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

All The Missing Girls

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All The Missing Girls

by Megan Miranda

January 2017

Getting All The Missing Girls was a splurge. I have a bit of a problem when it comes to books. I have multiple huge piles of library books and books from friends, and then I add to it. Recently, I’ve been trying to stop getting new books in order to work through the ones I already have. Well, it’s hard to resist the urge to bring new books home, and when I went to pick up a hold book at the library, I “happened” to see All The Missing Girls on the new shelf and decided to splurge by bringing it home and reading it right away. It was the best indulgence!! I blew through this book and loved every second. It was intense, creative, and so different as the story was told backwards. I am in awe of Miranda’s work and I can not say enough good things about her psychological thriller.

Ten years ago a girl goes missing. Ten years ago lies are told and the truth is hidden. Ten years ago, Nic’s best friend Corinne disappears and Nic leaves to start a new life in Philadelphia. Ten years later, she has a career and is engaged to a successful lawyer, Everett. Her father’s health is failing, so Nic decides to return to North Carolina in order to help her brother Dan sell the family home and take care of their father. The brunt of the story takes place over two weeks and is told in reverse (day 15, back to day 1 when Nic first arrives in NC). Lots of Spoilers: at 18, Nic is dating Tyler, Corinne is with Jackson, and Dan is dating Bailey. Bailey, Corinne, and Nic are best friends and very close. Corinne is the center, drawing everyone in, but has her dark moments. One night, everyone is at the town Fair, Nic found out a few days earlier that she’s pregnant and Corinne and Tyler are the only ones who know. The girls are riding a Ferris Wheel and Corinne who loves playing truth or dare, dares Nic to ride outside their box and jump. Nic does, but instead of jumping from the top, slips off at the bottom. Her brother comes up and hits her, making her fall to the ground. Tyler runs over, punches Dan and whispers that Nic is pregnant and then he leaves with her. All of this is witnessed by Annaleise, a quite teenager who ends up being the alibi for everyone after Corinne disappears. Tyler and Nic drive away and Tyler proposes. Then, as they’re driving home, Corinne appears, thumb out to hitch hike. Nic is driving and is flooded with thoughts of how Corinne is always daring her and how she dared her to jump earlier and end her life. Instead of stopping, Nic accelerates to pass Corinne by, but then Corinne jumps in front of the car and dies. Nic runs home, where she has a miscarriage, and Tyler leaves to take care of the car. Meanwhile, Nic’s dad is driving to find Nic and hears the accident. He takes Corinne and buries her in his garage, which is in the process of being finished. When everything comes crashing down around Nic she decides to leave town for good, thinking that she just can’t come back after all that’s happened. Fast forward ten years and Nic is returning home to take care of her dad, who is becoming senile, and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Out of the blue, Annaleise approaches her with pictures of Corinne’s body wrapped up on her dad’s porch, and blackmails Nic. In a panic, Nic calls Dan and Tyler after Annaleise leaves. Tyler is dating Annaleise, so he calls her to come over and the three of them corner her to try and get her to stop blackmailing, but she runs. Dan runs after her and loses her. They all expect her to turn up, but she doesn’t. Later, Nic figures out that Laura (Dan’s wife) took their dad’s gun and killed her. The police come on board, find Annaleise’s body, and begin questioning. By this time, Nic, Tyler, and Dan have dug up Corinne’s body and disposed of it, gotten rid of any other evidence, and come up with a solid story to keep them all safe. In the end, the town clams up and there’s nothing more the police can do. Nic realizes that she’s still in love with Tyler and that Everett is not a good fit for her. She decides that she actually belongs in NC and moves back, marrying Tyler and renovating the garage for her dad to live in. Honestly, I loved the ending and how it was a “happy ending.” This story was complicated and the characters’ lives were intricately intertwined. I liked how they all protected each other, even though it wasn’t honest.

Summing it up: This book kept me in suspense until the very end, but in such a delightfully good way. I just loved this book and I especially loved the way it was written backwards. I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Dark Places

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Dark Places

by Gillian Flynn

October 2016

After reading Gone Girl I was so excited to read another one of Gillian Flynn’s novels, but I was so disappointed. It took me a while (probably over 2/3rds) to really get into the book, and even then, I just kept reading because I knew there was a twist and I wanted resolution. Truly, I almost gave up about 5-6 times. I couldn’t really get behind Libby’s character. She was so lazy and unmotivated that I wanted to shake her. It wasn’t until the ending that I “enjoyed” the book. The pace picked up and Libby stopped being apathetic (it was a huge relief). I also felt like the book was somber and quite graphic, which I did not love. The ending saved the book for me (it was more interesting and happier than the rest of the book), but as a whole I did not like Dark Places.

Libby is the only living member of her immediate family after they were horrendously murdered when she was a little girl. She has believed it was her brother who killed everyone. He is behind bars, so she is safe to live her quite life of growing anonymity. Libby has lived off charity money for years, but is finally coming to the end of her cash and needs to make money. Opportunity presents itself when a group of “fans” approach her to buy her family’s artifacts. Through this group Libby is faced with her past as she learns that not everyone believes her brother is guilty. What starts with a simple desire to keep her home/lifestyle, morphs into a quest to find out what really happened. Spoilers: Long story short, Libby’s brother, Ben is not guilty. His pregnant girlfriend strangles one of his sisters when she overhears about the pregnancy. The same night, Libby’s mother arranges to have herself killed by a professional because she is losing her farm and has no money to support her four kids. But the murder goes wrong when her other daughter walks in on it, so the professional kills her as well as the mom. Libby runs away and Ben gets convicted. Years later, Libby tracks down Ben’s old girlfriend and learns the truth. She almost gets killed herself, but it comes alright in the end.

Summing it up: I did not love the gore and heavy tone of the book and Libby’s life. There was so little hope or happiness until the end that I would not recommend it. Anyone feel the same way, or did you love it? Is it worth reading Flynn’s third novel? 😉

All the best, Abbey