BOOK OF THE MONTH
One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis
At Hive we celebrate independence so Ms Seskis is the perfect partner for us. Struggling to find a publisher for her first novel she just went ahead and did it herself!
Well she has, to use a sporting term “played a blinder”. Not only has she proved herself commercially she has written a remarkably good thriller.
Emily Coleman a Manchester girl walks out of her life and decamps to a house in North London. On her way south she has changed her identity, jettisoned all links with her family and met an Angel. It’s ok folks we’re not in the realms of fantasy fiction but in a contemporary London setting. Emily walks a lot and Seskis has skilfully woven descriptions of parts of the capital into her plot. It’s on her first walk after arriving in London, that she meets Angel who in some ways becomes a moral compass for her, notwithstanding a very dodgy life history but Angel is a good person and is a much better friend than the twin sister that Emily has cut out of her life. Ah, the sister, through a series of flashbacks we begin to untangle the reason why Emily ran away. A date is looming, which is of course a key element in the story and when “the reveal” happens you literally take a step back (or in my case turn to my husband to say, well I never saw that coming – his response; yes dear !)
Sibling rivalry is something of a theme this month but for sheer suspense this does take the biscuit, so a perfect beach read or if you don’t like flying, pop into the hand luggage and as soon as the seat belt announcement is made, put the earplugs in, open at page one and you will be in the safe hands of a brilliant new girl on the block. I hear that a second novel A Serpentine Affair is due in September so we can all look forward to an Autumnal treat.
When I was younger, on Sunday lunchtimes at home with the parents, one of the most popular songs I had to endure on the steam radio was Sisters by the Beverley Sisters. As an only child I just didn’t get the sister thing, not a sob story, happy with my own company, encouraged to read and lots of friends welcome to our home, so when reading the above and the next 3 choices, thanks mum and dad I’m grateful to be an only one !
If you would like to hear a contemporary spin on Sisters, I recommend Betcha Bottom Dollar by The Puppini Sisters just click on the link to order!
The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke
A debut novel and a Richard & Judy choice, Lucy Clarke appears to have an idyllic life, her husband is a professional windsurfer so they travel to warmer climes in the Winter and spend the Summers at their home on the south coast in England. She has always kept a travel journal and this gave her the germ of an idea for this novel, what would happen if someone else read the journal ?
Katie and Mia are sisters with contrasting lifestyles Katie a high flying professional, Mia a bit of a hippy, each of them tell their story in alternating chapters their lives were irrevocably changed when their mother died from cancer, they cope with their grief in different ways. Katie then has to deal with the devastating news that Mia has been found dead in Bali and the police say it was suicide. Katie is given the travel journal that Mia wrote in every day and she decides to travel in her sisters footsteps to see why she killed herself.
Not only are there beautiful descriptions of Bali and Australia, Clarke has a sensitive and insightful hand in writing about the relationship between the sisters and the loss of their mother. This is much more than a thriller, despite the clever twists of the plot, it’s quite a sad narrative about loss and filial loyalty and conflict but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and have no hesitation in endorsing yet another R & J choice
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’m no expert on our American sisters but for me Sittenfeld always gets it right, she weaves wonderful descriptions of the “burbs” and small town America and heck she gets inside the heads of all her characters. This might be too tenuous for some of you but she does put me in mind of Louise M Alcott and her Little Women (one of my favourite books as a child) because I’ve never been to America and I loved the rosy glow of Marmee and her girls. I digress because this is not really a cosy novel of loving and non-judgemental sisters.
Kate and Violet are identical twin sisters and they share something they call ” The Senses ” which means they have an ability to predict events that are about to happen. Violet has embraced her special powers and indeed, works as a medium and predicts an earthquake in St Louis, Kate just wants to lead a normal life as a mom and wife and this prediction not only stirs up inevitable panic in the area but has a profound effect on their relationship. This is a finely crafted novel about marriage and temptation, growing up and divided loyalties.
This is a substantial novel of over 400 pages and although I am a quick reader, I wanted to take my time over this so I could enjoy this beautifully written portrayal of two very different American women, so this is one to savour and read at a steady pace.
The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby : After Iris by Natasha Farrant
Well, our quartet of sisterly affection finishes here and I hereby declare Bluebell is my favourite sister, although all the previous girls/women have many positive attributes, Blue is a fabulous 13 year old struggling with all the angst that a teenager has to cope with and she is such an appealing and resilient character that I challenge anyone not to love her!
Iris was her twin sister who died three years ago and inevitably the fallout from this has shattered the family, mum and dad have coped with their grief by pursuing their careers and have left Blue and her siblings in the care of lovely Zoran the au pair. Blue was given a camcorder for her birthday which has become her substitute for a best friend (or even her sister) so we read through her diary via the camcorder.
One of the funniest books written by a teenager is of course the Diary of Adrian Mole and despite the scenarios being very different, this is one of the best books I have read since Mole, that gets you inside the head of a 13 year old, because it’s all about the family and growing up. Bluebell is much less self-absorbed than Adrian but like him she has a big heart. Embrace the themes of loss because the author has a very sure hand in writing about them and she is also very accomplished in dealing with issues on bullying and first love !
Dead Man’s Time by Peter James
Just in case you all think I’ve gone “a bit girly” this months, worry not Mr James has come to the rescue !
When this was published at the beginning of June all the reviews were in the vein of best ever and I can concur, return of a DS that we love tick, back to Brighton and surrounding areas tick, very seedy criminals tick, rather uncomfortable descriptions of threatening behaviour and some torture tick, back story on Roy Grace, his current partner and his wife tick, fascinating descriptions of New York in the 1920s and so it goes on to a real nail biting and very satisfying conclusion.
You can read this as a standalone but if you’ve never read any of his previous Roy Grace series there are 8 for you to enjoy… just put James Dead into our search facility and they’re all listed for you to order.
Eleanor’s Eyebrows by Timothy Knapman
There is an old saying “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true” and in Eleanor’s case it does. She doesn’t see the point of eyebrows, and tells them, so while she’s sleeping, they pack their suitcases and go out into the Big Wild World to find someone who loves them for themselves……oh what adventures they have, eventually ending up as an exclamation mark ! ( sorry couldn’t resist that ) Meanwhile Granny visits and is so frightened by the no eyebrow look she runs away and then Eleanor realizes that perhaps she needs her eyebrows back.
This is such a great story to read aloud and along with and it’s compulsory to do all the actions about crossing eyes, waggling ears, picking your nose and sticking out your tongue ( with parental approval, of course). You may recognize the illustrations by David Tazzyman – he of Mr Gum fame, if you look at the jacket Andy Stanton has marked as An Adequate Effort.