Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

4star.jpg General Fiction

Barry Bleeker and Sophie Ducel are two very different people destined to take the same journey. As they are both aboard a flight to the Marquesas Islands, their tiny plane crashes leaving Barry and Sophie the only survivors. Until recently, Barry was an investment banker in New York before he decided to leave his life behind and pursue his dream of painting. Sophie meanwhile, was a French architect who along with her husband Etienne was planning a honeymoon of a lifetime. Now Barry and Sophie are alone on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, where they must learn to put aside their differences and survive. Full review...

If We Were Villains by M L Rio

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Murder most horrid amongst a group of 4th Year university students of Shakespeare. We open as our protagonist is released from jail having served his time for a crime that he may or may not have committed. What did he do? What happened that year? Why did things turn out the way they did? We have to push our way through the undergrowth of flashbacks to find out. Full review...

The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

When young seamstress May Bedloe is left alone and penniless on the shore of the Ohio, she finds work on the famous floating theatre that plies its trade along the river. Her creativity and needlework skills quickly become invaluable and she settles into life among the colourful troupe of actors. She finds friends, and possibly the promise of more. But cruising the border between the Confederate South and the 'free' North is fraught with danger. For the sake of a debt that must be repaid, May is compelled to transport secret passengers, under cover of darkness, across the river and on, along the underground railroad. But as May's secrets become harder to keep, she learns she must endanger those now dear to her.

And to save the lives of others, she must risk her own... Full review...

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann and Ross Benjamin (translator)

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Our narrator is a screenwriter, tasked with coming up with a sequel to his hit movie Besties – a film which helped pay for a house, but which his actress wife keeps letting him know, isn't art. To concentrate, the family – he, the wife, and their four year old daughter – have rented a large, modern house at the end of a horrid, hairpin bend-filled road, in a charming alpine landscape. But things aren't right. The couple are at loggerheads too much, things keep unsettling our narrator, and the sole shopkeeper for miles around is ready with the Hammer Horror styled warnings of strange events. Quickly we see the book's title in all its galling clarity – but it isn't too late to get out… is it? And out of what, exactly? Full review...

The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

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The Bredins can't afford to divorce. The house in London would sell, but not for a priced that would allow Quentin and Lottie ( she with her son and their two girls) to each get somewhere to live. Unemployment has barrelled into the equation too: Lottie's lost her job as an architect and Quentin's prowess as a journalist is in reducing demand. There's not much in the way of family help available: Lottie's mother's house might be worth six million, but she barely scrapes by on her income. There's one solution that just might work: the house in London can be let and they'll move to somewhere cheap in the country and live as best they can on the rent they receive. Full review...

The Ludlow Ladies' Society by Ann O' Loughlin

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The Ludlow Ladies' Society is the story of two women and their struggle to come to terms with the terrible tragedies in their lives. Connie Carter arrives at Ludlow Hall, a property she has inherited in Ireland, with no clue as to what to expect. The close-knit community are curious about The American, who seems to have no desire to integrate herself into the community. Nearby, lives Eve, a widow, who formerly lived at Ludlow Hall. She, too, has painful memories and scars that are slow to heal, but as she begins to form a friendship with the reclusive Connie, the two form a bond that will help them both face their grief together. Full review...

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

4star.jpg Thrillers

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight's retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy.It should be paradise. But it's turned into a nightmare. Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they've been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all - where has her husband gone? Full review...

Seven Days with You by Hugo Driscoll

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There was little in eighteen-year-old Sean Johnson's life to give him joy. He was a farmhand in the small town of Bloxford and the highlights of his life were his daily chats with his friend Tom, helping out at the animal sanctuary and a trip to the pub on a Saturday night. The downsides were the boring job and having to live with a drunken father who seemed to have no intention of getting over the death of his wife many years earlier. But it would be the animal sanctuary which brought joy into his life in the form of Sophia Hillingdon, daughter of one of the top lawyers in the country and about to go to Oxford to study law herself. It was their love of animals which would spark their love for each other. Full review...

Time of Lies by Douglas Board

4star.jpg General Fiction

The Labour Party has split in two. So have the Conservatives. The smaller parties have descended into squabbling and internal strife. Brexit negotiations have trundled on in dribs and drabs, held up at every turn by a slow-moving and mostly unwilling Europe. Full review...

Me, Myself and Them by Dan Mooney

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As witty as it is unsettling, Dan Mooney offers a story with the potential to open up public conversation around mental health and the human response to distress and trauma. Full review...

A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath

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There's a point early on in Paula McGrath's novel where I had that pleasant feeling of discovering a new, exciting author who was going to take me in a multitude of different directions. This feeling is fading fast after 40 pages. By 60 pages I'm scrabbling around for redeeming features - maybe some of the characters introduced earlier who have all mysteriously disappeared will reappear and administer life support. After 100 pages all hope is lost and I just want to finish the damn thing. Full review...

The Bureau of Second Chances by Sheena Kalayil

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Recently widowed, with a grown-up daughter forging her own life abroad, London-based optometrist Thomas Imbalil takes early retirement and returns to his native India. After a short period enjoying the peace of his house overlooking the Arabian Sea, he agrees to commute to the city for a few months to look after Chacko's Optical Store to help out an old friend. Thomas soon discovers that the eager young assistant Rani is running another business on the side, but he agrees to turn a blind eye and leave it to his friend to deal with on his return. However, it stirs up thoughts and doubts within Thomas and before long he's involved whether he wants to be or not. Full review...

The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge

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Tim Cleverley inherits a failing pub in Wales, which he plans to rescue by enlisting an American pulp novelist to concoct an entirely fabricated mystery about Gerard Manley Hopkins, who composed The Wreck of the Deutschland nearby.

In Victorian England, Gerard Manley Hopkins lives a life full of confusion and contradiction, but discovers a calling for poetry that threatens to overrule his calling to God. And, speaking of God, Five nuns leave persecution to travel to a new world – only to find themselves in more trouble that they could ever have imagined… Full review...

The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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To Ginny, a child with autism, the word Forever means until the police come. Five years ago the police forcibly removed her from the home of her abusive birth mother, Gloria. Now fourteen, and in her fourth Forever Home, Ginny remains hell-bent on finding her way back to Gloria's apartment. She has no illusions about her mother's addictions or lack of parenting skills. She knows that it might be dangerous – that it might even kill her. Still she plots, obsessed with returning to Gloria's to find something she insists she left behind, something she hid under her bed. Her teachers, therapist, and new Forever Parents are in turn frustrated, infuriated, and perplexed. As Gloria returns to her life, the reader follows Ginny on a journey filled with danger and discovery, in her quest to find a place she can truly call her Forever Home. Full review...

We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings

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In the summer of 1984, a Chilterns village was gripped with fear and suspicion as a mysterious intruder known as The Fox broke into the homes of several residents in the area. Despite an increased police presence, regular patrols and vigilante groups, this slippery character still managed to evade detection. A huge police Foxhunt followed, and finally, forensic evidence led to the eventual capture of the perpetrator. This real-life news story sparked the imagination of a young Harriet Cummings, who went on to create a fictional version of events, which invites the reader to turn detective and try and unmask The Fox from a range of possible suspects. Full review...

Hunting Ground by Val Harris

4star.jpg General Fiction

Nyara Camp is one of the newest camps in the Masai Mara and it's run by James and Alexia Sackville. The guests might sleep in tents, but it's still luxury accommodation in anybody's book. Chui Camp, on the other hand, sticks with the traditional way that safaris were run, including bucket showers. Owner Ralph Somerton is convinced that's what the guests should want and he won't listen to any of his wife Tessa's suggestions for updating the tired venue. It's beginning to be reflected in the profits Chui makes, but instead of upping his own game Somerton would rather see Nyara as unfair competition and it's only a small step from that reasoning to looking at ways of ensuring Nyara's failure. Full review...

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

If you find the techniques used by Rembrandt and Vermeer fascinating, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos provides a masterclass in how to work up a canvas in stages. Framing the novel as the story of a seventeenth century Dutch painting, Dominic Smith vividly sketches out the main contours of his characters and the three time periods they inhabit before we are even one fifth of the way through. Sara is one of the few women artists of the period and her painting is of children skating on a frozen canal, her now dead daughter its central figure. The painting has been in Marty de Groot's family since before Isaac Newton was born and he is the patent lawyer from whom it is stolen in 1950s Manhattan. Ellie Shipley forged a copy of the painting in her postgraduate student years and in 2000 finds herself at the centre of a gathering storm which threatens to destroy her reputation as one of Sydney's foremost fine art academics. Satisfying though those first descriptions are, we then understand these are merely the author's equivalent of the delicate chalk lines used by painters of the Dutch Golden Age to mark out the composition which will follow. Full review...

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

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The Red Lobster seafood restaurant chain is closing some of its poorly-performing branches just before Christmas. Amid the Christmas lights, office parties and forced jollity Manny DeLeon, the manager of one of these failing outlets, has to keep it all together for one last day. Short-handed, with most of the staff who've bothered to turn up facing unemployment, he tries to make the best of a bad job, all the while knowing this will be the last day he'll spend with the waitress he shouldn't still be in love with, particularly not now he's about to be a dad. Oh, and there's a blizzard on the way. Full review...

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

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Michael and Lizzie are a writer–journalist couple from New York City; Finn and Taylor live with their ten-year-old daughter, Snow, in Portland, Maine, where Finn (an old flame of Lizzie's) owns a restaurant. After meeting up by chance on a trip to London last year, they decide to go away together for a proper holiday in Italy, to the Sicilian island of Siracusa via Rome. In alternating chapters, the narrative moves fluidly between the perspectives of the four adults, all of whom are reflecting – with the help of hindsight and therapy – on what ended up being a disastrous trip. Although we don't learn until very late on in the book exactly what went wrong, there's a sense that it might be something to do with Snow. Full review...

The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Within three years, England will be at war, but for now, time stands still. Dan Ranscombe is clever and good-looking, but he resents the wealth and easy savoir-faire of fellow guest, Paul Latimer. Surely a shrewd girl like Meg Slater would see through that, wouldn't she? And what about Diana, Paul's beautiful sister, Charles Asher, the Jewish outsider, Madeleine, restless and dissatisfied with her role as children's nanny? And artist Henry Haddon, their host, no longer young, but secure in his power as a practised seducer. As these guests gather, none has any inkling the choices they make will have fateful consequences, lasting through the war and beyond. Or that the first unforeseen event will be a shocking death… Full review...

The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

When we first meet Evan Peck, he has just started at Yale College, where he plays ice hockey. Like lots of the other players, he is actually Canadian, from small-town British Columbia. One night after a party Evan meets Julia Edwards at their dorm and they go out for pizza. She technically has a boyfriend from her Boston boarding school days, but they soon break up and before long Julia and Evan have become inseparable, as they will remain for the rest of their college years. Full review...

Fall Out by Lizzy Mumfrey

5star.jpg General Fiction

Charlton's the sort of village where people aspire to live, despite its apparent ordinariness. There's the usual mix of commuters (it's not too far from London) and those who make their lives in the village. Richard Hughes is a commuter, but his wife Jessica works at the local academy, where both their children - Alfie and Hannah - are pupils. Pete Cole is a newly-promoted police superintendent and clearly still fond of his voluptuous wife, Susie. Actually, some of that voluptuousness might be better described as fat - Pete suspects that he might need longer arms to hug her before long. Less popular is Gary Webber. He's the sort of man who causes people to heave a sigh of relief when he joins someone else for a drink at the golf club. Full review...

All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

4star.jpg General Fiction

Nature, nurture, chance and circumstance; all combine to produce the story of Bethany Mitchell, a young adult who writes from her prison cell. We know only that she has committed a 'bad thing', a bad thing that she sees as the end of her story. Armed with a simple task, Erika, a psychologist, sets out to challenge this. She asks Beth simply to compile a list of all the good things in her life. Full review...

Conclave by Robert Harris

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It is hard to believe that Harris has managed to bring such pace to the often lengthy and complex process of a conclave, but he has wrung out every piece of mystery and the result had me reading through long into the night. I simply could not put this down. Full review...

The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal

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Terry has been teaching at his suburban Australian junior school for years. Everyone knows him, heck half the kids in his class have parents who were former pupils of his. He's an institution. You know the sort. And he does not take kindly to a new young upstart showing up and trying to meddle. He's not nasty about it, but it rubs him up the wrong way. Full review...