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review 2017-12-11 22:41
A morally ambiguous thriller and a story of tainted friendships that will appeal to readers of King’s It.
The Chalk Man: A Novel - Tasha Tudor

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. 

 

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review 2017-12-07 03:34
If you thought the e-book was good...
A Destiny of Dragons - By (author) TJ Klune,Michael Lesley

You really, really need to listen to this one on audio...

 

When this was first released back in June of this year I read it...there was no way I was waiting any longer for more Sam, Knight Delicious-face, Gary, Kevin and Tiggy and I loved it the story was all kinds of epic and awesome and I distinctly remember writing a rather effusive review...pictures were included, here's the link if you're curious...

Review: A Destiny of Dragons

 

Michael Lesley was the narrator for 'A Destiny of Dragons' and while I was totally enchanted with his narration in 'The Lightening Struck Heart' (TLSH) the first book in this series...I'm pretty much convinced that with the second book Mr. Lesley has exceeded my expectations. While I would have loved being able to listen to 'TLSH' again before jumping into the second book time just didn't permit that luxury but Michael Lesley's recreation of the voices for TJ Klune's unique characters in this series easily and effortlessly took me back to Verania with all it's magic and intrigue.

 

While I've listened to roughly 160+ audiobooks and I've become far more comfortable with what does or doesn't work for me in this format. I still don't profess myself to be any kind of an expert on anything other than what I like or love as the case might be in this instance. I truly couldn't imagine anyone else capturing the feel of this story better than Mr. Lesley has.

 

When I first listened to 'The Lightening Struck Heart' at the encouragement of  a friend...she was so insistent that she actually went to the extent of gifting the audiobook to me...thank heavens for persistent friends or I might still be missing out on this treasure. I was so incredibly surprised by how much I enjoyed the audiobook...I'd already read the book so I knew I'd like the story but Michael Lesley's narration took this story to a whole new level for me so needless to say I read 'A Destiny of Dragons' and loved it and then I heard from a certain persistent friend that once again Michael Lesley was going to be the narrator...so needless to say...SIGN ME UP! I was so on board to listen to the audiobook. What I truly wasn't expecting was that I would enjoy this one even more than I did 'TLSH" on audio...I truly didn't think it was possible. Apparently...I was wrong because this one wasn't as good for me the audiobook was even better. 

 

'A Destiny of Dragons' is a more than solid follow-up to 'The Lightening Struck Heart' and for anyone who's a fan of TJ Klune and audiobooks...this one's a must. I know the third book in this series has been released and I am very unashamedly waiting for the audio edition of it because once again it's going to be narrated by Michael Lesley so I have zero doubt that once again it's going to be fan-freakin-tastic!

 

*************************

An audio book of 'A Destiny of Dragons' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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text 2017-12-05 16:26
Interview at The Writing Desk

Tony Riches has interviewed me for his blog today. Check it out.  :-)

Source: tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/special-guest-interview-with-author_5.html
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text 2017-12-05 15:07
Mark A. Rayner about his newest novel The Fatness + Giveaway [A guest post]

 

Many of you already know Mark A. Rayner aka Dilettante (you can follow Mark's blog on BookLikes here). Now it's time to know Mark's story a little bit better. With his new release The Fatness Mark also reveals a look behind the scenes of his newest book!

 

If you're hungry of great stories, make sure to request The Fatness copy in here. Enjoy and bon appetite

 

 

-- a guest post by Mark A. Rayner

 

 

The Fatness – a novel of epic portions

 

Canadian author Mark A. Rayner’s timely new book, The Fatness, is a satirical take on how not to deal with the so-called obesity “epidemic”. The novel posits a world in which the government gives those who are obese a simple choice: relinquish their publicly funded healthcare or go to a special Calorie Reduction Center (CRC) to lose the weight.

Mark is offering three copies as a giveaway here.

 

 

Behind the scenes:

why The Fatness was a difficult book to write

by Mark A. Rayner

 

It was personal.

 

Writers might say that of any book, true, but this novel was a particular challenge. I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life, so I found it quite difficult to write a humorous account of what it would be like to be imprisoned for your weight.

 

Really difficult.

 

Like many of my novels, the idea for The Fatness first came to me in a dream. I’d been reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos. It’s an eye-opening non-fiction about the bad science surrounding the idea of the obesity “epidemic”. That was sometime in 2005, the year ENC Press published my first book, The Amadeus Net.

 

In the nightmare, I was imprisoned in a Calorie Reduction Center, a concentration camp for the obese. When I awoke, I thought, so that’s a horrible notion. Terrifying. And strangely compelling. Should I even put this terrible idea out in the world? I wondered. Would readers know it was meant to be a satire?

 

I’m an optimist, so I wrote four chapters. They were bad. There was nothing funny about the book. It wasn’t biting satire, it was just bitter.

 

I made several other attempts, all failures. Six years ago I even got as far as completing an outline and a large chunk of a draft. But it wasn’t really what I wanted the book to be. It was strained and really not funny in a way that was compassionate for the inmates of the Calorie Reduction Centers.

 

Then five years ago I got serious about my own weight issues. I worked with two wonderful personal trainers and got my BMI – my body mass index – down below the dreaded 30 BMI for the first time in years. For some reason, that gave me the ability to write the book. I think I needed to understand the process of losing weight so that I could communicate its challenges properly. Within the course of a year, I wrote a completely new draft of the book.

Giveaway 

Ends December 18, 2017

REQUEST YOUR COPY ->

 

The biggest task, from a writing perspective, was to get the tone right. I didn’t want this to be an exercise in telling fat jokes. That is part of the problem, as far as I see it – we tolerate jokes about somebody’s weight in a way that we wouldn’t allow for other characteristics, such as race or sexuality. So pitching the humor in a compassionate way was important to me.

 

I think I learned how to do it by reading the work of Kurt Vonnegut, one of my literary heroes. I share his take on humanity. We are flawed, but we’re not worthless. It’s the opposite, really. Our flaws make us different, and our differences make us valuable.

 

A satire also has to be critical. Another way in which my writing is similar to Vonnegut’s is that we make fun of pretension and large-scale human systems. We’re suspicious of both. Pretension is a symptom of hypocrisy. This pitfall is only possible when we humans start believing our own lies.

 

The other major target, as far as I can see, has to be the way that humans are terrible at taking good ideas and turning them into governing principles. The human component seems to get lost as soon as we scale things up to the level of large systems.

 

Obesity is a complicated problem, and it’s not realistic to think we’re going to find simple solutions. There’s a genetic component to obesity – recent studies indicate it may be caused by a single gene. There are societal, financial and emotional components to it as well. Until we understand how all of these things fit together, it’s going to be a difficult issue to address. Blaming people for their weight issues is certainly not going to help.

 

After I got my own weight problems under control (for a little while) and finished the rough draft of the book, the following year I worked with my editor and produced two more drafts. Then my life got really complicated. My long-term relationship ended, my dog died, and I started a new and extremely challenging work position. (Sounds like a bad country and western song, doesn’t it?) So it took a few more years until I was ready to start the publishing process. Yeah, sometimes it takes that long.

 

This twelve-year project, from idea to publication, is the longest gestation period for a book I’ve written. By comparison, my first novel, The Amadeus Net, was a breeze – it only took ten years from start to finish.

 

But I think The Fatness is the best book I’ve written (so far), and the positive reviews seem to back up that feeling. I’m particularly pleased that readers feel the book is satirical, yet has a big heart that is compassionate for people struggling with obesity.

 

As the reading and writing process taught me, there are no easy answers.

 

Mark’s favourite writing space: in the garden.

 

 

The Fatness is a metaphor

 

I hope this is a story that can be read on many levels and enjoyed in different ways. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but it’s fair to say that there is a metaphor at the heart of this book.

 

If you buy into the notion of duality, you accept the idea that you are a consciousness riding around in a body. I think many fat people experience this every time they look in the mirror. I know I do. I don’t feel overweight, but there’s the proof of it right there in front of me. The idea that you might be physically incarcerated because of your body is a metaphor for how an obese person might feel every day: a thin person looking out at a fat one. That’s a paraphrase of the Cyril Connolly quotation: “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signaling to be let out.”

 

There’s some truth to it, in the same way that as we get older, we may experience the truth of Terry Pratchett’s observation: “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.”

 

But the thing is, that thin person, that young person, is a reflection of societal values. If you engage with any media, it’s impossible to avoid the idea that what matters is being thin, being young, being beautiful, being successful, and being famous. We see ourselves that way – we judge ourselves that way – even when these ideas have nothing to do with our worth as human beings.

 

The Fatness is an attempt to get people to recognize how media can have an impact on how we see ourselves and each other.

 

So my hope is that readers will be affected by the book. My hope, if they’re fat, is for them to feel less alone, to feel less guilty about their physicality. For the non-obese, I hope they get an understanding that nobody wants to be fat. It’s not a choice. And it’s not just laziness. Many fat people spend their entire lives trying not to be fat. I know that I have.

 

On a lighter note (pun intended), my goal is to make readers laugh. There are lots of things the book spoofs, and your political affiliations really don’t matter. Every reader will find something to enjoy. It makes fun of socialism. It makes fun of capitalism. And it makes fun of human foibles.

 

If nothing else, readers should come away with a sense of how absurd our bureaucracies can be, and how even the best intentions can go wildly astray. Even science.

 

 

Discovering more about medical science

 

I learned quite a bit while I was penning this novel. While the facts, myths, and quotes between the chapters – I call them ‘interstitials’ – are meant to be fun, they actually helped me discover more about obesity, body image, and the research process. I learned, for example, that science is very much a human process, prone to error and flaws. What we “know” today could easily turn out to be “wrong” the next. A tragic example of this is what happened in the ’50s and ’60s, when the medical profession decided that dietary fat was the enemy.

 

Ironically, I think this is one of the major contributing factors to the increase of obesity in society. This is terribly simplistic, but we substituted carbs for fat in our diets – and not just good carbs, like vegetables and fruits. We added in highly processed carbs, which are probably okay for us in limited amounts, but not if they make up the bulk of our diet.

 

I also learned how the food industry works. (It’s kind of shocking, in some cases.) I certainly didn’t realize that corporations were actively pushing unhealthy food at us to fatten up their bottom line. That probably makes me seem naive, but until I started digging into the subject, I really hadn’t thought about it much.

 

I learned about the importance of body image – on both sides of the BMI. I learned how damaging it is to shame people for being either too fat or too thin. Even if the intention is to help people become healthier, shame is actually counterproductive when it comes to weight management.

 

Finally, I discovered that keeping the weight off is just as hard as losing it. But that’s a topic for a sequel. (And maybe a psychotherapist.)

 

About Mark A. Rayner

 

Mark A. Rayner. Author. Mustache twirler. Photo by David Redding Photography, 2013.

 

Human-shaped, simian-obsessed, robot-fighting, pirate-hearted, storytelling junkie Mark A. Rayner is an award-winning writer of satirical and speculative fiction.

 

By day, Mark teaches his bemused students at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (at Western University) how to construct social media campaigns and viable information architectures that will not become self-aware and destroy all humans. By night he is a writer of short stories, novels, squibs and other drivel. (Some pure, and some quite tainted with meaning.)

 

Many cheeseburgers were harmed in the making of this novel.

 

Mark A. Rayner's books:

 

The Fatness - Mark A. Rayner The Amadeus Net - Mark A. Rayner The Fridgularity - Mark A. Rayner

Marvellous Hairy - Mark A. Rayner Pirate Therapy and Other Cures - Mark A. Rayner The Meanderings of the Emily Chesley Reading Circle - Mark A. Rayner 

 

 

Follow Mark's blog on BookLikes

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text 2017-12-05 07:49
NBtM, GUEST POST, REVIEW & #GIVEAWAY - A is for Author by Shayla McBride
A is for Author: 333 Must-Know Tips for New Writers - Shayla McBride
A is for Author is a comprehensive guide that I think would be useful for all writers, whether they have published one book or ten. There are commonly used terms and jargon in here, together with no-nonsense explanations and examples. It is all alphabetical, so everything is easy to find. The author herself suggests you sip, rather than gulp, this book. 
 
In my opinion, this is a book to have as a paperback or hardback, so that you can refer back to it for years to come. Definitely recommended by me.
 
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
 
Merissa
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

 

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Source: archaeolibrarianologist.blogspot.de/2017/12/nbtm-guest-post-review-giveaway-is-for.html
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