Review: When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

WhenAllTheWorldSleeps_500x750_0Daniel Whitlock is back in his hometown of Logan, South Carolina, after serving time in prison for killing a man. The man Daniel killed was another local boy, Kenny Cooper, someone who savagely beat Daniel because he was gay.   The problem is that Daniel doesn’t remember burning down Kenny’s house with Kenny in it.  Daniel is a sleepwalker and has been since he was a child but no one believed him when Daniel told everyone that he had been asleep when he burned Kenny’s house to the ground. Convicted with time served, now Daniel has returned home to a town that hates him and a family that won’t speak to him.  Isolated in a cabin in the woods, Daniel chains himself to the bed each night in hopes that he can sleep.  Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn’t.

When Daniel is found causing trouble at the local bar, its up to Logan cop Joe Belman to break up the fight and take Daniel home.  Like everyone else in town Bel has never believed Daniel’s defense of sleepwalking.  But now faced with the reality of a Daniel who doesn’t remember the fight at the bar, Bel’s attitude towards Daniel starts to change. When Kenny’s friends retaliate against Daniel, Bel agrees to watch over him, to keep Daniel safe by any means…including tying him up and handcuffs.

Watching over Daniel, dominating him to protect him, brings out a side of Bel he never knew existed.  And as he slips into a relationship with Daniel, one that deepens by the day, Bel finds himself looking at his hometown and its citizens in a new and harsh light.  It’s not only the town that won’t leave Daniel alone but his own fears and demons too.  Only with Bel does he find any measure of peace…now if only he can let himself believes he deserves it and that Bel will stick with him no matter what.

Not many books these days leave me speechless, let alone exceed any expectations I might have had from the blurb given.  But When All the World Sleeps is that treasure of a book that leapt over my perceptions and conjectures into a triumph of storytelling.

Truthfully, it’s the characters first that surprised me. I was unprepared for damaged Daniel Whitlock and his somnambulism.  And how deeply this character would affect me.  His pain and anguish over the past, and not just Kenny, is so profoundly real that I could swear I saw Daniel’s blood and tears wash over the Kindle’s screen as certain scenes unfolded.  He is steeped in guilt and confusion.  By returning to Logan, all the memories and problems that Daniel carries with him just intensifies for him and the reader on an almost hourly basis.  There is little mercy to be found in this small town with its almost biblical memory and cemented social judgements, whether it be against gays or convicts or those that happen to live outside the town’s proscribed idea of normal.  And oh the danger if someone just happens to be all of those.  That is a marked man, whether it be open taunts or concealed hatred.

Joe Belman, or Bel as he is called is another remarkable character in a sea of them.  Bel is someone we watch grow emotionally throughout the story.  He starts off as just another typical Logan citizen, holding much the same viewpoints and values as all the other close-knit family members and small town denizens.  Logan is so central to who Bel thinks he is that it would never occur to Bel to live anywhere else, so strongly does Bel identify with the town and his family and friends. But all that starts to change when Daniel reappears in Bel’s life.  There is a fundamental change that has to happen before Bel can see Daniel as someone other than a liar and killer, and that change happens slowly and with great realism.  Henry and Rock achieve something remarkable here with Bel.  His changeover in attitude and feelings towards Daniel feels so authentic in his doubt, stubborness, and finally acceptance that the authors pull the readers along with Bel’s introspection and emotional discoveries about himself and Daniel.  It’s intimate, it’s a ground swell of emotion that never stops breaking and its breathtaking in its accomplishment in making me, and all the readers so vested in these characters and their delicate relationship that any swerve off the path for them is as painful for us as it is devastating for them.  Bel is that singular voice in the night, the one that stands out in the sea of small town secrets and listening to him soon becomes as addictive as it is necessary.

Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock certainly understand the small Southern town mentality, one I am familiar with myself.  There is a delicate emotional balance that is necessary to achieve for appreciating and comprehending the complexities of life lived within its confines.   My father escaped it as early as possible, his brother never did.  The pull of a small hometown can sometimes be so strong in its depth of history (familial and otherwise), of its deep cultural and societal roots that establish themselves within a person never to  relinquish their hold, that some people never leave its jurisdiction, whether that be physical or emotional.  Henry and Rock get that and have made it come alive here within the pages of When All the World Sleeps.  The good, the bad, the indifference to the sufferings of those the town cannot abide or understand…its all there, laid out for the reader who has no idea of the charms and pitfalls that exist in such an atmosphere and makes it accessible.

When there is a bdsm content in a story, especially where it is a major element in a main character’s emotional makeup, I always wonder how its treatment will let me relate to the story and the character(s) involved.  Again, Henry and Rock take a multitude of difficult subject matters and by combining them, make us understand the demons that haunt Daniel and the methods chosen to help him deal with them.  Its another outstanding accomplishment that such methods seem utterly reasonable and necessary for both men, including Bel who is new to the whole idea of domination and submission.  Bel does his homework on the subject, researching and having open discussions, well as open as is possible with Daniel, on the toys and tools to be used to make Daniel feels safe enough to sleep. There is a natural progression from ignorance to total participation as a dominant and partner from Bel.  As there is an answering growth and recovery from Daniel at the end of the story.

With all the hatred that floats throughout this story, the self hatred, the hostility and animosity from the town, the pain and rejection that seems to be a matter of course for  several of the inhabitants here, there are also scenes of incredible tenderness and raw sexuality.  There is a moment with body markers so memorable in its tenderness and awkward eroticism that I didn’t know how to respond… then it gets to the end and I what my response should be…cheering for the bravery that is both Daniel and Bel, celebrating their almost impossible union and the milestones they have reached.  Hard not to reach for a tissue after that.

But the authors are not through with us or Bel and Daniel.  They are carefully constructing their plot, laying out the foundation and then the rest of the plot building blocks with the same attention to detail they did with the facts about sleepwalking and therapy.  Daniel is a superb artist, drawing both day and night and remembering only by seeing the results on paper when he awakes. The chills brought forth from the drawings ups the level of rising anxiety as events start to rush towards a climax.  And while the events speed towards a resolution, the plot never feels rushed or incomplete.  This is a narrative that leaves nothing to chance or is weighed down by extraneous or inconsequential elements.  The book is 405 pages long yet it never felt that way to me.

This story is so complete that I don’t feel a need for a sequel.  It ends as it should.  I think this is one of the finest books of 2014.

Cover Art by Amber Shah.  Again this will be on my Best Covers list.  The tones and the atmosphere achieved here are perfect for the story and characters within.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing       All Romance (ARe)        Amazon   Buy it here

Book Details:

405 pages
Published March 24th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 22nd 2014)
ISBN 1626490791 (ISBN13: 9781626490796)
edition languageEnglish
review posted back in 2014

Contest Winner Announcements and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Spotlights and Contests

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Winners of the Book Tour Contests and Author Spotlights

 

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To The Very Last Inch

 

 

 

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  • Winners of The Professor’s Rule Tours (Every Inch of the Way and To the Very Last Inch) by Heidi Belleau and Amelia C. Gormley. Winners are Sonja and Flutterfli. Congratulations to you both. And my thanks to Heidi Belleau for Amelia C. Gormley for stopping by on their tour and bringing the contest with them.
  • Winners of SE Jakes Free Falling Book Tour Contest are: Kathleen Power,Robbie Bauldree, and Kassandra Appel.  They won  SIGNED copies of SE Jakes’s Hell or High Water series: Catch a Ghost and Long Time Gone.   Congratulations to all three!
  • Winner of Kerry Adrienne’s novel, Beautiful One, is Ashley E. Congratulations to Ashley E and my thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments.

 

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Now for the Week Ahead: Short and sweet this week!  Mell Eight is a new author for me.  I have already reviewed The Oracle’s Flame, the first in her new series.  This week I start off my reviews with the second story, The Oracle’s Hatchling which will  lead into Mell Eight’s Author Spotlight on Wednesday.  Thursday  I am reviewing When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock.  I really wasn’t sure what I was going to feel about this story and it just amazed me with its intensity, and commanding characters.  Dark and a must read.  Friday is the second in Liz Boreno’s Angel series, Angel’s Truth. And finally, SJ Frost is here to finish out the week by talking about her new vampire series and book, Vampire Prince.

And its April.  Will the snow finally stop and the cherry blossoms start to bloom?  Who knows?  We can only hope….

This Week’s Schedule:

  •  Monday, March 31:        The Oracle’s Hatchling by Mell Eight
  • Tuesday, April 1:             Vampire Prince by SJ Frost
  • Wed., April 2:                   Author Spotlight & Contest: Mell Eight
  • Thursday, April 3:          When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock
  • Friday, April 4:                Angel’s Truth by Liz Boreno
  • Sat., April 5:                    Author Spotlight & Contest: SJ Frost

 

When All The World Sleeps Tour and Contest

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Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, authors of  When All the World Sleeps. We’re touring the web talking about our influences, our crazy ideas, this new book, and even giving you a sneak peek or two! And of course there’s a giveaway involved! Leave a comment to win!

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords welcomes Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock today on their When All the World Sleeps tour. Hi.Lisa. Good morning, JA!WhenAllTheWorld_150x300

Thanks so much to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for having us, and to everyone following the tour. Today Lisa interviews J.A.

LH: Hi! I’m Lisa Henry. Today, as part of our When All the World Sleeps blog tour, I’m interviewing my co-author, the very talented and only slightly disturbed J.A. Rock.


J.A.R: Only slightly? How many more sharks do I need to hug to get upgraded to highly?

LH: So, J.A., I’m giving you all the credit for coming up with the idea for When All the World Sleeps. It’s a darker premise than anything we’ve written before, particularly coming on the heels of Mark Cooper versus America. Where did you get the idea from?


J.A.R: In grad school, Barnes & Noble was on the way to campus, so sometimes a demon would take hold of me while I was driving to school and make me swerve into the B&N parking lot. I would hang out reading for hours instead of going to class. One day I found an issue of Scientific American that featured a story about sleepwalkers committing violent crimes. I knew I wanted to do a book about it, and I also thought it might be a good project for us to work on together. But we were still writing The Good Boy, and I had no idea if you were going to want to continue co-writing after TGB. So I sat on the sleepwalker idea for a while!

I also lived in a cabin in the woods at the time. In the south. And I’d killed a ma–uh, mosquito. I killed mosquito. *darts eyes* So the pieces were all there.


LH: Chronologically, we wrote Mark Cooper versus America after When All the World Sleeps. I think Mark Cooper might have been the light-hearted relief we needed after WAtWS. When All the World Sleeps might be my favourite of all our joint works. Do you agree with me, or are we going to have to fight it out?

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J.A.R: No fighting necessary! It’s definitely my favorite. All the other books know it and are plotting to smother WAtWS with a pillow when I’m not looking.

I love that the majority of my solo works are comedies and all of yours are dark and angsty. Yet you’re hilarious, and I am, as you mentioned, slightly disturbed. So I came to you with a really messed up idea, and shortly thereafter you came to me with a funny, angst-free idea. We just don’t want to be pigeonholed, right? Why does that word always sound dirty to me?

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LH: In Daniel, we wrote a character who got into BDSM for what might be the wrong reasons: he needs to be locked up by a Dom because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. There’s nothing safe or sane about what Daniel does. His perceptions of BDSM are more skewed than Bel’s, even though Daniel’s the one with experience. In a lot of romance, BDSM is seen as some kind of healing process, almost like therapy. How important was it to you that we avoided that trope here?

J.A.R: I believe BDSM can be therapeutic—in the same way any kind of love/relationship/intimacy/exploration of self can be therapeutic. For trauma victims, it’s no substitute for actual therapy, but it can help people learn more about themselves and their desires, open up, trust others, and understand the contrast between suffering in real life and getting to choose when and how to “suffer” in the bedroom with a trusted partner.

In Daniel’s case, I think he gets a little of that—but he also totally abuses BDSM. And he’s been so confused and lost for so long that he can’t always tell the difference between the kind of submission that brings him peace, and the kind of “submission” that’s about self-harm.

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LH: Do you think writers have a responsibility to educate readers about BDSM practices simply because of the amount of misinformation out there?

J.A.R: Hmm. This is tricky. On the one hand, the romance genre is very much fantasy-based. You could argue that romance sometimes offers misinformation about vanilla sex, or about relationships in general. But at least with vanilla relationships, we have a wide variety of mainstream portrayals ranging from the realistic to the completely absurd. Plus the majority of the population has firsthand experience. BDSM doesn’t have that. Most portrayals of BDSM in our culture come from the romance and erotica genres. Or from, like, Law & Order: SVU — “The Case of the Sex Dungeon Pervert.” So if these portrayals are ignorant or negative, I think that definitely has some real world repercussions.

BDSM is a massive umbrella term, and the lifestyle works differently for all participants, so it’s hard to define an “accurate” portrayal. However, one rule across the board is that BDSM should always be safe, sane, and consensual–and that’s a rule often broken in romantic fiction! We’ve got all these stories about kinky people who were warped by their abusive pasts, or mind-reader doms who somehow know at first glance that a beautiful vanilla is actually a secret sub. These can be fun fantasies, but ones I sometimes worry eclipse reality–to the detriment of a mainstream understanding and acceptance of BDSM.

In the end, I think I’d go with the ol’ “know the rules before you break them” creed. I like the idea of authors doing their research, and then deciding if/how they want to deviate for the sake of fantasy.

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LH: Who is your favourite character in When All the World Sleeps?

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J.A.R: Daniel’s the kind of character I tend to enjoy writing the most—in severe mental turmoil, self-destructive, sort of submissive, and unsure who he can trust. He’s probably my favorite–though Bel might have been even more rewarding to write, since his journey forces him to shed his misguided ideas. I love seeing characters sacrifice what’s familiar and comfortable in order to try to do the right thing.

LH: You’ve lived in the South. Do you think we got it right?



J.A.R: Oh the poor South! We definitely played into some stereotypes of small minded rural southern towns. But you know, when I was heading off to Alabama, a lot of people joked about how hard I was going to clash with the conservative environment. And I was like, no way can it be that bad. Yet I definitely heard some things in small town Alabama that I wasn’t aware people still said post, you know, 1964 or so.

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But those attitudes are by no means unique to or present everywhere in the South. In WAtWS, the problem isn’t so much WHERE Logan (the town) is, and more WHAT it is, I think. It’s so small and so isolated that its prejudices are really deep-rooted. It’s not a place that lets in a lot of new blood or fresh ideas.

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We definitely got the humidity and mosquitoes right.

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LH: Okay, no spoilers, but what was your favourite part of the book to write?

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J.A.R: I really like the first time Bel helps Daniel through a hallucination. Normally I like writing the dark stuff better than the sweet stuff, but in this book, the tender moments feel earned. They’re not just there because Aw, Love Is Cute. They’re there because Daniel needs them—and we need a periodic break from Daniel’s relentless suffering. But I also really like the finale. You know what I’m talking about. You were there.

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Contest: Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away a great pair of prizes! Up for grabs is an ebook of our last co-release, Mark Cooper versus America, and a $20 gift voucher from Riptide. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you, be it your email, your Twitter, or a link to your Facebook or Goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because we won’t be able to see it otherwise! On APRIL 2, we’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to  follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave the more chances you have to win this awesome prize!

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WhenAllTheWorldSleeps_500x750_0About When All the World Sleeps:

Daniel Whitlock is terrified of going to sleep. And rightly so: he sleepwalks, with no awareness or memory of his actions. Including burning down Kenny Cooper’s house—with Kenny inside it—after Kenny brutally beat him for being gay. Back in the tiny town of Logan after serving his prison sentence, Daniel isolates himself in a cabin in the woods and chains himself to his bed at night.

Like the rest of Logan, local cop Joe Belman doesn’t believe Daniel’s absurd defense. But when Bel saves Daniel from a retaliatory fire, he discovers that Daniel might not be what everyone thinks: killer, liar, tweaker, freak. Bel agrees to control Daniel at night—for the sake of the other townsfolk. Daniel’s fascinating, but Bel’s not going there.

Yet as he’s drawn further into Daniel’s dark world, Bel finds that he likes being in charge. And submitting to Bel gives Daniel the only peace he’s ever known. But Daniel’s demons won’t leave him alone, and he’ll need Bel’s help to slay them once and for all—assuming Bel is willing to risk everything to stand by him.

You can read an excerpt and purchase When All the World Sleeps  here.

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About the Authors

✍Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

You can visit Lisa at:

✍J.A. Rock has worked as a dog groomer, knife seller, haunted house zombie, standardized patient, cashier, census taker, state fair quilt hanger, and, for one less-than-magical evening, a server—and would much rather be writing about those jobs than doing them. J.A. lives mostly in West Virginia, and always with a beloved dog, Professor Anne.

You can visit J.A. at:
Website,
JA Rock blog,
Twitter
Facebook.