Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Steps by Iveta Redliha – Book Review

Book Name: The Steps
Author: Iveta Redliha
(Available in Latvian and English)

"The empty window frames like dark forest lakes conveyed chilling secrets. It seemed as if the massive wooden doors were nailed shut in order to keep them from spilling too much information."

The Steps by Latvian author Iveta Redliha is a gripping but heartbreaking story centered around people who lived or were connected to a property called The Bradbury.

Leonora, a fresh-out-of-school greedy graduate is secretly hired to become a surrogate mother. She views the opportunity as easy money and posh living and lies her way through to get the job. She thinks she will have the time of her life partying, but soon realises that her dreams will not come true as the family she's being a surrogate for insist that she live on their premises, the Bradbury, for the duration of the pregnancy and under their rules and supervision.

Kurt and Nelly are a married couple who have been unable to conceive. They hire Leonora through a surrogacy programme to carry their baby. The moment the three of them arrive at the Bradbury, the reader meets Greta, their maid and helper, whom Leonora immediately despises and mistreats.

Meanwhile, Reyna receives a phone call, telling her that her mother has died. The investigation soon dries up after it is discovered that her mother died of a heart attack and not murdered. However, things don't add up to Reyna. Her mother had left their shared tea shop without closing down and had been meeting with an unknown man.

When Reyna receives the will, she discovers that her mother had been keeping secrets, including recently purchasing the Bradbury mansion. When she visits the run-down house, she encounters Lucas, a secretive but handsome man, who entices her from the first moment.

"Shivers ran down Reyna's spine. For a moment, she thought his last words were meant as a threat. The stranger's look had been so sharp and penetrating, horrifying and exciting at the same time."

Lucas, on the other hand, appears to despise Reyna, even though he has never met her before. However, bit by bit, he too begins to develop feelings for her. Lucas is a little reminiscent of Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, except that The Steps is a much better and more exciting book.

The Steps is gripping from the start. Its pace is fast, especially as the author jumps between scenes and characters without being all over the place.

I felt that Reyna was too gullible and very trusting, particularly of strangers. She was also a bit slow, and while I realise that the purpose of her slowness is to confirm the reader's suspicions or unveil new information for the reader, I still felt she could have been a little smarter, especially since she's not a child.

I like that there are no superfluous characters in The Steps. Each character has a role to play, including the quirky, helpful and ever-giggling Lucy. Sometimes the reader wonders if she's crazy, but she is definitely the main source of comic relief in the novel.

Another character in the novel is Greta, the Bradbury's maidservant. What I liked about her is that she has her moments. In addition to always keeping tabs on Leonora, she sometimes even makes Leonora think and wake up from her attempts at seducing Kurt.

Lucas strikes the reader as a calculating character from the start. I like how Iveta Redliha give the reader bits from Lucas' thoughts, making excellent opportunity for suspense, especially since he does not mean Reyna well and the reader has no idea why he feel such animosity to someone Lucas has never met.

I liked how Iveta Redliha kept me guessing, connecting the dots, then guessing all over again.

The Steps handles a variety of themes like family, marital relationships, greed and growing up. I like how the author made the characters progress differently. Not all of them move forward, but all the main ones had some sort of character development, particularly Leonora.

One of the few things that bothered me about The Steps was the speech. There was no use of quotation marks. Instead every line begun with a dash, and there were intermittent dashes in between, making it hard to follow on who is speaking and what is part of the characters' thoughts.

Some chapters were rather long, particularly at the beginning. I don't like stopping mid-chapter.

I liked the use of imagery, both metaphors and similes throughout the novel. The description of the setting is quite picturesque and nicely done as well.

"Once their eyes locked, they couldn't look away, the gaze of their blue and grey waters merging into one whirlpool."

The Steps is full of irony, role reversals and all the literary elements a reader can dream of. Simply brilliant.

I couldn't put the The Steps down, and when I wasn't reading, I kept thinking of the characters. When I finished reading, I couldn't stop thinking about them.

"A quiet noise, like a moan or a sigh broke the silence thus startling the visitors. Lucas took it as a sign that the old building was weeping with him. If only he were alone and could let loose his suppressed grief about the house, once a beautiful home, turned into an abandoned shack, just like his soul, like his whole life…"

I liked how Iveta Redliha tied up all the loose ends at the end and I was glad I was able to correctly guess many if not all of them.

Overall, The Steps is a suspenseful, heart-breaking, gripping dark tale of a house and its inhabitants. A 10-star must-read.

Purchase The Steps by Iveta Redliha via Amazon

About the Author:

Iveta Redliha is a 39-year-old author from Latvia. She is a married mother of three wonderful children.
We have two pets, chocolate Lab named Horton and Birman cat named Smurfette. As you can see we like animated movies. :-)

I have degree in Psychology, and two professional diplomas in Stress Management Coaching and Consultancy, and Neuro Psychological Immunology. I am looking forward to work in my sphere one day.

Writing is my true passion! I have been writing since I was 8 years old, and besides prose, I love to write poetry, too.
I write fiction in the thriller/suspense/crime and mystery genres.

The Steps is my first book, not just the first translated in English, but my actual first book. It was published in Latvian in October 2013 in my country and you can still buy Soļi (The Steps) in book stores.
When I was 17, I found the poem “The Steps” by Paul Valery in my school library. The poem touched my soul so deeply, so I wrote it out on the small piece of paper. As time passed, I read the poem again and again, and knew that it has and will have some impact in my life.
When I was writing my book, I knew that the poem “The Steps” will be one of the most important things in it, and will play the major role at some point. So, when I came to choosing the title for my book, there were no doubts for me about that – The Steps was the only choice of my soul.

As for my inspiration, surprisingly for myself, mostly I find my inspiration in music, and particularly in some songs. For example, when I wrote the chapters with Lucas in them, I listened K.D Lang’s version of song “Hallelujah”, and Latvian band’s Instrumenti song “Pieturi mani sev klāt” (Hold me tight). When I wrote my new book, I mostly listened kora musicians and singers Toumani Diabaté and Sona Jobarteh (Western Africa).    

One month ago I finished my second book, and now working on it with publishers in Latvia. It is thriller/suspense as well.

Follow Iveta Redliha on Facebook.

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