Review: The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

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Review from Goodreads:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, CJ Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader.

I received a copy of this title via Netgalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Hiding Place will be available February 5, 2019. 

What Worked For Me

-I’m a big fan of Tudor’s writing style. I love the banter, the dark humor, the well-executed multiple timelines. Even though I felt like the pacing was a little too slow for much of the book, I still wanted to keep reading. There’s just something compelling about it.

-Joe. Joe was not exactly a likable character, but I actually liked him a lot. He comes across as an underdog and how can you not root for the underdog? I loved his sense of humor, even it was kind of dark. He’s had a lot of bad things happen in his life and I liked that even though he kept making a lot of bad decisions and was pretty cynical, he still had a sense of hopefulness.

What Didn’t Work For Me

-So, you all know how much I hate it when a surprise supernatural element pops up in a story. I go from reading a believable mystery/thriller to something I can’t take seriously. I honestly think this would work much better marketed as Horror instead of Mystery. I mentally just put it in the Horror category and so it didn’t bother me as much as something like this normally would.

-While there were some surprises at the end of the book, I didn’t really see the point in some of them. It’s hard to explain it without getting spoilery, but I really felt like what happened in Arnhill when Joe was young and why he’s back were the heart of the story, and tacking on an extra reveal at the end that you didn’t even realize you were supposed to be trying to figure out seemed unnecessary.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Hiding Place. I liked the writing and the characters – namely Joe. However, the supernatural angle and the unnecessary final twist did sour me a bit. Still, I think fans of Tudor’s previous work will enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

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Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little 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.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Chalk Man will be available January 9, 2018

For me, The Chalk Man, is a perfect example of how hype can ruin your reading experience. I have seen several absolutely glowing reviews of this book and I was prepared for it to be one of my new favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations.

Let’s start with what I did like. I really like Tudor’s writing style. This is the author’s debut novel and her writing already feels distinctive. I also am a big fan of multiple timelines and I thought it was done pretty well here.

The story was told in Eddie’s 1st person POV and I wish I could say that gave me a connection to him, but it didn’t. I never really cared that much about him. He was basically the only character in the book that had much character development and it just didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t care about his childhood friends in either timeline or his odd relationship with his lodger, Chloe.

Even though I liked the writing, I felt bored a great deal of the time. Things are revealed very, very slowly and don’t pick up until close to the end. There is a nice little twist at the end, but I felt that there were so many clues dropped into the backstory to make sure the twist made sense that it did not even come as a big surprise. I also figured out the resolution to the main mystery awhile before it was revealed.

Overall, The Chalk Man was not a bad book, but it definitely fell short of the hype for me. The slow pace, characters I didn’t really care about, and a twist with very little pay-off left me pretty disappointed. However, the author’s writing style is pretty much what made this book for me and I know I will be reading more from her in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: October 2017

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee. Read September 30 – October 1. 4 Stars. 

Witty, fun, and well-written. I am usually a naysayer of hype, but it seems everyone was right about this one! I know it’s a very unpopular opinion, but books featuring LGBT+ romances are not really my cup of tea. Because of that I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book as much as everyone else seemed to (plus sometimes I feel people give extra stars to books just for having that extra bit of “diversity” despite how good the story is), but I ended up quite enjoying the whole thing. I really liked all the characters, though Monty did frustrate me often. I didn’t entirely understand the whole alchemy thing and thought there were parts that dragged on far too long (it probably could have been at least 100 pages less than it was) and I almost gave it a slightly lower rating because of that, but it was bantery and fun and cute and I didn’t want to put it down. I am really looking forward to reading more of Monty, Percy, and Felicity.

There is one thing that is not the story’s fault, but still really rubs me the wrong way that I wanted to mention because it’s a pet peeve of mine. I hate when there are Author Notes that need to explain things or tell me how important things in their book are. In this case it was a history lesson (the author was a history major, btw). I just think that books should stand on their own and if I want to know more, I can certainly do my own research into the topic or time period. *Steps down from soapbox*

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The Wife Between Us  by Greer Hendircks and Sarah Pekkanen. Read October 7-9. 4 Stars. 

The Wife Between Us is a very cleverly written novel of psychological suspense that managed to do what few books seem able to do these days – genuinely surprise me. Not just once, but multiple times. Full review to come in December.

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The Teacher (Imogen Grey #1) by Katerina Diamond. Read October 9-11. 4 Stars. 

This is the first book in a series, but I actually read the second book before this one. I am not sure if I would’ve liked this as much if I read it first. While I expected multiple POVs, I thought Imogen Grey would be the main focus, but I felt like her part in the story was pretty small until closer to the end. We don’t even get her POV until chapter 19. I think this normally would’ve annoyed me, however, since I already know her from the second book – and found out the answers to her past that are only referenced in this book – it didn’t really bother me. While I could’ve done with maybe a few less POVs, it did work for me. I still love Adrian and was glad we got a good deal of the story from his viewpoint. The story is DARK and definitely won’t be for everyone. Katerina Diamond definitely does not shy away from tough or graphic subject matter. If you can handle it, though, I think this series is really great so far and I am really excited to read the third book next.

Lacey’s Wedding (a Lacey Flint short story) by Sharon Bolton. Read October 12. 3 Stars.

Well then. That was not really like I expected it to be. As a self-contained short story and Lacey Flint suspense it worked. However, if this is truly the last Lacey Flint story we get, I’m going to be super pissed.

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Until You (Bachelor Brotherhood #2) by Denise Grover Swank. Read October 15-17. 3.5 Stars.

This was pretty cute and I enjoyed it. I liked both Tyler and Laine, but never really fell in love with them. I thought the whole non-disclosure stuff with Laine’s job was kind of odd and that whole storyline just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. My favorite part was probably Tyler hanging out with his younger brother again. This was probably my least favorite book in this series, but it was still worth the read.

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Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins. Read October 21-23. 4 Stars. 

I have been a fan of Kristan Higgins for years now and have read all of her books – most of them multiple times. Whenever I need a pick-me-up her books do the trick. I don’t read a lot of straight up Romance books so she has become my go-to when that’s what I’m in the mood for. Her last few books, though, have moved out of the Romance category and more into Women’s Fiction. While the books have obviously still been up to the standard I expect out of Higgins, they weren’t quite the light and fluffy feel good stories I was used to getting and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Even though Now That You Mention It feels a lot more serious than most her other books, it still ended up being exactly the book I needed right now. Higgins still made me happy and made me feel and I quite loved this book. Full review to come.

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The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. Read October 18-25. 3 Stars. 

For me, The Chalk Man, is a perfect example of how hype can ruin your reading experience. I have seen several absolutely glowing reviews of this book and I was prepared for it to be one of my new favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations. Full review to come.

********Back on the TBR********

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, and The Force by Don Winslow. I was an incredibly moody reader this month. These are all books I’ve really been wanting to read and my library holds for them came in around the same time. I think I read the first chapter of each of them, but never got any further. They are back on the TBR for another day.