Guess the historical figures or famous people from the clues. @OlgaNM7 reviews Backstories by @SimonVdVwriter

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

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I enjoy short stories, but recently I have not read as many as I used to, preferring to read novels that build up more slowly and give you the opportunity to get to know the characters and see how they evolve over time. So this was a bit of an unusual choice for me, but I kept reading intriguing reviews of this book, and after checking it out, I had to read the whole thing. And it was worth it.

I had never read anything by the author, although he has been writing for a while and his short-stories have earned him a variety of awards and accolades, but I suspect this won’t be the last of his books I read, and he is already preparing a second volume of Backstories for publication.

It is a bit difficult to talk about this book in any detail without giving too much away. The author explains his goals and what the book is about quite clearly in his description, so I won’t go over it again. I am not sure that I would describe it as a collection of short-stories. Some are biographical vignettes, moments in somebody’s life (or their backstories, if we like), where something momentous happened, or is about to happen (in some cases), while others fit in more easily with the standard understanding of a short story containing a full narrative. In some ways, I guess it is the reader’s job to complete the story, by guessing who the protagonist is and understanding how that snippet fits in with the rest of the person’s life, how significant or important it might be, and how much it reveals of what we know happened next to the person.

In some cases, we see a famous person (some are musicians, some important historical figures, some sports personalities, some less-than-savoury characters…) as children or very young adults, and the author cleverly creates a picture of who they were and how that relates to who they will become. Sometimes, we see somebody on the verge of doing something that would change things forever, and at others, we get an inkling of what things might have been like if something hadn’t happened or circumstances had been different. One of the stories illustrated perfectly a quandary I’ve had for years about a historical figure, as if the author had read my mind, but I’ll keep my peace about it as well.

There are 14 stories, tightly written, some in the first and some in the third person, and they move quickly, the style of writing easy but at the same time adapted to the personality, the era, and the location of the individual portrayed by each. Most of them are told from the point of view of the famous person, although there are some in which we see them reflected through somebody else’s eyes. It is very difficult to stop reading the stories, especially if you enjoy guessing games or quizzes, as one gets gripped by what is happening at the time and also hooked on trying to find who the person is. If you want to know how well I got on, yes, I guessed all of them (although in one of the cases I had only a passing acquaintance with the character, and I ended up checking to make sure), and some had me scratching my head until the very end or changing my mind several times as I read, while others I suspected from early on.

I enjoyed them all, in different ways (some because I felt the build up of the situation, others because the story itself was moving and/or inspiring, some because I loved the protagonists, and some because they chilled me to the bone), and I think most readers will find some that work better for them than others, particularly if they admire some of the protagonists, but there isn’t a bad one in the lot. These are not sanitized and clean stories, and readers must be warned that they will find all kinds of violence, abuse, prejudice… depicted in its pages. The author has explained his reasoning behind his choices, and a percentage of the book’s earnings will go to good causes, so this is more than justified, in my opinion. I recommend this highly enjoyable collection to anybody who loves quizzes, who has ever wondered what happened before historical figures or famous people became who they are, and particularly to those who prefer their reading short, crisp, and based on facts rather than fancy. And, if you like the formula, don’t forget that there is a second book coming your way soon.

Desc 1

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60s and 70s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstories Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

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Backstories is a great idea. Take famous people from history, ancient or more recent, and write a short backstory about them allowing the reader to uncover who they are as the story progresses. I enjoyed reading the stories in this book.

There were 14 in all. I knew 12 of them and by swapping notes with another review team member I found out who the others were. It might have been helpful to have had a list of the answers at the back. I found that some of them were very clearly signposted, others, not so much. For me, however, the best bit was that I enjoyed the writing throughout all of the stories very much and don’t hesitate in recommending this book to all who like well-written short stories with a small mystery to solve.

4 stars

Desc 1

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them.Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstories Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

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3.5 stars


This is a novel idea – a series of easy-read short stories, each one an imagined snapshot of the early years of well-known person, but ‘the reveal’ doesn’t come until the end, so you can have a good time guessing the identity of the main character as you read.  


They’re clearly well-researched; I guessed all of them except one (Past Time), which was about someone I’d heard of without knowing anything about their life; however, I was able to do ‘swapsies’ with another member of the review team, as I knew a couple that she didn’t!  


Slight downsides – I found some were made too obvious; I’d have an idea who it was, then instead of there being a more telling hint at the end, it was given away too early or spelled out in black and white, and then underlined (metaphorically).  Not all of them, just some.  Also, the nature of the theme does rather tempt one to rush through to spot the clues, rather than just reading the story at a normal pace.  They’re all nicely written but, for me, lacked that ‘X’ factor.  This is, of course, only down to personal taste.


My favourites were The Blank Face, Preserved in Amber and Tonight’s The Night.

Desc 1

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them.Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #ShortStories Penny Pinching For The Morally Bankrupt by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Penny Pinching For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall.

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Goodness… where to start with my review of Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt. This is probably the most diverse book of short stories I’ve come across, and with such a range of eclectic stories, among the 43 in this volume, there’s bound to be something in there for everyone. There are some longer pieces while others are very short, only a page or two.

I loved Libby Marshalls writing style, it’s lean, punchy and very good, and her sense of humour, which is quick and darkly mischievous. Her ideas are highly original and Marshall writes what many of us may think but hesitate to express.

Did I love every story? No. But I loved, or liked, the majority, and certainly enough that when I finished I went to Marshall’s website to see what else I could find to read on there.

Despite what the title, and cover, may have you believe this is most definitely a work of fiction. If you’re looking to save money, look elsewhere, this is not for you, unless, of course, you happen to be morally bankrupt, in which case…

Addictive page turning has meant I got through this book of unique gems quickly and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to all those who don’t mind the occasional sexual reference and F word and who long to read something that little bit different.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

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This is probably the first collection of short stories I’ve ever read, and I had such a good experience that I will definitely be doing it again in the future. Libby Marshall has a seriously twisted sense of humour, and I loved it. The stories themselves were very short, with the longest being maybe twenty pages, and the majority being about five.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the stories in this review, but some of my favourite were: Act Of God, where a recently homeless woman has a morbid, yet uplifting conversation with a Sears employee about buying a fridge; Signs, in which a woman has become dependant on a sign that tells her what her current emotion is; 90 Day Fiance: Dracula (the title really speaks for itself). 

One of the key draws of this collection was its black humour. Its ironic, sarcastic and sometimes snide nature lined up well with the type of book I enjoy reading. I felt that it would probably be best enjoyed by a young, liberal audience.

The nature of reading short stories means that you will inevitably enjoy some of them more than others, and it was no different for me. There were a handful of the 43 stories that I didn’t like very much, and a number that I thought were mediocre or didn’t fully grasp. However, that’s the beauty of an anthology: the next one is a fresh start. Moreover, the extremely varied nature of the stories means that there is a significant chance you will find ones that you enjoy.

The stories themselves were very imaginative and out there. On multiple occasions I was astounded by just how strange the premise of one was. However, there were also plenty that were beautifully simplistic, although no less poignant. They covered a wide range of themes, with jokes on almost every topic relevant to the current social climate.

Due to just how short the stories were, the characters were often quite archetypal, although in some ways that was good. Playing into such stereotypes allowed the humour to be punchier and sharper, I thought. The dialogue was excellently constructed to give a sense of the character in the shortest space possible. However, a few of the characters were a bit deeper in some of the longer stories, which again was nice for the sake of variety.

Overall, I’d give the collection a 5.5 out of 7. There were plenty of stories that I liked and a few that I loved. The experimental ones that didn’t quite work for me were easily overlooked. If you haven’t read a short story anthology, this is a really easy place to start.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Sherry. She blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Sherry has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

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Let me first say, I think I would love to spend a day with this author. She has a very vivid imagination, a clear love for Cold Stone Creamery, and a disturbing way of looking at many regular occurrences in all of our lives.  And I don’t say that in a bad way. 

This book is a collection of short stories and some even shorter views of things we all experience, but certainly don’t think about in strange ways. At least not until they’re pointed out by Libby Marshall.  Then it’s so obvious that she observes events and normality in a different way than most of us.

Some of the stories are poignant and some are really funny in a twisted way. I won’t say which I felt was which lest I be judged for my giggles.  

I enjoyed these little tales and vignettes during my lunch hour and on small breaks from work. They are just short enough to fill in gaps in the day when you need a little smile….or a bit of melodrama.

Some of my favorites—by no means an exhaustive list—are “Witnesses of Historic Moments Who Missed the Point; 90 Day Fiancé: Dracula; A Man Goes on His First Date Since His Wife was Hanged for Witchcraft; Please Continue this Conversation as Normal or I’ll Be Forced to Assume it was About me; Yes, of Course I’m satisfied by just the Tip of this Piece of Cheesecake; and Yelp Reviews of the Chuck E. Cheese Haunted by the Spirit of Princess Diana.

There are so many more awesome little tales in this book. I recommend it highly for its sense of fun as well as the author’s sense of humor and her appreciation for the ridiculous. I really enjoyed this one.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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FUR COAT & NO KNICKERS by Adrienne Vaughan @adrienneauthor #Shortstories and #Poem collection

Fur Coat & No Knickers: An acclaimed collection of short stories and poems by award-winning author Adrienne VaughanFur Coat & No Knickers: An acclaimed collection of short stories and poems by award-winning author Adrienne Vaughan by Adrienne Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fur Coat & No Knickers is a collection of short stories and poems.

The book is made up of twelve short stories and sixteen poems; tales and adventures from a wide selection of everyday lives of people, families and friends. It is often said that other people’s complex relationships make your own problems fade away, so this is a good book to escape into even for a short time.

I enjoyed the stories, some of my favourites were; Fur coat and No knickers, A seed of Doubt and A visit at Christmas. From the poems I especially enjoyed A Pink Day.

Another good example of story telling from this popular author.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book Description

A mixture of thrilling, gripping and heart-warming short stories for a cosy fireside read anytime, anyplace. Fur Coat & No Knickers will introduce you to an impoverished heiress desperate to keep up appearances; a bitter and broken-hearted widow whose wilful terrier leads her to romance; an ageing theatrical masquerading as a highly-paid carer and a woman whose husband has maintained a secret family throughout their married life! These are just some of the fascinating and unforgettable characters in this fabulous new collection by award-winning author Adrienne Vaughan.

About the author

Adrienne Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; primarily to entertain her sister Reta, who from a very early age never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough audience. As soon as she could pick up a pen, she started writing them down. It was no surprise she wanted to be a journalist; ideally the editor of a glossy music and fashion magazine, so she could meet and marry a pop star – some of that came true – and in common with so many, still holds the burning ambition to be a ‘Bond Girl’! She now runs a busy PR practice and writes poems, short stories and ideas for books, in her spare time. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a founder member of the indie publishing group The New Romantics4. Adrienne lives in Leicestershire with her husband, two cocker spaniels and a retired dressage horse called Marco.

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

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs at https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel

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Sometimes a book’s title and cover can deter you from opening the first page. You suspect it will be rewarding but you are worried that the experience might be distressing. But opening Manipulated Lives gives instant gratification. From the first paragraph of the first novella “The Narcissist” I was involved with the feelings of the protagonist, lying trapped in a hospital bed. It is difficult to avoid spoilers when describing this book, but what is plain is that, “Nothing is but what is not.” The author manipulates her readers.

The manipulation of another, by a character in each story, is not creative. It is abusive and is fuelled by selfishness and a need to control, but the study of how charm and deception can entrap a victim is intriguing and believable. At times, we too feel empathy for the manipulators, even though they are incapable of considering others. In the story of “Tess and Tattoos” we come to realise the complexity in the back life of a lonely old lady and in “The Spell” we begin to understand why an intelligent, talented young woman can become entangled in the lives of a busy, single father and his loveable son.
The novella, “Runaway Girl” is perhaps the most fulfilling to read. It is easy to identify with Lisa, from the point of view of her mother, her teacher or one’s own teenage years. You feel a sense of impending doom, as her life starts to fall apart and yet the story ends with such promise. The final story of “The Perfect Child” will remind any reader of mothers they have encountered or children they remember. Putting children on a pedestal has become the norm in modern society but what calamities are we laying up for ourselves by this action and who is happy? Neither parent nor child.

These novellas are beautifully written, carefully revealing characters and situations through a variety of viewpoints. H A Leuschel is a writer to watch. Her understanding of human psychology, cause and consequence, make her stories credible and fascinating.

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 MANIPULATED LIVES by @HALeuschel #Shortstories #fridayreads

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs at http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Manipulated Lives by H A Leushel

My review:

This is an absorbing compilation of short stories that give a thought-provoking insight to human behaviour. Manipulators, those people who will do anything, try any tactic, to exploit those who they are involved with, who they sometimes purport to love, are all around. Manipulated Lives is a cleverly written book showing the diversity of this behaviour.

As I read each one I found myself becoming both angry at the manipulator and aggravated by the character who was being manipulated; why couldn’t the latter see what was happening?  Afterwards I realised that for me to become so absorbed proved the skillfulness of H.E  Leuschel’s writing.  The normality of the situations that the characters are set in lend to the credibility of every story; it’s so easy to relate to them; to sit back and think’ yes, I’ve met someone like that’. Or even, ‘have I ever acted in any way like that?’ Scary!

Every character is rounded and believable. There are strengths and weaknesses revealed in them all; they are multi layered, true to all human vulnerability. My initial (yet fleeting) sympathy for who proved to be the antagonist in The Narcissist is a prime example. Even incapacitated, helpless in his sick bed, there is no remorse, no enlightenment to his behaviour. Yet in another story, My Perfect Child, I was uneasy from the very start.

H.E  Leuschel’s writing style is compact and evenly paced.  The inner dialogue is excellent,  revealing so much of human nature that I sometimes had to sit  back to think about a scene, a situation, an observation.

To trust in another leaves anyone open to vulnerability, to being controlled. To be the recipient of that trust could, and often does, result in the ability to control. It’s a disturbing thought and one that is highlighted in Manipulated Lives.

To my mind there isn’t a story in this anthology that will leave the reader unmoved. It truly is a compelling read.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2hHLAly

Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2gUhAmi

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 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, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is 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.

Twitter

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT MANIPULATED LIVES by @HALeuschel #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Manipulated Lives by Helen Leuschel

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This is a unique concept for me – a collection of stories based around a particular personality type. The stories are all diverse, depicting the different, elaborate and sometimes dark methods parents, children or peers use to manipulate each other for their own gains and/or agenda, shown from the perspective of the manipulator and also from the manipulated.

Manipulated Lives is the stories of those people and how the darker aspects of human nature change and damage their lives, and also the consequences for the manipulators. The eventual coming to terms with the psychological slant affects them each in different ways, some stories having more of an impact than others but each giving pause for thought.

There’s enough conveyed in the narratives for the reader to build a picture of the characters. They’re given depth and interest, and their circumstances give rise to a host of emotions. Depicted realistically, each story shows the different ways people can be manipulated, whether through naiveté, loving too much or weakness. Anyone is susceptible.

I enjoyed all the stories but my favourites are ‘Tess and Tattoos’ and ‘Runaway Girl’. All of them are written extremely well and appropriately for the particular characters. Tess’s unfolding story is very touching, a compelling and lonely old lady who lost everything, reliving parts of her life to a sympathetic listener.

‘She was heartbroken each time she looked around her four walls. In the not too distant future, her relatives would all board a plane and travel thousands of kilometres, however, not in order to chat and spend time with her, but so that they could lower her urn into the hard Scottish ground.’

Holly in “Runaway Girl’ is a teenager saving every penny she can for a train ticket out of the life she sees as so restricting, desperately wanting her freedom and independence.

‘She had kept the cash hidden in a small black plastic bag inside her mattress. She was the only person who knew of a hole in the side of it. It was the only safe place in this entire two-bedroom flat she shared with her siblings and parents.’

From the controlling husband and father to the longed for and ultimately spoiled son, each story in this collection is unique, convincing and authentic. An inside look at vividly portrayed disastrous, fascinating and sometimes frightening relationships.

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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