Newest General Fiction Reviews

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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

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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

5star.jpg General Fiction

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...

The Romeo and Juliet Killers by Xavier Leret

3star.jpg General Fiction

This is a book that suggests love across the tracks – all the while making the reader ask 'just how chuffing wide are those tracks supposed to be?!' Franky is a hard-done-by schoolboy, whose ultra-Catholic parents are stifling him in all aspects of life, so much so it's likely that when he gets into trouble by witnessing some porn on a friend's mobile phone at school it was really the hardware that he was gawping at in amazement. Hardware is nothing to Daizee, the underage street hooker, who knows what hard stuffs she likes and what she doesn't, and what her punters – and her mother, back when they had a connection – enjoyed, or needed, en route to it. Their unlikely connection is the subject of this gritty novella. Full review...

Boxes by Pascal Garnier and Melanie Florence (translator)

4star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Brice. He's an illustrator, who had picked an ideal house in the country with his journalist wife, only for her to disappear assumed dead on assignment abroad. Therefore he's having to make the move himself, which he does – but without her at the other end he finds it hard to kick his new life into gear. Yes, a cat adopts him, and he gets to know the names of some new people, but that's it. What's more, one of those people is Blanche, attired most suitably in all-white, who herself is missing someone – someone of whom Brice is the spitting image… Full review...

Last Night on Earth by Kevin Maher

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Baby Bonnie is born in London in 1996 to Jay and Shauna but her traumatic birth and the aftermath causes the previously happy couple to separate. Jay looks back searching for how he got to this point and Shauna looks for answers in psychotherapy with a less than orthodox Danish analyst. Meanwhile both share Bonnie and worry about where they go from here. Full review...

When We Were Friends by Tina Seskis

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Six friends meet at Bristol University; six very different people from six very different backgrounds. Six lives intertwined in an assortment of ways… break-ups, marriages, careers, motherhood and bereavement; until one night six become five. Full review...

Diary of the Fall by Michael Laub

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Diary of the Fall is a story about regret, guilt and resentment. It's told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator, who reflects on not just his own life but also the lives of his father and grandfather. Full review...

The Summer of Broken Stories by James Wilson

5star.jpg General Fiction

England 1950: Soon-to-be-10, Mark Davenant is a typical lad with a typical lad's life. He loves adding to his model train layout, he plays with his mates and walking best friend Barney the dog. It's on one such walk he comes across Aubrey, an elderly writer living in the forest. They build a friendship based on shared stories and imaginings. Not all in the village are accepting though and, when they try to drive Aubrey out, Mark feels himself torn between old loyalties and new. Full review...

The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

5star.jpg General Fiction

There are some authors who I pick up with a contented sigh, knowing that I am in safe hands. Alexander McCall Smith is currently my favourite, and thank goodness he is so prolific with his writing that my reading habit is fed on a regular basis! This is the tenth novel in the Sunday Philosophy Club series, and we settle down once more to a visit to Isabel Dalhousie in her beloved Edinburgh. Isabel is wondering, perhaps belatedly, if she is sometimes rather judgmental of people. In particular, she’s having an awful lot of qualms about her niece, Cat’s, latest romance. Will Isabel find herself forced to intervene, or can she sit back and let nature take its course? Full review...

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George and Simon Pare (translator)

4star.jpg General Fiction

Monsieur Perdu has a barge on the Seine, and in that barge he has his bookshop. Actually, rather than being a normal sort of bookshop it is more of a chemist's, since he is something of a literary apothecary, prescribing books to his customers that he senses will soothe their souls, and relieve whatever troubles are ailing them. He only has to speak to them a little, sometimes only has to see them, and he instinctively knows which book will help them. Despite his skills, however, he seems unable to diagnose and resolve his own emotional issues and he is, as the translation of his French surname tells us, Mr Lost. Full review...

Flesh and Blood: True Fiction by Marcus Dalrymple

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Brit John Colson is in Mexico teaching, having been invited out there by his godfather and local school owner Carlos Manuel Fermin. John soon settles in, soon forming a love of the country. But then it all changes… Visiting a public toilet at the wrong moment means that John hears a murder being committed beyond his cubicle door. He goes to the police as he would in the UK but this is Mexico; from that moment on John Colson is a marked man. Meanwhile elsewhere in Mexico tourists are being attracted by more than hot sunshine and tacos. Full review...

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain, Emily Boyce (translator) and Jane Aitken (translator)

5star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Laure. She's a widow in her 40s, who is entering her Parisian apartment building one night when she's mugged, and her handbag stolen. Meet Laurent, a middle-aged bookseller, who happens upon the handbag the following morning in the street, just before the binmen take it away, never to be seen again. More or less snubbed when trying to hand it to the police as lost property, he decides to take it upon himself to reunite the bag with its rightful owner. He has no idea their names are so intimately linked, and despite a lot of things being in the bag (including the titular notebook) there is no cash, no phone and no ID documentation at all. What's more – and what looks like making the idea even more fruitless – he has no idea that Laure has fallen into a coma as a result of the mugging… Full review...

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed

5star.jpg General Fiction

Stanly Bird is about to turn sixteen - a solitary teen in a small Welsh town, he has few friends. Unless you count his talking dog, Daryl...

A splitting headache on the eve of his birthday soon develops into incredible powers, and Stanly swiftly finds himself defending his neighbourhood, falling in love, and gaining his first real friends. When jealous rivals, a mysterious figure and a horrific evil come into play though, Stanly finds himself cast away from home, and struggling to save everything he has come to hold dear. Full review...

The Good Girl by Fiona Neill

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Romy is a sixth former who is unremarkable. A good student from a professional family, her aspiration is to become a doctor, and it’s an achievable, rather than lofty goal. Or it was. Because a video has surfaced and it shows Romy doing something that is hardly going to help her medical school application. Or her future career. Or her future life, full stop. For Ailsa, the head teacher, she has the double whammy of trying to keep the school out of the headlines and protect her child who is now at the centre of the controversy. And it’s clearly all the neighbours’ fault. Full review...

Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Slims Achmed Makashvili is determined to leave his native Georgia. It's a country buffeted and often invaded by its neighbours and plagued with lack of amenities. On hearing that Hilary Clinton is running a competition, the prize for which is a trip to the States and knowing all he has to do is overstay his visa for a better life, Slims' letters to Hilary begin. Eventually he gets to the US but… Well, be careful what you wish for. Full review...

The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble

4star.jpg General Fiction

I was predisposed to enjoy this book before I'd even opened the cover. It set me in mind of The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams - another tale of a challenged person who finds refuge in an obsession with insects. But where The Behaviour of Moths focuses on two warring sisters, The Insect Farm has two brothers as the central characters: Roger, who has special needs, and his devoted younger brother Jonathan. Both boys develop an obsession, Roger with his insect farm and Jonathan with a woman, Harriet. When obsession eventually leads to the violence of destruction, other behaviours come into play: feelings of guilt quickly switch to the fear of capture and the sly acts of a man keen to lay the blame elsewhere. Full review...

George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

George loves the Tour de France so when his over protective daughter goes way for an extended holiday the time is right to do it himself. Being 83 there will have to be some concessions, using a car rather than a bike for a start and he'll take his neighbour Charles (a stripling at 76) with him. He'll also take his mobile phone since his landline has been diverted to it so no one knows he's gone. Yes, good luck with that George! Full review...

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

1990 - Wolverhampton. Johanna Morrigan is 14, intelligent, funny and from a loving family. Unfortunately, said family consists of a depressed mother, a mostly drunk father, an older brother with issues of his own, and three younger brothers to worry about. Well read, witty and hugely intelligent, Johanna longs for escape, building a new version of herself and gaining employment as a writer, frequently travelling to the drink, sex and drug filled bars and bedsits of London. Full review...

The Turn of the Tide by Margaret Henderson Smith

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Harriet Glover is well and truly over Mark after he left her standing at the altar. She's pregnant with Sir Joris Sanderson's child and he's keen to make the relationship permanent, but ghosts from his past return to haunt him, unfortunately at a rather important dinner party. The mystery of 'Amber' really has to be solved and the web of lies which surround her dismantled. Harriet is still being led astray by Tricia Harrington (or so Harriet's mother would have you believe...) and she can't really make up her mind about 'Mr Sanderson', particularly when the man from MI6 is around. She's got a lot to cope with and that's before we even get on to the subject of the Prime Minister's daughter's wedding, which must remain secret. Full review...

The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse by Ivan Repila and Sophie Hughes (translator)

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

If you pick up a copy of this book you realise how small it is. You'll know, of course, that pockets hardly exist that are normally big enough to hold what we used to call a pocket book, but here is the exception to prove the rule. It's wee. The story is on a hundred pages. The concision is partly down to it starting after the beginning, for we first meet Big and Small, two brothers, once they're stuck down a large well in the middle of a forest. Tasked with a family errand, they're trapped at the bottom of a natural Erlenmeyer flask, and even a desperate move cannot get either out. This is the story of the next three months in their existence, as they brave hunger, delirium, loss of language, and the brute and unstinting human selfishness needed for existence. Full review...

The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

4star.jpg General Fiction

Lying in a hospital bed, refusing visits from friends, Ivo is alone. Only his carer, Sheila, provides company - and she asks him to think of a different part of his body for each letter of the alphabet, and then to tell a tale about each one. Full review...

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

At midlife, Mary Rose MacKinnon has settled down with her partner, Hilary, and is raising two young children. Opting to fulfill the role of stay at home mum, she has placed her career as an author on hold. What follows is a bid to reconcile this new identity with her former idea of self. Success, however, depends on Mary Rose facing up to the confusions of her past. Full review...

The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

4.5star.jpg Teens

Diana Sweeney's The Minnow is an Australian book aimed at Young Adults that features death, grief, abuse, fear and loneliness. Teenage pregnancy lies at its heart while bereavement, and trying to come to terms with loss, bubbles just under the surface, constantly. But don't be misled. This novel isn't some earnest pedagogical attempt to convey teenage angst and elicit grave pity or understanding from the reader. What rescues it from mawkishness is the beautiful voice of the narrator, Tom (or Holly, if you prefer her real name). Tom doesn't fall prey to self-pity. She simply describes her world as she sees it, matter-of-fact. And the fact that her view is rather unusual (she talks to fish, dead people and her unborn child - and they talk back) doesn't really matter. Nothing can detract from the sheer lyricism of her voice. As a reader, you just have to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Full review...

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Venetia Stanley lives in Seventeeth century London. A celebrated beauty, she has had poems written in honour of her, and portraits painted by one of the leading artists of the time. Married to a handsome, kind and adventurous man, Venetia is kept in a life of luxury, and, at first glance - has everything she could ever have dreamed of. Except Venetia is not happy. A woman who has made her name and fortune because of her beauty, she is convinced that her allure is quickly slipping through her fingers. Signing a pact with an apothecary for his famed restorative 'Viper Wine', Venetia is set on a dangerous path. Full review...