The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

the roanakeThis will be a difficult read for any reader, but especially those who have experienced anything of this nature.

Lane is called back to Kansas when her cousin goes missing. Returning to the place her mother ran from, that Lane ran away from and quite a few other Roanoke girls have run from. There seems to be some reason the women in the family try to escape from the seemingly idyllic ancestral home.

What Engel captures well is the co-dependent relationships in these scenarios. The people and relatives who remain silent, condone and often even facilitate the abuse. She also hits the nail on the head when it comes to the insidious nature of sexual abuse.

In this case it’s grooming in the form of family loyalty, devotion and love.

The reactions of both Lane and Allegra may seem a contradiction at times, however they are a true representation of the complex emotions victims of abuse go through.

To know it’s wrong on a base level and at the same time to crave the love and attention of the abuser, it’s all part of the spider-web of incestuous relationships. In a scenario with multiple children or teens there is also the question of why her/him and not me? Feelings of guilt are mixed with fear, confusion and disgust.

Yates is charming, enigmatic and has all the power in each relationship he has. There is no ugly monster lurking in the shadows or a stranger trying to persuade them into a dark corner. Instead the real monster is a handsome loving father and grandfather. Of course he believes it is just a meeting of the minds and soul-mates. They are simply made for him.

Yes, it is that creepy. At the same time it draws you in, despite the subject matter and the sheer horror of the scenario. The fact that this happens all the time, and isn’t just an outlandish fictional idea, is what makes the plot even more compelling.

Buy The Roanoke Girls at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any retailer.

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Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

dont closeThere are plenty of hot topics in this psychological thriller, however I think there was one in particular that resonated more with me. Possibly because in this story it is the root and cause of everything else, all the other problems to come, and perhaps also because it is so commonplace nowadays.

Divorce, separation, custody battles and enforced patchwork families. That doesn’t mean some families don’t manage amicable arrangements, however the emotional trauma still remains the same. Depending on how vicious and vindictive things get the emotional damage is unmeasurable.

For the twins, Robin and Sarah, the moment they are ripped apart is the beginning of the end. The reader meets two happy little girls in the past and then moves forward to encounter two unhappy women in the future. The paths the two of them take are completely different. Robin finds fame and enough anxiety to fill a house, whereas Sarah creates a family, but is ousted by her manipulative husband.

It is fair to say that all is not what it seems, as the layers of this story are slowly torn away like someone peeling an onion. The anger, abuse and hate ripples through the two families over the years. It leaves victims in its wake.

Seddon confronts the reader with quite a few uncomfortable truths, and yet simultaneously she spins a web of fear, deceit and mayhem around them. It is done in such cunning way that you don’t see the twist coming until it nearly smacks you in the face.

Buy Don’t Close Your Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hollyseddon and @Atlanticbooks

Read Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

good-meThe age old question arises in Good Me, Bad Me. Does nurture win over nature? Can the environment change what years of nature have defined and formed?

It’s actually quite interesting that Annie has become Milly. In a way the two names and identities are a symbol for the two sides warring within her.

Annie represents the old life, the life filled with abuse, pain and killing. Milly represents the new life, a family with no ties to her dark past and the possibility of a normal life.

I have to admit I wanted Bad Me to come out to play more often when it came to Phoebe. After all those dark years with her mother Milly is then subjected to the horrors of high school bullying. On a level, which would break even the hardest of people. Good Me tries really hard to keep Annie at bay, but ultimately she peeps out now and again to defend herself.

Throughout the book we see Milly struggle with her emotions. She is happy to finally be free of the horror and yet at the same time her greatest desire is to see her mother again. Is that evidence of her inner conflict and her inability to comprehend the destructive nature of their relationship or is it an indication of something more nefarious?

What Land does really well is make the reader feel sympathy for someone who might not be worthy of it, but then the world isn’t really made of black or white scenarios. It’s the shading and the grey that makes for the unusual exceptions in life. Milly is most certainly an exception to the rule.

The other aspect Land excels at is the question of guilt. To what degree is Annie the victim and to what degree is she as guilty as her mother? Will the child raised by an abuser and killer possibly follow the same path in life or will she gladly settle into obscurity and a normal life.

This book will probably make readers sit on the fence and watch with bated breath as the story unfolds, and yet in the end they still might not be able to decide whether Good Me or Bad Me wins. I know who I am rooting for and it probably isn’t the one you think it is or the one I should be rooting for.

Well done to the author for the fascinating read.

Buy Good Me, Bad Me at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner

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This was my first Lisa Gardner and it certainly won’t be my last. She really knows how to keep the story compelling to the very end.

Nicky is haunted by a girl called Vero. The two of them have conversations with each other all the time, or do they? Is it reality, a call from her subconscious or perhaps just hallucinations due to the complications of Nicky’s traumatic brain injury?

Nicky comes to the attention of the local police when she is found hailing help by the side of the road and her car is found at the bottom of a ravine. At the scene of the accident she screams for Vero, so the hunt is on for the missing child. When the police come up empty-handed they start to question not only the accident, they also question Nicky’s sanity. Something just doesn’t ring quite right for Wyatt and he starts taking a closer look at the husband, especially because Nicky has had multiple serious accidents in the last few months.

I really enjoyed the way Gardner kept the question about the identities very fluid throughout the book. Nothing is certain, and the reader is always second guessing who she might be. You automatically feel sympathy for Vero the child and Nicky the adult, regardless of whether they are in the past or present. For the victims of the abuse and the adult, who lives in sheer terror of the truth. Her own truth is so devastating she is literally falling apart bit by bit.

Although this is a Tessa Leoni mystery/case she doesn’t really play a major role in this story. More like the sidekick to Wyatt. The two of them do get a wee bit closer, but overall she plays more of a secondary part in the book.
I have to admit it kept me riveted till the end.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.