Post Number 600! – A What You Have Been Reading Special

600

Well here it is the 600th post! It has taken me since January 2015 to reach this milestone and I’m delighted that reviewsrevues is still going strong and quite a few of you have been with me since the beginning.  Many thanks for your continued support which spurs me on even when I think I’m going to stray off schedule.

At the start of the year the counters of the most visited posts were reset back to zero so I thought I’d celebrate my 600th anniversary (I’m sure it has its own name but I can’t find better than a double tercentenary!) by having a look at what you have been reading since the start of the year, the Top 10 of 2019 so far.  There’s clickable links to the original, just in case you missed it first time round.  The numbers in the brackets refer to their position in my 2018 Review of the Year.  It’s very tight at the top 3 with just a couple of blog visits between them so expect some changes when I have another look at those statistics at the end of the year.

 
10 (New Entry)  You Will Be Safe Here- Damien Barr Posted in Feb 2019.  This writer’s first novel takes in over 100 years of South African history and is a very strong debut

9(New Entry) The Taking Of Annie Thorne – C J Tudor – Posted in April 2019 – I didn’t enjoy it as much as “The Chalk Man” but it is an involving read, showing once again the author’s skill with tension and building up a creepy atmosphere.

8 (Re-entry) Mary Portas’ Secret Shopper  Posted back in January 2016 – A Channel 4 documentary show which saw Mary examining what makes good customer service.

7 (New Entry) Once Upon A Time – Donna Summer – Posted in Mar 2018.  Number 85 on my Essential CD list.  This year the much missed Donna’s 1977 double album has been attracting a lot of attention.

6 (New Entry)- The Confessions Of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins – Published in February 2019.  Another debut novel, a superior historical crime novel that does live up to pre-publication expectations and should end up selling well.

5(New Entry) Flat Pack Pop: Sweden’s Music Miracle – Published in Feb 2019 and currently the most read of the blogs I’ve posted this year.  This BBC 4 one-off documentary told the fascinating story of how Sweden became the biggest exporter of pop music per capita of anywhere in the world.

4 (5) The Diary Of Two Nobodies – Giles Wood & Mary Killen – Published in Jan 2018.  The two from Channel 4’s Googlebox who people really seem to want to know more about.  This book came out for Christmas in 2017 but is still attracting considerable attention.

3 (2) Atlantic Ballroom – Waldeck- Published in November 2018 –  If you fancy listening to some Austrian Electro Swing you probably couldn’t do better than to seek out this five star album.

2 (8) Scott and Bailey – Published in April 2016 – The fifth and final series of this ITV crime drama continues to pull in the readers in significant numbers.  Watch out for Suranne Jones in an adaptation written by Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) of “Gentlemen Jack” the biography of Anne Lister a Victorian lesbian who forged a way into male dominated society.

1(New Entry) This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay – Published in November 2018.  One of the best selling non-fiction paperbacks for some time and at long last is seems to be dawning  on people what being an NHS doctor in a hospital is actually like.

Where are you reading from?  The Top 5 locations for reviewsrevues readers.

  1. US
  2. UK
  3. Italy
  4. Australia
  5. Canada

Thanks once again for reading I am off to celebrate my 600th posting!!

 

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The Taking Of Annie Thorne – C J Tudor (2019)

 

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I read C J Tudor’s critically acclaimed debut “The Chalk Man” (2018) earlier this year.  It was a book that became a word of mouth hit and I realised I was missing out when I saw it appearing on a number of “Best Of The Year” lists.   I really liked the tense atmosphere she created throughout and the touches of horror and these aspects are all present and correct in her second novel.

I began this as an exercise in listening.  A free month’s trial for Audible was initiated when I saw this was available so soon after publication.  It is narrated by Richard Armitage who has a very listenable voice and despite me never being successful at committing to audio books (Susan Hill’s slim “The Printer’s Devil Court” being the only one I’ve managed to listen to all the way through) I was determined to let Tudor’s easy approachable style be read to me.  I was enjoying the narration very much but it all just takes too long.  I don’t have ten hours listening time and because audio is new to me I have to really concentrate on it (of course, being male means multi-tasking and doing something else whilst listening is out of the question!).  I was also having to take notes at the end of every chapter, realising how much I must flick back in a physical book to check things.  I did, however, get well over half-way through and then I discovered a hardback copy in the library.  I did try to resist but couldn’t so checked it out and finished it off.  (I’ve also just cancelled my Audible trial- once again I’ve tried and been found wanting.)

The novel is set in the ex-mining village of Arnhill in Nottinghamshire, a location similar to where the author grew up.  Like “The Chalk Man” there are two time zones, a present day narrative and one set in 1992 when the main protagonists were in their teens.

There’s a grisly opening of a discovery of bodies in a cottage (which certainly spooked me listening to it) then it settles into a plot where Joe Thorne returns to Arnhill and engineers himself a teaching post at his old school.  He has come back in an attempt to put to rest trauma in his past- the disappearance and eventual death of his eight year old sister which occurred when he was fifteen.  The combination of the crime novel and horror is not as balanced as it was in “The Chalk Man” with the latter taking precedence.  Horror writing gives the text an openness which the crime novel with its demands to be tied up neatly to provide a satisfactory experience tends not to do.  The unexplainable horror touches comes from the old pit itself which has a history of being involved in disappearance and death and which commands a dark presence over the plot.

 If anything, the tale here is darker than “The Chalk Man”.  There is the odd flash of humour but this is generally black, bitter and barbed.  This has the effect of not making this novel seem as multi-layered nor as rich as its predecessor where the language felt more vibrant and less on one level.  Also readers who need to like their characters will struggle as not even main protagonist Joe comes across as having that many redeeming features.  There are aspects to the plot, particularly with regards to backstory events in Joe’s adulthood that seem underwritten and not as convincing.  As a result I did not feel as drawn into this world as I had with “The Chalk Man” but this is still an involving read, showing once again the author’s skill with tension and building up a creepy atmosphere.

threestars

 

I read the Michael Joseph published hardback version of “The Taking Of Annie Thorne” which was published in February 2019.  In the US it has been published as “The Other People”.  A paperback version is due to be published by Penguin in July 2019.

The Chalk Man – C J Tudor (2018) – A Murder They Wrote Review

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“Every kid wants to find a dead body. About the only thing a twelve year old boy wants to find more is a spaceship, buried treasure or a porn mag.”

These sentiments expressesd in CJ Tudor’s debut remind me very much of “Stand By Me”, the film based upon the short story by Stephen King and the King feel looms large throughout this book, there is even a front cover recommendation from the man himself who has obviously noted that he and Tudor are pulling in the same direction as he states; “If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.”

But don’t think this is some Stephen King rip-off as it is has an identity all of its own. For a start it is British set in a town called Anderbury located around 20 miles from Bournemouth. We have a narrative of two time spans – 1986 with the aforementioned twelve year old boys and thirty years later when a discovery made back then in the woods is still holding the main characters back.

I was really looking forward to the 1980’s setting and I think the author does a pretty good job of conjuring up what it was like to be twelve in the mid-80s but I think I was looking for a stronger feel of the period, but then again I suppose we can’t expect this particular group of adolescents to be too aware of what was going on around them, they are just living their last innocent summer before some horrific realities of life kick in.

What the author does do very well in her debut is to keep a tense atmosphere throughout. A terrifying incident at a fairground packs one hell of a punch early on and from then on we know that lives will never be the same again. I like the ambiguity in the title referring both to chalk figures used by main character Ed and his pals to communicate; to drawings which have resurfaced in the later narrative strand and to the nickname of an albino teacher who makes his presence felt in the summer before he joins the children’s school. This all adds to the richness and edginess of the book.

Characterisation is memorable, the resolution perhaps not as satisfactory as the build- up but I often feel that way about crime novels. I really like the idea of us having a budding Stephen King here in the UK and I could also feel the influence of another of the author’s literary heroes, James Herbert. This is well-written edgy crime, that never allows the reader to truly relax and which does hover towards horror on quite a few occasions. I’m not surprised that it has appeared on a good number of “Best Of 2018” lists.
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The Chalk Man was published by Penguin in 2018.