Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Art Teacher by Paul Read

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Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face. A mediocre teacher, stuck in a struggling school ruled by violent pupils, Patrick goes home every night to an empty flat, and an existence filled with reminders of his life as a faded rock star. When one pupil over steps the mark, a brief mistake plunges Patrick into a world of danger, violence, and the glare of the media. Full review...

The Bertie Project: A 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

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Catching up with old friends is a pleasure, and it's good to be back on Scotland Street, finding out what everyone is getting up to. Irene is back, of course, from her travels to the middle-east. Bruce has fallen in love, Matthew and Elspeth have triplet troubles, and somebody has an extremely unfortunate accident… Full review...

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

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This is the debut novel from Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, but you would never know it. It is an accomplished, unusual, poetically written story about a young Japanese girl, Yuki Oyama, who has lived most of her life in New York. As such, she feels an outsider: the American girls at school ignore her and she finds the rituals of her parents' home suffocating. Her father has hopes of her studying medicine, but the only thing Yuki enjoys is art. Full review...

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

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Maeve Maloney runs the Sea View Lodge guest house that her parents ran before her. The house has harboured many memories for Maeve over the past 80-years-plus, most of which she's managed to keep at bay. However, her suppression is endangered when Vincent comes to call. Far from being an ordinary guest, Vincent is a link to that past Maeve thought she'd outrun but now has to relive. Add that to trying to teach Steph and Len to fib effectively and life becomes very difficult indeed. Full review...

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

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Special Agent Will Trent is back. Collected by his partner, Faith, to attend the scene of a rather brutal murder, Trent queries why the GBI has been called in to what would usually be a standard homicide investigation for Atlanta PD. Arriving at the scene, their boss, Deputy Director Amanda Wagner is somewhat characteristically pacing and barking orders; the victim is none other than ex-cop and all round bad egg, Dale Harding. There is a lot of blood, presumably due to the door-knob and spindle sticking out of Harding's neck. Full review...

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

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If you're going to go pioneering across unexplored lands, at least be prepared to accept what you seek – namely, what you've never seen before. That lesson seems quite obvious, but back in the time of 1885 Allen Forrester is a little too naïve to heed it. A career soldier, he is tasked with scouring the potential of the Wolverine River that threads south to the shores of Alaska, even though the Russians (who of course used to own the Territory) have had all manner of lethal encounters with those already living there, and even though a major stretch of the river has to be traversed in winter when entirely frozen over, as the cliffs either side are too impenetrable. Allen leaves a much younger, new bride behind – and right from the get-go his journals force him to pen words about strange happenings, strange encounters and things of legend coming to life. Like I say, what he's never seen before… Full review...

The First First Gentleman by Gerald Weaver

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Anyone picking up The First First Gentleman might be forgiven for snorting with laughter and making a sarcastic comment about how timely and potentially satirical it sounds. In a way they’d be right – but probably for different reasons. Full review...

Wild Life by Liam Brown

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Adam Britman goes from a man with it all to homeless in the sniff of a line. While looking for somewhere to sleep Adam comes across an alternative community in the local park. They've come together and created structure (including an unofficial allotment) out of the disorder that's normally equated with living on the streets. It seems perfect so Adam joins them, but perfection can sometimes be an illusion. As for walking away… that's not going to be easy. Full review...

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant

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Paul is lots of things. A writer. A famous name (or at least he was a few years ago). A bit of a snob. A cheapskate. A ladies' man. And a liar. Oh boy, is he a liar. He fibs, he exaggerates, he omits, he tells porkies. Not about the really big stuff, nothing that will hurt anyone, just a few mistruths to see him through. It's for keeping up appearances, really. Full review...

The Trouble with Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones

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Stop for a moment and look down at your belly, in the centre you should have something that looks a little bit like a button. It may be an innie, or an outie, but just consider it for a few moments. Do you feel better? Nope, you shouldn't do as all that navel-gazing does is make you over think things. However, without the concept a million romantic books would never be written as without the human compulsion to destroy things around them, how can any tension arise? Full review...

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

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The Republic of Love is a mesh-like novel, peopled with a huge cast of characters interwoven in familial, friendly, neighbourly and romantic relationships. Winnipeg, the city in which virtually all the action in Shield's novel takes place, ties them together. The story follows two single, thirty-something characters, Fay and Tom, who live opposite each other and have a complicated array of mutual acquaintances but don't know each other. Shields alternates between their two points of view as they are slowly drawn together. This is a domestic novel in the best sense; there is a focus on the beauty and mundanity of ordinary people's unremarkable lives in an unexceptional city, from Fay's satisfaction in the pop sound and toasted crumb smell of her twin slice toaster, to Tom's ungainly Saturday morning jogs. Full review...

Out of Practice by Penny Parkes

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In a last-ditch attempt to save her failing marriage, GP Holly Graham relocates to the charming village of Larkford with her family to work at the local practice. She finds life as a village doctor very different to her previous role in a busy city hospital, and falls in love with the close-knit community and its quirky residents. But just as Larkford is beginning to feel like home, Holly is hit by a bombshell that threatens to destroy everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Can she rise to the challenge and fight for what she loves? Maybe she will discover something about herself in the process. Full review...

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Meet Ted Flask. A middle-aged, gay Los Angelino, he has the one love of his life. While the fall-out of relationships with men sends him to therapy, he can rely on Lily, the Dachshund. They've been together through thick and thin, ever since the little pup – the runt, no less – seemed to pick Ted out. Ted's sister's unusual marriage was almost marred by Lily being under the surgeon's knife, at great expense – but on the whole they have life sorted. He tries to write, but Friday night is board games, Saturday night is movie night, and Sunday night is pizza night. Oh, and yes, Lily talks to Ted, either in FULLY! CAPITALISED! EVER! EXCLAMATORY! BARKS! or in regular speech. Oh, and yes, Lily has an octopus on her head. Full review...

Falling by Julie Cohen

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Here is the story of three women, from three generations within the same family. There is Jo, a forty year old single mother whose first husband died, and whose second husband ran off with their nanny. She is left caring for her older teenage daughter, Lydia, and her two little ones, Oscar and Iris, whilst harbouring a secret that she feels she cannot share with anyone. Her daughter Lydia is the second female character, and as well as the usual teenage angst she is also dealing with grief, still, over her father's death, anger with her mother for her second disastrous marriage, and her own very difficult secret that she is unable to talk to anyone about. Finally there's Honor who is Jo's mother in law, the mother of Jo's first husband, Stephen. Honor has a fall, breaks her hip, and is forced to move in with Jo for a time as she has no one else who can help her. She too is hiding a secret from the world, and as you read the story you begin to wonder if any of these characters actually know who the others are, and if any of them will ever start telling the truth. Full review...

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

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Now her parents have died, Annette returns to sell her old childhood home but there's work to do on the decrepit building first. As she wanders around and tries to make some order of the overgrown shambles, she's watched by the ghost of her mother, Netty; a spirit with regrets. Netty reminisces about Annette's childhood and the turning point their lives reached when the mysterious healer Timothy Richardson came to stay. It was a time that promised so much but one for which Netty now needs to make amends, even if she is beyond the grave. Full review...

Act of God by Jill Ciment

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Act of God is a story about two ageing twins who find a worrying mushroom growing in their cupboard, a landlady searching for the spotlight and a Russian immigrant whose greatest fear is insignificance. What the insurance company describes as an act of God brings their already overlapped, Brooklyn lives in to sharper focus. What do you do when disaster threatens? Is it survival of the fittest or should we love thy neighbour? Full review...

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Brett-Marie has never met a kitchen she doesn't want to clean. In fact, permanently armed with bicarbonate of soda and window cleaner, she's always ready to clean anything. Her husband Kent is an entrepreneur, you know, with excellent taste and expensive clothes. Yet here she is, in Borg, a rundown small town, in search of her first job for 40 years. Life takes some odd turns sometimes. Full review...

Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun and Sophie Hughes (translator)

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If you thought your teenaged years were a struggle to work out the world, and yourself, consider that of Heidi Ertl. Or either of her sisters – this book serves as a sort of tribute to these three real-life women, and the lives that came out of their very disjointed youth, forced to be rarefied from the norm by their family uprooting. Father Hans was one of Leni Riefenstahl's key cameramen, and a Nazi military photographer, before taking the whole family into post-war exile in Bolivia. Their mother would have followed him to the ends of the earth – as in part would their daughters, the older two of which start the book by joining him on an expedition to discover a lost Incan city. Heidi finds young, instant love on the trek – but sees the dark side of such emotions, too. Older sister Monika, who might well be manic depressive, finds something else, while the baby of the family stays at home with a maudlin mother. So much here could be the hook on which to hang a full novel, but if anything it's the reaction of them all to this unusual formative journey that inspires this book. Full review...

Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne

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Chains of Sand is a great read about family, faith, survival, and love. It follows the story of two young men: Udi a veteran of the Israeli army who longs for a new future in London, and Daniel, a London banker unsatisfied with his life and yearning for something more. The story focuses on their desires to change their lives by moving to different worlds and how this impacts their relationships with friends and family. As the story unfolds, the two protagonists' histories are slowly uncovered and they both have to overcome the difficulties in their new lives in order to achieve their dreams. Meanwhile, the fate of star-crossed love between a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier intertwines with Daniel's life, complicating all that he thinks has become clear. Full review...

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

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This novel will make you smile. It's a feel-good story, unusual in its premise and original. Germaine is a 45 year old man who is illiterate. He has a group of drinking friends who frequently make him the butt of their jokes, a mother who calls him a 'half-wit', amongst other things, and a girlfriend whom he appears afraid of committing to. Germain spends many afternoons in the park, counting pigeons and writing his name among the dead of the war memorial. It is here that he meets Margueritte, a tiny 85 year old woman who tells him she also counts the pigeons. Full review...

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

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When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rule and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice's departure? When Alice's friend Ada, mentioned briefly in Alice in Wonderland sets out to visit Alice, she arrives a minute too late. Tumbling down the rabbit hole herself, she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world. Full review...

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

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The Japanese Lover is an unassuming novel. The beginning leads the reader to anticipate an enjoyable light read, a good holiday book perhaps – a very well plotted story with an interesting cast of characters and settings. Irena, a Moldovan girl with elfin looks and a passion for fantasy novels, starts working in bohemian care home Lark House in San Francisco. She meets the stately and somewhat aloof Alma Belasco, whose story starts to unravel, beginning with her being brought over from Poland (just as Jews became increasingly vulnerable to the Nazis) to her wealthy aunt and uncle in Cliff House, San Francisco, as a little girl. Allende almost makes us think that this opening tone, entertaining but fairly shallow, will continue for the rest of the novel. Full review...

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

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Only at the end of the world, among the glaciers and icebergs of Antarctica, do Deb and Keller feel at home. For a few blissful weeks each year they study the habits of penguins, finding solace in their work and in each other. Yet Antarctica, like their romance, is imperilled by the world to the north. A new season has begun, and the two play tour guide to the passengers on the expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But when Keller fails to appear, Deb has to consider new feelings of love, loss, and a voyage deep into both the Antarctic, and the human heart. Full review...

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

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I always think, without the grit there would be no pearl. Sorrows have a way of strengthening the heart, never forget that, child.

Greta Costello lives in in poverty with her mother and siblings and must work as a skivvy to put bread on the table. She manages to find some joy in her work though, especially in her 'Sabbath' job working for a kindly old widowed Jew. The two become friends and he offers to take her on as his apprentice, stringing pearls. Could this highly-skilled job be her key to a better life? At the same time, many miles away in Scotland, Jem Baillie and his father can't contain their delight when they discover a magnificent, flawless freshwater pearl at the end of a long day of fishing. They call the pearl 'Queenie' and from that pivotal moment, the fates of Greta, Jem and Queenie will be inextricably linked. Full review...

Baturi by Matthew Stephen

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It's Nigeria and it's the 80s. Matthew is a VSO, on a placement at a college teaching electronics. Or trying to at any rate. When language skills are limited and resources are scarce, you have to make the most of what you've got, even if that means teaching the odd class on American culture rather than rewiring. If I tell you that the Prime Directive applies a lot when you're a VSO, you'll appreciate the difficulties Matthew has when his students want to stray further into the modern world and learn about how things work in Britain, concepts of inventions such as ATMs that are decades off reaching Nigeria (Those days may still be some way off. I actually had a hand written bank card a few years ago while a VSO in a country not too far away). Full review...

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

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It is summer, school is out, the days are long, the bumblebees are big and blousy and the allotment where Clover helps her dad with the vegetables needs weeding and watering. She likes the allotment; it helps her think. This summer, Clover is going to unravel the mystery of her mother, Becky Brookfield and work out what makes her father so sad. All the time. It's hard to be a kid with a dead mother, but Clover thinks it's even harder to be dad with a dead wife. Full review...

Father's Day by Simon Van Booy

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When devastating news shatters the life of six year old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met - a disabled ex-con, haunted by a violent past he can't escape. Moving between past and present, Father's Day weaves together the story of Harvey's childhood on Long Island, and her life as a young woman in Paris. Full review...