Graphic Novelty²


audio book

The Chalk Man

After recently loving C.J. Tudor’s new short story collection A Sliver of Darkness, I decided to listen to her debut book The Chalk Man on audio. She has now vaulted to my top 5 horror writers!

Eddie and his four friends are typical young teens in an English village in 1986 when a day at the fair changes all their lives forever. A piece of ride equipment falls off and maims a young woman standing nearby Eddie, so a new teacher and Eddie provide first aid until the paramedics arrive. His connection with the albino teacher (cruelly nicknamed the Chalk Man by his students) sets off a chain reaction of events that is still reverberating thirty years later.

The book alternates between the modern day when Eddie is a bachelor teacher, still living in his childhood home and teaching at the school he had attended years ago. Still friends with two of his chums, two had moved away, when one of these friends comes back to meet up with Eddie for dinner. When this friend turns up dead afterward, and strange chalk man drawings are found, Eddie reminisces about that pivotal summer thirty years earlier when other deaths occured.

As the book progresses you learn more about that summer after the fair, as the friendship between the five begins to splinter, and how one of them is involved in a scandal concerning their father who is vicar of the local church. Eddie’s parents tie into that as do others in their small town. Some details aren’t fully connected until 2016, as their lives have braided together in unhealthy and complicit ways. What you might assume is a supernatural story, becomes more realistic as you see everyone was somehow involved, without anyone person knowing the full truth of what was going on with the others.

A nasty little twist is revealed in the concluding pages, not truly changing the secrets revealed earlier, but putting a gruesome bow on Eddie’s story. This story, plus the short story collection I read earlier this month, make me want to seek out even more books by Tudor!

The Weight of Blood

I loved this retelling of Stephen King’s classic horror story Carrie! Updated by Tiffany D. Jackson to reflect the modern day, this novel also adds in the insidious effects of racism, making this a layered and timely narrative. I listened to this book on audio, and its full voice cast kept me mesmerized.

Set in a small town in Georgia in 2014, Maddy is a bi-racial girl raised by her single white father, who has forced her to hide her racial identity her entire life. Homeschooled as a child, she has been bullied and ostracized since starting public school in seventh grade. An incident at school with her hair during her senior year, reveals her secret and she is mocked for it, but of course, the bullies claim they are not racists, they were just joking. The bullying intensifies, and the students decide to have their first integrated prom to diffuse the bad press their school is receiving. Wendy, a white popular student who feels guilty, convinces her football star Black boyfriend Kenny to ask Maddy to the prom as penance. Due to the trauma she has endured, Maddy begins to discover she has telekinetic powers that come into deadly play when what you know will happen, happens at prom.

The framework of the story is set up as a podcast as a true-crime enthusiast and a skeptic research and discuss the horrific day. This switching between the past and the present day is effective and lets these podcasters muse about how the long-reaching legacy of racism led to Maddy’s breakdown. This chilling book was excellent and expertly braided in dark themes, making this more than your typical horror story. A few threads were left unexplored in the conclusion, so I would love a sequel!

The Haunting of Hill House

I have heard great things about this novel, plus I loved author Shirley Jackson’s short story collection The Lottery and Other Stories, so I went in with high expectations for this story. Disappointingly, it didn’t deliver due to a lack of scares and characters that I didn’t connect with.

The premise is that a paranormal scientist, Dr. Montague, recruits people who have had paranormal events occur in their life come stay at the infamous Hill House that is rumored to be haunted. He reaches out to a dozen possibilities, but only two, timid Eleanor and bohemian Theodora, plus Luke who is the future heir of the house, commit to staying. A married pair of caretakers cook for them and tend the house, but leave by 6 pm as they refuse to stay in the remote location after dark. The original four start to experience strange phenomena, with Eleanor seeming to be the most susceptible. The supernatural happenings are always unseen, with implied threats, but not physical manifestations. The four veer between documenting these events and then acting as if they simply are on holiday at a country estate. Later, the doctor’s imperious wife, and family friend Arthur join them; but again it is Eleanor that the house seems to be focusing on.

Published in 1959, it is a product of its time, so the dated references both help it and hinder it. In many ways, I enjoyed this look into the late 1950s era, which relied on letters to reach out to people and no technology to help or distract them. However, the overnight guests were inexplicitly snippy and spiteful with one another with fragile Eleanor getting on my nerves, especially with her oft-repeated ” Journeys end in lover’s meetings” quote. But Jackson did describe the Gothic house well, with excellent world-building of the house’s dark past.

The conclusion came suddenly, with the Doctor insisting that Eleanor leave by herself with no assistance, and of course, this week-long experiment ends tragically. Since I can’t help but look at the narrative through a modern lens, there were so many other things this group could have done differently to have a better outcome. But then, it wouldn’t have become a classic horror story if it ended well, would it?

The Anatomy of Desire

Adapted from the classic 1925 book An American Tragedy, this audiobook was completely updated for our modern world.

In this story, social media fitness influencer Cleo Ray is on trial for killing her lover Beck Alden. Cleo supposedly killed Beck to hide her same-sex relationship from her new boyfriend Sandy, who is a rich influencer and who she wants to marry. The trial is set in a conservative area of CA, with a district attorney up for election vs the celebrity defense counsel paid for by Cleo’s rich uncle. The narrative is set up like a podcast (which made for a powerful full-cast audiobook) and we get interviews with Cleo and all the other participants, minus Beck. Cleo admits she went in with the intent to drown Beck on a canoe trip but didn’t go through with it, although an accident causes Beck’s death anyway. That she escapes the scene of the crime and doesn’t report the death, looks very bad for her case. As the trial proceeds we learn about Cleo’s childhood, but do her past misdeeds and trauma excuse her current actions?

During my book reading, I watched the 1951 movie A Place in the Sun starring a young Elizabeth Taylor, which is also adapted from the original story, and in both stories, I found the character Cleo (Clyde in the movie) reprehensible. I didn’t buy the adoration they had for their new loves and was furious at how callous they were to toss off their first partners. But the book as a whole is excellent because it is indeed a tragedy of how selfish actions led to so much heartbreak and loss for the people involved.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Non-Written Novels

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s topic is: Favorite Non-Written Novels!

If you read our blog, you know that a bulk of it is devoted to reviewing graphic novels, so instead I will choose to concentrate on audio books this week. I have a bit of a drive to work, and a heavy course load for my masters, so audio books are a perfect solution for me to enjoy novels when I drive. What made all of these books stand out was how they were voiced. I loved how some of the books had several different actors voicing the characters, for it made it more realistic and made the stories come alive. All of these editions will make you fans of audio books, if you didn’t love them already.

Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man by William Shatner- read by the author

William Shatner is known for his bombastic personality, and he remains true to form in this poignant novel about Leonard Nimoy. To be honest, this is a book that most likely will only appeal to Trek fans…of which I most definitely am.  But to hear Shatner’s voice describe his friend, IMO, is the only way to read this book. WS’s well known vocal idiosyncrasies just added to the experience.

In many ways it is a love letter to Leonard, but this book is as much about WS as it is about LN and is a way for WS to process his feelings that in the last years of LN’s life, the two had stopped speaking. WS shares many details about LN’s early life, for they both came from immigrant families of Jewish heritage, and this commonality bonded them when they started working together on Star Trek TOS. In many ways though, they were yin and yang, with different personalities and ways in which they approached their acting careers. Despite many misunderstandings, jealousies, and practical jokes their friendship endured beyond their working relationship. That there was bad blood at the end (at least from LN’s perspective), was sad, but that their friendship had lasted for so long beforehand was actually the surprise. This was a lovey tribute, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at these two iconic actor’s lives. For all Star Trek fans, I wish for you to live long and prosper!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys- read by four voice actors

A fantastic YA historical fiction book, set in 1945 in the waning months of WWII. We meet four teens who converge on the ship Wilhem Gustloff to take them across the Baltic Sea to safety, and each carries a terrible secret. Joana is a nurse from Lithuania who is of German ancestry (guilt is a hunter), Florian is a Prussian art forger (fate is a hunter), Emilia is a Polish girl hiding her identity from the Germans (shame is a hunter), and Alfred is a toadish Nazi soldier stationed on the ship (fear is a hunter).

Told in short alternating chapters from each of the four perspectives that eventually intertwine, the story unfolds as the first three teens, who are refugees hiding in the countryside, slowly make their way to the port of Gotenhafen (now named Gdynia), Poland. I found the events behind the real evacuation fascinating, and it prompted me to research this little known maritime disaster. There are war atrocities detailed, and the the fate of some is sad, but this book is a well researched chapter of history that more people should be aware of.

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry- read by various voice actors

Historical fiction at it’s finest! Set in 1241 in the countryside of Provensa France, after the bloody Crusades when religious fervor was still strong, the story details the unlikely friendship between Dolssa and Batille.

Dolssa is a woman of noble birth who is declared a heretic after she preaches of her passionate love for Jesus, whom she believes speaks to her. She escapes a public execution and is found near death by Batille, a young woman who work’s at her family’s tavern and is the village matchmaker. Batille and her two sisters hide Dolssa as she mends, although they are putting themselves in grave danger from Dominican Friar Lucien who vows to find her. Dolssa comes out of hiding to heal some villagers who were dying, and word escapes that there is a healer in their midst, for truly her beloved has given her some of His powers.

Vaguely reminiscent of Les Misérables (also French), the friar and his fellow Inquisition cohorts track Dolssa down, as they plan to burn her at the stake. The religious terror that envelops the village is gut wrenching. The book had made the residents come alive, so to see the Inquisitors torture and trick the people into betraying the young women was heartbreaking. Villagers turn against one another to save themselves, and I could see the roaring fire in my mind’s eye. Despite this, some heroes emerge at the burning, and there are still some miracles and tricks to be revealed.

This tale of friendship, love, loss and devotion will stay with you. The end of this richly researched book ends with an author’s note, and an additional reading list, for those who wish to know more of this era.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee- read by Sissy Spacek

This book is perfect in every way possible. I had read this back in high school, and while the themes of the story had stayed with me, I had forgotten many of the details of the Finch’s lives before and after the trial. This is why it is important to reread books at various stages in your life- you can see so many different threads in the book depending on your new life experiences. The symbolism of the mockingbird in the story, of innocence being destroyed by evil, and intolerance and injustice not always being balanced by integrity was so well written. The town and it’s inhabitants seemed so alive and very real to me, so I eagerly look forward to Go Set a Watchman and dearly want to know what the future holds for Scout, Jem, Atticus, Dill, Boo and the remaining Robinson & Ewell families. (Edit- don’t read GSAW if you wish to keep TKAM pure in your mind. I wrote this review a few years ago on Goodreads before I read the “sequel”)

Astray by Emma Donoghue- read by various voice actors

This book was a mix of several of my favorite genres- short stories, historical fiction and non-fiction. Every single story was amazing, even if it dealt with difficult subject matter, for the stories were based on real people or events in history. I will definitely be spending some time researching some of the information/sources that the author based her stories off. Some spoilers ahead.

Man and Boy: Jumbo the elephant & his loving zoo keeper are about to travel to the US. Onward: A lovely story of second chances and a promise of a clean slate through immigration. The Widow’s Cruse: The widow is not what she seems and plays the lawyer beautifully. Although you never find out why she did it- I was rooting for her to escape. Last Supper at Brown’s: Another story of an unlikely duo getting away with a crime. Counting The Days: So, so sad. The couple was so close to being reunited and there was no way to get a message to the wife to tell her what happened. The letters between the two showed both a loving but realistic marriage. Snowblind: A Yukon Brokeback Mountain story. The Long Way Home: A melancholy story of the limited options many women had and how they suffered because of their men’s choices. At first I misinterpreted the last scene between Mollie and Jensen, but even after I understood, I didn’t know why Mollie would want that. The Body Swap: A crime against President Lincoln’s tomb is thwarted. The Gift: Heartbreaking story about adoption through the Orphan Trains. I saw both parent’s perspectives and had sympathy for both view points. The Lost Seed: Plymouth era story of a closeted gay man who projected sins onto others and tried to cast blame on them. Vanitas: Selfish, selfish family. I cringed at the breeding comment about the slaves they owned. The Hunt: This was the most difficult story to read for it was about systematic rape that some English soldiers inflicted on women in NJ during the Revolutionary War. The men were a pack of rabid dogs and no one in command stopped them -sickening but historically accurate. Daddy’s Girl: How did any one not know? What Remains: A long-term friendship between female artists and the partnership they forged ends when one of them ‘leaves’ through her dementia.


Quick shout outs to previous audio books that I adore that I have reviewed in the past: Eleanor & Park, World War Z & Ready Player One


World War Z audio edition


Brooks, Max. World War Z. 2006.


I listened to the audio version of this book back in 2014 (Goodreads review), and LOVED it beyond belief. The actors voicing each character were perfect, and made the book come alive, more than if I had actually just read the print book. When my family went on a vacation this summer, I insisted on bringing this audio book along and forced them to listen to it (don’t worry- my kids are teens), for I was determined that they would love it as much as I did. While they aren’t as rabid about it as me, they all enjoyed it.

When I first listened to it I recognized some distinctive voices right away, but some were harder for me to place. I did some Google sleuthing to match up each character and I found this blog post that gave me all the information I was looking for. All the following data came from the  blog, In a Sea of K’s, and she should get all the credit for the research!

Introduction: Max Brooks as The Interviewer


  • Greater Chongqing, United Federation of China [Patient Zero/The First Case] — Steve Park as Kwang Jingshu (the Chinese doctor)
  • Lhasa, the People’s Republic of Tibet [Smuggler seeing signs] — Frank Kamai as Nury Televadi (smuggler)
  • Meteora, Greece [Bandits in cave/Canadian soldier’s account] — Nathan Fillion as Stanley MacDonald (Canadian soldier)
  • The Amazon Rain Forest, Brazil [virus-infected heart transplant] — Paul Sorvino as Fernando Oliveira (corrupt doctor)
  • Bridgetown Harbor, Barbados, West Indies Federation [South African slum outbreak] — Ade M’Cormack as Jacob Nyathi (Black South African)
  • Tel Aviv, Israel [Gathering Evidence/The Warmbrunn-Knight Report] — Carl Reiner as Jurgen Warmbrunn (Israeli spy)
  • Bethlehem, Palestine [Militant Son/Family Move to Israel] — Waleed Zuiater as Saladin Kader (Rebelling son)


  • Langley, Virginia USA [CIA director/CIAs non-response] — Jay O. Sanders as Bob Archer (CIA guy)
  • Vaalajarvi, Finland [The Military/America’s response] — Dennis Boutsikaris as General Travis D’Ambrosia (military brass)
  • Vostok Station, Antarctica [Capitalist who marketed vaccine] — Martin Scorsese as Breckinridge “Breck” Scott (moneymaker without remorse)
  • Amarillo, Texas, USA [Former White House chief-of-staff] — Simon Pegg as Grover Carlson (White House spin doctor)
  • Troy, Montana, USA [Zombies attack family in suburbia] — Denise Crosby as Mary Jo Miller (suburban mom)


  • Parnell Air National Guard Base: Memphis, Tennessee, USA [Highway traffic jam/zombies] — Bruce Boxleitner as Gavin Blaire (derigible pilot)
  • Alang, India [Ship Scrapyard] — Ajay Naidu as Ajay Shah (Indian refugee)
  • Topeka, Kansas, USA [Feral children; church attack] — Nicki Clyne as Sharon (4-year-old)
  • Khuzhir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, the Holy Russian Empire [Russian army experiences/decimation] — Jeri Ryan as Maria Zhuganova (Female Russian Soldier)
  • Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies Federation [Famous Millionaire’s Haven] — Henry Rollins as T. Sean Collins (merc)
  • Ice City, Greenland [Iran & Pakistan] — Maz Jobrani as Ahmed Farahnakian (Iranian pilot)
  • Denver, Colorado, USA [The Battle of Yonkers] — Mark Hamill as Todd Wainio (Army infantry)


  • Robben Island, Cape Town Province, United States of Southern Africa [The Redeker Plan] — Eamonn Walker as Paul Redeker and Xolelwa Azania (South African plan)
  • Armagh, Ireland [Hamburg, Germany, Army withdrawal] — Jürgen Prochnow as Philip Adler (West German soldier)
  • Yevchenko Veterans’ Sanatorium, Odessa, Ukraine (Kiev bridge blown to prevent zombies crossing) — David Ogden Stiers as Bohdan Tara Kondratiuk (Kievian soldier)
  • Sand Lakes Provincial Wilderness Park, Manitoba, Canada [Family Flight to Canada] — Michelle Kholos as Jesika Hendricks (little girl flees)
  • Udaipur Lake Palace, Lake Pichola, Rajasthan, India [General Raj-Singh; monkeys and blowing the pass] — Kal Penn as Sardar Khan (Indian soldier with the monkeys)


  • Taos, New Mexico [DeStRes, talent and tools] — Alan Alda as Arthur Sinclair (DeStRes guy)
  • Burlington, Vermont [Vice President, capital punishment] — Rob Reiner as “The Whacko” (VP)
  • Wenatchee, Washington [Wheelchair Home Watch; quizlings] — Dean Edwards as Joe Muhammad (wheelchair neighborhood watch guy)
  • Malibu, California [Countering suicides with success stories] — Frank Darabont as Roy Elliot (director)
  • Parnell Air National Guard Base, Tennessee [Pilot of downed plane] — Becky Ann Baker as Christina Eliopolis (Downed pilot)


  • Province of Bohemia, the European Union [Castles, She wouldn’t leave] — Eamonn Walker as David Allen Forbes (Englishman)
  • Ulithi Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia [Radio Free Earth] — Parminder Nagra as Barati Palshigar (Radio translator)
  • The Demilitarized Zone: South Korea [North Korea mystery] — Brian Tee as Hyungchoi Choi (South Korean)
  • Kyoto, Japan [Okatu, hacker escape] — Masi Oka as Kondo Tatsumi (Japanese hacker)
  • Kyoto, Japan [Blind monk] — Frank Kamai as Sensei Tomonaga Ijiro (blind monk)
  • Cienfuegos, Cuba [Defending Cuba] — John Turturro as Seryosha Garcia Alvarez
  • Patriot’s Memorial, the Forbidden City, Beijing, China [Chinese submarine] — Ric Young as Admiral Xu Zhicai
  • Sydney, Australia [Space station] — Alfred Molina as Terry Knox
  • Ancud, Isla Grande de Chiloe, Chile [Saratoga Conference of Nations] — John McElroy as Ernesto Olguin


  • Aboard the Mauro Altieri, 3000 feet above Vaalajarvi, Finland [Total War] — General D’Ambrosia
  • Denver, Colorado [The First Fight – Hope, New Mexico] — Todd Wainios
  • Ainsworth, Nebraska, USA [K9/soldier teams] — Common as Darnell Hackworth
  • Siberia, the Holy Russian Empire [Russian tactics; priests’ role] — F. Murray Abraham as Father Sergei Ryzhkov
  • Aboard the USS Holo Kai, off the Coast of the Hawaiian Islands [Fighting undersea zombies] — Brian Tee as Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Choi (Diver)
  • Quebec, Canada [Paris tunnels] — René Auberjonois as Andre Renard
  • Denver, Colorado – A Day Later [The Road to New York] — Todd Wainios


  • Burlington, Vermont — The Whacko (VP)
  • Khuzhir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, the Holy Russian Empire — Maria Zhuganova (Female Russian soldier)
  • Bridgetown Harbor, Barbados, West Indies Federation — T. Sean Collins (merc)
  • Sand Lakes Provincial Wilderness Park, Manitoba, Canada — Jesika Hendricks (fleeing child)
  • Troy, Montana, USA — Mary Jo Miller (suburban mom)
  • Chongqing, China — Kwang Jing-shu (Chinese doctor)
  • Wenatchee, Washington — Joe Muhammad (Wheelchair neighborhood watch artist)
  • Taos, New Mexico, USA — Arthur Sinclair (DeStRes guy)
  • Kyoto, Japan — Sensei Tomonaga Ijiro (blind monk)
  • Armagh, Ireland — Philip Adler (West German soldier)
  • Tel Aviv, Israel — Jurgen Warmbrunn (Israeli spy)
  • Aboard USS Tracy Bowden — Michael Choi (diver)
  • Denver, Colorado — Todd Wainios (Army infantry guy)

This version is the best audio book I have ever listened to. My God, it had Mark Hamill! It had Common! It had Denise Crosby! It had Jeri Ryan! It had Alan Alda! It had Simon Pegg! It had Nathan Fillion! I was swooning!

If you are looking for a great story this is your book. But put down the book, you must listen to the audio to get the full experience!


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