Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF LEAH BRAND: A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke (@LucindaEClarke). A solid domestic noir page turner

Hi all:

I bring you a book from an author I’m sure many of you will have come across already. I’m sure it won’t be the last one of her books I read.

A Year in the Life of Leah Brand: A Psychological Thriller (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke

A Year in the Life of Leah Brand: A Psychological Thriller (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke

Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died.

A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.

Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect.

Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings.

As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why?

A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.

Author Lucinda E. Clarke

About the author:

Lucinda E Clarke was born in Dublin but has lived in 8 other countries to date. She wanted to write but was railroaded into teaching. She fell into other careers; radio announcer, riding school owner, sewing giant teddy bears. She began scriptwriting professionally in 1986 winning over 20 awards. She also wrote mayoral speeches, company reports, drama documentaries, educational programmes, adverts, news inserts, court presentations, videos for National Geographic, cookery programmes and street theatre to name but a few!

She lectured in scriptwriting, had her own column in various publications, and wrote articles for national magazines. She was commissioned for two educational books by Heinemann and Macmillan, and book reports for UNESCO and UNICEF.

She set up and ran her own video production company in South Africa.

“Walking Over Eggshells” was her first self-published book, an autobiography describing the emotional abuse she suffered from early childhood and subsequent travels and adventures.

She published her second book a novel, “Amie: African Adventure” in July 2014, which was a #1 bestseller in genre on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lucinda’s third book “Truth, Lies, and Propaganda”, was followed by “More Truth, Lies and Propaganda” – memoirs about her career in the print and broadcast media, highlighting South Africa and its people.

“Amie Savage Safari” is the 5th in the Amie in Africa award-winning series – the world’s most reluctant and incompetent spy is in trouble again.

In 2019 Lucinda changed genre and published the first in a series of psychological thrillers. “A Year in the life of Leah Brand” was followed by “A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe.” Book 3 is due out in September 2020.

My review:

I purchased a copy of this novel that I am also reviewing it as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed).

I have been a follower of the author’s blog for some time, and I know that she has been a writer (among many other things) for a long time, in different genres, although this was the first time she published a psychological thriller. Having read many great reviews of this novel and the other two in the series, I was intrigued as this is one of my favourite genres.

I find this review quite difficult to write because I don’t think I am the ideal reader for this book. I am sure people who don’t work in mental health and don’t read as many thrillers as I do will not have the same issues I had. Let me clarify. Clarke knows how to write, for sure. She builds up the tension slowly, creates credible (they might be annoying and irritating at times, but that is what makes them real) characters, has a great sense of rhythm and pace (things seem to be happening slowly at first, then get increasingly faster; we have breaks to allow us to catch our breath, and then things get even weirder and scarier), and piles up ambiguous evidence that can be interpreted in different ways. She also chooses well the point of view of the story; it is told in the first person (so readers who don’t like first-person narratives, be warned) from Leah’s perspective, and that allows us to experience all her doubts, hesitations, and to witness events through her eyes. Due to the nature of the story, that works perfectly well, as it manages to keep the surprises well-hidden. (I suspected what was happening from early on, but then… No, no spoilers).

However, some aspects of the plot stretched too much my suspension of disbelief, to the point where the story lost some of its hold on me. As a habitual reader of thrillers and police procedural novels, I do prefer books in those genres to be —even when the events might be rather extreme— fairly realistic when it comes to details and settings, unless they blend genres or take place in an alternative universe. For me, this book seems to fit into the domestic noir category that has become quite popular in recent years, and I am slowly coming to the realisation that this genre is not a great fit for me. I have similar issues with it as I have with cozy mysteries: I like the premise; in some cases I really enjoy the story and the characters; but there are aspects that don’t work for me, mostly to do with the actual mystery.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot, to avoid spoilers and also because the description offers readers enough information already. My favourite character was Aunt Deirdre. Leah, the protagonist, has survived such tough and dramatic circumstances that it’s impossible not to sympathise with her, but I must admit to finding her annoying at times and wanting to grab her and force her to take charge of things, while at the same time imagining how hard it would be to have to face what she was going through, feeling so helpless after being undermined at every turn. Most of the other characters are dislikeable or ambiguous (they seem to blow hot and cold or are nasty most of the time), and there are some we don’t get to know too well, but, of course, as we see everything from the character’s perspective, sometimes it’s difficult to extricate what is what (and that’s the point, evidently).

As I said, the book is well-written, the pacing, the clues and red-herrings build-up and grab readers’ attention, and there is no excess violence or any explicit sex scenes. The thrill (or the threat) is mostly psychological, and the effect on Leah’s character and self-confidence are compellingly portrayed. The self-doubts and her hesitation ring true as well.

I’ve already said that some of my issues with the believability of the story are probably due to my experience working as a psychiatrist in the UK, and that means that some of the details of the story don’t work for me, but that shouldn’t put off other prospective readers. I also found there was a twist too many in the story, and that’s all I’ll say about the ending.

After reading a sample of Clarke’s Amie: African Adventure, I am sure I’ll be reading more of her books, but perhaps in other genres.

This is a page-turner and I’m sure readers of domestic noir who prefer stories with no explicit violence, love a first-person narrative and an ambiguous/unreliable narrator, will enjoy this story. A fun and fast read, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their hard work and support (reviewers, please visit and join), thanks to the author for her novel and thank you for reading, liking, sharing, reviewing… And remember to keep safe!

Reseñas de libros

#Reseña de libro ESPÍRITU DE ÁNGELES PERDIDOS de Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat). Traducción Sandra Cifuentes ( @scdtranslations) Una novela para amantes de la historia de la mujer, de las aventuras y de la Revolución Francesa #novelahistórica

Hola a todos:

Como sabéis, escribo muchas reseñas, aunque por motivos varios parece que leo mucho más en inglés que en español (soy miembro de varios grupos de reseñadores y contribuyo a otros blogs, todos en inglés, y en NetGalley no me consigo resistirme a las novedades que ofrecen, aunque espero que incluyan pronto libros en español) aunque tengo varios acumulados que están al caer.

A veces suena la flauta por casualidad, y una autora de la que me he leído dos novelas recientemente, Liza Perrat, australiana, me comentó que una de las novelas que me había leído tenía una versión en español, así que no me pude resistir a compartirla con vosotros. También he traducido la reseña, aunque debe constar que no me he leído la traducción al español, así que no os lo toméis todo al pie de la letra, pero, por si tenéis dudas, os sugiero que le echéis un vistazo a la muestra en Amazon. Yo creo que os encantará. Bueno, ahí va.

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat
Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos de Liza Perrat (Autora), Sandra Cifuentes Dowling (Traductora)

Después de que su madre fuera ejecutada por brujería y su padre muriera a causa de la indolencia de un noble, Victoire Charpentier se prometió a sí misma que superaría sus humildes orígenes campesinos.

Obligada a dejar Lucie-sur-Vionne, el pueblo de su infancia, para realizar labores domésticas en París, Victoire deberá sufrir espantosos abusos bajo el antiguo régimen monárquico del siglo dieciocho.

Encerrada en La Salpêtrière, el manicomio más cruel de la Francia de aquel entonces, una desesperada Victoire iniciará una relación con Jeanne de Valois, conocida embaucadora que había sido confinada en el mismo lugar por el caso de un collar de diamantes. Con la ayuda de la no solo despiadada sino también carismática condesa De Valois, Victoire se forjará un nuevo destino.

Inmersa en el frenesí de la Francia prerevolucionaria deberá encontrar el ímpetu necesario para unirse al pueblo sublevado que tomará La Bastilla. ¿Podrá armarse de valor para colaborar en el derrocamiento de la corrupta y diabólica aristocracia?

En los tumultuosos días de la Revolución francesa, las mujeres de Espíritu de Ángeles Perdidos deberán enfrentarse a la tragedia y a la traición en un mundo donde su virtud podrá ser también su maldición.

Author Liza Perrat
Autora Liza Perrat

Sobre la autora

Liza creció en Wollongong, Australia, donde trabajó como enfermera general y matrona durante quince años.

Tras conocer a su esposo francés en un bus en la ciudad de Bangkok, se mudó a Francia donde vive junto a él y a sus tres hijos hace más de veinte años. Allí trabaja a tiempo parcial como traductora en temas médicos del francés al inglés.

Luego de realizar un curso de escritura creativa, varios de sus cuentos cortos han ganado premios, principalmente el concurso anual Writers Bureau en 2004. Sus historias se han publicado profusamente en antologías y revistas periodísticas y sus artículos en francés acerca de la cultura y las tradiciones francesas en revistas internacionales tales como France Magazine y France Today.

Espíritu de Ángeles Perdidos corresponde a la primera de una saga de novelas históricas que cuentan con la Francia rural como telón de fondo.

Mi reseña:

Recientemente he leído y reseñado una novela de Liza Perrat, en inglés, la fabulosa The Silent Kookaburra (La Kookaburra silenciosa) y cuando se presentó la oportunidad, no me pude resistir a leer otra novela de esta autora. Al preparar la otra reseña descubrí que la autora es más conocida por sus novelas históricas y eso se notaba también en The Silent Kookaburra, que aunque está ambientada en una época mucho más cercana (los años setenta en Australia), cuenta con unos escenarios muy detallados, una atmósfera y unos eventos históricos de fondo que hacen que merezca esa clasificación, junto con una historia inquietante y bellamente escrita.

Espíritu de ángeles perdidos encaja perfectamente dentro de la categoría de novela de ficción histórica. Ambientada en Francia, unos cuantos años antes de la Revolución Francesa, sigue la vida de Victoire Charpentier, una chica nacida en una granja en un pueblo pequeño, cuya madre era una mujer sabia, comadrona y curandera, y que se tuvo que enfrentar a la muerte y a tragedias personales desde muy joven. Es víctima directa de la injusticia de la sociedad de la época (el carruaje de un aristócrata atropella a su padre y ni siquiera se detiene) y no es de extrañar que quiera vengarse. Las tragedias y los desastres se amontonan en su vida y los breves momentos de felicidad  se ven interrumpidos cuando de nuevo pasa alguna otra cosa mala. Su historia podría considerarse un melodrama, ya que Victoire siempre se encuentra en el centro de todo lo que pasa, y sobrevive contra toda predicción. Sus experiencias demuestran que la vida de una mujer es dura (y aún lo era más en aquella época). Perder a tu marido, a tus hijos, que te violen, te acusen de ser una bruja, y que no te dieran ni voz ni voto era lo habitual. Lo que ayuda a Victoire más que nada es el saber leer. Su talento para leer y escribir la ayuda a mantenerse en contacto con sus seres queridos, más tarde le proporciona una carrera literaria y el medio para concienciar a los demás de los sufrimientos de las mujeres y los pobres, y la ayuda a conocer a gente importante y a mantener esas conexiones. Y también la ayuda a cumplir su sueño y a conseguir un final feliz. Para mí, entre los puntos fuertes de la novela destacan la atención que le presta a la historia de las mujeres y sus condiciones sociales (sin centrarse tan solo en las mujeres de la aristocracia) y a la vital importancia de la educación.

El libro está bellamente escrito, narrado en primera persona por la protagonista, que se expresa con soltura. Como descubrimos más tarde, Victoire aprende a escribir muy bien, aunque al principio hubo momentos en que la belleza de la escritura me resultaron algo chocantes (cuando le escribe una carta a su hija Ruby en un momento dela historia en que aún está intentando mejorar su escritura, la carta no solo expresa sus sentimientos más profundos sino que, a pesar de la terrible situación por la que está pasando, resulta incluso lírica), aunque eventos que ocurren más adelante y el final hacen posible una interpretación distinta de la novela. El bello lenguaje y las detalladas y a veces poéticas descripciones ayudan a que los lectores se sientan transportados a la Francia de la época y que compartan los olores (y hedores), el tacto, las impresiones de los diversos lugares (incluyendo las experiencias aterradoras de La Salpêtrière). Las figuras históricas y los sucesos de la época (Victorie conoce a Thomas Jefferson, intercambia correspondencia con Mary Wollstonecraft y se hace amiga de Jeanne de Valois, que llega  jugar un papel muy importante en su vida) junto con la textura y entorno del libro hacen que la Francia de finales de siglo XVIII resulte aún más vívida. La autora explica en una nota al final del libro que su protagonista es totalmente ficticia y todas sus interacciones con las figuras históricas son inventadas, aunque inspiradas por los personajes reales.

Disfruté en particular de las reflexiones del personaje sobre el papel de la mujer en la sociedad de la época, de su terrorífica pero instructiva estancia en La  Salpêtrière, y de sus muchos recursos y perseverancia. Esta es una novela repleta de acción, donde los eventos se suceden rápidamente y a la protagonista le pasan muchas más cosas de las que le tocarían vivir a nadie en el mundo real, hasta tal punto que hace falta suspender un poco la incredulidad. Quizás porque seguimos al personaje durante mucho tiempo, y Victoire es un vehículo que refleja los eventos históricos y las experiencias de las mujeres en esa era en particular, no me pareció que su personaje fuera tan consistente o psicológicamente detallado como el de Tanya en The Silent Kookaburra (donde aunque vemos a la protagonista en dos edades diferentes, la mayor parte de la historia está contada desde el punto de vista de la niña Tanya, de solo 11 años). Dicho eso, esta es una historia maravillosa, llena de aventuras y cambios de suerte, que os transportará a un lugar y una época de suma importancia, y aunque es la primera novela de la escritora, ya muestra su dominio del lenguaje y su habilidad para crear historias que enganchan.

Gracias a la autora por compartir su novela, gracias a todos vosotros por leer, y ya sabéis, dadle al me gusta, comentad, compartid y haced CLIC!

Book reviews Rosie's Book Team Review

#RBRT #BookReview Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis (@sjfrancis419) Two families and many lies #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I hope you’ll forgive the appearance of the blog. At the moment I’m doing a Branding course, and I’m planning on changing quite a few things, but I’m trying to go slowly.

As promised I’ll start sharing the prequel to my Escaping Psychiatry series from next week, but today I wanted to take the chance and share the review of a novel I’ve read recently as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. First I share the description and editorial reviews.

Shattered Lies by S.J.Francis
Shattered Lies by S.J.Francis

Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…
Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm–until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.

Editorial Reviews

“Francis writes a poignant and moving tale of bigotry, deceit, and the ultimate betrayal, where the people who you are supposed to be able to trust are the ones who tell the most devastating lies.” ~ Taylor Jones, Reviewer

“… The title implies a mystery novel or an action novel. When I first started to read this novel, I thought this would be a regular old-school mystery. Boy, was I surprised to find that the title implies so much more than the genre. The story is heartfelt and very real. I am very impressed with S.J. Francis. The way the author wrote the novel was super amazing and fascinating. She transported me back in time and made me feel the pain and confusion of a grandmother who thought she was doing the right thing…” -Rabia Tanveer for Reader’s Favorite

“Shattered Lies is the story of the cruel, inhuman things man does to man and the tangled webs we weave trying to cover up our heinous behavior. It’s a heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of a young woman who discovers that everything she believed about herself, her parents, her very life, is nothing but a lie.” ~ Regan Murphy, Reviewer

“SJ Francis examines the destruction of one family’s foundation under the weight of lies in her thoughtful and wonderful book, Shattered Lies… Shattered Lies explores the painful legacy of bigotry and how such a legacy can destroy many lives.  In doing so, SJ Francis writes with raw honesty using language that has become embedded in the culture of racism.  It will be uncomfortable and unpleasant for the reader at times. But I do applaud Francis’ efforts. She has crafted a memorable book that will leave a lasting impression. A very thought provoking book.” ~Tracy, The Writing Piazza

From the Author


NOTE: 10% of this book’s sales from both editions will be donated to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation to help fight this insidious disease that strikes both adults and children. For more info about this disease see:

Here, my review (4 stars):

Shattered Lies by S. J. Francis. Family lies, race, and life in the South

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was offered a free ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The novel, as promised by the description, deals with important themes: family relationships, adultery, betrayal, secrets, lies, race, loss and grief, illness… The story shows us how two families, the Thayers and the Johnsons, who’ve always lived close to each other in the family ranch of the Thayers, a white Southern family, while the Johnsons (African-American) worked for them in a variety of capacities and lived within the grounds, are much more closely linked than they appear at first sight. Kate Thayer, the youngest of the family, finds a diary written by her mother that opens up a Pandora’s Box of secrets and lies, including suicide, child abandonment, and questions about her own identity.

Emotions run high for all the protagonists and also the less important characters, and as the story is narrated in third-person limited point of view it allows the reader to see things from inside the heads (and the hearts) of different characters. This does not make it confusing but instead it gives readers an opportunity to better understand some of the characters, which at first are difficult to like or empathise with (like Katherine, Kate’s grandmother).

The novel is full of emotionally tense moments, and many secrets are revealed very early on. That results in much of the story delving into the changing emotions of the characters (from anger, to guilt, to fear, and back again), with the rhythm of the story speeding up and slowing down at times rather than providing a totally smooth ride.

Despite punctual references to current times (several mentions of Obama, the years when different events took place, and comments about how things have changed over generations), the story seemed to live in a time of its own and in its own environment, creating a somewhat claustrophobic sensation. The only interferences by the outside world take place in the train (where there is a nasty experience with some white youth, and a nice encounter, which to Kate exemplifies the fact that people can fight against prejudice at a personal level, no matter what pressures they are subjected to by their environment), and later in the hospital, although even that serves mostly as a background for the family’s battles and eventual peace. This is mostly a personal story, although it reflects wider themes.

The North and the South are depicted as fairly different worlds, nowadays still, and the codes of behaviour and the topics brought to my mind Faulkner’s novels (although the style and the treatment of the material is completely different). It seemed difficult to believe that in the late 1980s nobody would have spotted that Olivia, Kate’s mother, was pregnant with twins (even if she didn’t want an ultrasound), and that the doctor wouldn’t  think of calling for help when he realised the delivery was not going well (especially as this is a family of means). But perhaps the details are not as important as the experiences in this melodrama that ultimately provides a positive message of hope and forgiveness.

This is an emotionally tense read, with some slower and somewhat iterative self-reflective moments, and some faster ones, exploring issues of identity, prejudice and family that will make you think about your own priorities and preconceived ideas. Ah, and 10% of the royalties go to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation, a very good cause (and relevant to the story).

Links to the author and the book:

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