Read Any Good Books Lately?

Posted on 31st January, 2015

To round off January, I thought I'd share with you a couple of terrific books I've read this month.

Carol Rivers A Sister's Shame

In 1930s London, Marie and Vesta are twins whose lifelong dream is to follow their father into show business. When Vesta falls in love with a charming but shady singer, the twins are given work in a nightclub, but all is not as it seems.

Carol Rivers has constructed a dramatic and involving plot in a detailed and atmospheric setting. There is an undercurrent of menace throughout and my fingers itched to reach inside the pages and give Vesta a good shake as, blinded by love and ambition, she threw herself headlong into the new life everyone warned her against.

The book is peopled with well-rounded characters and, for me, one of its joys is the attention given to the supporting cast to ensure their personalities are as distinct and believable as those of the main players. I especially liked wise, no-nonsense Elsie and gentle, honourable Wippet.

This is also a tale of relationships in various forms – the bond between twins, long-lasting friendship that turns friends in family, and romance, both real and imagined, one leading to lasting love, the other to a relationship based on control.

As well as characterisation of the highest quality, you always get a strong sense of location in a Carol Rivers book; and whatever background she chooses for her plot - be it the Home Front or medicine, shopkeeping or the seedy side of showbusiness - you can be certain she's done her homework. Not that it shows in an obtrusive way - it's slipped into the narrative, a detail here, a piece of dialogue there, so that it slides seamlessly into the story.

You can trust Carol Rivers always to deliver an absorbing, moving drama, full of atmosphere and emotion. She never disappoints.

A Sister's Shame – Kindle edition

A Sister's Shame – paperback edition

A Sister's Shame – Amazon reviews

Carol's website

Carol's Twitter page

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Linda Huber The Paradise Trees

This creepy psychological novel is written in two distinct voices. One belongs to Alicia, for whom a change in family circumstances means she must confront the demons of her past. The other is that of the person watching her and her daughter with murder in mind.

This is a convincing and compelling read, containing a strong sense of place and laced with suspense. There are several characters who could be the stalker and I found myself reading Alicia's segments with a sharp eye as I looked for clues.

The chapters are short, which not only adds to the sense of urgency, but also makes it ever so tempting to read just one more chapter... and just one more after that... rather than put the book down.

This is more than a suspense novel, however. It also focuses on the highly topical issues of dementia and how best to care long-term for a vulnerable elderly person, matters which Alicia has to face at the same time as battling with long-suppressed memories from her childhood.

I read The Paradise Trees because I read the superb The Cold Cold Sea last autumn and found it utterly absorbing. What can I say? Linda Huber is the Queen of Creepy.

The Paradise TreesKindle edition

The Paradise Treespaperback edition

The Paradise TreesAmazon reviews

Linda's website

Linda's Twitter page

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Comments (4)

Elizabeth is Missing sounds like an intriguing read, Wendy. I read your blog about your TBR pile and enjoyed it. My TBR pile is generally made up of books by authors I am familiar with, so I'll enjoy having something new and different to look forward to. Thanks for the recommendation.
Two intriguing sounding books, Susanna. I must add them to that creaking TBR list! Have you read Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey? It's told through the eyes of Maud who is suffering from dementia. The author gives the reader a real insight into Maud's rationale. From the perspective of the people around her is, Maud's actions are completely bonkers but to Maud (and the reader) they make complete sense because of the way her brain is locked into past memories. And there's a mystery in the story too. One of my best reads of 2014!
Dementia and elder care are important topics for so many people these days, aren't they, Jen? I have to say it added an extra layer of interest to Linda Huber's book.

And yes, you're right, I have tweeted about Carol Rivers' books. I have all her books on my shelf, but I'm taking my time about reading them, so I can spin out the pleasure rather than devouring them all in one go.
Thanks for these reviews, Susanna. You've introduced me to some new authors. In particular, I look forward to reading the Carol Rivers book. I seem to recall you've mentioned her books highly on Twitter too.

Not in the right place for 'creepy' at the moment, but am interested that Huber's book also tackles dementia and elder care. The latter are topical for me/my extended family.