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

Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell

mothersRelationships between mothers and daughters can be anything from beautiful loving friendships to dysfunctional codependency. The element I enjoyed the most about this read was the imperfect and yet realistic relationship between Elsie and Rachel.

Unless you have ever experienced narcissism first-hand, especially at the hands of a parent, then you might not be able to comprehend how accurate this portrayal is. A narcissist will always put there own self first. In fact they put the self in the word selfish. Everything is a competition and they will step over or on you and your feelings to come out on top. Every single time.

So, bearing all that in mind, it isn’t unusual for Elspeth to have cut out the toxic relationship in order to maintain a healthy life for herself. It also explains why she has no real concept of how her mother lived, how she paid for her meals or what secrets she kept hidden from her daughter.

Elsie finds herself experiencing guilt and regret, despite the times her mother has ignored, betrayed and even despised her. Who was this woman really? What kind of secrets did she have that would make someone break in and search her belongings? Too many questions and not enough answers.

I thought the ending was a wee bit like a massive info input in the last few pages, so that could have been planned differently. In fact when you consider the pace and development of the rest of the story, I think the bulk revelation at the end was a little detrimental to the tone and essence of the book.

I also believe Sorell could have built the plot purely on the whole mother and daughter relationship, without the cult and even without the dramatic ending.

Nevertheless Sorell has the heart of a storyteller, so this is just the beginning.

Buy Mothers and Other Strangers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads or any other retailer.

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly

he said she daidThis read certainly has quite a few surprises in store for readers. I liked the concept, perhaps because it is a hot topic and a core setting people really need to take on board.

To be perfectly frank I think the author could have kept the plot as the simple he said/she said scenario and still delivered a thought provoking read. As it stands it evolved from whether a rape actually happened, to a story with the tense undertones of a psychological thriller.

With that in mind I actually enjoyed the read, but wasn’t as enthralled with the ending. I liked the way Kelly drew the story out and created this shadow of doubt around every single character, but was especially interested in the way Beth was perceived.

I know other reviewers found the whole eclipse sub-plot a little tiresome, however I felt it was an intriguing way to show how predictable we are and how easy it is to find someone in this day and age. We leave behind huge digital footprints, so big that they can be followed by anyone with the most basic digital skills.

I felt as if the crux of the plot was how easily Laura was eventually swayed in her opinion of the event. Her instincts told her what was happening, and she called Jamie out for what he was, a rapist. Then suddenly it only takes a trickle of a doubt for her to question what she saw with her own eyes.

Kelly makes some very valid points about rape. The victim is almost always shamed and blamed, whilst the perpetrator is treated like an innocent person in the middle of a set-up to destroy their lives. Even when there are eye-witness statements, it seems as if the victims always have the scales of justice weighted heavily against them.

Kelly does an excellent job of sewing the seeds of doubt in this story. Before you know it a certainty becomes a maybe, and then you may start to question not just the one person who needs the support, but also everyone in her vicinity.

Oh and by the way, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is probably a duck. Just saying.

Buy He Said/She Said at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All is Not Forgotten is definitely the type of read you don’t forget easily. The subject matter is controversial, relevant and important. It is woven into this story of a tense psychological cat and mouse game.

About the Author

Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.

How can people connect with Wendy Walker on social media?

She has an email which can be found via her website: wendywalkerbooks.com

Twitter handle is @Wendy_Walker

Facebook is: Facebook.com/WendyWalkerAuthor

Instagram.com/wendygwalker

Or on Goodreads

Buy All is Not Forgotten at Amazon UK

You can follow the tour with @HQStories or @Wendy_Walker just look for #NotForgotten

About the Book

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime. Jenny’s wounds have healed. An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack. She is moving on with her life. That was the plan. Except it’s not working out. Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching. And she’s getting worse. Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial. It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack. And that could destroy as much as it heals.


Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know)

I just read an ARC of a book called The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. It is a family drama/thriller that captures the essence of family dysfunction and the ripple effects that last for generations. Fabulous!


The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? The last movie I got to see without my three teenage sons was Brooklyn (yes – I went with a girlfriend!). It was gorgeous and moving and yet so simple. Great film making!


Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible)

I have to admit, as unpopular as this will make me with some of your readers, that while I appreciate the wonderful characters and epic settings of those shows, I tend to enjoy television that is more real world. House of Cards, Homeland, The Americans and for comedy I am totally addicted to Catastrophe!

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?

I am so tempted right now to answer in a way that will make me seem profoundly intellectual but the honest, suburban mom answer is George Clooney!


Something you treat yourself to, now and again? 

(Cream éclairs totally count) Dinner with a close friend. There is something about letting everything out with someone who knows you well, who holds your history, and whom you trust completely (over a glass of wine, of course) that is absolutely blissful.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. There are some really interesting answers though. I am a fan of Homeland, House of Cards and Newsroom, so I totally get the interest in real world TV. 

Now let’s talk about All is Not Forgotten.

I particularly enjoyed the angle you chose to approach this topic from; usually the focus is on the victim, in All is Not Forgotten you make the reader sit on the balcony of the arena and watch with the rest of the characters, as the story unfolds…

How did you come to the decision to tell the story in this way? What was the intention behind taking this approach?

I had two objectives when I set out to write this book. The first was to provide a substantive exposition of the underlying issue – which is memory science and the treatment of trauma following a criminal assault. The second was to tell the story in a unique way that would capture a reader’s attention completely but also feel like an engaging conversation with a friend. I plotted each character’s story using coloured note cards and stacked them sequentially. But then I layered them into the chapters at times when they felt organic to the story. That way, the information did not get out of order, but it was delivered to the reader with the structure I designed.

Charlotte and Tom both react to the situation in vastly opposing ways, which causes a lot of friction throughout the book – did this predicament make up part of your initial idea, or was it something you came to later on?

Everything in this novel was carefully plotted. But, as I wrote, the characters did become more complex. I knew Charlotte and Tom would have that tension and I knew the basic psychological reasons behind it. What evolved as I wrote were the details of their back stories and how their childhoods fed their underlying personalities which are the basis of the conflict. The good Charlotte/bad Charlotte dynamic, for example, came about because of the way I was writing her story and how the narrator needed to explain things to her so he could help her understand. I loved that angle so much that I went back and gave it more substance throughout the earlier chapters.

You’ve obviously researched deeply into the use of drugs in the treatment of PTSD and trauma in regards to erasing memories. Did you find your own views on the use of this kind of treatment changing the further you delved into this? Did you make any unexpected or surprising discoveries along the way?

I was surprised at how advanced the science had become since I first read about it back in 2010. But the basic dilemma I saw for crime survivors remained the same. Anything that is intended to alter or erase a memory will conflict with the ability to seek justice and come to terms with the feelings of violation that are inherent in those experiences. My views on this did not change – I think the ability to mitigate PTSD is absolutely amazing and worthwhile. But it will pose difficult decisions for people whose traumas involve criminal assaults.

Even if a treatment such as this does have a positive effect in cases of PTSD, physically and psychologically it negates the possibility of conviction, which raises quite a significant ethical question. Are these sorts of divisive dilemmas at the heart of all of the stories you write?

I try very hard to structure my novels around issues that will resonate in readers on a personal level. In All Is Not Forgotten, I hope readers will think about this dilemma every time they read about memory science and even in their every day lives as they wonder what they would choose for themselves or for their children. Dilemmas in relationships and families and society as a whole make us stop and think and feel things, and for me that is what can make any story worth reading.

The big question of the hour comes down to whether it is better to forget or remember all the details of a traumatic event: if you were in Jenny’s shoes, which option do you think you would take?

This is always a tough question for me. I would absolutely choose to mitigate the emotional component with some of the treatments that are available now. Reconsolidating memories of trauma in therapy to reduce the emotional pain they hold seems to me to be life saving for many people. That said, I do not think I would choose to erase the factual memory if that became possible. And I would not do anything that would impede justice. For me, personally, that would be a priority.

Thank you for answering all the questions, even the odd ones!

Review

I have to hand it to Walker, she certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Her story is vicious in a sense that this is the sad reality for many young women. Being treated like a piece of meat, being used and abused, being exploited and having to adapt their behaviour to not become a victim, has been the norm for many years.

Jenny is pushed into coping with the rape. In a way it seems as if her parents do her an even bigger injustice by pressing the delete button on her memories. Her mother wants to shove the experience under the carpet and her father is mainly concerned with vengeance. So having the memories erased causes instant conflict between Charlotte and Tom, because only one person is getting what they want. Begs the question, where does that leave the poor victim in this scenario?

Eventually it all leads to a complete burnout for Jenny. Not being able to come to terms with the assault leaves its mark on the young girl. Finally she gets the help and support she needs in the form of therapy. The therapist sees the case as a personal challenge and possible milestone in his career. He seems more interested in solving her case or rather helping her to remember for his own benefit.

Makes you wonder whether the therapist’s ego actually takes a higher place in the scheme of things. His ability to discover, heal and be right seems to dominate the entire scenario.

In that regard he isn’t really that different from her parents. Both Tom and Charlotte have agendas and goals, which are driven by their own frame of reference and past experiences. Overall it becomes clear just how little everything is about the actual victim. It’s about Tom’s need for revenge, Charlotte’s need to look normal for society, the therapist’s need to succeed, but hardly ever really truthfully about Jenny coming to terms with the rape.

The therapist also allows the feelings of his own past assault to steer and guide the conversation and therapy with all of them. This makes him anything but objective, and certainly a less than wise choice in the healing process. He feels elation and excitement every time Jenny remembers a piece of the puzzle.

It’s an engrossing read because the topic is controversial and the twist is a shocker. I enjoyed the cat and mouse pace, despite figuring out said twist. Walker has added a subtle layer of complexity to her psychological thriller, which made it a memorable reading experience and a breath of fresh air.

Buy All is Not Forgotten at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Wendy Walker’s intriguing thriller All is Not Forgotten!

About the Author

Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.

How can people connect with Wendy Walker on social media?

She has an email which can be found via her website: wendywalkerbooks.com

Twitter handle is @Wendy_Walker, Facebook is: Facebook.com/WendyWalkerAuthorInstagram.com/wendygwalkerOr on Goodreads

Buy All is Not Forgotten at Amazon UK

You can follow the tour with @HQStories or @Wendy_Walker just look for #NotForgotten

About the Book

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime. Jenny’s wounds have healed. An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack. She is moving on with her life. That was the plan. Except it’s not working out. Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching. And she’s getting worse. Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial. It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack. And that could destroy as much as it heals.

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) I just read an ARC of a book called The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. It is a family drama/thriller that captures the essence of family dysfunction and the ripple effects that last for generations. Fabulous!

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? The last movie I got to see without my three teenage sons was Brooklyn (yes – I went with a girlfriend!). It was gorgeous and moving and yet so simple. Great film making!

Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible) I have to admit, as unpopular as this will make me with some of your readers, that while I appreciate the wonderful characters and epic settings of those shows, I tend to enjoy television that is more real world. House of Cards, Homeland, The Americans and for comedy I am totally addicted to Catastrophe!

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I am so tempted right now to answer in a way that will make me seem profoundly intellectual but the honest, suburban mom answer is George Clooney!

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count) Dinner with a close friend. There is something about letting everything out with someone who knows you well, who holds your history, and whom you trust completely (over a glass of wine, of course) that is absolutely blissful.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. There are some really interesting answers though. I am a fan of Homeland, House of Cards and Newsroom, so I totally get the interest in real world TV. 

Now let’s talk about All is Not Forgotten.

I particularly enjoyed the angle you chose to approach this topic from; usually the focus is on the victim, in All is Not Forgotten you make the reader sit on the balcony of the arena and watch with the rest of the characters, as the story unfolds…

How did you come to the decision to tell the story in this way? What was the intention behind taking this approach? I had two objectives when I set out to write this book. The first was to provide a substantive exposition of the underlying issue – which is memory science and the treatment of trauma following a criminal assault. The second was to tell the story in a unique way that would capture a reader’s attention completely but also feel like an engaging conversation with a friend. I plotted each character’s story using coloured note cards and stacked them sequentially. But then I layered them into the chapters at times when they felt organic to the story. That way, the information did not get out of order, but it was delivered to the reader with the structure I designed.

Charlotte and Tom both react to the situation in vastly opposing ways, which causes a lot of friction throughout the book – did this predicament make up part of your initial idea, or was it something you came to later on? Everything in this novel was carefully plotted. But, as I wrote, the characters did become more complex. I knew Charlotte and Tom would have that tension and I knew the basic psychological reasons behind it. What evolved as I wrote were the details of their back stories and how their childhoods fed their underlying personalities which are the basis of the conflict. The good Charlotte/bad Charlotte dynamic, for example, came about because of the way I was writing her story and how the narrator needed to explain things to her so he could help her understand. I loved that angle so much that I went back and gave it more substance throughout the earlier chapters.

You’ve obviously researched deeply into the use of drugs in the treatment of PTSD and trauma in regards to erasing memories. Did you find your own views on the use of this kind of treatment changing the further you delved into this? Did you make any unexpected or surprising discoveries along the way? I was surprised at how advanced the science had become since I first read about it back in 2010. But the basic dilemma I saw for crime survivors remained the same. Anything that is intended to alter or erase a memory will conflict with the ability to seek justice and come to terms with the feelings of violation that are inherent in those experiences. My views on this did not change – I think the ability to mitigate PTSD is absolutely amazing and worthwhile. But it will pose difficult decisions for people whose traumas involve criminal assaults.

Even if a treatment such as this does have a positive effect in cases of PTSD, physically and psychologically it negates the possibility of conviction, which raises quite a significant ethical question. Are these sorts of divisive dilemmas at the heart of all of the stories you write? I try very hard to structure my novels around issues that will resonate in readers on a personal level. In All Is Not Forgotten, I hope readers will think about this dilemma every time they read about memory science and even in their every day lives as they wonder what they would choose for themselves or for their children. Dilemmas in relationships and families and society as a whole make us stop and think and feel things, and for me that is what can make any story worth reading.

The big question of the hour comes down to whether it is better to forget or remember all the details of a traumatic event: if you were in Jenny’s shoes, which option do you think you would take? This is always a tough question for me. I would absolutely choose to mitigate the emotional component with some of the treatments that are available now. Reconsolidating memories of trauma in therapy to reduce the emotional pain they hold seems to me to be life saving for many people. That said, I do not think I would choose to erase the factual memory if that became possible. And I would not do anything that would impede justice. For me, personally, that would be a priority.

Thank you for answering all the questions, even the odd ones!

Review

I have to hand it to Walker, she certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Her story is vicious in a sense that this is the sad reality for many young women. Being treated like a piece of meat, being used and abused, being exploited and having to adapt their behaviour to not become a victim, has been the norm for many years.

Jenny is pushed into coping with the rape. In a way it seems as if her parents do her an even bigger injustice by pressing the delete button on her memories. Her mother wants to shove the experience under the carpet and her father is mainly concerned with vengeance. So having the memories erased causes instant conflict between Charlotte and Tom, because only one person is getting what they want. Begs the question, where does that leave the poor victim in this scenario?

Eventually it all leads to a complete burnout for Jenny. Not being able to come to terms with the assault leaves its mark on the young girl. Finally she gets the help and support she needs in the form of therapy. The therapist sees the case as a personal challenge and possible milestone in his career. He seems more interested in solving her case or rather helping her to remember for his own benefit.

Makes you wonder whether the therapist’s ego actually takes a higher place in the scheme of things. His ability to discover, heal and be right seems to dominate the entire scenario.

In that regard he isn’t really that different from her parents. Both Tom and Charlotte have agendas and goals, which are driven by their own frame of reference and past experiences. Overall it becomes clear just how little everything is about the actual victim. It’s about Tom’s need for revenge, Charlotte’s need to look normal for society, the therapist’s need to succeed, but hardly ever really truthfully about Jenny coming to terms with the rape.

The therapist also allows the feelings of his own past assault to steer and guide the conversation and therapy with all of them. This makes him anything but objective, and certainly a less than wise choice in the healing process. He feels elation and excitement every time Jenny remembers a piece of the puzzle.

It’s an engrossing read because the topic is controversial and the twist is a shocker. I enjoyed the cat and mouse pace, despite figuring out said twist. Walker has added a subtle layer of complexity to her psychological thriller, which made it a memorable reading experience and a breath of fresh air.

Buy All is Not Forgotten at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

baby dollIt doesn’t happen often, but now and again I will read a book that annoys me. Part of it was because it was a good premise, however it wasn’t very well executed. Far too much gratuitous drama and attention on minor characters.

The other part was just overall annoyance at the plot and characters in general.

That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You know what they say, if you’re talking about a book it must have had something in it that moved you, made you angry or just plain annoyed you.

The way Lily was allowed to make decisions above police procedures, just for an extra dramatic scene, was unrealistic. That her first instinct wasn’t to call the authorities at all, and yes I do understand her paranoia, was a little hard to swallow.

I also understand the author wanting to emphasis how families are completely torn apart by crimes such as this one. Saying that, there was way too much focus on Lily’s mother and her choice of boyfriend. It gave nothing to the story.

The story would have been tighter and more enjoyable if the focus had remained on Lily and her abductor. Focusing on the victim-blaming and victim-shaming mentality of the media and society. The way people would rather believe the word of a proven rapist and abuser, because he is an upstanding member of society, rather than believing the word of a young damaged woman.

This is exactly what Overton tries to do, but those elements are drowned out by the mother and the Abby’s personal drama.

The end was slightly muddled in a sense that Overton could have taken it in a variety of interesting directions. Abby implying Lily may feel something other than hate for her abductor for instance. It opened so many doors on a moral and psychological level.

The author has great ideas they just need to be reined in and given more structure and direction.

Buy Baby Doll at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Man Who Wanted to Know by D. A. Mishani

the-manThis is the story of a crime within a crime or rather the repercussions of a crime. The way crime leaves more than just the actual victim in its wake.

The scene between Avraham and Ilana is pivotal for the investigation and his own insight. She questions his motives, which really rattles his cage. In turn he realises that she doesn’t really belong on a pedestal.

In fact she agrees with the decisions made by Saban. The conversation shatters this imaginary image he had in his head, of his ex-supervisor and himself. It makes him doubt his gut intuition as a detective.

I have to say the story progresses a wee bit like someone fishing in a huge lake waiting for a fish to nibble. I’m not sure any fish gets caught to be completely honest, which is probably the charm of this book.

It has a conclusion, and yet it still seems as if the fisherman is still casting away. It’s hard to explain, perhaps it was the topic in general. I think Mishani was trying to create the kind of atmosphere that exists for victims of rape and their loved ones.

There is a before and an after, except the after never really goes away. It hangs around like a lingering smell, pushed to the back of the victim’s mind. Even if the rapist is punished, and in our society that isn’t a given, it doesn’t change the facts. The punishment also doesn’t take all the casualties into account.

The author leaves the reader with the same feeling of frustration and sense that somehow nothing has really been resolved.

Buy The Man Who Wanted to Know at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.