Hive’s Top 10 Favourite Books for March

Fiction

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

Although this book is being touted as “perfect for book groups” but don’t let that put you off! This is an enchanting, seductive story told by five and a half year old Pea. Her younger sister Margot has to be one of the wisest voices you are likely to hear. The two sisters are left to their own devices at their home in France, as their pregnant mother tries to cope with the grief of losing her husband and another child in separate tragic circumstances.

Claire King evokes the countryside of rural France beautifully and you can almost taste and smell the food the children prepare in an effort to encourage Maman to share meals with them. We meet a cast of characters including Claude and his dog Merlin who become both playmate and protector but Claude has his own secret history to contend with, which means you begin to question his relationship with the girls.

It is a remarkable first novel that deals with loss, anger, childhood, trust and eventually healing but the denouement may surprise you. Pea and Margot stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

I hate reviews that start with ‘if you liked’ but hey, my rules, made to be broken! If you enjoyed the current hottie Gone Girl then this is one for you. Set in Wales (with suitably stunning descriptions of the area, lots of driving done) for psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew, life is not perfect she has just found out that her husband had a one night stand with a young colleague. At her practice she meets a new client, a very good looking actor Gwydion who has a fear of buttons; he thinks that some therapy might help him cope with the challenge of appearing in a TV costume drama. As their professional relationship develops she discovers a murder from her clients past and in response to a phone call from his mother, Jessica goes to visit him at the house on the cliff and she becomes embroiled with all the family and the death of the au pair who looked after Gwydion as a child.

This is a multi-layered thriller with Williams drawing on her experience as a psychotherapist. Her description of Jessica’s relationship with her friends and family, particularly her troublesome teenage daughter are acutely observed but she sets a great pace on building the tension. This is to be read in one session, you won’t be able to put it down and it’s a treat to read about a woman with flaws but who understands what drives her on…..that’s psychotherapy for you!

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney

I love Jenny Rooney, her previous two novels are excellent and I think you always approach a new novel from author you like with some trepidation – will it be as good, will I be disappointed …not at all.

Red Joan is inspired by the true story of Melita Norwood, exposed at 87 years old as a cold war spy. Joan is studying at Cambridge in 1937 and is recruited by the Russian Secret Service, inevitably you think of the master of cold war fiction John Le Carre but here we have a very humane and less forensic approach to the dilemma of a young idealistic woman who has to make a decision to support the man she loves or betray her country. The narrative moves between the war and the present day and absolutely nails the atmosphere of secrecy and the guilt that Joan suffers.

She has hidden her past for 50 years because “nobody talked about what they did in the war” but the knock on her front door subsequently spins her suburban life out of control and threatens her one truly honest relationship with her son…but she hadn’t been honest with him and that is one of the key themes of this novel.

Mention must be made of Sonya, impossibly glamorous, born in Russia and one of the best reasons in contemporary fiction to justify wearing a fur coat and those shoes …

Children’s

Knock Knock! Open the Door by Michaela Morgan

Knock Knock! Open the Door by Michaela Morgan

Knock Knock! Open the Door by Michaela Morgan

If you are ‘expecting’ a new addition to your family, this is a funny and gentle introduction for a sibling to welcome a new ‘special person’ into your home. We open with a child on a sofa with his stuffed toy dog, then Knock Knock who’s there? Lift the flap and it’s a Polar Bear who’s invited in then another Knock and it’s a Spotty Cat and so it proceeds until the sofa is full of visitors including a smelly skunk and a noisy dinosaur but not that special visitor, then hurrah here’s mum and dad with the new baby!

This is a sturdy lift the flap picture book of 24 pages which little fingers should be able to turn over again and again and again – we may regret this as it could become a firm favourite. An ideal read for mums, dads and grandparents or anyone who wants to explain that a new arrival is on the way. Michaela Morgan has also written Never Shake a Rattlesnake.

The Mummy Shop by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard

The Mummy Shop by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard

The Mummy Shop by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard

Well, who knew- there’s a shop where you can buy a new mummy? There’s also a catalogue to choose the perfect mum from. When a little boy is really fed up with being told what to do all the time, don’t jump on the bed, eat your vegetables, tidy your room, he sees an advert in the local newspaper ‘Get a new mummy from our shop today’ he rings up and is sent a procession of possible mummies that can cook (but only carrots) knit scratchy clothes, have cuddles but with prickly needles, he realizes that perhaps the mummy he’s got, who knows his favourite dinner, plays his favourite games and tucks him in at night and reads him his favourite books is the perfect mummy. We knew that!

This is a great picture book and could take a considerable time to read together, so don’t start it at bedtime. Every page has vibrant illustrations with lots of details of assorted animals. Watch out for the very cute dinosaur that pops in and out of the story.

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

There’s nothing unusual about the Brockets. Normal, respectable and proud of it, they turn up their noses at anyone different. But from the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, it’s clear he’s anything but ordinary.

A great book, well written and with a cracking story-line. It delivers a punchy message laced with humour and pathos.

Written by Boyne, whose previous children’s book was the huge seller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

 

 

 

 

Teens

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

A contemporary read aimed at readers of eleven years upwards. Cosmo and his family live in Ireland and his grandfather has Alzheimer’s. Cosmo and his gran are struggling to cope with all the challenges of looking after him and inevitably there is an element of black humour which does make you smile. In an unusual plot development, for this theme, he meets his grandfather as a young man and thinks he might be able to change their future.

It is written with skill and sensitivity and reflects the anguish and the joy of being a teenager with all the baggage that those years of growing up involve. The underlying themes of love, memory and how the past forms your future are key elements in this engaging debut novel.

 

 

 

By Any Other Name by Laura Jarratt

By Any Other Name by Laura Jarratt

By Any Other Name by Laura Jarratt

I was intrigued to see if this new ‘young adult’ novel by Laura Jarrett would be as engrossing as Skin Deep – it is and I predict that this author will pick up a dedicated following.

Holly is 15 and because of a crime that she has seen, she and her family have had to enter a witness protection scheme, and that’s all I’m going to reveal about the plot because you have to read it! The only other thing I will share with you is that her young sister is autistic.

This is a fast moving and pacey novel but Jarrett writes about feelings of loneliness and isolation and those pesky teenage hormones with great charm and insight. She brings us a family who are fiercely loyal and protective of each other but also weaves in a nail biting conclusion.

If you’re a mum with a teenage daughter and both enjoy reading, trust me you’d better buy two copies as you’ll end up fighting over who is reading it – dads – it’s not too girly for you to read along with your daughter so don’t be shy and go ahead and enjoy!

Non-fiction

Doodlemum: A Year of Family Life by Angie Stevens

Doodlemum: A Year of Family Life by Angie Stevens

Doodlemum: A Year of Family Life by Angie Stevens

In 2010 Angie Stevens, launched her Doodlemum blog, with the support and encouragement of her husband she posted a drawing of her three children and family life every day. She built up a dedicated following and like Topsy it grew and grew and we now have this splendid book charting the day to day joy of the Stevens family.

This is a great treat for yourself or a mate, because to use a well-known phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ I particularly love the drawing of Angie brushing her daughters hair with the tag line of ‘Mam it hurts’ the pained expressions on their faces are priceless.

Order this book, put the kettle on and request that someone makes you a cup of tea or perhaps pour you a glass of wine and just empathise with Angie and her wonderful illustrations.

 

 

 

Melt by Claire Kelsey

Melt by Claire Kelsey

Melt by Claire Kelsey

Claire Kelsey owns the most beautiful retro Ford Transit ice cream van called Ginger and what’s more she drives it around festivals and food related events throughout the UK. She is passionate about re-inventing ice-creams image and in this simply stunning book brings us one hundred of her favourite recipes. You don’t have to own an ice cream maker and she introduces us to the secret weapon of Stir-Freezing (you do need a freezer!)

The book is beautifully produced with mouth-watering full colour photographs and recipes that you think duh! Gorgonzola and Honey or Guinness and Gingerbread??

As someone who loves a cookery book but fights with them in the kitchen to stay open at the right page, this book is perfectly practical and I’m looking forward to my first foray into making my own ice cream.

All the choices here were nominated by Hive’s resident book guru.

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