Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Blue Dog by Louis de Bernieres

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Mick's mother had a mental breakdown after his father's death and Mick was sent to live in in the outback with Granpa. On the face of it you'd think that it was going to be a lonely life for an eleven-year-old city boy, with no school to attend, in fact no other children anywhere near. Granpa's busy too: life on a cattle station is brutal for anyone, with all the heat and the dust. But they've all got to make the best of the situation. Full review...

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

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Ellis is a tin man – someone who practices the under-esteemed art of panel beating. He can remove a dint, dent or blemish by expertly applying force so that you can't even feel where the mark was. If he has to choose what would define his life, though, it wouldn’t be his job. It would be Michael and Annie. Michael, the lad he grew up with and Annie who completed their triangle, changing 'everything and nothing'. Now only Ellis remains… Full review...

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa and Alison Watts (translator)

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Sweet Bean Paste centres on Sentaro, an ex-con who dreams of being a writer, but instead spends his days making dorayaki, a type of Japanese pancake. He reluctantly employs Tokue, an elderly lady with disfigured hands, after tasting her divine bean paste - the perfect filling for said dorayaki. Predictably, a friendship soon blossoms between the pair, despite her age and appearance. In many ways, this could sound cliché - a protagonist learns a valuable lesson about not judging someone by their appearance after finding a friend in someone they never expected to like, not exactly an unheard-of concept. Yet, Sukegawa still manages to enthral his audience. Full review...

The Creative Writer for the Creative Newspaper by Terence J Fry

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The man we shall come to know as The Creative Writer was looking out of the window of his office when he spotted a beautiful woman struggling to stay upright in the tornado which was rattling the windows ferociously. Then he realised that it wasn't just the dreadful weather which was affecting her: the woman was doubled up in pain and he could see blood. Amazingly, no one was stopping to help her, worried, he would find out later that, they might be sued if something went wrong. The Creative Writer had no such worries - he dashed out into the tornado and brought her back into the house, shouting at his grandmother that she should call an ambulance. Full review...

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

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Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden. As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side. Full review...

Devil's Cut by J R Ward

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I feel as though I came to this book under false pretenses. I requested the book thinking I was getting a murder mystery and instead I was thrown head first into a roaring family saga. Indeed, said murder mystery though pivotal in the history of the family, is more of a quiet subplot and catalyst from where to begin the storytelling for the book. And so it was I was met with the Baldwine family and the Bradford Bourbon Company. The initial meeting is a romantic one as the family are presented high up in their castle on the hill - or in this case from their beautiful Kentuckian Bradford Family Estate replete with tea roses, fruit trees and hazy Southern sunshine. It isn't long however before Ward transports the reader from such rolling splendour to the darkest corners of human psychology wherein fathers and sons may share the same lover, brothers are divided by suspicion and jealousy and women are used as trophies and commodities. Full review...

Paradise Girl by Phill Featherstone

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Kerryl Shaw lives on a Yorkshire farm – a somewhat idealised one that survives on a few hens and two or three cows and a few sheep. The kind of farm that might have been profitable in the 1950s but by the time Kerryl has arrived should have been struggling. A teenage boy not pulling his weight, now that the grandparents are old and the father is dead, would not be met with exasperated indulgence. There are no stock-hands, no farm managers, no applications for subsidies, or worries about the tax return. Maybe the unwelcome wind turbine covers the costs of the rest of it. Already, in setting, it's feeling a little unreal. But maybe we can forgive that… Full review...

Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona

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Sarah is married to Giorgio and when we first meet them he's Something Very Senior in the foreign ministry in Rome, much to the disappointment of his mother who thought that he'd be there for her (in Sicily), but not only does he go and marry a foreigner, he has a job which will take him all over the world. Such is the life of the diplomat. Their two daughters have to lead a pretty peripatetic life too, but when the family comes into our lives they're all in Rome - for the time being - and just back from Nigeria. To add to the confusion there's Beagle, just about as undiplomatic a dog as you'll encounter. Full review...

You Dear, Sweet Man by Thomas Neviaser

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Bobby Fastow's journey to work on the subway was an oasis of calm in an otherwise exhausting day: nothing was required of him. He could sit and relax, gazing at the adverts until he got to his stop and went to his physically-demanding job. The ad for BurgerBlast caught his eye: a beautiful woman was sitting on a boardroom table, encouraging you to read about the business's move away from artery-choking food to a healthier menu, but it wasn't the message which caught Bobby's attention. It was the woman. She seemed to be looking directly at him and he could have sworn that she winked... Full review...

Taking Wainui by Laura Solomon

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This is the first time I have come across Laura Solomon's work, a New Zealand writer who has won writing prizes for both her fiction and poetry. Although this book appears to be a collection of short stories, I found its format somewhat confusing. Full review...

The Death of Her by Debbie Howells

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In a quiet part of rural Cornwall, villagers are shocked to learn that a local woman has been attacked and left for dead in a maize field. So severe are her injuries, that her memory has been affected and she struggles to remember details of her life. She tells the police that she thinks her name is Evie. Then, she remembers something else; she has a three-year-old daughter called Angel. Where is Angel, and what happened to her when her mother was attacked? The police frantically search for Angel's whereabouts, but on closer examination of Evie's cottage, they find no evidence of a child ever having lived there... Full review...

The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

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Dear Mma Ramotswe is back, for the eighteenth (!) book in the series, and what a beautiful book it is. I ran through the whole tumult of emotions whilst reading this story, with all the usual moments of humour, annoying (and yet endearing) idiosyncrasies of character, low level mystery solving and endless cups of redbush tea. There is a case for the agency with a lady who has been wrongfully fired from her job. There's the worrying, background presence of Mma Makutsi's nemesis, Violet Sepotho, who must surely have been involved in this poor lady's job woes. And there is the difficult discovery of an unknown family member for Mma Ramotswe, and an unwelcome return from another. Full review...

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde and Diane Oatley (translator)

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Bees are a handy symbol of the planet's environmental degradation, as you'll know if you've read anything by Dave Goulson – whose endorsement is featured proudly on the cover of this U.K. release of Norwegian children's writer Maja Lunde's first novel for adults. The creatures also provide subtle links between the book's three story lines. Full review...

A Cat Called Dog 2 - The One with the Kittens by Jem Vanston

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George, Dog the cat and Eric the stray were indulging themselves with a philosophical discussion when they heard some strange mewing. Three kittens had found their way into the garden and told the resident cats that their mother had told them to run away when a two-legs cat catcher came for them all. Mother couldn't run as she had a sore paw, but Daisy, Maisie and Boo had run and run and run. They'd no idea what happened to her - or how to get back home again. George is getting on in years and wouldn't like to upset his two legs, The Lady, by being away from home for too long, so he appoints Dog as leader of an expedition to reunite the kittens and their Mother. Full review...

Angelica Stone by Susi Osborne

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I'd say that Angelica Stone was known as Angel to her friends, but she's not big on friends. She has the sort of background you dread hearing about: sexually abused as a child, grabbed by the care system and didn't so much fall through the cracks as escaped its clutches and then had to learn how to cope. She's been told that she's tainted, that she ruins every relationship without intending to and that she's best staying away from 'decent' people. One of her jobs is working in a supermarket and it's there that she meets Lola Moriarty and she's a completely different kettle of fish. Full review...

Before I Was Yours by Virginia Macgregor

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Rosie can see clearly her future family in her mind. And when that doesn't happen, she adapts. So maybe she won't carry the baby inside her, but that lovely blonde girl at the adoption event could be their new daughter. Yes, she looks like she belongs to them already. It's meant to be. Except it's not. Rosie and Sam don't get to have a genetic child of their own, and they don't get to adopt the perfect blonde girl. They end up with the exact opposite: a boy from Kenya with a peculiar back story and an ardent wish not to be adopted. As optimistic as Rosie and Sam try to be, this isn't quite what they pictured or hoped for. Full review...

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

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Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida, makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss - who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married - and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn't take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut-shamed, labelled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.How does one go on after this? In Aviva's case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She starts over as a wedding planner, tries to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident.But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. These days, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you've done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it's only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane's daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her. Full review...

Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes

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The opening of Green Lion is an apparently simple premise; a young South African man, Con, is tasked with picking up the belongings of an old friend, Mark, who is lying in a coma in hospital. Mark worked at a small zoo with a rare black-maned lioness, who mauled him and caused the coma. However, as the story unfolds, Rose-Innes reveals an unflinching embrace of the messiness of human and animal life, and their troubled interactions. Full review...

A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith

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Here we are, back on Scotland Street, eager to see what everyone (especially Bertie…) has been up to! This is now the twelfth book in the Scotland Street series which is remarkable. That a serial novel has such momentum, and that the characters within have become so very familiar to AMS's loyal readers, is a testament to his skills as a writer. This time around our nerves are on edge as Pat ventures back towards a relationship with the dreadful Bruce! Surely she'll see sense...won't she?! Matthew, of all people, is in trouble with the police, Irene is busy planning a PhD, and Bertie? Could there be a happy ending for Bertie in the air? Full review...

City of Circles by Jess Richards

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Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents, after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret. Over the years, Danu pushes away her grief and develops elaborate and successful high-wire acts with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu's birthplace, Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by the temples, spice mists, and pleasure seekers within the intoxicating outer circle district. Here, she finally gains the courage to open her mother's locket, and discovers the name of a stranger who lives behind the locked gate of the Inner Circle. Fated to remain in Matryoshka, Danu attempts to resolve this mystery. Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something far more unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city? Full review...

Low Heights by Pascal Garnier and Melanie Florence (translator)

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Edouard is an exemplary example of a crotchety old man – changing his mind, and blaming anything and everything – even that decision – on other people. He's physically fine, apart from one hand disabled by a stroke, but mentally, what with forgetting his past, assuming too many days are Sundays when they're not and buying too many inappropriate things, he needs a nurse – Therese, who has formed an unlikely and almost unwanted couple with him. For Edouard, the memory of his wife who died ten years ago is still a little too strong. But this unusual 'family' is about to be upset by an unexpected arrival, who will stir the emotions and life of their remote house no end… Full review...

Refuge by Dina Nayeri

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Sinking boats in stormy seas, national borders boosted with barbed wire, and overcrowded shelters – the media's portrayal of seeking asylum focuses on the process in its darkest, most dangerous form. What happens after tumultuous journeys and temporary shelter is not news; and life after decades in the new country is rarely headline material either. But in Dina Nayeri's Refuge, it is the life after that takes centre stage. Full review...

Across the Ocean by Hawa L Crickmore

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A young cage fighter, Martin Grandson, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder which required a bone-marrow transplant, preferably from a sibling. Only recently he'd been a fit young man, in the prime of life, but now he was suffering from a rare type of bone cancer: without the transplant he would be paralysed for life and might be dead within the next twelve weeks if he didn't receive the transplant within the next fourteen days. Unfortunately Martin's parents had died in a car crash and there were no siblings or other close relatives. His girlfriend, Celia, was not a match. Full review...