Am I only capable of unpopular opinions?: The Chalk Man & The Wife Between Us Reviews

I have been, for most of 2018 thus far, hankering for a good thriller.

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been full-on CRAVING a quick read with some twists and some turns and some spooks and some creeps.

So I’ve read a bunch of self-proclaimed “””thrillers.””” And they’ve all been disappointments rivaling the time when I was six and I was about to move on from Daisies to Brownies in Girl Scouts before finding out that the name “Brownies” was an absolute LIE and had goddamn nothing to do with the delicious treat, causing me to quit in justified disgust.

Here are two of those Brownie-level disappointments: The Chalk Man and The Wife Between Us.

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The Chalk Man


In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Review: 1/5

I am sick of a lot of things.

I am sick of studying. I am sick of eating anything other than desserts in the name of “““health.””” I am sick of pretending as a society that Jonathan is an important part of the show Stranger Things, when we all must know that the show would be 200% better without his scary-looking face and inability to act.

But I may not be as sick of anything as I am sick of books like this one.

I love thrillers. I love reading books that creep me out and confuse and shock me and keep me turning pages long into the night because I can’t put it down.

I define a thriller as a book that thrills, and by that definition, maybe one in ten “thrillers” I read actually qualify.

This one really f*cking doesn’t.

This is just The Girl on the Train with a male protagonist who reallyyyy needs to have sex with someone before it turns into a national emergency.

Yes. This is just as alcoholism-focused and monotonous and plotless and overwhelmingly British and boring as The Girl on the Train. It, too, has no plot or twists or creepiness or shock value. Like that horrible bestseller, it has an off-the-charts unlikable protagonist and not much else.

The writing style is grating. What I believe are supposed to be twists are just as boring as everything else. The reveals are mundane. The story alternates between the childhood of the main character, Eddie, in 1986 and the present day, and it’s hard to choose which is the more punishing side.

I don’t know how many times I’ll have to say this. Maybe infinitely. Maybe I’ll just have to keep saying this until I forget to say anything else and my lifelong mission will be to drill this into the minds of wannabe thriller writers everywhere:

I want thrills. I don’t want long descriptions of drinking and drunkenness. I don’t want protagonists so unprofoundly introspective that every other statement is followed by pointless wonderings on the state of the world and of humanity. I don’t want confused metaphors or reuse and reuse and reuse of maybe-creepy descriptions out of a seeming inability to think of anything new or better. (Shoutout to the chalk men drawings and Mr. Halloran’s albinism in this book.) I REALLY don’t want in-depth sensory descriptions of unclean teenage d*ck. (Sorry.)


That’s my bottom line.

Thanks to Penguin First to Read for the ARC.

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The Wife Between Us


A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.

You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.

You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.

You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

Review: 2/5

I believe pretty constantly that I am stuck in some purgatory-esque punishing cycle of monotony.

I believe I am sentenced to a lifetime of reading the same comment on my pre-review of Turtles All the Way Down. I believe I will never escape my apparently unbelievably high standards for books, considering I never like anything. And now, I believe that I will forever hate every thriller.


Let’s back up.

The Girl on the Train is a bad book. I talk about how it sucks harder than anything here. The characters are bad. The protagonist is drunk and also drinking all the time, so 80% of the hellscape language is vodka and/or wine related, and the 20% that isn’t usually revolves around the protagonist’s worrying about their (but almost always her) weight. This combination accomplishes the impressive feat of making the book even boring-er. There are no thrills or spooks or compelling mysteries. There are some twists, but they don’t feel twisty, either a) because they’re predictable, b) because they’re uninteresting, or c) because the writing is so sh*t that it doesn’t even inject some shock value into what’s supposed to be essentially the sole redeeming moment of the whole shebang.

Some of this is observable in The Grown-Up and Final Girls. Most of it can be found in The Couple Next Door and The Chalk Man. ABSOLUTELY ALL OF IT CAN BE FOUND IN THIS BOOK.

Especially the thing with the twists. There were maybe 4 twists? Not exactly the nonstop thrill ride the synopsis indicates, but definitely has potential, if not for the fact that I predicted at least half of them and couldn’t tell whether I predicted the other two or was just so hopelessly bored that nothing mattered anyway, and therefore nothing held the capacity to shock.

I’ve said this a million times, and I’m still astounded I’ve ever had to say it at all: All I want from a thriller is thrills. I’m mystified as to how that seems to be so much to ask for.

The other thing I know for goddamn sure is that I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER in my life want to read about an aging alcoholic worrying about the softness around her hips while handling the world’s most boring mystery with the greatest incompetence ever beheld by the eyes of man EVEREVEREVER again.

Bottom line: (Michael Scott voice) No! God! No! God, please, no! No! No! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

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Do you like thrillers? Have you read either of these? How hard do you disagree with my thoughts? What’s wrong with me?

36 thoughts on “Am I only capable of unpopular opinions?: The Chalk Man & The Wife Between Us Reviews

  1. Theo @readingandrambling says:

    I LOVE YOUR REVIEWS SO MUCH ESPECIALLY THE NEGATIVE ONES. i really like thrillers but almost never read any but the wife between us is on my tbr. hopefully i’ll like it???

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      THANK YOU I LOVE YOU SO MUCH ESPECIALLY THE NEGATIVE ONES (?). honestly hoping you like it, i might be the only person who doesn’t so your chances are high

      Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      ahh thank you kristin!!!! i say staying away from both of these = extremely good call unless you’re a passionate fan of The Girl on the Train


  2. Fictionophile says:

    Hi Emma, there is nothing wrong with you! Perhaps you are just ‘burnt out’ with the thriller genre? Hey, it happens. I loved “The Chalk Man”, but every book is not for every person. I recently read a ‘thriller’ by Richard Parker that was just too ‘full-on’ thriller for my taste – perhaps you would like it more than I did? It was called “Keep her safe”. My review:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Norrie says:

    I quite liked both of them. I’m sorry they were not so great for you.
    I found The Chalk Man when I was looking for books that have similar style/ feeling to Stephen King books, and for me, that just sealed the deal. Without the bits set in 1986 I don’t think I would have liked it that much, but once i find something that captivates me, I just kinda fall in love with the whole thing.

    Generally I haven’t found that many thrillers (newly published) I liked. Maybe try some older books? I’m kinda getting tired of those books that are marketed as “edge of the seat thrillers” and “another Girl on the train”, etc.

    But i do remember some good stuff from years ago. Like the legal thrillers from Scott Turow is the first that comes to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      ooh will definitely check out Scott Turow! i think i’m going to give thrillers that veer more toward straight-up horror a try – maybe that’s the problem i’m having with not feeling thrilled enough?? i’m glad you liked both more than me!!


    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      i am obsessed with reading them but i rarely find one i actually like!!! honestly i would say “hey most people liked the chalk man so you will probably like it too” but i disliked that book so strongly that i feel like saying that would be Unfair

      Liked by 1 person

  4. May @ Forever and Everly says:

    I do not read many thrillers because I often get scared easily but one good thriller I will recommend is Here Lies Daniel Tate DJSKDKSJF MESSED ME UP. it’s more mysterish than thrilling but still.

    I see you with the Office references. (except that I have never watched the Office)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma says:

    “a male protagonist who reallyyyy needs to have sex with someone before it turns into a national emergency” OH MY GOD THIS IS ALMOST EVERY BOOK EVER WRITTEN BY A MAN

    Liked by 2 people

  6. TheReadersBay says:


    Also, do you know what I especially hate? When the back covers of thriller books say, “perfect for readers of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train” Like dude. those books were bad, and not every thriller has to be like them.

    Great Reviews!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fletcher says:

    I fully agree with you these wannabe writers that do not even manage school English suddenly become popular with the book clubs of bores house wives. Psychological thrillers please give me a break. And the Woman in the Window must have been one of the worst.


plz give me attention

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