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Book Review: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, H.A. Leuschel, for an honest review.

Genre: Short Story/Fiction

Plot:

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.

Opinion: Hello readers, today I bring you a collection of short stories! Manipulated Lives showcases five different stories, with each story portraying a different form of manipulation. The reader is introduced to five characters who either come in contact with a manipulative person or prove to be the manipulator themselves.

The first story is called Tess and Tattoos and focuses on an elderly woman named Tess who resides in an “old folks home”. Tess is a very kind and artistic person and yearns for company and affection from others. As Tess forms a friendship with one of the staff members, she begins to open up about her past and an abusive relationship. I found Tess and Tattoos to be an uplifting and hopeful story about friendship and acceptance. Tess was a very gentle character who had been manipulated when she was younger into staying in an abusive relationship. Though this story is about how Tess was manipulated by another, I found that Tess even had her own forms of manipulation that were more positive. She would do small things in the mornings of her assisted living home to receive extra attention from staff, and this COMPLETELY pulled on my heartstrings. I think this is a FANTASTIC example of how manipulation doesn’t always have to be negative either.

The second story is called The Spell and is one of the longer short stories in the collection. It is about a woman named Sophie who meets a young boy named Leo and forms an instant kinship with him. Soon after Sophie meets Leo’s father (David) and they begin to date. Sophie becomes a mother figure for Leo, as his mother is out of the picture. David explains that Leo’s mother was a horrible and manipulative woman, and was put into a mental hospital years before. The Spell is interesting because there are two manipulators that come into Sophie’s life. One more obvious than the other. I found this dynamic to be very interesting, and it proves how hard it is to know when someone is manipulating you. Like Sophie, I am still not quite sure who was telling the truth by the end of this story. And like life, sometimes you never really know.

The third story, Runaway Girl, really hits home for me. This story was the one I really connected with, and it left my heart aching quite a bit after reading it. It follows a sixteen-year-old named Holly who is saving up every penny she has in order to run away to Scotland to live with distant family. One day at school, a boy named Luke starts to show interest in Holly. At first Luke is charming and caring with Holly, but that quickly changes. He begins taking advantage of her for her money, and smoothly talks his way out of things to continue manipulating her. I was once a Holly, so this story really resonated with me. It saddens me that this sort of thing happens a lot to young girls and women, and that so many boys/men can get away with it. I adore the ending and the strength Holly has, you go girl!

The Narcissist is the fourth story in this collection, and a great example of another type of manipulator. In this case, the character the reader follows is the manipulative person. The reader is introduced to an old man in a hospital who is dying and is having a hard time remembering his life due to his medical condition. Eventually, the reader learns that this man has been manipulating people his entire life in order to get himself ahead. He lived a double life and challenged and mocked anyone who tried to tell him he was wrong or incapable of something. In the end, he does something horrible which leads him to dying alone. This story ends on a sad note where I wished that the main character could have realized things sooner. Karma, karma, karma.

The last story is The Perfect Child and is about a woman who coddles and gives way too much to her child, and the repercussions of doing so. This mother spends most of her life making excuses for her “perfect child” by blaming others for his faults and insisting that he does no wrong. This obviously teaches her child how to manipulate others for his advantage, especially his mother. I know a mother and son just like these characters, and let me tell you, this author is SPOT ON. It is a great example of how a parent needs to be more objective and standoffish with certain things when it comes to raising their kids, in order to teach them right from wrong. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect child.

Go out and get this story guys, the writing is descriptive and paints a beautiful picture for the reader to get lost in. I think anyone can connect with at least one story in this book, and hopefully it can bring clarity to your personal life. I am so glad to have read Manipulated Lives, and so grateful for the author for reaching out to me. I think this is a great story for all ages to read, because it can teach everyone something different. I strongly urge you to read this, and if not you, your friends or kids! There are so many important lessons in these stories. I wish someone would have given me this book years ago. It is something EVERYONE should read!

5-stars

 

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