Thursday, 26 April 2018

Review - the Silence of knowing - Jenny Jackson

The Silence of Knowing by Jenny Jackson is a novella so its a quick and easy read.

I rattled through it in an evening and it kept me entertained as it's unusual in style and exciting in content. Set in the 1950s it is narrated by 11 year old Josie who is unable to speak, having been born with no vocal chords.

Because of this she communicates mainly by writing things down which leads her to have a vivid imagination and be very observant. Her twin brother Mitch and she don't know the identity of their father and its their dream to find him and they weave a mystery about his absence in their lives believing him to have been some kind of spy in the recent world war 2.

When a new teacher arrives suddenly at their school and reveals that his surname matches their names and he is an American they become convinced that he is their long lost Dad but soon events point to even greater mysetries surrounding him.

But meddling and prying soon get them and a small group of school pals in a few sticky situations. It sounds like a kids story but the content is aimed at the more adult reader, although it would suit any age.

This Famous Five style adventure story is great for grown ups who fancy revisiting their past who, like me, grew up reading Enid Blytons books and enjoys reminiscing about the fairly recent past, seen from a childs point of view.

A jolly good few hours entertainment, I can recommend this when you don't want anything too demanding and just need to be entertained by a riveting tale a little longer than a short story but not too long.

Get a copy for your kindle or in paperback now on Amazon

The Blurb

1952 - a small Kentish village seemingly little affected by the war years. 11-year-old Josie, dumb from birth and who communicates through her writing, is on the verge of puberty and life in the wider world. It is a time of childhood innocence. She and her twin brother, Mitch, are thrilled when an American teacher arrives at their village school, suspecting him of being their long-lost father. Together with their two best friends they set about collecting evidence for their suspicions but soon find themselves embroiled in deeper, darker secrets which land Josie in a life-threatening situation. As childhood recedes and mature thought begins to surface, Josie, who tells the tale, realises that she is not the only one who has been unable to speak.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Blog Tour and Review - Ghost by Helen Grant

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Blog Tour for the new novel by Helen Grant - entitled Ghost it has all the requisite elements of a rather gothic ghost story - with a unique difference.

The cover's lovely - so simple and clean yet really eye catching with that little key - Just who does it belong to?

My review:

Ghost is an eerie and haunting ghost story in the classic setting of a deserted remote old Gothic country mansion in the wilds of Scotland but the “ghost” within is not your typical spectre.

I loved this haunting and mesmerizing tale with a few terribly tantalizing twists along the way. It sucked me in right from the start as everything is just a little strange and spooky. Be prepared for some surprises in the pages which kept me reading this completely gripping, subtle yet fast paced book ramps up the tension beautifully with nail biting precision.

Part love story, part coming of age, this eerie book will have you hearing noises in the night and glimpsing shadows from the corner of your eye. If it all seems a little weird and wonderful - roll with it, you don't want to miss the nail biting conclusion.

Within the pages are all the elements of a memorable ghost story

The typical haunted house....
From the dense Scottish forest surrounding Langlands Hall you wouldn’t even know it was occupied. Rumours that it is haunted keep folk at bay. Dusty, ramshackle and huge it nestles in the woods, waiting for something or someone to give it the kiss of life.

But someone does live there.

The characters....
Old Rose McAndrew resides within with only her 17 year old grand-daughter Augusta for company. Augusta knows she can never leave the house or there will be dreadful consequences and she trusts her Gran who is the only other person Augusta ever sees or speaks to and she knows everything her Gran does is always for her own safety. She knows the second world war is raging outside, though the pair are safe from it here. But change is in the air ….

One day part of the roof is damaged and strangers have to be invited to Langlands Hall to make urgent repairs. Whilst the builders are present Rose insists that Augusta must hide and not be seen and she locks her in the attic so she will never be discovered.

The romance.....
Watching through the window the young woman sees that one of the builders is not much older than she is, he’s a handsome young lad and she overhears him being called Tom. She is entranced with the idea of making some small advance towards him.

Can she stay hidden forever or will the world come crumbling down if she does contact him? She is about to find out.

The mystery ......
One day Rose heads off in her old car for groceries as she regularly does, but this time she doesn’t return. How will Augusta manage alone? As she discovers nothing in her closeted life is quite what she had supposed it to be, secrets come tumbling from behind locked doors. Will her tenuous contact with Tom be her salvation or her downfall?

This is a coming of age story with a difference, a haunting ghost story which isn’t perfect for skeptics who don't like the supernatural (yeah really), a twisty mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat, a whole bunch of secrets and lies, a tale of the past and the present meeting and above all a tender romance of doomed love and hidden family secrets. Enter the hidden world of Ghost if you dare.

Twisty, haunting and utterly compelling reading whether you’re 17 or 70.

The Blurb

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between - everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives - good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning...

The Author: Helen Grant

Helen was born in London in 1964. She showed an early leaning towards the arts, having been told off for writing stories under the desk in maths lessons at school.

Helen went on to read Classics at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, and then worked in marketing for ten years to fund her love of travelling. Her two most memorable travelling days were the one spent exploring Damascus in Syria and the day she went to the Raj Mandir cinema in Jaipur to see the romantic blockbuster Beta.

In 2001, she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany. It was exploring the legends of this beautiful old town that inspired her to write her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which is set there.

Helen now lives in Scotland with her husband, her two children and her two cats.

Visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @helengrantsays

Purchase Ghost from Amazon

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Blog tour and guest post - The Black Earth

Today I join the blog tour for The Black Earth by Philip Kazan.

Look at the beautiful cover doesn't it just make you want to know who the people are and what is happening in their lives? well you can find out by reading this book. I still have that to look forward to but as the book is set in Greece I am really looking forward to reading it this summer.

Here is a post The author, Philp wrote for my blog when I asked what led him to write his latest novel:

Guest Post: by Philip Kazan

The Path to The Black Earth

My latest novel, The Black Earth, is my seventh, but strangely enough it was the thing I began when I first decided to see whether I could write, about twenty years ago. 

My wife and I had moved into my grandmother’s old house in West London, which had been neglected since her death a decade earlier. It was a temporary arrangement: we were living there rent-free in return for renovating the place, so the two of us were knocking around in this enormous late-Victorian red brick house in Ealing, ripping up carpets, sanding floorboards, stripping paint from cast iron fireplaces. 

It was an odd time for me: Tara and I had recently moved back from New York and got married. I’d hit one of those periods of flux in my professional life (I’m just saying that for effect: I’ve never had what most reasonable people understand as a professional life) and was temping and working as a freelance editor, doing some gardening, writing blurbs and spending a lot of time alone in my grandmother’s old house, which held some very powerful memories.

My grandmother, Andromache, had come to England in the early 1920s to marry a man she’d never met. Arranged marriages were still common in Greece in those days, and so Andromache was put on a boat in Thessaloniki and sent to Southampton, where she was met by my grandfather and his two brothers. “I hope he’s the tall one,” she thought, when she saw them on the quayside. He was the short one. Andromache - always Yaya to me - never adjusted to London, though she lived there for nearly 70 years. Her home was a whole different country to me, a boy growing up in deeply rural Devon, with a very British father and a Greek mother. Her kitchen smelled of exotic things. There were icons on the wall, and a hand-tinted photograph of Kastoria, the lakeside town in the far north of Greece where she had been born. She taught me to cook, and I listened to her tell the stories of her childhood, and of her family - my family. I wish I’d listened more carefully.

The house had kept barely anything of Yaya’s presence as a palpable thing. It had been rented out, mistreated, abandoned, and now we were ripping it to bits and reassembling it. But still, I felt very close to her. All the stories I’d never quite paid attention to were still there, lurking in corners, tugging at my sleeve with the fragment of Macedonian embroidery I found in a cupboard, with the stack of old letters with pre-war Greek stamps in a drawer in the cellar. Up until then I’d spent my career, such as it was, in the publishing industry but I’d always wanted to write something myself. One day one of my uncles lent me a book, in Greek, about the Macedonian Struggle of the 1900s. I couldn’t read it but I suddenly remembered Yaya’s stories. How her father and her uncles had fought the Turks and the Bulgarians. How wolves had run through the streets of Kastoria on winter nights. 

We’d just bought our first computer, a huge Gateway PC (the one with the cow-print box), and I found that I quite liked typing on it. So one day I sat down and began to write about Kastoria. About wolves, and Turkish occupiers, and anything else I could pull out of the atmosphere in that partly colonised, partly haunted house. I had the basic bones of the story: an Englishman and a Geek woman, and their pasts, separate and combined. I wanted to write about memory, and the Greek diaspora, and about being someone with a foot in two worlds, and also with a foot in neither. There was a war, and exile, and…

I didn’t get any further than that. The story that I thought I had worked out, suddenly became far more complicated than I could handle. I wasn’t a writer yet. I had no idea about plotting, or about self-control. My Greek book burned itself out in about a fortnight. I dropped the whole thing, spent another fortnight attacking fireplaces with a blowtorch and a wire brush, then went back to the Gateway. I didn’t have a plot now, I just had a person, a feeling, and the Medieval history degree that everybody had said would be completely useless. My person turned out to be, not a 19th Century Greek freedom fighter, but a 13th Century novice monk. In a few days I had a chapter, then two, then three. We moved back to America soon after that, but I kept writing and Relics became my first published book. I wrote another three books about Brother Petroc, then turned to Renaissance Italy.

I came back to writing about Greece by accident, almost. Back in England, I’d decided to write about the bohemian art scene in Soho in the years on either side of World War Two and started fleshing out a plot. I’d been talking to my mother, who had been part of the scene in the 1950s, about the people she’d known. Somehow I decided that there needed to be a Greek character in the book. Then my mother told me about a cousin of hers who had survived the Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922, been orphaned, lost everything, had ended up in America, and had come to visit my grandparents after the war. I’d been listening to a lot of Greek music and one day I heard a song called Gazeli Neva Sabah, sung in 1934 by a woman from Smyrna, Rita Abatzi, who had become a refugee in Athens. Something in her voice - some quality of desperation, of loss - carried through the scratchy recording. I abandoned Soho and found that, finally, I was in touch with the ghosts in my grandmother’s house. It wasn’t the story I had set out to tell twenty years ago, but then again, perhaps it was the story the ghosts wanted me to tell.

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random things tours for arranging and inviting on the Blog Tour.

If you'd like to read more about the book here is the blurb:

1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoë Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoë. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

You can find a copy for your kindle here on Amazon and at all good bookshops

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Review - The Lido by Libby Page - a feel good book

What an absolute delight this book was to read. It's a real feelgood book about loneliness, friendship and people, it has a real sense of place and community.

Set in Brixton, London it centres on a bunch of random and disparate people who are soehow drawn together by a sense of purpose and that reason is to save a Lido swimming pool from being closed down. We must all have come across something like this over recent years. A local council struggling for funds sells off a public building, maybe a library, a swimming baths or a community centre, we complain, we mutter and we possibly sign a petition to try and help save it, but how many of actually take action?

Rosemary and Kate do just that.

The Lido has been part of Rosemarys life for over 80 years, she swam there as a child, met her husband there and spent all of her married life using it, looking out at it from the window of her flat.

Kate is a junior journalist, she lacks confidence and suffers panic attacks, but when she is asked by her boss to write an article about the imminent closure of the local Lido pool, something makes her want to get involved. As this interest is born it begins to change her life in subtle little ways. She finally has a sense of purpose, she begins to make friends and as she gets more and more involved we feel her grow and change.

The main story is of the saving of a place which is important to many people. The real thread which holds it together is that of an unlikely friendship between an 86 year old woman and the young writer, 60 years her junior.

Even if, like me you're not a keen swimmer you won't fail to want the campaign to save the lido to succeed especially when in a series of flashbacks and lovely reminiscences we discover just how much of a part it has played in Rosemarys past.

The cast are wonderful, the story is completely absorbing and full of joy and warmth and love. It's absolutely, without question, the most perfect summer read imaginable and I hope you adore it as much as I did.

The Blurb

A tender, joyous debut novel about a cub reporter and her eighty-six-year-old subject—and the unlikely and life-changing friendship that develops between them.

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.

As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Blog Tour - The Man on the middle floor - Elizabeth S. Moore

Today I am part of the Blog Tour for The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S Moore, I was provided with a copy of this intriguing new novel by @RedDoorBooks to read and share my thoughts.

My Review

Review – The Man on the Middle floor Elizabeth S Moore
The man on the middle floor is a dark and rather disturbing novel about several dysfunctional people who live in flats on the 3 floors of a converted London townhouse who become unwittingly involved in a spate of deaths which occur close by.

Although the subject matter is dissimilar the writing style reminded me rather of early Hilary Mantel in particular her novel Beyond black. Although there is no hint of the supernatural in this tale of murder and mayhem and folk who just don’t fit the mould, there is the same sense of bleakness and desperation and cleverly constructed characters, shaped by their own pasts.

The Victorian townhouse in question, overlooks a park and each floor has a lone, single occupant, each ensconced in their own little world, practically unaware of the other residents apart from the odd door slamming or a glimpse through the window as people come and go.

On the ground floor is Karen, middle aged, divorced Mother of 3, devoted to her career as a medical researcher writing a paper on people with autism and aspergers she is sure will change the world. She puts her work before everyone, her colleagues, her family, her friends and neighbours and even herself. But is she absorbed and dedicated as she lurches from mishap to crisis, or so obsessed she misses what’s going on right under her own nose?

On the middle floor is Nick, a young man unused to living alone yet desperately seeking solitude. He battles his inner demons and his autism means he keeps everyone at bay, creating a haven of order and trying to live by the rules he struggles to make sense of. He wants to fit in but can he?

Up on the top floor lives Tam, a recently retired police officer, he is lonely and feels useless without the job he has called his life for so long. He seeks solace at the bottom of a whisky bottle but can he find what is missing from his life in the arms of a passionate woman?

Three individuals, 3 separate lives playing out within a small space. Unsurprisingly eventually all three characters paths cross. Will they be each others salvation or damnation?
I found this book much darker than I expected, there is a distinctly distasteful aspect and the fact that a cute kitten accompanies a very dead young woman on the admittedly very intriguing and eyecatching book cover should have warned me that all was not going to go well within these pages. Yet I quickly became engrossed in the events and it made for a very entertaining and thought provoking read.

There is a character whom the author possibly intended the reader to feel some kind of sympathy for, but I didn’t, I disliked them intensely, as their actions appalled me. But it is a book about failed relationships, disorder and discontinuity which made it difficult to relate to any of the deeply flawed characters so that shouldn’t surprise me.

There is a lot of dark humour in the morbid scenes which play out and a grim reminder that nobody is quite what they seem to be on the surface, nor how they perceive themselves.

Something about the book reminded me somewhat of Hilary Mantel's early work - Beyond Black with a similar feel to the writing and the same darkness buried in everyday lives.

A very well written absorbing novel which entertained throughout, kept me reading and ended up leaving quite an impression on me. What more can one ask of a book?

The Blurb

Lionel Shriver meets Mark Haddon in this break-out debut.

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. 
The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. 
On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger's who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. 
The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. 
They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. 
Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. 
It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

Thought-provoking and thrilling, The Man on the Middle Floor will leave readers talking. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Review - The Fear C.L. Taylor

My Review

A really exciting roller coaster read, with 3 wonderful psychologically flawed and desperate women as lead characters and one rather vile man, who almost had me fooled into having some sympathy for him at the beginning but whom I soon learnt to loathe and despise as he revealed his true colours and I joined in with wishing he'd get his come-upppance.

C.L. Taylor writes mind numbingly realistic - "Oh My God thank heavens that isn't happening to me" scenarios, with believable and relatable characters.

They say you never forget your first love - well Lou has never forgotten hers!!

The subject matter is both distasteful yet topical. The grooming of young girls by an older man in a position of trust, who abuses that trust and ruins lives.

That man is Mike Hughes, a teacher, a mature married man. Hardly surprising that young impressionable girls look up to him, hero worship him, fall in love with him. But it's how he misuses that innocent love to his own evil ends that makes this a twisty, oppressive and horrifying thriller.

It's the fact that nearly 20 years after he tried to abduct 13 year old Lou Wansworth, their paths cross again. The experience has left its scars on Lou and she still finds it hard to trust and build a real relationship with a man.

For almost 20 years her hurt has festered and she is about to seek retribution when she discovers the same man who ruined her life appears to be doing exactly the same thing all over again, this vile predator is grooming another lonely and vulnerable young woman. Well she's not about to sit by and let it happen to someone else.

We hear 3 points of view, that of Lou, then Chloe the newest young victim and then there is Wendy, obviously a rather unhinged woman who is to become the 3rd player in this nail biting drama.

I couldn't put my copy from Netgalley down, its terribly scary and scarily thrilling. A very entertaining and shiver inducing psychological thriller.

The Blurb

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.

Available from Amazon and all good booksellers now.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Blog Tour and Review - The Sapphire Widow - Dinah Jefferies

Blog Tour - The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies

It's great to be  part of the blog tour for another gorgeous historical title by the delightful Dinah Jefferies.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous - but what about the story? Read on for my own thoughts about this luscious new book set in 1930s Ceylon.

My Review

Dinah Jefferies has become my go-to author for sheer indulgent escapism. With all her books you know in advance exactly what you’re going to get:
A stunning location beautifully described so well you can feel the heat and smell the spices and a haunting love story with a realistic and likeable heroine.
Intricately researched details and a gripping historical read with a timeless quality which blends factual knowledge with a rich and vivid imagination to create a luscious book to transport the reader away from everyday humdrum life.

This latest offering is a cornucopia of glittering gems, garnished with pungent spices and wrapped in a silken bow of emotions.

In the Sapphire widow the lush location is 1930’s Colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) resonant with the fragrance of cinnamon and tea. The gentle and compassionate heroine is Louisa, a young British woman who’s new life in Ceylon with her husband who turns out to be not quite the man she was hoping he’d be, is soon to be blown apart. It would be remiss of me not to mention the rugged and enigmatic Leo, as different as chalk is to cheese from her suave husband Elliott.

Dinahs life, which seems so promising at the start, is set to become studded with heartbreak and distress as she suffers miscarriage after miscarriage, begins to have doubts about her husband and is then widowed leaving many mysteries, which to overcome her losses she throws herself into uncovering but what she discovers may throw her whole world into complete disarray.

The historical events, painstakingly researched, include Spice trading and plantation life, the gemstone industry and the book with its themes of marital disharmony, loss and secrets, is filled with hidden pasts, lies, passion and opulent descriptions.

Lavish and descriptive and richly evocative, yet never trashy or light and fluffy, this epic romantic saga by one of my favourite authors swept me away on a spice fragranced, colourful magic carpet to experience life as an ex-pat in a foreign country both alien and familiar, with a story which is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and her love for the Orient shines through her writing.

The Sapphire Widow is a wonderful read. Parts were pretty difficult for me, especially when Louisa suffers repeated, heartbreaking miscarriages, loss is a theme which runs throughout the book and is handled with sensitivity by the author, yet still tugs at the heart.

I can recommend this enchanting book to anyone who has already discovered Dinah Jefferies work, perhaps when the Tea Planters Wife was recommended by Richard and Judy’s book club.

For those readers who haven’t read her work yet (and I have to ask - why not??) It’s a great starting point.

For more about the story I’ll leave you to read it. Newly published it's available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

The Blurb

A sweeping, breath-taking story of love and betrayal from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter's Wife

Ceylon, 1935. Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.

While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind. Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot's shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Blog Blitz - Manipulated lives H A Leuschel

Last but not least today I am the final person to take part in the 3 day blog blitz for the manipulated lives series by H A Leuschel.

A series of 5 novellas highlighting how easy it is to be manipulated or indeed to become a manipulator.

Five 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.

I'm delighted to Welcome Helene to my blog:

Hello and thank you very much for inviting me to ‘Beadyjansbooks’!

There are many fantastic publications out there explaining narcissistic personality disorders, as well as self-help books and insightful websites that offer advice and support. What I wished to achieve with my fives stories in ‘Manipulated Lives’ is to make readers think about the idea that nothing is ever what it seems. Our capacity to interpret fellow human beings may be successful most of the times and helps us navigate through social life yet, when we are in the presence of a manipulative individual with a perversion, it’s a very different ballgame.

 Most manipulators are very shrewd, and research shows that it’s all too easy for a person to fall under their subtle control, with many victims not even realising this.
Each of the five fictional stories aim to depict how important awareness in this area has become and they are also written to engage in a compelling way.  Also, after witnessing someone close be abused, or even being a victim of abuse themselves, some people may find it consoling to read about fictional characters who have gone through and survived comparable experiences, whereas other readers may find it informative as well as thought-provoking.

In the fourth novella of my anthology ‘Manipulated Lives’ called ‘The Narcissist’, the reader meets the person himself - the manipulator in denial despite his incarceration and the evidence of the dark past that haunts him but which he refuses to endorse.

Five 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.

I seem to have lost all sense of time because the nurse is already back and holding my neck, while I struggle to lift my head towards the new glass of water. Is there something floating in it? My eyes strain to focus on the slight mist that is clouding my drink. They are poisoning me, I think, but my thirst is stronger than I, and I drink greedily. The freshness of the water lining the dry walls of my mouth and running down my parched throat is the best feeling I can remember having for a while. But keeping me company are painful thoughts, pulling me to and fro without making sense. I give a small nod as I lick my thin, chapped lips, trying to catch every remaining droplet of water, and sink back into my pillow, exhausted. A whiff of stale body odour reaches my nostrils. Argh. What kind of a place is this where I am simply left to rot?
The image of a spacious bedroom comes to my mind. The carpets are thick and my bare feet dig into the welcoming softness. The bathroom is heated, and the towel I pull off the rail to dry my wet hair is warm and soft. Only a 5-star-hotel can provide this kind of ostentatious comfort, a luxury they make you believe you deserve. I am addicted to being treated with such opulence. My mind has worked so hard to find a way to keep coming back to this haven. The food is layered delicately on porcelain dishes when I come down to the breakfast buffet. I raise my hand arrogantly to one of the waiters and order him to serve fresh coffee. The waiter says, ‘Certainly, with pleasure, sir’. This is the way I should be treated.
With a sigh, I let go of the surrounding white walls and close my eyes, suddenly convinced that the hospital room must surely be part of a bad dream, one I need to avoid at all cost.

 ‘Good morning. How are you?’
I don’t remember hearing or, for that matter, seeing the lady now sitting next to me enter the room. She looks to be in her mid-forties and is dressed in black trousers and a buttoned-up, light pink blouse. She is wearing no jewellery, but a soft smile is etched on a small mouth, and her eyes are a mix of brown and green, gentle but with a gleam of determination.
‘Another letter has arrived for you. Would you like me to read it?’
First encounters shape the impression we have of a person and can have an impact on how we predict and interpret them, I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago. I used to be good at that, excellent really. But now everything’s too foggy and vague to make any sense. The lady sitting cross-legged next to me on an uncomfortable-looking plastic chair rings a bell, somewhere in the depth of my memory, but not more than that.

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About the Author
Helene 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.

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About H.A. Leuschel

Helene 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.

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