Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT MANIPULATED LIVES by @HALeuschel #Shortstories

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs at

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Manipulated Lives by H A Leuschel


Manipulated Lives by H. A. Leuschel is a collection of five short stories, each very different but linked by the theme of manipulation. Every one of the stories is unusual, intriguing and thought provoking in their own way.

 Leuschel captured my attention from the onset with the dramatic and mysterious opening of the first story, The Narcissist. What is immediately apparent is that Leuschel is a skilled writer who delicately constructs her stories so that like onions they unfurl for the reader layer by layer.

 Leuschel cleverly alternates her stories between first and third person narratives and both styles have their advantages. For example, The Narcissist is told from the perspective of first person which lends an air of mystery and allows Leuschel to demonstrate how the narcissist in question is blind to his own behaviour and therefore unable to make amends. In contrast, Runaway Girl is told from multiple viewpoints in third person which undermines the idea of a true version of events and leads us to question who is manipulating who.

 The beauty of Leuschel’s collection of stories is how they highlight the way we, as humans, often blind ourselves to the truth which can make us both manipulators and victims. The stories are all character driven by realistic and flawed characters and this allows us to relate to the behaviour depicted no matter how extreme it may become.

 The frightening reality is that, given the right set of circumstances we could all find ourselves falling victim to a manipulator. A lack of confidence or feelings of neediness means that the slightest show of kindness or flattery could have a profound effect on our emotional compass. The strength of Leuschel’s stories for me lies with the fact that her victims aren’t necessarily likeable and being a victim doesn’t preclude being a manipulator as well.

 Leuschel presents a convincing argument that the power of the manipulator is a combination of psychological and physical coercion. Some of the manipulators are presented as dangerous psychopaths whilst others are propelled by a sense of their own importance and entitlement. Leuschel also explores the idea of whether manipulators are simply born that way or created.

 The most sinister of the stories for me is My Perfect Child as it is one that resonates with our child-centric society. By creating a supreme sense of self worth in her son and never challenging his demands or destructive behaviour the mother creates a monster. She then colludes with her son by justifying his dysfunction to everyone around her. I think most of us probably know parents with similar attitudes to child rearing even if the outcome isn’t as extreme.

 Manipulated Lives raised many questions for me but perhaps the most difficult one is whether there is any such thing as harmless manipulation. We all manipulate to some extent in order to get our own way, whether it’s like the lonely octogenarian Tess in Tess and Tattoos, who likes to pretend she’s dead to get her carers to spend a few more minutes with her or emotionally punishing people for not being who we want them to be. However, having read these stories and being shown the ugly side of manipulation, I for one will be more mindful in the future.

 I really enjoyed these five stories and reading them reminded me of how I often overlook the form of short stories in favour of novels. Fortunately though Leuschel’s skills in creating distinct storylines and characters have made me realise what I’m missing out on. Especially during the busy Christmas period, when free time is often limited, I can’t recommend these stories highly enough. Plus they are the perfect antidote to all that festive sweetness.

Book Description

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 a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is 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 and finally 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. 

About the author

H.A. Leuschel

Helene Andrea Leuschel was born and raised in Belgium to German parents. She gained a Licentiate in Journalism, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Helene moved to the Algarve in 2009 with her husband and two children, working as a freelance TV producer and teaching yoga. She recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. Manipulated Lives is Helene’s first work of fiction.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT TURNING FOR HOME by Carne J Werlinger #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Francis, she blogs at

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Francis has been reading Turning For Home by Caren J Werlinger



Reviewed by Francis Guenette

Turning for Home by Caren J. Welinger

5 stars


A story that shouldn’t be missed – humanizing – filled with empathy, courage and hope.


Every now and then, one gets the opportunity to sit, undisturbed for the hours it takes to read an entire novel, to enter fully into the world created by the author. I am very grateful that this chance happened for me when Turning for Home by Caren Welinger came to hand.


The novel’s main character, Jules, is a successful, professional woman. She’s in a fulfilling relationship with Kelli, she has a rewarding career. Going back to the town she grew up in to attend her grandfather’s funeral triggers memories from the past that Jules’ has never been able to face. Echoes reverberate into every area of her life. The scene is set. The reader knows long before Jules does that she now faces a crucial choice – deal with the past or be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.


The author masterfully weaves the story of Jules’ growing up years, living with her grandparents in the small town of Aldie and her friendship with Hobie – the boy next door who is every bit as much a misfit as Jules, into her current life. We go backwards and forwards with Jules’ and never once do the transitions become tiresome or the text confusing. In this type of a book, readers can often find themselves longing to get back to one or the other story. But in this case, the author makes both narratives so gripping, the reader wants to be exactly where she dictates.


This is a coming of age story that makes one ache with memories of the painful paths many have walked from adolescence to adulthood. But the struggle for acceptance faced by Jules and Hobie and Ronnie, a teenage girl who reaches out in desperation to Jules, are intensified by issues related to sexual orientation.


Ultimately, Turning for Home, opens an insight into the twists and turns of relationships – with parents and grandparents, friends, lovers, and those we mentor along the way. The story provides a roadmap for finding a way back to home – the place where the answers to how we have become the people we are hidden as surely and as carefully as Hobie hid his stories. Just waiting to be discovered.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Liz reviews Piano from a 4th Storey Window by @jmortonpotts

Today’s team review comes from Liz, she blogs at

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Liz chose to read and review Piano from a 4th Storey Window by Jenny M Potts.



Piano from a 4th storey window by Jenny Morton Potts


Lawrence Fyre is a flamboyant optimist, running a book shop in the Lanes in Brighton called “Sargasso Sea.” Marin Strang, a shy but self-composed teacher of Spanish, was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness but now she appears to be running away, not just from her father but also from life itself, as she flits from one temporary job to another. And then she comes across Laurence. At her instigation, they start a relationship which goes through twists and turns and ups and downs as fate, family and circumstance impinge on their time together.


This intriguing story is written mostly as a stream of consciousness in the form of thoughts, emails, memories, conversations and dreams. There is enough narrative to follow the novel but some concepts such as the imaginary servant, Lolita and “The Ladies and Gentleman” who watch, applaud & disapprove of Lawrie’s actions are difficult to fathom.


The title of this novel, taken from Ani Difranco’s song, “And love is a piano dropped from a fourth storey window and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” is a good metaphor for the events that occur. All life is described; love-making, death, tragedy, humour, modern technology, dysfunctional families and friendship. The tongue in cheek humour between Marin and Lawrence makes their love for each other much more believable than the technical accuracies of their sex life.


This is not an easy book to get into. At first I saw Lawrence as a much older man than Marin, due to his eccentricity, but later I began to think I was wrong. As a reader you find yourself lost in Marin’s feelings of worthlessness. There are many different characters to understand from their large group of friends in Brighton and later we meet Lawrie’s extended family in the Orkneys. His nephew Cyrus, possibly aspergic, is remarkably amenable to major life changes while Marin copes with her loneliness by composing unsent emails.


If you make the effort to come to grips with this extraordinary relationship and the way the tale is expounded it is a rewarding read, although like me, you may have to go back to re-read some parts of the text.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Terry reviews The Relationship Shoppe by Susan P Clark

Today we have a review from team member Terry, she blogs at


Terry chose to read and review The Relationship Shoppe by Susan Paulson Clark



3.5 stars

Marian Sheffield and her friend Belle start a website and bookshop based around self-help for people suffering relationship difficulties and break-ups.  In the meantime, though, they are both working through their own post-divorce transitional periods, and coming to terms with single life and meeting new men.  Central also to the story is a singles’ group, the structure of which I have to say I found rather odd, but this might be just because of cultural differences between England and Texas, where the book is set.

I found this book to be written in an easily readable, conversational fashion, with many elements in it to which women might relate.  I liked the way in which the story is half love stuff and half business, the latter of which I found interesting.  Ms Clark writes well, and the book is professionally presented with minimal errors.  Some of the characters are cleverly drawn: the volatile Belle, her horrible father, and the hilarious Agnes—the slightly nutty middle-aged woman who isn’t able to move on from her marriage break-up that happened years and years previously.   Some good comedic moments there!  The character that didn’t work for me, though, was Marian.  Sadly, I couldn’t ‘see’ her at all.  Much of the time she comes across as a tad sanctimonious and too set in her expectations of people for a girl in her twenties.  Alas, her understanding of others seems to come mostly from the pages of the books she sells; I wasn’t sure if this was done on purpose or not.

Generally, I felt the book needed a good content edit.  There is a fair bit of unnecessary activity at the beginning; Belle’s walking out of the business then walking back in, and an unrealistic scene in which Marian walks out of her job to work full time on Stairstepz; a single woman with children to support, walking out of a well-paid job because of a remark made by her boss.  Okay, it happens!  But there are too many coincidences—a chance meeting with someone in a café who’s perfectly placed to help her, a friend’s son who just happens to invest in new technology businesses—too many developments and characters’ reactions that were not particularly feasible but just there to move the plot along, sometimes to the point of being contradictory to what’s been said before.  However, this is often to be found in debut novels, and something that lessened as the book went on.

I did guess who Marian was going to end up with very early on in the book though I don’t think it was glaringly obvious, and I found the whole attitude towards relationships a little old-fashioned but, again, this might be just cultural differences.  To sum up, it’s a novel with a lot of potential by someone who clearly has the ability to write engagingly; it just needs a bit of sorting out!

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Humming by Rachel McAlpine

HummingHumming by Rachel McAlpine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humming is a contemporary tale set in Golden Bay New Zealand. Golden Bay is found on the northeast coastline of the South Island. The story is set in the small community of Petitport and the story begins in 2001. Ivan is an artist, Jane runs a café, they have a relaxed open relationship. Ivan can constantly hear a humming noise and the search for it’s cause drives him to distraction.

Much of the community is brought together by a Tai Chi class that meets regularly. Xania has just returned from a year in Argentina studying Tai Chi under master Shan, she has returned to find many of her previous classes have dissolved under the unsatisfactory tutelage of Luna. Xania is expected to raise money for a Tai Chi centre in Auckland and must raise the funds for her Argentinian masters. The plans involve getting Ivan to paint pictures to raise funds for the centre.

Ivan likes being the centre of attention and plunges into deep depression when things don’t go his way, Jane panders to his artistic needs, but as his fiftieth birthday approaches he finds Jane stifles his artistic vibes. He is flattered by attentions he gets from Xania and other members of the Tai Chi group, which blindly lead him to involvement in illegal trading of protected species.

Xania’s passions for a healthy lifestyle are extreme as is her love of Argentina and the Tai Chi world. Through-out the book we read one sided e-mails to her former lover in Argentina as she makes a case for the Auckland centre. The situation almost hints at a cult style influence as Xania opens bank accounts and gives a finale sacrifice for the cause.

Jane and Ivan’s relationship runs hot and cold as they both battle with distractions. Ivan fails to understand Jane’s own artistic passion for her café and her pickles and preserves, nor does he appreciate the lengths she goes to tolerating his whims. Other members of the Tai Chi group also go through relationship challenges which conclude at the end.

This is quite a compelling read, the search for the source of the hum draws you in and the relationship issues keep you reading. Ivan is unpredictable and Xania is extreme enough to raise your eyebrows.

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What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan? by Jill Knapp

What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan?What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan? by Jill Knapp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan is quick chicklit read. Amalia Hastings lives in New York, she’s taking a masters degree in Biology and Behavioural Studies. She shares a flat with two other girls and has a long-term boyfriend called Nicholas and plenty of friends.

When her boyfriend suddenly breaks up with her on her birthday, she’s thrown into turmoil. Only dragging herself out of her misery to take an exam. Flat mate Liz makes Amalia attend a college dinner, but a close encounter with fellow student Michael leaves her confused.

With an on-off relationship and a will he / won’t he question constantly hanging over her head Amalia stumbles on for the next few months. Best friend Cassie tries to match her up with Hayden but Amalia just needs to find herself and it’s not helped by her ex begging forgiveness.

Stuck in a potential love triangle, should Amalia still go the Brazil as she intends at the end of college term or should she give one of the men in her life one more chance?

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Cathy reviews White Horizon by Jan Ruth

Today’s team book review is from Cathy, she blogs at


Cathy chose to read and review White Horizon by Jan Ruth


Daniel and Tina decide to cement their on-off relationship of twenty-five years with a marriage ceremony in the town they grew up in, near Snowdonia in North Wales. They start their married life living in the hotel Daniel is renovating. Things between the newly weds begin to crumble after just a few months. Tina is keeping an overwhelming secret and doing her best to deal with it in the only way she feels she can. Their old school friends, who haven’t seen each other for years, Victoria and Linda and their respective husbands, Max and Mike, are drawn into the resulting fall out which will affect not only those involved but their families as well.

Linda and Victoria are experiencing their own marital problems and all three couples find themselves in difficult circumstances and with friendships at breaking point. Their lives can never again be the same and each of them will face a future they couldn’t have imagined. The terrible culmination of Victoria and Max’s relationship breakdown is horrifying and dramatic, resulting in destruction and death which devastates everyone in the community.

The dynamics between the couples and their interwoven stories are written so well it’s impossible not to have a vivid picture of them, and be drawn in as they are ever more deeply involved in the developing story. Jan Ruth just seems to be able to get right inside the characters and make them totally real and believable, with well-developed and credible personalities. Their problems and emotions are handled sensitively and with honesty during the major life changes that affect them all. Serious issues, including spousal abuse and debilitating illness, are dealt with tactfully.

A really good mix of characters, Daniel stood out for me and Victoria, who was the most damaged by her awful experiences. Great writing and precise attention to details – such an enjoyable read. The scenic descriptions are beautiful and bring the area to life adding an extra element to the story. Mainly, though, this is about how the strength of love and forgiveness, having friends and family win out in the end.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Georgia reviews Midnight Sky by Jan Ruth

Today’s book review comes from team member Georgia, she blogs at

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Georgia chose to read and review Midnight Sky by Jan Ruth


I would like to thank Jan Ruth for gifting me a copy of Midnight Sky which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. I chose this book because of its countryside setting and its romantic and horsey themes. The main character in this story is Laura who is living with Simon and the guilt of breaking up his marriage. His ex-wife (though they are yet to divorce) is irritatingly demanding of Simon and his time and I wished both he and Laura would stand up to her more. Maggie, Laura’s sister, is very different in that she is married with rather challenging children, the middle one of which is the outrageously annoying Jess who works at the local stables where her younger, slightly autistic, sister is learning to ride.

Laura and Simon are in business together running Dragon Designs, a property development company, and Simon, keen to expand overseas seems to show more interest in this, and his ex-wife’s demands, than he does in Laura. Through Dragon Designs Laura is brought into contact with the stables, and horse-whisperer James, who is still very much married to his wife, even though she died two years previously.

I very much liked the writing and excellent characterisation throughout this book. I particularly warmed to James who, still in mourning, worked hard amidst a life of disorganised chaos and I loved the descriptions of his house, dogs and relationships with the horses under his care. Laura and James become great friends drawn together by tragedy and Laura struggles as her relationship with Simon breaks down whereas James can’t see past the loss of his wife. Watching him as he tries to overcome his grief is heart-breaking but Ruth handles the progression of the relationships very well as they develop slowly throughout this story both for Laura and James but also for Maggie whose own family life is also in turmoil.

A lovely, easy read that I’m sure will be a joy for anyone who picks it up.

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Rosie’s Avid Readers #RBRT Getting it Right by Elizabeth Howard

Rosie’s Avid readers are people who like reading and have a book to tell us about, they are the voice of a friend who says ” I just read this book….”

Rosie's Avid Readers

Today’s Rosie’s Avid reader slot tells about “Getting It Right” by Elizabeth Jane Howard.


Our Avid today is Julia and here are her thoughts.

I don’t believe in recommending or reviewing a book by giving a detailed recounting of the story, but suffice it to say that this is the story of Gavin, a shy hairdresser who lives with his parents, and his friends, family and forays into romantic liaisons.
EJH is the master of ‘show, don’t tell’.  I’ve known her to give a complete description into a minor character who doesn’t even have any lines, just by his actions. This book contrasts the social pretensions of various English class types, and gives great insight into loneliness, emotional insecurity, anorexia, and a vast spectrum of feelings. I felt that all the characters were completely believable, and really felt for some of them when they were going through great turmoil.  Having said that, the book is overall very funny, and there are some scenes that I could and have read over and over again, notably Mrs Lamb’s Sunday breakfast.
I hope that anyone persuaded to read this book will like it too.  I’ve lent my copy out twice, and have bought it again after giving it away also!
Book description
Getting it right was not Gavin Lamb’s forte, at least where human relationships were concerned. In the hairdressing salon, he was an expert with the tools of his trade. But back at home with his mother, it was quite a different matter. He didn’t know how to deal with women since he was a prototype late developer. But after Joan’s party, he would never be the same again…
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One Chance by Rishika Sitlani

One ChanceOne Chance by Rishika S.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One Chance is a short story. Ava has had a whirlwind romance and is now happily married to Ethan. When a lawyer turns up at the house with papers for Ethan to sign, Ava’s world comes tumbling down.

Helena, Mississippi was a place from the past, full of pain, anger and family feuds. Ava ran away from the loss of her parents and made a new life for herself. When she finds out that Ethan is from the “Other” family she feels she can never forgive him.

What can Ethan do to save his marriage and prove to Ava that love and peace mean more to him than any past family? He goes to face his family to put to rest once and for all the terrible feuding.

This story is about forgiveness, letting go of anger and resentment and moving forward. Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things for people to do, but it can also be one of the most rewarding.
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Rishika will be our guest on the blog tomorrow do come back and join us.