Newest General Fiction Reviews

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search

Diary of the Fall by Michael Laub

4star.jpg General Fiction

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...

Real Monsters by Liam Brown

5star.jpg General Fiction

Lorna was 12 when she was sent home from school, watched the unfurling events of 9/11 on her TV and recognised her father's office block aflame and falling. Her fight for mental survival started at that moment and the use of alcohol to quell the memories came soon after but then she meets Danny – her life saver. Shortly after this they marry and Danny joins the army. He's sent to fight the monsters, the fundamentalist organisations, which destroyed Lorna's childhood. However when what's left of his unit becomes lost in the desert without food, water or equipment, the focus changes from military victory to personal survival and those monsters are still out there… Full review...

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

4star.jpg General Fiction

This book is essentially a cautionary family tale of four brothers and the way they react to a prophecy about them by the local madman. It is also, in a sense, a coming-of-age story where Ben, the young narrator, is plunged into premature adulthood under the most brutal of circumstances. And it is about brotherly love. None of these descriptions, however, convey the fact that this book is written by an exciting new voice in African literary fiction. Full review...

Ghosting by Jonathan Kemp

5star.jpg General Fiction

Grace Wellbeck is 64 - living on a canal boat in London with her second husband, she lives a relatively settled life of routine. A chance encounter with a man in the street changes everything though - a man who is the spitting image of her first, deceased husband. Is he a ghost? Is Grace going mad? Full review...

Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's New Year's Eve and the nightclub is pulsating with sound. The revellers heave and swell in oceanic waves and Jack is preparing to call it a night, when he is presented with Elsa. She is small; delicate and pretty and alluringly confident - a heady combination for a man like Jack - and though he wants, with every fibre of his being, to walk away, to go home and forget her, he doesn't. Full review...

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

4star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

Sixteen year old Lalla has spent her life in London – mostly inside her family home. Because this is not the London of today, or any other day. When Lalla was seven, the apocalypse arrived; banks crashed, flood defences failed, power failed – and the world could only focus on survival. Now the Nazareth Act is in force and without your identity card, you don’t exist – literally, as you will be shot if you don't produce it. Full review...

The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer

4star.jpg General Fiction

The Restoration of Otto Laird is an interesting concept for a story. It pitches an ageing architect against an ageing building that was built early in Otto's career. When Otto makes the trip from Switzerland to London to try and save Marlowe house from demolition, he takes an unwilling journey down his own past. Full review...

The Complex Chemistry of Loss by Ian Walthew

5star.jpg General Fiction

Deep in rural France James Kerr was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. His mental problems were deep and intractable. Superficially he seemed never to have got over the sudden death of his mother and sister when he was a child and after their death his relationship with his father had deteriorated because his father refused to speak of their loss. There were additional factors too: Kerr had spent some time in Afghanistan in a secret capacity. In fact much of his life since he went to university had involved putting up a front, but doing something else in the background. Full review...

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

5star.jpg General Fiction

Millie Bird keeps a notebook. She writes in it all of the Dead Things that she sees. Her Very First Dead Thing was her dog Rambo. Then there were other things a spider, a Bird… but then there was number 28. The twenty-eighth dead thing than Millie Bird noticed was her Dad. Full review...

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem

5star.jpg General Fiction

Rose Zimmer, a feisty American communist radical, takes on many good and great causes. These include everything from feminism and racism to the changing course of Stalinism in the American C.P. but most of all; her biggest causes are the people around her. The effects upon them are diverse and devastating. She often propels them to success but at the same time they feel battered and must escape according to their own needs. Her affections are real but invasive. Rose keeps a shrine to Abraham Lincoln. Rose’s self-assertion within the perimeters of the German-designed 20th Century New York suburb of Queens, a multi-cultural suburb and a planned housing development similar to Hampstead Garden City provide the setting for Jonathan Lethem’s Tour de Force. Full review...

The Virtuoso by Virginia Burges

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

The title character of The Virtuoso is Isabelle Bryant, a professional violinist who has earned the affectionate nickname of 'Beethoven's Babe'. She was the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and gave her first solo performance, of Beethoven's violin concerto, at Royal Albert Hall. 'Her violin represented another limb to her, it was that precious. It felt so natural, like an extension of her body.' It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the violin is Isabelle's life. Full review...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Every family has its tales which are told and retold and in the Whitshank family it was the story of how Abby and Red had fallen in love one beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon in July 1959. It would usually be told on the porch of the Baltimore house which Red's father had built, but on this final time of its telling the circumstances are different. Abby and Red are aging - even the glorious house is beginning to show its age - and decisions have to be made about how to look after them. All the family are there, even Denny, who can generally be relied on to do only what pleases him. Full review...

Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Yesterday, Sally was living in a rambling farmstead with her teenage daughter Gigi. Now Sally is dead, murdered, and Gigi is alone in the world. Full review...