Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Keep Walking Rhona Beech by Kate Tough

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Life has just hidden behind a corner and stuck a foot out as Rhona Beech came past. She and Mark had been together for nine years and it was beginning to feel settled. Then Mark announced that he'd got a job in Canada and he was going whether Rhona wanted to come with him or not. The not bit of the sentence was the way it worked out and Rhona was left on her own. Well, she wasn't completely on her own: she had friends and family, but it's not the same as having that special someone in your life, that someone who makes you part of a couple. So Rhona had to start again, rejoining a world that bore little resemblance to the one she'd left nine years ago - and there's a lot of difference between being in the middle of your twenties and the middle of your thirties. Full Review

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Equator by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, General Fiction

It strikes me that nobody can speak well of the Wild West outside the walls of a theme park. Our agent to see how bad it was here is Pete Ferguson, who bristles at the indignity of white man against Native 'Indian', who spends days being physically sick while indulging in a buffalo hunt, and who hates the way man – and woman, of course – can turn against fellow man at the bat of an eyelid. But this book is about so much more than the 1870s USA, and the attendant problems with gold rushes, pioneer spirits and racial genocide. He finds himself trying to find this book's version of Utopia, namely the Equator, where everything is upside down, people walk on their heads with rocks in their pockets to keep them on the ground to counter the anti-gravity, and where, who knows, things might actually be better. But that equator is a long way away – and there's a whole adventure full of Mexico and Latin America between him and it… Full Review

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Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Women's Fiction

We first meet Sylvia Penton on her birthday and her boss, the Prof, is taking her out to lunch. This is her favourite day of the year, not because it's her birthday but because of the special time she gets to spend with the man she loves. He's told her that he and his wife are going to divorce - Martha is apparently having an affair - and Sylvia is convinced that the Prof will then declare his love and they can be together. She hasn't fully constructed 'together' in her own mind - she envisages it as romantic, but her imagination hasn't yet progressed to the sexual part of the relationship. There's time though - she's only been the prof's PA for fifteen years. Full Review

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Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Vintage 1954 starts by thrusting several completely different characters upon us, before deciding to run with them and formulate a plot. So we have an American biker, just landing in Paris but unfortunately not with the wife who shared his dream of visiting the city together. We have a goth girl who everyone recognises from an American crime show, but actually is a humble restorer of antiques. We have a cocktail barman, infatuated with the goth girl. We also have a man ruling the roost over a whole suite of individual apartments fabricated from the Haussmann-era mansion his family once owned. Finally something conspires to get them together, and drinking from the same bottle of a rare 1954 red wine. Only, one of them has a bizarre incidence in his family history that also features the same plonk – where a grandfather imbibed, and walked out the door one rainy morning, never to be seen again. But of course nobody will be doing any disappearing now, though – will they? Full Review

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The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, General Fiction

When Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old, the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. In the long hot summer of 1992, in an isolated suburb of Australia surrounded by Bushland, the girls vanished during the school's Showstopper concert at the riverside amphitheatre. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters united the small community, they were never found. Returning home years later, Tikka must make sense of that strange moment in time – of the summer that shaped her, and the girls she never forgot. Full Review

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The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Long-time followers of The Bookbag will know I'm a die-hard fan of AMS. So you can imagine my excitement at reading a brand new book in a brand new series, described by the author himself as Scandi Blanc (as opposed to Scandi Noir)! Here we meet a new detective named Ulf Varg, who works in the Department for Sensitive Crimes, solving those crimes that perhaps fall outside the usual police parameters. This particular book deals with crimes including someone who is stabbed in the knee, the disappearance of an imaginary boyfriend, and a case of potential werewolves. They're the crimes that perhaps nobody else would bother to deal with, and I rather enjoyed them, especially the stabbing where you find that actually, you identify with the person who committed the crime, rather than the victim. Full Review

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The Things That are Lost by Alan Kennedy

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

The final novel in Alan Kennedy's WW2 trilogy sees Captain Alex Vere taken off active duty and banished to Scotland, providing trade craft spy training. It's stifling and suffocating and feels as much like a prison to Alex as anything the Germans would provide. And where is Justine? Alex hasn't seen her since he went to that disastrous meeting with John Cabot, instigator of the disinformation campaign, and returned to find her missing. A failed mission is one thing but no Justine is quite another. Alex can't get Justine out of his head. Has she left the service? Does she know too much? Is she even still alive? Full Review

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A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens, General Fiction

They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances. Seventeen year old Hannah Gold was born mature – or so her parents tell her. She has dined in fancy restaurants, explored the most sophisticated corners of the globe and lived a life of luxury. Full Review

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Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

What would you be like, right now, if you'd been born a different gender? Would it simply be a matter of genetics, and your life would still have unfolded in the same way? Or would the way you had been raised affect who you became in life? This latest novel by Julie Cohen looks at all of the above, covering the stories of Louis and Louise, born on the same day, to the same parents, but in one storyline Lou is a boy, and in the other a girl. Does it really make a difference, the gender box that is ticked when we arrive in this world? We all know that men and women are treated differently, but this story really highlights how things have been in the past, how they still are, and prompts you to think about how they could be... Full Review

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M for Mammy by Eleanor O'Reilly

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

The Augustts are, like all families, a bit complicated. A loving irish family, their love binds them together – but all express that in very different ways. However, when misfortune strikes the family they are forced to work together in order to understand each other again, as with a family as complicated as the Augustts it's not always what is spoken that makes the most sense. Things are shaken up further when Granny Mae-Anne moves in and takes charge. Full of stern words and common sense, she's a force of nature who must try her hardest to hold the family together. Full Review

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Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Humour, Paranormal

Tilda returns to Brighton, to tidy away the remains of her mother's life after her death. Whilst there, she returns to the Paradise hotel, a haven for eccentrics and misfits. A place where people can be themselves, and let go of thoughts that torment them elsewhere. Little wonder that Tilda cannot forgive her mother for banishing her as a child, from this place of wonder. With the help of Queenie Malone, caring, and gregarious, Tilda begins to pick apart the tricky and uncertain relationship she had with her sometimes cruel and distant mother. Full Review

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The Man Who Came to London by A S Cookson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

In 1948, the first set of Caribbean nationals arrived in Great Britain on a ship called "Empire Windrush". They struggled to find housing. They worked as labourers. They faced open discrimination, forcing them to quickly form their own community. Decades later, Freddy makes the same journey.

Does he find a place to live? Does he face stereotypes? Has Britain moved forward?

Freddie arrives in London in the early 2000s, answering the call for teachers. He thinks about his own Jamaican education, based on the British system, and the way he was taught English nursery rhymes and about the River Thames. He thinks about the love of cricket and football, shared by both countries. And he thinks of the generations of the diaspora who came before him. Freddy does well in his job in East London but he does have to face down some stereotypical attitudes from his pupils - all Jamaicans smoke weed, don't they? Everybody knows that! Full Review

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Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction, General Fiction

In an alternate 1952, Soviet Troops control British Streets. After D-Day goes horribly wrong, Britain is first occupied by Nazi Germany – only to be rescued by Russian soldiers from the East, and Americans from the west. Dividing the nation between them, London soon finds itself split in two, a wall running through it like a scar. When Jane Cawson's husband is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Jane is determined to clear his name. In doing so, Jane follows a trail of corruption that leads her right to the highest levels of the state – and soon finds herself desperate to stay one step ahead of the murderous secret police… Full Review

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When You Read This by Mary Adkins

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Smith Simonyi and Iris Massey worked together for four years, during which time Iris left her husband at the altar on their wedding day. Smith, meanwhile, relied on Iris, but his attention was on making enough money to cover his mother's nursing home fees in Wisconsin, running the branding agency in New York and losing money gambling when the pressures got too much for him. He was devastated when Iris developed a terminal cancer and died at the age of thirty three. He was surprised too when he discovered that Iris had been writing a blog in the last six months of her life and her final request of Smith is that he gets the blog published as a book. Full Review

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Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

I have murdered three husbands.

As an opening line that must take some beating, but Vera's telling us the truth. The first two husbands, Gary and Harry were abusive, but Larry was a treasure, a keeper, and it's difficult to understand why Vera would have killed him, particularly when she was likely to get found out very quickly and now she's in prison with a mandatory life sentence. Her only friend is Shirley, a lesbian, but Vera's not one to let herself be a victim. She's not keen on having a sexual relationship with Shirley (she wouldn't risk the security of her life in prison for the sake of a fling), but she is keen on getting an education and she's studying for a degree in English Literature. Full Review

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Black Light by Laura Solomon

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Jim is a university student and, as the saying goes, he hasn't got his troubles to seek. His father committed suicide when he was young and somehow he's never really managed to connect with his step-father. His younger brother would be kindly described as having learning difficulties: if you were being honest you'd just say that he was very difficult, but Jim does his best with and for him. Jim's in love with a woman, but she finds him repulsive and you can understand why: the looks, the attitude, the (lack of) conversational ability and the clothing all leave a lot to be desired. Despite all that's he's not about to sit back and allow his life to drift: he's actually writing two novels and he reads excerpts from these to his friends in the pub. Full Review


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Redemptor Domus by Gamelyn Chase

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

A young boy arrives at an exclusive faith school on the scenic North Wales coast, sent far from his family in the Far East. As the boy travels to the school, a family tragedy causes the boy to arrive at the school a vulnerable orphan, with an uncertain future. Plunged into a school full of danger and betrayal, the boy is seen as a trophy by friends and enemies alike. With them locked into their scheming and plotting, it comes to the boy to attempt to clean up the pit of filth that the school has become. Full Review

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The Long Path To Wisdom by Jan-Philipp Sendker

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Short Stories, General Fiction

On my travels around the world, I have a tendency to end up in any bookshop that is selling English-language books, and while I buy as many second-hand escapist tales as the next person, what I'm really looking for is the 'local' – the cookbook maybe, the maps definitely, but above all: the folk tales. If I ever get to Burma, I won't need to hunt, I can read before I go. Full Review

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Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

This is a story about the past. A specific past, certainly, in the form of pre-war Budapest, but also a story about how that past can impact on the present and the future. In this book, the first of three Magda Szabó wrote on the same theme between 1969 and 1987 and now newly translated and reissued, we witness a heart-rending nostalgia for happier days, guilt about those who did not survive, and a dogged but doomed determination to cling to long-gone times, feelings and experiences which mark the here and now, staining and warping it into another, subtler misery. Full Review


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Santa Goes on Strike by Jem Vanston

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing


Something's gone horribly wrong. It's Christmas Eve and everything is very busy in Santa's grotto. The presents are all ready and waiting to be loaded onto the sleigh and the reindeer are itching to get going. But Santa? Santa is just not in the mood. He is tired of delivering the latest toys to children who only play with them for five minutes. He wishes people would remember what Christmas is really about - a time for families to come together for love and friendship and goodwill to one another. Full Review

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Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Zoe believes in adding life to years as well as years to life. Her world, like her name, is bursting with life and colour. She is the sort of girl who would sing a rainbow is she could. Tristan (or Tree as she calls him) is the opposite. Fresh out of hospital following a prolonged stay in a psychiatric unit, he sees a world as a grey place. Full Review

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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

The Center is the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi and is the source of great controversy when it comes to the Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice debate. It is at The Center where one man, George Goddard, takes it upon himself to get revenge for the loss of his grandchild, in the form of a mass-shooting. What arises is a novel that details the lives of the remaining hostages, as well as other characters central to the story. One of these characters is Hugh McElroy, a hostage negotiator called in to help deflate the situation, who soon discovers that his sister and daughter, Wren, happened to be at the clinic that day. Full Review