“Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear”

thinking of ending things

 

This is a difficult novel to review without spoiling it but I’ll give it the old college try. An unnamed narrator is driving with her boyfriend Jake to visit his parents in their isolated home in the country. If the title wasn’t enough of a clue, the narrator tells us in the first line of the book that she’s thinking of ending things. As their journey continues, the narrator becomes continually more unsettled Jake and his parents behavior until Jake seems to abandon her at a deserted high school while a snowstorm rages outside. The narrator’s journey through the empty school leads to a surprising conclusion that made me want to immediately flip back to the first page to reanalyze everything I’d just read.

This book immediately puts you on the back foot with the opening line. You are stuck in this car on an isolated road with this couple knowing that one of them wants to end the relationship. The unease builds until they arrive at Jake’s parents’ home at which point it became deeply uncomfortable just to read. By the time the narrator is abandoned at the high school, you know something is very wrong with this entire situation but you might not be sure just what it is. I say might because many other people who read this book apparently figured out the situation from the beginning. I remained ignorant until the climax of the book but I don’t believe the narrative would suffer if you figure it out in advance. This book is an examination of isolation and loneliness that stayed with me long after I’d finished.

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Doo doo, doo doo doo doo!

baby teeth

Did anyone else sing the title of this book to the tune of Baby Shark? No? Just me then.

Despite my knowledge of kid-friendly ear worms, I do not actually have any kids. This book essentially validated that decision as it told the story of Hannah. She is seven years old and non-verbal but otherwise very intelligent. She’s the absolute apple of her father’s eye and she loves her father even more. However, her mother Suzette, who spends all day at home with Hannah homeschooling her sees something more sinister. It doesn’t take the reader long to figure out that Suzette’s suspicions are correct. Hannah is a budding psychopath who would love nothing more than to have Daddy all to herself and Mommy out of the way permanently.

There is a constant low level of tension running through this book as we alternate between Suzette’s and Hannah’s points of view. Suzette suffers from Crohn’s disease and truly wants to be a good mother to Hannah despite hear fear and resentment. Hannah is extremely smart but not unrealistically so. The father is clueless with regards to his dysfunctional home life but not as willfully blind as some dads in these “bad seed” stories (Raymond from We Need to Talk About Kevin, I’m looking at you!). I saw one Goodreads reviewer complain that nothing happens in this story and while I think that’s externally true the back and forth between Suzette and Hannah is subtle and extremely stressful for those who like a good psychological drama.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a smartly written, psychological suspense novel that is reasonably grounded in reality. Though maybe keep it on the shelf if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming so.

“And I may have lost my mind but I believe that I rule my world”

a study in scarlet women

 

While I wanted to enjoy this book much more than I did, it grabbed me enough for me to keep the sequel on my TBR pile. My main issues with it seemed to be that it lacked focus as all the main characters were introduced and found their way to each other which happens sometimes when a book is the first in a series. I think now that all the principles are working together, the sequels will be much more focused moving forward.

If the title didn’t clue you in, this is a gender swapped Sherlock Holmes story. The protagonist is Charlotte Holmes; a woman too smart and independent for Victorian London who finds herself suddenly outcast from society and left to her own devices. With the help of Mrs Watson, a wealthy widow and former actress, Charlotte uses the persona of Sherlock Holmes to provide herself with a healthy income and use her natural intelligence. She also manages to solve 3 murders for which her father and sister have come under suspicion.

Like many iterations of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte isn’t the best when it comes to human interactions, but she is more sympathetic than many. She definitely cares about her friends and family, she’s just painfully pragmatic. Additionally, Mrs. Watson seems to add more the the mix than many of her prior male versions whose main job seems merely to be flabbergasted by Sherlock. As I said, this book does have some pacing issues as everyone finds there way into a cohesive unit but I have hope for the next book in the series.