The Girl Before

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The Girl Before

by JP Delaney

March 2017

I can’t remember what prompted putting The Girl Before on my tbr list, but when it popped up at the library, I was excited to grab it. Well, it was a fantastic thriller. The writing was engaging, the plot intense, and the characters perfectly intriguing. I read this book in one night (albeit a long night), and enjoyed every creepy second.

The story is about a very unusual apartment owned by a very unusual man (a hot, rich, young man). The apartment is in a nice part of town, with cheap rent, that comes with pages and pages of rules to be followed by the tenant. The apartment’s design is extreme minimalism and every bare aspect must be maintained. The house has a high tech alarm/lighting/music/heating system that monitors the house and tenant (in part to keep them abiding by the rules). The story oscillates between two young women, Emma (the first woman), and Jane (the second woman), describing their experiences with the apartment and owner. Spoilers: Emma originally rents the apartment with her boyfriend, Simon, but before long their relationship gets strained and Emma breaks up with Simon. She falls for the owner, Edward, and they have a relationship for a while until one day Emma is found dead. Jane rents the apartment after all of this has happened. She is enchanted with everything and embraces the lifestyle. She has just had a stillborn baby and is struggling with getting back into life. She is also swept off her feet by Edward and the creepy thing is that she looks like Emma and both she and Emma look like Edward’s late wife, who was killed with their son in a car accident. Jane soon learns about Emma and starts asking questions. She wants to believe Edward is above board, but there are rumors he killed his wife and son and Emma. On the anniversary of Emma’s death, Jane meets Simon and they begin a friendship that involves trying to solve the mystery of Emma’s death. As they delve into the past, the apartment starts acting weird, giving Jane misgivings about her rental. On top of it all, Jane finds out she’s pregnant with Edward’s baby, worrying her that he’ll be angry. Finally Jane puts everything together. Edward is intense, but not a killer. He loved Emma and he’s never gotten over her, even with Jane. Simon never got over Emma either. He was distraught when she broke it off and was the one to kill her in the end. As the realization comes to Jane, she is put in a life and death situation with Simon and defends herself, killing Simon. Edward and Jane ultimately call things off when their baby is born with Down syndrome. Jane moves on, happy with with her baby boy and renting elsewhere, and a new young woman applies to live in the apartment!!

Summing it up: this book was so intense in such a good way. I loved it and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Woman In Cabin 10

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The Woman In Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware

February 2017

From the second I heard about The Woman In Cabin 10, I wanted to read it. Now that I’m loving thrillers, the synopsis of this one drew me in right away. This one had me on edge every second and I loved it. It was truly an experience reading it and I see why it’s so popular.

Lo is a travel magazine journalist who has gotten the opportunity to take a luxury cruise on a small ship from England to Norway. It’s a great move for her career, but is shadowed by a burglary days before she’s supposed to leave. It shakes Lo up and sets her off for a rough start to her trip. Once aboard, Lo settles in to the small, but divine cruise ship. Everything is designed to bring comfort and luxury to the passenger. Part of Lo’s job is to make connections with the influential people traveling with her, as well as report on her experience. The first night there is a cocktail party and Lo is in the process of getting dressed when she realizes she doesn’t have her mascara. She knocks next door and a young woman opens it and reluctantly gives Lo some mascara. Lo doesn’t see the girl for the rest of the night and is puzzled when she learns that the girl’s cabin (cabin 10) is unoccupied. Later that night Lo is awoken to the sound of a splash. She runs to her balcony convinced she sees a body shaped bundle in the water and a smear of blood on the adjacent balcony. This immediately puts her in a tizzy and after a sleepless night, Lo decides to do some journalistic digging. She questions everyone and tries desperately to find the missing girl. But no one knows her and there is no one is missing in either the guests or crew. The chief of security doesn’t believe Lo, nor does her ex and fellow journalist, Ben. Her only sympathetic ear is Richard, the owner of the cruise ship. Spoilers: Lo’s obsession begins to get her in trouble. Someone is on to her and things start disappearing, like the mascara and her phone. Lo’s anxiety is building as they near the end of the cruise. Her evidence and phone are gone and she’s becoming increasingly more paranoid. Finally, as the boat is nearing port, the missing girl knocks on Lo’s door. Lo follows her, only to get knocked out and locked in a small room in the bowels of the ship. She’s kept hostage for a few days before she starts getting answers. The girl is Richard’s lover, Carrie. His wife is fighting cancer and he wants to be rid of her. So he created a plan to have Carrie disguise herself as his wife, then he knocked out his wife and had Carrie throw her overboard. But Lo knows too much, so Richard has Carrie snatch her, with plans to kill her. Lo is able to turn Carrie onto her side and they plan her escape. Carrie arranges everything and warns Lo not to tell anyone the truth until she’s out of Norway because Richard is influential with the police. Lo’s escape is almost perfect, but she ends up falling overboard and swimming to shore where she ignores Carrie’s advice and tells the police everything. In the nick of time she realizes her mistake as she overhears the police calling Richard. She manages to run away and find help in a local who lets her use his phone to call her boyfriend Judah, who has been worried sick. She finds out later that two bodies have been found: Richard’s and his wife’s. Lo also gets a secret message from Carrie that she escaped (and it’s obvious she killed Richard). Throughout the book, Lo struggles with anxiety and alcoholism and works on handling them, which was an interesting layer that added to the suspense.

Summing it up: This thriller was suspenseful and intense. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

It Runs In The Family

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It Runs In The Family

by Richard Manning

March 2017

In an attempt to broaden my reading scope, I decided to add some biographies to my reading list. It Runs In The Family intrigued me and it turned out to be a fascinating book. I was most captivated by Manning’s writing. It was enchanting and drew me in throughout the entire book. I did find his style a bit choppy as he jumped from topic to topic a bit haphazardly. Because of that, I found myself putting it down, but then drawn to pick it back up nonetheless. Manning covers a huge range of topics from politics to global warming to religion to family. His memoir covers his journey growing up in a fundamentalist family with a detached father and abusive mother. Manning becomes a journalist, breaking away from his religious upbringing. He draws on his past to learn why he is the way he is: for instance, he suffers from depression and he realizes it’s because feelings of loneliness run on both sides of his family (just manifesting itself differently). I found Manning’s memoir interesting with its broad range of topics, and fascinating with its conclusions.

Summing it up: I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Host

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The Host

by Stephanie Meyer

March 2017

I was obsessed reading The Host. I don’t know why, but I was sucked in by the first chapter and engrossed until the last word. When I had to put it down, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The writing, the plot, the characters – they all were interesting, dynamic, and real. I loved this book.

Earth has been invaded by aliens. They are worm-like, silver creatures who attach to humans’ brains and take over control of their “hosts.” They came to stop human violence and they have incredible medical skills so that every illness and disease is curable. When humans started realizing what was going on, they fought back and went into hiding, so they didn’t get caught by Seekers and get taken over by aliens. Some humans are resistant hosts who don’t let the alien, or soul, take complete control. This story is told from the perspective of a soul named Wanderer who has taken the body of Melanie, a host who will not give over control. The story chronicles their internal battle for control and what happens along the way. Spoilers: Mel has a brother and boyfriend she is determined to get back to. By resisting Wanderer, she slowly convinces her to go searching for them. Wanderer is conflicted, but begins to feel badly about taking Mel’s body, so she agrees. They end up finding them, along with Mel’s Uncle Jeb, who runs a hidden compound. But it is a disaster because no one believes that Mel still exists. Jeb suspects that Mel might still be there, so he keeps everyone from killing Wanderer. He says at one point, “I’ve always thought that if a person wants to, he can get along with just about anybody. I like putting my theories to the test. And see, here you are, one of the nicest gals I ever met.” Slowly and excruciatingly, Wanderer, now affectionately called Wanda, integrates into their society. Mel’s brother, Jamie accepted Wanda from the beginning and wasn’t long to figuring out that Mel was still around. He loves them both and always supports them. Mel’s boyfriend, Jared is furious. He hates Wanda and doesn’t believe Mel’s there at all. It’s a long, long time before he accepts the truth. But when he does, he fiercely supports them. One of the humans hiding out, Ian, is kind to Wanda after only a little while and starts to fall for her. It is awful for Wanda and Mel because they have one body and two loves. Eventually, Wanda comes to one conclusion: she has to give Mel her body back because taking it was wrong. Her plan is to teach their doctor how to extract the soul without the soul destroying the host (they do that and then kill themselves before the humans can) and without the soul dying. The humans can send the hosts to another planet. Then, she’ll have the doctor extract her from Mel. Wanda loves the humans around her and their planet, so she can’t bring herself to be sent somewhere else (she’s already lived on 9 planets). She asks doc to let her die and give her a proper burial. All goes according to plan. Super spoiler: No one really wanted Wanda to die, even though they really wanted Mel back. In their process of separating souls from hosts, they learn that some hosts are too far gone and their old selves never return to their body. One such body they give to Wanda so that she can live with them and help them. It’s such a happy ending. Mel’s with her love and brother and Wanda gets to have a human body without guilt and be with Ian. There are subplots with Wanda’s seeker and many other details, but that is the heart of the story.

Summing it up: I loved every second of this book and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Everything You Want Me To Be

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Everything You Want Me To Be

by Mindy Mejia

March 2017

Everything You Want Me To Be was an intense, twisty thriller. It was suspenseful, engaging, and after finishing it: haunting. I can’t stop thinking about it. I loved it, but it was so sad. I definitely feel down after reading it, but it was brilliantly written and for that reason, I liked it.

The story is about the murder of a small town girl, and is told from three perspectives. The first perspective is Hattie’s. She is the young girl who died and she tells her side of the story leading to her murder. The second is Peter, the high school English teacher who also tells the story as it leads up to Hattie’s death. And the third is Del, the town’s sheriff, who is working the case from Hattie’s death and trying to piece the mystery together. All three blend to tell the whole story. Spoilers: Hattie performs for everyone. She figures out what someone (her parents, teachers, boyfriend) wants and becomes that person, ignoring what she wants. She is also a gifted actress who performs in her high school and community theaters. She’s a senior and determined to move to New York when she graduates. Peter is a young English teacher at Hattie’s high school. He’s moved into this small town with his wife from Chicago because his mother-in-law is ill and needs care. He becomes resentful as his wife pours more and more into her mother and her mother’s chicken farm, neglecting Peter. She no longer wants to talk to him and slowly shuts him out, so he stops trying after a while. Peter turns to the internet and begins talking to Hattie on a New York forum (though they don’t know it as they have pseudonyms). They have lots in common and soon they have cyber sex. One day in class Peter quotes something Hattie had said online and she figures out who he is. She asks him if they can meet and they do at her performance of Jane Eyre. They continue their affair, meeting sporadically after Hattie turns 18. Peter tries to end it several times, but Hattie always pulls him back in. Then Peter finds out his wife is pregnant (from one night together) and she tells him she’s not moving back to Chicago. He decides he needs to end things with Hattie for good to give his marriage another chance. Hattie accepts it at first, but then realizes that they are miserable apart and that even though it will be hard, they have to fight to be together. She pulls together a desperate plan for them to move to New York together, even buying the bus tickets and pooling their money. She tells Peter and he agrees to do it because he loves her and wants to be with her. They are in a barn on Peter’s neighbor’s property and completely alone (or so they think – in fact Peter’s wife was out cleaning knives for her chicken business and heard Peter come home, so followed him to his meeting with Hattie and saw how they were in love). She left the knife (hardly realizing she had it still) and went home. Before their meeting, Hattie broke up with her boyfriend Tommy, and after Peter left, Tommy came in with the knife (having seen Hattie with Peter) and confronts Hattie before killing her. Unbeknownst to him, Hattie had been recording her happiness (Peter left Hattie after a joyful time together and that’s when she started recording), so her murder was fully recorded. Tommy’s reappearance isn’t known at first and everything points to Peter as the killer. He thinks his pregnant wife killed Hattie, so he confesses to protect her. It isn’t until Tommy dies from drunk driving that they find the knife and tape. Peter is released (but not before losing his job and marriage) and Del takes some pity on him. He gives Peter the tickets and money Hattie had put aside and sends him to New York to start a new life. It’s so, so sad for so many reasons. And yet, it was so good!

Also, a totally random quote from Peter in one of his classes that has nothing to do with the plot, but I loved it: “This is about reading and critically thinking about what you’ve read and how the text has changed you. Every book changes you in some way, whether it’s your perspective on the world or how you define yourself in relation to the world. Literature gives identity, even terrible literature.”

Summing it up: I really enjoyed this book, even though it was so sad, and definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey