2018 Book #99 – The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake

Title: The Duke I Once Knew
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/28/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2018
Pages in book: 333
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Unlikely Duchesses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley 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:

When two childhood sweethearts find themselves together after years apart, does their romance have a chance to be rekindled now that he’s a duke and she’s a governess? Olivia Drake’s new Unlikely Duchesses series begins with The Duke I Once Knew, where first love is always the sweetest…

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again. Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?

My rating:  3.75 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.

I tend to accept more requests for first books in a series since it is sometimes easier than trying to jump in on the middle of a series. This book is the first in a new series by this author. Max (the hero in the story) was a little rough around the edges, it took me longer than I had expected to really start to like him. He ended up being an ok guy but he wasn’t my favorite hero. Abby was ok too, if a little weak. There was a plethora of characters but for the most part they were easy to keep track of – I made up a little Linton family tree with the first chapter to help me keep everything straight. Overall the childhood sweethearts reunited trope is not my favorite – it always makes me so sad that they’ve lost so much valuable time together. Overall the book was pretty good – there were parts of the book that I liked and parts that I didn’t like. It was definitely an enjoyable read though and a very sweet love story – I’d recommend it!

Link to author website

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

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 #38 – Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

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Title: Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir
Author: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Date finished: 4/27/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: January 11, 2006
Pages in book: 285
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that ofAngela’s Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones.
Smith’s Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone’s door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters — her possibly psychic mother who’s always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey’s syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there’s her brother, Tyler.
Smith’s household was “different.” Little Mary-Ann couldn’t have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was “a cloud of barbed needles” flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he’d try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann’s real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively.
Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith’s childhood.
Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.

My rating: 4 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book was lent to me by my friend from work, Jim Lyons. He lent it to me last year though, and since I am an awful person I haven’t read it yet. Therefore at the beginning of the year I added it to my list for the Roof Beam Reader TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I might have put this off a little because I usually read mostly fiction and this book was a memoir. I have to be honest though, I loved this book. It was interesting, emotional, and riveting. It was especially interesting for me since I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life and the book has a lot of different Connecticut facts included in the memoir.
I don’t usually read many non-fiction books but the author lays out the story in a very interesting way. There are a variety of issues addressed in this memoir, including the murder of Mary-Ann’s friend when they were young, dealing with Tyler’s autism before anyone knows what autism is, and a look at how sexual assault cases are addressed in the 1950’s. It looks at the friend’s murder from a child’s point of view and talks about how this affected her growing up. There were many emotions throughout the book, I was tearing up by the end. This was a very well written memoir and I am very glad that my friend Jim lent it to me to read!

The bottom line: Not my usual cup of tea but I loved it. Would recommend, particularly to people from CT.

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