2015 Book #118 – The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Warner

818qsZ+z4ELTitle: The Sound of Gravel
Author: Ruth Wariner
Date finished: 11/23/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

RUTH WARINER was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house
without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father―the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony―is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.
In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where Ruth’s mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As she begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.
Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable memoir of one girl’s fight for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.

My rating: 4.05 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Ruth, a young girl growing up in a polygamist Mormon community in Mexico near the US border. Ruth and her siblings are all technically American citizens, so even though they live in Mexico, their mother (Kathy) still collects welfare and food stamps from the US. This book is about Ruth’s childhood and also about her family. Ruth bares all in this book and readers should be warned, there are descriptions of multiple unfortunate deaths/funerals and also child abuse. After seeing a few episodes of that show Sister Wives on TLC I will admit I have a weird interest in hearing stories of people who have lived or grew up in the polygamist lifestyle. The idea of it is just so foreign to me that I can’t understand how a marriage can be shared between more than two people, the logistics of it and how it can survive the tests of time. So when I saw this book available on BookBrowse I was immediately interested.

While growing up, Ruth and her family move around a lot over the years. At one point her mother leaves her step-father (after an incident with him buying a shower head for wife #1 with Ruth’s mother’s money) and they go to the US to live with Kathy’s parents for awhile. They don’t ever end up in one place for very long, though they are forced to live in El Paso, TX for about 2 years when DCF gets involved after the kids are left alone for almost a week (the oldest child at that time was 12 and the youngest was 1 or 2 if I remember correctly). I thought Ruth did just such a fantastic job describing the different locations where she spent time growing up. The imagery seems so real in the book that the reader feels like they are standing right beside Ruth seeing it with her. The events and timeline in this book are well-laid out and very detailed. I felt like I really got to hear about Ruth’s story and all the details of her childhood growing up.

Overall I really liked this book, it was moving and heart-breaking and a beautiful story about a woman’s traumatic childhood but also about how she overcame that childhood to become the person she is today. At 19 she was taking care of all of her younger siblings, trying to support them while also getting her GED and then going to college. Honestly as heart-breaking as her childhood was, I thought this book was inspirational. To think that someone can live through so much heartbreak and still come out not only surviving but thriving, really it is a feat to be admired. Also at this time of year especially when we are giving thanks for the things in our lives we are most grateful for, this book is a great reminder that I should be grateful for the childhood I had and for the two loving, caring parents that God gave me. I think the story was well written and poignant, and I have so much respect for Ruth not only for what she went through but also for having the courage to share her story with the world.


The bottom line: The story line for someone to say they “enjoyed” this book, but it was inspiring and heart-breaking and extremely moving. I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #85 – Melting Steele by Kimberly Amato


Title: Melting Steele
Author: Kimberly Amato
Date finished: 8/12/15
Genre: Fiction, mystery/suspense
Publisher: Little Crown Productions
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Pages in book: 175
Stand alone or series: #2 in Jasmine Steele series
Where I got the book from: Author/Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

We live in a digital age where everything you do, say and are, appears online. Nothing is ever really gone when you upload those photos, leave a bullying comment or surf mature websites. Detective Jasmine Steele is faced with a series of murders all tied to technology and the ever expanding Dark Web. Out of her element she needs to trust others in order to fully understand what she is faced with. In order to solve these cases, Steele has to put aside her obsession with those that killed her brother and tried to kill her. How can she do that when breadcrumbs all lead back to a powerful man who is connected to both prior cases? She has to find her focus before she loses herself to her own desire for revenge. Past obsessions can easily become crippling addictions.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #7 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.This book continues the story of Detective Jasmine Steele, picking up about 14 months after where the last book left off. Jazz has been in physical therapy and recovery pretty much this whole time (she got pretty beat up in the end of the first book) and physically she’s finally starting to feel close to normal again. Unfortunately she can’t seem to let get of the case that got away from her. She almost died at the end of the first book, was so close in fact that she had a conversation with her grandmother who told her to just let this whole thing go. But she becomes a woman obsessed with getting justice for her brother and sister-in-law. She begins to “fall down the rabbit hole” as she calls it. And really she’s just making it more difficult for herself; she so much wanted to get Frankie back in the first book and now she’s risking her relationship with her (again) by pushing her away and keeping her out. It’s so frustrating to see how much Frankie just wants to help or at least find Jazz help, but Jazz doesn’t want to talk to anyone. And Jazz really needs to talk to someone; she’s having very intense, awful nightmares where she can feel everything including being physically assaulted. She really needs to talk to a therapist about what the dreams mean and how to move past them and how to deal with the fact that she killed someone.
Anyways so in this book Jazz and her partner (Will) will have to solve a triple homicide case. It ends up being a much bigger case than just that and ends up involving a lot of different technology, including a program called the Dark Web which allows users to access basically an online black market. Jazz is able to connect some of the goings-on to Irving Garrison, the ultimate villain from the first book who she’s been obsessed with the past 14 months. And while all this is happening, Jazz and Frankie are also trying to decide whether or not they should adopt another child plus Frankie’s trying to deal with Jazz pushing her away again.
Overall I liked this book, it was a little less gory than the first book, which I appreciated, but I also thought there was a little less suspense and action in the plotline than the first book. I felt more like this book was an important piece of the story but was acting as a middle part to the story where we are building up to a grand finale, which I’m assuming is coming in the third book. I did find some of the transitions into new days or new scenes to be a bit short or choppy and sometimes I had trouble following the flow of information. Also some pieces of Jazz’s inner monologue seem almost forced or awkward. Other than that this was a good continuation of the series I think and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in the third book in the series.

The bottom line: I thought this was a good mystery novel, it felt more like a filler book to keep the series going but those are important too. Good mystery, looking forward to Book #3.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #78 – As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman


Title: As Night Falls
Author: Jenny Milchman
Date finished: 7/27/15
Genre:  Thriller/suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Pages in book: 359
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from Amazon:

Sandy Tremont has always tried to give her family everything. But, as the sky darkens over the Adirondacks and a heavy snowfall looms, an escaped murderer with the power to take it all away draws close.
In her isolated home in the shadowy woods, Sandy prepares dinner after a fight with her daughter, Ivy. Upstairs, the fifteen-year-old—smart, brave, and with every reason to be angry tonight—keeps her distance from her mother. Sandy’s husband, Ben, a wilderness guide, arrives late to find a home simmering with unease.
Nearby, two desperate men on the run make their way through the fading light, bloodstained and determined to leave no loose ends or witnesses. After almost twenty years as prison cellmates, they have become a deadly team: Harlan the muscle, Nick the mind and will. As they approach a secluded house and look through its windows to see a cozy domestic scene, Nick knows that here he will find what he’s looking for . . . before he disappears forever.
Opening the door to the Tremont home, Nick brings not only a legacy of terror but a secret that threatens to drag Sandy with him into the darkness.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: **(ALERT THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW)** I feel like I have just seen this book everywhere lately (web sites, publications, summer to read listings) so when I saw it at the Library I grabbed it. I’ve been pretty into the thrillers lately so I’ve been looking forward to reading it. This story starts off being about a lady named Sandy and her husband Ben and daughter Ivy. As the story unfolds we also read passages from the viewpoint of a man named Nick and every once in a while a woman named Barbara, who we learn in one of the first few passages about her is Nick’s Mom. It isn’t 100% clear at first how Nick and Barbara are connected to Sandy’s life but it doesn’t take very long to put the pieces together.
I have to say that I wasn’t overly surprised by many of the things that happened in this book, whereas in most thrillers I like to have a few twists that I don’t see coming. The only one I can think of that I didn’t really see coming though was the crime that Nick was sent to jail for. That being said though, I didn’t consider the book predictable in the least and it definitely kept me on my toes trying to keep up with where the story was headed! I liked the plot development and also the characters’ development through the story. I have to be honest though, I was a bit turned off to the book until about halfway in because some of the scenes with Nick in them made me feel so creepy and grossed out and icky that I wanted to go take a shower and scrub my brain of the wretched man. He was a truly evil and dark person and even up to the end I was astounded that Barbara stood by him. Gosh I just wanted to punch that lady in the face, especially because of how she treated Cassandra, who was only ever a perfect angel.
Overall I thought this was a really good book and a solid thriller. I didn’t really get to like any of the characters too much but I think that was part of the point. Only person I did really like a good amount died, which was unfortunate. I mean I liked the main characters well enough but we all have our secrets I guess.
The bottom line: I would recommend this book, I thought it was a good psychological thriller.
Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #36 – The Liar by Nora Roberts


Title: The Liar
Author: Nora Roberts
Date finished: 4/24/15
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Pages in book: 501
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …

My rating: 4 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count for the challenge I am participating in for April, the #ReadingMyLibrary reading challenge. I checked out this book from the Plainville Public Library, luckily for me there it was sitting right on the shelf on its release date! I’m a fan of Nora Roberts and this book in particular sounded interesting to me. Right from the beginning this book drew me in. I have to admit I was a little daunted at first based on the length (hardcover book with 500 pages!!) but it went surprisingly fast. I found the story to be well-paced for the most part. There are obviously going to be a few dry parts in a 500 page book, I’m not sure how anyone can avoid that, but the story line was interesting and the characters kept me engaged throughout.
I have to say I just fell so much in love with Griff’s character. He was just so amazingly sweet and generous and loving. He was obviously smitten with Shelby’s little girl, four-year old Callie. And I thought it was so great that Shelby had such a supportive family to fall back on. Her story really is just astounding, and heart-wrenchingly sad that she lived for five years with someone who made her feel so worthless and unwanted. That’s an awful feeling and to be constantly made to feel that by someone you love, I can understand how she lost some of her spirit. It was wonderful to see her regain that spirit and grow throughout the novel though.
One of the things that I have to be honest I didn’t love about this book was the amount of characters we’re introduced to through the course of the story. Gosh it was just too much for me, I could barely keep them all straight. And some of them had the same names like little three year-old Jackson and Shelby’s grandfather Jack, and Shelby’s father Clay and her brother Clayton. It was just hard to keep track of sometimes. It was also hard to keep track of who was talking, there was a LOT of conversation going back and forth in most of the book, sometimes for long rambles and at a couple points I had to go back through because I was like, wait who said that?

The bottom line: Was good and surprisingly well-paced for such a long book. Favorite part of the story was Griff I think. Would recommend.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2014 – Book #64 – Part 2


Little Lies is a prequel novella to Little Mercies, which was the sixty-fourth book I read in 2014 (see previous blog post). Since this novella was only 44 pages I decided to count it as a second part of #64 rather than its own book post. I finished this novella on 8/2/14. I rated it 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5. This novella tells the story of Ellen Moore as she and her friend Joe investigate a crime involving a young child. 

Since this was a pretty short story I don’t want to go into too much detail on the plot. This was a great prequel though and I would highly recommend reading it in connection with Little Mercies. 

Link to author website: http://www.heathergudenkauf.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Lies-Heather-Gudenkauf-ebook/dp/B00J1ZETMU/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407003329

2014 – Book #64


The sixty-fourth book I read in 2014 was Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf. I finished this book on 8/2/14. I rated this book 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5. This book tells the story of veteran social worker Ellen Moore and how one mistake changes her family forever. The story also chronicles the journey of ten-year-old Jenny Briard to try and find her grandmother. Ellen and Jenny’s lives collide in unexpected ways and this book looks at how their lives change forever based on their time together. 

Ellen wakes up one morning late for work and on her way into the office for a meeting she gets called to an emergency situation with one of her case families. She goes straight to the scene to try and help the two young girls involved but in the process she leaves her one-year-old daughter Avery strapped in her car seat for 45 minutes on one of the hottest days of the year. Avery is unconscious and not breathing by the time she is pulled out of the car with an internal temperature of 105.6. Avery is rushed to the hospital while Ellen is left with the horror that she may have just killed her daughter. 

After this, Ellen’s life is changed. While her husband does forgive her and takes on some of the blame for the situation, Ellen is being charged with child neglect and is not allowed to see her daughter. For a social worker who has put countless families through the process of losing their children (the charges, the investigations, and even for some the jail time), Ellen now finds herself on the other side of the system when she is charged herself. She is stripped of her dignity and humiliated and still she asks herself, I deserve worse than this for what I’ve put my daughter and my family through. 

Jenny has had a very rough life, but when she ends up on a bus without her father she decides try to find her grandmother that she’s never met. When she was young she was abused by her mother’s boyfriend and was later placed in her father’s care. Since then she has lived with her father, and while he doesn’t abuse her, she has still had a rough time. Her father is an alcoholic and sometimes Jenny doesn’t have enough food to eat. Jenny finds herself alone in Cedar City and ends up becoming a part of Ellen’s story. 

Overall this was a very interesting book. I found it though-provoking, especially considering the epidemic of children being left in hot cars during summer temperatures. I thought it was interesting how the author switched between Ellen and Jenny’s view, portraying Ellen’s view in the first person and Jenny’s view in the third person to distinguish the two stories. I enjoyed this story a lot and it really made me think about the consequences of Ellen’s actions and how a thoughtless mistake can change your entire life. Definitely worth a read! 

Link to author website: http://www.heathergudenkauf.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mercies-English-Edition-Heather-Gudenkauf/dp/0778316335/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1406993681&sr=8-1