The Chemist

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The Chemist

by Stephanie Meyer

July 2017

I really enjoyed this book. I reminded me of the Jason Borne movies. I loved the suspense and mystery throughout the book. I was completely caught up in the story and whether everyone was going to make it or not. The writing was phenomenal. My one and only complaint was that it got graphic at points. The main character is a professional torturer and things get dicey at a few points. So, I skimmed a little! Even though I didn’t like the gory parts, they were necessary for the plot, and needing to skim didn’t detract from the book . . .I still loved it. Meyer is absolutely becoming a favorite author. I read The Host first and now The Chemist and I really enjoyed both.

Alex (one of her various aliases) is a former torturer for the American Government. For a reason unknown to her, the government is trying to kill her, so she goes on the run. She gets tracked down by a former associate and asked to come in for a job. Alex is extremely skeptical, but the stakes are high (someone is about to expose the US to a horrific disease), so she decides to step in. The target is an all-American English high school teacher, Daniel. He’s made several trips to Mexico and is syphoning money into various accounts. Alex mages to capture him, setting him up in her torture lab. Mild spoilers: She’s plagued by the idea that he’s not really a bad guy, but the agency can’t be wrong. As she’s torturing him, the feeling strengthens and before long they have company: Daniel’s twin brother, Kevin. Turns out, the “job” was a trap and isn’t real – and Daniel is completely innocent and oblivious. Kevin was in the CIA and got burned when he wanted to continue digging into a job that was “closed.” The threesome become a reluctant crew when they realize they are more likely to stay alive if they stick together. However, Alex and Kevin strongly dislike each other. Daniel serves as the go-between to keep the peace and they begin a long journey to figure out why Kevin and Alex are wanted dead by their two departments. Poor, innocent Daniel gets taken for a ride but he goes willingly as he has fallen for Alex (he fell for her before she tortured him and he decides to overlook the torture). Big spoilers: The threesome travel, trying to be secretive and keep their trail quiet, to Kevin’s safe house. They stay there for only a short time before they are discovered. Kevin is away at this point, so his highly trained dogs, including his lead dog, Einstein, take Alex and Daniel to safety. They meet back up with Kevin and figure out that their directors want them dead because they know information about a political coup. Kevin gets captured and Alex and Daniel hatch an elaborate plot to free him from torture (including a kidnapping, poisoning, and amazing disguises). They manage it, but Daniel gets shot. Thankfully it’t not his heart, but it is his lungs and it’s a brush with death. The family vet steps in to save the day and Daniel is healed. The plot included disposing of the two directors, so no one is left to try and kill them. They keep hiding and build a life for themselves free from fear and discovery. By this time Kevin and Alex have become friends and Alex and Daniel are full on in love!

Summing it up: I loved this intense, creative, awesome book (even though I skimmed some of the gory parts). I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

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Rebecca

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Rebecca

by Daphne du Maurier

June 2017

Rebecca is my latest book club book. I’d never heard of it, even though it’s a classic. I dove in not knowing what to expect, and ended up loving this creepy, intense thriller. Daphne du Maurier is one the best authors I have read. Her descriptions were spot on and incredibly vivid. I was swept up in her imagery by the first sentence. The book started fairly slow and steady and for a while I really wondered where it was going (I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t fast-paced), but then it took a sharp turn and I couldn’t put it down. This is a book where you end up kind of rooting for the “bad guy” (I couldn’t help it), who is rather endearing. This book is brilliant, thrilling and exquisitely written. It is reminiscent of gothic novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

 

Rebecca follows the story of a young unnamed woman who is the companion to a wealthy lady before meeting Maxim de Winter, a mysterious widower in mourning. Their romance is rapid and Maxim soon proposes and marries the new Mrs. de Winter (she is never named in the whole book). They have a blissful honeymoon before returning to Maxim’s home, Manderley. It is stately, grand, and beautiful and has been in Maxim’s family for years. He quickly returns to his routine of running the manor, while Mrs. de Winter struggles to find her place. She feels hopelessly overshadowed by the former Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca. She is despised by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who was devoted to Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers is determined to undermine and destroy the new Mrs. de Winter. She succeeds in part at a grand ball where she tricks Mrs. de Winter into wearing the same outfit Rebecca did at her last ball before she died. Danvers succeeds in hurting Maxim and Mrs. de Winter and causing a bit of a rift between them. Mrs. de Winter is convinced that Maxim is not over Rebecca; that he is still in love with her. She is surrounded by Rebecca everywhere she turns and she cannot compare to her. She is at the point of realizing that her marriage has failed and that it’s all her fault for believing that Maxim could love her and she could help him. Spoilers: But that is when the plot twists and as she declares all of that to Maxim, he insists that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, he tells her, he hated Rebecca. Once he was married to her, she revealed her true nature of malice and hate. She agreed to make Manderley hugely popular (she is extremely likeable on the outside), but made Maxim agree to let her have her own love/social life away from him. She was manipulative and vile. After a while, Maxim couldn’t take it any longer, so he killed her. He shot her and then sunk her in her own boat. Maxim never loved Rebecca, but he does love Mrs. de Winter. They are finally communicating and truly happy. Mrs. de Winter is thrilled to be loved by the man she loves and they are ready to start afresh (even though she knows her husband is a murderer). But then it all comes crashing down. A boat crashes in the cove where Rebecca was drowned and divers try to help it. In the process they find Rebecca’s boat and her body locked in the cabin. To make matters more complicated, a year earlier, Maxim identified another body as Rebecca’s. There is an inquisition and with the evidence (including holes poked in the boat), they determine that Rebecca committed suicide. Rebecca’s cousin (whom she was also sleeping with) doesn’t believe it and sets about to prove that Maxim is the murderer. After a lot of angst, travel and close calls, nothing comes of the accusations, and Maxim and Mrs. de Winter are free to go. They feel an urgency to return to Manderley and head there straight away. It’s too late though, Manderley is burning (Mrs. Danvers figures out the truth and sets Manderley on fire).

 

Summing it up: this book was creepy, intense, thrilling and good. I highly recommend it!

 

All the best, Abbey

The First Phone Call From Heaven

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the first phone call from heaven

by Mitch Albom

March 2017

One of my good friends recommended the first phone call from heaven. She regularly gives me good recommendations, so I was excited to read it. This book was a roller coaster. It was engaging, interesting, and surprising. The writing was fantastic and the plot was quite original. This is the type of book that keeps you thinking long after you finish it.

In a small town of Michigan, people start getting mysterious phone calls from loved ones who have passed away. The calls are short, and sporadic, yet comforting. One woman who gets calls from her sister starts telling the whole town, while others keep their calls a secret. One man is so freaked out when he gets a call from a dead co-worker, he destroys his phone and leaves town. Some people are skeptical, some don’t hesitate to believe. Sully is particularly skeptical. His wife died tragically, leaving him with their young son. He’s recently gotten out of prison and is struggling to make sense of the calls and help his son, who desperately wants a call from his mother. The whole town soon gets into a tizzy and everything gets bigger when news reporters come to town. Spoilers: Sully is on a mission to prove the calls are false. He starts digging into it and what starts as seemingly harmless research, turns into a fast paced thriller. Sully is caught up in the action and in the end solves the mystery. A while back, Sully was an air force pilot. One day, he flew into his home town and was cleared to land when he collided with another plane that was also cleared to land. Sully was imprisoned for that when there was no proof he was cleared to land. The man in the control tower had cleared both planes and when he realized his mistake it was too late. In despair, he ran away and drove off, only to collided head on with Sully’s wife who was driving to the airport to meet Sully. She dies because of the crash. Meanwhile, the control man’s father, Horace, was on his way to talk to his son as they were estranged. He witnessed everything from the plane crash to car crash, and went to the tower to see that his son had caused everything. He got rid of the evidence and as a penance devised a scheme to give people phone calls from their loved ones in heaven. He created a system to gather old recordings of people’s voices and technology to create new conversations. Sully figures this out and confronts him in his lair in the outskirts of town. He is furious with the Horace’s audacity to create such a plot and leaves when Horace cuts off all power so Sully can’t ruin his work. Sully dives away determined to tell the truth to a reporter, but before he can, he gets a call from his wife who tells him not to tell the reporter. Sully knows it’s not really his wife, so turns around to give Horace a piece of his mind, but he’s too late, the police are already there. Turns out, Horace was dying of cancer and calls the police to come, only to be dead on their arrival. In a final twist, Sully finds out that the call from his wife came after the police heard from Horace. So, was the call from his wife real, or not? Ahhh! You never know! But it spurs Sully on to live his life fully. He never tells what he learned, so the full story never comes out, leaving people to think what they will.

Summing it up: I was so surprised that this book was a thriller! It was so good and I think about it even now. I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

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

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

The Good Girl

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The Good Girl

by Mary Kubica

February 2017

One of my good friends recommended The Good Girl, so it was without hesitation that I started reading it. This book is a thriller and I read it rapidly. It was so good and the ending was a total surprise. I’m still thinking about this book and trying to make sense of it. I am very impressed with Kubica’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read her next book.

This is a story of the disappearance of, Mia, a young woman from a prominent family. She has friends and a great job, so her disappearance is curious and alarming. The story is told from 3 different perspectives: Gabe, the detective; Eve, Mia’s mother; and Colin, the man who kidnapped Mia. The story also oscillates from “before” they find Mia and “after” she is found. It sounds jumpy, but it actually flows beautifully, keeping the tension while giving answers and pieces to the mystery. Spoilers: kidnapping Mia is an accident. Colin was hired to deliver her to a man, but he knows nothing more. He gets close, but finds he can’t hand her over. He never asked for this; he just needs money to take care of his ailing mother. So, instead of handing over Mia, he takes her to a hidden cabin where they slowly begin to trust each other and eventually fall in love. It’s little things like Colin giving Mia his gun and Mia choosing to stay, it’s Colin buying a notebook and pencils for Mia to sketch and Mia opening up about her life, it’s the two of them chopping down a Christmas tree and making plans to stay together. It’s an eerie and beautiful love story and I shamelessly routed for it. Meanwhile, Gabe refuses to give up on the case, even when it seems to go cold. He is slowly falling for Eve and she with him (her husband is a horrible man to both her and to Mia). Eventually, Gabe succeeds in finding Mia, but they’re not in his jurisdiction, so another chief gets to the scene first and instead of calmly taking them in, he shoots Colin to save Mia. It’s heartbreaking. Afterwards, Mia blocks out Colin completely and has no memory of her captivity. Gabe steadily works on how to trigger the memories and eventually finds the cat that Mia had at the cabin and brings him to her, as well as finally taking her to the cabin itself. Sure enough, when they arrive at the cabin the memories flood back and Mia is able to remember all that happened. It’s bittersweet. She’d like to forget, but she is pregnant and now she has a piece of Colin to hold onto. Major spoiler: the final piece, the jaw dropper, is that Mia blames herself for Colin’s death. Why? Because she hired the man who hired Colin to kidnap her. Mia was constantly put down by her father and disappointing him. He refused to pay for her education when she chose not to be a lawyer (her sister did follow in their father’s footsteps and he paid for law school), and was always more concerned with his reputation than Mia’s well being. He was nefarious and selfish both at work and home. Mia finally had enough. She dug up dirt on her father to use as blackmail when her captors demanded a ransom. While Mia’s plan was derailed, after she is found Gabe searches her father’s office, finding the blackmail letters and a lot of dirt, putting Mia’s father in his place (disbarred and on trial – he’s a judge). It was a satisfactory ending on that level. I was also happy that Colin’s mother got taken care of since she was so sick and helpless. But I was so sad that Colin died. I’m still sad about it.

Summing it up: I really liked this book. I loved the plot and the twist and the characters. I’m still haunted by them and thinking about them. I definitely recommend this book.

All the best, Abbey