Newest General Fiction Reviews

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W by John Banks

4star.jpg General Fiction

On the slopes of Mt Hood in Oregon, an 1000-year old Viking is discovered frozen - three thousand miles further west than any previously known Viking exploration. Josh Kinninger is inspired by the Viking discovery - three personal catastrophes having left him angry, unmoored and with his world in turmoil. Beginning a journey westward, he's filled with a desire to wreak vengeance on the individuals he finds morally corrupt. Full review...

The Invisible Crowd by Ellen Wiles

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This novel follows the plight of Eritrean Yonas Kelati as he tries to make a life for himself in England. He and a good friend, Gebre, escape from prison only to be thrown into captivity again: trafficked in a shellfish factory where they have to earn their ‘payment’ to the malicious Aziz for entering the UK illegally. When Yonas escapes, the story really starts. Full review...

North Facing by Tony Peake

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At school in Pretoria in 1962, Paul Harvey struggles to fit in - desperate to join the popular group no matter what it may take. His focus on surviving the perils of school so intense, that he fails to see the turbulence in both South Africa and the larger world - with the arrest of Nelson Mandela and the Cuban Missile Crisis affecting the actions of the adults around him. A new and charismatic teacher decides to educate the boys in the unstable situation in the world outside - and a growing awareness of both that and his sexuality pushes Paul Harvey into decisions that he later comes to regret - and their weight pushes him to return to South Africa in the present day - a man in his sixties keen to make sense of a troubled and utterly fascinating past. Full review...

Water & Glass by Abi Curtis

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Something has happened, something very nasty and on a submarine a pregnant elephant is one of only a handful of animals living below the waves. We follow Nerissa Crane, a vet, as she remembers recent events, looks after the animals and falls into a world of intrigue. Full review...

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

5star.jpg Horror

Strange Weather is a collection of four short novels all linked by, unsurprisingly, strange and cataclysmic weather. Each novel is distinct and showcases Hill's restrained yet vivid style which takes everyday events and makes them bitingly, acerbically macabre or blindingly beautiful, often switching from one sentence to the next. As Hill himself says the beauty of the world and the horror of the world were twined together, never is this truer than in Strange Weather where moments of abject horror are coupled with raw beauty. Full review...

The Maid's Room by Fiona Mitchell

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In some apartments in Singapore you'll find a bomb shelter - airless and without a window. It will probably house the washing machine and the other domestic paraphernalia that's got nowhere else to go. There'll be a mattress on the floor of this stifling room, with the heat increased by the tumble dryer. This is the maid's room. It's possibly better than sleeping under the dining room table, but not by much. Back in 2009 there were 201,000 female domestic workers in Singapore, many not earning any money for a year until they've repaid 'training' and other fees to the agency, many living in 'the maid's room'. Full review...

Scoop of the Year by Tom Claver

4star.jpg Thrillers

Martin is an ambitious journalist working on the Financial Review. Martin is good at his job - accurate, dedicated, hardworking and with a good nose for a scoop. But Martin is also uninterested in the culture that comes with reporting. He has a wife and two daughters at home and he doesn't want to waste time and money in the pub, talking macho nonsense with the other hacks. He is a far cry from his colleague Tom de Lacy, a charismatic, silver-spooned charmer with piercing blue eyes. Tom doesn't just grab the limelight though - he also grabs the promotion to industrial correspondent. And that is the job Martin not only wanted, but needed. Full review...

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith

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If you've never read an Alexander McCall Smith novel, but have always thought you might like to try, one day then this might be the book to start with. Rather than face the daunting task of leaping into one of his now very long-running series, this is a standalone novel, and it gives a good flavour of AMS's style, the way he can write to evoke a feeling of time and place, and the warm optimism underlying his words that is so very reassuring and comforting to read. It calls itself 'a wartime romance', which it is, and yet it is much more than that besides. Focussing mainly on Val, a young woman working as a Land Girl, we see her falling in love with an American pilot, Mike Rogers. Thanks to a sheepdog on Val's farm (the Peter Woodhouse from the title) their lives become entwined with that of a German soldier, and the book shows us a variety of friendships as they grow and develop over the years. Full review...

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

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It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens' biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends--just before Kaycee disappeared for good.Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret--a ritual called The Game, it will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her. Full review...

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

5star.jpg General Fiction

I've read several of Alice Hoffman's novels, although strangely, not the one she's most famous for Practical Magic, which went on to be made into a film. The Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to that book, and tells the story of three siblings of the Owens family; Franny, Jet and Vincent. The two sisters, Franny and Jet, go on to become the two aunts in the Practical Magic story. Full review...

Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece by Stephen Fry

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The Greek Myths are, arguably, the greatest stories ever told. So old and influential they cast a shadow over western tales and traditions, yet remain relatable and readable millennia later. Here comedian, actor, television presenter, actor and author Stephen Fry brings his considerable talent to these special stories and recreates them with a wit, warmth and humanity that brings them into the modern age whilst still giving the honour and respect that such ancient and influential stories deserve. Full review...

The Temptation to Be Happy by Lorenzo Marone and Shaun Whiteside (Translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Cesare is 77, widowed, generally ignored by the offspring he likes and bothered too much by the one he doesn't. Still, he finds ways to fill his days. If he's not taking advantage of his friend-with-benefits arrangement with aging lady of the night Rossana, or keeping an eye on his grandson, he's making mischief in league with elderly neighbours like Signora Vitaliano (local mad cat woman) and Marino (the non-IT-literate computer guy). Their minds are diverted from their usual pursuits when a young couple move into the apartment block providing Cesare with a concern and the conviction that he has to do something, whatever the fall out or personal danger. Full review...

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting and Paul Russell Grant (Translator)

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While his grandfather lived the past was an area of certainty for Edvard. At aged 4 he'd been taken to live with his grandparents, having survived the accident that killed his parents. Now his grandfather has died revelations are coming to light showing Edvard his family history is different from what he'd believed… his mother's birthplace, his mother's name, the whereabouts of late Great-Uncle Einar… and that's without looking more deeply into the fatal accident itself. Edvard is determined to solve the puzzle, a determination that will take him away from his native Norway to an area of France synonymous with devastation and a remote Scottish island loaded with secrets. Full review...

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

1.5star.jpg General Fiction

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

5star.jpg Thrillers

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

3star.jpg General Fiction

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

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

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...