Newest General Fiction Reviews

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The Quickening by Julie Myerson

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Rachel and Dan are on holiday in the Caribbean, but soon after they arrive on the island of Antigua odd and disturbing things start to happen. Items seemingly move by themselves. Things break. People appear out of nowhere. And then, the attacks start. Rachel is petrified. Newly pregnant she is worrying for her baby’s safety as well as her own, and she has a nagging feeling in her stomach that the one person she should be able to trust is the one she simply cannot. Dan is acting strangely and though she begs him to let them go home early, he plays down her fears. Why won’t he believe what she’s saying, and take her seriously? Full review...

Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter

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Meredith loves her husband Alistair (the father of her teenage twins Jemima and Luke). This is a bit of a problem though as Alistair now has Charlotte, a new and younger model. With his new coupling in mind, Alistair decides to take the twins on holiday so they and Charlotte can bond. Surprisingly Meredith agrees wholeheartedly; she's sure that a week with the twins would break any fledgling relationship up. Meanwhile Meredith's own twin brother, Jack, is 'taking a break from work' which is fine but you'd think he could at least take a turn visiting his dementia-bound mother… or at least Meredith would think that and regularly does. Jack isn't as responsible as she is, in fact he isn't as a lot of things as she is but Meredith knows it will all turn out ok in the end, and, after the incident with the dead bird in the bleach, she may just be right. Full review...

The Dark Horse by Rumer Godden

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Dark Invader was a well-bred racehorse and had the looks to go with it but he was disappointing in his first season in England and his owner had better uses for the money his sale could bring. He was shipped out to India, which might sound rather extreme, but was not uncommon in the nineteen thirties and there were some benefits. The main one was that he was going to a good owner who cared for his welfare and a trainer who realised that he would get most out of his horses if they were contented. His new owner, Mr Leventine, even arranged for his lad to travel out to India with him and this was probably Dark Invader's greatest piece of luck. Ted Mullins not only loved the horse - he understood him. Full review...

The One I Was by Eliza Graham

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In 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War, a boy arrived at Harwich docks. He was a Kindertransport refugee fleeing the anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. Benjamin Goldman would change his name to Benny Gault when his idea that the war wouldn't happen and he could go home to Germany came to nothing, but in the meantime he was adopted by Lord and Lady Dorner. Six boys were to live at their country home - Fairfleet - and be educated by a private tutor. On the face of it Benny's luck could not have worked out better, but he was hiding a secret. Full review...

Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace

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Danny Wallace is the foremost exponent of ‘Bet Based Non-Fiction’ that I know. This is when a bloke says something daft in the pub and follows through; Wallace has started his own cult, his own nation and said Yes to absolutely everything. However, some things are fine as a quirky adventure in the real world, but following people around London and copying their every move? That sounds a little like stalking to me and should perhaps be best explored in the world of fiction. In a world like Danny Wallace’s new novel ‘Who Is Tom Ditto?’ Full review...

Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

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Hitler Youth Ronaldo! Which way to the street? With these words a very misguided Nazi Fuhrer asks for his first directions in the Berlin of 2011. Mistakenly believing the lad to be a party junior member with his own name on his football shirt, he also thinks for a while it is still 1945. He's soon informed of the truth, but still makes some unfortunate conclusions – that the street kiosks selling Turkish language newspapers are a sign of a Soviet-beating alliance between the two countries, that people eat granola bars because the war still leads to a bread shortage, and that people making an ironic speech bubble with their fingers in the air is all that is left of the Hitler salute. But yes, after a long hiatus neither he nor our author is particularly concerned with explaining, that man is back – and if he has his way he's going to be just as popular this time round… Full review...

Something Like Happy by John Burnside

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How do you pick a name for a short story collection? It seems to me the ...and other stories add-on is like picking a favourite child, a promotion of one portion of the content above the rest. John Burnside has got a title story here, but such is the mood of the book that he seems to have nailed the matter, and picked the most apposite name. Something Like Happy could in a way be the title for practically every piece here. Full review...

Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andrei Makine

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Our unnamed narrator is inspired to think back through his life on the girls and women he has been in love with, partly because of a time spent with an associate – a time marked by a seemingly most unremarkable encounter with a further woman – whom he deemed had never been loved. The associate, you see, had spent half his adult life in Soviet camps for political instruction – our narrator himself was an orphan in the 1960s' Soviet Union. This snappy volume takes us through episodes in several lives at different points during and since the second half of communist rule – and finally explains the import of that unremarkable encounter… Full review...

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

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Eva is blissfully content with life. She has a fulfilling career in her job as a midwife and a happy marriage to the man of her dreams who clearly adores her. Her contented existence is thrown into complete turmoil when, early one morning, her beloved husband Jackson is swept out to sea whilst fishing on the Dorset coast. It seems that in one fell swoop, all of her hopes and dreams have been washed away into the cold, white water. Full review...

Everland by Rebecca Hunt

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There have been two expeditions to the Antarctic island of Everland a century apart. The ill-fated 1913 trip of Dinners, Napps and Millet-Bass is primitive by today's standards. The 2012 expedition is better equipped, better prepared and arrives at a better time of year so all bodes well for Decker, Brix and Jess. But despite the differences both expeditions have things in common. Both groups carry secrets, some become obvious but others remain behind waiting to become discovered. Full review...

Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li

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Yiyun Li's Kinder Than Solitude opens with a death but the story goes back much further than that. When orphaned Ruyu arrives in Beijing to stay with a distant relation to go to school, she finds herself sharing a bedroom with the rebellious Shaoai and going to school with the serious Moran and her friend Boyang. Ruyu is not an easy character and her arrival seems to disrupt everyone's lives even though Moran and Boyang look after her. However an 'accident' changes everything. All four of them live with the consequences of what happened either physically or mentally. Moran and Ruyu both leave China and settle in the US, while Boyang and Shaoai stay in China. The book switches between the events of the past and the present. Full review...

The Collected Works of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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A J Fikry is not having a good time. He's lost his wife to a car crash, and he's not making that much money. The book store he runs, stuck out on a limb on a quiet island community, is too remote to turn a profit year-round, and he has just dismissed the latest publisher's rep to turn up at his door, partly because her previous counterpart, an inconsequential part of A J's life when all is said and done, had died and he didn't know about it. But his bad time is about to get a lot worse, as the one thing he owns worth the most – a rare book, more valuable than his house, his business, anything – is about to vanish. Which bizarrely will cause several major changes to his one-person household… Full review...

A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

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One day towards the end of World War Two, Charles Jackson is dragged to a museum of antiquities just outside a newly liberated Paris by his commanding officer during their downtime. While the other looks at the unusual ancient artefacts, Jackson finds something much more horrific – a man in a wartime bunker in the grounds, squatting over a female figure, blood on his lips that could only have come from her neckline. Years later, Jackson returns to Paris for reasons to do with his medical career, and finds the same man in the company of someone who, were he only aware of the fact, is to become the first and possibly only love of his life. But that's not the only time the paths of Jackson and the mysterious male are destined to cross – the prologue was set in the late 1960s… Full review...

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

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Although the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency belongs to Mma Ramotswe, I often feel that Grace Makutsi really shares equally in these stories and, in this particular episode, she has reached a truly lovely high point in her life. We saw her arrive to work for Mma Ramotswe, initially standing upon the laurels of her unheard-of 97% in her secretarial exams, and throughout the series she has developed, both as a character and as a person. She grew her role from secretary to associate detective (with great determination at times!), she bought new shoes and sometimes conversed with them, and then we rejoiced with her when she married Phuti and began to build a home with him. This time around Mma Makutsi is pregnant, but the question on everyone's mind is will she ever speak to Mma Ramotswe about the baby before it arrives? Full review...

Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister

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Twins Isis and Osiris are now in their 90s, living together in Little Egypt, the English manor house where they were born and brought up. Their names are a clue to their parents' near fetish for everything Egyptian. In fact this near fetish leads their parents to Egypt itself, in search of a big discovery back in the 1920s, demonstrating more enthusiasm than savvy. Having left the twins in the care of the housekeeper, they never return. Isis and Osiris are now bound to the house, tied not by love or memories but dark secrets that won't let go. Full review...

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

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'All intellectual and artistic endeavours…fare better in the mind of the crowd when the crowd knows that somewhere behind the great work or the great spoof it can locate a cock and a pair of balls.' Thus we are introduced to the unforgettable Harriet Burden – larger-than-life, six-foot-tall amazon artist – and to some of the novel's essential elements: musing on what makes intellectual products successful in a postmodern marketplace, feminist resentment of the overvaluing of male achievement, and an unapologetic, playful boldness with language. Full review...

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

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Death Row, in a prison somewhere in the rural US. It's an old prison too, where the modern sensors and security will never be seen, and where those waiting years for their final, final appeals – or for the closing act in their life – remain underground, in dank cells that have no mod-cons, and can easily flood when the rains raise the water table too high. It's where a man called York is seeing out his days, and whereas a female investigator is trying her hardest to get evidence that might see his sentence quashed or changed, he is saying it should be carried out forthwith. While she tries to piece together what got him there and what made him take that terminal decision, shadows of her own dark background are forced to move into sight. All this is told us by the omniscient narration of another man on Death Row, thanks to two heinous crimes… Full review...

The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

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Rachel wasn't ready to drop dead at thirty-five. It's been a year since - a year she's spent trapped in some sort of netherworld that allows her brief, tantalising glimpses of the lives of those she's left behind. There's no apparent rhyme or reason to the glimpses, and Rachel wishes they were more often and lasted longer. Full review...

Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir

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Najwa has been raised by her mother and grandmother with only stories of how awful her father was. He can't answer for himself as he left the farm when Najwa was three years old. After her mother's death Najwa is encouraged by her grandmother to find him as her grandmother is too frail to protect her and a single woman with neither husband nor male guardian is considered loose and worthless in Amman. And so the journey begins, taking Najwa to Pakistan and the centre of Taliban training, to Afghanistan and eventually to a Europe which deigns itself more civilised but seems more alien. Full review...

And Then Came Paulette by Barbara Constantine

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Ferdinand was a widower and he lived with his son, daughter-in-law and their two children on the family farm. Well, he did until the family moved away. Apparently Ferdinand was occasionally prone to swear and obviously children can never be allowed to hear such words. That left him on his own except for the children’s kitten to which their mother was allergic in a farmhouse which demanded a family. He was lonely and he began... well, let’s call it making mischief. Assault is such an ugly word, isn’t it? Then he met Marceline - or rather he encountered her dog and in returning it discovered the old woman is a room filled with gas and leaking rain water through the roof. Full review...

The Mouseproof Kitchen by Saira Shah

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Anna (a chef) and her partner Tobias (a composer) have it all: a great relationship, dreams of moving to France so that Anna can open a well-respected restaurant and, to top it all off, they're expecting a beautiful baby. When Freya is born she is indeed beautiful; she's also profoundly disabled. However, Anna and Tobias decide to follow their dream anyway, not worrying about anything until the moment they have to. Once they've bought their ramshackle home in the Languedoc they realise that the moments they have to worry about come more quickly and frequently than they'd realised and their support system is eccentric to say the least. Full review...

Charm Offensive by William Thacker

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When Joe, a retired politician is named in a tabloid slur he is faced with mending his reputation. Can he regenerate his life? William Thacker has chosen a heady combination for his first novel; politics and PR. A book like this has immediate appeal on the basis of being so contemporary and almost painfully pertinent to our times, so I was really looking forward to reading it. Full review...

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

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The Lemon Grove is not the book I expected it to be. No better no worse, just not what I expected. Set in Mallorca, it is the tale of a summer in the sunshine, but though they’ve holidayed at this villa for years, this summer is a bit different for Jenn and Greg. There are lots of things in this book that are a bit quirky, and the holiday set up is just one of them: the couple are joined by Greg’s daughter (Jen’s step-daughter) and her boyfriend. It’s not wildly unconventional in the real world, but for one reason or another it’s the sort of chaotic set up many authors wouldn’t bother to create. And yet as you read this book you wonder why, because it adds a dynamic that is definitely different, and in a good way. Full review...

Family Likeness by Caitlin Davies

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On a summer’s day in 1950, a smartly-dressed white woman brings her young mixed-race daughter, Muriel, to the branch children’s home Hoodfield House, where she will leave her and never return. Muriel is physically well cared for, but has persistent questions about her identity and place in the world. Full review...

The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R Biddle

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I don’t shy away from a book with a little edge, in fact Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors and his books can be so sharp you can shave with them. On the surface The Atheist’s Prayer would seem to be courting controversy; why else have such a provocative title? But, is it really that shocking? Nope. This is a story about how people deal with the modern world and what happens when dangerous ideals infect a vulnerable group. Full review...

The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith

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I have loved Alexander McCall Smith's books since I first picked one up, and so I have been waiting for the release of this, a standalone novel, ever since I first heard about it. It pains me, therefore, that I'm unable to shout about how marvellous it is to you all or how you should rush out to buy it immediately because actually, I found it disappointing. Full review...

Terms and Conditions by Robert Glancy

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This is a slow bowl with a wicked curl! The hero, Franklyn wakes up in hospital; he discovers that he has had a car accident, but he can’t remember anything. Alice, Franklyn’s wife, and Oscar, his brother, are full of loving concern and his work colleagues are solicitous, but Franklyn soon senses a lack of authenticity in his family members and starts to sniff round to discover why. Full review...