Sunday, 10 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #34

A few books to share this week, starting with some library finds that were a reward for working all day in the library on Friday - nothing better than being surrounded by books you know you can take home!

Showcase Sunday is hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea.

Spoiled college students and Ellis' trademark darkness.

Currently reading this - the atmosphere is fantastic, and reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend in some ways.

An Argentinian novel that will be a late contender for my 2013 Translation Challenge.

I also picked up a few things for my Kindle:

A Finnish novel that looks at the period during which Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, focusing on the stories of two women.

A very short read - I am a big fan of Krakauer's writing, so I was left wanting more, but a nice slice of investigative journalism.

My third King novel - after a so-so reaction to Duma Key, and a DNF for Black House, I decided to give this a go in the Hallowe'en sale.

Recent reviews

Review: Miss Pym Disposes, Josephine Tey

Miss Pym Disposes

Josephine Tey

Arrow, 2011 (1946)

This will be quite a short review, partly because it's a few weeks since I finished this book, and partly because it just didn't really do much for me one way or the other. I have been recommended Tey's books on the basis of my enjoyment of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and the like, but this just didn't blow me away.

In superficial ways, it reminded me a little of Gaudy Night by Sayers, mostly because of the setting in a competitive all-girls' school in which students and staff live in close proximity. (My review of Gaudy Night is here.) The end of the year is upon the students, who have final exams and gymnastic demonstrations to work their way through. The murder comes very late in the book, and the majority of the novel is given over to Miss Pym, visitor and outsider, who has some background in psychology and is able to muse on the various dynamics unfolding around her.

Miss Pym's observations are interesting, and Tey is good at deft characterisation, which occupies much of the book as the characters are scrutinised and picked apart by the unexpected visitor. Unravelling the mystery wasn't too difficult, although there are a few slight twists and turns to keep you guessing. I didn't mind the slow build-up, probably because boarding school stories were always a favourite of mine, and this was like a slightly sinister Malory Towers in places, but if you're looking for a crime novel, I would look elsewhere (and if you're looking for boarding school intrigue with some psychology and crime thrown in, I'd go back to Gaudy Night).

Overall rating: 5.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Review: One Step Too Far, Tina Seskis

One Step Too Far

Tina Seskis

Kirk Parolles; Kindle edition, 2013

An apparently happy marriage. A beautiful son. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life – changing her name, holing up in a grotty house in North London, taking a dead-end job where she won’t be found. Has she had a breakdown? Was it to escape her dysfunctional family, especially her malevolent twin Caroline who always seemed to hate her? And what is the anniversary that looms, threatening to force her to confront her past? No-one has ever guessed her secret. Will you?

The cover of One Step Too Far is a row of familiar orange-striped train tickets, and the opening chapter reveals why: Emily Coleman, on the surface a happy, successful, enviable woman, has left her old life behind in pursuit of self-inflicted disappearance in London. Why Emily has left is the central mystery of the book: all the reader knows is that something has happened that has caused Emily to turn her back on her marriage, her family, and her job, desperate to forget or erase the traumatic events that have led her here.

The book switches between Emily's current life as she attempts to reinvent herself in London, finding a home and a friend and a job, all under her new identity, and events from the past, that focus heavily on Emily's relationship with her troubled twin sister Caroline. If Emily had it all, then Caroline was always second fiddle, a source of tension, aggravation, and anger for her twin.

Seskis doesn't give much away, and that's the key hook of One Step Too Far - it promises a twist in the leagues of Gone Girl, and it delivers a decent blow when the twist finally comes. The writing was taut and fast-paced, and I spent a fair amount of time wondering how long Emily could possibly get away with her disappearance and dual life.

It is a strange, less than realistic event that finally provides the catalyst for the events of the novel to fall into place, but this fades into the background when the story begins to unfold and your attention shifts to how Seskis has pulled off the central piece of deceit. When the novel starts to piece together the truth, and the reader is on the other side of the twist, the novel seemed to lose pace a little bit - there were a couple of subsidiary 'twists' that just dragged the story on unnecessarily. Overall, however, One Step Too Far is a gripping novel, and worth the read.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Book source: Bought from Amazon.