REVIEW TIME

Review: The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

There’s nothing quite like receiving a £50 Amazon voucher. I mean, FREE BOOKS, right?

Gifted with the voucher and with money to burn, I headed to Amazon with no mission in mind, other than to find some great new reads that would captivate me and immediately, the first one I found was The Chalk Man, by C.J Tudor.

The cover itself is simple and striking, pitching a chalk-drawn hangman game against a stark black base, complete with fake chalk smudges, reminiscent of those games we used to play on pavements when we were kids, and I was instantly drawn to it.

At the time of buying, the Amazon posting was full of accolades from the national press, and since I bought it, it’s been updated with a fresh recommendation from the Horror Don himself, Stephen King, who said ‘If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.’ An exhilarating time for a debut author no doubt, and I read Tudor’s reaction to her hero King’s post on Twitter with a big smile on my face, in the same way I did when King also tweeted about Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes.

Even without all this, I was already excited for this book from the blurb alone:

You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you.

It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man.

He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.

Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure.

Is history going to repeat itself?

Was it ever really over?

Will this game only end in the same way?

With Storm Emma in full effect in the UK and a ton of snow outside my house, what better way to spend a Saturday than fusing myself to the sofa with The Chalk Man, a hot chocolate and an endless supply of biscuits?

The result? I devoured everything, but nothing devoured was more enjoyable than the book itself, which is saying something because hot chocolate and biscuits would usually win hands down in any contest 😉

It’s 1986, and Eddie and his friends, Fat Gav, Hoppo, Metal Mickey and Nicky don’t have much to worry about other than where to hang out at the weekends, having to commit the ultimate faux-pas by wearing a bum-bag or what ride to go on at the fair. When the fair does come to town, however, bringing with it a horrific accident for Eddie to witness, plus a meeting with the mysterious new school teacher, Mr Halloran, events are set in motion that will change all of their lives forever.

The action moves back and forth from events in 1986 to 2016, where Eddie is now a teacher himself with a life that seems mostly grey around the edges, that is until his old school friend Mickey turns up at his door, with a plan to dredge up the past and write a book about the horrors of that eventful year of their childhood.

Back in 1986, what began as an innocent game of leaving secret messages for each other written in chalk, with their own codes and symbols, supposedly decipherable only by members of their own gang, soon takes a sinister turn when the same chalk drawings start mysteriously appearing at the scenes of crimes, culminating in the discovery of a dead body.

Years later, when the chalk men start appearing again, we discover that the gang, all now grown up and moved on from the traumas of their past, haven’t really moved on at all and Eddie is about to be thrown headfirst into a new nightmare of secrets, dead bodies and chalk drawings that terrify him.

Expertly weaving the past and present together, Tudor gives us (older readers) a nostalgic trip back to the 80’s, in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of King and with a kind of Stranger Things UK-style vibe, then flips us right back to 2016 where Eddie is being haunted by things real and not-so-real.

Seemingly unconnected happenings and events are revealed to have a connection after all, and stories within the story that might seem like background noise when reading and a device to draw us in and make it feel more real, soon become pertinent to the whole plot in a way that I never saw coming.

In The Chalk Man, every action has a consequence, and I loved the way how even the smallest, perhaps most innocent of decisions, had far-reaching consquences that sent waves rocking through the lives of these characters and the people around them.

Eddie, on paper (pardon the pun), perhaps doesn’t seem the most exciting of characters. Having remained in the town in which he grew up, he now works as a teacher in the local high school, has never married or had children, and has a rather tragic (by his own admission) crush on his much-younger lodger, Chloe. He looks after his mum’s cat when she goes on holiday (a cat which detests him) and he likes a drink with his mates Fat Gav (now wheelchair-bound) and Hoppo. Nothing too exciting about all of that, right?  But, I have to say, this is what I like about a good thriller: throwing a very normal, veering-on-the-grey-side kind of person into a situation which is anything but normal. In my opinion this just adds to the creep factor, because let’s face it, Eddie could be you or me, or your neighbour, or your teacher, or the bloke who sits in the corner at the pub every Sunday afternoon reading the paper and having a pint and we live every new horror with him, as if it was us.

Reading from Eddie’s POV, we’re thrown into the chaos that starts to overtake his life, wondering who he should trust, whether he’s about to meet a sticky fate at the hands of the Chalk Man, or whether what he’s experiencing is the collapse of his own reality. We start to look at everyone with a strong element of suspicion, trying to predict what horror might be lurking around every corner, and the path in which Tudor leads us, isn’t the one we imagined we would be on.

It was pretty clear to me a few chapters in that I wasn’t going to put this book down until I was done. I devoured page after page, desperate to solve the mystery and constantly getting it wrong every time I thought I’d worked it out, but I LOVE that in a book. This is a cleverly-constructed thriller with the right amount of twists (without being overkill) that kept me glued to the sofa and to the book all day. The creep-factor is tangible throughout without ever being OTT, and there’s no doubt I will NEVER look at a children’s chalk drawing in quite the same way ever again!

Five stars for this engaging, dark page-turner! 

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urban fantasy

Review Time: So I Might Be A Vampire by Rodney V. Smith

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A few years ago, I was browsing through the hot lists on Wattpad, desperately looking for something in the vampire section that stood out from the crowd and sadly drowning under the weight of so many ‘My Vampire Prince’ or ‘My Abductor is Harry Styles and is also a Vampire’ books (trust me, they exist!). I was about to give up completely when – ta da! *spotlight dazzle* I came across a book that caught my eye.

Vampire humour? Really?

I’d never read any funny vampire books before and what’s more, the protagonist, Bob, was apparently the worst vampire ever. Instantly, I wanted to read this one. I swear, in most vampire books I read, the vampires themselves are the most perfect, beautiful A-list vampires ever. They all have great hair, faces (and bodies) worthy of the fashion catwalks, and they’ll get any admiring sycophant into bed quicker than you can say ‘I love Edward Cullen’s pretty hairdo.’

That’s great if you love that kind of vampire and I’m not even going to pretend I haven’t read those kind of books before, but in all honesty, I was tired of A-list vamps and I was tired of the same old plot being regurgitated time and time again. I wanted something different and So I Might Be A Vampire by Rodney V Smith seemed like a refreshing break from the norm.

I was immediately hooked on the writer’s style, loved the in-your-face sass and humour and couldn’t get enough of Bob, the afore mentioned worst vampire ever.

Fast forward a few years and the author has re-vamped (I’m so sorry, I have no excuses for the bad pun-work here) his first book in the Chasing The Sun series and I’m so happy to see the new version out in the marketplace, in all its edited glory.

Thankfully, Bob is still a pretty shit vampire, but that’s what I love about him so much. Where is the vampire manual that says once you get transformed, you’re suddenly going to look like Edward, with the charisma of Lestat, and the kick-ass fighting skills of Blade?

Nowhere. Because the manual DOESN’T EXIST.

Forget previously learned tropes when it comes to vampire fiction. Forget what you think the vampire world is like and definitely forget what you think happens to you when you become one. In Bob’s world, everything is different. Everything is …well …normal. And by normal, I mean, yep, you’ve got to get a job (or at least try and hold down the shitty one you already have), nope you can’t fly nor transform into a bat, and yes, those A-list vamps you hate so much are probably going to try and beat the crap out of you at every available opportunity.

Intrigued? You should be, because this book is not only turning modern-day vampire myth on its pretty little head, but it’s also sticking its middle finger firmly up at what you think you know about our fang-toothed friends.

Bob, a low-pay grade junkie, fully admits that his life is a mess. His ex-girlfriend has a restraining order against him, she’s now dating a guy call Chad (yes, Chad) and he’s been transformed into a vampire by a friend who’s now disappeared and he’s got no one to teach him the ropes. Without a mentor, Bob is blagging the vampire life the best way he can – which, unfortunately for Bob – isn’t turning out so well for him. With the help of best friend Claude (a firm fan favourite), Bob has to try and figure out how he fits into a world that doesn’t want him as a member – he’s the loser vamp, bottom rung of the ladder addict, and the one nobody wants to be seen undead with (yeah, yeah, I know, I couldn’t help myself). But figuring out how to survive in his new life isn’t going to be easy, when you have vamp mob boss Harry on your back, psycho Beatrice turning up when you least expect it and drug-dealers gunning for your head.

Smith takes us on ride after ride of Bob’s seriously screwed-up fangster train, and Bob screws up pretty much everything, but for me, that’s what makes Bob more perfect than all those other celebrity vamps out there. There’s a genuine touch of realness about Bob – he could be you, he could be me – and who’s to say that we would fair any better than he does if we were in his shoes. What I love about this book is that there’s zero sugar-coating. Obviously, I totally get that some readers want the sugar, that’s why ‘My Vampire Abductor is in a Boy Band’ is so freaking popular, but I would urge anyone looking for something fresher than a ten-day old corpse, to check out So I Might Be A Vampire. And if you just happen to wake up one night and realise that YOU might be a vamp and need a manual on what it’s really like, this is the book you’re going to need!

With mishap, adventure and a trail of blood around every corner, So I Might Be A Vampire is fun, brutally real, and it’s a ride on the fangster train I didn’t ever want to end. Thank goodness there’s a sequel!

Five blood-drenched stars for this seriously funny, cool as f*ck, vamp-fest!

Buy it here today!

 

 

horror

Review: The Garrison Project by David J. Thirteen

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I had the pleasure of reading the first draft of this story when it was first posted on Wattpad, having already discovered David’s work a couple of years before.

David J. Thirteen isn’t your typical Wattpad writer, with his Dean Koontz vibes and nail-biting edge-of-your-seat storylines, he brings a maturity and brilliance that I believe, he really doesn’t get enough credit for. I’m constantly captivated and surprised by his work, because he has a real gift for twists and an unpredictability which is often very rare these days when it comes to paranormal/horror story-telling.

The Garrison Project is definitely no exception to the rule, particularly considering haunted house/demon possession has been done many times before, but David makes you feel like you’re reading it for the first time, bringing something fresh and beautifully sinister to the story. I’m so glad to see this story published because it really does deserve a wider audience and hopefully one that appreciates just how good a writer he is.

A disturbing, haunting read that I know will keep me awake in the dark for many nights to come!

Five stars!

paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review Time! Blood Bound – Lindsay J Pryor

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Sequels are tough to write, there’s no doubt about that. Writing a sequel to a successful, well-received, debut novel is even tougher, but when you are seven books into a series? Even some of the most famous writers of the past forty years (I’m naming no names!) can struggle with that kind of pressure, so for Lindsay J Pryor to still maintain the adrenalin-filled, fast-paced buzz of her four-year old debut Blood Shadows is seriously no mean feat.

There’s always something rather wonderful about discovering a new author when they debut, diving headlong into the pages of a book that seems so fresh and exciting and knowing that you have found a new fictional world and characters that will go down on your all-time favourites list, and it’s been an absolute pleasure over the past four years to stick with Lindsay’s Blackthorn series and feel the thrill of an imminent new release. But, to be fair, I could have said that about a lot of authors over the years, because debut novels and new literary voices are always exciting – the difference with Blackthorn, is that Lindsay’s writing just seems to get better and better with each new book in the series. With each book, the tone gets a little darker, Lindsay gets a little braver with just how far she’s going to push her readers and there’s nothing I appreciate more than a writer who is willing to not just push the boundaries, but to hurdle right over them, not to be controversial, mind you – because it has to be right for the story – but to take a story in a more challenging and unpredictable direction.

Blood Bound starts where we left off in Blood Instinct, with the war mounting between the third species and the effortlessly twisted Sirius Throme, who seems to know just how to outwit his enemies at every turn. Forced to try and find a way out of Blackthorn via the tunnel system and now faced with another potential threat much closer to home, Eden, ex-Curfew Enforcement Officer and angel envoi Jessie embark on a mission that threatens to tear them apart forever.

I’ll admit that of all the Blackthorn pairings, Eden and Jessie were never really my favourite, having had my heart claimed already by Jask and Phia (swoon Jask!), but I have to say that Lindsay really turned my head with these two in Blood Bound. At times, the imagery that exploded out of the pages was hard to ‘watch’, particularly with the short, choppy chapters that Lindsay uses so well that you can’t help but feel like you’re watching a movie, seeing the action switch back and forth at speed between the characters, but I realised partway through that I was wincing and shifting uncomfortably in my chair much more than I would usually, because I’d grown to really love Eden and Jessie as characters. I saw depth here that maybe hadn’t captivated me the first time round in Blood Deep. I felt connected to them in a way that hadn’t been obvious to me before and it wasn’t long before I wished I could reach in and save them both, even if it was strangely and morbidly fascinating to witness all the trauma and horrors that both were forced to experience.

In all honesty, I had thought to myself prior to reading Blood Bound, that to have Eden and Jessie as the focus in the penultimate book was possibly going to be hard work for me, but as usual, in her own inimitable style, Lindsay has once again pulled me in and reminded me just why Blackthorn is still my favourite PNR series of all time.

The hot scenes were hotter than ever. The action scenes were gripping and edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster rides. And just when you think Lindsay can’t surprise you with any more plot twists, you get hit between the eyes by some new, jaw-dropping revelation that has you reeling because you just never saw it coming. Seven books into the series and I am still, completely and utterly addicted to Blackthorn. That, my friends, is testament to great writing and that is why you should all pick up this series today and fall in love just as I and many other Blackthorn fans have.

Blood Bound is a heart-racing, soul-pounding instalment and thoroughly deserving of five shiny, sparkling stars!

Random stuff

Negative Feedback for a BLOGGER

So this is an interesting perspective! Book fans attacking bloggers for not leaving favourable reviews. I understand fandoms. I’ve ever been involved in a few and trust me when I say that SOME fans can get ALL KINDS of crazy. Why would you attack a blogger for not liking a book you never wrote yourself? Well, I wouldn’t personally, but I can see why ‘some’ fans would. Passion and obsession do funny things to people … But let’s be honest: it’s just an opinion and yeah, it might not be one that you agree with, but wouldn’t life be dull if we all liked the same shit? (And I say this coming out of a day of opposing views in the UK where 16 million people are pissed AF, me included).
My advice: know where to draw the line. Disagree, sure. Debate even. But don’t resort to name-calling, abuse and downright offensive behaviour just because someone disagrees with your point of view. Otherwise you’re one step away from being known as Trolly McTrollface.

Short Stories · Wattpad

Everything Will Be Dark / The Returned

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A second blog post from me in two days….I know, right? I’m clearly high on Easter eggs and Ben-Hur.

A couple of months ago, one of the lovely people from Wattpad HQ contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a story inspired by the A&E television network’s new series, The Returned.

‘We need about 15,000 words,’ they said. ‘And we’ll need weekly instalments every week for four weeks. You’ll be asked to sign a contract and if you don’t meet all the contractual agreements, we’ll send the boys round to cut off body parts and stick your head on a pike.’

Okay, so the last bit might be a lie and I might just have been watching too much Game of Thrones, but to be fair, being asked to write to order, seemed almost like putting my head on the block. I was about to start writing the third book in my Wattpad series The Whitechapel Chronicles AND I was pretty stressed out at work and the last thing I needed was to put myself under any additional pressure.

‘We’ll pay you!’ Wattpad said.

‘SHOW ME THE MONEY, you crazy Canadians!’ I replied with gusto. Yes. Gusto.

And so, I found myself signing up for my first PAID writing job. AND they were going to pay me in actual real money. REAL MONEY. Not that Monopoly stuff my older brother used to pretend was real money when we were kids (and that he used to steal from the bank whenever we played – YES, I STILL REMEMBER THAT BROTHER!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not all about the dosh. I’ve been more than happy to write for free on Wattpad for the past three years but to get the opportunity to earn a one-off salary for writing a 15,000 word short story, well, I wasn’t about to turn that down.

Not only that, but the story itself was to be commissioned by the A&E Network and that was an opportunity I knew I’d be insane to turn down.

I’m sure many people think it must be easy to write knowing you’re going to get paid for it, right? WRONG. It was hellish. I struggled with every chapter. The pressure was immense. The first chapter went down really well and then the pressure built to the point where I might have cried a little. Okay, I may have even sobbed. I almost missed the final deadline. The final chapter screwed with readers heads so I sobbed some more. It wasn’t pretty. All in all, it was much, much tougher than I ever imagined it would be.

But…if asked, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Call me a masochist, if you will, but I really would. And no, not just because of the money (although getting paid for creating stories is always a bonus) but because it was an experience I will never forget and one that I was really proud to be involved in. I was honoured to be asked by Wattpad because to me, it meant the great powers at HQ knew who I was and trusted me enough as a writer to do a decent job. On a site with 35 million users, it’s not easy to get noticed. But somehow that’s what happened, and now my story entitled Everything Will be Dark has amassed close to 90,000 reads, which is way more than most of my other short stories, barring The Fan and it reached the top three in the mystery/thriller list.

If you fancy checking out just what made me sob like a baby for four weeks, here it is.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/32744515

Thank you,

Linz xxx

 

Short Stories · Wattpad

I’m Your Biggest Fan

Back in February 2014 I published a short story on Wattpad about a drug-addled rock star who gets stuck in an elevator with an obsessed fan. It was a story about obsession, paranoia and how people react in extreme situations. 

If I’m honest, I never expected it to amount to much. I’d posted short stories on Wattpad before but they had tended to attract a much smaller audience than my paranormal romance series Dark Sanctuary and far less interest my dark fantasy series The Whitechapel Chronicles. I get why that happened. For a start, you either like short stories or you don’t. I never started reading shorties until I picked up a Stephen King collection that had been languishing on my bookshelf for months and although I loved it, even now I’d pick a full-length novel over a short any day. Secondly, my short stories find their roots more in horror than in dark fantasy or paranormal and to be fair, most of my followers on Wattpad are there for the vampires – not for the zombies, the serial killers and the the guy who flips and chokes his wife on her own lovingly-made cupcakes. 

So when I posted The Fan, I figured it would go the same way as the others and accumulate maybe five thousand reads or if I was lucky, ten thousand at a push. Feedback was pretty good, people seemed to like the story but most of the reads were from my loyal bunch of regulars as opposed to new readers. 

Then in March 2014 Wattpad made the decision to add The Fan to their Featured list and what I thought was just a little short story that would most likely drift into obscurity, suddenly took upon a life of it’s own. Those five thousand reads turned into ten, fifty, hundred and it continued to snowball until today where it’s now sitting just above the four hundred thousand mark.

Of course, getting Featured brings some demons your way – if you’ve ever been Featured on Wattpad you might just understand where I’m coming from with that!  I’ve been plagued with comments from readers who were clearly expecting some kind of Fanfiction and discovered it was anything BUT that, which often makes me chuckle when they reach the end and you can just imagine their jaws dropping and mouthing ‘WTF???’ over and over in disgust. I’ve been chastised for using swear words too much (I swear too much? Well fuck, I never knew that!). AND I got dragged over the coals by American teens who had no idea that another version of the English language existed and accused me of not knowing how to spell (Hey author, FYI it’s gray not grey!) *inserts Ace Ventura WELL REAAAALLLLLLLLLY gif*. However despite all that guff, there’s no doubt that without that helping hand, The Fan wouldn’t be well on its way to the half a million mark. 

And just when I thought that maybe the story was dead, Wattpad have again revived it like the proverbial Franenstein’s monster that it is and have added it to their promotional list in conjunction with the new film Unfriended. Overnight the reads have spiked once again and suddenly the little short story that I thought would never amount to anything, is alive and kicking, with a shiny new promotional sticker to boot. 

So huge thanks to Wattpad for continuing to support my out-of-control little shortie and thanks to those who have read, voted and commented. Yes, even  you guys who told me to stop swearing. I fucking love you all. 

http://www.wattpad.com/story/12686127-the-fan-featured-by-wattpad-2014