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review 2017-04-17 01:12
The Secret Room
The Secret Room (A Zoe Goldman novel) - Sandra Block

By:  Sandra Block 

Zoe Goldman #3

ISBN: 9781455570201

Publisher: Grand Central 

Publication Date: 4/18/2017 

Format:  Paperback

My Rating:  4 Stars


Sandra Block returns following: The Girl Without a Name and Little Black Lies, with her latest Zoe Goldman installment THE SECRET ROOM Psychologically rich full of intrigue, suspense, chills, twists, and action.

From strong imaginations, darkness, metaphors, comics, dual personalities, magic pills, obsessions, a secret room, to depersonalization. When a patient thinks they are not real, somehow like fake humans in this world.

In Little Black Lies, we met Dr. Zoe Goldman, a Yale graduate, and a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital, where she suffers from ADHD, with a number of personal issues. She likes repairing her patients, while on probation, and continuing to struggle with the control, of her own thoughts.

Zoe was haunted by her past and discovered dark secrets and lies behind her biological mother’s death, while her adoptive mother suffered from dementia. Her last patient was connected with her past and she is still struggling with the aftermath.

In The Girl Without A Name a Jane Doe shows up at the hospital. An African American girl approximately thirteen years of age; no past, no name, no history—landing at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, NY. Zoe becomes immersed in this patient and her life. A world of fear, identity, and facades.

Presently with THE SECRET ROOM, this is Zoe’s first year as a psychiatrist in a prison facility. Forensic psychiatry fellowship. A local correctional facility where Zoe is still learning the ropes while watching her back to avoid some dangerous prisoners.

Of course, as usual, there are plenty of mentally disturbing and dangerous prisoners. From narcissistic and sociopathic behaviors, delusions, hallucinations, schizophrenia, cutting, personality disorders – fighting their devils and demons. (Plus more)

The Secret Room

“Wake up. Eat breakfast. Kill time. Eat Lunch. Kill time. Eat dinner. Kill time. Lights out. Repeat. That was my life. That would be my life, for years, too many years to come. Until I met you, Professor, and everything changed. And I knew that I could never go back to my life before you, that half a life, that living death. Never. And I would do anything it took to keep you. Anything. Even kill for you.”

Zoe’s patients are dying. While some are suicides and others possible accidents. Someone is texting and tormenting her. Is Dr. Zoe Goldman an angel of death-intentionally helping hopeless cases go to a "better place" or she is -being set up while targeting her patients?

Who is manipulating her patients? When it does not take much to push these mentally disturbed patients over the edge.

The mysterious woman in the secret room. Sprinkled throughout we hear weird X-rated thoughts and happenings about a Professor. An unhealthy obsession with her teacher.

Then there is the teenage patient, Andre who thinks his father is the devil. However, was his diagnosis correct? Why was he a different person before?

In the middle of everything, Zoe has been requested to start a research project on a new behavior technique and the Doctor wants her first patient to be her biological sister, Sofia.

Zoe’s birth mother died. She was adopted when she was three years old and Sofia was fourteen (killed their mother). Zoe had completely blocked it out from her memory. The adoptive mother tried to hide the truth from her.

Her sister was an ex-patient who also stabbed her in the neck. (Zoe is surrounded by dysfunction and drama). Has her sister really changed? Can a psychopath really ever change? Can she possibly help Zoe this time around?

Jack, their brother lost his eye when she stabbed him, who was left to fend for himself in a slew of foster homes until he found heroin and religion. (more about him here as well).

Clever plotting and extensive medical knowledge allow the author to control the story, full of suspense and enough edge to keep you glued to the pages. (with a nice balance of personal life from Zoe).

As in Block’s past books, THE SECRET ROOM is full of metaphors in relation to the concept of “rooms.” Both physical, also within our minds.

“Freud might say we have hidden rooms inside our minds that emerge in dreams or unconscious actions.”


In addition, references to dual identities throughout the book with both Zoe and her patients. Before and after. "In truth, none of us are who we seem to be. Many of us wear masks at times for one reason or another. To protect or hide behind."

I always enjoy reading the author’s work, which is thought-provoking, compelling, and leaves the reader with a strong takeaway message or question to ponder. Who am I?

Highly recommend starting with the first book to really understand the character of Zoe (she always seems to be on leave, at the end of each book) recuperating from a trauma. However, the author provides insight to get you up to speed and rest assured she will be back in full force for the next battle.

Fans of medical thrillers and authors: Tess Gerritsen, Kelly Parsons, and Michael (Daniel) Palmer will enjoy. The author is a practicing neurologist and her medical knowledge is reflective throughout. Hope to hear more from Zoe!

A special thank you to Grand Central and NetGalley for providing an early reading copy.

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/03/05/The-Secret-Room
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review 2015-10-12 00:58
The Girl Without a Name - Sandra Block

4 stars  #GirlWithoutAName  @Grand Central Pub  @Block_Sandra

I sort of thought this was going to be creepier than it was. However, while it wasn't creepy throughout. There came a point at the end where my jaw dropped and I felt myself spinning through some type of time warp tunnel or whatever those things are on those shows where the person is just spinning and spinning. It was like I just couldn't believe it. I can't really say much more without this becoming a spoiler, but I can say that this was one heck of a good book.

It wasn't like I was reading and waiting for the creepy part, saying what the heck? The story was interesting enough as the author kept giving me all these puzzle pieces that really didn't seem to quite fit, but of course, as a reader, I knew somehow, someway they did. I found it interesting that all these psych docs were a little cray cray themselves. Or at least as one of the characters said "everyone has a little crack somewhere".

This was a very well written book, maybe a little slow in some spots, but still a very decent read well worth the time and $$$.

Huge thanks to Grand Central Publishing and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It was definitely a great read for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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review 2015-09-08 15:37
The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block
The Girl Without a Name - Sandra Block

Sandra Block

September 8, 2015

TRADE PAPERBACK - 1455583774 / 9781455583775

ELECTRONIC BOOK - 1455583766 / 9781455583768




In what passes for an ordinary day in a psych ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is stumped when a highly unusual case arrives. A young African American girl, found wandering the streets of Buffalo in a catatonic state, is brought in by police. No one has come forward to claim her, and all leads have been exhausted, so Zoe's treatment is the last hope to discover the girl's identity. 

When drugs prove ineffective and medical science seems to be failing, Zoe takes matters into her own hands to track down Jane Doe's family and piece together their checkered history. As she unearths their secrets, she finds that monsters hide where they are least expected. And now she must solve the mystery before it is too late. Because someone wants to make sure this young girl never remembers. 

This is as far as I know the first time I have read a book with a psychiatrist as the main characters and that was a nice change because Dr. Zoe Goldman isn't out to solve a crime or anything. Instead, she is trying to help a young African-American girl who is discovered wandering the streets with no memory of who she is. But it seems that nobody knows who the girl is an Zoe decides to take matters into her own hands to find out who the girl is.

I really liked that Zoe is a psychiatrist with ADHD and during the book she is visiting her own psychiatrist that she has been seeing since she was young to discuss her life, her mother's death and her ADHD. It's great to read about a character in a book that has the diagnosis ADHD that have to take medicine to function properly. I have not read the first book, but I had no problems with getting into the story and would very much like to read the first book if I get the chance to it. Another thing, the ending was quite a surprise. Somehow I was just as blindsided as Zoe about one character in the book and that was both pleasant and depressing (I liked the character) to read. I think I almost felt as betrayed as Zoe did. Sandra Block really manage to create a very likable character and then turn the story around and suddenly you feel just as sad and disgusted as Zoe did.
Sandra Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan and lives at home with her family and Delilah, her impetuous yellow lab. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. The Girl Without a Name is her second novel.
Website: sandraablock.com 
Twitter: @block_sandra 



(Grand Central Publishing; September 8, 2015)



1. The Girl Without a Name touches on alcoholism, drug abuse, anorexia and mental illness. Do you deal with these tough issues in your practice as a neurologist?

I'm a neurologist, not a psychiatrist, so I don't directly treat problems like depression or drug abuse. But, I do deal with these issues on a daily basis. Patients may have seizures every time they quit drinking, or neuropathy (peripheral nerve damage) or ataxia (unsteadiness) from years of alcohol abuse. Depression and anxiety also play a huge role in insomnia - on of my specialties as a sleep doctor. Most doctors, in every field, work with mental illness on some level.


2. What scares you as a writer, and why?

Reviews always fill me with a certain dread, and yet it's so hard not to read them. Nowadays, I'm kinder to myself though. I used to read bad reviews as a sort of tough love, but I'm not so masochistic anymore. It just isn't helpful in a field already sewn with self-doubt. I've come to accept that not everyone will love my books, and everyone has a right to an opinion. I try to focus on the positive reviews and emails I've received. If reading my book has given someone, somewhere, a sense of wonder, escape, or even joy for a few hours, then I've done my job.


3. What inspired your new character, Jane Doe?

The character came to me as first line, while I was on vacation. I had just finished Little Black Lies (the first Zoe Goldman novel) and scored an agent, so I was on a bit of a high. The line goes: "We call her Jane, because she can't tell us her name." Then Jane showed up in the hospital bed. I really couldn't shake the vision of the character, so I wrote her.


4. We have grown to know and love Dr. Zoe Goldman! Whats next for our favorite doctor?

Zoe is taking a bit of a break at the moment, getting ready for her Forensic Psychiatry fellowship. She does make a cameo in the Detective Adams novel I'm working on right now though. I also have a great case lined up for her next novel, but I'm afraid you'll just have to wait and see on that one...


5. You incorporate a lot of medical and criminal elements into your work. Do you research a topic before you write a plot or do you start writing your plotline and research as the story progresses?

I don't have to do much medical research, because I live it. But any research I carry out occurs in the midst of writing. I'm too impatient to take the time out beforehand. I like to launch right in. And I know that Google is only a click away.


6. When you hit a writing road block how do you force yourself to break through it?

I keep writing. That's the best answer. If you stop, you take the risk that your fear (which represents writing block to me) will become insurmountable. I also give myself a break. Taking a walk or a long shower often leads to a plot solution. I try to have faith that this will happen. And it usually does.


7. All of your secondary characters (Dr. Berringer, Jason, Zoes patients Zoe) are well developed. Is your process of creating them different from how you create a main character like Zoe?

Zoe is a voice more than anything. She has a body of course, but I can't visualize her very well. I hear her, more than see her. Side characters are more corporeal to me. I can see their clothes, their hair, the way they walk. That helps me make them real.


8. Which books have you re-read throughout your life?

I don't tend to re-read books. Maybe that sounds odd, but I truly value the act, the contemporaneous experience of reading a book, and re-reading it would break that spell somehow. Some of my favorite, most soul-enriching books over the years have been "For Love" by Sue Miller, "The Sportwriter" by Richard Ford, and "Ladder of Years" by Ann Tyler, "Amy and Isabel" by Elizabeth Strout, and "The Keep" by Jennifer Egan. That's just the tip of the iceberg of course.


9. The intersection of literature and neurology has given us so many great novels. Do you think the study of neurology lends itself to more in-depth characters and plot?

I think it helps plotting, especially mysteries. So much of neurology is solving puzzles. You backtrack from the symptoms through the history to the diagnosis. It's artful logic. Plotting a mystery is much the same.


10. What question do you wish people would ask about your work?

Would you do it over again? And the answer is: I don't know. The road to medicine was a long one. I am happy where I am now, but I honestly don't know if I could do it all over again.


11. What advice would you have for aspiring writers who are already established in another field?

Two things: read books on writing, and write. A good writing book can save you from heaps of beginner's mistakes. Writing is a passion, but it's also a trade. The more you read and write, the better you get.


12. There is quite a time jump from Little Black Lies to The Girl Without A Name. Did you have a reason for planning the timeline this way?

I envisioned it as about a year. I wanted to start after her mother's death, and after Zoe had experienced some failures, so she was a bit down and not at the top of her game. I also wanted there to have been forward progress already, so we end up in media res (as they say) of her life.


13. Identity plays a big part in both Little Black Lies and The Girl Without A Name, will that be a recurring theme in Zoes ongoing story?

Yes. I can't help it. Identity will always be there on some level. I am fascinated by self-identity. That's one thing about Zoe's ADHD. Her internal chatter distracts her, but also defines her in a way. Our identify is ever-evolving, and dependent just as much on how others see us, as how we see ourselves.


14. What is stranger--things you see in your day job or what happens in your novels?

Definitely my novels, I should hope! Though I do take everyday occurrences from my job and amplify them for my books. I'm not talking about main characters, but side patients are usually at least loosely based on cases I've seen.


15. How do you juggle being a doctor, writing, and having a family?

To me, writing is a passion and a hobby. Whereas, my job is my job. So, it's sort of like asking someone: how do you juggle knitting with everything else you do? I do it because I love it! Having said that, it does take time. I usually take 45 minutes in the morning before anyone is up to write, then steal time during the day (at a child's piano lesson, for instance.) Also, my husband "leans in," and helps greatly with childcare to allow me to be a writer and a doctor.


16. I noticed that Judaism plays a larger role in this book. Why do you think that is?

It's important to me that Zoe Goldman is Jewish. There aren't a whole lot of Reform Jewish mystery protagonists out there. There are other Jewish stories of course - those of immigrants, World War II, orthodox memoirs, for instance. They are all an important part of the Jewish literary canon. But, I wanted to show the world a character where Judaism is a strong part of her identity, but not the central theme.

In The Girl Without a Name, Zoe no longer has her mother to define Judaism for her and has to find that meaning for herself now. The Jewish theme of "tikun olam" or fixing the world, also has great significance in the novel. Zoe tries to fix the world by helping her patients, but she also has to learn to fix herself.


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review 2015-09-04 21:38
The Girl Without A Name
The Girl Without a Name - Sandra Block
ISBN: 9781455583775
Publisher: Grand Central 
Publication Date: 9/8/2015
Format:  Paperback
My Rating:  4 Stars 
A special thank you to Grand Central and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sandra Block returns following her gripping debut, Little Black Lies, with THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME — a mysterious patient, a Jane Doe with no name, and the intriguing suspense behind the silence for a psychological suspense thriller— keeping you glued to the pages, packed with intrigue, mystery and dark secrets.

In Little Black Lies, we met Dr. Zoe Goldman, a Yale graduate, and a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital, where she suffers from ADHD, with a number of personal issues. She likes repairing her patients-while on probation, and continuing to struggle with the control, of her own thoughts.

Zoe was haunted by her past and discovered dark secrets and lies behind her biological mother’s death, while her adoptive mother suffered from dementia. Her last patient, was connected with her past and she is still struggling with the aftermath.

In THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME, a Jane Doe shows up at the hospital. An African American girl approximately thirteen years of age; no past, no name, no history—landing at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, NY. She is in a catatonic state, and appears the drugs offered little little assistance to her progress. In addition, she is getting no answers from the local police.

Zoe is obsessed with exploring the patient’s mysterious past. What led her here and why is she unresponsive? Also, what about good looking Dr. Tad Berringer who is overseeing her care? She decides she will investigate on her own, and begins going through medical reports, to see if there is anything she has missed, or possibly lead her to answers in order to solve the puzzle. Jane does seem to have artistic talents . . .

Zoe relates to Jane, with her own identity crises. In her first year of psychiatry she discovered the truth about her birth mother and her adopted mother. Her poor mom in the final throes of dementia, in a nursing home. Her mom lost her own identity before she died.

She is frustrated with the plan of treatment from Dr. Tad Berringer, and even though Zoe is on probation, (still taking the Adderall), she has to walk a fine line. As we learned from the first book, Zoe is tenacious, and will stop at nothing to solve a mystery, with investigative skills taking her into dangerous territory.

Could Jane be a runaway? If so, what is she escaping from, and does she have a family? Zoe puts her information on a missing person website. Could Zoe’s investigation, put Jane Doe in danger? The ongoing theme is focused on identities of each person. What lies beneath outward appearances, the facade? What abuse has occurred, been experienced, flawing them. Can they survive?

In the process of following Jane Doe’s progress we meet a variety of mental health patients, and characters, clues, and hidden meanings----very engaging and absorbing, adding to the storyline. We also re-visit with a number of characters we met inLittle Black Lies, so nice to catch up with some (some not).

Since I typically am reading two or three books at the same time, had to smile when reading The Girl Without A Name while reading R. K. Jackson’s The Girl in the Maze. Even though unique to their own respective stories, (highly recommend both); astounding similarities with the mental illness, the dark secrets, and the labyrinth of hidden meanings, and the strong urge to save, between the patient/professional, with both. Each book features the complexities of the mind and the desperate need to uncover the truth, in order to heal. A maze of smoke and mirrors.

Block skillfully takes us on a thought-provoking journey of life’s tragedies; cracks, detours, and dead-ends. A world of fear, identity, facades; with clues, the number six, a priest, drugs, and a labyrinth of art projects. A devastating cruel world of rape, a pedophilia, S & M, drugs, abuse---flawed characters—twisting their minds and actions--with innocent victims crossing their paths.

I enjoyed reading the author’s inspiration behind the book—the explanation of cracks which run through every façade, as no one seems to be as they appear.

“The world is veined with cracks, not always bad. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen. Rifts which are natural parts of life. Sometimes the gap can swallow you whole. Are there some beyond repair? Not all cracks can be mended.

A riveting and intriguing psychological literary suspense. Highly Recommend! Fans of Lisa Unger, Jenny Milchman, Colette McBeth, and Laura Lippman will enjoy this one.

Possibly Zoe will be crossing over into Forensic psychiatry for the installment?




Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Girl-Without-a-Name/cmoa/55e32dea0cf24e84f75c781b
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review 2015-09-04 18:05
Little Black Lies
Little Black Lies - Sandra Block

By: Sandra Block


Publisher: Hachette Audio

Publication Date:  2/17/2015 

Format: Audio

My Rating:  3 Stars 


Sandra Block introduces an intriguing new complex character, Dr. Zoe Goldman, with her debut, LITTLE BLACK LIES -- A gripping psychological suspense of a tragic past, suppressed memories, family, dark secrets, and lies.

Black lies involve an underlying secret that is hidden with lies, deception and secrecy.

Dr. Zoe Goldman, a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital, suffers from ADHD, with a number of personal issues. She is haunted by her past. Her biological mother, died in a fire, a trauma that still gives her nightmares. She constantly wonders about her mother and the events surrounding her death.

Suffering from recurring dreams, she tries desperately to make sense of her dreams, memories, reality, and her own madness. A blank slate with broken memories.

She also has other problems, dealing with her adoptive mother's (a former social worker) descent into dementia in a nursing home. She is of little help with answers about her biological mother. Her mother is not even sure who she is now, much less who she was. Zoe, becomes more obsessed with uncovering the mysteries and truth about her past.

If this is not enough to drive someone over the edge, she now has a patient, Sofia, a sociopath, who has been institutionalized for more than two decades for having murdered her mother, and the attempted homicide of her brother. As Zoe comes closer to learning the secrets behind the lies, can she come to terms with the real truth?

A fan of legal, medical, and psycho-thrillers, I enjoy the intensity, research, and suspense surrounding the environment, patients, and of course the professional’s personal/work interactions.

My negative with LITTLE BLACK LIES was the narrator,Kara Bartell; found her voice annoying while listening to the audio, with the ongoing need to fast forward. I would also have preferred more focus of Zoe’s past, which I found intriguing, versus her present relationships.

Overall, a good mix of medical (mind), family, humor, sarcasm, deception/lies, and an array of secondary characters for a slow paced psychological suspense.

While currently reading an ARC of Block’s second novel, upcoming, Sept 8, THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME, wanted to read/listen to the first book, to explore a little more about Zoe, the main protagonist. I think fans will enjoy the second installment featuring Zoe, and another patient with a mysterious past, and her obsession to find answers.

With Block’s own professional career, she definitely adds inside expertise which further enhances the overall reading experience.

Black lies are about simple and callous selfishness. We tell black lies when others gain nothing and the sole purpose is either to get ourselves out of trouble (reducing harm against ourselves) or to gain something we desire (increasing benefits for ourselves).” Like malevolent spiders, liars of black lies often draw others into their web of deceit.

Are we all a little crazy?



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