Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Be Careful Who You Marry by Lizzy Mumfrey

4star.jpg General Fiction

It was coming up to Halloween in 1987 and a group of sixth-form schoolgirls wondered what they would be doing when they were fifty. When you're only seventeen that seems positively ancient, but Liz was convinced that your entire life depends on who you marry. The only eligible boys were the Young Farmers and the idea of living in a farmhouse and having a couple of children called Will and Olly appealed to Charlotte, or perhaps William and Oliver if you were Elizabeth who was determined to marry the rather superior Patrick Shepley-Botham. The place to start their search was obviously the Young Farmers' Halloween disco that weekend. There was just one problem - there were too many Elizabeths in the class.Full Review


Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Nothing Important Happened Today is a dark, twisted, difficult read. Stories about cults often are, but this is different; it's written with a sense of style that is quite unlike anything I've read before. I can't remember ever having read a novel with such an odd, distinctive narrative voice. While a slim and relatively small book, the slow-moving nature of the plot makes it feel far larger than its 276 pages. Full Review


The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy

When William Abbey fails to prevent the lynching of a young boy in 1880's South Africa, he finds himself cursed by the grieving mother. A naïve English Doctor, he slowly learns the weight of the curse upon him, as the shadow of the dead boy begins to follow him across the world. Never stopping, always growing – it crosses oceans and mountains in pursuit of William. As he finds himself unable to resist speaking the truths that he hears in others, he also learns that the dark shadow is deadly – and seeks to kill the one he loves the most… Full Review


The Triumph of the Spider Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Thrillers, General Fiction

Bobby is an angry, damaged man - damage that came from being abandoned as a baby in a bus station locker, and then being thrown from one foster home or detention centre to another, never far from violence or abuse. Eager to succeed as a musician, he arrives in Hollywood to find his dream - but it soon becomes clear that his paranoid delusions and seething rage will enable a capacity for acts of extreme violence. Unpublished for 40 years, this edition of The Triumph of the Spider Monkey comes combined with a connected novella – Love, Careless Love. Full Review


The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Berlin, 1989. Miriam is in the middle of a city freshly united, with the Wall newly broken down and people able to cross at liberty for the first time in decades. She is in the middle of such euphoria, but cannot feel it, for she has not left her father's apartment in weeks, nursing him as he lies dying. One standard bed-bath, however, is very different, when he gasps the name Frieda that she does not recognise – and she sees for the first time ever a tattoo for his camp inmate identity under his watch. One bombshell outside, then, and two inside. And inside her father, Henryk, what is going on, as he has a first person narrative alternating with her story? What will we find happened, as he remembers back to the real Frieda, a young woman that shook him to the core when he was her literature professor? That's right, more bombshells… Full Review


American Royals by Katharine McGee

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Two and a half centuries ago, America won the Revolutionary War and General George Washington was offered the crown. Today, the House of Washington still sit on the thrown with Princess Beatrice next in line. Beatrice's whole life has been building up to her ruling the United States and the time for her reign is imminent. Full Review


Train Man by Andrew Mulligan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

I came to this book thinking I knew just what to expect, even though it is the author's debut in the adult novel market (hence the more mature name – he used to be an Andy). I thought it simple to sum up, the tale of a middle-aged man who knows too much about train travel having his life turned around in the most pleasant way. I hadn't opened it when I'd shelved it alongside Chris Cleave, and David Nicholls. I expected some whimsy, some warmth and some affirmative loveliness.

More fool me. Full Review


The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Paranormal

Trudy Heaton is going home, to a house where her roots burrow back through the centuries and to a mother she hasn't spoken to for sixteen years. Home, her refuge, Ponden Hall, where she can heal herself and try to come to terms with the traumatic loss of her husband. She needs to build bridges with her mother and convince her grieving son that his father is dead. Where better than the house full of light and shadow, that nurtured her throughout her childhood? Full Review


We Are Not Okay by Natalia Gomes

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens, General Fiction

Set in a typical American town, We Are Not Okay tells the story of four teenage girls facing the difficulties brought on by high school and growing up as a girl in today's society. The novel is told from four different perspectives, those of Lucy, Ulana, Trina and Sophia, whose friendship statuses vary from BFFs to sworn enemies. The reader is presented with a glimpse into each of their lives, but more importantly their minds, and at times the thoughts of those characters could have been taken directly from my own. Gomes has created a heartbreakingly real and relevant novel that focuses on prominent topic areas which are becoming ingrained in our society, particularly in relation to the Me Too Movement. We Are Not Okay reminds the reader of the importance of phrases like I'm With Her. Full Review


Keep Walking Rhona Beech by Kate Tough

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Life has just hidden behind a corner and stuck a foot out as Rhona Beech came past. She and Mark had been together for nine years and it was beginning to feel settled. Then Mark announced that he'd got a job in Canada and he was going whether Rhona wanted to come with him or not. The not bit of the sentence was the way it worked out and Rhona was left on her own. Well, she wasn't completely on her own: she had friends and family, but it's not the same as having that special someone in your life, that someone who makes you part of a couple. So Rhona had to start again, rejoining a world that bore little resemblance to the one she'd left nine years ago - and there's a lot of difference between being in the middle of your twenties and the middle of your thirties. Full Review


Equator by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, General Fiction

It strikes me that nobody can speak well of the Wild West outside the walls of a theme park. Our agent to see how bad it was here is Pete Ferguson, who bristles at the indignity of white man against Native 'Indian', who spends days being physically sick while indulging in a buffalo hunt, and who hates the way man – and woman, of course – can turn against fellow man at the bat of an eyelid. But this book is about so much more than the 1870s USA, and the attendant problems with gold rushes, pioneer spirits and racial genocide. He finds himself trying to find this book's version of Utopia, namely the Equator, where everything is upside down, people walk on their heads with rocks in their pockets to keep them on the ground to counter the anti-gravity, and where, who knows, things might actually be better. But that equator is a long way away – and there's a whole adventure full of Mexico and Latin America between him and it… Full Review


Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Women's Fiction

We first meet Sylvia Penton on her birthday and her boss, the Prof, is taking her out to lunch. This is her favourite day of the year, not because it's her birthday but because of the special time she gets to spend with the man she loves. He's told her that he and his wife are going to divorce - Martha is apparently having an affair - and Sylvia is convinced that the Prof will then declare his love and they can be together. She hasn't fully constructed 'together' in her own mind - she envisages it as romantic, but her imagination hasn't yet progressed to the sexual part of the relationship. There's time though - she's only been the prof's PA for fifteen years. Full Review


Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Vintage 1954 starts by thrusting several completely different characters upon us, before deciding to run with them and formulate a plot. So we have an American biker, just landing in Paris but unfortunately not with the wife who shared his dream of visiting the city together. We have a goth girl who everyone recognises from an American crime show, but actually is a humble restorer of antiques. We have a cocktail barman, infatuated with the goth girl. We also have a man ruling the roost over a whole suite of individual apartments fabricated from the Haussmann-era mansion his family once owned. Finally something conspires to get them together, and drinking from the same bottle of a rare 1954 red wine. Only, one of them has a bizarre incidence in his family history that also features the same plonk – where a grandfather imbibed, and walked out the door one rainy morning, never to be seen again. But of course nobody will be doing any disappearing now, though – will they? Full Review


The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, General Fiction

When Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old, the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. In the long hot summer of 1992, in an isolated suburb of Australia surrounded by Bushland, the girls vanished during the school's Showstopper concert at the riverside amphitheatre. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters united the small community, they were never found. Returning home years later, Tikka must make sense of that strange moment in time – of the summer that shaped her, and the girls she never forgot. Full Review


The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Long-time followers of The Bookbag will know I'm a die-hard fan of AMS. So you can imagine my excitement at reading a brand new book in a brand new series, described by the author himself as Scandi Blanc (as opposed to Scandi Noir)! Here we meet a new detective named Ulf Varg, who works in the Department for Sensitive Crimes, solving those crimes that perhaps fall outside the usual police parameters. This particular book deals with crimes including someone who is stabbed in the knee, the disappearance of an imaginary boyfriend, and a case of potential werewolves. They're the crimes that perhaps nobody else would bother to deal with, and I rather enjoyed them, especially the stabbing where you find that actually, you identify with the person who committed the crime, rather than the victim. Full Review


The Things That are Lost by Alan Kennedy

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

The final novel in Alan Kennedy's WW2 trilogy sees Captain Alex Vere taken off active duty and banished to Scotland, providing trade craft spy training. It's stifling and suffocating and feels as much like a prison to Alex as anything the Germans would provide. And where is Justine? Alex hasn't seen her since he went to that disastrous meeting with John Cabot, instigator of the disinformation campaign, and returned to find her missing. A failed mission is one thing but no Justine is quite another. Alex can't get Justine out of his head. Has she left the service? Does she know too much? Is she even still alive? Full Review


A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens, General Fiction

They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances. Seventeen year old Hannah Gold was born mature – or so her parents tell her. She has dined in fancy restaurants, explored the most sophisticated corners of the globe and lived a life of luxury. Full Review


Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

What would you be like, right now, if you'd been born a different gender? Would it simply be a matter of genetics, and your life would still have unfolded in the same way? Or would the way you had been raised affect who you became in life? This latest novel by Julie Cohen looks at all of the above, covering the stories of Louis and Louise, born on the same day, to the same parents, but in one storyline Lou is a boy, and in the other a girl. Does it really make a difference, the gender box that is ticked when we arrive in this world? We all know that men and women are treated differently, but this story really highlights how things have been in the past, how they still are, and prompts you to think about how they could be... Full Review


M for Mammy by Eleanor O'Reilly

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

The Augustts are, like all families, a bit complicated. A loving irish family, their love binds them together – but all express that in very different ways. However, when misfortune strikes the family they are forced to work together in order to understand each other again, as with a family as complicated as the Augustts it's not always what is spoken that makes the most sense. Things are shaken up further when Granny Mae-Anne moves in and takes charge. Full of stern words and common sense, she's a force of nature who must try her hardest to hold the family together. Full Review


Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Humour, Paranormal

Tilda returns to Brighton, to tidy away the remains of her mother's life after her death. Whilst there, she returns to the Paradise hotel, a haven for eccentrics and misfits. A place where people can be themselves, and let go of thoughts that torment them elsewhere. Little wonder that Tilda cannot forgive her mother for banishing her as a child, from this place of wonder. With the help of Queenie Malone, caring, and gregarious, Tilda begins to pick apart the tricky and uncertain relationship she had with her sometimes cruel and distant mother. Full Review


The Man Who Came to London by A S Cookson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

In 1948, the first set of Caribbean nationals arrived in Great Britain on a ship called "Empire Windrush". They struggled to find housing. They worked as labourers. They faced open discrimination, forcing them to quickly form their own community. Decades later, Freddy makes the same journey.

Does he find a place to live? Does he face stereotypes? Has Britain moved forward?

Freddie arrives in London in the early 2000s, answering the call for teachers. He thinks about his own Jamaican education, based on the British system, and the way he was taught English nursery rhymes and about the River Thames. He thinks about the love of cricket and football, shared by both countries. And he thinks of the generations of the diaspora who came before him. Freddy does well in his job in East London but he does have to face down some stereotypical attitudes from his pupils - all Jamaicans smoke weed, don't they? Everybody knows that! Full Review