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THE CHALK MAN: A Suspense Novel ~C.J. Tudor

Monday, January 29th, 2018

THE CHALK MAN is about 5 children who at age 12 were a group trying to make sense of confusing community events and their small world – 4 boys and 1 girl.  1986 is the year where the story begins and 2016 is when the group comes together to discover the truth.

The children roam their sleepy English Village on their bicycles and find adventure while communicating with their chalk stick figure communications system.  The boys are pursued by mean older boys and need to hide from those bullies.  There is an accident at the summer fair when a ride injures a beautiful young woman, who later on the group finds murdered in the woods.   There are protestors against the new abortion clinic and this adds confusing information to the group and they are still figuring out what was going on back in the flashbacks.  Chalk figures are appearing everywhere.

There is speculation that this will be the Thriller or Suspense Novel of 2018.  It is predicted to be a best seller.  There is definitely a reason why these children are unable to leave town.  They have not done the work or tried to resolve their confused or disturbed behaviors.  Ed the prominent character in the story is drinking more and more and he is not even able to leave his parent’s home.  He is emotionally closed off and yet trying to be a great English Teacher at the school.

I had trouble with this book.  The writing is excellent, but I felt so awful about the problems the children were encountering and the abuse that was put upon them.  There was no one who could talk to them to relieve the pressures and provide understanding.  And the one teacher, who was trying his best was peculiar himself and the children were warned against him.  I wanted to help the children and thought about all the ways that we try to talk to children today to relieve trauma and bring about understanding.   I was kept awake by the violent death and the horrible violence perpetrated by the old boys.  I suppose this worry is what makes the book a winner in the suspense category, but it kept me awake for sure and finally I just barreled through to the end to find out what actually happened.  After you read this remarkable book, I want you to come back and tell me what you think happened to the head!

“I haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that.” —Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow

C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Chalk Man is her first novel.

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THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE: A Memoir ~Marcia Butler

Monday, January 1st, 2018

THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE is a very satisfying read, full of poetic, musical language, inspiration, abandonment, abuse, lyrical recovery and phrasing.  It is an autobiography and an etude of how to use music to balance and center the self while finding home.  “Music aficionados will find an extraordinarily kindred spirit here, and lovers of memoir will find this a sensationally satisfying one.” (-Booklist)

Marcia Butler is a professional oboist who does freelance work primarily in New York.  Her story is about a child who falls in love with Wagner Opera at age 4 and demonstrates unusual talent to her teachers at school.  These teachers encourage her talent and find lessons for her to advance.  Butler drives her self to be the best she can be and falls into the music and the praise.  She resides in a love-starved environment and has to lap dance for her father to avoid the beatings he administers to her sister.  Music is the escape and she practices 3 hours a day.

Her parents drive her sister out of the house.  Butler uses music scholarships and part time jobs to leave home and begin her career.  Her playing is exceptional and awarded.  Her love relationships are monstrous and difficult.  Her parents only hear her play 2 times in her career.  She is always searching for love and support.  The reader wants to hear her play and wants to hold her up and let her lean their way, holding on to her words and hoping to protect.   One gets lost in the music that we are not actuality hearing but rather are reading from the page.  Gorgeous and courageous, sparse and passionate the reader journeys into the self-destructive youth and it’s darkness only to emerge with a full life of sound and beauty.

The chapter of how the author makes her reeds is just amazing.  How to get the wood cuts perfect to produce the perfect outcome and resonance.  Bravo!

“In her debut memoir, THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE, Marcia Butler shows us how music – listening to it, playing it, losing it, and rediscovering it – can save us.  With bravery and honesty, she unflinchingly tells her story.”  (-Ann Hood, author of THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST)

Marcia Butler was a professional oboist for twenty-five years, until her retirement from music in 2008.  During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre’ Watts, composer and pianist Keith Jarrett, and soprano Dawn Upshaw. (cover)

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I loved reading this book it is a favorite in 2017 for me and the Washington Post!

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THE SILENT FOUNTAIN: A Mystery Novel ~Victoria Fox

Monday, November 6th, 2017

THE SILENT FOUNTAIN tells its tale during two time periods and surrounding one main character through the unraveling of secrets to come to the final resolution of all the mysteries.   There is a darkness to the story.

Hollywood, 1978
Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day
Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.

The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry. Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa. And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Each of the two women’s stories begins with confusion about what is happening in their lives and how this problem came into being.   The reader then needs to read the interspersed backstories to finally figure out how the tragedies of their lives were played out into the contemporary situation.  They each had tough lives and hard luck experiences to get them to their current contact with each other.  The reader learns a lot about love, abuse and death to work up to the ending release and the complete overview of the story and the resolutions.

Most of my book group loves this kind of wound up formal mystery, but we have 2 members who will not read them after the first 25 pages if the confusion remains.  So this book will not be for everyone.   I had much of the story figured out and found reading the Hollywood sections of the story as though it was a segment on The Carol Burnett Show gave me more interest in the read.   There is a lot of darkness in the story and mental illness is exposed and exploited in the plot.

The story is almost more a puzzle to be pieced together and explored as to which piece fits where to bring together the whole.  There is not a great deal of great Italian Cooking in the novel either nor is the countryside expounded upon.  There is intensity.

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Victoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.

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THE DOLL FUNERAL: A Novel ~Kate Hamer

Monday, August 21st, 2017

After reviewing THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT, I was a bit hesitant about this book.  I was so in empathy with the young mother who’s daughter had been adducted and I had to keep turning the pages to find the outcome and release.  THE DOLL FUNERAL is also a well-written book and very captivating, but certainly not of the intensity of the first book I read.  It was actually a relief that it was more of a fantasy story- the imagination providing survival.

A couple that has lost their own baby has adopted Ruby.  The new mother is not a strong person and the new father is very abusive to Ruby.  As this child becomes a teenager she is searching for answers about her birth family, which, she believes will find her or come to her if she just believes this to be true.  Ruby is acting out and often using fire to make her point perfectly clear.  With grandmother’s death she does not feel that she has a comrade or any answers, but she continues to recite ideas that this kind person shared from her cottage deep in the forest.  We are treated to little tidbits of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

“[Hamer’s] fascination with the thresholds between childhood and adulthood, sanity and insanity, chosen and blood families, and her subtle understanding of the clean, often disturbing logic of childhood morality, evoke both Jeanette Winterson and Ian McEwan . . . This is an elegiac and uplifting novel about the indissoluble bonds between mothers and daughters and a reminder of how the imagination can set you free.” —Melanie McGrath, The Guardian

There is quite a substantial amount of presence by a shadow figure, which it is a long way into the read before one realizes, like Ruby, that she is able to see the dead.  In essence her mother does come to her in a vision of a car hitting a tree and a woman in a yellow dress.  When Ruby has been badly beaten by her father and put on a train to an aunt’s house, she finds a way to run away and it is in the forest that she encounters a huge old house and children who have been abandoned by their parents on an old commune.  Tom and Elizabeth are doing the best that they are able and they invite Ruby to stay with them in their huge house.  This arrangement works okay until the wandering parents stop sending funds and a fox kills all the chickens in their coop – the cold winter is upon the reader and the story.

We are treated to Ruby’s parent’s story as part of the backstory and we learn about her beginnings as Ruby does and this makes for quite unique story telling.  The love of the forest is quite a dominant theme and all the changes the locals have to make as mining ends and there is no work in the woods.

A very unique coming of age story with lots of little confusing moments that make the reader work a bit to figure them out and guess what will happen next, while still developing an intensity in the story.  I think Hamer is  quite the writer and I am very happy that her work is making it’s way onto our local scene.   Another 5 star read for sure – I can highly recommend THE DOLL FUNERAL.

The title did not excite me and I thought it was a weak part of the story line and not as well prepared, or as subtly worked into the story, or well resolved in the conclusion.

About the Author:

KATE HAMER is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat, which was a Costa First Novel Award finalist, a Dagger Award finalist, an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016, and a winner of the ELLE Lettres Readers’ Prize. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and two children. TLC Book Tours Book

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