I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

A psychological thriller that is chockfull of suspense, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the kind of book that leaves you with way more questions than answers. This is my attempt at an honest without any spoilers (which basically means I won’t be saying much at all), but if you want my more detailed thoughts, check out our discussion of I’m Thinking of Ending Things on The Stacks Book Club with our guest, Niccole Thurman (Please take note, there are a ton of spoilers on this episode).

I did not care for this book. I didn’t care about the plot or the characters, especially the female lead. I felt that she was lackluster and a clear example of what can go wrong when a man writes from the female perspective. She was two dimensional and constantly deferring to her boyfriend, Jake. The same was true for the plot. It lacked any excitement beyond a general sense of suspense. Sure, I was worried about what would happen next, but honestly, I didn’t really care what happened, I just wanted something to happen.

Without giving away anything, the ending was a let down and I felt it came out of left field. The book ended and I was confused to what had actually happened. When I read or watch suspense, I like to understand what went down and what clues I missed. I like to go back and see where the author was taking me and how I could have solved it on my own. I like to understand the twists. In the case of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, I finished the book and couldn’t tell you how we got here. I would love to say more, but everything about this book is basically a spoiler.

I wouldn’t suggest this book to anyone. I will say, I have read a lot of reviews by a great number of people and publications that loved this book. Thriller is not my genre of choice, and perhaps my lack of exposure to the form left me grasping for straws by the end. If you want more on I’m Thinking of Ending Things, you can hear Niccole Thurman and I discuss this book in great detail, with all the spoilers, on The Stacks Episode 52.


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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 50 Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister — The Stacks Book Club (James J. Sexton)

Lawyer and author James Sexton (If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late) is back on The Stacks to discuss Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. In her newest book, Traister explains the revolutionary power of women’s anger. In our discussion for The Stacks Book Club we talk about intersectional feminism, the 2020 Election, and the power and persuasiveness of Traister’s arguments. Today’s episode is spoiler free.

Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. The Stacks participates in affiliate programs, and shopping through the links below (mostly Amazon) helps support the show, at no cost to you.

Connect with James’: James’ Instagram | James’ Twitter | James’ Website

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together by James J. Sexton, Esq.

The Stacks received If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.

In his how-not-to book about marriage, James Sexton gives us a load of relationship advice from the vantage point of a man that has seen a whole lot of marriages fail. Sexton has been litigating divorces for over twenty years, and according to him, he has seen it all. He shares his advice, observations, and a few funny stories in his book, If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late.

Sexton finds a way to keep this book engaging by never settling into a pattern with his advice and keeping it light (for the most part) and funny. He understands the task at hand and the expected form of the book, and plays into the genre perfectly. He also gives us juicy antidotes about people’s affairs, sexual fetishes, grocery shopping, and one crushing story about an abusive pimp. Like I said, Sexton has seen it all, and he has no problem sharing it with his readers.

Some advice in this book is basic, and common, and what you hear from every relationship expert ever. Suggestions like, listen to your partner, pay attention to your partner, communicate with your partner, show up for your partner. All of that is in this book. Of course you get that in this book and any book on marriage, but Sexton does liven things up a bit. He contributes advice like, splitting custody of your kids even when you’re happily married, having your money in “yours”, “mine”, and “ours” accounts, embracing a diverse sex life. He also suggests you treat your marriage like the only car you’ll ever have for the rest of your life, so what are you buying? And how often are you changing the oil and getting the brakes checked?

As I was reading, I sometimes felt like Sexton was over simplifying complex human emotions and interactions. Obviously he sees marriages in the final stages where a lot is on the line (custody, finances, housinng, etc.) and this amplifies any understanding of marriage (just as death can amplify any understanding of life). That isn’t to say he is wrong, it is just to say his advice comes from a very particular point of view, lacking any insight on how to be married “right”. It is all deductive reasoning. If this failed in one marriage, do the opposite and you’re all set. I’m not sure marriage is so simple as Sexton implies. He might be right, but he also may not be. Just because we agree something isn’t white, doesn’t mean it’s black.

If you’re looking for an easy read about relationships from a point of view you might not always consider, you should check out this book. It is an enjoyable read, and though I wouldn’t stake my marriage on it, it did help me look at things I do with my husband and think, I could certainly be a better partner in these ways. It was worth my time, and I’m glad to have read it.

Click to hear James Sexton on The Stacks talking about If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late and more.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

E685FB9E-B8BD-4102-8343-3F3BD1CA6661I went into this book with high expectations. I had seen it all over the internet and some friends were excited about it, too. I purposely did not read anything about the book, and only knew what I gathered from #bookstagram posts. I knew it was a sci-fi book. I knew it was “mind-blowing”. For those of you who aren’t super familiar with this book, here is a little more about it:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

If we’re being honest, even that blurb doesn’t tell you much about the book. The main thing this book has going for it, is suspense. For the majority of the book you have no clue where its going, and what is coming next. You root for Jason to find out whats going on, and you keep rooting for him as the book unfolds. Sure. The book moves fast enough that you don’t even really have time to decide if you care about Jason. Which, by the end I discovered, I didn’t. I did however want the book to be over, with about 75 pages left. I didn’t care how it ended, I just wanted to know how it ended.

I found this book to be cheap and easy. The writing style is so simple, Crouch barely forms complete sentences. I paused my reading a quarter of the way through to see if this book was Young Adult, because it lacked so much nuance (which I don’t mean as a dig at YA, since some YA books are amazing and subtle). Crouch shies away from developing any of the characters, aside from perhaps Jason. He fares the best, which is good for the reader, since we’re stuck with him the whole time.

Another let down in this book was that it just wasn’t original. Sure this exact story has never been told, but the idea that the choices we make could change our whole trajectory is as old as regret itself. Movies like Sliding Doors or Groundhog Day could fit into this genre. There was a lack of specificity in this book, so the characters and story fell flat. It seemed like a prototype of a genre, verses an actual novel.

I know that I am an outlier on this book and lots of people loved this one. So you might like it too. Its an easy read, and its clever in theory. If you enjoy a light suspenseful book, this could work for you. If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below.

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books (August 24, 2017)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy Dark Matter on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham

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I heard about this book from Subway Book Review on Instagram and I added it to my TBR (to be read) list thinking I would get to it eventually. However, I decided that I would be focusing on reading a little more about immigration this month, and decided why not dive into this book.

If you’re like me and knew nothing about this book before now, here is a little intro to the story

In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the seventeen-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother’s custody in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating a new school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of life as American teenagers—girls, grades, Facebook—with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers a coming of age tale that is also a nuanced portrait of Central America’s child exodus, an investigation of U.S. immigration policy, and an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience.

This book is a fascinating look at the current immigration situation in Central America. It is at once both, micro and macro. In the small sense we follow a set of Salvadorian twins as they leave home and move to California. We experience their failures and triumphs, their pain and their joy. We watch them as they navigate life away from home and family in a whole new world, El Norte. Some of the things they go through are harrowing and spirit breaking, and we follow them as they navigate that. As they grow and as they stumble.

Markham doesn’t stop there. She uses this story as a jumping off point to tell a much bigger story. The story of how this crisis started, how it has evolved, and how dangerous it has all become. Both life in these Central American countries, and life upon coming to America. She looks at the economic instability and violence that prompts people to leave home. We look at the choice to leave home, and how in the face of fear for one’s life, that that choice is less of a choice, and more of an ultimatum. Markham also examines how America has been involved in helping to create the instability in Central America, and what responsibility America has to right their wrongs?

I was moved by this book. I felt I learned so much, and understood the immigration situation, especially that of unaccompanied minors much better. I felt connected to the twins and their personal struggles in a way that humanized children that flee their hometowns to find a better life for themselves and their families. It was a reminder that these children are just that, children, and that they deserve a chance to thrive, and not merely survive. No matter where they were born and what mistakes they make along the way.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. A lot of the themes are universal, and the topic is so current, it is worth reading and thinking about. If you do read it, or you have read it tell me what you thought about it.

  • Audio CD: 11 hours 12 minutes
  • Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
  • Publisher: Random House Audio (September 12, 2017)
  • 5/5 stars
  • Buy The Far Away Brothers  in print or audio on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden

24576BC9-7AA9-4F0A-9BF7-B97FAC7376BA.JPGI’m a few weeks away from my first trip to Colombia. I am super excited about this trip and wanted to read up a little on the country and its history. There is no more famous Colombian than Pablo Escobar, so I thought this book would be a good place to start.

Here is a little more on this book

A tour de force of investigative journalism- Killing Pablo is the story of the violent rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. Escobar’s criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage in a reign of terror that would only end with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes details never before revealed about the U.S.-led covert sixteen-month manhunt. With unprecedented access to important players—including Colombian president Ceasr Gaviria and the incorruptible head of the special police unit that pursued Escobar, Colonel Hugo Martinez-as well as top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar’s intercepted phone conversations, Bowden has produced a gripping narrative that is a stark portrayal of rough justice in the real world

This book is a very straight forward look at the manhunt for Pablo Escobar. Bowden has zeroed in on a very short time period for the majority of the book, 1989-1993, and is looking at the downfall of Escobar and the different groups and individuals that made his assassination possible.

The book is dealing with very complex issues, however Bowden barely skims the surface of the contradictions and hypocrisies that are throughout this book. While Escobar was no doubt a villian and a terrorist, the same can be said of the actions by both the US and Colombian governments, something Bowden glosses over.

The book is jammed packed with facts and details about the process of finding and killing Escobar, Bowden does little analysis of this information. It is as if he is relying on the sheer amount of detail to hide from having to grapple with the problematic elements of this story. There are issues at play, related to race and world policing, that would have added a nice layer to this book. Instead, this book feels as if it barely scratches the surface of all that could be said. Killing Pablo is an in depth and well researched look at exactly what happened, it does not go into detail about the much more interesting, why, and how it continues to happen.

If you’re a fan of The Narcos  Series, you may enjoy this book. The show uses this book as some of its main source materials. However I feel that the show is more exciting and engaging than I found this book. It is also worth reading if you are interested in Colombia, mostly to get a sense of how their government functioned in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

If you do pick it up, let me know what you think in the comments.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (July 14, 2015)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy Killing Pablo on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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The truth is I had picked up this book two years ago and got 30 pages in and just wasn’t that into it. After hearing about how great it was from a bunch of people, I decided to give it a second chance. This time though, I did it as an audio book. My first audio book in years, and my first ever not on a long road trip. I’m really glad I came back to this book.

If you’re not familiar with this story here is a little more about Station Eleven

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

This is one of those books that will stay with you. It is a realistic and bleak examination of the apocalypse. It’s the end of the world, but without any special effects, zombies, or sci-fi. You’re left with only the realization that the world you once knew is gone, and you still must carry on. What does that look like? What does that mean? Station Eleven is the story of humanity in decline, and then whatever happens after that. Survival. Remembrance. Creation.

Mandel is skillful and deliberate in the telling of this story.  Instead of allowing the audience to escape from the horrors of life-after-pandemic by inundating us with images of death and despair, Mandel forces us to confront these terrifying moments one by one. She is sensitive to the time it takes to process these nightmares, and gently guides the reader through. She weaves the different stories together by dangling details that then become strands carried on throughout the book. Mandel’s writing moves the reader through space and time seamlessly.  There is an ease to her prose and she is delicate with the emotions she brings to the surface. It is a balance between the supremely bleak and the surprisingly hopeful.

Considering how deliberate and crafted this book is, the ending left a lot to be desired. I won’t be spoiling anything here, but I will say, it ties up a little too nicely. Toward the end, Station Eleven veers into the precious which up until this point, Mandel really has fought against. Its clean and neat, in a way post-apocalypse shouldn’t be. I won’t say more.

Since I listened to this book it is worth talking about the narrator, Kirsten Potter. She was fantastic. Her ability to shift between characters without being too over the top was greatly appreciated. She was a perfect compliment to the language and helped to articulate the struggle of the characters and the desperation of the time.

I would cosign anyone who wanted to read this book, but would highly recommend it to those who love speculative fiction, dystopian societies, or stories that weave many character together. This is a solid book with a lot to reflect on. I did not want the story to end.

  • Audio CD: 10 hours 41 minutes
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (September 9, 2014)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Station Eleven in print or audio on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.