Category Archives: Fiction
Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short (John Murray) is the debut novel by Lex Coulton and has two central characters’ in Frances and Jackson. Frances is 39-years-old and teaches Shakespeare to a class of six former’s at a North London School, so there is a hint of Shakespeare coming through at times. She harbours a memory of her father that when she was very young was told that he was ‘missing’ at sea but this has led to lots of questions. She also has real concerns about her mother and her eccentric behaviour, but is there something else behind this behaviour? We also hear from Jackson who is a work colleague of Frances and they were good friends but it pretty clear reading both their stories that both are two very fragile characters and building and keeping relationships is something that both are not great at.
The story of Frances’s father really does bring the story to life and makes this a very readable debut novel. This is very much a character driven novel and it is so important that the characters are believable and have a voice. I am pleased to say that Lex Coulton has done just that in Falling Short. For Jackson he recounts his younger life back in his native South Africa and what brought him to the UK. In both Frances and Jackson, they are imperfect people but you did feel for both throughout the story for different reasons. When you realise that someone close to you is suffering from an illness that you know that there so little you can do is so difficult and you feel alone and desperate. This is Frances’s story. At times this book is warm and funny then there are moments that you feel really sad. The desperate search for real happiness can be a lonely search. Lex Coulton is a new and exciting voice in writing and I am interested to see what comes next from Coulton.
Thank you to for the review copy of Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short was released on 14th June by John Murray and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
America Über Alles by Jack Fernley
What an incredible idea for a storyline, April 1945. Berlin and the Russians are closing in on Hitler and the war seems lost or is it? Hitler brings in General Robert Ritter Von Griem and the flying ace Hannah Reitsch. Hitler has a new weapon. One that will change the course of history. America Über Alles by Jack Fernley (aka: Wayne Garvie) is an intriguing book that I was not sure about before I started and now I am already looking forward to book two.
So what would happen if Hitler could go back in time and change the course of history and one of the allies fighting against Germany in WWII would be on the opposite side. That is quite a scenario for a storyline and Jack Fernley pulls this off quite brilliantly.
Now go back to 1776 George Washington and his army are struggling in the War of Independence against the British. Now there is a German influence on the side of George Washington in the form of a large group of German mercenaries. Now the war is beginning to turn in favour of Washington’s men but at what price. Who are these Germans fighting for Washington and what is their ultimate ambition? The course of history could be about to change forever if two of the leading Germans get their way at any cost.
This book was a complete surprise to me, in the way that it was nothing like I thought it was going to be. Thoroughly readable and thought provoking. Jack Fernley has pulled a master stroke with America Über Alles.
Thank you to Unbound and for the review copy of America Über Alles by Jack Fernley (aka Wayne Garvie)
America Über Alles was published by Unbound and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison
Melissa Harrison was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award and longlisted for the Baileys Prize for At Hawthorn Tim. A timeless and memorable novel. With her third novel All Among the Barley (Bloomsbury) I am predicting great things. This is just the most wonderful piece of writing. This is set in 1933 to the backdrop of Wych Farm in Suffolk this is a story as seen by the 14-year-old girl Edie Mather. Although not released until August 23rd I am giving readers a little glimpse of this incredible novel and one to add to your summer reading lists. I promise you will totally fall for Melissa Harrison’s forthcoming novel.
The Great War may have been over a number of years but it still lingers in the memory and the spectre of another war is haunting the country at this time. This is a powerful novel of a girl about to enter adulthood and the autumn is a time of harvest so pressures on the entire farming community are great. But then to add a touch of glamour there is a visitor in the shape of the very beautiful Constance who is here to write about rural traditions. But who really is Constance? And what is the impact on Edie? This evocative storyline of times gone by and the natural world that Harrison writes so knowledgably about just adds to the beautiful prose. On a farm time does not stand still it is ever changing with the seasons and here in All Among the Barley is a story that is just pure nostalgia. But the story-line is just breath-taking and unforgettable. This is just a novel that will be read time and time again. I totally fell in love with All Among the Barley and have since read it for the second time. This is just a timeless novel and so passionately and beautifully written. My tip for one of THE books of 2018 and All Among the Barley I am delighted to Highly recommend.
Thank you to Jack Birch at Bloomsbury for the review copy of All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison.
All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison will be published on 23rd August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
The debut novel from Guy Gunaratne’s sensational debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City is story based on 48 hours and a community and three friends who live on or close to the Stones council estate in North London. This is a story of three young men and the series of events that led up to riots taking place and rising tensions.
An off duty British soldier is brutally killed by a black Muslim man and tensions bubble to the surface and riots start to breakout. Was the killer an extremist? For the three friends Ardan, Selvon and Yusuf are all different yet they are on the fringes of the claustrophobic estate. This is an incredibly powerful novel that at times is so tense that you feel that one spark while reading this novel could explode into chaos and anarchy.
Gunaratne tells his story of a divided community and country. It is written with incredible passion and shattered dreams of those living on the estate. London is a city of those who dare to dream of great things but it is a city that can leave you in despair and can crush those dreams. There is also a cast of those who live on the Stones Estate who lend their voice to this complex storyline. There is Caroline who was sent from Belfast to London by her family during the troubles, she has demons of her own to contend with. We also hear from Nelson who moved to the UK from the Caribbean and now in his later years still recalls the bad times of the Fascist Oswald Mosely. There is long history of troubles echoing from the past.
In Our Mad and Furious City crackles with tension all the way through, the prose is excellent and mixed with numerous accents and dialects. The real story of this debut novel is not just about this council estate in London, it is a story of what is wrong with the country and the world we are living in. This is not just ‘another debut novel’ it is an incredibly important book. Not an easy book to write because of the subject but Guy Gunaratne is a writer to look out for in the future.
Thank you to Georgina Moore at Headline for the review copy of In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne.
In Our Mad and Furious City is published by Tinder Press and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
I missed Ruth Hogan’s debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things so when Ruth’s second novel The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes arrived I was thrilled. I heard so many great things said of Ruth’s debut novel that I was very excited to read this and I have to say it is an extraordinarily wonderful. A cast of characters that are just so real.
The story follows Masha, who is still grieving the loss of her two-year0old son Gabriel. For Masha everyday life is a struggle from one day to the next, she finds some quiet peace by spending time in a Victorian Cemetery and it is there she meets what we can only call a rather eccentric and mysterious older woman she calls Sally Red Shoes.
Masha also likes to visit the local Lido were beneath the water she feels calmness and an escape from the constant heartache of her loss. Slowly but surely Masha starts to regain some of her lost confidence and slowly begins the journey back to life by talking to those she starts to trust. She starts a friendship with the mysterious Sally and Kitty. Is there a life for Masha again and can she find love after the pain of such a great loss? Through their friendships and guidance Masha feels it is time to start living again. This is a story that will tackle a few issues but also with a little humour added but it does not detract from a fabulous read. A story packed with some wonderful characters that help make this such warm and heartfelt novel. It will lift your heart and spirits. All I have to do now is pick up a copy of The Keeper of Lost Things and discover for myself Ruth Hogan’s debut. But for now I am delighted to highly recommend The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.
Thank you to Two Roads Books for the review copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is published by Two Roads and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Shelter by Sarah Franklin
Set to the backdrop of the Forest of Dean during the dark days of World War Two. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is a story of love and solace, a novel that at times is heartbreaking and also uplifting. A novel that is character driven tells a story of two people in a time of darkness when all you had was hope.
Connie is now in the Forest of Dean as part of the Women’s Timber Corps as part of the forests contribution to the war effort, she is grieving for her family. Now she is trying to rebuild as best she can. Connie thinks that she will lose this job and end up homeless and with no job. Also in the forest is a camp for Italian Prisoners of War. They are here to work in the forest and among them is Seppe, for him the war is over and he is pleased to be here also a chance to rebuild his shattered life far from home.
Both leading characters have secrets that they want to hide from the world around them they are both two very different people, then they meet and a relationship starts to develop. Set deep in the forest the war may seem a million miles away but in fact it there thanks to the Franklin’s wonderful descriptive writing she brings the story to life but in a warm and gentle style of writing. I really enjoyed reading about both Connie and Seppe and how they dealt with the past and what they want for the future for themselves.
The story boasts some other great characters that all play a part in a warm and tender story gives hope for the future after tragedy for Connie then for two people who have lost trust in the world around them, love finds a way to give hope for them both. An exceptional debut novel. The perfect summer read.
Thank you to at or the review copy of Shelter by Sarah Franklin.
Shelter is published by Zaffre and the Paperback was published on 31st May 2018 and is available now through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland – Nicolai Houm (Translated by Anna Paterson)
The story starts with a woman (Jane Ashland) waking up in a tent in the Norwegian mountains. Outside a storm is battering the bleak landscape and Jane believes she is about to die. The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm (translated by Anna Paterson) is a gripping and compelling story of a woman who flies to Norway to see relatives. But how did Jane Ashland get to be here and alone.
Jane has now found herself alone in a bleak landscape in a tent with no food or water, she has no idea of where she is or how she got here. This is a powerful story that is under 200 pages that I found very difficult to leave. A story that just grabbed hold of my senses and refused to let go until I have finished the last page.
I love a story about leading central character and is just them and here is the perfect example. Told in flashbacks through her life. It turns out that Jane is a wounded soul, damaged by drink and prescription drugs. Yet there is the part of a flashback that Jane was studying literature and her relationships while she was in the States. Over time she tried to reach out to her relatives in Norway, but you always fear there are storm cloud just on the horizon in Janes life and then they hit. Like the mountainous landscape Jane has found herself in, this is a rugged and raw novel. It is bleak and chilling.
What I found through this novel is how incredible Nicolai Houm just little by little feed the reader with details of Jane’s life leaving you with a sense on always wondering about Jane. Reading this I found was like a drug, addictive and once in you wanted more and more. This is stunning piece of writing with complex threads. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Pushkin Press for the review copy of The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland.
The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland is published by Pushkin Press and was published on 26th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Rose Gold by David Barker
Rose Gold (Urbane Publications) by David Barker is the sequel to Blue Gold which I enjoyed immensely. Set in in the future (2030’s) a world war has raged and this is for water and the scene is set for a fantastic and sensational storyline with superbly written characters that will have salivating for more.
Terrorism is stalking every part of the world as are tensions between countries. There is a mining base on the moon far away from Earths conflicts and a character from book one that we met Sim Atkins now suddenly receives a shocking message that leaves him reeling the son he never knew existed is in grave danger. He needs help and quickly to save his son’s life he will try and save his marriage after rescuing his son.
From the Overseas Division come Gopal and Rapten are back to assist Sim but not everything goes according to plan, they are trying to track down a huge Airship but what is it carrying and does this make Sim’s mission even more critical. A novel packed full of incidents and suspects as well as global greed that threatens the world. Lessons clearly have not been learned and Sim and his team are on their trail. Does Sim rescue his son and the woman who fathered his child he never knew existed? The future of mankind now rests with the team from Overseas Division. A stunning page turning thriller that kept me awake long into the night Rose Gold is a worthy follow up to his debut novel from 2017.
Thank you Matthew Smith at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy of Rose Gold by David Barker.
Rose Gold by David Barker is published today 10th May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The Lido by Libby Page
What an absolute joy to read. It is a novel that just had the most wonderful storyline about friendship and love and also the love of the community that you live in. The Lido is a fabulous debut novel by Libby Page that is so uplifting it makes your heart sing.
The local community is the heartbeat of society and the amenities that are there whether that is a library or swimming pool or even a lido belong to the people of that community, when you start to lose those amenities the community starts to go with it. Welcome to The Lido the beautiful debut novel by Libby Page that is being spoken of so highly this Spring.
The Story is set in Brixton, South London. We meet Kate is a lonely 26-year-old woman whose life seems to be just going to work and going back to her home she shares with a group of people she does not know. Her life of ready meals and seclusion made me feel for very quickly into the story. Then there is 86-year-old Rosemary who has lived here all her life she is missing her beloved husband George who died a few years ago and now for Rosemary she swims at the lido, the local library she used regularly has gone and is now a wine bar, for Rosemary the lido is all she has left and the memories of learning to swim here and the memories of George, she still goes to swim but also to remember. What would happen though if the lido was also to close. It has been part of the community for generations. It is now under threat by a property development business who has been talking to the local council about buying the lido and turning into an exclusive gym and tennis courts. Rosemary upset at the proposed closure of the lido now starts a campaign to keep it open.
Kate moved here to take up a reporter for a local newspaper and now she has been given the story about the proposed buyout of the lido by and what is to come. Kate has been struggling to settle in the area and suffers from debilitating panic attacks that can strike at any moment. She meets Rosemary at the lido and as a condition of an interview Kate must accompany her and swim in the open air pool. Throughout this deeply warm and emotional story we meet some great characters that Libby Page weaves into the story and they also become part of this local storyline.
The Lido is an emotional rollercoaster as we do not know of the outcome and what will happen if it does close. What would become of Rosemary and the home that is the lido. This is not just a story of the lido it is a story of a local community that is changing with time, the closure of the library and how the local market changes. Then there is the bookshop and how it is struggling to keep going. The people are the community and there are some truly wonderful moments in this book that just stand out. The lido is one of the books of 2018 and one I think we will be hearing a lot more about. I am already missing the characters. For the author Libby Page this is a work of literary art. I loved it. If you have read Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman you will love The Lido.
Thank you to Rebecca Gray at Orion Books for the review copy of The Lido by Libby Page.
The Lido is published by Orion Publishing and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Salt Lane by William Shaw
Having really enjoyed The Birdwatcher that was released in May 2016 and now William Shaw returns with Salt Lane. DS Alexandra Cupidi after leaving the Met and heading to the Kent coastline she is confronted with a shocking murder. Life is different here and so is murder. Salt Lane is a terrifying and gripping crime novel. that I enjoyed even more than Shaw’s previous. This is the start of a new DS Cupidi series and already looking forward to further books in the series.
For Cupidi she has had a lot to deal with that includes a shattered career with the Met and a troublesome teenager. Her daughter Zoe, seems isolated as they live in a much quieter part of the country. Cupidi knows only too well that her job takes up a lot of her time and she is concerned for Zoe, who seems to spend a lot of time walking the marshes as she has taken to birdwatching.
DS Cupidi takes her work seriously and the hours are long. She knows only too well that the affair she got involved in cost her the position she worked so hard for at the Met. Now she is involved in two murders. A migrant worker has been found dead in a slurry pit, a shocking killing. But who was responsible for his death and she is also investigating the death of a young woman found in Salt Lane she is struggling to identify the young woman and what she was doing in Salt Lane. The murdered migrant worker is shocking. He is North African like many in the countryside and William Shaw brings into his novels a fair amount of social commentary and we also learn of the of the use of illegal workers at key times of the year. The illegal migrant workers fall off the radar and then trying to identify them is challenging. Human trafficking has been in the news a lot over recent years and their abuse is shocking.
Working alongside Cupidi is the young and Jill Ferriter, she is keen to learn to more but comes across at times as a little venerable at time but is a good foil for Cupidi. Shaw writes an intricate crime novel with very strong characters and a deep storyline. Many subjects are touched throughout the book and we learn a lot about Cupidi and her relationship with her daughter Zoe. Salt Lane is a very powerful crime novel and if you have not yet discovered the writing of William Shaw then now is your time. Not to worry if you have not read The Birdwatcher as this can be read as a standalone novel. A cracking read.
Thank you Hannah Robinson for the advanced review copy of Salt Lane by William Shaw
Salt Lane by William Shaw is published by riverrun and was published on 3rd May and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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