#BlogTour Girl Targeted by Val Collins

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Girl Targeted by Val Collins. It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not just because of the murder per se. Her main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and snake pit full of lies.

About the Author

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read but writing is a pretty new adventure for me.

Of course I wrote stories when I was very young and I especially loved rewriting the ends of movies but I was an impatient kid and had an unfortunate tendency towards perfectionism. When, at around the age of ten, I realised my attempts at writing dialogue were dire, my writing career came to an abrupt end. A few years ago I decided to try my hand at writing again and Girl Targeted was the eventual result.

Girl Targeted is set in Ireland where I have lived all my life. It’s set in an office, an environment I know well as my entire working life has been spent doing office work. I’ve worked for small and medium sized organisations, for multinationals and for many different business sectors. Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to come across anything as exciting as a murder so I had to rely on my imagination to create Aoife’s world.

I really loved writing Girl Targeted and I hope you enjoy reading it. Val”

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Visit valcollinsbooks.com

Buy Girl Targeted(UK)

Buy Girl Targeted (US)

About the book

A Psychological Thriller/Suspense set in Ireland.

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel. Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned?

Can office politics lead to murder? Girl Targeted is a perfect read for fans of Behind Closed Doors, Girl on a Train and the Silent Wife.

Review

It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not because of the murder per se. The feeling of fear, uncertainty and confusion comes from an entirely different place.

The story pulls the reader in two directions, and if I am being completely frank, I am not sure that was intentional. I think the relationship between Aoife and Jason was supposed to be a mere distraction in the background with the murder mystery taking centre stage. Personally I found their relationship and the clear message it sends, far more compelling than Aoife playing a very young and naive Miss Marple.

There was one thing that bothered me about Girl Targeted, and I could not be clearer about it being a personal preference thereby having nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the read. When it comes to names that look one way and are pronounced a completely different way I tend to suffer from my very own version of the Stroop Effect. Example: the word purple being written in red, do not read the word say the colour. So, the same happened with the name Aoife. Pronounced Ee-faa (and yes the author does tell the reader how to say it), my mind says Oyff. I was annoyed by own brain going Oyff nope Ee-faa the entire time. ‘Sigh’

I digress.

Let’s get back to what really had me intrigued when it came to this story. On the surface Aoife and Jason appear to be a happy young couple with a new baby. Jason’s views are perhaps a wee bit chauvinistic, but there is nothing wrong him wanting her to stay at home with the baby, right. There is however something wrong with Jason. He wants to control all the money, the narrative and who Aoife meets or talks to.

Wrapped in a bubble of apparent concern is the insidious nature of the beast called abuse. Jason uses emotional abuse to control Aoife. He uses neglect and coercion to convince her to do everything he wants. He traces her every move, controls every penny and manipulates others to get his wife to do what he wants.

It seems almost innocent and can easily be mistaken for overprotective love or concern for a loved one, which is often how an abusive partner gets away with it. They try and take away any financial freedom, make the victim dependent upon them in every way and seclude them from family and friends. Extreme jealousy and paranoia are usually precursors for abusive behaviour.This element of the story, and the way it evolved, was really interesting.

Girl Targeted is a murder mystery with the serious topic of abuse woven into the story. The main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and a snake pit full of lies.

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

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

the wifeEx-wives. ex-girlfriends and ex-partners in general, they tend to get a bad rap. Their wickedness is legendary, their legacy leaves behind a vast trail of destruction or rather that is what a lot of their ex- partners would have you believe. It is easy to demonize the woman, or man of course, but for the purpose of this story and review I will stick with women, and to blame her for the shambles of a marriage.

Nellie appears to be the needy and jealous type. She is obsessed with her replacement, the younger perkier new fiancé of her ex-husband. She stalks her in an attempt to be part of a life she no longer belongs to, her old life. Her house, her money, her family and her husband. To the reader she appears to be the epitome of a stalker waiting for the right moment to strike.

I found myself identifying with Vanessa when it came to her seemingly drastic approach to sever ties with her hubby. The abusive, controlling person will never concede control unless it is done on their terms, regardless whether that means via divorce, an ocean between you or death.

As long as they have the last word and action in your emotional and often physical demise they feel satisfied that they have retained control over you and your life. This includes maligning your name and reputation, trying to take away what matters the most to you, which is often the children, and any kind of financial stability. Control is the beginning and the end of this type of abusive relationship. If he or she doesn’t have the upper hand or makes the checkmate move, then the abused person may find themselves in mortal peril. At the very least they can expect a lifetime of continued harassment. Sounds dire, right? Well it is.

The Wife Between Us is an accurate portrayal of what certain people want you to believe and then somewhere hidden behind closed doors is the actual truth. The next time you hear a story about a crazy vindictive ex just keep in mind that you are only hearing one side of the story or the conveniently edited version of the story. Abusive charmers can be very persuasive and convincing.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story, and I believe the one the abused don’t think about and can’t afford to think about, is the replacement. You either have to be cold-hearted enough to walk away and never look back or you can try and warn them about what is coming straight for them, bearing in mind that they would never believe you, because hey you’re just the crazy obsessive ex.

Hendricks and Pekkanen have managed to create a compelling intense read, which doesn’t have to rely on exaggerated scenarios, because it’s a story that happens all the time. This is reality. Hopefully it will encourage others to look beyond the shallow gossip and to think twice about passing judgement.

Buy The Wife Between Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any retailer.

Follow @greerkh Visit greerhendricks.com

Follow @sarahpekkanen Visit sarahpekkanen.com

Follow @panmacmillan

#BlogTour The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the BlogTour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald. I admire her tenacity and audacity when it comes to the topics she has approached in this book.

About the Author

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.

Follow @LindaMac1 on Twitter #Needlecordjacket #RandomThingsTours or @LindaMacDonaldAuthor on Facebook

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Visit troubadorbooks.co.uk

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket

About the Book

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.

Review

First and foremost I have to congratulate the author on her characters, to be more specific the age range she picked for her characters. There is a tendency in all fiction to choose the handsome young man and the young nubile woman, perhaps more so the latter. MacDonald has chosen two middle-aged women, Felicity and Sarah, and their prospective partners for this particularly realistic venture into women’s fiction.

The reader follows the lives of both Felicity and Sarah as they become linked via a charming man called Coll. Sarah is Coll’s girlfriend and Felicity is his new obsession.

This story is about the way women of a certain age are perceived by society, and the way they feel about it. Their youth is a fond memory of forbidden pleasures, spontaneity and a time when middle-age was merely a blip on the future horizon.

There is a general misconception about age changing the wants, needs and desires of people. This misconception is shared and believed by younger generations. They are often horrified, sometimes amused, by the fact both women and men still want physical intimacy when they hit middle-age or pension-age. The real question is, why shouldn’t they want that?

Sarah and Coll have a relationship, which I would deem on the abusive side. Anyone who insults you, degrades you and makes you feel insecure, and invalid on a regular basis, is guilty of verbal and emotional abuse. Coll is a classic manipulator. He likes to control the narrative, especially when it comes to his own needs. His own insecurities are projected onto Sarah in a way that makes it appear as if she is to blame. Again this is a classic scenario of control. Over lengthy periods of time abuse victims begin to believe the false narrative and live up to it, which is a typical self-fulfilling prophecy setting. The victim often doesn’t identify this behaviour as abuse.

One of the elements of this story I was really interested in was the use, lack of or withdrawal of intimacy as a tool of power and manipulation. The reader can actually see how Sarah rationalizes his actions as the story unfolds.

Felicity is actually more self-aware, however she is still suffering the consequences of her mid-life crisis. Yes, women have them too. She is honest about what she needs and what her body needs. Her attempt to re-establish her old life creates discord between her children and her soon to be ex-husband. Felicity wants her old life back and yet at the same time she wants to walk upon a different path entirely.

MacDonald strips away any kind of illusion or semblance of hope that the middle stage of life gets any easier when it comes to love, relationships and life in general. It is probably just a tad more difficult, because physical appearance and health tends to decline.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a subtle reminder that women should champion other women instead of breaking them down. It is also a strong statement about the emotional destruction an abusive relationship can cause, especially when the abuse is often a non-visible one, as opposed to a visible physical one. The book also takes the bull called infidelity by the horns and treats it to a violent ride of culpability. The kind of ride you don’t want to miss.

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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.

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.