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

Vixenhead by Eve Seymour

VixenheadYou think you know someone, but the reality is nobody really knows anyone completely. Everyone keeps secrets and in this case the secrets are the kind that destroy lives.

Roz thinks her boyfriend of three years is her Prince Charming, until one morning when he drops a few reality shocks on her ever so perfect life. All of a sudden he doesn’t want the same things she does. Then later that day he disappears into thin air.

It is by sheer chance that Roz finds out Tom has been hiding not one, but multiple past lives from her. A criminal who is trying to hide from the consequences of his crimes. Or is he?

Seymour brings together a painful past and a violent altercation, which somehow sets the path for a young boy and his life on the run. His life of lies and deception.

I liked the way the author brought it all together in the end. There isn’t a neatly tied bow with a warm and bubbly happy ending. Instead there is realistic one.

The lines between guilt and innocence become rather blurred in this story. The main character makes the reader wander between sympathy and antipathy with the frequency of a ping pong ball in a tournament.

It’s an interesting read.

Buy Vixenhead at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @EveSeymour  and @HarperImpulse. Connect with Eve Seymour on Facebook or visit evseymour.co.uk

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

history-of-wolvesWhilst I do agree that History of Wolves deserves a place on the bookshelf of literary fiction you should take a look at, and indeed it is quite a remarkable read. However I did feel as if it lacked a certain purpose, moral of the story and perhaps even direction.

What I mean by that is the many unanswered questions the reader still has about Madeleine, also known as Linda and/or Maddie throughout the book. By the way, the fact her name isn’t a constant factor is indicative of her lack of identity. Is the reader supposed to ponder her guilt or lack of it? Or is it about the neglect she suffers or the loneliness she experiences?

Then there is the whole situation with Lily, and perhaps to a certain degree also with Patra. The flutterings of curiosity and sexuality combined with the colourful imagination of Linda. Is the pity and concern she feels for Lily also in part jealousy and a need to be something less than invisible to her peers and the people around her.

The relationship between her and Paul is sometimes sibling-like and then at other times Linda becomes the pseudo parent. Although the reader gets the impression that her parents are never really bothered where she is and what she is doing, she passes on the things she has learnt from her father to the child in her charge.

Fridlund circles around the topic of paedophilia in an interesting way. You get the vulnerable victim, the predator and the possible scenario, and yet the author also levels out the blame by introducing the awakening sexuality of the possible victims and the positions they want to escape from. So, despite the fact the ‘alleged’ predator is actually one who is thinking of it and tempted, Fridlund makes him the victim at the same time. Of course, this is a double edged sword and leads us into the murky waters of victim-blaming.

I think some of the most interesting passages are the events on the day of the traumatic event. As a reader I began to question what her intentions were and whether her decisions could all be excused by innocence, inexperience and age. In fact, and that is my only problem with the book, I wondered what exactly the author was trying to say. What exactly does she want to leave the reader with? There are so many paths and moral questions, that Linda often seems to slip into the cracks in between all of them. I guess that is the biggest statement of all, how disposable, forgettable and unimportant Madeleine-Linda is and most importantly feels in the grand scheme of things.

As I said, it is definitely worth the read. The more a book gets me waffling and thinking, the more I think the author has done their job.

Buy History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Today! Blog-Tour: The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

Today it is my pleasure to be part of the Blog-tour for The Deviants by C.J. Skuse. It is a story which will make you root for the merry band of misfits, and I think it will change the way you perceive the word deviant. As per usual Skuse doesn’t disappoint.

About the author

C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Westonsuper-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. C.J. loves Masterchef,

Gummy Bears and murder sites. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Connect with @CeeJaytheAuthor or @HQYoungAdult and look out for #TheDeviants on Twitter

Follow CJ on Facebook

About the book

Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.

When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

Review

This book wasn’t at all what I expected. It was a whole lot more. The topics are hard-hitting tough ones and Skuse doesn’t take any prisoners or make it into a candy floss YA event. I have to admit that the story seemed to be steering towards a predictable ending, but the author pulled a rabbit out of a hat and delivered a spectacular twist. The kind of twist you just don’t see coming.

Ella appears to have it all. She is a successful athlete with ambitious goals, and has a happy home and love life. It’s only when you look a little closer and scratch a little off the top of the golden girl’s shiny surface that the slow decay becomes apparent.

She has a growing inner anger, which has started to slip through her usual pleasant facade. She is finding it increasingly difficult to keep the hounds of rage at bay. Her odd behaviour seems to lead all the way back to the accidental death of her boyfriend’s sister.

There is a particular emphasis on the small group of close friends Ella has. The dynamics, loyalties and often dysfunctional relationships between the five of them, and the now missing sixth member of their odd group, are pivotal to the plot. Frenemies, freaks and friendships bind them together.

It’s quite common for certain behaviour patterns to be perceived as nothing more than troublesome teenage years, black sheep emerging in the family or simply a rebellious nature. How many of us would turn around and consider a more nefarious reason for behaviour, which is at first out of character and then suddenly the norm?

It is a good read, albeit a dark and quite serious one. It isn’t filled with sugar canes and puppy dogs tails. Instead it is a tale of insidious betrayal and the fatal repercussions resulting from this perfidy. For me the word deviant will never conjure up the same images again.

Buy The Deviants at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Monster by C.J. Skuse or Sweetpea.

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howell

beautyoftheend-jacketI can’t fault Howell on her writing. She has a natural flow and a lovely way with words. I have to say after the convoluted build-up the plot evolved and rose to a climax, only to fall a little flat towards the end though.

Maybe it’s me, but it felt as if the first half of the book was going in a completely different direction to the second half.

Noah has let his whole life be directed by his teenage obsession with April. The girl and woman he defines as a goddess. The truth is April is just a normal girl with a little more extra baggage than her peers.

Throughout the book it becomes apparent that Noah lives in his own personal bubble. He only sees and hears what he wants to. Everything uncomfortable or that doesn’t fit inside his bubble counts as non-existent.

In the end I think he is as much to blame as April. If he had only looked beyond his own needs and sense of comfort then perhaps her story could have been a different one.

April is a victim of her incredibly difficult childhood. As is often the case, she is a girl and then woman who has always been viewed as nothing more than an object of sexual gratification. She has been used and abused by the men in her life. A lifetime cycle she finds hard to exit. A cycle her friends seem to be a part of. Her life becomes a pandora’s box of secrets.

I like the way Howell writes, I just think in this case less would have perhaps been more.

Buy The Beauty of the End at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard

painted oceanI can’t decide whether the writing style was intentional or not. It wouldn’t be the first time a author has chosen to write as if the child or teen is writing to make the story seem more authentic and in tune with the character. In this case it doesn’t gel with the overall description of the main character, and neither do her actions.

Shruti is supposedly so intelligent and academically gifted that she could pick an Ivy League college or university of her choice. Bearing that in mind she is as thick as two planks of wood nailed together when it comes to her life choices.

Before I go into the story let me go back to the style of writing, language, grammar and speech in general. Even for a supposed child’s writing it was annoying. It should have evolved into something more structured, as she grew older, but it remained at the same level throughout the book. I don’t think I have ever seen so many chapters, paragraphs and sentences all on the same page, start with And.

I focused on the plot itself, which started off really well and if Packard had stayed with Shruti and her need for family vs the betrayal by her mother, this could have been a lot better.

The first half deals with racism, bullying, neglect and the cultural relevance of girl’s in the Indian society. The rejection of Shruti by her own family leads to the change in her behaviour, lifestyle and personality. She goes from being a loved child to a number in the system. Nobody wants her, nobody cares and no person will look for her if she disappears.

All of that leaves her wide open for the manipulation by so-called friends. It’s also how she ends up in a no hope situation with her ‘friend’ and a complete nutcase. I’m not sure why Packard felt as if the plot needed such an extreme change in direction, it felt like two plots in one book.

It had some very good ideas and was full of potential, but was let down by the writing style and the frankly bizarre end scenario on the island.

Buy The Painted Ocean at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.