The Chalk Man

For nearly two years, I’ve been on a mission to read the books on my “to read” shelves. I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve purchased since the beginning of last year. And yet it’s still shocking that I have dozens of books I haven’t cracked open since purchasing them (sorry, 1984.)

Last weekend, I started The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. Since I don’t often read thrillers, I wasn’t expecting much from this debut novel, but the synopsis on the dust jacket seemed interesting and I was in the mood for something creepy.

The Chalk Man is divided into two time frames. In the summer of 1986, a group of teenage friends begin drawing chalk men throughout their neighborhood to communicate with one another. When they notice several white chalk men leading them into the forrest, they follow them, and discover a dismembered body. Questions arise as to who would kill this girl, but when the main suspect commits suicide, the case is put to rest. Thirty years later, the narrator, Eddie, reconnects with an old friend who is convinced he knows who the real killer is. Eddie begins to question his own experiences and decisions he and his friends made in the past.

The book is a bit slow starting off, but the last 50 pages are so filled with plot twists that it was a very exciting read. I think I’ll revisit this in a couple of months because Tudor tied everything together so perfectly at the ending, there’s bound to be foreshadowing I completely missed.

*** I do feel I should include a Trigger Warning because there’s a very graphic rape scene in the book. As someone who’s quite sensitive to depictions of sexual violence, I wish I had skipped over that section because it’s absolutely horrific. If you have the hardback edition, it will fall around pages 66- 71.

Publication info

The Chalk Man. C.J. Tudor. Crown Publishing Group, 2018.

ISBN: 9781524760984

277 pages



Dear Fahrenheit 451

I’ve been in a reading slump recently, what with working overtime, expanding my social circle, trying new recipes, and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy. Despite the lack of books I’ve been reading, I have managed to add several to my list of books I need to find time to read. Thank you Dear Fahrenheit 451. This book is a short collection of essays/ open letters to one librarian’s favorite books.

What I love about this book is that it covers a wide range of literature. While classics like Anna Karenina and Fahrenheit 451 get attention, so do collections of poems, popular fiction, and children’s books. The letters are short and quippy, perfect for reading when you don’t feel like reading. What’s more, it sheds light on whether or not librarians judge you when you check out certain books (I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey.)

Publication Info

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks : A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life. Annie Spence, 2017.

244 pages



The Book of Unknown Americans

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not technically read this book. Rather, I listened to the audio version and was completely blown away. My new job affords me eight glorious hours of audiobook/podcast listening. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve listened at least a dozen of audiobooks since starting my job at the beginning of April.

Cristina Henríquez’s novel chronicles two immigrant families’ experiences in the U.S. I adore books told from multiple perspectives, and the characters who mold this story are so sympathetic. The story revolves around two teenagers, Mayor Toro and Maribel Rivera, children of immigrants who meet after Maribel’s parents move into the Toro’s apartment building. Unbeknownst to Mayor, Maribel’s family emigrated from Mexico to seek treatment for her brain injury. As Mayor falls more in love with Maribel, their families face the difficulties of living in the U.S.: racism, low wages, and language and cultural barriers. As the two continue their relationship, their families must face the repercussions caused by it.

This has been one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. The story was great, the characters were complex, and their experiences are important. The audiobook was read by multiple people, which really helped me get into the narrative. If you’re interested in topics like identity in America, you should read this book.

Publication info

The Book of Unknown Americans. Christina Henríquez, Knopf, 2014.

286 pages

ISBN: 0385350848


The Power

If novels had theme songs, the one to Naomi Alderman’s The Power would be “Electric Feel” by MGMT. But in all seriousness, The Power centers around the idea that women have awakened a biological power that allows them to dole out electric shocks, causing massive pain towards others and leading them to take power away from men.

Now, I love a good dystopian novel, especially one that focuses on women’s experiences. One of my favorite books of all time is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I’m constantly looking for books that contemplate women’s roles in an oppressive patriarchy.  I was prepared to like this book. Reviewers have said it was innovated and even my girl Maggie Ats applauded the book. It was such a letdown.

The premise is certainly interesting; women are suddenly able to tap into a biological power that makes them stronger than men. Taking a note from patriarchy, women overtake the world, subjecting the men to sexual harassment, physical abuse, and general misandry. The story follows five characters, as they experience this newfound power and the social order that becomes of it.

My problem with the book is not the premise. Alderman’s examples of misandry are well-chosen mirrors of the unfair treatment women face on a daily basis. There were scenes of sexual harassment and rape in which the perpetrators (women) claimed the victims (men) were asking for it. At some point, the government of a newly formed country mandate that all men be registered under a female keeper who will dictate how they move about the country. The examples throughout the book certainly have parallels in both history and modern-day and were effective.

However, the book seemed undeveloped. There’s so much time spent on describing how women become powerful and not enough time developing the characters or building the world in which this happened. I found it unbelievable that male dominated societies, with militaries, weapons, money, and political power could not find a way to stop these women. While I was intrigued by the ideas that people with power will abuse those without it regardless of their sex and that matriarchies can be as violent as patriarchies, I felt that those ideas were not completely fleshed out. In short, the world in which The Power takes place still seems really hazy to me, which is really disappointing.

Publication info

The Power. Naomi Alderman, Viking, 2017.

341 pages

ISBN: 0670919985


We Were the Lucky Ones

I think I’ve finally found a book to recommend to friends who want to read about the Holocaust, but don’t want to be submerged in an “orgy of violence.” (Note: I am not a fan of using the phrase “orgy of violence” to describe the Holocaust, or any mass atrocity for that matter, but other historians use this phrase frequently in their writing.)

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter, is a multigenerational story of the Kurc family and their experience during the Holocaust. The book chronicles the entire Second World War as seen through the eyes of Nechuma and Sol Kurc and their five children. What’s wonderful about this book is that it’s essentially the author’s family history in novel form. The story demonstrates multiple experiences from the Holocaust. For example, one son, Addy, lived in France under the Vichy government and fled to Brazil to escape persecution. Genek and Herta were deported to Siberia and subjected to forced labor under the Russians. Mila sought to raise her daughter in a Jewish ghetto after her husband disappeared. While it’s about the Holocaust, practically none of the story takes place in concentration camps, which is something I love about it. Instead it shows other experiences of the Holocaust, while highlighting the persecution and uncertainty the Kurc family lived in during the war.

I can’t say this this is an easy book to read; it’s heart-wrenching, terrifying, parts of it are graphic, and there are a lot of characters to keep up with. However, it’s such an important piece of history to read. The writing is excellent, the storylines are interesting; I loved this work because it highlights that there was no universal experience during the Holocaust, except terror. Also, I really appreciated that at every section, there was a timeline of what happened during WWII that corresponded with the story’s timeline. It definitely helped contextualize the Kurc’s story against the historical narrative and is a great way to sneak in your daily dose of history.

Publication info

We Were the Lucky Ones. Georgia Hunter, Viking, 2017.

ISBN: 0399563083

416 pages



In a Dark, Dark Wood

I normally don’t read psychological thrillers, but since my mom helped me move from North Carolina to Kansas, I decided to download an audiobook she’d like to entertain us on our 16 hour drive.

In a Dark, Dark Wood, written by Ruth Ware, is a story of Nora who meets her friend, Clare after years of not speaking. Nora attends Clare’s hen party that takes place in a remote cottage in the English countryside. As the two are reunited, secrets about their past begin to emerge and… I’ll stop there because I’m lazy  I don’t want to spoil the book for you.

While I’m not an expert on psychological thrillers, I thought the audiobook was excellent.  Imogen Church is a talented reader, and the plot made the drive through Kentucky, southern Illinois, and Missouri bearable.  My mom, who’s an avid mystery reader, called the ending in St. Louis, but still enjoyed the book.

What’s your favorite mystery novel?

Publication Info

In a Dark, Dark Wood. Ruth Ware, Harvill Secker, 2015.


352 pages

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I loved Harry Potter when I was growing up. I went to the midnight premieres for the books and final films, and reread the books every summer. In my adult life, I occasionally reread a chapter or two from the series, but didn’t feel the need to read Cursed Child when it was released. I was living in France at the time, and while I can read French, I hate reading in French, because the layout is so foreign (they don’t use quotation marks and their plays are formatted differently than English ones.) I knew there was no way I could get to Paris to find an English copy, (#provinciallife,) so I made a mental note to read it at a later date.

Cursed Child is the eight installment of the series and takes place nearly two decades after the seventh book. Harry Potter’s son, Albus, struggles to find his place at Hogwarts and, in typical pre-teen fashion, resents his father. He forges an unlikely character with Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco. Albus’ Hogwarts experience is vastly different from his father’s. He’s unpopular, struggles in school, and is sorted into Slytherin. One argument with his father quickly escalates and Harry shouts that he wishes Albus weren’t his son.

Meanwhile, Harry is approached by Amos Diggory, who claims there is a Time Turner that could bring his son back to life. Albus hears this conversation and decides to take it upon himself to unwind history. Albus and Scorpius go on a quest to revive Cedric Diggory, turning the magical world on its head.

I read this book in a day and would give it 3 out of 5 stars– it’s just average. While it was fun to return to Hogwarts, I wasn’t truly invested in Albus Potter’s story. I spent nearly a decade reading the original series, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny are barely present in this book. Their children are underdeveloped (it’s a play after all,) and the plot made absolutely no sense. The Time Turner theory was somewhat flawed in Prisoner of Azkaban and to make it the focal point of the play made it seemed rushed and unfinished.

Publication Info

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. J.K. Rowling, Little, Brown, 2016.


343 pages