*** Upper New Adult Spinoff Standalone to the USA Today Bestselling Novel, Under the Influence***
“Shhhh, Cassandra, it’s our little secret.”
Secrets are stubborn things when they refuse to remain hidden. They tear through your soul, clawing and lashing until the pain becomes so unbearable, you’re left no choice but to silently scream your agony. No one hears you, of course. You smile on the outside and drift through life as though your mind is at peace, but all the while, you remain your own tortured prisoner. Sealed inside the darkened, soundproof room of your conscience, deafening cries echo as you plead for someone to unlock the door and release you from your nightmares. And eventually, when no one comes, you find ways to cope. To dull the suffering the only way you know how.
But what happens when you’ve become so numb, when everything around you has become so blurred, that you begin to lose focus on the saving grace standing directly in front of you? When you’ve anesthetized yourself to the point of losing consciousness, forced to watch as his once solid image fades away, lost to your reach in the haze as it smothers you?
What do you do then?
You fight. You heal. Then you bring him back.
Well, my name is Cassie Cooper, and it’s time.
No more secrets.
This is my story.
***WARNING – The subject matter of this novel centers around the psychological effects due to sexual abuse experienced during childhood. For this reason, as well as sexual situations, language, and adult themes, suggested reading age is 17+.***
Actual rating 3.75 stars.
It’s clear that L.B. Simmons is highly adept at writing emotionally-charged, character-driven stories that deal with complex issues which really tug at the heart strings. Out of Focus, like its predecessor Under the Influence explores the difficult subject of child abuse. Major kudos to the author for her willingness to tackle such heavy subject matter head on. She does this is in a very credible way. It’s dark, raw, painful, gritty, heartbreaking. For me, this book was extremely difficult to read at times because of how skillfully the author created and developed the story.
Cass was one of my favorite characters from Under the Influence. She was a total riot, and I was expecting more of the same here, but we saw a completely different side to her. It made sense. She was the party-girl, full of life, always the center of attention, provocative, loud and in your face. But that’s all a mask to hide the inner turmoil brewing to storm-like proportions inside her head.
This book explores that inner turmoil in great depth. It was so believable that I actually felt quite depressed reading it at times, and was tempted to put it down on more than one occasion. Anything that speaks to hurting children really impacts me as a mother and a human being, and this was no exception. It is testament to the considerable skill of the author that it had such a potent effect on me.
However, I did feel that it was far too repetitive in parts and overall the darkness overpowered the light. Although Cass did heal, and she came out the other end in a much better place with the prospect of a happy future, the hope generated by her path to self-discovery was overshadowed, for me, by the extreme despair of the journey. Under the Influence was more balanced, and I finished reading that believing in the redemptive power of love. Not so much here. I’ve been in a real funk all day. Perhaps, I just wasn’t in the mood for it or I still have a book hangover from the last book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to.
Grady was an amazingly supportive man and Cass was so lucky to have him in her corner. However, we didn’t really get much of his backstory and I felt the book lacked somewhat, as a result. I wanted to know how long he had been shadowing her and how/what exactly it was that drew him to her in such a strong way.
Her parent’s treatment of her was horrendous. Again, that wasn’t delved into in any depth and I wanted to understand what would turn loving parents into the kind that would turn a blind eye for years and then refuse to accept what they had always known was right in front of their face. Cass had majorly hit the self-destruct button but they just looked down their noses at her. I wish this had been explored more. It would have made it a little more interesting.
If twenty percent of the repetitive inner monologue was cut, Grady’s character developed a bit more, and the plot line with the parents explored in more detail, I feel this book would be a better read for it. But that’s just my own personal view.
I adore L.B’s writing. Her prose is simply stunning, and I was highlighting like a crazy person at times. See some fav quotes below.
Reading back over this review it might appear that I didn’t like this book, which isn’t the case at all. I just found it heavy going. It is well-written in the main, and it handles a very sensitive subject in a realistic manner. Just be prepared going into it, and I think you will get more out of it that way.
Fav Quotes from the ARC I read:
“To me, there’s nothing more vindicating than the ability to find the strength necessary to turn the worst experience imaginable into something so beautiful, it eclipses all the ugliness. It helps to find reason, to find purpose, in something so senseless.”
“Courage can be such a fleeting emotion. One moment, you feel it rising in your blood, strengthening your resolve as it prepares you to face your greatest fears. The next, it recedes like the tide of the ocean, leaving you bereft, uncertain of its existence in the first place.”
Thanks to the author and Inkslinger PR for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Only twenty-three years old, and I’m so goddamn tired.
I used to be so much stronger. I somehow kept the voices at bay, the memories locked away safely, contained within the confines of my mind. But with each passing day, I feel the glow of my once-luminous strength fading. Darkness encases me now, bowing the walls of protection I put into place years ago. My past is an ever-present nightmare, repeatedly tapping, slowly fracturing the window of my sanity.
I have no doubt that it’s only a matter of time before the glass finally breaks. Blackness will eventually seep through its cracks and deliver me from the safety of my façade into a reality that will destroy me.
I’ve done my part. I’ve kept the secrets thrust upon me with dedicated believability. My portrayal of who I am has become a blurred, hazy version of the once very distinct Cassie Cooper.
I read an ungodly amount of trashy romance novels.
I’m the overtly sexual and foul-mouthed friend who will say anything to get a laugh.
And I have exactly zero fucks to give to what anyone else thinks about my actions.
But the reality, the actuality, is this:
I read obsessively to escape my own world. To live the dreams of others when, for so long, the reoccurrence of my nightmares has been my reality. I read to fall in love and find a happily ever after, even if it is purely imagined. With each story I read, I’m able to live and love vicariously through the characters in my books. It’s the only plausible way for me to survive.
I threw away my virginity at the age of thirteen just to prove something. And when I found that proof, that vindication I was looking for, I sought it every chance I could. Sex is about control for me. Nothing more. The act will never be about making love, like it is for the heroines in my books. I will never be granted the beauty of that gift.
I use humor as a form of avoidance. I draw upon laughter to block the pain. And I smile to mask the agony of the eight-year-old soul who weeps within me.
And the fucks . . . well, that’s not entirely accurate either.
I have given two to be exact: One to my best friend of seventeen years. She knows nothing of my past, and although she so willingly disclosed the horrors of hers, mine remains hidden for no other reason than to avoid the pity she would undoubtedly cast my way if I were to ever tell her. I don’t want her pity. I would sooner die than have her look at me in any other way than with pride.
The other died with the person to whom it was given. Anthony “Rat” Marchione. He was my one allowance of naïveté. The one person I actually wanted to touch me, to hold me, to love me. He was going to rescue me from my brokenness as though I were a character in one of my books. Young and senseless, I thought he was to be my eventual happily ever after, but tragically, he was murdered five years ago.
Black coldness waits in vain to leech the void where his once beautiful existence filled the pieces of my irrevocably shattered heart. Where he temporarily healed the hurt of the innocent child and quieted the voices that tormented her.
He’s gone now. I’ve accepted that. And in turn, I have relinquished all dreams associated with finding the light at the end of this miserable tunnel.
I will keep trudging through this life . . . this sentence handed to me for someone else’s crime, my payment shackled by secrets and weighted with lies. I will continue to do so with the same fraudulent smile on my lips and play the part of the strong heroine so convincingly, that even I believe it.
It’s only a matter of time before my fictional strength wears out—when I’m no longer hidden safely inside my protective blur—and I have to face the very real and lucid image of my past.
But until that time comes, I’ll do all I can do.
All I have ever done.
I will pretend.
About the Author:
.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.