Newest General Fiction Reviews

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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

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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

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

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

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Landslide by Melissa Leet

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Women's Fiction The area where Jill and Susie lived wasn't highly populated so it was fortunate that they became such good friends, despite the fact that Susie was a year older than Jill. Susie lived with her mother, an alcoholic, and Jill lived with her mother, who dedicated herself to her garden. Jill's father was Jay Tutle, the photographer, but he spent much of his time working away - often for months on end. In reality there was little difference between the two families: Mrs Smith's alcoholism caused serious illness whilst Susie was still young. Joy and tragedy would visit Jill's home. Landslide is the story of how what happened determined the course of Jill's life and how great tragedy can breed resilience and hope. Full Review

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Aftershocks by A N Wilson

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

In a country very much like New Zealand, but at the same time most avowedly not, two women will find love. Strong love too, for our narrator will say that her first attraction for her partner was the only thing to make sense of all those exaggerated songs she'd heard, and books and poems she'd read, and plays she'd acted in – works of art that had until then seemed sheer hyperbole. It was entirely unrequited love for quite some time, but it does burgeon, or so we're promised from the off, because of something quite drastic – a major earthquake very much like the one that hit Christchurch, but at the same time most avowedly not. This book then is the combined exploration of the lovers and the story of the quake. Full Review

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Hell's Unveiling by Laura Solomon

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

A little while ago I really enjoyed Marsha's Deal and I was delighted by the opportunity to read the sequel, Hell's Unveiling. It's probably not much of a spoiler to say that Marsha bested the devil in Marsha's Deal, but the devil is not one to take defeat lying down. He's out to wage war on Planet Earth and particularly on Marsha (who's thought of as a 'goody two shoes' in Hell). Although a strong person, she's vulnerable where her foster children are concerned. Daniel is framed for a crime he didn't commit and sent to juvenile detention and refused permission to return to live with Marsha. Then, of course there are all the other children who are not only targeted, but - worst of all - subverted to the devil's evil ends. He's out to prey on their fears and weaknesses and as with many foster children, their self esteem is very fragile. This is no small-scale operation, either - the devil has set up a training complex on earth, complete with an elevator to Hell. Full Review

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Staying On by C M Taylor

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Tony Metcalfe is a Yorkshireman through and through and being honest, Yorkshire's where he'd really like to be. You suspect that Scarborough would be perfect, but he's living in a mountain village just beyond the Costa Verde and running a pub. The Viva Espagñe isn't flourishing: Tony would really like to sell it and return to the UK, what with the uncertainty of Brexit and everything, but there are a couple of problems. First off, his wife - Laney - refuses to go back to the UK. She'd have you believe that she's not well, but there's a backstory there that's not being talked about. Then there's the pub, which isn't doing well enough to sell. In fact Tony's cleaning the swimming pools of expats who have left Spain and returned home, in order to make a bit of money to try and make ends at least come in sight of each other, even if they never meet. Full Review

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The Day of the Orphan by Dr Nat Tanoh

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Saga is eighteen and, like many eighteen-year olds, his prime concerns are listening to what his mum calls hop-hip, eating copious amounts of food, and learning about girls. Living in an affluent, liberal and protected suburb, he has a good life. However, the suburb is in Africa, where childhoods can be snatched in an instant. When his friends and family are dragged into the conflict raging around the dictatorship that Saga lives under, he is forced to become an unlikely revolutionary. Can chubby Saga really stand up to a murderous regime? And can he stay one step ahead of the soldiers desperate to stop him? Full Review

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Murmuration by Robert Lock

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

Murmuration follows the lives of a host of characters from 1863 to the present day. From a risqué comic to a fortune teller, we see the birth of Blackpool and its steadily fading glamour. There is a hint of mysticism to the tale, with the mesmerising dance of starlings over the pier acting as an anchor throughout the distinct narratives here, drawing together disparate stories of lives captivated by the sea. Full Review

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Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator)

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Meet Fabrice Valantine. He's a headhunter, and a successful one too, in an office in Paris. All around him however his world is changing – yes, there is a new ban on smoking in all workplaces. Goaded by his non-smoking wife, even though they met over an ashtray, of sorts, he sees a hypnotist who had success with a mutual friend in stopping their nicotine habit. The session seems to have been successful, however he faces the prospect of having such a change to his own personality, his imbued habits and lifestyle, with fear, when he realises it will never again grant him any pleasure. He needs this pleasure when further changes at work come about – but it's what he replaces the habit with that will surprise the most. Full Review

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The Island by M A Bennett

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

A contemporary take on the savage classic Lord of the Flies: a group of mismatched, modern-day teenagers must fight to survive on a deserted island. Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad - however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others... Full Review

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

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William Woolf is a letter detective, working in the Dead Letters Depot in East London. He spends his days deciphering smudged addresses, tracking down mysterious people and reading endless letters of love, guilt, death, hope, and everyday life. Full Review