Newest General Fiction Reviews

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All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

4star.jpg General Fiction

It was 1935 and Loretta Young wanted fame and success in Hollywood. Part of it was being young (just twenty one) and beautiful but she was also conscious that the money she brought in mattered to her family. She was hungry for love too: her father had left when she was young. Her step-father had done little better and there was a need for a man she could love and look up to. She developed a reputation for falling in love with her leading men: first it was Spencer Tracy but on the set of The Call of the Wild she fell for Clark Gable - and he for her. Full review...

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

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Sarah's son has just died in an avalanche and as such this is a book very much about bereavement and grieving and what next. It's odd to think that a basis of personal tragedy made this an intriguing read, but that was the case. Full review...

The Postmistress of Nong Khai by Frank Hurst

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Mike Rawlins' rise through the ranks in the investigation department of Customs and Excise has been steady, culminating in his dream posting: attachment to the British Embassy, Thailand. It gets even better when he realises a name from his past is also operating out of the country on the other side of the law. Mike's attempts to nail him over the years have become personal and now, thanks to local informant or 'Postmistress' Lek, prosecution is a possibility. What Mike doesn't realise is the cost the chase will exact… not yet anyway. Full review...

Midnight in Berlin by James MacManus

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Berlin – 1938. In the British Embassy, military attaché Colonel Macrae prepares to defy his ambassador and government, and assassinate Hitler. Elsewhere, Sara Sternschein appears on stage in her role as the lead in the Gestapo's brothel – the Salon Kitty. She has no choice, her twin brother is being held in a concentration camp. In the Gestapo Headquarters, Obergruppenfuhrer Joaqim Bonner waits and watches – with his eyes on Sara Sternschein as his secret weapon. As Colonel Macrae gathers intelligence for his mission he finds himself drawn to Salon Kitty – but does Sara hold the key to thwarting Hitler, or is Macrae being manipulated? Full review...

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia Macgregor

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Fay, Adam, the girls teenager Ella and little 6 year old Willa seem a happy family. They are on the whole, it's just Ella who isn't. Fay, named by the ladies across the road 'The Mother that Stayed' moved in after Norah, 'The Mother that Left', went. Now she's taken Norah's place in the family's life and Adams' bed. Ella just wants her mother to come home and then, 6 years after she went, Norah does. How will she fit in and, just as importantly, why did she come back? Full review...

Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon

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In Try not to Breathe Holly Seddon offers an addition to the somewhat overflowing thriller shelves. Of course, the reason this particular segment is bursting at the seams is because thrillers, especially psychological ones, are just so compelling. And there have been some good - and hugely successful - books in this category out there of late (before-I-go-to-sleep-I'll-be-gone-with-a-girl-on-a-train). So how does Holly Seddon match up? Full review...

The Last of the Bowmans by J Paul Henderson

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When Greg Bowman's eighty-three year old father Lyle dies he leaves some unfinished business. It's up to Greg – black sheep of the Bowmans – to start learning the meaning of the word responsibility and sort his errant family out, preferably without them noticing what he's up to and assisted only by the gentle nudging of his father's ghost. Can he do it before he returns to his altogether more carefree life in America, and without causing any further trouble? As Greg begins to sort out his father's house and affairs, he untangles some complicated webs of deception and unearths a few family secrets, including some of his own. Full review...

The Man Who Drew Triangles: Magician, mystic or out of his mind? by Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach

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'Magician, mystic, or out of his mind?' Consider the following: 27-year-old Olaf, disembarks a flight from his homeland, Iceland, seats himself on a broken terminal at Heathrow airport, and begins to meditate, to reach his guides. Attracting the attention of Irish airport security, he is eventually sectioned and escorted to a psychiatric unit. Full review...

Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator)

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Upstairs, a flat where mother and daughter struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque; downstairs, the love nest of a dying writer and her last of many conquests. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs is a multilayered testimonial to the writer, the eccentric Alba Cambó, gathered by Araceli, the teenager upstairs. Through Araceli's bird's-eye view, anecdotes unfold as told by lovers, business acquaintances (often both – for with Alba Cambó you can never know), and the short stories of Cambó herself. Full review...

Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Seeing as this book is clearly a talented author hitting the ground running, I will dispense with any major preamble. We start with a tale of a daughter affected by the emotions of her parents as they separate – and the influence of a certain school-teacher – from the mother's point of view. An ancient input shows how alien, and the modern day domesticity how regular, the isolation of a woman can feel, as events are peppered by minor acts of destruction. But men can be alienated too – especially one, a reluctant guest at a party for children hosted by someone he once had an affair with – he feels the new form of this influence in the light of another one he has had to try and abandon. 'All About Alice' – that's what the title character wants to say but has nobody to speak it to, but is it her – mid-40s and single, living with her father – that is most removed from her dreams or her old friend and now child factory, Marian? And we complete a lap of the calendar with the wintry tale of a man unable to tell his work superiors of the problems he faces at home – a new home, recently built like so many one sees while driving round Ireland. Full review...

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt

4.5star.jpg Teens

Twelve year-old Jack is informed that his parents will be fostering another boy – fourteen year-old Joseph. But Joseph isn't like most fourteen year-olds. He's troubled: the rumour is that he spent time in juvenile incarceration for trying to kill his teacher. And there's something else about Joseph, too: he has a daughter. Full review...

Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh

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Yasmin is fifteen and seriously overweight - her capacity for consuming food will amaze and sicken. She's bullied at school and even her own mother finds her just a little bit weird: let's not go into what her stepfather thinks about her. Her father died a while ago, but Yasmin has never really come to terms with his death and still has the feeling that everything would be OK if only Terry was still around. There's a girl in Yasmin's class called Alice and Yasmin is so in awe of her that she stalks her. One day, in the school playground, she spots a man watching Alice as carefully as she does and becomes obsessed by the idea that the man is going to abduct Alice. Full review...

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Teddy Todd never really expected to survive the war. As a bomber pilot it wasn't something which you could rely on and he certainly knew the statistics. But - against all the odds, he came through it, albeit with some time spent as a prisoner of war. On balance he had a good war, but time will see him married to Nancy, father to Viola and grandfather to Sunny and Bertie - and left with the feeling that it's more difficult to have a good peace than a good war. Full review...

If She Did It by Jessica Treadway

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Hanna and Joe had two daughters. Iris, the elder, had done well at school and gone on to be a medical student, but Dawn had always struggled. Hanna worried that it was something to do with the birth when Dawn might have been starved of oxygen for a brief moment. She was never bright, bullied at school and suffered from amblyopia or lazy eye. Dawn called it 'lacy eye'. In her late teens she had a boyfriend - tall, good-looking Rud and was obviously besotted with him and brought him home for Thanksgiving, but the pair left the next morning under a cloud with Joe accusing Rud of having stolen from the house whilst everyone else was out. That night Hanna and Joe were attacked in their beds; Joe died from his injuries and Hanna was left severely scarred and with no memory of the events of that night. Full review...

Beneath The Lake by Christopher Ransom

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The Mercer family are on the holiday of a lifetime at the somewhat remote Blundstone Lake in Nebraska. It is all the things a camping holiday should be; tranquillity and beautiful scenery in spades and lots of good old-fashioned family fun. When another family arrive, the Mercers try not to feel disappointed that their solitude has been encroached upon and do their best to keep out of the other family's way, but when the newcomers' family disharmony becomes violent and murderous, The Mercers have no option but to become rather more acquainted with them than they had bargained for. And so their lives are forever altered. Full review...

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe

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There's a great deal of significance in the title of Number 11. It's the common abbreviation for the home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as a bus route around the outskirts of Birmingham which provides a useful haven for those who can't afford to put the heating on at home. It's also Jonathan Coe's eleventh novel. On a level more personal to the characters in the book it's also the number of floors below ground which are being added to a house in Chelsea owned by an obscenely-rich family. Even more obscene is the fact that the owner of the house doesn't know what she wants that floor for - everything that could possibly be added (swimming pool with palm trees, wine cellar, bank vault, staff quarters...) is on the other floors or in the house itself. But Mrs Gunn wants it because she can have it. Full review...

Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou

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Dentist-turned-author Dan Moller is struggling, both financially and mentally, when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a pair of Americans. They offer to sweep away Moller's financial worries in exchange for his correspondence with J. D. Salinger, the elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. What follows is, for Dan Moller, a journey to America to meet Salinger, and, for the reader, a journey through these letters into Moller's relationship with his depression, the lives of the eccentrics in his writers' collective, and into Western intelligentsia ranging from Kiergegaard's writings to a psychedelic apparition of pop icons featuring Andy Warhol and Woody Allen. Full review...

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

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Meet Penny Harrigan. And let's hope your introduction to her is more gentle than that we have on the first page of this book, where she is being raped in front of a full court house, who – male to the bone – sit back and say nothing, if not whip out their camera phone. Once people take her out on a gurney and recognise her, we can start from the beginning, where she is a lowly underling at a law firm, having failed too many exams to progress satisfactorily. The company is where the world's richest man is in legal negotiations having left the world's best and most beautiful actress, and lo and behold he just happens to pick Penny to replace her with, even if she doesn't think of herself as the most beautiful girl around. But what exactly is it she is wanted for, and can her apolitical style of feminism and aspirations be met? Full review...

The Hotel on Mulberry Bay by Melissa Hill

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Penny and Elle Harte are sisters, but they couldn't be more different. The two had an idyllic childhood, brought up in the family hotel in the scenic Irish coastal town of Mulberry Bay. Ambitious Elle always had the urge to spread her wings and fly, whereas her dreamy younger sister was content to stay at home and help her parents out in the hotel. As time passed, the sisters no longer had the close bond they once shared, especially with Elle living in London, enjoying her successful and demanding role as an architect. A family tragedy brings the sisters together once more; however, and family loyalties are tested as never before. Full review...

Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke

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Edward Searancke was called up to serve his country in 1940, not long after the outbreak of the Second World War and we hear his story from initial call-up, through the years of preparation for the invasion of France, to his eventual release as a Prisoner of War and return home to attempt to pick up the pieces of everyday life. It's a delightful mixture of the mundane (the difficulties of getting dry clothing, problems with his feet) and the dramatic (being surrounded and captured in an orchard in Northern France and his life as a prisoner of war) and much of the story is told through the genuine letters from Searancke to his wife which were handed to his son after his father's death. John Searancke tells us the story of his father's war. Full review...

Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories by Alexander McCall Smith

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Sometimes, if I'm in a cafe by myself, I like to watch the people around me and imagine stories about their lives. Just a single sentence, overheard, can lead to wonderous tales of mystery and intrigue whilst I sip my cappuccino! So I was delighted to sit down to read the latest offering from AMS, not only because he wrote it, but because he wrote it after looking at 5 different black and white photographs, and then imagining the stories behind them. Who are all these people, and what are their stories? Each story is unique, and yet they all have one abiding link...love. Full review...

This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle and Martin Aitken (translator)

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This is the first novel of Helle Helle's, an award winning Danish author, to be translated into English. It is easy to see from this novel why she is gaining accolades in her Danish homeland. The rhythmic, natural flow of the narrative is mesmerising and appears to lull you through the book. It has some lovely, spare sentences of description: There were run-down cottages with open doors and news on the radio. Gulls flocked around an early harvester in the late sun. But mostly, it is written in a modernist, almost stream of consciousness style, which I found refreshing. Full review...

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam

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Elsie and Homer Hickam were West Virginians and knew how to make their tales as tall as the hills that surrounded them on all sides. There is a Hickam family legend that has been told and retold so many times over the years that the lines between myth and reality have become well and truly blurred. Carrying Albert Home is the story of a man and his wife, a sweet pet alligator and a very lucky rooster who decide to take a road trip to Florida in 1935; the year of the Great Depression. What follows next is all completely true, well, except for the parts that are made up... Full review...

Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator)

5star.jpg General Fiction

Upstairs, a flat where mother and daughter struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque; downstairs, the love nest of a dying writer and her last of many conquests. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs is a multilayered testimonial to the writer, the eccentric Alba Cambó, gathered by Araceli, the teenager upstairs. Through Araceli's bird's-eye view, anecdotes unfold as told by lovers, business acquaintances (often both – for with Alba Cambó you can never know), and the short stories of Cambó herself. Full review...

Always There by John Van der Kiste

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

When Dave left Plymouth to go to college in Uxbridge he met Lisa. They sort of palled around together for a little while with no thought of anything more, well, not on Dave's part at least. The he met Jo and for a long time they were really good friends and it would be a couple of years before they were anything more. Lisa didn't see it that way though: she reckoned that if Jo hadn't come along she and Dave would have stuck together and made a go of it. Dave and Jo's couple of years at college were marked, if not marred, by Lisa's regular outbursts. Full review...

The Soldier's Wife by Pamela Hart

4star.jpg General Fiction

...none of it was real, until the last moment when his hand, the tips of his fingers, left the tips of hers and he was gone.

Turned into just another soldier.

Ruby and Jimmy are newly-weds full of big dreams and plans for the future, but all of that will have to wait. It is 1915 and the world is in the grip Great War, sweeping Jimmy away to fight battles in far-off Gallipoli. Ruby feels like she's in limbo; no longer an innocent child but not quite a fully-fledged married lady. Not wanting to return home, she decides to stay in Sydney, to keep herself occupied as she waits out the war, longing for the return of her beloved husband. She rents a room from a local landlady and finds a job as a bookkeeper at a Timber Merchant. Although she initially takes the job to keep herself occupied and earn a little money, she soon falls into a comfortable routine and starts to enjoy her new-found independence and responsibility. Full review...