Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Silent Night by Jack Sheffield

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

I read a couple of Jack Sheffield’s books about five years ago, and enjoyed them very much. They were written in a similar style to those popularised by, for instance, James Herriot or Gervase Phinn, told mostly in the first person, describing the author’s first couple of years as Headmaster at a small village primary school in Yorkshire. The village of Ragley is fictional, as are most of the characters, but the incidents and situations encountered are based on the author’s experience. Full review...


Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Brother of Sleep tells the story of Elias Johannes Alder, a child born into a god forsaken village high in the Austrian Vorarlberg. He came into the world as a silent child, while his mother was screaming and the midwife wasn't really paying attention. It took a couple of loud intonations of the Te Deum from the neglectful nurse before he finally uttered a sound. Full review...

To The Edge of Shadows by Joanne Graham

4star.jpg General Fiction

Sarah awakes from a coma to find her world destroyed, a long lost aunt her only remaining family, and life as she knows it irrevocably changed forever. Moving to a new town and a new school, making new friends is the least of her challenges as she struggles to regain her physical and mental health following the accident. Full review...

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

4.5star.jpg Teens

This is Shyness is an unusual and brilliant story about Wolfboy and Wildgirl, two strangers who meet in a pub in the town of Shyness. The teenagers are drawn together, each adopting a different identity so for the night they can be anyone but themselves. Full review...

Loser's Corner by Antonin Varenne and Frank Wynne (translator)

4star.jpg Thrillers

Meet Georges Crozat. He's a policeman in Paris, who boxes on the side. After a bout that leads to an almost embarrassing victory, he is made two offers – one from a clearly corrupt man behind the scenes in the sport, who seems to offer a few thrown fights for Georges, then some kind of status as assistant – training, guiding, profiteering; the other comes from a man known always as the Pakistani (or an unkind abbreviation of that), who has a friend of a friend who wants someone to do an enemy a mischief with their fists. Georges doesn't take too long to choose the latter. In alternating chapters, however, we're in the 1950s, and a rookie to the forces, Pascal Verini, is being shipped out to Algeria to work on the civil war causing the republic to break away and become independent from France. Like Georges, he finds his situation one which also causes what may be misguided violence, even if he has a very different attitude to it. Full review...

See You In Paradise by J Robert Lennon

3star.jpg Short Stories

Lennon writes with a relaxed, easy style and his characters are instantly recognisable as people from everyday walks of life, without being in any way stereotypical. Many of the people in these stories are dealing with normal frustrations, and Lennon is cleverly detached enough not to make them individuals that you're obviously supposed to root for (the only exception is the industrialist in the eponymous tale, who is an archetypal capitalist fat cat). There are some very clever characterisations – in Weber’s Head, for example, the narrator is a flawed individual whose opinions of his housemate are gradually revealed to be unreliable and unfair. For me, the most unsettling story is No Life, because it portrays a decent couple at the mercy of people more powerful and influential than them. There is no supernatural or bizarre element at work here, just ordinary characters at the mercy of social power. Full review...

Honeyville by Daisy Waugh

4star.jpg General Fiction

The story is told by Dora Whitworth, a call girl in one of the most exclusive brothels in Trinidad, Colorado. At the time, the town was the only place in the West where prostitution was legal and it was infamous for its red-light district. Dora’s voice rings true and her life is convincingly described. The sumptuous brothel in Plum Street, with its smells of perfume and disinfectant, is as claustrophobic as a prison and Phoebe, the madam, particularly chilling. Full review...

Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen

3.5star.jpg Crime

The book starts off promisingly enough with an introduction by Jessica, the narrator, who informs us that she is imprisoned by a stranger who is handsome and charming and extremely sadistic. Jessica then recounts the events leading up to and during her incarceration, which takes place over the Christmas period. Her jailer, Dominic, has prepared twelve presents for her, for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and each present-opening episode builds up a sense of dread while providing a deepening understanding of the sinister and bitter mind at work. Genuinely creepy stuff. Full review...

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

5star.jpg General Fiction

On the eve of the year 2000, Raphael Ignatius Phoenix decides that he has had enough. Having lived for a century, he takes his own life on the roof of his castle, swallowing a small white pill he has kept on his person for almost 90 years. In the days before, he had written his story all over the walls of the castle - a story that takes in an Edwardian childhood, Hollywood in the 1920's, the Second World War, life as a butler in a stately home, life in a rock band in the 60's, time spent in a nursing home, and finally life in the castle - amongst other, enchanting tales. Full review...

Thornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs

5star.jpg General Fiction

I can't say that I'm a fan of reworkings of classic books: some suck the life out of the original, others fail to add anything - and why would you want to read an inferior version when you can read the real thing? Generally, I try to avoid them - and I'm still not certain why I made an exception for Thornfield Hall - it certainly wasn't the headless woman (sigh...) on the cover - but I added it to my reading pile. I'm glad that I did. Full review...

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

'Monocle' isn't his real name, but that's what the brigade at The Swan would call him once they knew him well enough to insult him. He has an English Literature degree, you see, and the chefs think that's what he would have worn. He'd no interest in cooking, but was two months behind on his rent and being the lowest-rung chef in a gastropub in Camden was the only job that he could get. His co-workers are deranged and borderline criminal whilst the head chef, Bob is a top-rank sadist constantly on the look out for material on which to practice. Monocle has little choice but to stay - given the situation between his parents, going home isn't really an option. Full review...

The Lost Child by Suzanne McCourt

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Sylvie lives in a small Australian fishing village with her mum, dad and elder brother, Dunc. However all that is about to change and little Sylvie finds herself in the middle of dramas she neither understands nor controls. Her world may never be the same but she tries to make sense of it, Trollop, clingy mother, moody father and all. Full review...

House of Ashes by Monique Roffey

4star.jpg General Fiction

There had been unrest in the Caribbean City of Silk in Sans Amen for some time with people growing increasingly belligerent about the perceived corruption of the government. Then the day came when The Leader called the Brothers together and told them that they were going to make history: they would take over the House of Power and the television studios and reclaim what was rightfully theirs. Part of this 'revolution' is Ashes, a quiet, bookish young man who seems to feel most guilty about the lie he told his wife - that he'd be back home for dinner - when he left the house. He'd been swayed by The Leader's rhetoric and finds himself a part of the rag-tag band of ill-trained but probably over-armed young men and teens who invade the House of Power. It would not go as they expected. Full review...

Things We Couldn't Explain by Betsy Tobin

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Jericho, Ohio - 1979.

Annemarie is a clever, funny and spirited girl. Born with sight, she turned blind as a child, but more than compensates for her disability. Living amongst the small-town folk of Jericho, she has a relatively standard, suburban life, schooled at home but more than friendly with many in the town - especially her charming neighbour Ethan.

All is calm, until one day Annemarie finds herself pregnant. Full review...

The Pink House at Appleton by Jonathan Braham

4star.jpg General Fiction

When we first meet Boyd Longfellow Brookes he's musing over the fact that - however much you might wish otherwise - sounds, smells or small details can evoke the most painful of memories in full Technicolor. On this particular afternoon it was the music - Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No 3 in B minor - which brought back the scene which regularly invaded his dreams and his waking hours. Once again he was the eight-year-old boy whose father was thrashing him with a leather strap whilst his mother wept and Papa demanded to know if Boyd had molested the young daughter of a neighbour. He didn't even know the meaning of molest but the expressions on the faces of those around him told him all he needed to know. Full review...

The Boy from Aleppo who Painted the War by Sumia Sukkar

4star.jpg General Fiction

This is a book about colour against the grey backdrop of the Syrian civil war. Adam, the 14-year-old narrator, is an artist who describes emotion, people and things in colour. Through colour, he makes sense of the world. So his sister, Yasmine, 'is usually ruby' although at times she is grey or green. Adam’s views are simple, uncomplicated – he says ‘Lying is bad’, ‘I don’t like the war’ and ‘[Paintings] always say the right things’. Full review...

Black Sheep by Susan Hill

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Mount of Zeal is a mining village, and no mistake. Three concentric semi-circular streets align across the side of a hill, like the rows of seats in an amphitheatre, with little thought at all allowed for the life above the crest of the hill, and a lot of effort and dreams focused on the coal mine at the village's core. The Howker family (and how evocative that name is, so akin to the noise of hawking coal dust from one's lungs), and Ted and Rose, the youngest of the clan, in particular, will face the destiny the environment they grow up in gives them – with only the merest glimmers of hope and the faintest of sparks to latch on to as regards a likeable future. But if that is a faint spark, then how safe is it so close to the tinderbox of a coal mine? Full review...


The Night Falling by Katherine Webb

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

In the summer of 1921, Leandro returns to his birthplace in Italy. He has made his fortune, and his aim is to transform a crumbling palazzo into an opulent mansion. But the outside world is still reeling from the Great War, and Leandro’s nephew, Ettore, is one of those most in need of help. Reluctantly, Ettore asks his uncle for assistance. But Ettero could not have foreseen what was to come from that request… Full review...

Dear Reader by Paul Fournel and David Bellos (translator)

4star.jpg General Fiction

Robert Dubois is a publisher of the old school: the books matter - of course they do - but then so does the food and the drink which accompanies the profession. He's had a long career of paper manuscripts, authors and lunches and he fully expects that life will continue in this way until he finally retires, whenever that might be. Then one day an intern presents him with an ereader and nothing will ever be quite the same again, not least his briefcase, which is used to accommodating vast quantities of paper. He's not a Luddite - but getting used to this gizmo is not going to be easy. Full review...

Waiting for Doggo by Mark B Mills

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Daniel didn't quite acquire Doggo by accident. His girlfriend got him from Battersea Dogs' Home but when Clara walked out on him without any notice (well - just a letter...) she told him to take Doggo back. He was, she said 'just a dog. A small ugly dog'. And Daniel was all set to do just that until he discovered that Doggo would quickly be separated from what Dan considered to be a couple of important parts of his anatomy. After a rethink Daniel had a new job as an advertising copywriter which allowed him to take Doggo to work with him and Doggo's career as a 'mental health companion dog' was born. Full review...

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

5star.jpg General Fiction

To understand Lydia’s death, we need to understand Lydia, and to understand Lydia we need to understand Lydia’s parents. Marilyn, who wanted more from her life than to play the dutiful housewife, who goes to college to study and realise her dreams, not to meet a man (her own mother’s dream for her), goes ahead and, well, she meets a man. That man is James, whose credentials for teaching American history are up for debate, but who nonetheless manages to overcome his background to secure a role doing just that. They settle down and have Nath, then Lydia, then a little while later, Hannah. An unusual family for 1970s Ohio, but a happy one. The children are bright, the home is cosy. Full review...

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Deep below the University, the ancient home of magic and learning, a young girl lives amongst the caves, tunnels, and abandoned rooms. In Seven days, her friend will be visiting - one of her few friends, and someone who Auri cannot wait to see. Those seven days are filled with Auri's preparations - her hunt amongst the tunnels and caves for a proper gift, and her thoughts as she goes about her business. Full review...

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Jason Fitger (Jay) is a Professor of creative writing and literature at a small university in the American mid-west. He is also a frustrated novelist with a colourful personal history, much of which bleeds into his professional life, with interesting results. Full review...

Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

5star.jpg General Fiction

In Iraq any soldier within 5 metres of a roadside bomb explosion will die as even an armoured truck will be torn to pieces. Being within 25 metres of a roadside explosion would be fatal to foot soldiers. Lieutenant Pete Donovan and his US marine unit know this better than anyone. Their job in Iraq is to repair the roads but it's not as simple as it sounds. Every pothole (yes, every pothole) contains a bomb; even the kerbstones could be dummies filled with explosives. That's why every serviceman and woman has it drilled into them: no matter what, no matter where, always watch your fives and twenty-fives. Full review...

The Tower by Alessandro Gallenzi

3star.jpg General Fiction

Amman, Jordan, and even while the world's tallest building is still being constructed, Biblia are hard at work inside. The global Internet conglomerate is undergoing its efforts to digitise the entire world's knowledge, including a priceless archive held by a local dignitary, when one of the workers involved - on behalf of the Vatican - vanishes, along with some unknown quantities of the works. Enter Peter Simms from England, and a classy Italian colleague, to help relocate whatever it was that was missing - in the face of threats from elsewhere in the Muslim kingdom... Full review...

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

When I read about the plan to re-imagine Jane Austen's novels through contemporary, bestselling authors I wasn't entirely sure this was a good thing. Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope? Really? But then, of course, my eyes lit upon the magic author's name, Alexander McCall Smith! Not only had been asked to be involved, but the book he was going to work on was my most favourite Austen book, Emma. What could possibly go wrong? Full review...