The Treatment – C.L. Taylor

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

Drew’s brother, Mason, has recently been sent to the Residential Reform Academy, a therapeutic boarding school, to overcome his ‘behavioural problems’. The hope that Mason will come back a changed person becomes fear that Mason will come back a zombified changed person when a woman who says she worked at the Academy accosts Drew and hands her a note, supposedly from her brother, before running off.

Help me, Drew! We’re not being reformed, we’re being brainwashed.

Because this is a young adult novel, pretty much all of the adults are useless, evil or disinterested so if someone is going to save the day it’s going to have to be Drew. And that’s just what she decides to do.

Now Drew is also at the Academy and if she doesn’t figure out a foolproof plan soon, her brother won’t be the only one getting treated.

‘Obedience, compliance and honesty. They’re the bedrocks of society.’

This was a quick, compulsive read. There’s danger, action and a bunch of kids who have all been labelled as bad stuck in a system that’s supposed to be helping them but could actually be causing them irreparable harm.

Drew was an interesting main character. Initially a loner, she rallies when she learns her brother is in danger and even makes a friend along the way. I really liked Mouse, although I wanted to learn more about her backstory. I found Lacey and Jude so very irritating, but it probably would have been weird if I didn’t want to find a way to reach through the pages to slap them.

Some coincidences were a little over the top, like Zed just so happening to live close enough to Drew that they could meet face to face and Lacey just so happening to wind up at the Academy as well. In Drew’s very own room. What did Lacey do to get sent there anyway? Was she really so desperate to bully Drew that she followed her there? Speaking of coincidences, Drew’s dad, who’s been missing for eight years, just so happened to also be at the Academy.

Then there were the things that seemed too easy, like people being deprogrammed so quickly when they were faced with a specific fear. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert at reversing brainwashing but if any of the things I’ve read about cults are true, then it’s not a switch that can simply be turned off. It seems to be a much more intense and drawn out process than how it’s portrayed here.

The ending felt rushed and a bit too neat, and I have some unanswered questions. However, this was an enjoyable read and I am interested in reading more books by this author.

Content warnings include bullying.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“You have to help me. We’re not being reformed. We’re being brainwashed.”

All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone. She’s not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she’s almost relieved.

Everything changes when she’s followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason. There is something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing. The school is changing people.

Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets.

Before it’s too late.

For Better and Worse – Margot Hunt

I’m sure that practically every parent who learns their child has been molested engages in some fairly imaginative revenge fantasies. For Natalie and Will, whose first date included a discussion about how they could commit the perfect murder together, fantasy has become reality. Are they smart enough to get away with it?

My answer, from the planning through to the execution and beyond, was a resounding “Hell, no!” Between them this couple made so many obvious mistakes I felt it was inevitable they’d be caught. While some of their failures were mentioned there were others that seemed obvious to me but were never brought up.

If the characters had no background in anything vaguely related to crime then I could have easily overlooked some of their missteps and chalked them up to their emotional state after learning of their child’s molestation but they both went to law school and one of them works as a criminal defense attorney! I kept wanting to tell them to binge watch some Criminal Minds, Rizzoli & Isles or any of the CSI or Law and Order franchises. There are so many to choose from and a few episodes of any one of them would have helped prevent some of the face palm moments of this book.

I had expected that a book with such emotionally charged subject matter would be a difficult read but I actually didn’t feel much while reading. I didn’t find anything to like about either of the main characters. If I had connected to them at all I think this would have helped me care if their crime was discovered or not. It turned out that when I started writing my review immediately after finishing the last page I had to double check what their names were. I don’t remember the last time that happened.

Whoever wrote the blurb gave away too much of the story so I wound up spending the first half of the book waiting for something to happen that I didn’t already know. I found most of the sequence of events predictable and one part I didn’t predict simply annoyed me. I definitely liked the premise of this book and had high hopes for it. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

Don’t just take my word for it though. There are plenty of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews so I’d encourage you to check out some of those before deciding if this is the book for you or not.

Content warnings include discussions surrounding addiction, suicide, child pornography, grooming and sexual abuse.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin – MIRA for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

On their first date back in law school, Natalie and Will Clarke bonded over drinks, dinner and whether they could get away with murder. Now married, they’ll put the latter to the test when an unchecked danger in their community places their son in jeopardy. Working as a criminal defense attorney, Nat refuses to rely on the broken legal system to keep her family safe. She knows that if you want justice … you have to get it yourself.

Shocked to discover Nat’s taken matters into her own hands, Will has no choice but to dirty his, also. His family is in way too deep to back down now. He’s just not sure he recognises the woman he married. Nat’s always been fiercely protective, but never this ruthless or calculating. With the police poking holes in their airtight plan, what will be the first to fall apart: their scandalous secret – or their marriage?

The Blind – A.F. Brady

The Blind is the first novel of a Mental Health Counsellor/Psychotherapist so you know going in that there’s going to be plenty of introspection by the main character, and there was.

Sam has worked hard to maintain her reputation for being the most reliable and competent psychologist at Typhlos Psychiatric Centre. She’s praised by her manager, Rachel, and is given all of the tough cases that no one else can handle.

Richard comes to Typhlos with practically no background information and won’t talk. After becoming involved in his case, Sam finds herself in a situation she’s unfamiliar with. Richard is not giving anything away and all of Sam’s usual techniques don’t work on him. As they spend more time together, the mind games begin.

Usually I’m so engrossed with characters and what’s happening that the big reveal comes and I’m just as surprised as the character. When I figure it out early it indicates to me that I’m not emotionally involved in the book and/or the big reveal is super obvious. I found myself in both categories during this book. I didn’t emotionally connect to any of the characters and worked out the big reveal plus the psychological diagnosis of a character by 20%.

Had I not already committed to reviewing this book I would have stopped reading at 20%. I was so irritated by one of the characters and their behaviour that I was over it. I knew as I was reading that the author was setting the scene for later in the book but by 20% I no longer cared. I’m a firm believer in there being so many books on offer out there that you shouldn’t have to fight to get into one.

If you’re feeling like I was, hold on. It does get better from just before the end of Part 1 but it never really took off for me. It does give the reader insight into what it’s like to live with mental illness and to work in the field. I feel like this is a 2.5 star book but am rounding up in recognition of this being a debut novel.

Content warnings include alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health issues, partner abuse and suicide.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

With the intensity and rawness of Girl, Interrupted and Luckiest Girl Alive comes this razor-sharp debut, which reveals how one woman can go so far off the deep end, she might never make it back up.

Sam James has spent years carefully crafting her reputation as the best psychologist at Typhlos, Manhattan’s most challenging psychiatric institution. She boasts the highest success rates with the most disturbed patients, believing if she can’t save herself, she’ll save someone else. It’s this saviour complex that serves her well in helping patients battle their inner demons, though it leads Sam down some dark paths and opens her eyes to her own mental turmoil.

When Richard, a mysterious patient no other therapist wants to treat, is admitted to Typhlos, Sam is determined to unlock his secrets and his psyche. What she can’t figure out is why does Richard appear to be so completely normal in a hospital filled with madness? And what, really, is he doing at the institution? As Sam gets pulled into Richard’s twisted past, she can’t help but analyse her own life, and what she discovers terrifies her. And so the mind games begin. But who is the saviour and who is the saved?

In this unexpected and addictive psychological debut, A.F. Brady takes readers into the psyche of a deeply disturbed woman desperately trying to keep her head above water, showing that sometimes what’s most terrifying is what exists in your mind.