Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston

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It's all about the ratings in the world of TV. Therefore the BBC, part of the British televisual establishment since TV was invented, feels it has nothing to fear from a new internet channel. However those in control don't understand what – and who – is behind this new phenomenon. The mysterious Rasmus has a plan and some savagely innovative ideas; nothing can stand in his way. Full review...

Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire by Jere Krakoff

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Leopold Plotkin finds himself in some very hot water when he initiates the Mud Crisis. Leopold inherited the family butcher's shop and he is a very good and skilled butcher. But he doesn't like people watching him work and is generally lacking in social skills. The shop's trade suffers and Leopold decides to cover the window with mud so that no-one can see inside. Full review...

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

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Kito was a withdrawn child. It was difficult for his parents, especially his mother, to reach him. Like many children who turn inwards, he struggled to make friends at school. And those he did make seemed only to use him for access to his games consoles. His dark skin also marked him out for bullying. Kito went missing after a class trip to the beach. His body was discovered when it washed up on the sand. Kito had drowned. Full review...

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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Ruth Jefferson is a nurse. She looks after new mothers and their babies and she's the sort of nurse that you hope you'll encounter when it's your turn, or the turn of anyone close to you. She cares and she's good at her job, very good, in fact. Turk and Brittany Bauer and their new son, Davis, were under her care, only Turk took strong exception to Ruth having anything to do with their child: Turk and Brittany were white supremacists - and Ruth Jefferson was black, an African American and despite all her experience she was banned from caring from Davis Bauer. Full review...

Travels With My Father by Karen Jennings

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Despite the coda, this does not feel like an autobiographical novel. I am not sure why Jennings felt the need to couch it in those terms unless there is much in the structure that is fiction. I'm hoping there isn't. I am hoping that the fiction is purely that conceit that this pretends to be a novel. If that was necessary to get it published, then I'll applaud the subterfuge, because this is writing that needs to be read. It is – if as true as I want it to be – a delicate reminiscence: a daughter's in memoriam to a father she loved, worshipped, idealised, cared-for, lived with, and yes (in true daughterly fashion) at times, hated. A father who was, therefore, a good dad. Full review...

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

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A year is a long time in the life of the Quinn family. So much can happen. For some people this can just be births and deaths and the whole circle of life, but for the Quinn family it's more love triangles, felonies, drug dealers who stalk you, ex-husbands who haunt you, and business opportunities transplanted from the scorching Caribbean to the cooler north east coast of America. As spring leads to summer, leads to autumn leads to winter we follow the extended family on Nantucket and in nearby cities (Boston, Manhattan) and learn that as divisive as life can be, there are some ties that will always bind you. In this case the tie is called Bart, and whatever else is happening, if he returns then everything else will all be ok. Full review...

The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

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Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can't help spying on her neighbours. Then one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees? Full review...

Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

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For all those who think tragedy plots are too restricted and prescribed, read on. In these pages you too will see that Romeo had lots of options en route to hitting the bottle. Likewise, she could have turned away from her predestined path at no end of junctures. And to what result? Well, happy marriage and a kid called Ben, because the leads have just banged people's heads together and stopped the quarrelling, or Death by Tybalt (him) or a long life running an establishment curing murderous women, such as a Lady M (her). Full review...

Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

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Henritetta Rose-Inne's Nineveh instantly reassures you that you are in the presence of a confident and talented writer. The story of Katya Grubbs, a second generation pest exterminator who specialises in relocating the bugs and rodents that ruin middle-class garden parties, Rose-Inne writes with the enviable ability of describing both the intricacies of Katya's job and the feeling of it simultaneously. Full review...

The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator)

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Particularly literate cover… Setting of a real-life mental hospital – in Sweden… Mature themes… Opening with an emotion- and closure-laden death… Yes, this book has more than its share of things to put the potential reader off. Which, in this instance, is quite a large shame indeed. Full review...

The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer

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After World War II Bill Frodsham led an everyday life, raising a family in an ordinary US suburb. He, his wife and children became friends with the Burgauer family, little Steven Burgauer knowing him as Mr F. Time rolls on and little Steven grows up, and then eventually retires from the American financial sector to write science fiction and lecture from time to time. He's therefore surprised when, out of the blue, Mr F's daughter tracks him down and presents him with a pile of handwritten notes asking Steven to make them into a book. These are Mr F's self-authored memoirs, stretching from his youth onwards and showing that this seemingly good, kind but unremarkable man was anything but unremarkable. During the war Mr F trained for the impossible and then lived it as he led men across Omaha Beach on D Day. He was then captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW in inhumane conditions. Steven accepted the request and The Road to War is the result: the life and war of Captain William C Frodsham Jr. Full review...

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

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It's 1949, and with the Second World War over, a new decade of recovery is beginning. For East End teenagers Lenny and Miriam, life has been suspended. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent, to take the cure, submit to the way of the Doctors, and learn the deferential way of the patient. Through doors newly opened by the one year old NHS, come Lenny in his striped London drape suit, and Miriam in cherry felt red coat, and beret pinned gingerly onto her blue-black curls. Trapped in a sterile closed environment, the twins find themselves meeting air force officers, a car salesman, a university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the Aristocracy, and, arriving to blast away their lethargic submission to authority - an American merchant seaman. Together they discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach, and may only be gained through full scale rebellion... Full review...

The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

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Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he's suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn't miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners. When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house - and a fierce family feud - she's determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of a discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s. So begins a quest to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house - and of Oliver - forever. Full review...

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

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When Fran met Nathan everyone assumed she was on the rebound from a lengthy stint at the mercy of Nick The Unsuitable. I imagine falling pregnant within those first few heady months may have added fuel to that particular fire particularly from where Fran's best friend is standing. But when this is followed by a hasty wedding and a move to an isolated farmhouse in the Fens, Fran feels sure that her new role as home-maker and mother, so very different from the London party-girl she used to be, is the right one for her. So when Fran wakes in the middle of the night to find Nathan's side of the bed completely cold, she goes to look for him. Finding him bloodied and very much dead was most definitely not part of the bargain. Full review...

Theory of Mind by Sanjida O'Connell

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Sandra works in a zoo, studying the minds of chimpanzees, mankind's nearest living relatives. Her involvment with the animals starts to affect her own relationships, in particular that with her new boyfriend Corin. His energy stimulates her, his passion excites her and his work as a TV producer fascinates her, but are his feelings real, or does he want to control her? As her feelings preoccupy her, Sandra continues her research into the emotions of chimps and whether or not they are capable of empathy. During a visit to the zoo, Sandra meets a strange and isolated child, Paul, son of one of the keepers, and she also meets Kim, a scientist who has built a killer instinct into the robots she makes. As Sandra worries about her friends and her relationship, things race to a thrilling climax - putting much more than Sandra's emotions at risk. Full review...

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

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The USA is an odd place at times, and not just during election season. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies, places that time forgot, places that ‘’people’’ forgot. Broken Wheel, Iowa is one such place. You’d have no reason to go unless you knew someone there. And Sara does, her pen-pal Amy. Invited by Amy to come for a visit, and with time on her hands due to a recent redundancy, Sara packs her bags (and her books) and buys a plane ticket from her native Sweden to the US of A. Full review...

Whilst I Was Out by Sara Stewart

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Sara Stewart's debut novel, Whilst I Was Out, opens with all the promise of a book intent to delve head-first into invention and oddness. The narrator of the story, Alice, is stuck in traffic with her husband – who she refers to throughout the book as My Dear Husband (or MDH for short) – when he suddenly jumps out of their car and runs off for seemingly no reason. The scene opens with a mention of domestic abuse but seems much more interested in the inherent malfunction of Alice's husband as she describes his fixation with his bicycle and how her and their three children have taken a back seat to his 'finding himself' through affairs and cross-country cycling. Full review...

The Last Night by Cesca Major

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Spring 1952: Two best friends; Abigail and Mary, sit together on a bench, looking out to sea. They have big plans, but know that whatever happens they will always be together. They dream of a new life in America, each with a handsome husband and a happy family. When Abigail's mother dies unexpectedly, however, she is sent to live with her estranged sister in Devon, and the friends are torn apart. Little does she realise that tragedy lies just around the corner, and that the last night will change everything forever. Decades later, in 2016, a shy furniture-restorer called Irina has been given an unusual commission: to restore an old bureau containing many hidden secrets. As the two stories merge, curious Irina tries to piece together exactly what happened on the Last Night. Full review...

Rockadoon Shore by Rory Gleeson

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Cath is worried about her friends. DanDan is struggling with the death of his ex, Lucy is drinking way too much and Steph has become closed off. A weekend away is just what they need. They travel out to Rockadoon Lodge, to the wilds in the west of Ireland. But the weekend doesn't go to plan. JJ is more concerned with getting high than spending time with them, while Merc is humiliated and seeks revenge. And when their elderly neighbour Malachy arrives on their doorstep in the dead of night with a gun in his hands, nothing will be the same again for any of them... Full review...

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

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I love it when I get a book so very few have read yet, but it's hard to say what needs to be said, when you're not allowed to quote. All good secrets have a taste before you tell them… Full review...

Holding by Graham Norton

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The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama, and yet the inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight, mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic, and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt her life a total waste. When human remains are discovered on a farm, thought to be those of Tommy Burke, an ex lover of both Brid and Evelyn, the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger, resentment, secrets, and regret. Full review...

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

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Meet Trudy. Successfully living in a large and valuable London home, she is heavily pregnant, and in between two men – she has swapped the homeowner, poet and publisher John, for someone completely different, namely Claude, a nasty, brutish and short type. Some people cannot work out why on earth she has made that decision, including our narrator. Oh, and he himself, our narrator, is the child she's pregnant with. He is a very alert young thing, with nothing else to do but kick here and there, and practice what you might well call mindfulness, and listen in on Claude and Trudy, as they calmly talk their way to plotting and carrying out murder… Full review...

Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator)

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In this story of Thelma and Louise, it's Louise we meet first, through her narration. She's a seventeen year old, telling us of a quite awful and smelly satellite town of Paris she lives in, with the sight of factories and stench of food processing plants keeping her company. She lives at home with her mother, complete with hare-lip, and abusive step-father, and is working at one of those factories until she sees a paradise in their midst – the ever-sunny, sexy and sophisticated life of an American NATO worker and his wife. Impulsively, she asks to be their maid – and indeed moves into the couple's large, messy home. But little does she know what lurks in the shadows in that building, behind their gigantic car and their cute porch swing and al-fresco dining – the unhappiness, and even the tragedy… Full review...

The Cornish Guest House (Tremarnock) by Emma Burstall

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The Cornish Guest House is the sequel to the best-selling Tremarnock which introduced us to hard-working Liz and her disabled daughter Rosie who were adjusting to life in a small Cornish village by the sea. The sequel begins six months after the first book, and Liz and Rosie are happily settled in their new lives and enjoying the warmth of the close-knit community. The village is soon abuzz with gossip, however, as a new couple have just moved in and are planning to open a guest house. The affable and good-looking Luke soon charms the neighbours by immersing himself into village life. His wife Tabitha, on the other hand, seems aloof and reserved. Could she be hiding a secret? Full review...

The Dhow House by Jean McNeil

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Rebecca Laurelson is an English doctor working in an African field hospital in the midst of a political conflict when she is suddenly and inexplicitly forced to leave her post. She goes to stay with her estranged Aunt Julia and her family on Africa's east coast away from the violence and daily blood shed of war, however their lives are full of beach and cocktail parties which contrast greatly to Rebecca's way of living. But the threat of war is on the horizon for Julia's family and their fellow white Africans – terror attacks are on the rise all along the coast and Rebecca knows more about it than the rest of her family. With unrest brewing will the true reason for Rebecca's hasty departure from her post be revealed? Full review...

The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden

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Colin Mallory is a young actor in Paris. Colin had been working with a theatre company putting on English language Shakespeare productions. They were popular but unprofitable so Colin is now at a loose end while his partner, Bryony, is off shooting a film. Before returning to London, Colin meets up with Paul Barnard, an art gallery director and his sister's partner. At the Galerie Marion Ducasse, Colin and Paul come across a painting. The portrait of a young woman turns out to be Sylvie Ducasse, the great-aunt of the gallery's owner. Full review...

Beneath The Skin by Sandra Ireland

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Robert Walton is ex-military – a soldier suffering from combat stress and what he now realises is clearly PTSD. He prefers to be called Walt; it's short and simple and Walt likes things that are not complicated. Alys is fragile, damaged and complicated and not the kind of woman Walt is looking for. A taxidermist by trade – a rather macabre one at that – Alys enjoys creating Walter Potter style tableaus in a slightly horrifying tribute to her sole career influence. Alys runs her business from her home, which she shares with her sister, Mouse and Mouse's son William. It's a strange set up and though Walt needs the job – of handyman/gopher/taxidermy assistant must not be squeamish – room and board included, he wonders what he has let himself in for. Full review...

Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop

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Postcards from Greece keep arriving at Ellie's flat addressed to former occupant Sarah Ibbotsen by a man signing himself as 'A'. They may not be for Ellie but she keeps them anyway and displays the pictures of blue sea, beaches and countryside until she can't resist it any longer; Ellie's off to Greece for a break. Just before she leaves home a package arrives from A. Something very different from the fragmented comments on the cards. This is a journal full of the stories told by people he's met while travelling and coming to terms with a love affair that ended almost before it began. So for Ellie the journal becomes her guide book and the journey begins. Full review...

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith

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Friendships can be funny things, and that is often the case with Precious and Grace. This is their seventeenth book now, and so we have seen their friendship grow and develop a great deal over the years. Both women have grown to understand, respect and love each other, through business hardships, personal difficulties and all their many and varied cases. In their current case the pair have a strong difference of opinions, and yet all is not quite what it seems with their investigation, and so perhaps it is a case of neither one of them being right, and the situation being something else entirely? Full review...

The Doll House by Fiona Davis

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New York City, 2016: Rose has quit her job as a newscaster and investigative journalist – not entirely voluntarily – and now works for an on-line outfit with the self-mockingly clumsy name of Wordmerge. Full review...