#BookReview – The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

YOU’LL NEVER FORGET THE FLOWER GIRLS

The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose.

One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.

Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.

And The Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…

Published January 2019 by Raven Books 

~ Review ~

I can’t remember how or when I heard about The Flower Girls, but it jumped straight into my pre-order basket. Months later when it eventually dropped through my letterbox, I abandoned all plans and snuggled down to read it.

“The Flower Girls” are sisters Laurel and Rosie – infamous for a brutal murder when only children themselves. While older sister Laurel has been in prison for many years, Rosie – only six years old at the time of the killing- has spent the last couple of decades living with a new identity and in fear that one day someone will work out who she actually is. And then, another child goes missing from the hotel she is staying at with her parents. A hotel where Rosie (now known as Hazel) is also on the guest list…

Wow, this was an unsettling and dark read. With the past and present eerily twisting and colliding, The Flower Girl’s had me engrossed. I flew through the pages, desperate to unravel the mystery of the missing girl in the present and just what had happened all those years ago to drive two seemingly innocent little girls to commit such an horrific act.

As expected, this is often an uncomfortable and disturbing book which challenges the reader to consider whether a person is shaped by their early experiences or are inherently bad. It prompts us to question whether someone who commits such an atrocious crime at such a young age can ever be rehabilitated and released back into the community. We see the impact on the victim’s family – grief, bitterness and an overwhelming need for justice and revenge. My mind whirred as I read this book, as I was forced to question, then question again.

Throughout the book, the author creates a chilling sense of unease with undercurrents of  suspicion and doubt. I never knew quite exactly what to believe or expect as I read The Flower Girls. With some shocking twists thrown in right at the end, this is a book with impact – it will shock and disturb, leaving you thinking about it long after you turn the last page. If I had one complaint, then it would be that I’d like to have known a little more about the sister’s early life and what made them the way they were … this bit felt a little glossed over and I would’ve liked to understand (if ever you could) them more. However, one complaint aside, I felt this was a smart, thought provoking and dark thriller which had me hooked from beginning to end. Recommended!

 

 

 

Book Review – The Dead Ex by Jane Corry (@Janecorryauthor @PenguinUKbooks #TheDeadEx #BookReview )

One man’s disappearance throws four women’s lives into chaos–and not all will survive. . .

Vicki works as an aromatherapist, healing her clients out of her home studio with her special blends of essential oils. She’s just finishing a session when the police arrive on her doorstep–her ex-husband David has gone missing. Vicki insists she last saw him years ago when they divorced, but the police clearly don’t believe her. And her memory’s hardly reliable–what if she didhave something to do with it?

Meanwhile, Scarlet and her mother Zelda are down on their luck, and at eight years old, Scarlet’s not old enough to know that the “game” her mother forces her to play is really just a twisted name for dealing drugs. Soon, Zelda is caught, and Scarlet is forced into years of foster care–an experience that will shape the rest of her life . . .

David’s new wife, Tanya, is the one who reported him missing, but what really happened on the night of David’s disappearance? And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself? The answer lies in the connection among these four women–and the one person they can’t escape. 

Published June 28th 2018 by Penguin UK  

~ Review ~

I absolutely loved Jane Corry’s previous novel, Blood Sisters (reviewed here) and was so looking forward to reading her 2018 release, The Dead Ex. But then life got in the way, reading unfortunately got pushed aside as I seemed to roll from one drama of my own to another and I didn’t get around to it. Well, aren’t I kicking myself now after finally picking it up this week? Once again, I was completely sucked in and held captive by Jane’s twisty, compulsive writing as I devoured this addictive book in a couple of days.

The Dead Ex begins with alternating chapters told from the perspective of Vicki, a reclusive, seemingly timid aromatherapist who definitely has something to hide in the present, and Scarlett, ten years previously, an eight year old child who’s caught up in her chaotic mother’s criminal activities. Both narrators where fascinating and gripping, but what really intrigued me was trying to work out just what connected the two of them together. There is absolutely no way I could have guessed, and loved the turn the book took!

There’s a LOT of theme’s running through this book – child neglect and family loyalty, Female relationships and bonds, a need for a sense of belonging, ambition, power, loss of identity…it goes on. Vicki is a fascinating character with so many layers that even by the end I’m not sure I’d seen them all. Jane Corry writes each aspect of her so convincingly, I completely believed in her. I also absolutely loved the references to aromatherapy oils and uses, which I find fascinating and felt really complimented the book.

I flew through this book, despite reading it over a couple of busy days, grabbing any moment I could to read a bit more. With fascinating and complex characters and a plot that left me second guessing at every turn, this is compulsive reading at it’s best. An absolute page turner that manages to surprise and shock over and over again.

(I read proof copy courtesy of the publishers and Netgally)

 

#BlogBlitz #BookReview – Another Mother by Amanda James

Adopted at birth, for years Lu has secretly dreamt of finding her birth mother but childhood bullying has left her with a lack of confidence. When a tragic accident changes her life forever it sets her on a mission to get in contact with her birth mother and find out the reasons behind her adoption.

When she tracks down her mother in Cornwall there is an emotional reunion and the pair begin to form a relationship.

But is everything as wonderful as it appears or has Lu walked into a nightmare? 

Published 10th April 2018 by Bloodhound Books 

~ Review ~ 

When I started Another Mother, I was hoping I’d be gripped. I LOVED the premise, it just really appealed to me. And right from the very first page I was drawn in, immediately feeling at ease with Amanda Jennings writing, which flows beautifully.

Another Mother had a different kind of vibe to what I’d been expecting, but in a very good way. At times I almost forgot this was a thriller, which was nice because I wasn’t waiting expectantly for a twist and trying to second guess the plot.  I think it was down to the emotional investment that the author managed to convey with main character Lu. I connected with her immediately, not just because of the traumatic experience of loosing her adoptive mother and the uncertainty of meeting her birth mother, but because she was written so completely. A whole picture felt like it was created right from the start – her frustration in a dead end job, her lack of confidence and loneliness. I really cared about what happened to Lu.

I loved the setting of Cornwall too, and it fitted birth mother, Melyn’s story brilliantly. I loved how the there was a subtle undertone of atmosphere and sinister tension. It trickles into the narrative, and leaves the reader unnerved as they know something isn’t right but don’t know quite what or why.

Another Mother might be different and less in your face than other thrillers, but don’t be fooled – at its heart that’s what it is. Amanda James’s skill is in lulling the reader into a comfortable, steady pace and connecting her readers with her characters. I loved the fact that I was able to just read this book without waiting for the twists to jump out at me, appreciating even more when the book took a decidedly darker turn and secrets are revealed. This is effortless to read, perfect for the upcoming holiday season and is a book I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fans of  psychological thrillers, domestic noir and women’s fiction as it really does have a broad appeal.

)I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher)

 

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#BlogTour #BookReview – Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham (@HQStories @VickyNewham)

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim. 

Published April 5th 2018 by HQ 

~ Review ~

I seem to have read a ton of brilliant  ‘first in a new series’ detective novels recently, so there’s the risk that eventually one’s going to disappoint.  Fortunately, Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham was not that one, managing to deliver a fresh voice and a page turning plot in one swoop.

DI Maya Rahman has just returned from burying her brother and is immediately called in to head a murder investigation. During a staff training school, the Head of a local school which prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism, has been found murdered in her office. Beside her body is an Budhist precept – the second of five. It’s now a race against time to discover the murderer as one by one the remaining precepts are acted out.

I think what sets Turn A Blind Eye apart for me was the slightly different focus of the book. Yes, there were twists and turns and I was kept guessing as to who the perpetrator was, but it was the intricacies of the cultural tensions, misunderstandings and prejudices that made Turn A Blind Eye a really interesting read and gave it a fresh, relevant and original feel.

I really liked the character of Maya, and we get a little bit of her back story throughout the book, however I’d love to know more. She has an interesting history and I feel there’s a lot more to come. There’s still a mystery surrounding her childhood, which I hope means we’re going to be reading more of her soon!

I also really liked the Budest precept angle, it kind of reminded me a little of the film Se7en (but less gruesome!), and has Maya and her partner Dan preempting who the next victim may be. This created a gripping race against the clock type scenerio, which resulted in the ‘one more chapter’ effect and me tearing through the book in a couple of sittings.

Turn A Blind Eye is a fantastic start to a new series and one I’ll definitely be keeping up with. It’s got a relevant, fresh feel about it and I look forward to reading more about DI Maya Rahman.

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#BookReview – Our House by Louise Candlish (@TeamBatc @Louise_Candlish)

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue. 
Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it. 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses. 

Published 5th April 2018 by Simon and Schuster (UK)

~ Review ~

Imagine coming home to find strangers moving into your home? All your furniture has gone and they insist they now own it. Imagine then finding out that maybe this isn’t some kind of misunderstanding and your husband may well be behind it. That’s what happens to Fiona, when after a couple of days away she arrives back at her beloved house to find the life she knew entirely turned upside down.

I mean, how’s that for a hook? Within a couple of pages Louise Candlish sets the scene of a domestic nightmare and piques the intrigue of the reader. There was little doubt I was going to devour this book. I had to know what the hell was going on! Through Fiona’s podcasts and Bram’s desperate and tortured word documents the full horror is revealed.

What’s so fascinating about this book is that it’s both far fetched and believable in equal measures. On one hand, how the hell can a house be sold from beneath you? Yet, as we are taken deeper into the story and the full extent of the situation is revealed, it becomes more and more plausible.

Fiona and Bram’s marriage is crumbling after Fiona discovers her husband has cheated again. In a grown up attempt to maintain the lifestyle and beloved home of their children, Fiona suggests the completely modern approach of ‘birds nest’ parenting, where the children will remain where they are and it’ll be the parents who move in and out for their allocated contact time. It’s one of those concepts that sound great in theory right? But you can see the disaster waiting to happen right from the start, almost like watching through your fingers.

The problems begins when Bram – impulsive, deceitful and weak, gets a speeding ticket. What begins as a slight misdemeanor turns into a snowball of lies, tragedy, panic, manipulation and blackmail. I thought Louise Candlish captured the runaway-train-out-of-control effect fantastically, as Bram’s life literally spirals and he finds himself deeper and deeper in a situation he can’t get out of. I wanted to scream at him STOP!! I also thought Fiona’s character contrasted brilliantly against him, coming across as calm and capable, completely reasonable yet unable to see what was happening around her.

Our House really is a story of one lie leading to another and events which spiral out of control. It’s a roller-coaster at times, fueled with adrenaline and increasingly frenzied panic,  an intensifying sense of foreboding and an ending to leave you gasping in horror.  This is the very best kind of domestic noir – where the reader feels like an outsider looking in, can see the cracks and sense the impending doom but just doesn’t know how it will all unravel. Reading it to find out was an absolute joy of speeding pages and held breaths. I was gripped throughout and just couldn’t tear myself away.

(I read an advance e-copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

#BookReview – Skin Deep by Liz Nugent (@PenguinRandomIE @LizzieNugent)

skin deepThe sinister new novel from the No 1 bestselling author of Unravelling Oliver and Richard and Judy Book Club pick Lying in Wait.

‘Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the Côte d’Azur for ten years, posing as a posh English woman fallen on hard times. But her luck is running out. Desperate to escape her grotty flat and grim reality, Cordelia spends a night at a glittering party. Surrounded by the young, beautiful and privileged she feels her age and her poverty. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. It hasn’t taken long for the corpse in her bedroom to commence decomposing …

Liz Nugent’s novel is the dark, twisted and shocking story of what takes Cordelia from an island childhood in Ireland to ruins in Nice. 

Published April 5th 2018 by Penguin Ireland

Reeling. That’s the only word to describe how I was feeling when I finished Liz Nugent’s novel, Skin Deep, last night before promptly taking to twitter to declare it my book of the year so far. And now I’m going to try and tell you coherently why. And I don’t know if I can because it was just SO. DAMN. GOOD!!! 

Skin Deep tells the story of Delia, the only daughter on a remote and wild Irish island – she is adored by her obsessive father. Delia is beautiful, but beneath the exterior there’s a mean, dark streak. When tragedy befalls the island, nine-year old Delia finds herself ostracised  and is brought up on the mainland by foster parents. But Delia wants more, and her manipulative, selfish ways will bring tragedy to all she comes across.  Delia reinvents herself time and time again while leaving a trail of destruction and misery behind her as she seeks the life she so strongly believes she deserves. But when her luck finally runs out, who is left for Delia to turn to?

This book starts with an absolutely gripping first line and holds you captive right until the end of the book. It starts with a bedraggled and middle aged socialite abandoning a dead body in her grubby flat on the Riviera in search of food and alcohol among the rich and powerful of the island. From then on we follow Delia’s story from childhood, as a deeply dark and twisted tale of obsession, manipulation and one woman’s deluded and narcissistic path to eventual  self destruction.

This is a dark, dark story – very different from any other psychological thriller’s out there at the moment. It’s character driven, rather than plot and is a study of the abhorrently selfish Delia and the destruction she leaves in her wake. It’s difficult to find any empathy with her at all, yet I was mesmerised by her and found her one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long time.

This book is seeping with cloying, sinister atmosphere, accentuated by the sporadic inclusion of Irish folklore tales. I absolutely adored these deliciously dark cautionary fables of old and how they related to Delia’s own story as she told it. You could say that Skin Deep itself is a cautionary tale, and it indeed has the feel of a modern twist on a fable where the perils of vanity, greed, obsession and selfishness are driven home.

And still there was a mystery at the very heart of this book, introduced at the very beginning. Spanning decades, Skin Deep takes the reader through the moments that lead to this point. I became so engrossed in Delia’s life from feral childhood to conniving socialite that I almost forgot about it, but in the final chapters Liz Nugent absolutely blew me away with a twist that left me reeling and an ending as dark and chilling as any myth.

Skin Deep was, in my opinion, overwhelmingly good. I was utterly mesmerised and disturbed by the deluded and twisted Delia and the sinister and atmospheric writing shrouded me from beginning to end. If you like your stories as dark as they come, with thick atmosphere and a hint of fable, then look no further – this book ticks ALL THE BOXES for me and sits firmly at the top of my books of 2018.

(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publishers)

#BlogTour #GuestPost – Elle Spellman On Her Experiences As A Debut Author (@Rararesources @CapesandCorsets)

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Delighted to be hosting author Elle Spellman today as part of her She’s Bad News blog tour with a guest post about her experiences as a debut author!

she's bad news.jpgWhat would you do if you woke up with super powers? For Bella Brown, life hasn’t gone according to plan. She’s almost thirty, still living in her uneventful hometown, and her dreams of becoming an investigative reporter have fallen by the wayside. That is, until she wakes up one morning to find she’s been gifted with some amazing new abilities. What’s a girl to do with heightened senses, super speed and the ability to lift a truck one-handed? Bella quickly discovers that her new powers can easily help her land front-page leads at local newspaper The Hartleybourne Gazette. Soon Bella’s out every night chasing down local criminals for stories, while keeping her powers a secret from everyone besides flatmate Chloe. But when a burglary-gone-wrong accidentally turns her into the mysterious Hartleybourne Heroine, Bella finds herself on the front page for the wrong reasons. Her secret becomes harder to keep as she tries to track down the source of her powers, and especially when crime reporter Matt Gilmore is intent on unmasking the town’s new vigilante… Suddenly, having an extraordinary life is far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

ella spellman.jpgBecoming an author is a fantastic experience. Fantastic, yet at the same time, strange. My first few months as a debut author have been great, though I’m still adapting to the reality of it.  

 And yes, okay, that intro makes me sound like I’ve just joined a cult. Though if writing was a cult, I’d be all in. I mean, as a writer you already give up part of your soul, getting that all-important story out of your head and onto the page. And let’s face it, the more writers, the merrier.  

Actually, does anyone want to start a cult? You know where to find me… 

But in all seriousness, writing and publishing a novel has been a lifelong dream, one that’s been finally realised, and it’s only starting to dawn on me that yes, I am an author, and yes, I can say it now. I can tell people about my book that’s actually out there.  

For those who are dreaming of this moment, having waited either your whole life, or at least a good chunk of it, to write and hone your book until it’s ready, you might think it’s full of sunshine and excitement and happy tears, and yes, it totally is. For me, the thought of achieving that goal was wonderful. Yet at the same time, there was a whirlwhind of other emotions just waiting to pull me in at full force.  

Firstly, there was joy. That inner cry of “I’ve done it! My book is out there! THIS IS TOTALLY AMAZING!” That expected moment of sheer happiness and finality that meant my debut novel was available to the masses and I had reached a milestone. Which lasted approximately two hours before my happy bubble was burst by my arch-nemesis, known as the Inner Editor, who likes to catch me at inappropriate moments to stomp all over my hopes in her five-inch stilettos and remind me of how this whole thing was a bad idea. For me, my Inner Editor takes the form of a sassy lady who likes to tell me what’s going down. She rocks a pencil skirt and glossy hair and, in a way, is a bit like that scary boss most of us encounter at some point in our lives; the one you’re often unnerved by but at the same time, inspired. 

Anyway. 

“What the hell have you done?” she said. “Your book is out there. For public consumption.” 

“And?” 

“It’s out. That personal part of you is OUT THERE.” 

Then, of course, the fear set in. “Oh god,” I replied, in my head, to that imaginary, scary woman, “everyone’s going to hate it, aren’t they?” 

“Maybe. Probably. Yes.” 

“Damn.” 

Understandably, of course, this was merely the succession of worries playing on my mind. I’ve come to realise that I’m not alone in this – many authors that I know experience similar thoughts and fears. Publication week is an emotional one; exciting, yet at the same time, scary. Something you’ve worked hard on – a part of you, in a way – is being released to readers everywhere. Of course you’re going to worry if, well…if it’s okay. 

Strangely though, that day I decided to argue back with my Inner Editor. I mean, normally she’s right. ‘That chapter’s too long.’ ‘That scene isn’t needed.’ ‘Cut most of this page, even that funny bit you really like.’ I know that I have to be cruel to be kind when it comes to my writing. But this time, I decided to take on my nemesis. Give her a two-finger salute. Or some harsh words, at least. 

“Well…so what if people hate it? Not everyone will like it and that’s perfectly fine. But I’ve written a book. I’ve acheived a dream. So there. I’m super happy.” 

It worked. She strutted off down an imaginary corridor in her imaginary high shoes. She’ll be back very soon; I’m currently rewriting book number two. 

Admittedly, being a debut author has been a wonderful mix of emotions. But most of all, it’s been exciting. And what’s more exciting is that I have plenty more stories ready to write. Bring on the next novel!  

 

About The Author 

Elle Spellman is a writer and comic book geek living in Bristol, UK. She’s been writing since a very young age, spending her childhood afternoons penning stories about fictional adventures, and illustrating them too. Now, Elle tends to write contemporary fiction with kick-ass heroines and a little bit of magic. She’s Bad News is her debut novel, and she’s just finished working on her second. Her other interests include running, wine, red lipstick, the paranormal, and all things Batman.

Twitter | Goodreads | Website 

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#BlogTour #BookReview – Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan (@RiverRunBooks @QuercusBooks)

too close to breathePerfect for fans of Tana French, Jane Casey and Gillian Flynn

TOO SOON TO SEE

Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanging in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.

TOO LATE TO HIDE

DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.

TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE

As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a bold, brilliant thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.  

Published April 5th 2018 by Riverrun Books  

And BREATHE! – that’s what I had to keep telling myself while devouring this debut detective series novel. Sharp, crisp, taut, terrifying. More like Too Gripping To Breathe than Too Close To Breathe!

First book in the Frankie Sheehan series, Too Close To Breathe catapults the reader straight into a grisly murder investigation from the very first page. During an autopsy of what appears to be a suicide, DCS Sheehan is quick to suspect that all isn’t as it seems. In death, Eleanor Costello appears to be a perfectly polished, organised professional, but as Sheehan begins investigating she soon uncovers a murky, dark side and opens a door into the sinister and disturbing world of extreme sadomasochism, death fantasists and the dark web.  When another body is discovered, it becomes clear there’s a very dangerous serial killer on the loose.

Super-speedy fast paced is the only way to describe this book. Seriously, the plot races on at a breathtaking pace and had me absolutely gripped, completely ignoring life around me and unable to stop reading until I’d turned the last page. I read this in one massive binge read of four hours.

All the components of a great Detective book are here – a feisty, flawed lead, a barrage of red herrings and an attention to detail that’s grisly enough to satisfy any murder/crime reader. I really liked DCS Frankie Sheehan – she has her flaws, yes, but not so much as to make her unusual or have distracting personal/emotional difficulties. She’s a bit headstrong, she rushes in where she probably shouldn’t and she doubts herself. But she’s witty, strong, dedicated and pretty much straight down the line. I’ve a feeling we’ll get to know more about her in future books, and I really look forward to that.

The plot is intricate, meaning it wasn’t until the final pages that I had an inkling just what was going on. Packed full of twists and turns, chapter after chapter suspicions were raised, diverted and then pointed in a different direction. I loved the forensic elements of this book too, with an intriguing clue tying the cases together, it isn’t something I’d heard of or come across before. It’s pretty grisly and violent at times and had me shuddering in shock, and with a theme around death fantasy then I have to warn about some pretty upsetting and disturbing scenes.

Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a fantastic start to a new detective series, with a gritty, fresh and taut feel to it and an intriguing lead detective. Her compelling writing style and cunning ability to divert the readers attention and keep them hooked had me holding my breath throughout. I’ll be looking out for more from Olivia Kiernan and DCS Frankie Sheehan in the future.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the publisher)

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#BlogBlitz – Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel (@Rararesources)

manipulated lives cover.jpgFive stories – Five Lives

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. 

Published June 8th 2016

Manipulated Lives is a book of five short stories, all very different but centred around the theme of manipulation.  The characters in each story range from an elderly lady who is dying, a young woman swept up in a relationship with a single father and his young son, a teenager who is desperate to fit in and a woman who motherhood comes to later in life. What’ makes each of these stories stand out is that manipulation can come from anywhere, and was often not from the person you may expect. It also draws attention to the fact that anyone is open to manipulation, victims coming from all walks of life and at any age.

There’s something deeply dark and disturbing about Leuschel’s  writing that really unnerved me. Perhaps, having been the victim of manipulation myself, the incredibly raw and stark narrative hit a nerve. It made it a little uncomfortable to read, because I truely believed in these character’s. This is not a criticism, more testament at the author’s ability to really understand and convey the emotional as well as the physical abuse her characters go through. I think for me, it hit a nerve slightly and made me feel uneasy at times.

Of all the stories, I think the first book stands out. Tess and Tattoo’s tells the story of an elderly woman in a care home, who reveals some of her past to a carer she befriends. The book shows though that we should never assume or judge, as her carer eventually finds out that Tess’s past wasn’t the one she’d initially thought. I also thought The Runaway Girl captured the vulnerability of teenagers well while My Perfect Child tackles the taboo and less talked about topic of parents being abused by their offspring.

I’ve read very few short story collections in my life, feeling that they weren’t for me. After reading Manipulated Lives I remain unsure. On the one hand, I appreciated the snapshots – like peeking into other peoples homes and understanding what happens behind closed doors. I also was impressed which how well drawn each story and character was in such short pieces of writing. However, I also felt that I wanted to know more, have more closure, follow them through a journey.

Manipulated Lives isn’t an easy book to read being so disturbingly true to life. It’s extremely intimate, almost confessional and got under my skin at times but at the same time thought provoking, intriguing and compelling to read. If you are intrigued behind the psychology of manipulation, then I think this is a book you may not enjoy but will certainly appreciate.

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About The Author 

manipulated lives author.jpgHelene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

 

Facebook | Twitter  | Website

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#BlogTour #BookReview – The Fear by C.L Taylor (@AvonBooksUK @CallyTaylor)

the fear‘Grabs you by the metaphorical throat right from the start and doesn’t let up until the end.’ Heat

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a taut, compelling psychological thriller that will have you glued to the edge of your seat. 

Published 22nd March 2018 by Avon (UK)  

C.L Taylor has become a hotly anticipated author among fans of psychological thrillers, and having read every single one of her four previous novels I can see how she improves with each one. The Fear is no exception, and once again I was hooked right from the start, drawn into the gritty plot and completely immersed in the character’s story.

There’s a slightly different feel to The Fear. Despite the title, I didn’t think this book was as twisty as I’d been expecting. It’s dark though. Disturbingly so as C.L Taylor tackles the theme of child grooming, abduction and psychological trauma. When Lou’s new boyfriend surprises her with a trip to France, her reaction as she approaches Dover is extreme. Then through a series of flashbacks and the discovery that history may just be about to repeat itself, we discover just what happened to a teenage Lou all those years ago as she faces her fear to save a young girl from becoming the latest victim of her abuser.

One thing’s for certain, this author can write excellent characters, crafting them to be so convincingly real that it makes the reader question how easily such a trauma could happen to them too, and puts them firmly in the shoes of her protagonists. It’s told from the viewpoint of three women, Lou – who ran away to France at fourteen after being groomed by Mike, his ex-wife Wendy, still angry and resentful at how her life turned out, and thirteen year old Chloe, the latest focus of Mike’s attentions. Having the three view points gave a really thorough and clear perspective and worked very well.

Being the mother of a thirteen year old daughter, I found it chilling and difficult to read at times, yet I also appreciated the reminder of just how easily a vulnerable young adult could be influenced. I found Chloe’s sections of the book heartbreaking, and was angry at the chips at her self esteem which made her so vulnerable. The book throws up many questions, about parental culpability, the long term effects of abuse and the far reaching ripple effect created. It’s not just Lou’s life that’s affected, while Mike’s ex-wife is initially difficult to like due to her feelings towards her ex’s victim, during the book we begin to understand and empathise with her. But it was Lou’s development over the course of the book which I really liked, as the reversal of power see’s her conquer her fear.

As I’ve come to expect from this author, The Fear was effortless to read, gripping and compelling from the start and I read it over the course of a day. While I didn’t feel it had the twists and shocking moments I expected when I started, I felt this was appropriate to the theme and instead found it a chilling and dark, yet completely believable and thought provoking book. The ending was maybe a little, teeny bit contrived and lacking in impact, but I’m willing to ignore that. The Fear definitely shows the authors growth as a writer, with compassion and understanding of everyday victims of abuse – be it domestic, emotional or sexual, and the psychological effects on mental health. But it also conveys strength and hope in facing up to and overcoming your fear. This is C.L Taylor’s best book yet.

(I read a readers copy courtesy of the publisher)

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