot in front of the other until things calmed down but some will have found it harder and developed post-natal depression Full Review

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The Amber Maze by Christopher Bowden

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Hugh Mullion goes away to Dorset for the weekend and, while waiting for his wife to arrive, finds a mysterious key down the back of an antique chair. The grubby and torn label to which is attached reads... Full Review

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The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

Nick is in the middle of wedding preparations when he decides to leave his fiancée behind in London and take up a post in some un-named west African country providing engineering support for the building of a children's hospital. He has no idea what he is getting himself into. Full Review