The Chalk Man

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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.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Publication Date: January 9, 2018 by Crown Publishing

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My Thoughts:

One of my goals for 2018 is to focus more on reading books by female authors. I find that crime/psychological fiction is often dominated by male authors and since it is the genre I find myself most drawn to, I hope to be more conscientious about the thrillers I choose to read this year. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to get my hands on a copy of C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man this month!

This is such a fun read! I essentially read this book in one sitting because I was hooked in immediately. The Chalk Man has all the best elements of a crime fiction novel – an unreliable narrator, well-developed characters, and a murder that intertwines multiple characters and story lines. I particularly loved the format – chapters switch back and forth between the present in 2016 and the summer of the crime in 1986. There was a lot to dig through with the plot and I appreciated the subtle hints and nuances that the author leaves as the novel progresses.

The Chalk Man is also not so straightforward in plot either – I particularly loved the twists that Tudor included at the end of the novel since it made me question everything I had previously learned through the narrator’s point of view. Very similar to Catherine Burns’ The Visitors , Tudor’s novel is a fast-paced, psychological thriller with layers of plot twists and untrustworthy characters.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Red Clocks

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In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Publication Date: January 16, 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

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My Thoughts:

I’ve seen a lot of reviews that compare Zumas’ novel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and while both are feminist dystopian novels that deal heavily with reproductive rights/issues, I think it’s important to recognize Red Clocks as its own unique story to avoid certain expectations going into the storyline.

It took me some time to adjust to the formatting of the novel – chapters rotate among four major characters (The Mender, The Daughter, The Wife, and The Biographer) with each chapter broken up by a section of the biographer’s current work on a novel about a female polar explorer. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t feel connected to the characters just based on the writing style and lack of names, but the reader slowly learns the identities of all four characters as the story progresses. I also finally realized after a few chapters the brilliance of titling each woman by a category rather than a name, as it provided further commentary on how women are often identified by their traditional roles instead of their individual identities. I’m not sure if that was what Zumas meant by this stylistic choice, but I found it to be a clever way to highlight the struggles women go through with societal pressures to fit certain molds (i.e. wife, mother, etc.).

‘I want you to learn a lesson from this. Don’t repeat your mistakes. Like I tell my daughters: be the cow they have to buy.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Don’t be the free milk.’

What made Red Clocks so terrifying is how closely it resembled our political climate. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine a country where Roe vs. Wade has been overturned and a fetus is considered a human being. The interactions between men and women often reminded me of things I’ve heard or even had said to me and the frustration, anger, and sadness all four women experience for various reasons rang true for me – either because I have felt it myself, or because there’s a woman in my life who has gone through it themselves.

Accused witches in the seventeenth century were dunked in rivers or ponds. The innocent drowned. The guilty floated, surviving to be tortured or killed some other way.

This isn’t 1693! the biographer wants to yell.

She shakes her head.

Don’t just shake your head.

While she hid out in Newville, they closed the clinics and defined Planned Parenthood and amended the Constitution. She wanted on her computer screen.

Don’t just sit there watching.

Red Clocks is such a frightening and poignant read because it hits so close to home. There is something in this novel that any woman could relate to and it’s a reminder of how easily one’s rights may be taken away when you become too complacent or comfortable – to think it could never happen here when it so easily can at any moment. While it would be easy to assume this is a depressing novel, I actually felt empowered once I was finished. This is a book that every woman (particularly in America) should read as it’s a reminder of what we are capable of even in the darkest of times if we refuse to settle for what men tell us to accept for ourselves.

I Love You Too Much

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Thirteen-year-old Paul is a lovable but unloved boy on the vulnerable cusp of manhood. Paul lives in Paris, in a world of privilege where beauty dominates, adults are intent on their own satisfaction, and everything looks perfect. There’s nowhere to get dirty, or so it appears.

His mother is glamorous and powerful, distracted by a younger lover and her own fear of aging. His wealthy father is desperately seeking to assuage his endless discontent. Paul lives between the two apartments of his broken family, looked after by a Filipino babysitter who hasn’t seen her own children in years. When Paul meets Scarlett, a beguiling classmate, he uncovers the cruel gulf between the world as it is and how he imagined it to be. It’s only a matter of time before Paul witnesses a shocking event and inherits a burden he’s far too young to shoulder.

A dazzling coming-of-age story, I Love You Too Much is a devastating literary debut born from the saying, Je t’aime trop: a distinctly French expression of excessive love. In a world of abundance, a Paris where parents don’t always mean what they say, Paul must look beyond his glamorous home to find a love that’s real.

I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake

Publication Date: January 23, 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

I went into this book without any real expectations – I was unfamiliar with the author and had not previously heard of the book prior to Little Brown graciously offering to send me a free ARC. This was my first official read of 2018 and was an easy five star rating!

Paul is such a sweet, naive, lovable character and it was often painful and felt voyeuristic to witness many of the interactions he has with family members and classmates. While I didn’t find his parents likable, Paul’s point of view shows two adults that are just so unhappy with their own lives that they don’t have the time to even think about their son’s happiness. Paul is at the pre-adolescent age where he has yet to recognize his parents as individual’s with flaws and rather views much of their behavior as his own fault – something that makes his story so much sadder.

Drake’s writing is really what made me fall in love with this book – she paints a picture of a Paris I’ve only visited once and yet I felt like I was there with Paul throughout the book.  While I loved the complicated characters and was most affected by Paul’s experiences, there is something about the setting that really adds to the overall atmosphere of the novel.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to someone who loves coming-of-age stories and is okay with books that don’t necessarily have happy or neatly resolved endings. I am forever grateful that Little Brown offered to send me my copy! Alicia Drake is definitely an author who will stay on my radar for future releases.