Book Reviews

Who Is Pulling The Strings?

Title: Manipulated Lives
Author: H.A Leuschel
Publication date:
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half!

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.

Just like with killers, I have an unhealthy fascination with manipulators. Human behavior makes for a compelling subject. We all come across manipulation at some point in our lives. Maybe we even use it sometimes! (Don’t deny it!) Consciously or not, for the greater good or for our own sake, for a detail or for bigger plans.

At least I had learned the most important skill in life — predict, control, and use others without them ever suspecting it.

Manipulated Lives puts faces and stories together to offer a (dark!) rainbow of manipulations to witness. Every story has a unique voice so that it never feels you are reading the same thing over and over again. I have been there and there is no fun in it. The teenager does sound like a teenager, and you won’t find an old lady using youngsters slang. The diversity of characters makes it very interesting to read. Every time I reached another story, I wondered who would be the victim, what would the manipulator sound like, which can only mean the author did a good job in giving you an array of diverse and compelling characters.

It is tiring, exhausting, and in cases like this, downright gruelling to observe the human mind at its worst.

The writing is different with every story; complex and dark at times, unsuspicious and light at others. Depending on the narrator, you get motives and inner thoughts that help you get a better understanding of the situation. I felt sorry, I became angry, and I tried to understand, with more or less success! Empathy has its limits! There are no deep psychological analyses, just the right words to explain, justify, denounce, to realize manipulation is silent and invisible, but it holds tight and has the power to destroy in different ways.

Always spot-on, the book depicts five of the dozens of images of manipulations filling the world. Some could call them clichés, but the thing is they become clichés because you can find an endless number of them in life. Pretty scary thought!

I suppose one could lose their innocence either through their own actions or through what others do to them.

Overall, Manipulated is a fast and enjoyable read served by a good writing style, and a reminder that manipulation is everywhere.

I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 19.30.27.png

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.

Find her on Twitter: @HALeuschel

41 thoughts on “Who Is Pulling The Strings?”

  1. This is so fascinating! (and yet another heavy subject which I will surely cover up with fart jokes after the 2nd comment XD)

    I love how the characters all have their own voice. It’s so annoying (and totally unbelievable) when they all sound the same. Especially when it comes to a short story collection. Luuuuved reading your review, this could be a professional one for a newspaper or something without a doubt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CAN I PRINT YOUR COMMENT AND PUT IT ABOVE MY DESK??? This way I’ll be forced to read it every time I put a review in the trash because I think it’s crap?? This review I had lots of doubts so you made my day! ❤ I can share my brownie with you!! 😘
      Haha, I can bring the farts up right now! It's definitely not a happy book, but it's not so heavy that you need time to recover from it. The stories are balanced enough not to have you drown in fear of the next person who talks to you 🙂 It is so weird and distracting when an adult talks like a teen, or a teen like an old fart! In this one, everyone has the right voice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha! You have my blessing! 😀 Silly sausage. Oh, in that case, I take back my evil glaring from a few minutes ago <3. You're a quick learner, young Padawan! xD The not shaking in your bed with paranoia after reading it is good though 😀


  2. Pah- what’s unhealthy about being obsessed with these things 😉 okay… Maybe it’s not entirely healthy- but it’s like you said human behaviour makes for a compelling subject. This sounds fascinating- another one for my tbr!


  3. I agree – manipulators are fascinating! I think it is because, like with killers, their actions and motivations are unfathomable to the average person. (Aside from the fact that yes, we all do it to some degree. 😀 ) This book looks really interesting. Great review!


    1. Exactly! We can’t help but being curious about things we don’t understand! Well, even if we think we understand, it’s still such a fascinating subject. Thank you! 🙂


  4. Manipulators definitely operate on an different level. Maybe it is a smaller scale, but I know a few at work who constantly twist and bend situations to their own will simply with a few words or gestures placed at the right time. While they frustrate me greatly, I admit that their is a certain amount of intelligence happening that I cannot ignore. This is an intriguing book concept. I would be curious to take a peek at something I do not fully grasp. I am also curious as to how often we each exhibit this behavior without thought. Great review!


    1. Thank you! 🙂 I love trying to see what’s hiding behind this kind of behaviors and while I do not approve of those ways, I can’t deny curiosity has me wondering and questioning. I relly enjoyed the different settings the author chose to express just how wide manipulation runs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! Can you really understand what is going on in them though? I read a similar book this year (He Counts Their Tears) and I felt anger for the main character but I also still didn’t completely understand how such a person really is. What’s the difference between a manipulator and a psychopath? Do they commit crimes more often? Yes it’s fascinating and I’m just glad I haven’t met anyone like that in my life.


    1. Thank you! I love your questioning! I admit I have a hard time understanding how a person can act this way, and that is probably the difference between us and those different minds. I think psychopaths choose their victims differently and with different motives than manipulators. Also, there are different types of manipulators, here we only deal with some of the most difficult ones. I guess we need a specialist to shed light on this!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds like a really interesting book! I can definitely see where the fascination for manipulators comes into play, like you said it’s a really interesting subject and I love reading about human behaviour like this as well. I’m glad you enjoyed this book Donna, great review as well! 😀


    1. Thank you! 🙂 It’s much easier to be curious and read about manipulators rather than deal with one! 🙂 This book reminded me how easy it is to fall into a trap. I just like to read about why it happens and how it works.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well yeah, I haven’t read many books on manipulators but I know I wouldn’t want to deal with one in real life. I can imagine it is easy to fall into a trap but it must be so scary as well. Either way it’s an interesting topic to read about.


  7. I also have this 🙂 I’ll read it next month I think… now I know what to expect ^^

    Excellent review as always Donna!!!


  8. Manipulation is definitely a compelling subject.When I first saw you mention the book in one of your WWW posts, I thought its based on real events but I guess it is fiction, right? Sounds like a good read so I will try and get the book. Awesome review!


    1. Yes, it is fiction. Well, the characters you find in it walk the Earth because you can find those human beings everywhere, but it’s still fiction. Thank you! It’s a very interesting read. I hope you enjoy it if you read it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.