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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE TAKING OF ANNIE THORNE by C.J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@penguinrandom) #horror A well-written book but the plot might sound familiar

Hi all:

I bring you the second book by an author whose debut novel I really enjoyed:

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne: The spine-tingling new thriller from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor.

‘Some writers have it, and C. J. Tudor has it big time. The Taking of Annie Thorne is terrific in every way’ Lee Child

The new spine-tingling, sinister thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk Man . . . 


One night, Annie went missing.

Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst.

And then, after 48 hours, she came back.

But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what.

I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same.

She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.


‘Shows that her excellent The Chalk Man was no one-off in matching Stephen King for creepiness’ Sunday Express’s 2019 Bestseller Predictions

‘Written with such skill and fluency it’s hard to believe this is only her second book. Indeed I think it gives King a run for his money’ James Oswald

‘Dark, gothic and utterly compelling, The Taking of Annie Thorne pulls off a rare combination – an atmosphere of unsettling evil along with richly nuanced characterisation’ J. P. Delaney

‘Deliciously creepy, impeccably plotted and laced with both wicked humor and genuine shocks, this is the kind of read-under-the-covers thriller you didn’t think people wrote anymore. Lucky for us, C. J. Tudor still does. An absolute corker of a book’ Riley Sager, bestselling author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied 


Praise for C. J. Tudor . . .

‘If you like my stuff, you’ll like this’ Stephen King

‘Wonderfully creepy – like a cold blade on the back of your neck’ Lee Child

‘A tense gripper with a leave-the-lights-on shock ending’ Sunday Times

‘A must-read for all horror fans’ Daily Express

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07CNNN4B3/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CNNN4B3/

Editorial Reviews

Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time . . . The Taking of Annie Thorne is terrific in every way (Lee Child)

Shows that her excellent The Chalk Man was no one-off in matching Stephen King for creepiness (Sunday Express’s Bestseller Predictions 2019)

Dark, gothic and utterly compelling, The Taking of Annie Thorne pulls off a rare combination – an atmosphere of unsettling evil along with richly nuanced characterisation (J. P. Delaney, bestselling author of The Girl Before)

Tudor’s 2018 The Chalk Man was a standout mystery novel with a fresh voice and a spooky plot. This is even better (Washington Post)

Spine tinglingly good (Amy Lloyd, bestselling author of The Innocent Wife)

Deliciously creepy, impeccably plotted and laced with both wicked humor and genuine shocks, The Taking of Annie Thorne is the kind of read-under-the-covers thriller you didn’t think people wrote anymore. Lucky for us, C. J. Tudor still does. An absolute corker of a book (Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied)

The Taking of Annie Thorne deserves every plaudit it receives (Richard Armitage, narrator of The Taking of Annie Thorne and star of The Hobbit)

Dark and creeping and utterly unpredictable, The Taking of Annie Thorne is another triumph of a novel by C J Tudor. With its compelling characters and witty writing, it grips from the very first page (Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl)

Gripping and dark, The Taking of Annie Thorne descends like its very own mine shaft, getting creepier the further you go. You’ll race to the finish (Roz Nay bestselling author of Our Little Secret)

With shades of Pet Sematary and an all-round aura of creepiness, The Taking of Annie Thorne cements C. J. Tudor’s position as a major new talent at the dark heart of crime writing. Her characters are compelling, the village of Arnhill as atmospheric as its abandoned pit, and she possesses that rare ability to keep the reader turning the pages, desperate to discover what happens next. Brilliant (Fiona Cummins, author of Rattle)

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson, and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall, and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

https://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK (Claire Bush in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review. I had read and enjoyed C. J. Tudor’s previous novel The Chalk Man (you can read my review here), and I was eager to see what she’d follow it with.

I know I can go on in my reviews, so I’ve decided to cut to the chase, in case you’re in a hurry. Did I enjoy the novel? Yes. C. J. Tudor can definitely write and write well. But, if you are looking for an original story and something that will take you by surprise, this is not the book for you. That is particularly true if you’re a fan of Stephen King, although there are elements in the story that will be familiar also to people who watch a lot of movies, even if they don’t read King’s novels or his adaptations to screen (a somewhat difficult feat, I must admit). I’m not saying there are no surprising elements in the book, and there are quite a few twists and turns in it, but the general plot lines I think will be recognisable to many, especially to people who read this genre often.

In many ways, this book has much in common with the author’s first novel. The main character, Joe Thorne, is also a teacher, and far from an exemplary one. It is not so much his teaching that is at fault, but his drinking, his gambling, his lying… Yes, this is a morally dubious main character, who also narrates the story in the first person, and who, although we might or might not suspect this, to begin with, also belongs in the category of the unreliable narrator. He seems to freely share negative things about himself from the very beginning, but as the story moves on we realise that what he tells us might not be the whole truth. I won’t elaborate more on this, because there is a twist close to the end that puts things under an interesting light. Like in his previous novel, the author is also forced to look at things that happened years back, which involved him and his friends at the time.

I kept wondering what I thought about Joe, and I’m not sure I’ve decided yet. He is intelligent, witty, but has a penchant for getting himself into trouble, and although his way of using sarcasm to protect himself makes him rather amusing, there are moments when we glimpse at other aspects of his personality. He was a devoted brother, he was bullied and later joined the bullies’ gang, and he suffered terrible loses as a teenager, although… He struggles between trying to avoid tragedy repeating itself and trying to keep himself out of trouble, as he is being tracked by Gloria, who is intent on getting him to pay off his gambling debts, one way or another (I confess Gloria is my favourite character in the novel. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the novel, but she is fast, small but lethal, and you underestimate her at your peril). Joe tells the story of what is happening now when he returns to the town where he was born to take up a teaching job, because somebody has anonymously warned him that some pretty terrible things that happened when he was a teen have started happening again.

This is a trip back in time, and the narration of Joe’s current investigation and life (including living in a cottage where a murder-suicide took place) is interspersed with his memories of what happened to the Annie Thorne of the title, his little sister, who disappeared, returned (sort of), and then died in an accident that killed their father as well. (By the way, and just in case you read it or see it in some place, it seems the book was originally going to be published in the US as The Hiding Place, and I have seen some reviews on Goodreads under that title). There are many other characters in the novel, some that we meet in the past and the present (Joe’s friends and schoolmates, some still around, school staff members…), and some that are brand new, like some of the teachers (Beth is another one of my favourites). Although not all of them have big parts, and some are drawn only in outline, the author is very skilled at creating a sense of community and a believable, if creepy, small town. This mining community, with its challenges and changes over the years, comes to life, and despite the supernatural touches suffusing the story, the setting remains, mostly, well-grounded and realistic.

As I said at the beginning, the story is not very original. In some way,s it is like a collage of disparate elements many readers will recognise: the prologue brought to my mind Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and some other aspects of the story did as well (although there are no aliens, just in case), some reviewers mentioned The Tommyknockers (I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, in a way the connection in theme is also there), like her previous novel, some bits of it made me think of It, although the Stephen King novel it resembles the most is one whose new film adaptation is due out later this year (and I won’t mention it in case people are not familiar with it. It’s one of the first novels by King I read, and the first novel I read in English in its entirety, so it’s not one I’ve ever forgotten). There’s even a passing nudge at The Usual Suspects. Postmodernism is fond of pastiche, but it is normally used to emphasise the fact that the surface of an object or a creation is everything, and we can mix and match diverse elements without feeling obliged to refer to their original meaning or intent. I am not sure if C. J. Tudor would call her novel a pastiche, and she does give the stories and the characters her personal touch, but I can see the point of a reviewer who called it “fan fiction”.

The novel, as it is (and if you’re not familiar with King’s books all I’ve mentioned might not affect you at all), is full of atmosphere, quirky characters, some pretty dark moments, some that might be scary (I don’t scare easy, so I’m perhaps not the best person to comment), and some set pieces and scenes that are compelling and are easy to imagine as a film or TV adaptation. As I said, there are plenty of twists and turns, and the book is highly entertaining. There are many reflections that would make readers chuckle, even though sometimes we might also feel like telling the character to stop being so clever and get on with things.

I thought I’d share a few quotes, to give you an idea of the writing style:

“Finally, a long time since I’ve seen anything resembling civilization, or even a McDonald’s, I pass a crooked and weathered sign on my left: Arnhill welcomes you. Underneath, some eloquent little shit has added: to get fucked.”

“It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust when you leave.”

Here, Joe is talking to Beth about the teacher whose cottage he’s living in now. Beth is telling him she is fed-up with people asking if they had seen the tragedy coming, if there were any signs.

“Julia came into the school wearing a great big placard around her neck: ‘I intend to kill my son and myself. Have a nice day.’

“Well, politeness costs nothing.” (Joe replies).

On a more philosophical note:

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser.”

So, this is a good read for lovers of thrillers with a touch of the supernatural and horror, but I’d be a bit wary of recommending it to enthusiastic readers of the genre or of Stephen King who are looking for something unique. But if you enjoy well-written stories in the genre and have fun looking for references and connections to well-known books and films, you will have a blast with this one.

Thanks to Penguin Random House, to the author, and to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and to keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview CREATURE by Hunter Shea (@huntershea1) A love letter in the guise of a #horror novel.

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book in one of my favourite genres, although it is a bit of a special one.

Review of Creature by Hunter Shea
Creature by Hunter Shea

Creature (Fiction Without Frontiers) by Hunter Shea. A love letter in the guise of a horror book dealing with a painful topic. Highly recommended.

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.

But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead.

Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

https://www.amazon.com/Creature-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Hunter-ebook/dp/B07GJVWWWR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creature-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Hunter-ebook/dp/B07GJVWWWR/

Editorial Reviews

‘Creature is unique. This book was a roller coaster for me, start to finish. Hunter’s prose keeps you engaged in the fate of these characters throughout. Highly recommended!’ – John Kilgallon

‘It’s much more than most creature features, it has heart and thought, and a superb, head-on horror conclusion. The best Hunter Shea I’ve read so far and by more than a little.’ – Eddie Generous (Unnerving Magazine)

‘A heart-wrenching story with massive amounts of carnage.’ – Cemetery Dance

‘This was a thrilling read from start to finish. Exciting, emotional, intriguing.’ – Housewife of Horror

‘The imagination and creativity here were astounding. It was also frightening and spellbinding.’ – Char’s Horror Corner

‘You know you’ve read a great book when you are smiling after you turn that last page. I don’t know how Hunter Shea keeps churning out terrifying stories that feel original, but I want more.’ – Cedar Hollow Reviews

‘Creature is another in a long line of solid Hunter Shea titles. A must read.’ – Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness

‘This isn’t a mile a minute gore-fest, but it packs in a number of scares that are absolute powerhouses thanks to their authenticity and realism.’ – Michael Patrick Hicks

Author Hunter Shea
Author Hunter Shea

About the Author

Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge, and many others. . His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays. Living in a true haunted house inspired his Jessica Backman: Death in the Afterlife series (Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity, and Island of the Forbidden). In 2011, he was selected to be a part of the launch of Samhain Publishing’s new horror line alongside legendary author Ramsey Campbell. When he’s not writing thrillers and horror, he also spins tall tales for middle-grade readers on Amazon’s highly regarded Rapids reading app. An avid podcaster, he can be seen and heard on Monster Men, one of the longest running video horror podcasts in the world, and Final Guys, focusing on weekly movie and book reviews. His nostalgic column about the magic of 80s horror, Video Visions, is featured monthly at Cemetery Dance Online. You can find his short stories in a number of anthologies, including Chopping Block Party, The Body Horror Book and Fearful Fathoms II. A lifetime New Yorker, Hunter is supported by his loving wife and two beautiful daughters. When he’s not studying up on cryptozoology, he’s an avid explorer of the unknown, having spent a night alone on the Queen Mary, searching for the Warren’s famous White Lady of the Union Cemetery and other mysterious places. You can follow his travails at www.huntershea.com

https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Shea/e/B007RMLXAA/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Flame Tree Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I have read great reviews of this author’s books, all in the horror genre, and a recent one (by Char Horror, whose reviews I follow on BookLikes) convinced me to read one of his novels. I was lucky enough to find it on offer at NetGalley, and yes, the reviewers were right. It is a book worthy of reading.

It is difficult to review this book without giving too much of the plot and possible spoilers away. If I had to define this book, I’d say it is a love letter. I know it might sound strange when we are talking about a horror book, but there you have it. Of course, there are many elements of horror as well, but from reading some of the comments I guess this is a far cry from the author’s usual romp-and-munch monster books (or “cryptozoological”, as he defines them). There is a monster, well, a creature, although it comes in quite late in the book (we do feel some dark presence well before that, though), but this is a story that starts as a domestic drama and shares many of its elements. The protagonists, Kate and Andrew, are a young couple. Their life is completely taken by the wife’s chronic autoimmune and genetic illnesses (Ehlers-Danlos and lupus) and what it takes to keep her alive. She is a virtual prisoner at home and most of the time she struggles to even get out of bed. Her husband has a job but spends most of his spare time looking after his wife, and the rest of the time thinking about her. They have a dog, Buttons, who keeps watch over Kate, and she survives thanks to cocktails of pain relief medications, experimental treatments that bring on their own kind of hell, watching black and white movies and the support of her husband. When he manages to secure a few weeks off and a cottage by a lake in Maine, they both hope they will have a reprieve and a break from real life. Unfortunately…

The book, written in the third person, alternates the points of views of wife and husband, and the author is very skilled at describing the feelings of the couple, the effects of the illness, both physical and psychological (although Kate is the perfect example of the unreliable narrator, due to her illness and the pain-killers and other medications she takes, she is very articulate and finds ways to explain her symptoms that make us share in her suffering more vividly than many scare books) on both, and the toll it takes on a relationship to have to battle with such terrible monsters day-after-day. Yes, there are “real” monsters and also the illness, which is more monstrous, in many ways, than any monster, because it lives inside and it feeds off the person, literally. It is evident on reading it that the author has close and deep knowledge of the subject, and this is confirmed later in the afterword, which I found very moving.

The characters, which include the couple, Kate’s brother, Riker, and British sister-in-law, Nikki, are sympathetic, likeable, but also realistically portrayed, especially the central couple. If at times Andrew seems almost saintly in his patience and never-ending acceptance of his caring role, there are times when he gives way to anger, frustration, and a touch of egotism and selfishness. He also acknowledges that after so long battling with his wife’s illness, he might no longer know how to be anything else but her husband and carer. Kate is in and out of medication-induced slumber, at times hides things from Andrew, is not always wise and takes unnecessary risks, at least from her husband’s perspective. Theirs is not a perfect relationship, but considering the strain they labour under, it is pretty amazing in its strength and solidity.

The novel is claustrophobic despite its location and the brief excursions into nature. We are mostly reduced to the inside of the house/cottage, and to a single room most of the time, and that adds to the feeling of anxiety and tension that increases slowly but ramps up towards the end of the story. I kept thinking about Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game because of the location, and the way the story plays with the power of the mind to conjure up ghosts and monster from the dark recesses of our consciousness, but the background and the central theme are very different.

What about the creature? I am sure readers of horror will wonder from early on what the nature of that presence is. At first we have unexplained attacks on the couple and they do try to find rational explanations to allay their fears (and at some points, it looks as if the story is going to bear off into home invasion ground), but eventually, a not-easy-to-explain-away-rationally creature appears. What this creature is and where it comes from is something you can decide for yourselves, although there are clear indications and even explanations offered during the novel that make sense within the context. I did suspect what might be behind it from quite early on, but it is very well done and it fits into the logic of the story (however we might feel about horror and its hidden meaning).

Now, some notes of caution. There is a scene where the characters exchange jokes in poor taste, which might offend readers (yes, even horror readers), and although people in extreme situations might find refuge in pretty dark humour, there are topics that many people find disturbing. There is also quite extreme gore and explicit violence, although I don’t think that would put off fans of the genre.

As mentioned, this is not a standard horror book and it might be enjoyed by readers interested in domestic drama, chronic illnesses, and great writing, if they have a strong enough stomach to deal with the gore. There are also questions and answers at the end that would make the book suitable for book clubs interested in the genre and the central topic. Although I know this is not perhaps a typical example of Shea’s writing, I am impressed and intend to catch up on some of his other books, and his podcast. Hats off to him for his bravery in tackling this difficult subject, and I hope it was as therapeutic for him as he states.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, thanks to all you for reading and please, if you have enjoyed it, feel free to like, share, comment, click, and always keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor ‏) A morally ambiguous thriller and a story of tainted friendships that will appeal to readers of King’s It. #crimefiction

Hi all:

I read this book a little while back but I waited until it was published (it was due for publication on the 11th January 2018, so I hope it’s now available) to share it, so you wouldn’t have to wait to read it if you felt as intrigued by it as I was. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer:

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. Tudor

A riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut that weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry, and will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

Preorder THE book of 2018. The Chalk Man is coming . . .

None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it the terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body?

****

What authors are saying about The Chalk Man

 

‘[I] haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that. Many congrats C. J. Tudor’ Fiona Barton, bestselling author of The Widow

‘What a great book. A twisty thriller and downright creepy ending. 5 stars’ Sarah Pinborough, the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

‘Tense, skillful storytelling’ Ali Land, bestselling author of Good Me Bad Me

‘Absolutely brilliant. I was expecting a creepy horror story that I’d have to read with all the lights on but this book is so much more than that – it’s witty, insightful, clever, thoughtful, mysterious, gripping, nostalgic and utterly compelling. Publishers often talk about “an exciting new voice in fiction” and I genuinely think C. J. Tudor is going to be huge. This book has bestseller written all over it and if it doesn’t go to number one I will eat my crime writing hat’ C. L. Taylor, bestselling author ofThe Missing

‘With its driving plot and sensitive evocation of friendship and loneliness, The Chalk Man is an utterly gripping read, with an ending that will make the hairs on the back of your neck bristle’ Karen Perry, bestselling author of Can You Keep a Secret?

‘What an amazing debut! Such an ingenious, original idea. I was engrossed from the very first page. I loved how the 1986 and present day storylines weaved so skilfully together to create that unforgettable and unexpected ending. Compelling, taut and so very, very chilling. This book will haunt you!’ Claire Douglas, bestselling author of Last Seen Alive

‘It’s been a while since I’ve read such an impressive debut.The pace was perfectly judged, the characters superbly drawn and there’s a creeping sense of unease that starts with the prologue and grows throughout the book. And then that ending! It feels so fresh and deserves to be a huge success’ James Oswald, bestselling author of theInspector McLean series

‘Impossible to put down, cleverly constructed and executed’ Ragnar Jonasson, author of the bestselling DarkIceland series

‘Finished reading The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor last night. What a book! Enjoyed every minute of it.A total banger!’ Amy Lloyd, author of The Innocent Wife

‘Kept me up until five in the morning. Wonderfully written. I loved it!’ Kimberley Chambers, bestselling author of Backstabber

“The grip the past has on the present reveals itself in ever more sinister and macabre ways in this utterly original and relentlessly compelling psychological thriller. The Chalk Man kept me guessing all the way to the end” Fiona Neil, bestselling author of The Betrayals

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chalk-Man-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B06XXSVQ9T/

https://www.amazon.com/Chalk-Man-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B06XXSVQ9T/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

https://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This story, told in two different time frames by Eddie Adams (known as Eddie Munster as a child, because all the friends had nicknames and somehow the Munsters and the Adams became conflated into one…), has all the elements fans of mysteries and thrillers love. Strange characters, plenty of secrets, red herrings and false clues, lies, many suspects, a slightly odd setting, bizarre murders, strange relationships… A murder involving bizarre circumstances (a chopped-up body with a missing head, strange chalk drawings…) took place in a small and picturesque UK city (it sounds small enough to be a town, but as it has a cathedral, it is a city) in 1986 (although there were other strange things that happened at the time too, coincidental or not), and became known as the Chalk-Man murder. Thirty years later someone starts asking questions and stirring things up. Eddie narrates, in the first-person, the events, including his memories of what happened when he was a teenager and also telling us what is happening now. Those of you who read my blog know I have a thing for unreliable narrators, and, well, Eddie is a pretty good one. He is an English high school teacher and seems fairly reliable and factual in his account, and he does a great job of making us feel the emotions and showing us (rather than telling us) the events; although slowly he starts revealing things about himself that make him less standard and boring, and slightly more intriguing. Eddie does not have all the information (it seems that the friends kept plenty of things from each other as children), and sometimes he is unreliable because of the effect of alcohol, and possibly his mental state (his father suffered early dementia and he is concerned that he might be going down the same path). But there are other things at play, although we don’t fully get to know them until the very end.

The story reminded me of Stephen King’s It, most of all because of the two time-frames and of the story of the children’s friendship, although the horror element is not quite as strong (but there are possible ghosts and other mysterious things at play), and the friends and their friendship is more suspect and less open. In some ways, the depiction of the friend’s relationship, and how it changes over time, is more realistic. Of course, here the story is told from Eddie’s point of view, and we share in his likes and dislikes, that are strongly coloured by the events and his personal opinions. The main characters are realistically portrayed (both from a child’s perspective and later from an adult one), complex, and none of them are totally good, or 100% likeable, but they are sympathetic and not intentionally bad or mean (apart from a couple of secondary characters but then… there is a murderer at work). Morality is ambiguous at best, and people do questionable things for reasons that seem fully justified to them at the time, or act without thinking of the consequences with tragic results. I am not sure I felt personally engaged with any of the characters (perhaps because of Eddie’s own doubts), but I liked the dubious nature of the narration, and the fact that there were so many unknowns, so many gaps, and that we follow the process of discovery up-close, although there are things the main character knows that are only revealed very late in the game (although some he seems to have buried and tried hard to forget). The parents, and secondary characters, even when only briefly mentioned, serve the purpose well, add a layer of complexity to the story and are consistent throughout the narration.

The mystery had me engaged, and the pieces fit all together well, even when some of them are not truly part of the puzzle. I can’t say I guessed what had happened, although I was suspicious of everyone and, let’s say I had good reason to be. I liked the ending, not only the resolution of the mystery but what happens to Eddie. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

The writing is fluid, it gives the narrator a credible voice, it gets the reader under the character’s skin, and it creates a great sense of place and an eerie atmosphere that will keep readers on alert. The story deals with serious subjects, including child abuse, bullying (and sexual abuse), dementia, and although it is not the most graphically violent story I have read, it does contain vivid descriptions of bodies and crime scenes, and it definitely not a cozy mystery and not for the squeamish reader.

A great new writer, with a very strong voice and great ability to write psychological thrillers, and one I hope to read many more novels by.

Thanks very much to Penguin, NetGalley and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and of course, REVIEW!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog GHOSTS OF MANOR HOUSE by Matt Powers (@GhostsofMH) #RBRT A short read recommended for those who prefer psychological rather than gory frights #horror

Hi all:

I hope 2018 is treating you well and although at first, it might appear to be a strange choice, I suspect many of you will be overloaded with Christmas and sugar and, what better than a ghost story to get your heart racing?

Ghosts of Manor House by Matt Powers
Ghosts of Manor House by Matt Powers

Ghosts of Manor House by Matt Powers

Edmund and Mary Wilder are very much in love. But the death of their young son, Tommy, has shattered their family. Edmund is determined to bring them back together, drawing on the only bit of strength he has left—his love for Mary and their daughter, Stephanie. But Mary sinks deeper into depression while little Stephanie’s anger grows. Edmund flounders in his attempts to rescue his family from the brink of collapse and doesn’t know where to turn.

Then Mary receives an invitation for the family to become guests at Manor House, a seemingly quaint Bed and Breakfast. This, she assures her husband, is the answer to all their troubles.

Edmund arrives ahead of his family to spend a couple days working on his long-delayed novel. But his growing curiosity about the old house leads Edmund to an encounter that will change him forever.

What will you sacrifice for love?

An old fashioned psychological thriller with a nod to Stephen King, Manor House will keep you guessing and compel you to turn the page to the very end.

A mother will sacrifice anything for her children. A husband will risk everything to save his wife. Manor House will take them all.

https://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Manor-House-Matt-Powers-ebook/dp/B0734NR88K/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghosts-Manor-House-Matt-Powers-ebook/dp/B0734NR88K/

Author Matt Powers
Author Matt Powers

About the author:

Matt is the author and creator of Ghosts of Manor House and Senior Producer at Zynga. Computers and video games have been a part of his life since he was young. As a child, he always played video games and when he was ten, his Dad told him that he should try making his own. And so he taught himself to program and create games on the computer. He majored in Computer Science and enjoys working with a team of creative people. Matt has a passion for books and finds writing to be a great way to release his inner creativity.

Matt lives and works in the busy and vibrant metropolis of San Francisco where he is surrounded by extraordinary views of the ocean. He loves how the city is filled with a variety of people and activities – there is always something to do and new to see. In addition to San Francisco, Matt spends a lot of time in Grass Valley with friends and family where he can escape the concrete jungle for the relative calm of this gold mining sierra town. This is where the characters and story of Ghosts came to life.

https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Powers/e/B0735KPHLS/

My review:

I write this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

The description of the book provides us with a good gist of what the book is about (and it is accurate) but the title itself will stir readers in the right direction. Yes, this is a book about ghosts and it centres on a house. Manor House is a house with plenty of history behind. And Mr. Travels, the old oak tree in its vicinity, has seen its share of events, mostly dark ones.

The book is a ghost story in the best tradition of psychological horror. The clever way in which the story is designed made me think of magicians and sleight of hand artists who misdirect the spectators and create an atmosphere where the most bizarre or magical things can come true. The story is told in the third person and although it mostly tells of the events that happen to the family Wilder, it also has a prologue and an epilogue that beautifully bring the story full circle and incorporate it into the mythology of the house, turning it into a representative of what the house stands for, and of the stories of the rest of its inhabitants. The story is set in the recent past, before social media and mobile phones were the norm, and it is told in the third person, in its majority from the point of view of Edmund Wilder, (although later there are some chapters told from the point of view of his brother-in-law, Charlie), who was a happy husband and father until tragedy stroke and he lost his son, Tommy. His wife is depressed and when she suggests spending a few days at Manor House to have a break and strengthen their family ties, he agrees. The plan is for him to take the opportunity to write the book he has been talking about for ages. The narration is not straightforward. Although the book is pretty short, the reader needs to remain attentive, as Edmund experiences strange events, and his story is interspersed with his writing, that includes stories about the house, a diary where he narrates dreams (sometimes experienced whilst awake and sometimes asleep), and the time frame is not as evident as it might seem at times. Edmund is not a reliable narrator. He interacts with a number of mysterious characters that keep reassuring him that everything is all right, but he is not totally convinced of that. There are moments when he feels that he is not in control of what is happening or what he is writing, but that he is rather a conduit for somebody or something else (Manor House?).

These mysterious characters who work in the house (Lucas, the housekeeper, and the groundskeeper) give him some clues as to what might be really going on, but we experience events through Edmund’s eyes and senses, and although we might be as convinced as he is that things are not right, and we have some extra information (the prologue and later the chapters from Charlie’s point of view), we still feel as lost and puzzled as him.

Matt Powers does a great job of enveloping the story in suggestion and creating intrigue, without using gore descriptions or openly violent scenes. He manages to make the readers autosuggest themselves and creates a psychological atmosphere of disquiet and dread. The fact that we only know some basic facts about the family and the protagonist rather than having a very personalised and detailed portrayal of the individuals and their characteristics helps us immerse ourselves in the story and we can easily identify with the role of observer and writer Edmund takes on (more or less willingly).

The style of the writing is atmospheric and it alternates with stream of consciousness and with descriptive writing of historical events and lore, but as mentioned, due to the state of mind of the character whose point of view we share in, it needs to be followed closely and it is not a light and easy read.

The author explains that he intended to pay homage and create his own version of the horror stories about ghosts and haunted houses he loves, and in my opinion, he is successful. Fans of horror stories will find plenty of nods to stories and authors who have written in the genre and will enjoy that aspect as much as the story itself. Although I did not find the novel scary or the ending surprising per se, it is eerie and it does a good job of exploring the psychology of anxiety and fear, while at the same time touching on the themes of loss, grief, guilt, and the toll losing a child can have on family relationships.

A short read recommended for those who prefer their frights more psychological and less gory in nature. And I agree with the author’s chosen quote by Dean Koontz:

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.

Another author to keep a close eye on.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you dear readers for being here another year, and for reading my ramblings, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’1544159374,B06XKTW99T,0307743659,0307947300,0425188809,0446614157,B00JGOG6TA’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e9809c2a-e01e-11e7-a9ec-cb96d0034e95′]

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview The Fireman by Joe Hill Fire (@joe_hill), Apocalypse and Pop-culture with a spoonful of sugar. Who are the really sick ones?

Hi all:
As I mentioned due to my current circumstances (a quick update. My mother had a catheterism and doctors are happy with the results. Hopefully if after further tests it’s possible that she might have been discharged by the time you read this) my posts haven’t been as frequent and structured than usual. Due to how tired both of us (Mom and I) are after these two weeks, and the many things we have to catch up with, I’ll be having a bit of a break. I don’t expect it to be very long, but it might depend on how long it takes to get back on track.

But as I also told you, I’m still reading, and here I bring one of my latest. This is an author I’m keeping watch for. I’ve mentioned before that I love horror (although I don’t read it all that often these days) and I’m a big fan of Stephen King. Well, if you haven’t met him yet, let me introduce you to the latest book by one of his sons, Joe Hill.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
The Fireman by Joe Hill

Thanks to Orion Publishing Group Gollancz and to Net Galley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I have read three books by Joe Hill before, enjoyed them and I was excited when I saw his new novel on offer at Net Galley. In short, the book offers a post-apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by a fungus with a lyrical name, Draco incendia trychophyton (or Dragonscale for friends), that turns human beings into torches, and the adventures of a particular group of sufferers.

Joe Hill thanks both J. K. Rowling and his father, Stephen King, for the inspiration, and indeed that’s quite evident throughout the book, together with many references to a variety of pop-culture items: songs from musicals, songs from pop and rock groups (yes, there’s a fair amount of singing), hymns, foodstuffs, cars, TV cult series and books, many books. Those will, no doubt, enhance the reading experience of people in the know, although should not affect the understanding or enjoyment of the story for those who might not be fully conversant with all of them.

The story is told (mostly, apart from a few brief chapters) in third person from the point of view of Harper, a school nurse who volunteers to work in a hospital treating those affected when the school she worked at closes doors due to the spread of the infection and its terrible effects (the fungus makes people ignite, and with them, the things and beings around them. And it can set off a chain reaction of burners too). Unfortunately, she becomes infected and shortly after discovers that she’s pregnant. She also discovers that her perfect marriage to Jakob is anything but, and she ends up taking refuge at an old campsite where a group of affected individuals have discovered a way to control the illness. They welcome her into their congregation/community and although she finds it difficult to fit in at first, she becomes a member of the group, joining in the Bright (you need to read it to know what this means, but let’s say it’s a way of sharing and communicating that the younger generation refers to as social networking) and comes to love many of the residents. She also discovers things about herself she didn’t know, and of course, she meets the Fireman, John, and Englishman who seems to have learnt to control the Dragonscale much better than anybody else, and goes around driving an old fire truck and dressed in a fireman’s uniform. In a nod to Ray Bradbury, this Fireman controls fire and sets things alight, rather than putting fires out. He is a larger than life character, although we discover later in the books that he’s all too human.

As is the case in all crises, they seem to bring both the best and the worst in people, and if the point of view we follow puts readers in a sympathetic frame of mind towards Dragonscale sufferers, we gradually see that things are not black and white and not all is harmony.  The congregation seems happy and a haven for people infected at first (indeed for a while it’s a case of those infected —at least the members of the group— appearing to be more humane and morally right than healthy individuals), but over time we discover that whilst the fungus seems to enjoy people’s connectedness and happy emotions, there are risks involved in channelling such power and following blindly what ends up looking scarily like a cult. There are thefts, accusations and resentments, and when two prisoners are rescued, terrible things happen and ugly behaviours rear their heads. There are many secrets, and although we might have our suspicions, by being inside of Harper’s head we only have access to her opinions and thoughts. She is curious and finds out some interesting first-hand information that helps us understand the illness (I loved some of the theories behind its spread, however fanciful they were), but she is also a human being with feelings and emotions. She doesn’t always make rational decisions and she is often wrong. And she wrongfoots us.

The characters are distinct and unique, the good, the bad, and the truly human. I liked and cared for Harper, who is a pretty special individual who comes into her own as the book advances and who indeed is one of the people who grow. She matures and becomes a hero. If her husband tells her he had expected her to be his inspiration, she finds a real family and a calling during her adventures. The Fireman is a fantastic character and I enjoyed the mystery around him at first, and also getting to know more of his circumstances. Many of the secondary characters are also memorable. Nick, the deaf boy who steals everybody’s heart; Allie, his sister, a totally believable teenager who deserves a book of her own; fantastic Renée with her love for books and her courage…

The books is beautifully written, the descriptions not overbearing but vivid and lyrical at times, the story moves along at good rhythm, with chapters that are more contemplative and share information (like the diary Harper reads), and others packed with intrigue, action and a healthy dose of fright. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I did not find it truly scary (but that’s not necessarily a recommendation for general readers, as I love horror and don’t scare easy). With regards to its genre, I’ve read a few post-apocalyptic stories but I’m not a real buff. To give you some idea based on my previous reading, I’d say that Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is more contemplative, challenging, philosophical, and made me think more. The Dead Lands by Dylan Morgan (that is more sci-fi) is scarier and grittier but more interested in action and weaponry.

I had a look at the reviews and comments about the book to see if I could shed light or at least my own opinion on the matter. I saw that many people compared it negatively to King’s The Stand, but although I love Stephen King’s books, I have not read all of them and that one has escaped me so far, so I can’t comment on that (although the reviews made me want to read it. The Fireman is much shorter, though). So if you’ve read The Stand and loved it you might want to read the comments first. Of course, you might want to make your own mind up.

Some others didn’t find Harper’s romantic relationship (I’m trying not to reveal any spoilers here) realistic and they think it seems very sudden and as if come out of nowhere. On that subject I agree that there does not seem to be a big build-up or many hints as to the interest between the two, but there are some subtle indications that they are matching souls, and it’s true that at times of emotional turmoil when life might come to an end at any minute one might hold on to the little moments of joy (that without taking into account the interesting effects of the Dragonscale). The novel would have worked without the relationship, but for me it rounds it up.

I enjoyed it as a great yarn, with strong characters easy to root for (and others easy to hate) and great quality writing. I’m not sure it will beat all other post-apocalyptic stories for those who love the genre, but it’s a good read. I look forward to Joe Hill’s next book.

Links to Kindle version (available in many other formats)

http://amzn.to/1YhtU1v

http://amzn.to/1Yhtzfh

Author Joe Hill
Author Joe Hill

I mention in the review that I’ve read three of his books. These was before I started publishing my own books and I didn’t write detailed reviews, although I wholeheartedly recommend Heart-Shaped Box  and 20th Century Ghosts (if you love ghosts and short-stories, some of them are masterpieces). I also read Horns that is a very quirky book (I prefer the other two but this one is perhaps more mainstream. I haven’t watched the movie with Daniel Radcliffe and can’t comment on how good or bad it is).

Biography:

He’s written many more things and some of his stories appear in collections, so you might want to check his Amazon page where I got this from:

The author of the critically acclaimed Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year’s Best collections. He calls New England home.

By the way, when I checked his Twitter account it seems he’s in England with the Fireman, so  you might want to keep an eye open for him.

Thanks to NetGalley, Orion and of course Joe Hill for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and do like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Reseñas de libros

Reseña de 'Bloody House: La morada del mal' de Javier Haro Herráiz. Una historia de miedo…miedo

Hola a todos:

Como sabéis intento compartir las reseñas de los libros que he leído con vosotros y últimamente, he estado intentando ponerme al día (aunque la verdad es que ni siquiera viviendo hasta que llegue a centenaria lo conseguiré, pero bueno) así que aprovecho para traeros la reseña de uno de los amigos escritores que visitan el blog con sus novedades asiduamente. De repente me apeteció leer una novela de terror (como las películas me gustan mucho) y recordé que le tenía echado el ojo a Bloody House.

BLOODY HOUSE

Éste no es el primer libro que leo de Javier Haro Herráiz. Y tampoco es la primera novela de terror que leo. Tanto el escritor como el género me gustan mucho.

Bloody House pertenece a un subgénero de novelas de terror, las de la casa embrujada o poseída. He de reconocer que he visto más películas sobre el tema que he leído novelas, aunque algunas obras maestras como The Shining (El Resplandor) de Stephen King sí que las he leído (naturalmente The Shining es algo más complicada que la novela típica del género, pero ya sabéis a lo que me refiero).

Como el autor acostumbra, la novela está centrada alrededor de las acciones y los diálogos de los personajes, lo que nos permite crear las situaciones y visualizar la acción a nuestra manera, una gran ventaja si tenemos bastante imaginación, y algo muy recomendable en el género del terror. Nada real puede asustar tanto ni ser tan terrorífico como la propia imaginación. Aunque los personajes pasan por momentos difíciles, particularmente los representantes de la iglesia que intentan mantener la racionalidad antes unos eventos que se les van de las manos, no se dedica el libro a las grandes disquisiciones filosóficas ni a dar lecciones morales. Si hay algo particularmente cruel en la historia es que la familia víctima de la casa, y particularmente Alan, es un chico de lo más normal, y no se merece tal castigo. Cada uno puede pensar y buscar el porqué, pero eso es cuestión personal y lo que da más miedo. No es un suceso extraordinario que le pasa a alguien que no se parece en nada a nosotros. Le podría pasar a cualquiera. Porque sí. Nadie está a salvo.

Si queréis una novela de género, una lectura rápida, que os asuste, escrita con estilo directo y fácil de seguir, os la recomiendo. Y el final, es como a mí me gusta en las novelas (y las películas) de terror. De miedo.

Enlace:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BHZOWN8/

http://www.amazon.es/dp/B00BHZOWN8/

Gracias por leer, y si os ha gustado, ya sabéis, dadle al me gusta, comentad, compartid, y haced CLIC! Ah, y la semana que viene os traeré una muestra de mi futura novela! No os asustéis, esa no es de miedo (a menos de que os asusten los romances y los pasteles!)

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