Girl from the Tree House by Gudrun Frerichs

This book came to my attention when the author enquired about a translation into German. I was totally baffled by the whole concept. Not the translation, that’s easy enough to grasp, but by the concept of writing a book about a person with multiple personalities from the point of view of these varied personalities.

I had to read it. Each chapter starts with the name of the personality currently controlling the body, which is important to understand what is going on. Most of the personalities are aware of each other and communicate. They live together in an imaginary tree house and each one plays an important role in the Tribe, as they call themselves. Only Elise is unaware of the rest and lives a nightmare, because every time another personality takes over the body, she has no memory of what happened and ends up in places she doesn’t remember going. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like.

As if this wasn’t fascinating enough, Elise and the Tribe are on the run. They desperately want to get away from the family who always kept them drugged and locked up. Bordering on a miracle, they make it to an old house that used to belong to their aunt. Memories pop up and cause havoc within the Tribe, while things on the outside take nasty turns as well. But there are a few precious people to trust and the whole mystery gets resolved in the end, but not without considerable drama.

This book had me captured and especially towards the end on the edge of my seat. The different personalities are really different, not just hues of, let’s say, a woman in her mid-thirties. No, there are children, boys, girls, young men and women and older adults as well, each of them carrying a part of a completely fragmented memory and serving a different function to make life manageable. Such a disorder doesn’t simply happen, it is usually the result of massive abuse or trauma. This topic was dealt with very delicately by the author, who named the deed, but didn’t describe it, for which I am immensely grateful.

Frerichs has created a one-of-a-kind thriller with her vast experience as a therapist. This book is a big step towards understanding what we so inadequately name mental illness and also gives some advice on how to treat people suffering from it. Or should I say, the observant reader will take note of the emotions described in the story, when the Tribe is called crazy, and try to avoid such reactions.

This book has all the right ingredients to make it an absolutely Chatworthy Read! Highly recommended.

Interview with Ryder Billings from the Lindy Johnson Series by Nellie K. Neves

Hello Readers! I know, it’s been a while since my last interview with a book character, but the person I have run into now drew me out of my hiding hole. Ryder Billings stars at the side of Lindy Johnson in Nellie K. Neves’ awesome Lindy Johnson series. I have written reviews of the first two books, but book three, Sparrows & Sacrifice, needed more than just a review. So I invited Ryder to chat with me, even if he’s not at his best at the moment.

Hi Ryder, how are you doing?

Hi, thanks for having me. I hope you don’t mind, I brought some snacks. Candy calms me down a bit when I’m agitated. Seems like I’m always agitated these days. You can have some if you want. I think I have Red Vines and Sour Worms here.

Ooh, snacks! I’ll have a few Sour Worms, thanks! Although I must admit I’m more into chocolate. So, Ryder, you‘ve just been released from hospital with amnesia. Is it very hard to deal with? What is the last thing you remember?

That’s the thing, my shrink, Dr. Tarleton, was explaining this to me—it’s not amnesia, it’s repressed memories. Think of it like dropping a glass of milk on a floor. You’re gonna want to contain it before it goes everywhere. Trauma is being contained by my brain. Anything that trauma touches is repressed. When people ask what my last memory is, I don’t know what to tell them. Amnesia is like a wall in a specific moment in time. What I’m facing is more like Swiss cheese. Half a memory here, a third of one there, not ever enough to make a complete recollection. Things spark, but I can’t quite grab hold.

Goodness, that must be so frustrating!

Frustrating doesn’t begin to cover it. Infuriating is closer. No one will give me answers. I get flashes of things, terrifying things, but they’re gone before I know why I was scared. Dr. Tarleton says it’s not the first time I’ve done this. He says all these childhood memories were already repressed and whatever happened to me brought them to the surface.

Yes, your father wasn’t exactly the most comfortable person to be around. Lindy found weapons all over your mother’s bedroom when she stayed in your place before she went to the dude ranch. It made her uneasy. You mean you don’t remember any of that, either?

I guess this is how my brain deals with trauma. It’s kinda stupid if you ask me. My most complete memories are from the summer. I remember a party at Johnny’s bar, and I remember leaving on a trip with Vanessa, but I’m having a hard time even putting that together.

Can we move back to the day you walked into a bar and ran into Lindy Johnson for the first time? There clearly was a lot of static in the air between you. Was it love at first sight?


He pauses and pops a Sour Worm into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

Yeah, I remember that night. Was it love at first sight? No. Attraction? Maybe. Deception? Definitely.

He sighs.

People can have chemistry, you know? But if that’s all there is, even the strongest chemical fires burn out. We had chemistry. I won’t argue that. But where is she now? Not here. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I’ve got this thing with abandonment. I guess my shrink says it’s a trigger. I’m finding out all about my triggers and faults in my twice a day therapy sessions.

Ryder shifts in his seat and looks over at me sheepishly.

Next question, I didn’t like that one.

Before I can even take a breath he interrupts.

Fine. I’ll say this about Lindy. What I can remember is conflicted at best. One side, I can’t forget that kiss I stole the night of the masquerade, or her staying with me at the lighthouse, letting me keep her safe. But on the other hand, I know she’s used me. I know she pushed me away. Shouldn’t I let go at some point? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? There’s this Swiss cheese hole over the top of most of it. I can’t let go. I can’t move on. But I don’t know why. And the only person who could tell me ran off for a case—again.

Love at first sight? No. But I wish she was here. Maybe then we could sort the rest out.

His hand automatically digs into the Sour Worms, fiddling with each one before it lands in his mouth.

You saved Lindy numerous times due to her outstanding ability to get into trouble, but she never really treated you as her hero, did she? Did that hurt?

This question makes him laugh.

Outstanding ability, understatement of the year, even with my limited memories.

He pauses.

Yeah, there were times I wished had ended differently. I don’t have time to catch a breath before she shoves me away again most of the time. I don’t know if I’d be that hard on her though. After the casket, I know I was her hero. She’s not one to gush, but if you’re around her long enough, you learn to read between the lines. I’ll say this about her, Lindy is the first person to truly see me. If I hold back, or lie, or tell someone else I’m fine, they let it go. Not Lindy. She’ll throw herself on the pyre trying to get the truth out of me. She’s not your typical woman. She doesn’t blurt out her feelings, or drown a guy in compliments, but those times she surrendered to me, melted in my arms, and gave me control, I was her hero, her knight and her rescuer. I’d take those stolen moments over any amount of praise or fanfare.

I’m raising my eyebrows.

Well, with that description, I’m definitely not a typical woman, either. Maybe that’s why I like her so much. Even if I also think she’s a bit hard on herself sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. Let’s move on to another little special about Lindy. You have extensive medical training, even if you‘re not a doctor. What went through your head when you first heard that she suffers from Multiple Sklerosis?

Ah yes, her big secret. Honestly, the first thing that went thought my head was, “At least it’s not cancer”. I was worried she was terminal, five weeks to live or something like that. I said it to myself like it was somehow better that she’s facing chronic disease, rather than terminal disease. I’m glad it’s not cancer, I really am, but MS isn’t easy. Where other diseases follow a predictable pattern, and treatment plans are typically clear and concise, multiple sclerosis is all over the place. She has every right to be scared and cautious.

Yes, she has. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to have that hovering over you all the time. At the same time I don’t how I would react if I found out my husband was chronically ill.

Some people aren’t made to have a chronically sick partner. You can get sucked into the role of caregiver and nurse and forget you were ever lovers in the first place. You see it across the board in the medical community, people being abandoned while at their weakest. Either pushed away by the ailing patient, or overwhelmed by the responsibility. More marriages end from chronic illness than you’d expect. Knowing the inevitable future she was facing, I did stop. I did consider shutting it down right then and there. She looks healthy now, but there’s no telling how long it will last.

Especially if she goes on pushing her limits like she does. How do you feel about her notion to keep you at a distance so you won‘t have to see her suffer? Is that one of the reasons for your relationship with Vanessa?

Her rules, yeah, she’s all about sacrificing herself. Her happiness, her health, her future, her life… I think because she feels like she’s got this expiration date stamped on her arm, none of that matters. In all honesty, I think it’s stupid to keep me, or anyone else, at arm’s length to stop us from getting attached and lessen our pain if it turns out she has less time than we expected. She needs people in her life to help her through the hard times. We’re gonna hurt no matter what. If I had a few memories to carry with me, especially now, it might make it hurt less. She must think very little of herself if she believes she can leave this world without people feeling the impact from her life. That’s just sad.

I think so, too. Maybe it’s because her parents always told her she’s weak. And because she feels chronically guilty for the loss of her sister. Perhaps that’s a lot worse than MS. On the upside, she could heal, if she’d just let anyone in on her innermost self. Why does the term ‘not before hell freezes over’ come to mind?

We both laugh and help ourselves to more snacks.

So what about Vanessa?

I don’t know what to do there. Look, don’t say anything about it, but it’s a real mess. She keeps telling me she loves me. I hate it. I feel like I woke up in someone else’s life. Everyone wants me to be whoever that guy was—the one they knew before. I keep running over the memories I have. I hate to say Vanessa was a rebound, but I can’t figure out why I took her number the night Lindy stood me up. Because she was there? Dr. Tarleton says the trauma from my childhood, all the abuse, makes it hard for me to be alone, not physically, but emotionally. I guess that’s why I was with Vanessa then, and why I let her hang around now. Because she’s there. It’s the one quality Lindy never seems to have.

What are you hoping for at this point? Do you even want to remember what happened, knowing that your brain basically shut down due to emotional overload?

At this point, I just want a life free of shrinks and projection tests. I want my mom to move out. I want to be able to drive, cook, paint, anything without people eyeing me like I might snap. I’m not even allowed to weld right now. My mom hides my keys. I think she’s worried I might swerve off a cliff or something. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I feel like an intruder in my own body. Like maybe this is a bad dream, and I need something big to jolt me awake. I wish I could go back to normal, but I don’t know what that looks like.

Do I want to remember? If I can be honest? No. And yes. Mostly no. The blips I see, the moments of clarity, I know there’s a reason I don’t remember. Violence. Terror. Not fear, but absolute terror. I know I’m fighting them back, wanting normal, but not wanting to carry that trauma on my conscious mind. I feel like it might tear me apart to remember it, like I might get lost forever. And as dark as my thoughts get, I’m not willing to take that risk. If I could get my life back without ever knowing anything from my past, I’d do it, but I don’t feel like that’s possible at this point.

That’s really a tough place to be in. I wish I could just snap my fingers and make everything fine again. But it won’t happen. You’ll have to fight your way through it. Wishing you all the best, though! One final question, to ease out on a lighter note: If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?

Lighter, yeah, that sounds nice. Well, right now I feel like a troll under a bridge. Everyone is tip-toeing over the top, avoiding me, trying not to set me off, but if I got to choose a fairy tale character? Robin Hood. He lives in the woods with his buddies, he’s a total rogue, and he gets the girl. Sounds like the dream to me.

But it’s not like Lindy would sign up to be Maid Marian. She’d pick Rapunzel, up in a tower by herself. I’d be on the ground waiting for her hair to grow.

Well, if that’s the case, you’d better store up on those snacks! Thanks so much for being here and good luck for your future! I so hope it’ll all turn out alright. Bye!

He waves and throws me the rest of the Sour worms. I sit munching for a while, wondering where all of this will lead. I really hope the two of them get things sorted out and find their happily ever after!

The Lost Girls by Helen Pryke

The Lost Girls: A gripping suspense novel (English Edition) von [Pryke, Helen]

One of my favorite authors has written a new book and of course I had to read it right away. Helen Pryke moved genres once more and now entered the realm of mystery and thriller. A thrilling read it was, indeed, presented in her usual beautiful and capturing style. It never takes me long to read what she writes and it was the same with this book. Two girls were kidnapped from different families and the police could never find them again. Were the kidnappings related? Are the girls still alive? If so, where are they?

Each of the girls has siblings and they cannot let the matter rest. They approach a journalist to help them find their sisters, who – as we learn – were indeed both kidnapped by the same man, and this man is rapidly losing his grip on sanity.

The story has all the ingredients you need for a good read: Well formed characters, emotional turmoil, twists and turns and insights into a deranged mind.

And yet … (Spoiler alert for the following paragraphs!)

The story left me strangely untouched. I should have ached with the abducted girls. I should have shuddered at the cruel madness of the kidnapper. I should have cheered the investigators on – but I didn’t. Despite all the right ingredients, the story brushed by me, an uninvolved bystander.

I would have expected more depth – especially from Helen, who I know is completely capable of making me shiver and cry and scream while reading her books. But this story feels as if she shied away from diving in all the way. It’s all there – but it’s all on the surface.

Take Jane, for example, one of the abducted girls. She had trouble with her family and readily accepted the kidnapper’s lies that her family didn’t want her anymore. Too readily for my taste. Where was her pain? Where was her struggle to accept that which she had hoped would not be true? And later, when she sees through the lies, where is her struggle in the opposite direction? Where is her shock at finding out the truth? She seems to be taking it all in her stride.

And then there’s Charlotte, the other girl. She misses her family. She is sad and scared beyond belief. But her deranged kidnapper wants her to be happy and smiling. I would have expected more interaction between them, showing me how they trigger each other, how each misunderstanding results in another beating. It’s the same with the relationship between the girls, which undergoes various changes. It’s all hinted at, and I can guess what happened – but I don’t want to guess. I want to be shown. I want to read it all and be shaken deep inside, moved and touched.

What did move me in the end was the stupidity of the journalist. I’ve come across this theme a few times before: private investigator finds all the details to solve the case and then rushes into danger without alerting the police. In this case it was a journalist and either she was totally delusional from fatigue or plain stupid, which would have been out of character, as she was presented as a pretty smart person. So why does she go into the kidnapper’s house with two teenagers in tow, knowing the kidnapper would freak out in the near future and more than likely set everything on fire? The story lost credibility for me at that point. Yes, the police were alerted by someone else, but nobody in their right mind would have acted like that. It annoyed me. But that’s just a matter of personal taste and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. The scenes were full of tension and had me flipping through my kindle at top speed.

Comparing this story to the author’s previous works, especially ‘Walls of Silence’, I have the feeling it was published too soon. It feels rushed. Well done, great concept, beautifully written, but published too soon. I sincerely hope the author will take more time and really dive deep into her next work. I know she can and I’m looking forward to it!

Lindy Johnson Series by Nellie K. Neves

Caskets & Conspiracies (Lindy Johnson Series Book 1) (English Edition) von [Neves, Nellie K.]

Welcome to the Lindy Johnson series!

Having met the author in a facebook group, I got curious about her writing, bought two of her books and boy, did I get a wild ride!
I read both books back to back, luckily at a time when book 3 is already on the horizon, due to be released on July 12th. I will definitely pre-order it, because I’m dying to know how the story goes on.

Nellie K. Neves is a master storyteller. The tension in the story was so dense, I couldn’t decide whether to read on (need to know what happens) or take a break (my pulse has to come down). I stopped reading after one very beautiful scene for a while, because I knew bad stuff would happen next and I wanted to linger in peace!

Saddles & Sabotage (Lindy Johnson Series Book 2) (English Edition) von [Neves, Nellie K.]

Deep, deeper, depth!

Let’s talk about characters. Lindy Johnson is a private investigator with a warped past and a cruel fate. Suffering from Multiple Sklerosis, her daily struggle is a heartache in itself. Add to that an equally multi-layered character in the form of Ryder, handsome not-doc, but artist, and a series of deeply disturbing deaths, and you have a rollercoaster ride of a story that’s going to make you dizzy.

Lindy and Ryder quite obviously fell in love, but for a variety of reasons they can’t really start a relationship. Instead, they are pulled into two separate murder cases (one per book), which Lindy tries to solve at risk of her life.

So what you have is
a) an exciting, nailbiting mystery concluded in each book and
b) an ongoing character development in the persons of Lindy and Ryder that is totally believable and continuing through the series.

I can’t even begin to say on how many levels these books touched me and in which way. Whenever I was not reading, my mind was spinning with the mysteries, trying to solve them while at the same time my heart was aching for Lindy, because I really cared about her, despite the number of wrong decisions she made (in my opinion). Naturally woven into that are insights about one of the invisible diseases that only show up when they are really bad, but affect the sufferer’s life to a great extent long before anyone else will notice.

Folks, read these books. Here’s my new favorite author and for this outstanding tale, I’m more than happy to award this series my Chatworthy Read Award. Congratulations, Nellie!

Timeless Moments by Michelle Kidd

Timeless Moments (English Edition) von [Kidd, Michelle]

Jack is fascinated by old houses. He loves to restore them and there is one in particular he always fancied in his home town. When he moves in and starts restoring it room by room, he has a spinetingling experience: There’s a young woman crying her eyes out in the garden. She insists it’s her garden, but when she runs frantically back into the house, she disappears. Jack begins to dig into the history of the house and finds any number of heartbreaking secrets.

This mystery is extremely intriguing and has a little bit of various things: time travel, romance, fight against abuse and fascinating riddles. With an easy to read language, the story captivated me from the start. Some of the riddles were easy to solve, others made for some surprising twists in the story. Woven into the absolutely believable characters is their faith, which comes naturally most of the time. Only in the end the author had to ram home a christian message that I felt was out of place. It knocked me over the head and left an unpleasant taste after this gripping read.

Some of the plot twists were a little too predictable and when the obvious bad guy really turned out to be the bad guy I was a little disappointed, but only a little. Overall, the story is great, well written and makes for an excellent reading experience. Highly recommended!

A little Night Music by J.A. Willoughby

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC: MOZART: A Variation On A Life (English Edition) von [Willoughby, J.A.]

You can feel it in the pages of this little tale that the author is a musician with every fibre of his being. While his idea of pulling Mozart out of his own time and planting him into today’s social media jungle might be considered trivial, his exploitation of this topic is brilliant.
This is not about a person adapting to our modern inventions. This is about a musical genious who was an exceptional character in his own time, being an exceptional character in our time.
With the aid of a couple of highly devoted students, Mozart discovers not only modern living, he also discovers the musical styles and influences of centuries past and drinks them in, develops them, makes them his own and then takes off to create music no one has ever heard before.
Willoughby’s descriptions of Mozarts musical performances are excellent and vivid and to someone familiar with both classical and modern music these descriptions are nearly audible.
It’s also nice that the author has taken the time to give the reader some insight into his research for the book on the life of Mozart.

All in all a highly recommendable read.

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce

The Perfect Wife (A Jessie Hunt Psychological Suspense Thriller—Book One) (English Edition) von [Pierce, Blake]

This start into the series following criminal profiler Jessie Hunt is a gripping thriller with all the right twists and turns.

Pierce obviously knows his craft; the story runs smoothly, if a trifle predictable at times. Still, the characters are believable, the story starts innocent enough with a move into a wealthy neighborhood and the logical step to find social contacts in the local boat club.

But then there’s Jessie. Loaded with a terrible past, she feels insecure in her new surroundings and is kept on her toes by the strange machinations going on around her. On top of that her training as criminal profiler opens up doors that are usually closed and she wonders more than once if she is paranoid.

I can’t give much more away without serious spoils, so let it suffice to say the book had me turning the pages, despite the fact that my intelligent guesses led me in the right direction. Perhaps I should start a new career as profiler? No, I’ll stick to writing, which I’m more than happy with.

If you enjoy a good thriller and don’t mind a serial killer or two involved, I recommend this book. I’m currently on book 2 of the series, the perfect block, which starts out pretty good, too. Can’t do anything wrong with these!