Newest General Fiction Reviews

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One Hundred Days of Happiness by Fausto Brizzi

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Sometimes Serendipity coerces Fate into making sure you read a particular book. I picked One Hundred Days… off the shelf on the back of the blurb from an author of a book I haven't actually read. I confused the title of their book with one I adored. Make of that what you will, I'm going to call it a happy accident, because this is a book many of us really need to read. Full review...

How You See Me by S E Craythorne

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Daniel's father is ill after a stroke and so Daniel needs to go home to Norfolk to nurse him. While there he continues to write letters to his beloved girlfriend Alice, his sister Mab and his boss to keep them up to date. The problems in Daniel's life are a lot closer to home than those he's left behind in his normal life though. Gradually the reasons why Daniel left Norfolk return to him, increasing in intensity until it's much, much too late. Full review...

The Last Four Days Of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey

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Paddy Buckley is a grieving widower who has worked for years for Gallagher's, a long-established—some say the best—funeral home in Dublin. One night driving home after an unexpected encounter with a client, Paddy hits a pedestrian crossing the street. He pulls over and gets out of his car, intending to do the right thing. As he bends over to help the man, he recognizes him. It's Donal Cullen, brother of one of the most notorious mobsters in Dublin. And he's dead. Shocked and scared, Paddy jumps back in his car and drives away before anyone notices what's happened. Full review...

Sherlock Holmes - The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove

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In this hyper-connected world, it is not difficult to conceive of machines that can answer perplexing questions in the blink of an eye, communicate over a vast network or even seemingly outsmart humans. Of course, in the year 1895, such a machine would be viewed with deep suspicion and curiosity; hailed as a miracle, or condemned as the work of dark supernatural forces. James Lovegrove put this idea to the test in his latest Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Thinking Engine, which pits man against machine in the ultimate battle of wits. Full review...

Dandelion Angel by C B Calico

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In her Author's Note, debut novelist C.B. Calico reveals that Dandelion Angel was inspired by a non-fiction work, Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Ann Lawson. The four mother/daughter relationships in this Germany-set novel – all marked to some extent by dysfunction, physical and/or verbal abuse, and borderline personality disorder – are based on Lawson's metaphorical classifications: the hermit, the queen, the waif, and the witch. Looping back through her four storylines in three complete cycles, Calico shows how mental illness is rooted in childhood experiences and can go on to affect a whole family. Full review...

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett

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Well, they kept this quiet – for reasons that will become obvious. A couple of years ago people in America were giving birth to problematic kids. They (the children) were soon found to be unnaturally quiet – perhaps crying with hunger or pain, but never even trying to 'ooga-wooga' their way into their parents' hearts. They were later found to be completely unable to speak, they could not read and indeed they could not understand anything said to them, or shown them, as an instruction. They were physically unable to parse anything as language, and were in a silent world of their own. But right about now they and we are combining worlds – schools are being set up, and funds are being made available, and people are coming down on the endless divide as to whether they are just problematic, disabled – or even the blessed. In a couple of years, however, the problems the virus that is causing these people to be born with will be shown to be a major problem – and that is before the kids themselves change. For they will be able to switch their mental abilities much like a blind man can hear more than the average, and will be able to comprehend body and facial language much more coherently than anyone else. Throughout this timeline, however, people will be working hard to try and study the problem, and put it right – if indeed 'right' is the correct word… Full review...

Sirius by Jonathan Crown and Jamie Searle Romanelli (translator)

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Meet Levi. He's a humble little dog living with a loving family. They've spent so much time with him he has learnt some tricks – not only the usual ones, of begging, or playing dead, but walking on two legs, somersaulting on to his two other paws, and giving the Hitler salute. If this was 2015 in the UK he would be shoe-in for Britain's Got Talent (although the Hitler salute might lose him a few votes, to be honest) but this is 1930s Berlin, and things are starting to get horrendously tough and nasty for Jewish families like his. Querying the statute laws that demand a formalisation of Jewish names his owners rename Levi after Sirius, the Great Dog in the night skies. But nobody can foresee what happens when Jews are pushed harder and harder from their neighbourhoods, and nobody can see what a Great Dog star Sirius can become, in the most unlikely of milieux – Hollywood… Full review...

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Lydia. She's a normal British girl, interested in following both her father, and Nadia Comaneci, into the world of gymnastics but not brave enough to pull off the larger set pieces, and with not much more to interrupt her days than wondering why boys always have to talk about their willies. Now meet Kauthar, a white British convert to Islam, devoted follower of the precepts of her religion, ardent wife and stalwartly self-fulfilling, no-nonsense and satisfied. But what is this – why is she talking of being alone in a desert, and why is she directly addressing her god regarding how she can't perform any movement. Because it is torn apart? Has something gone wrong? Full review...

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

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I knew little about this book before I started it - other than the intriguing title and the scant information that it is a psychological mystery about a girl who survives abduction by a serial killer. For those who, like me, can't resist suspense (and it seems that many people do fall into this category, according to the bestseller lists at least), this is enticement enough. And I was not disappointed: this story offers psychological uncertainty and suspense from start to finish. The narrative alternates between present day and the past, each section lasting just a couple of pages. I found this structure tricky at first, although each chapter does offer a helpful timeline and the chapters are short enough that it's easy to reorient yourself. Once I got used to the choppy style I found that it did work, and it worked really well, reflecting the constant flashbacks and mental turmoil experienced by Tessa, the protagonist. Full review...

Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt

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Robin works at a university. Olivia is one of his students. Francine works behind the scenes in admin. Katrin is a waitress in a local café, and Ed has a role in a rather unique bit of local government. This bizarre cast of characters are the stars of Higher Ed, a story which eventually combines all of their lives. Full review...

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

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On her morning commute to work, Heidi sees something that shakes her. A young girl, barely older than her own pre-teen daughter, huddling in the rain on the platform, clutching a tiny baby. It's a distressing situation and it stays on her mind for the rest of the day. So much so that when she sees the girl again, she feels obligated to help. Full review...

La Crème de la Crem by John Piper

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Gala night at Frere Jacques restaurant where the local political and good gather for a banquet. Everyone is looking forward to a good night and that's what they'll have, just not quite in the way they envisaged. Indeed it will be a night to remember for a long time to come, for all the wrong reasons courtesy of the little something in the dessert. Meanwhile young people are going missing on a scale that the town of Tresside has never experienced before but Tresside doesn't know the half of it… yet! Full review...

Drop by Katie Everson

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Katie Everson’s debut novel, ‘Drop,’ is a tale of grief and healing, whirlwind romance and brutal honesty. We follow the story of Carla - straight-A-student, rule-abiding daughter and somewhat uninteresting friend - who is determined to change her predictable life. When her absentee mother is offered a job in London, Carla transfers to yet another school and this time she is desperate to not be overlooked. Full review...

The Sunshine Cruise Company by John Niven

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Susan Frobisher and Julie Wickham live in a small Dorset town. Friends since school, they live fairly uneventful lives – Susan has a lovely house and a lengthy marriage to accountant Barry, whereas Julie is doing slightly less well – living in a council flat and working in an old people's home. When Barry is found dead trussed up in a sex dungeon, it transpires that he has been leading a hidden life for years, and his expensive fetishes lead to the bank moving to take Susan's home. Struck by both desperation and a sense of injustice, Sue and Julie conspire to rob a bank, taking along their friend Jill – a devout Christian conflicted due to lack of money and a terminally ill grandson, and Ethel – a foul mouthed resident of the nursing home longing for adventure. Full review...

Generation by Paula McGrath

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How can we know the effect that our choices may have on the next generation? Even a seemingly minor decision has the potential to create ripples and waves of unforeseen repercussions in the future. This fascinating theme is explored in “Generation”, an intelligently-written début novel that approaches the subject from multiple perspectives over an eighty-year period. Full review...

Thirst by Kerry Hudson

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London – Summer. Alena, a young siberian immigrant is caught stealing shoes. Dave, the man who catches her, is a security guard – surviving on a minimal income and with little drive to better his quiet, repetitive life. As Alena and Dave grow closer, Dave finds his life turned upside down. But will Alena ever let down her guard, and reveal the truth about her past? Full review...

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse

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Cassie's arrival was bound to cause a stir in the sleepy Somerset village of Sawbridge. She had flaming red hair, a voluptuous figure accentuated by very tight clothing, towering heels, heavy make-up and no wedding ring. But the thing that really shocked the locals was the fact that she had a little mixed-race girl in tow. Petal, as she was called, soon melted the hearts of the residents, but no such courtesy was extended to Cassie, who was dubbed 'that red-headed whore' by some. Her only friend was the kind shopkeeper Molly Heywood, who would often visit Cassie and Petal at their isolated stone cottage on the outskirts of the village. Full review...

Love Notes for Freddie by Eva Rice

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Marnie is an innocent, mathematical genius schoolgirl who, unfortunately, gets expelled from her fancy boarding school. Julie is her teacher, formerly a dancer, rigorously private about her past. Freddie is the boy that both of them fall in love with. Revealed through the eyes of two of the three main characters, this is a slow-moving, but rather beautifully told, love story. It has the same vintage feel that Eva Rice used so well in The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and it cleverly winds its way through Marnie's story in the 1960's as well as Julie's past in pre-WW2 New York. Full review...

Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon

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One morning in 2002, twenty-one year old Tallulah Park is woken in her depressing bedsit by the phonecall announcing her father's heart attack. From this bleak beginning springs Kat Gordon's gripping debut novel of a dysfunctional upper middle class family with a history of papering over the cracks and ignoring the uncomfortable and unfitting. Tallulah has been doing her fair share of powering on and pretending things don't exist, but it seems like this might turn out to be the time to stop running away. With the reluctant help of two aunts, an old family friend and her own imperfect recollections, and with a vivid imagining of her late grandmother as the voice of conscience, Tallulah sets out to answer some long-standing questions about her family and her own past. Full review...

The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish by Dido Butterworth and Tim Flannery

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Meet Archie Meek. He's about to leave the Venus Islands, where he's lived for the last five years, and return to Sydney, where he'll take his office in the museum and fill it with all the cultural artefacts he's found and wildlife he's plucked or pickled. That's not to ignore the fact he'll count as something quite alien himself, with his filled-out frame, nearly all-over suntan and totemic tattoo, in amongst other changes to his body. But what's this? When he gets back, he finds one of the main Venus Islands artefacts that caused him to go there in the first place, a huge, macabre ceremonial fetish mask, purloined as corporate artwork. And some of the curators he wishes to work alongside have vanished. Is the weird society of the museum he's returning to, perchance, even weirder, stranger and more violent than the cannibalistic society he's waving farewell to? Full review...

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

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Amateur artist Lucy Bagshaw isn't exactly living the American dream; she lives in Boston with her overbearing mother and works as a barista in a coffee shop, but things are about to get a lot worse. Her mother, a famous and controversial artist, writes an scathing editorial, publicly insulting Lucy's artwork just before her first exhibition. The editorial quickly goes viral and a humiliated Lucy flees the country, unsure of where her life is heading. She runs away where nobody can find her; a sleepy Cumbrian village by the sea, where her estranged half-sister runs a boarding house. Lucy quickly questions the wisdom of her decision when she receives a frosty welcome from her sister in a village that seems permanently cold, wet and rainy. Should Lucy try and make a new life for herself here, or should she return to Boston and face her demons? Full review...

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

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89 year old Marvellous Ways stands outside her secluded Cornish caravan looking across the landscape with her binoculars. She has a feeling something will happen and soon. Elsewhere American Francis Drake (he's heard all the jokes!) has come home from the war and looks up the girl he left behind with results that are beyond his nightmares but will feature in them. Marvellous' and Drakes' lives will cross and then – Marvellous is right – something will happen. Full review...

Two Lives by Sarah Bourne

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One late afternoon in January 2012, Emma Elliot and Loretta Davidson's lives collide – along with their cars. Both are running late and driving too fast along this Surrey road. Emma is unharmed and flees the scene. Little does she know that this incident will have long-term consequences further down the line. For Loretta, the effects are more immediate. A social worker in her forties, she has taken a career break to raise her and Martin's beloved son Ethan, born after an arduous IVF cycle just over four years ago. Ethan is in critical condition after the car accident and dies during surgery. In her grief, Loretta turns to Scotch and Valium and drifts away from her husband and their families. Full review...

Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

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Ronald Tonks has reached that stage in life which I call upper middle age: you've qualified for your pension but not yet got to the free television licence barrier. What Ronald has got is a roof that leaks (there's good reason why his home is called 'the shack'), a dog who is going bald (in patches) and money that's in very short supply. On the plus side he has friends, mostly platonic and usually in much the same boat as Ronald. But are they downhearted? Well, they are occasionally, but mostly they're generously optimistic and out to make the most of what they've got, usually bought from charity shops and jumble sales. Not Far From Dreamland is the story of a year (2012) in the life of Ronald Tonks, his friends and relatives. Full review...

Motherland: A Novel by Jo McMillan

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Jess is a teenage Communist which isn't a surprise since she comes from a Communist family. Her late father was a card carrying member and Jess spends her weekends selling The Morning Star with her equally enthused mother Eleanor. It's not only a thankless task, it's not a very welcome sight for some citizens in their native Tamworth of the 1970s. However Eleanor and Jess' lives are about to change, thanks to an all-expenses paid trip to the GDR – Communist East Germany; a place on the same side of the Berlin Wall as Jess' and Eleanor's hearts. However, they both learn that even a political heaven has its lessons and, indeed, its downside. Full review...

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

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At Black Rabbit Hall, time goes “syrupy slow.” None of the clocks work properly, but an hour at Black Rabbit is said to last twice as long as a London one, and you don't get a quarter of the things done. Every holiday, the Alton family swap the hustle and bustle of London life for this secluded Cornish retreat, a place that is theirs and theirs alone. Full review...

The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

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Todd Kent is young, rich, stupidly handsome, and well on his way to the top of Wall Street. When a new dating app called “Hook” decides to go public, Todd is handpicked by Hook’s eccentric founder to lead the project team. Taking brainy analyst Neha, spoilt party-boy Beau, and old flame Tara Taylor with him – the team find themselves thrust into the hectic circumstances of a $14 Billion deal. As Silicon Valley and Wall Street clash, the death of a young girl will find the team at odds with each other – and spinning wildly out of control. Full review...

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

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Welcome to the world of the Meme; the next-generation mobile device. Imagine technology so sophisticated that it could anticipate your needs as soon as they come into your mind. Need to get home? Your Meme will hail a cab. Feeling unwell? The Meme has an app for that. Negative thoughts? The Meme will intercede on your behalf to call family and friends or even 911, if needed. Yes, the Meme is a truly indispensable aid that has revolutionised the way that humans communicate. Critics say that it's destroying human language and verbal interaction, but don't worry: the Meme has an app for that too. If you are lost for words, the Word Exchange will supply you with the word you require. For a small fee of course... Full review...

The Making of Mr Bolsover by Cornelius Medvei

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Meet Andrew Lynch. He's a graduate civil servant, then he isn't. He's married, then he isn't. He's a librarian, then he isn’t. He starts, of all things, to live in a handmade camp in the Sussex countryside, and gets a job writing nature notes for a local magazine – until it's clear he's shooting, killing and eating too many of his subjects for his audience's tastes. He turns his efforts to writing politicised letters to the local newspaper, where his nephew is a jobbing hack, which inspires further, more campaigning activities. Yes, it seems that Andrew Lynch's path to the top is foretold – but his fate is most definitely anything but natural… Full review...

Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

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Lillian is in her late fifties, single and childless but you shouldn't - for a moment - allow yourself to think that she has a rather sad life. She's lived through periods of tremendous change in post-war Munich, Paris, London and she's now come to rest, smart and independent, in New York. Born in a time when the expectations of her parents - and of society - were fairly standard as to what a woman should do with her life, she seems always to have had a sense that she would disappoint both if she was to be true to herself. She's hot blooded and sexually uninhibited and certainly ahead of her time in her views. When we first meet her she's waking up next to her married lover and taking stock of her life. Amongst other things. Full review...

Bunderlin by Robert Crompton

4.5star.jpg Crime

As a child Martin had been fascinated and entranced by his neighbour Mrs Bundy's household menagerie. Her son Peter was there too but on the periphery; Martin was just there to visit the animals. In adulthood their paths cross again but this time Peter Bunderlin (as he's now known) isn't so easy to avoid – and Martin's tried! Perhaps if Martin could understand what the heck Peter is up to? Full review...