I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

You will be scared. But you won’t know why…

4/5 stars.
ebook, 183 pages.
Read November 16, 2020 to November 19, 2020.

If you have read this book and want to watch the Netflix show, DO NOT WATCH IT. I mean, even if you haven’t read the book I wouldn’t recommend watching the show. It was overly artsy, extremely drawn-out, boring, and missed all the best aspects and feel of the book. However, the book, I assure you is worth reading so just stick with that. A friend recommended this book, and when I first started reading it began as a typical relationship-based fiction but then, oh man, was I in for a surprise.

Jake and his girlfriend are on a road trip to meet Jake’s parents for the first time. The narration is from the girlfriend’s perspective and takes on a stream of consciousness approach as she ruminates about ending the relationship during the snowy ride over the family home.

“I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.”

Outside of a strange reoccurring phone call and message the girlfriend keeps receiving, the road trip itself seems fairly normal until the couple gets to their destination. From there the narrative begins to show frays before completely unravelling during the detour on the trip home that finds Jake and his girlfriend trapt and lost in his old high school. As the girlfriend’s thought process progresses, she explores the inner depths of the psyche that covers everything from existentialism, intelligence, death, being alone, relationships, and mental illness.

“People talk about the ability to endure. To endure anything and everything, to keep going, to be strong. But you can do that only if you’re not alone. That’s always the infrastructure life’s built on. A closeness with others. Alone it all becomes a struggle of mere endurance.”

As the story spirals you come to realise that there is more to story than was initially present. The narrator becomes increasingly unclear all while you’re being sucked into this terrifying psyche. It’s a masterful psychological thriller that allows you to enter the mind of someone on the edge of ruminating between their perceived failings in life and the choice of death.

“What if suffering doesn’t end with death? How can we know? What if it doesn’t get better? What if death isn’t an escape? What if the maggots continue to feed and feed and feed and continue to be felt? This possibility scares me.”

I was on the absolute edge of my seat reading the last quarter of this book. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it all to end while also wanting to get through the anxiety-inducing plot as quickly as possible. It’s not often a book can produce that kind of effect, which is exactly what the Netflix show lacked, especially because it threw in random dance sequences and musical numbers at the pinnacle part of the story that was supposed to be terrifying. Needless to say, I vehemently hated the Netflix adaptation. The book is short, immensely poignant, brilliantly written. It can feel slightly convoluted at times because it’s hard to follow some of the thought processes as the plot comes undone but the feeling this book creates is consistent and remains long after you’ve finished reading. The story pulls you in until you find yourself within its inescapable hole. Arguably, I could also see why some people may not have enjoyed it for the same reasons.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy psychological fiction and thriller and thought-provoking plots with a thriller or horror twist.

Mãn by Kim Thúy

“I offer you
The life I have not lived
The dream I can but dream
A soul I’ve left empty
During sleepless nights”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 153 pages.
Read from September 30, 2020 to October 6, 2020.

After reading Ru, the winner of the 2015 Canada Reads debates I was interested to see what else Thúy had to offer. This was also a nice short read to help me catch up on my reading goal for 2020.

This is the story of Mãn, a girl born in war torn Vietnam and how she came to under the care of three different women and what brought her to Montreal, Canada. She dutifully marries a Vietnamese restaurateur in Montreal and finds that she has a passion and knack for cooking. The food brings back memories of her home and the people who visit the restaurant come for this same taste of nostalgia and emotion. While she is the ever dutiful wife, she has little in common with her husband and they barely know each other. She is not unhappy, yet there is a void in her life that is missing, a divide between her life in Vietnam and her life in Canada. When Mãn meets a French chef and begins a passionate love affair, she discovers the elements in her life that she was missing and begins to connect the pieces of her life and story.

This book is a slow burner that peaks with intensity brought from Mãn’s food and eventually the passion she shares with her lover. The writing is beautiful, illicit, and moving. While not as potent as Ru this short novel is a great example of Thúy’s writing style and capabilities. It mixes prose in the languages of both Vietnamese, French/English (depending on the version you read) in a masterful collaboration through the book that compliments the plot and feel of the book.

Based on some of Thúy’s own personal history it’s easy to speculate that perhaps there is some truth in Mãn’s story as the plot is so emotive. Thúy herself arrived in Montreal from Vietnam in 1979 when she was only ten years old. While I would say that I still preferred Ru this was still a welcome read and a great introduction to Thúy and her writing.

The Dragon Head of Hong Kong by Ian Hamilton

Ava Lee displays some remarkable skills and feats that don’t go unnoticed by the leader of the people she is working with but who is this Dragon-Head leader?

4/5 stars.
ebook,  166 pages.
Read from August 4 to August 9, 2020.

I stumbled across this read while browsing the Kobo store one day and was intrigued by the title and description. I’ve been in living in Hong Kong for nearly five years now and I love to read and watch films that are set here, finding thrill at recognizing the cities landmarks and skyline. While I don’t read a lot of mystery or action based books, I really enjoyed the prequel to this series and anticipate reading the next volume.

Ava Lee is an ambitious forensic accountant that recently opened her own firm after struggling to work for someone else. It’s boring work but the work and the firm is her own and she can do things as she sees fit. Ava Lee is a Hong Kong born Canadian, raised by her mother in Canada with her wealthy businessman father remaining in Hong Kong. Ava Lee gets a strange proposition from a very desperate friend if the family who has found himself swindled out of a $1 million CAD. Reluctant to take the seemingly impossible job, Ava Lee agrees to it on her mother’s insistence as well as her own intrigue for adventure. After arriving in Hong Kong, Ava Lee quickly finds herself tracking this scammer across the border in Shenzhen where she meets some scrupulous characters to help her catch the fraud. Ava Lee displays some remarkable skills and feats that don’t go unnoticed by the leader of the people she is working with but who is this Dragon-Head leader? Unsure of whether or not her immediate alliance is to be trusted, Ava Lee still must capture the scammer and return the money to its rightful owner.

One of my favourite aspects of this book was the descriptions of Hong Kong, as it’s clear this is a place the author knows well. I could see and recognize the streets, smells and sounds of the streets as Ava Lee walked through them.  I also found myself quite captivated by Ava Lee’s character and enjoyed the author’s easy and visual writing style. I also captivating by the story build up and I am very interested to see where the next part of Ava’s story goes.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery or action based novels or anyone familiar with or interested in the wonderful city of Hong Kong.