Monthly Archives: July 2018

Review Wednesday – The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

9B7B0633-09DC-4705-B56A-C8C7420E9633Twelve year old Eddie and his mates are like any other group of kids; friends but with a healthy dollop of rivalry and leg-pulling thrown in. A much anticipated visit to the fairground is a chance for the friends to go out together without parents in tow, but the night ends badly and has a life-changing effect on them and Eddie in particular. 

When one of the group receives a bucket of chalks for his birthday the kids begin to use what was at first regarded as a naff present to leave one another secret, coded messages. It’s a great game, but leads to a gruesome discovery in the woods and once again the children’s lives are touched by tragedy. 

The story runs on two timelines, 1986 when the fairground incident occurred and present day when Eddie is forty two years old. The ramifications of what happened in 1986 have never been forgotten and when chalk figures begin to appear the past is brought back in a rush of memories and events that must be confronted. 

There are a lot of twists in this book but, for me, rather than make it more of a page turner, that was its downfall. It’s a good book and an absolutely intriguing premise but in an effort to keep the reader guessing, the author, I think, introduced too many plot lines. The result, for me, was that it stretched my belief too far, particularly the very last twist which seemed to serve no purpose at all. 

Having said that, there were some very good moments; when Eddie goes to see Mr Halloran for the last time, the results of his actions are clear and chilling. 

I enjoyed The Chalk Man but, in this case, a slightly more simplified plot may have been more effective. 

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Review Wednesday – The Northwater by Ian McGuire

18A9F5FD-28DF-45AF-B057-90A58732DD24Having read the long and arduous, true-life tale of The Essex in the book The Heart of The Sea, I had put off reading The Northwater, despite the reviews and praise and despite it being a work of fiction. Although I am drawn to stories of survival in the cold and inhospitable corners of the world, I’d had enough of brutal descriptions of the whaling industry for the time being. Finally, I succumbed to the lure of this book and I say, Wow, I am so glad that I did. 

In some ways, although a work of fiction, The Northwater is even more tough and uncompromising in its descriptions and yet at the same time, for me, it so perfectly captured the place and the era. As the ship set sail in 1859, I felt that I had time-traveled to a world that I could hardly comprehend; rough and uncaring of man or beast. 

Into this world comes Drax, the worst of the worst, and Sumner a doctor with a history he would rather forget. They are thrown together with a rag tag crew to head north from The English port of Hull in search of whales. What neither man knows is that the captain has a very different agenda for the voyage. 

The story surprised me; yes, there are the descriptions of the despicable trade of whaling, and of the totally unfeeling treatment of any other creature the sailors happen upon, including their fellow man, but what made them interesting was the viewpoint, shown through the rough-hewn characters and morals of the time. It felt as believable as it was shocking.

As the story progresses the real purpose of the voyage is revealed along with the escalating crimes of the monster, Drax. Murder and rape are nothing to him and it will take a strong man to stop him. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this tale but beware, ultra-strong language and terminology make it not for the faint of heart.

I couldn’t end this review without a few words about the narrator of the Audible presentation,  John Keating. He was excellent; I couldn’t imagine any voice more perfect for the book. 

Review Wednesday – The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett

AFCB6892-4C93-4272-8E7E-9B835423C975Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist with a sense of humour. In The Idiot Brain he attempts to describe the inner workings of our minds in a way that we can understand… that is, as far as anyone can understand. Burnett makes no apology about how little even ‘experts’ really know about the functioning of the brain.

If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.

Burnett uses the above quote to illustrate just how little is truly known about the organ that makes us what we are. But he goes bravely on to explain, in a brilliant way with words, what is known, or thought to be known. 

The book is divided into chapters covering the various areas of the brain; the senses, fear, attempts to measure intelligence, memory and what can happen when things go wrong. It is an interesting and, at times, sobering read, despite Burnett’s sometimes hilarious turns of phrase. As someone with a loved one who has suffered a neurological/psychological disorder for the last four years, I know the frustration and heartbreak that such problems can bring. As I said before, for me, the most abiding message in this excellent book is that, despite research pushing the boundaries, so much still needs to be understood. 

I enjoyed The Idiot Brain; I felt I learned something from it. Dean Burnett is a delight. In his introduction he tells us, 

A former colleague once told me that I’d get a book published ‘when hell freezes over’. Sorry to Satan, this must be very inconvenient for you. 

I am glad he persevered.