Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Sunshine Cruise Company by John Niven

4.5star.jpg Humour

Susan Frobisher and Julie Wickham live in a small Dorset town. Friends since school, they live fairly uneventful lives – Susan has a lovely house and a lengthy marriage to accountant Barry, whereas Julie is doing slightly less well – living in a council flat and working in an old people's home. When Barry is found dead trussed up in a sex dungeon, it transpires that he has been leading a hidden life for years, and his expensive fetishes lead to the bank moving to take Susan's home. Struck by both desperation and a sense of injustice, Sue and Julie conspire to rob a bank, taking along their friend Jill – a devout Christian conflicted due to lack of money and a terminally ill grandson, and Ethel – a foul mouthed resident of the nursing home longing for adventure. Full review...

Generation by Paula McGrath

4star.jpg General Fiction

How can we know the effect that our choices may have on the next generation? Even a seemingly minor decision has the potential to create ripples and waves of unforeseen repercussions in the future. This fascinating theme is explored in “Generation”, an intelligently-written début novel that approaches the subject from multiple perspectives over an eighty-year period. Full review...

Thirst by Kerry Hudson

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London – Summer. Alena, a young siberian immigrant is caught stealing shoes. Dave, the man who catches her, is a security guard – surviving on a minimal income and with little drive to better his quiet, repetitive life. As Alena and Dave grow closer, Dave finds his life turned upside down. But will Alena ever let down her guard, and reveal the truth about her past? Full review...

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse

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Cassie's arrival was bound to cause a stir in the sleepy Somerset village of Sawbridge. She had flaming red hair, a voluptuous figure accentuated by very tight clothing, towering heels, heavy make-up and no wedding ring. But the thing that really shocked the locals was the fact that she had a little mixed-race girl in tow. Petal, as she was called, soon melted the hearts of the residents, but no such courtesy was extended to Cassie, who was dubbed 'that red-headed whore' by some. Her only friend was the kind shopkeeper Molly Heywood, who would often visit Cassie and Petal at their isolated stone cottage on the outskirts of the village. Full review...

Love Notes for Freddie by Eva Rice

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Marnie is an innocent, mathematical genius schoolgirl who, unfortunately, gets expelled from her fancy boarding school. Julie is her teacher, formerly a dancer, rigorously private about her past. Freddie is the boy that both of them fall in love with. Revealed through the eyes of two of the three main characters, this is a slow-moving, but rather beautifully told, love story. It has the same vintage feel that Eva Rice used so well in The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and it cleverly winds its way through Marnie's story in the 1960's as well as Julie's past in pre-WW2 New York. Full review...

Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon

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One morning in 2002, twenty-one year old Tallulah Park is woken in her depressing bedsit by the phonecall announcing her father's heart attack. From this bleak beginning springs Kat Gordon's gripping debut novel of a dysfunctional upper middle class family with a history of papering over the cracks and ignoring the uncomfortable and unfitting. Tallulah has been doing her fair share of powering on and pretending things don't exist, but it seems like this might turn out to be the time to stop running away. With the reluctant help of two aunts, an old family friend and her own imperfect recollections, and with a vivid imagining of her late grandmother as the voice of conscience, Tallulah sets out to answer some long-standing questions about her family and her own past. Full review...

The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish by Dido Butterworth and Tim Flannery

3star.jpg Historical Fiction

Meet Archie Meek. He's about to leave the Venus Islands, where he's lived for the last five years, and return to Sydney, where he'll take his office in the museum and fill it with all the cultural artefacts he's found and wildlife he's plucked or pickled. That's not to ignore the fact he'll count as something quite alien himself, with his filled-out frame, nearly all-over suntan and totemic tattoo, in amongst other changes to his body. But what's this? When he gets back, he finds one of the main Venus Islands artefacts that caused him to go there in the first place, a huge, macabre ceremonial fetish mask, purloined as corporate artwork. And some of the curators he wishes to work alongside have vanished. Is the weird society of the museum he's returning to, perchance, even weirder, stranger and more violent than the cannibalistic society he's waving farewell to? Full review...

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

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Amateur artist Lucy Bagshaw isn't exactly living the American dream; she lives in Boston with her overbearing mother and works as a barista in a coffee shop, but things are about to get a lot worse. Her mother, a famous and controversial artist, writes an scathing editorial, publicly insulting Lucy's artwork just before her first exhibition. The editorial quickly goes viral and a humiliated Lucy flees the country, unsure of where her life is heading. She runs away where nobody can find her; a sleepy Cumbrian village by the sea, where her estranged half-sister runs a boarding house. Lucy quickly questions the wisdom of her decision when she receives a frosty welcome from her sister in a village that seems permanently cold, wet and rainy. Should Lucy try and make a new life for herself here, or should she return to Boston and face her demons? Full review...

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

89 year old Marvellous Ways stands outside her secluded Cornish caravan looking across the landscape with her binoculars. She has a feeling something will happen and soon. Elsewhere American Francis Drake (he's heard all the jokes!) has come home from the war and looks up the girl he left behind with results that are beyond his nightmares but will feature in them. Marvellous' and Drakes' lives will cross and then – Marvellous is right – something will happen. Full review...

Two Lives by Sarah Bourne

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One late afternoon in January 2012, Emma Elliot and Loretta Davidson's lives collide – along with their cars. Both are running late and driving too fast along this Surrey road. Emma is unharmed and flees the scene. Little does she know that this incident will have long-term consequences further down the line. For Loretta, the effects are more immediate. A social worker in her forties, she has taken a career break to raise her and Martin's beloved son Ethan, born after an arduous IVF cycle just over four years ago. Ethan is in critical condition after the car accident and dies during surgery. In her grief, Loretta turns to Scotch and Valium and drifts away from her husband and their families. Full review...

Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

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Ronald Tonks has reached that stage in life which I call upper middle age: you've qualified for your pension but not yet got to the free television licence barrier. What Ronald has got is a roof that leaks (there's good reason why his home is called 'the shack'), a dog who is going bald (in patches) and money that's in very short supply. On the plus side he has friends, mostly platonic and usually in much the same boat as Ronald. But are they downhearted? Well, they are occasionally, but mostly they're generously optimistic and out to make the most of what they've got, usually bought from charity shops and jumble sales. Not Far From Dreamland is the story of a year (2012) in the life of Ronald Tonks, his friends and relatives. Full review...

Motherland: A Novel by Jo McMillan

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Jess is a teenage Communist which isn't a surprise since she comes from a Communist family. Her late father was a card carrying member and Jess spends her weekends selling The Morning Star with her equally enthused mother Eleanor. It's not only a thankless task, it's not a very welcome sight for some citizens in their native Tamworth of the 1970s. However Eleanor and Jess' lives are about to change, thanks to an all-expenses paid trip to the GDR – Communist East Germany; a place on the same side of the Berlin Wall as Jess' and Eleanor's hearts. However, they both learn that even a political heaven has its lessons and, indeed, its downside. Full review...

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

5star.jpg General Fiction

At Black Rabbit Hall, time goes “syrupy slow.” None of the clocks work properly, but an hour at Black Rabbit is said to last twice as long as a London one, and you don't get a quarter of the things done. Every holiday, the Alton family swap the hustle and bustle of London life for this secluded Cornish retreat, a place that is theirs and theirs alone. Full review...

The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

4star.jpg General Fiction

Todd Kent is young, rich, stupidly handsome, and well on his way to the top of Wall Street. When a new dating app called “Hook” decides to go public, Todd is handpicked by Hook’s eccentric founder to lead the project team. Taking brainy analyst Neha, spoilt party-boy Beau, and old flame Tara Taylor with him – the team find themselves thrust into the hectic circumstances of a $14 Billion deal. As Silicon Valley and Wall Street clash, the death of a young girl will find the team at odds with each other – and spinning wildly out of control. Full review...

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

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Welcome to the world of the Meme; the next-generation mobile device. Imagine technology so sophisticated that it could anticipate your needs as soon as they come into your mind. Need to get home? Your Meme will hail a cab. Feeling unwell? The Meme has an app for that. Negative thoughts? The Meme will intercede on your behalf to call family and friends or even 911, if needed. Yes, the Meme is a truly indispensable aid that has revolutionised the way that humans communicate. Critics say that it's destroying human language and verbal interaction, but don't worry: the Meme has an app for that too. If you are lost for words, the Word Exchange will supply you with the word you require. For a small fee of course... Full review...

The Making of Mr Bolsover by Cornelius Medvei

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Meet Andrew Lynch. He's a graduate civil servant, then he isn't. He's married, then he isn't. He's a librarian, then he isn’t. He starts, of all things, to live in a handmade camp in the Sussex countryside, and gets a job writing nature notes for a local magazine – until it's clear he's shooting, killing and eating too many of his subjects for his audience's tastes. He turns his efforts to writing politicised letters to the local newspaper, where his nephew is a jobbing hack, which inspires further, more campaigning activities. Yes, it seems that Andrew Lynch's path to the top is foretold – but his fate is most definitely anything but natural… Full review...

Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Lillian is in her late fifties, single and childless but you shouldn't - for a moment - allow yourself to think that she has a rather sad life. She's lived through periods of tremendous change in post-war Munich, Paris, London and she's now come to rest, smart and independent, in New York. Born in a time when the expectations of her parents - and of society - were fairly standard as to what a woman should do with her life, she seems always to have had a sense that she would disappoint both if she was to be true to herself. She's hot blooded and sexually uninhibited and certainly ahead of her time in her views. When we first meet her she's waking up next to her married lover and taking stock of her life. Amongst other things. Full review...

Bunderlin by Robert Crompton

4.5star.jpg Crime

As a child Martin had been fascinated and entranced by his neighbour Mrs Bundy's household menagerie. Her son Peter was there too but on the periphery; Martin was just there to visit the animals. In adulthood their paths cross again but this time Peter Bunderlin (as he's now known) isn't so easy to avoid – and Martin's tried! Perhaps if Martin could understand what the heck Peter is up to? Full review...

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Katerina's Armenian grandmother Mariam dies leaving her and her mother a journal in Armenian and a spice box full of mysterious letters. They're special to them both because they're the legacy of a much loved relative but totally indecipherable to the monolingually English pair. However a holiday abroad to get over a recent break up brings a random encounter for Katerina. When Katerina meets Ara she also meets the key to her grandmother's secret past. Full review...

Leaving Gilead by Robert Crompton

4star.jpg General Fiction

Tom Sparrow finally does what he's always dreamt of: buying the former Ridley house near his old childhood home. As Tom explores he finds his new house isn't the only link with his past. There's something in the outhouse that takes him back to the days of young love and Susan, the Ridley's daughter. She had been raised in her parents' prohibitive faith as a Gilead Jehovah's Witness which didn't seem a problem to them but they were young and experience wasn't on their side… Full review...

What Was Never Said by Emma Craigie

4star.jpg General Fiction

This story is narrated by Zahra, a teenage girl who spends her early years in her home country of Somalia before her family move to the UK to escape civil war. Inevitably, some traditions travel with them and in the novel Zahra recounts her efforts to protect herself and her younger sister, Samsam, against FGM, a practice that claimed the life of her older sister in Somalia several years previously. Zahra intersperses her account with flashbacks to Somalia and the civil war that drove them away, thus giving a clear picture of the trials that she and her family have faced. Full review...

The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Why would anyone - he was soon to ask himself innumerable times - take a coat from a complete stranger only because it had been offered? Skip Gerber steps off the elevator after a long day at work; the foyer of his office building is busy and buzzy and he does not notice the man holding the overcoat until the man hands it to Skip telling him to take very good care of it. Skip unthinkingly grasps the coat and before he has the chance to realise what he is doing - and that he is now holding an overcoat of unknown providence - the man disappears out of the exit door to the building. Full review...

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

5star.jpg General Fiction

Every 7-year-old needs a superhero. That's just how it is… and for Elsa it's her Gran. When Gran dies, Elsa is surprised and devastated. Granny can't be old - Elsa has only known her for 7 years! Elsa still has to carry out Gran's last wish though; there are letters to be delivered and with each delivery Elsa learns something more about Gran the person behind Gran the superhero. Will it enforce her hero status or destroy it? Full review...

Boo by Neil Smith

5star.jpg General Fiction

Oliver Dalrymple is dead. He realised this the moment he woke up in the rebirthing bed. His friends and tormentors had always called him Boo because of his ghostly pale complexion and now he's finally earned the nickname fully. What he hasn't realised is the way in which he died; he thinks he died of holey heart problems in front of his locker while reciting the periodic table. The location is correct but, meeting Johnny (an equally dead former classmate) reveals, he was actually murdered. What's worse, their murderer has been spotted there in 13 year olds' heaven. Full review...

Cellar by Minette Walters

4star.jpg General Fiction

To my mind, The Dark Room is the most perfect psychological thriller ever written (and I've read lots in this genre). In her later works, Minette Walters seemed to veer away from this particular path to glory as her novels became steadily darker and with increasingly dislikeable characters. So it was quite refreshing to discover that The Cellar was written from the point of view of a rather likeable protagonist. Muna is an African child living in, shall we say, somewhat unusual and very cruel conditions: she was stolen and now lives in captivity. Her voice is compelling and from the first page I found myself wanting her to make good her escape from the dreadful - and sadly all too believable - circumstances in which she finds herself. So, naturally, I admired her cunning and resourcefulness, knowing that these attributes would serve her well. But, of course, this is Minette Walters and nothing is as simple as it first appears. As the story unfolded I found myself questioning who exactly were the victims and who, if anyone, was innocent. Full review...

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

5star.jpg Fantasy

Many years ago, in a village deep in Eastern Europe, the locals live a life of relative peace and happiness - knowing to always avoid the wood that borders their land, and safe in the knowledge that they are guarded by a powerful wizard - the Dragon. Aware that he is the one thing keeping them safe from the dangers of the wood, the villagers take part in a ritual called 'The Choosing' every ten years - when a young girl is sent to serve the wizard for a decade. Agnieszka is of age for the choosing, but nobody fears that she will be picked - her best friend Kasia is pretty and graceful, and sure to catch the eye of the immortal Dragon. However, Agnieszka is not aware of the talents she holds that may attract the wizard - talents that the safety of the entire kingdom may come to depend on for their survival... Full review...

Secrets of the Pomegranate by Barbara Lamplugh

4star.jpg General Fiction

Home in Bristol, Alice gets the news from her sister's partner, Paco. Her sister, Deborah Hardy, was on board one of the trains bombed at Madrid's Atocha station on 11 March. No one can yet confirm whether she is alive or dead. Deb had moved to Granada nearly 20 years ago, after her divorce from Mark's father, and was starting to make a name for herself as a scholar of women in Andalusia's history. Alice and her nine-year-old son Timmy fly to Spain to find that Deb is alive, but in a coma in hospital. Over the weeks she keeps vigil for Deb, Alice lives in her sister's home in Granada and reads her diaries, which proves to be a way of feeling closer to her and learning more about her than she ever knew. Meanwhile, Mark and Paco keep their distance, working through their complicated grief in their own ways. Full review...

The House At The End Of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

5star.jpg General Fiction

Alba Ashby is a wallflower of a girl; studious, bookish and excruciatingly shy, so when tragedy wields its ponderous bolt, she is less able than most to adjust to life as she now knows it. In one of her midnight walks around historical Cambridge, she finds herself at the door to Number 11 Hope Street. It is house that she has never before seen; quirky and turreted with a wild garden and grandly Victorian in hue and Alba is enchanted by it. So she does something that she would never normally do, in a million years. She knocks on the door. Full review...

At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

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An indiscretion at a party causes Ellis Hyde's parents to disown him, coming, as it does, hot on the heels of his father not understanding why Ellis has been turned down for war service. To prove he's not a coward, Ellis, his new wife Maddie and best friend Hank leave the US for Scotland. He's determined they will succeed where Ellis' father failed years before: they will find the Loch Ness monster. Maddie isn't as convinced but then she also thinks she knows Ellis. She and the locals at the inn where they're stranded by the global conflict will discover a lot more about him, and indeed themselves. Full review...

The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

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Tom Berry is a quiet man - one who lives for and in nature, spending a half of his year running a small team in remote, isolated forests. The other half he spends tending to his family - a small group whom he brought up almost single handedly, following the departure of his wife. A good, determined man, we learn of Tom's life running forestry teams in remote wilderness, before an accident forces Tom to leave his routine and seek out his son - and both become troubled by the events of the accident, as well as ghosts of the past that may cause more pain than either man had anticipated. Full review...

Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Augusta Price, middle-aged, washed up, substance-addicted actress has just left rehab for the innumerable time. Her only friend in the world is her equally washed-up former mentor. Augusta has recently received a sudden upsurge of interest and income when her tell all memoir became a baffling best-seller. Frances Bleeker is an American journalist who came to London with high hopes, that were quickly dashed by the reality of the British magazine market. The two meet when Frances is sent to interview Augusta about her book where Frances realises there’s far more to the story of Augusta’s life than she’s cared to put in words. Needless to say, young, optimistic Frances and self-obsessed, drunk Augusta don’t exactly hit it off at once. But when Frances loses her job and Augusta needs a ghost writer for her new book, the two offer each other a lifeline ... or enough rope to hang themselves. As Frances will learn by delving into her past, people close to Augusta don’t come away unscathed. Full review...