Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson

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A liner ends its journey from Europe in a port city, and waits, silently, holding whatever secrets it had with little signs of life. It is found to contain a heavy box, almost coffin-like, containing mud – and something else. But this is not the coasts of England, and this is not Bram Stoker. This is also not a sailing boat, but an airliner – a Boeing 777, stuck at JFK airport with no signs of life. The CDC and one man – Dr Ephraim Goodweather – are tasked with looking into it. But he won't like what he finds – and nor should anyone. The problem is, some do… Full review...

Her by Harriet Lane

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Emma is a harassed young mother to a toddler with another baby on the way. Used to being a successful professional, she is finding it difficult to cope with everything on a daily basis. Therefore, it hardly surprises her to receive a call from a stranger telling her that she has found her wallet which Emma did not even realise that she had lost. Nina calls round with the offending wallet and Emma is immediately drawn to this composed, organised, successful woman whose life seems to epitomise everything that Emma wishes for. However, as their friendship blossoms, it becomes apparent to the reader, although not to Emma, that things are not what they seem. Apparently when Nina first set eyes on Emma, she recognised her as a face from the past, and an unwelcome one at that. We soon discover that Nina has an ulterior motive for befriending Emma as she sets out to seek revenge for something that Emma did many years ago. Full review...

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Ove (pronounced 'Oo-veh') is a man of principle who tries to do the right thing, ensure the no parking area remains so, is a good Swedish citizen and tries to be civil to his neighbours (even the foreign ones). However he comes over as a total grump. He was even ousted from his position as Chairman of the Residents Association by a vicious coup. Indeed, he's the sort of person who, when life gives him lemons, finds that they're rotting in the middle. There's so much more to his story than that though; a story that started a long time ago. Full review...

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Georgie McCool has always known what she's wanted and pursued it until she has it. She got her dream job writing comedy, she's about to get her own show, and she got her dream guy, Neal.

Only, she's not so sure she has him anymore. Full review...

Shifting Colours by Fiona Sussman

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Celia works as a maid for the Steiners in South Africa; a safe job in a white household for a 'black' to have at a time when the country lurches from suspicion to brutality and back again. At least it was a safe job. The Steiners have decided to move to England and, after difficulty in having their own children, want to adopt Miriam, Celia's youngest child. For so many reasons Celia can't refuse. Rita Steiner promises Miriam an exciting adventure and she promises Celia regular contact. When mother and daughter are miles apart, they both come to realise the same thing: sometimes promises are only as good as the people making them and that goes for promised lands too. Full review...

Touched by Joanna Briscoe

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Rowena Crale and her family have moved to a new home, having uprooted an ill and unwilling mother in law to take possession of it. There are five children in the family...but six if you count young Eva’s imaginary friend. Eva is the family outcast; dressed in her grandmother’s clothes and preparing to attend a different school to her siblings, she is often away from her family, who seem to care little for her or her whereabouts. Full review...

The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

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The Saddeq family are an example of success for their friends and neighbours in Lahore. Mr Saddeq is a doctor with his own practice, sons Sully and Jakie are studying medicine in the US and UK respectively and daughters Mae and Lana have made good marriage matches. However the four 'good' children would view their success differently. Each reacts differently to the futures that their caring father and calculating mother have mapped out for them and plough their own furrows as far as they're permitted but the gravitational pull of home remains a constant through their lives and also, to some extent, for the generation that follows. Full review...

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

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Four years ago, a family lost their brother, their older son, their grandchild. One day he was there, and the next he was gone. Missing. Presumed kidnapped or perhaps worse. Their lives have moved on, but their hearts haven’t. Walls have gone up around them, though, to protect from the pain, the crank calls, the false leads. So when news comes that Justin Campbell has been spotted, alive and, seemingly, well, it’s quite a lot to take in. Full review...

Skid by Roland Watson-Grant

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Things have changed in the Beaumont household since they lived in the Louisiana swampland. Skid (or Terence when he's bad), his mother Valerie and brother Frico have moved to an apartment in the city. The two older brothers have left home and the lads' father is still missing, presumed dead, after he disappeared beneath the alligator-filled water back home. The city is a weird place for our hero as he becomes 16. It's just as dangerous as the swamp ever was as gangs that roam the streets seeking outsiders like Skid. Skid is realising that girls can be a problem too, although neighbourly Claire may be a bit different. She worries about him though; it seems that Skid isn't so much a name as a curse. Full review...

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

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Sugar Hall is a place of transitions. It has recently gained new residents – Lilia Sugar, and her children Saskia and Dieter. It has lost several portions of the estate, however – several valuable trinkets, the billiard table – as Lilia has to sell things to keep the family from poverty. But apart from things arriving and things going, there are things moving – possibly the objects left, possibly the butterfly patterns on the wallpapers. And there are things appearing – such as a lot of actual, living insects, and the naked boy who sometimes appears only as a disembodied head to the young exploring Dieter… Full review...

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

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The Bradley family are constantly busy as you might expect when there are four children but their most testing time comes on seven-year-old Jacob's birthday. His elder sister, Zippy and elder brother Alma have other things going on in their lives but his little sister isn't feeling well. Four-year-old Issy has retreated to bed and she's rather hoping that her mother will come and make her better, but Claire is trying to cope with Jacob's birthday party and it's quite a while before the family realise that Issy is very ill. She has meningitis and that night she dies in hospital. Full review...

All Our Days by Dinaw Mengestu

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Isaac is a refugee from Ethiopia who finds a home in Uganda. At the university he's taken under the wing of a political activist also called Isaac. The 1970s is a dangerous time to be in Uganda as their world is about to explode. Years later Isaac the Ethiopian finds himself in America and lives under the care of social worker Helen. Slowly they form a less than professional relationship and Helen realises that what little she knows of him may not be the truth. Gradually his past is revealed as the guilt he carries comes to the surface. Full review...

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

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Maud is a little forgetful as the rows of cooling cups of tea will attest. She also has a cupboard full of peaches for some reason but not to worry. She has a family who love her and rally round, a home help and her great friend Elizabeth. Come to think of it, Elizabeth seems to be missing and the notes that Maud writes herself each day keep reminding her of this. The problem is that no one will listen to her, let alone believe her. It also reminds Maud of something else; another disappearance a long, long time ago. Full review...

Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery

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Rilla of Ingleside is an interesting novel for many reasons. Being the only fictional book written by a Canadian woman just after the war, about the war, it is an incredibly important work. It tells of what happened to the women who stayed at home, the limited aspects of war work that they were able to do, the endless fear and dread they felt for their loved ones far away, and all of the emotional highs and lows they experienced during such a heightened time. The novel begins as Europe is on the brink of war, and Rilla is only 15 years old and, still, a rather silly young girl. I have to say, I never much cared for Rilla. In Rainbow Valley' the book that precedes this one, she's just a spoilt baby and at the start of this story it seems that nothing much has changed. However, just as the world goes through a dramatic change during this period of time, Rilla herself grows from a child to a woman. Full review...

Travelling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker

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Meet Nicholson Baker. Now, I know I normally introduce a book with such a phrase, and every time before now I've used the name of the main character. But I feel such is the nature of Baker's books that he is the greatest character therein, and the one most important for the potential reader to understand, however close he may or may not be to his fictional creations. Baker is a very stylised author, intricately bound up in providing amusing evidence of the value of all the small things in our world. If anybody can rustle up thousands of words about those baby nubbins that are left when you split a sheet of paper across a ready-made perforation – you know the tiny scads that are left dangling outwards – it's Baker. His early books practically were a day spent in real-time, and by rights you'd think this book should not exist – surely he's covered the world already. But no – here is love, poetry, drone warfare, Debussy, and a view of dance music production as seen from the prospect of a 55-year old American male. Full review...

Someday We'll Tell Each Other Everything by Daniela Krien

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Eastern Germany, and the country is in the limbo-land of time that lay between the end of the Communist state of the DDR and reunification. Teenager Maria is also in a limbo-land of a kind herself, living on a farm with the Brendels family, but not one of them. The matriarch still speaks to her in the third person for one, and while she does some of the house- and farm-work, and is in a relationship with the wannabe photographer son of the family, she knows she's not quite settled within those walls. Especially, as she is to learn, when there is a neighbour who can stir passionate emotions inside her… Full review...

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

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An identity thief is wreaking havoc in the oddest of ways and forcing a dentist to confront his online presence. This is a book like no other you’ll know. Full review...

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

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Tooly (Matilda) Zylberberg, runs a small independent book shop in Caergenog, close enough to Hay on Wye to attract literary festival overflow. She loves and understands literature which is more than can be said about her understanding of her parents. In fact Tooly doesn't even know who her parents are. She had a weird childhood being taken from one city or country to another by Paul but she never got to ask why or even who he was. The sum of her knowledge was that he worked in IT and seemed to take care of her… or rather she took care of him. So one day she leaves her able assistant Fogg to keep the shop going and retraces her life, hopefully finding the answers to the questions she never got around to asking. Full review...

Barbarians by Tim Glencross

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It's 2008 and things are on the up for the Howe family. Sherard Howe, patriarch, art lover and lefty-wing publisher is relishing the power that comes from being well-connected. Wife Daphne is about to publish her second book. Her first, a feminist tome from the 1960s, is still remembered; something that she won't be grateful for. Their son Henry is about to get a well-paid tutoring job and Afua, their informally adopted black African daughter has political ambitions. However not everyone dreams of lofty heights. Henry and Afua's poet friend Buzzy just wants to bed Afua's bloke Marcel. They'd all best enjoy their plans and achievements while they can: the nation's on the cusp of change and so, it seems, are their fortunes. Full review...

Teach Her by Mark Kotting

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This is a very strange book. Jim January would not typically warrant his own book, one in which he is the star, if not the hero. He’s a bit too bland and boring for that. He is a barber. And that is all he is. He has unfulfilled dreams of traveling the world. And his wife’s about to leave him. Throw in a disgruntled soldier and a troubled former pupil and you have a lot of anger and regret bubbling around together. And, when those things combine, it’s only a matter of time before things end in handcuffs and imprisonment. Full review...

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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Idris and Timur may be brothers growing up together but that doesn't mean that they will grow up to be the same. Nabi is the servant of a wealthy man but carries the secret of a deed he regrets and a love that can't be acknowledged. Then there are 10 year old Abdullah and his little sister Pari; inseparable till something separates them, causing a rift that will haunt them both in some way for the rest of their lives. They're all very different people, born of a nation of great natural beauty, natural wealth and the cradle of civilisation. It's also a nation of great pain and turmoil. These people are Afghans and this is their story. Full review...

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

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Arthur Winthrop leads a prestigious Vermont boarding school (sufficiently posh for him to be a headmaster, not a principal). Like his father before him, and his father’s father before that, it is what was always expected of him. The right thing to do. What is not the right thing to do, however, is to be caught wandering, naked, through Central Park in the middle of winter. Under questioning from the police, Arthur is keen to talk. Not about this episode, perhaps, but about other things on his mind. Like his interaction with a young student that has crossed the boundaries of an acceptable student-teacher relationship. It’s as if the flood gates have been opened and there’s no way to shut them now before everything has come gushing out. Full review...

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

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In November 1963 the world was shocked by the assassination of President John F Kennedy, but the picture which brought home to us the horror of what had happened was not of JFK but of his wife in the iconic pink suit, soaked with her husband's blood. 'Let them see what they have done', she said. I've always assumed that the suit was new for the occasion - but it had a back story too and it's told in The Pink Suit, a work of historical fiction based on facts. Full review...

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

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Chechnya 2004: Akhmed stands watching while the Russian 'Ministry' break into his friend Dokaa's house, drag Dokaa away and set light to the remaining house. Shocked, Akhmed dashes over to rescue Dokaa's treasure: his 8 year old daughter Havaa. Realising he has to take her to safety, Akhmed moves the child to the local hospital (or rather the shell that used to accommodate it). There, alongside a less-than-skeleton staff with no equipment, Akhmed tries to do what he can for both his new charge and his countrymen knowing that he will not be the only person affected by his decision to care. Full review...

Glow by Ned Beauman

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Ned Beauman has made quite a name for himself in just a few short years. In 2013, when Granta lauded him as one of their Best Young British Novelists, he had already published two novels, Boxer, Beetle (shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize) in 2010 and The Teleportation Accident (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) in 2012. Full review...

Bhalla Strand by Sarah Maine

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1910: A renowned artist brings his young bride to his childhood home of Bhalla House, an imposing estate on a remote Hebridean island. The grand residence was built at the expense of the local community, many of whom were evicted from their homes and crofts in order to create this rich man’s playground. Tensions run deep and the division between rich and poor seems impossible to bridge. Full review...

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

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The time: the 1995; the place: Quebec. The Tremblay family have espoused the cause of Quebeçois separation from English-speaking Canada for many years. Etienne Tremblay has been a prominent, political folk singer throughout the childhood of Nouschka, his daughter, and her identical twin brother, Nicolas. The young children themselves appeared on stage frequently and have been brought up much in the public eye. Their father is almost always absent from their life as he feeds his selfishness on public adoration. Their mother only existed for them as a name in a hit song about a one night stand. They were cared for by Loulou, a loving grandfather lacking any influence over their behaviour. Full review...