Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Out of Practice by Penny Parkes

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In a last-ditch attempt to save her failing marriage, GP Holly Graham relocates to the charming village of Larkford with her family to work at the local practice. She finds life as a village doctor very different to her previous role in a busy city hospital, and falls in love with the close-knit community and its quirky residents. But just as Larkford is beginning to feel like home, Holly is hit by a bombshell that threatens to destroy everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Can she rise to the challenge and fight for what she loves? Maybe she will discover something about herself in the process. Full review...

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Meet Ted Flask. A middle-aged, gay Los Angelino, he has the one love of his life. While the fall-out of relationships with men sends him to therapy, he can rely on Lily, the Dachshund. They've been together through thick and thin, ever since the little pup – the runt, no less – seemed to pick Ted out. Ted's sister's unusual marriage was almost marred by Lily being under the surgeon's knife, at great expense – but on the whole they have life sorted. He tries to write, but Friday night is board games, Saturday night is movie night, and Sunday night is pizza night. Oh, and yes, Lily talks to Ted, either in FULLY! CAPITALISED! EVER! EXCLAMATORY! BARKS! or in regular speech. Oh, and yes, Lily has an octopus on her head. Full review...

Falling by Julie Cohen

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Here is the story of three women, from three generations within the same family. There is Jo, a forty year old single mother whose first husband died, and whose second husband ran off with their nanny. She is left caring for her older teenage daughter, Lydia, and her two little ones, Oscar and Iris, whilst harbouring a secret that she feels she cannot share with anyone. Her daughter Lydia is the second female character, and as well as the usual teenage angst she is also dealing with grief, still, over her father's death, anger with her mother for her second disastrous marriage, and her own very difficult secret that she is unable to talk to anyone about. Finally there's Honor who is Jo's mother in law, the mother of Jo's first husband, Stephen. Honor has a fall, breaks her hip, and is forced to move in with Jo for a time as she has no one else who can help her. She too is hiding a secret from the world, and as you read the story you begin to wonder if any of these characters actually know who the others are, and if any of them will ever start telling the truth. Full review...

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

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Now her parents have died, Annette returns to sell her old childhood home but there's work to do on the decrepit building first. As she wanders around and tries to make some order of the overgrown shambles, she's watched by the ghost of her mother, Netty; a spirit with regrets. Netty reminisces about Annette's childhood and the turning point their lives reached when the mysterious healer Timothy Richardson came to stay. It was a time that promised so much but one for which Netty now needs to make amends, even if she is beyond the grave. Full review...

Act of God by Jill Ciment

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Act of God is a story about two ageing twins who find a worrying mushroom growing in their cupboard, a landlady searching for the spotlight and a Russian immigrant whose greatest fear is insignificance. What the insurance company describes as an act of God brings their already overlapped, Brooklyn lives in to sharper focus. What do you do when disaster threatens? Is it survival of the fittest or should we love thy neighbour? Full review...

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Brett-Marie has never met a kitchen she doesn't want to clean. In fact, permanently armed with bicarbonate of soda and window cleaner, she's always ready to clean anything. Her husband Kent is an entrepreneur, you know, with excellent taste and expensive clothes. Yet here she is, in Borg, a rundown small town, in search of her first job for 40 years. Life takes some odd turns sometimes. Full review...

Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun and Sophie Hughes (translator)

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If you thought your teenaged years were a struggle to work out the world, and yourself, consider that of Heidi Ertl. Or either of her sisters – this book serves as a sort of tribute to these three real-life women, and the lives that came out of their very disjointed youth, forced to be rarefied from the norm by their family uprooting. Father Hans was one of Leni Riefenstahl's key cameramen, and a Nazi military photographer, before taking the whole family into post-war exile in Bolivia. Their mother would have followed him to the ends of the earth – as in part would their daughters, the older two of which start the book by joining him on an expedition to discover a lost Incan city. Heidi finds young, instant love on the trek – but sees the dark side of such emotions, too. Older sister Monika, who might well be manic depressive, finds something else, while the baby of the family stays at home with a maudlin mother. So much here could be the hook on which to hang a full novel, but if anything it's the reaction of them all to this unusual formative journey that inspires this book. Full review...

Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne

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Chains of Sand is a great read about family, faith, survival, and love. It follows the story of two young men: Udi a veteran of the Israeli army who longs for a new future in London, and Daniel, a London banker unsatisfied with his life and yearning for something more. The story focuses on their desires to change their lives by moving to different worlds and how this impacts their relationships with friends and family. As the story unfolds, the two protagonists' histories are slowly uncovered and they both have to overcome the difficulties in their new lives in order to achieve their dreams. Meanwhile, the fate of star-crossed love between a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier intertwines with Daniel's life, complicating all that he thinks has become clear. Full review...

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

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This novel will make you smile. It's a feel-good story, unusual in its premise and original. Germaine is a 45 year old man who is illiterate. He has a group of drinking friends who frequently make him the butt of their jokes, a mother who calls him a 'half-wit', amongst other things, and a girlfriend whom he appears afraid of committing to. Germain spends many afternoons in the park, counting pigeons and writing his name among the dead of the war memorial. It is here that he meets Margueritte, a tiny 85 year old woman who tells him she also counts the pigeons. Full review...

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

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When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rule and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice's departure? When Alice's friend Ada, mentioned briefly in Alice in Wonderland sets out to visit Alice, she arrives a minute too late. Tumbling down the rabbit hole herself, she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world. Full review...

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

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The Japanese Lover is an unassuming novel. The beginning leads the reader to anticipate an enjoyable light read, a good holiday book perhaps – a very well plotted story with an interesting cast of characters and settings. Irena, a Moldovan girl with elfin looks and a passion for fantasy novels, starts working in bohemian care home Lark House in San Francisco. She meets the stately and somewhat aloof Alma Belasco, whose story starts to unravel, beginning with her being brought over from Poland (just as Jews became increasingly vulnerable to the Nazis) to her wealthy aunt and uncle in Cliff House, San Francisco, as a little girl. Allende almost makes us think that this opening tone, entertaining but fairly shallow, will continue for the rest of the novel. Full review...

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

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Only at the end of the world, among the glaciers and icebergs of Antarctica, do Deb and Keller feel at home. For a few blissful weeks each year they study the habits of penguins, finding solace in their work and in each other. Yet Antarctica, like their romance, is imperilled by the world to the north. A new season has begun, and the two play tour guide to the passengers on the expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But when Keller fails to appear, Deb has to consider new feelings of love, loss, and a voyage deep into both the Antarctic, and the human heart. Full review...

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

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I always think, without the grit there would be no pearl. Sorrows have a way of strengthening the heart, never forget that, child.

Greta Costello lives in in poverty with her mother and siblings and must work as a skivvy to put bread on the table. She manages to find some joy in her work though, especially in her 'Sabbath' job working for a kindly old widowed Jew. The two become friends and he offers to take her on as his apprentice, stringing pearls. Could this highly-skilled job be her key to a better life? At the same time, many miles away in Scotland, Jem Baillie and his father can't contain their delight when they discover a magnificent, flawless freshwater pearl at the end of a long day of fishing. They call the pearl 'Queenie' and from that pivotal moment, the fates of Greta, Jem and Queenie will be inextricably linked. Full review...

Baturi by Matthew Stephen

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It's Nigeria and it's the 80s. Matthew is a VSO, on a placement at a college teaching electronics. Or trying to at any rate. When language skills are limited and resources are scarce, you have to make the most of what you've got, even if that means teaching the odd class on American culture rather than rewiring. If I tell you that the Prime Directive applies a lot when you're a VSO, you'll appreciate the difficulties Matthew has when his students want to stray further into the modern world and learn about how things work in Britain, concepts of inventions such as ATMs that are decades off reaching Nigeria (Those days may still be some way off. I actually had a hand written bank card a few years ago while a VSO in a country not too far away). Full review...

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

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It is summer, school is out, the days are long, the bumblebees are big and blousy and the allotment where Clover helps her dad with the vegetables needs weeding and watering. She likes the allotment; it helps her think. This summer, Clover is going to unravel the mystery of her mother, Becky Brookfield and work out what makes her father so sad. All the time. It's hard to be a kid with a dead mother, but Clover thinks it's even harder to be dad with a dead wife. Full review...

Father's Day by Simon Van Booy

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When devastating news shatters the life of six year old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met - a disabled ex-con, haunted by a violent past he can't escape. Moving between past and present, Father's Day weaves together the story of Harvey's childhood on Long Island, and her life as a young woman in Paris. Full review...

Kiss and Kin by Angela Lambert

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It's six months since the death of Harriet Capel's husband George. Looking back she's concluded that she was fond of, but probably not in love, with him. They had two sons and it's the elder of these, Roderick who's married to Jennifer. They have three children, but there's been a rather silly feud between the Capels and Jennifer's family, the Gaunts, which dates back to the couple's wedding, when Clarissa Gaunt, Jennifer's mother said something unpleasant in the church which dropped into one of those silences which always occur when you say something which you really shouldn't. Honours (or should it be dishonours?) were even when George Capel later said something crass and vulgar about the bride's mother and was overheard. Full review...

Under a Cornish Sky by Liz Fenwick

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Under a Cornish Sky is the story of two very different women who are forced to work together to complete a common goal. Their personalities couldn't be more different, so expect fireworks along the way! Shy Demi is as timid as a mouse and although she is a skilled architect, she is never able to succeed in her career because others take credit for her work. In relationships, she is easily manipulated into doing things she doesn't always feel comfortable with; a fact that is not lost on her sleazy current boyfriend, Matt. Lady-of-the-Manor Victoria, on the other hand, simply oozes self confidence. Although she is in her sixties, she has the body of a much younger woman and has no trouble getting men to do exactly what she wants. Despite a long list of younger lovers providing a pleasurable distraction, her one true love is the family home of Boscawen, a glorious estate set in the picturesque Cornish countryside, not far from the sea. Full review...

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

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Fifteen year old Anna has had an excruciating year, topped off with new stepparents and a new school. So she borrows her family's credit card, and runs away to LA to crash with her sister. But Hollywood isn't the escape she needs, and it soon dawns on her: she's trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket. When her sister's obsessive ex offers her a job researching the murderous Manson girls for his next indie film, she accepts – albeit reluctantly. This is not quite the summer Anna had in mind; but the more she learns about the girls and her fate, the more she comes to understand her family – and herself. Full review...

The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

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The Swimming Pool is the story of a woman - Natalie - whose eyes are dazzled by a glamorous couple who live nearby. Natalie and husband Ed have a 13-year-old daughter, Molly, and are the kind of parents you'd steer clear of at the school gates for fear of offending their politically correct sensibilities. Molly has a phobia of water. Rather than keep her away from rivers and pools, they subject her to a childhood of therapy. They keep up with changes to Molly's phone code so they can check up on her messages. They don't believe in private education and they eat nutritionally supplemented pizzas. Louise Candlish pokes delicious fun at this couple, particularly at dull-as-ditchwater Ed whose moral rectitude stifles poor Natalie, desperate to break out of her mould. Enter Lara Channing. Lara is a champion synchronised swimmer and former starlet. Her beauty, wealth and warmth have a magnetic attraction for Natalie who proves powerless to resist Lara's charms, although she is less sure of Lara's enigmatic husband, Miles. The novel charts Natalie's journey as she is enticed away from Ed and into Lara's web, and there is an increasing sense of unease as events unfold. Add to this heady mix a few additional ingredients, a heatwave, an outdoor pool and a gaggle of teenagers, and you have a recipe for disaster. Full review...

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

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Everything that is precious to Leon gets taken away. His Action Man toys, his home, his mum, and his brother. The world seems utterly unfair, and so he sneaks 20p here, and 50p there, out of people's purses, whilst building up a rucksack full of all the things he's going to need when he finds his baby brother, and reunites his family. Through all his planning he still manages to find enjoyment in small things, like a Curly Wurly, or riding his bike, or planting seeds with his new friends on the allotments, but how will he cope when he finally faces the truth of his new life without his family. Full review...

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

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After seventeen year-old Vera's mental breakdown, her father Lucas takes her on a trip to the tiny Lithuanian town of Vilnius to recover and reconnect with their family history. Full review...

Artist in Residence by Simon Bill

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The nameless protagonist of artist Simon Bill's first novel is almost instantly dislikeable. He's a slob with an alcohol problem whose endeavours in the art world appear lackadaisical and who seems to have behaved questionably to his ex-girlfriend Susan. In his antihero, Bill gives himself an uphill struggle to keep the reader turning pages, let alone engage their sympathy. And yet, Artist in Residence is a funny, thought-provoking, informative read which is all the more enjoyable for the mental and emotional demands it places on the reader. Full review...

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell

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The Great Detecitve's ghost has walked London's streets for an age, given shape by people's memories. Now someone's put a ceremonial dagger throug his chest. But what's the motive? And who - or what - could kill a ghost? When policing London's supernatural underworld, eliminating the impossible is not an option. DI James Quill and his detectives have learnt this the hard way. Gifted with the Sight, they'll pursue a criminial genius - who'll lure them into a Sherlockian maze of clues and evidence. The team also have thier own demons to fight. They've been to Hell and back (literally) but now the unit is falling apart... Full review...

How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry

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It is with a heavy heart that Emilia Nightingale returns home to the pretty Cotswold town of Peasebrook. Her beloved father Julius has just passed away; his legacy, a well-loved bookshop that serves as a beating heart to the community. Julius was loved by all: he always had time to listen to his customers and share a recuperative cuppa in times of need. However, his finances were another matter entirely and Emilia wonders how she can keep the bookshop open with an ever-mounting pile of debt. Greedy property developer Ian Mendip would be only too happy to help out, but can Emilia really give up on her father's dream? Full review...

When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson

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Veronika Harper met Veronica Harper aged 8, form the start both deciding they'd stay firm friends. Nika and Roni did everything together including their beloved ballet… until something goes terribly wrong. This leads to a series of events that don't just tear their friendship but also the lives they would otherwise lead. They wish for invisibility and choose different ways to accomplish it for the sake of their survival; physical as well as emotional. Full review...

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

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I do love to sit down with a new book by AMS, and the excitement was doubled on this occasion since a new standalone story meant lots of brand new characters to meet, and also the book has a very intriguingly bizarre title! In this story we get to meet Paul, a food writer who, after a rather upsetting break-up with his girlfriend, heads to Tuscany to finish writing his book. So far, so normal, but of course things soon get a little unusual, beginning with Paul’s arrest on his arrival in Italy and moving swiftly on to the point where instead of a hire car he finds himself with a hired bulldozer… Full review...