Buzzworthy Book of 2018: The Chalk Man (C.J Tudor) @cjtudor @CrownPublishing

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Now that the end of the year is quickly approaching (like really quickly…what in the world is happening??!! How is time moving this fast??!) I have been gearing up to read all of my most anticipated 2018 titles. One of the titles I had been most eagerly awaiting was the highly talked about, psychological suspense novel, The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor.   Now that I have finished this novel, I can understand why there has been so much buzz surrounding it. Fast-paced, completely compelling and bingeable, I sat down and read this book in an entire sitting #sorrynotsorry. From the core mystery to the intricately woven characters, I am calling this one of my favourites of 2018, already!

The novel is told in two alternating time periods in the life of our protagonist, Ed. In the present, the loner high school English teacher lives with a lodger and keeps to himself, but, in the past, Ed, known as Eddie back then, was a part of a gang of kids whose lives changed forever after a summer of chalk men and a dismembered body in the woods. As past and present collide, Ed must confront his past and through several twists and turns, the truth of what happened in 1986 will be revealed.

So, first thing is first, I am shocked that this book is a debut. HOW?? HOW?? I can not get over the perfectly fleshed out characters, the timing of the plot and the sheer genius of the prose. The plot is perfectly rolled out, building suspense and leading the reader to its perfect resolution.   There were no muddled bits or confusing characters; everything felt like it fit and were equally important. This is so rare in any book, let alone a thriller! What. A. Debut.

My favourite thing about this book, by a landslide, was the characterization.  This book, from the opening of the first flashback chapters, had a dark “Goonies’ vibe to it.   I have seen the 80s revival thing done well with popular Netflix shows like Stranger Things but had never seen in accomplished in a novel. Tudor manages to do it expertly. The flashback chapters felt nostalgic and realistic; almost like it could have happened to any kid, in any place, over the course of any summer. This familiarity brought something chilling to the text and I was hooked.   Each character is so perfectly developed, from the protagonist down to the bullies; even the secondary characters had a clear image within the text. I was completely invested in them. Truthfully, the plot became secondary to me because I was so wrapped up in the characters.

This will be a book that I will be thinking about for a long time. If you want a book for the top of your TBR in 2018, make it this one. You won’t regret it.

Can I give a book 6 stars?

Thanks to the author, Netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

We made this a #cjsreads pick; keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one (SPOILER ALERT: they loved it too)

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Book Review: I Am Watching You (Teresa Driscoll) @TeresaDriscoll

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 9.48.35 PM.pngI first stumbled across I Am Watching You, the newest release by Teresa Driscoll, in a co-worker’s Goodreads newsletter.   After reading the synopsis, I was captivated by the idea of this story and I knew I would have to add this one to my TBR pile. After binge reading it for a couple of hours, I am pleased to say that I Am Watching You is absolutely worth your time, folks!

The novel opens with Ella, a woman riding the train, overhearing two young men flirting with a couple of teenage girls on the train. Listening in to their conversation, her maternal instinct is put on high alert after one of the men reveals they are fresh out of prison. However, she decides, against her better judgment, not to say anything. After all, it is none of her business.   The next day, she is horrified to find out that one of the girls, Anna, has disappeared. A year later, Ella is still wracked with guilt over what she should have done and, as the anniversary of Anna’s disappearance approaches, Ella begins to receive threatening letters. Someone is coming after her.

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Book Review: The Child Finder (Rene Denfeld)

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The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld, was a novel that I had been eagerly anticipating. I had read several glowing reviews and could barely contain myself when my hold from the library finally arrived! With any highly anticipated novel, there is always that chance that your opinion will be vastly different from others around you. I am disappointed to say that I was in a completely different group from the reviews I had been reading.

This novel was not what I was expecting. Like, at all.

The novel surrounds Naomi, a woman they call “The Child Finder”; when parents become desperate, Naomi becomes their last hope to bring their children home. Three years after Madison Culver disappears, Naomi is contacted by Madison’s parents to lend a hand and her search takes her to a mysterious forest and begins to unravel the truth behind Madison’s disappearance and the truth regarding her own childhood.  Continue reading “Book Review: The Child Finder (Rene Denfeld)”

Book Review: The Visitors (Catherine Burns)

The VisitorsWhen I first saw the synopsis for The Visitors, the debut novel by Catherine Burns, I was so excited. I am such a sucker for a “serial killer in disguise” type thriller. From books like You to Normal to Perfect Days, I am always intrigued to read stories about the twisted things that happen in regular neighbourhoods. This one seemed like a book that would fit into that category.

Now that I have finished the book, I am a little disappointed to report that this book ended up being completely different from what I was expecting.

The novel opens with the introduction of Marion, a timid spinster, who lives with her brother, John. Marion knows that John does things in the cellar. Things that she doesn’t want to necessarily spend time thinking about. However, when John has a heart attack and is hospitalized,   Marion is forced to go down into the cellar to face what she has been avoiding and, perhaps, to discover her own dark side.  Continue reading “Book Review: The Visitors (Catherine Burns)”

Book Review: Night Film (Marisha Pessl)

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.57.14 PM.pngNight Film, by Marisha Pessl, has been on my shelf for several years; I purchased it the year it came out and completely forgot about it until I started talking with Chelsea (my friend from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me) and she demanded I read it. As one of her favourite books of all time, I knew that I had to add this one to the top of my TBR pile. Chelsea has some fantastic choices in novels and we are usually in sync when it comes to our feelings about books.

We also decided to give this book a read as part of our Suspenseful Clues and Thrilling Reviews book club for October.

Now that I have finished reading it, I am kicking myself for waiting for so long. What in the world was I thinking??!!! This book was a completely engaging wild ride that had me holding on tight and binge reading late into the night. Once I started this book, I could not put it down. Pessl brings a completely original voice to the mystery/thriller/horror genre and will have you holding your breath as she weaves her narrative.

Ah! The twists, the turns, the non-stop action; without providing any spoilers, it will be hard to discuss the book fully, but I will do my best!
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Book Review: The Neighbours (Ania Ahlborn)

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It is no secret to any regular reader of Clues and Reviews that I have a serious Ania Ahlborn novel obsession. She is one of my “go to” authors when I want a novel that will make me filled with unease and keep me looking over my shoulder. With Halloween approaching, The Neighbours by Ania Ahlborn, was an obvious choice to add to my TBR pile.

One of my favourite features of an Ania Ahlborn book, besides the ominious tone and chilling content, is the ease in which Ahlborn delivers her prose. She has a writing stye that cannot be beat. One that you can curl up and lose yourself in for hours. It never takes me longer than a couple of hours to get through one of her novels and The Neighbours was no exception.

The novel opens with Andrew arriving at his new home. After a rough childhood caring for his alcoholic mother, he feels as if he deserves a fresh start and the idyllic suburban neighbourhood where his friend, Mickey, resides seems like the perfect space. Upon arrival, he meets the neighbours, a perfect couple, The Wards, who feel like they came straight out a movie or a Norman Rockwell painting. However, things are not as they appear, behind the white shutters and the picket fence, Mrs. Ward is hiding a secret; a secret that Andrew is about to find out.

Comparing other Ahlborn novels to this one, I felt like this was lacking some of the classic “horror” elements that I have come to know and love with an Ahlborn’s work. I didn’t find this one as scary as some of her novels. The characters had some creepy elements but I didn’t find myself as on edge as I usually am when I pick up an Ania Ahlborn book.

I still enjoyed the plot for what it was; I loved the Twilight zone vibe and the disorienting feeling of what time period it was taking place in. I loved the backstory of Harlow’s character. However, I feel like someone who is looking for a “scare your pants off” type of horror book (like some of Ahlborn’s other work- Brother and The Devil Crept In comes to mind!) they would feel disappointed.

In the spirit of Halloween, Jessica and Chandra decided to read this one too and make it a #cjsreads pick!  Keep reading to see what those lovely ladies thought of this pick!

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Book Review: Gather the Daughters (Jennie Melamed)

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 2.53.59 PM.pngWhen I first read the synopsis for Gather the Daughters, the debut novel by Jennie Melamed, I was instantly intrigued. I am a sucker for anything that surrounds a cult or had any cult vibes, so, based on other reviews, I figured this would be right up my alley. Although this novel ended up being quite different from what I was expecting when I began, I ended up really enjoying Gather the Daughters.

Set on an isolated island, where ten men and their families built a society of controlled breeding and domination. Taking part in ritualistic behaviour, the daughters of the island take part in scenarios that drag them from adolescence into adulthood before their teenage years are over. However, after one daughter sees something she cannot forget, she must share it with the others and suffer the consequences. Told in alternating chapters between different daughters of the island, this dark debut will leave you disturbed and bewildered.

The first thing that stuck out to me was the tone of the novel. This one read like a mix between Lord of the Flies and the Handmaid’s Tale. I thought this was really interesting. The language choice of Melamed makes it feel like a classic and, due to the content of the novel, I felt like this was a really smart choice. It made the time period of the novel feel ambiguous and, I feel, it added another layer of unrest and eeriness to the text.
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Book Review: Depth of Lies (E.C Diskin) @ecdiskin

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 3.45.21 PM.pngI am a pretty big sucker for any book that can combine a chick lit feel with added suspense; Liane Morarity does this brilliantly as does the Pretty Little Liars series that I loved when I was in high school. Depth of Lies, by E.C Diskin, fell under this umbrella. I devoured this novel.

It opens in the wake of tragedy. A group of friends have just lost one of their own, Shea, to suicide.   As each friend traces their last moments with Shea, wondering how they could have missed the warning signs, Kat is hit the hardest. She finds herself desperate for answers and tracing Shea’s last days. Discovering shameful secrets and a web of desire, Kat’s idyllic suburban life is shattered and what happens behind closed doors is revealed.

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Book Review: Little Secrets (Anna Snoekstra)

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Last year, I read Only Daughter, the debut by Anna Snoekstra, and I absolutely loved it. I loved the narrative style, the dark tone and the creepy ending. It was a book that I continuously recommended. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to read Snoekstra’s follow up with her sophomore novel, Little Secrets.

This novel was completely different from Snoekstra’s previous novel and, to be completely honest, it was not what I was expecting at all.

The novel opens in the wake of a tragedy. An arsonist had burnt down the town’s courthouse, killing a young boy who was trapped inside. Living in the same town is Rose, an aspiring journalist who longs for a big break, and her sisters. When porcelain dolls begin showing up on the doorstep of town members, mirroring looks of the young girls, the town beings to buzz with paranoid and Rose seems to have found her big break. As she begins to write her story, paranoia builds and, soon, her articles have a life of their own. How are all of these scenarios related? Can a small town survive when neighbour is turning against neighbour?
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