Newest General Fiction Reviews

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search


Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator)

4star.jpg Confident Readers

What little I know of Patrick Modiano was gained from the number of 'no, we've never heard of him, either' articles and summaries that came our way when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the end of 2014. They suggested his oeuvre was mature, slightly thriller-based but not exclusively so, and asked lots of accumulative questions regarding identity with regard to the Vichy government during WWII. Identity is a lot more fixed in this musing little piece, for the adult voice-over looks back over a wide remove, and says there will always be a little bit of her living the events and situations of the book. Those situations are of a young dance-school attendee, and her loving and much-loved father, living a cosy life in Paris – even if the girl never once really works out what it is her father does for a living… Full review...

A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

The castle of Delzean's walls have always protected Emperor Eli, his sons, sister, niece and nephew from the ravages and poverty of the people in the city beyond. However the days may be numbered as a burgeoning revolution has infiltrated its walls thanks to the rebel movement known as The Eyes. Their plan necessitates the unwitting involvement of the spoilt, egotistical aforementioned niece, Princess Ava. Unfortunately there will be collateral damage with tragic effects. Full review...

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

4star.jpg General Fiction

Battle-weary and suffering from PTSD, 40-year-old Sergeant Lester Ferris is posted to the island of Mancreu to mark time till his retirement. With no family of his own, Lester takes a local lad under his wing; an adolescent who lives his own life through comic books and superheroes in the hope that he can be adopted. Despite Mancreu beginning to churn with more than its customary black marketeering, Lester realises that he has a job on his hands, not only to take care of an island that sees him as a government puppet but also convince someone that he is the stuff of heroism and to convince himself while he's at it. Full review...

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

4star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

The Age of Miracles was one of those much-talked about books that I never got the time to read on its first go around. I'm not sure how I managed that, but I did. Anyway, it got debut author Thompson Walker a seven figure deal after a bidding war and it has dystopian themes, so it is right up my alley and not the sort of thing I'd usually miss. And so, I was happy that Simon & Schuster decided to reissue it for a YA market and even happier that they decided to send me a copy. Full review...

The Seventh Simian by Gary Kurylo

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Edith has lived alone for many years and she has become irascible and rather anti-social. She avoids even going into the nearby village to do her shopping and the only human being she sees with any regularity is the local shopkeeper who makes grocery deliveries to her and makes an art form of palming off the strange old lady with overpriced, underweight goods. If it weren't for her cat, Edith would have no companionship at all. Full review...

After the Storm by Jane Lythell

4star.jpg Thrillers

Rob and Anna are nearing the Honduras leg of their South American travels. Here they meet Kimberley and Owen, an American couple who charter out their own boat for sailing trips around the local islands. Rob persuades Anna it will be a fun way to end their holiday but Anna isn't so sure. There's something about Owen and Kimberley that makes her hesitant about being shut away on a boat at sea with them. Perhaps it's the way that he never sleeps or the mystery as to why there are no knives in the cutlery drawer. Rob thinks Anna's just overly imaginative, but time will tell. Full review...

We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Tom and Jack are 18 today. Not that they have much cause for celebration - stuck in a home for troubled children, they are constantly examined and questioned by doctors, when all they want is to be left alone to live life together. Full review...

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

4star.jpg Teens

Mare is a Red - a race kept in lives of poverty and servitude by the Silvers, a race with wealth and mutant powers that allow them to live lives of luxury. Learning to survive amongst the slum like conditions that the Reds inhabit, Mare is swiftly thrown into the world of the Silvers - one that proves to be more dangerous than she had ever imagined, with treachery, plots and deadly games lurking round every corner. Full review...

The Vanishing Moment by Margaret Wild

4star.jpg Teens

This book appealed to me on various grounds. It is teen fiction (and, joy of joys, devoid of werewolves and dystopia), it is by an Australian author (under-represented on UK shelves), and it involves parallel universes (tantalising philosophical what-ifs). I was intrigued to see if the author could live up to my expectations. Full review...

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...