Today’s review is for Blind Dates, Big Love & Six Tinder Weeks, written by Bena Roberts and hosted by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Helen’s children leave home at eighteen. She sleepwalked through her marriage of twenty years for their sake. But when they go, she leaves her husband. Her house is a mess, as is her image and Helen breaks down. Through her pain, she draws blood and allows the universe to guide her and her decisions.
The unexpected happens, scientist Helen gets thrown into a new life of hedonism, dating, and self-discovery. A charming lawyer steals her heart, but is Helen ready for the fast lane? Will the local village firefighter provide the romance of her dreams? Or the military spy CJ, who is convinced that Helen is part of a Romanian smuggling gang.
With the help of her sister Portia, Helen starts to transform her life. The universe guides her to finding something in herself.
Debut author Bena Robert’s provides a unique perspective in this witty black comedy. Dark humor meets chick lit with a robust and realistic voice.
I honestly had no idea what to make of this book as I started reading it. I was simultaneously horrified and awed by what was happening to Helen, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I signed up to review it.
That being said, by the time I’d finished it, I was in love.
Helen starts off broken and depressed. She’s kicked her husband out, her kids are grown and have flown the nest, and she’s alone and lonely, with very little self-worth.
The book takes a long, deep look at what it means to be a woman, whose entire focus has been her kids and her career, rather than herself. It explores concepts about sexuality and dating that in our patriarchal society are considered healthy and normal, and it turns them upside down.
I’m very much a feminist, but I love and respect men, and the reality that Roberts explores in her debut novel spoke to both sides of me. There’s no shaming or condemnation, simply a woman who discovers the courage to take back her life and step into her true feminine power.
That being said, it’s not an easy read. There are aspects of it that made me deeply uncomfortable, and I wanted to scream at Helen for giving strange men her home address, among other things.
Blind Dates, Big Love & Six Tinder Weeks is, without a doubt, either a love it or hate it type of book, and I personally loved it enough to rate it four out of five feathers.
*I received a free copy of the book from Rachel’s Random Resources in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Bena Roberts was a journalist and analyst. Now she prefers the title romance adventurist! She graduated in England 1994 and then with a Masters in 1997.
Born in 1973, Bena lived in West London until she was 24. Then she lived and worked in Budapest, Bruges, Prague, Amsterdam, Vienna, Hamburg and Munich. She currently resides in Germany, between Heidelberg and Frankfurt. Although she still refers to London as ‘home.’
Bena successfully created a technology blog which gained funding, had lunch with Steve Ballmer and was ‘top 50 most influential woman in mobile.’ Her blog also won several awards including Metro Best Blog. However, her technology career ended after she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in 2009. Since 2012, Bena has taught English in Germany and managed a small relocation business.
Bena has two children, loves small dogs and always writes books with a cup of Earl Grey.
Six Tinder Weeks, now Blind Dates, Big Love and Six Tinder Weeks is her debut novel. Other books include The Forever Night Stand, with Tammy & Lisa: Mum Detectives at the Village School available in 2018.
*This post did not turn out the way I’d intended it to. It was supposed to be a summary of what I’ve been up to, and some useful links I’ve come across, along with some pretty pictures of my cat and my hourglass. I’ll have to save those for a later post though, because this is what came out of me tonight, and I need to get to bed before I revert back to my natural zombie state!
It’s been a while since I posted anything and there are a few reasons (be warned, I was struck with verbosity during this post, so continue at your peril):
I’m pretty lousy at sticking to a schedule in terms of blogging. When life gets busy, I have a tendency to avoid the internet like the proverbial plague. It’s a way of keeping my sanity intact.
Work was draining the life out of me. Although my colleagues were great, and I could work from home – I was expected to be on social media, reading mainstream news articles, and writing my own. I hated it. While it may be the lifeblood of people who thrive on political debate, and journalists with predatory instincts for a good story, I just couldn’t convince myself to enjoy it. I tried, I really did. But it was making me miserable, and for someone who has depression, that’s not the greatest space to be in. So I quit. I cannot begin to describe the relief I feel at not having to plug into that every day. It feels like I can breathe again. Having said that, working from home for an online company, with deadlines and targets, forced me to sit down and write, even when I didn’t feel like it. It’s given me a level of discipline and focus I didn’t have before, and taught me some really valuable lessons about what I do (and don’t) want in a writing career.
Ghostwriting – Oh yes! Quitting my job meant I needed to find another source of income. Ghostwriting fiction gives me that income and allows me to focus on what I’m passionate about – telling stories. The best thing about it is that the pressure is off to deliver a perfect first draft, because it’s not being published under my name. And ironically, because of that, I’ve been able to create and share some of my best stories and characters in the short space of a month, compared to the last 15 years of writing! I will always be a perfectionist when it comes to telling a good story, but ghostwriting has given me the confidence to tackle my own ideas with a bit more leeway for mistakes.
Because life got so crazy for a while, I needed to step back and figure out what my priorities were. Depression was kicking my butt, and I nearly messed up some really important relationships because of it. Motivation and energy were so hard to come by – and part of the problem was that I didn’t want to acknowledge I was actually depressed. I had some weird idea that acknowledgement meant it had won, and that I would never be okay again. I thought that pretending everything was okay, and ignoring reality would, in fact, make everything okay. It didn’t. It made things worse. Much worse.
No one who hasn’t had depression will ever be able to fully understand what it’s like to have no reason to feel absolutely and thoroughly de-motivated. I think the thing that comes closest to describing it for me personally, is this:
I live a thousand lies,
To hide a single truth;
That everything’s pretense,
Every smile a mask –
A deceit to give you peace of mind.
I live a thousand lies,
Each morning when I wake
To greet you for the day;
You do not know that deep within,
In dreams I’d choose to stay.
I live a thousand lies,
Every time I say I’m well;
And no one ever seems to see,
The truth behind the ‘me’.
Yet still, I’ll live the lies,
A thousand every day
And the single truth of what I want,
Well hidden it will stay.
(Keep reading for the rest of the poem)
One of the biggest realisations I’ve had in the last month, is that depression is not an excuse to check out of taking responsibility for my life. At the end of the day, this is my life, and while I may sometimes struggle to function on a very basic level (can I just stay in bed forever?), that’s not a reason to give up. There is never any reason to give up.
I am fortunate in that I’ve got an incredible support system in my friends. They are the ones who’ve encouraged me to talk about how I feel, acknowledge when I have bad days, and celebrate the good ones. I am so incredibly grateful to them for not allowing me to use depression as an excuse to check out; for letting me talk and vent and cry without judgement; and for offering me practical help (like driving me to the clinic so I could get some homeopathic remedies for support).
And they are the reason for this poem continuing:
Until the day will come,
When I’ll remove the mask
Certain you’ll turn away,
Disgusted by my lies.
Then the hope that I’ve been seeking
Will suddenly shine bright,
For you have seen my deepest lie
And still embraced my light.
One by one my thousand lies,
Will slowly fall away,
And in their place I’ll hold the truth:
That I was born to live!
The only time I ever take selfies is when it’s the only way to get a photo of one of my animals being adorable. Meet Paladin, who was formerly Stray Cat, and is now just a smooshy bundle of love:
This collection of short stories by Helen Andrea Leuschel tells of people whose lives have been changed by people close to them. Hosted by Rachel’s Random Resources, there’s a great giveaway for a signed copy of Manipulated Lives at the end.
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.
Having already read Tess and Tattoos, I was looking forward to the other stories in this collection.
In order to review it properly, I’m going to look at each of the other stories individually, as, though the theme is common to all of them, they’re all quite different.
The Spell tells the story of Sophie, who takes on the role of a mother figure to little Leo, never suspecting that his father may be keeping secrets. Although I liked the overall plot, I was slightly bored by the style it was written in. It’s told in first person, and Sophie’s wavering between trusting David, and questioning the truth of his comments was annoying from the beginning. There was a lot of exposition, which left me feeling a lot like I was being told what to feel, rather than being shown the story and deciding for myself.
Runaway Girl drew me in completely. I loved the story, told in third person, of Holly’s life and the realisation that as a teenager she was dealing with way more than she ever should have had to. What I didn’t like was Sara’s side-story, and the casual way it was dealt with, although obviously, in a short story like this there isn’t a lot of room to delve into secondary characters. Still, I felt it could have been handled differently. Holly’s improving relationship with her mother, however, was wonderful to see, and I loved the ending.
The Narcissist left me with some really conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I felt really bad for the character whose life had taken such an abrupt turn, and ended so tragically. On the other, I felt for the people who’d been the victims of his deceit and lies, and I’m still not really sure what to think of the story. It was well-written, and the questions it provoked were very unsettling.
My Perfect Child left me angry. It reminded me of an incident I experienced years ago, when I was working as an aftercare teacher at a primary school, and had to deal with a “perfect child” whose mother excused their ill-mannered and bullying behaviour to a ridiculous degree. I wasn’t sure whether the ending was what I would have expected to happen, but at the same time, I felt Lisa deserved her fate, as did her son.
Overall, Manipulated Lives deals with some really uncomfortable and difficult topics, that are a daily reality for many people. While it isn’t easy reading, it was well-written and I enjoyed the majority of the tales.
Win a signed copy of Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel
Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
*I received a free copy of the book from Rachel’s Random Resources in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.
The beginning of April brings with it several thoughts.
One, it’s April Fool’s, which means I could technically end this blog here and leave you all wondering about the title and what I’m thinking…
Except, you probably won’t wonder for long, and I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s, given that I completely stink at pranking people. Aren’t you lucky?
Moving on: the second thought is that Camp NaNoWriMo kicks off today, and I’m participating this month with a word goal of 25 000. I’m so excited, because the project I’m working on is the Beinn Draken series, which you may have read about here, here, and here.
Just in case you don’t want to hop back to those other posts (I don’t know why you wouldn’t, cos Beinn Draken is AWESOME! and there’s a really long excerpt in the last one), here’s the synopsis as created for my Camp Project:
The Thabulayi have been at war for generations when scientist Micara, creates a weapon that could have unforeseen catastrophic results. Before she can decide what to do with it, Micara is forced to flee her country, along with other rebel Thabulayi.
Aboard a merchant Misyer ship, a storm runs them aground and the Thabulayi and Misyers find themselves trapped on an island that is home to the Clachers.
Full of folklore, and superstition, and with the “dragon” about to emerge from his mountain, the Clachers want nothing to do with the strangers.
Except for Ceither, a young girl whose insatiable curiosity leads her to a friendship with Micara as they try to find a way to save the island from the imminent volcanic eruption.
The “novel” is made up of a series of short stories, spanning several generations from Micara and Ceither’s time, to the island’s present. It combines South African culture with Scottish, and I’m just so excited about it, that I might actually burst and shower you all with sparkly rainbow goo!
Which brings me to the third topic: writing goals and Big Magic. For those of you who don’t know, Big Magic is the title of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book for creatives.
For those who don’t know who Elizabeth Gilbert is, think Eat, Pray, Love. Or watch her give a TED talk on some of the ideas that she shares in Big Magic. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
That’s pretty powerful stuff, right?
For those who don’t know, I’ve been struggling with depression since the beginning of 2017. I didn’t realise it though, because it’s a silent little bugger that sort of snuck up on me, and (in my case at least), it’s not a constant all-encompassing feeling of wanting to die.
That feeling sort of comes and goes, and it was only when I nearly drove myself casually off a bridge last year, that I realised I couldn’t do this alone. I reached out to friends, and I got help. Because the thing is, I don’t want to die. I have a lot of plans, and a lot of living still to do, and I am doing it. I’m doing what I love to do.
The latter half of 2017 was a recovery period. A time of reevaluating where I was in life, what I wanted to do, and just figuring out how to look after me. It ended with me accepting a writing job at the end of December, and now I get paid to write.
But the problem with that, was I started unconsciously buying into the tortured artist, martyred-for-my-art belief system that so many creatives have. Because I wasn’t being paid to write what I wanted to write. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference with my writing.
While 2018 started off well, it slowly spiralled back into that pit of despair. The feeling of suffering to be able to do what I claimed to love was overwhelming. I lost myself to fatigue, and sadness and constant, draining complaints.
And then, last week, my very best friend who knows me well enough to know what I need, gifted me with a copy of Big Magic. I had goosebumps the entire time I was reading it, because not only was Gilbert telling me what I’d been doing, she made sense of why I was doing it.
Now, obviously, it’s not the only reason. I have some underlying physical health issues that I need to look at, and fix. But a large part of it was exactly that: buying into the stereotype of needing to suffer for my art. And losing my inspiration because of it. Losing my motivation, and the ability to do what I needed to do in order to succeed as an author. Which is to write every day and put myself out there.
At the beginning of 2018, I had a daily goal of writing my own stories for an hour each day. I haven’t been able to keep up with that because of the above mentioned fatigue and issues, but I have at least managed about five to ten minutes each day, even if it’s just the odd one-liner or scribbled thought. I’ve now revised that goal to be five minutes of writing daily. I don’t want to add guilt to my already overwhelmed emotional jar of feelings, so if I manage more, great! If not, well, at least I got a sentence or paragraph out of it.
On the other hand, Jozi Flash 2018 is underway and will be published in January 2019! At this point, assuming that all goes well with all the contributing authors, the final anthology will have 108 stories! Oh my gawd! We also have a theme (but I’m not saying what it is just yet, because surprise!), and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone!
Overall, 2018 has been a productive year so far. I’ve set myself certain goals and deadlines (something I’ve never done before), and that’s really helped keep me focused on the end goal of making a success of my writing, and of Chasing Dreams Publishing.
What does that success mean to me? At this point in time, it just means finishing my stories and getting them published; helping others to showcase their work through Jozi Flash; and various other projects. Big Magic also reminded me that it also means having enough time and energy to focus on myself, because no one else can do what I do (well, they could but it wouldn’t have my special touch), and I deserve to be happy and excited doing what I love.