Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Paula Treick DeBoard's "The Drowning Girls"

As stated in my previous post, I was in a bit of a reading slump. The good news is that I am back to my book reading and am in full swing now! Although it took me 15 days to get through this book, I could have easily read it in a 1-2 day span- it was good!

Here is the synopsis as laid out by Goodreads :

Liz McGinnis never imagined herself living in a luxurious gated community like The Palms. Ever since she and her family moved in, she's felt like an outsider amongst the Stepford-like wives and their obnoxiously spoiled children. Still, she's determined to make it work—if not for herself, then for her husband, Phil, who landed them this lavish home in the first place, and for her daughter, Danielle, who's about to enter high school. 
Yet underneath the glossy veneer of The Palms, life is far from idyllic. In a place where reputation is everything, Liz soon discovers that even the friendliest residents can't be trusted. So when the gorgeous girl next door befriends Danielle, Liz can't help but find sophisticated Kelsey's interest in her shy and slightly nerdy daughter a bit suspicious. 
But while Kelsey quickly becomes a fixture in the McGinnis home, Liz's relationships with both Danielle and Phil grow strained. Now even her own family seems to be hiding things, and it's not long before their dream of living the high life quickly spirals out of control…

This thriller alternates between past and present, and also switches back and forth from the point of view of both Liz and her husband Phil. The alternations make this story even more compelling, adding a depth that would be lost had the author stuck with a single point of view.

The story starts out in the present, with a horrible "accident". We know something bad has happened, though we don't know how or why. As I have said before, this kind of lead-in is my favorite way to start a thriller. Knowing a bad situation occurred but not knowing the specifics completely sucks me in immediately.  I love it!

The characters in this book are very well developed and completely relatable. There were times throughout the story when I loved and then hated every single one, which shows just how in depth the character building is laid out. The writing style is simple and very easy to follow, yet compelling none the less. Plot development was outstanding, the author giving just enough to keep you hooked, yet not so much that you know where the story is leading. 

I don't want to post any spoilers. This book is best read not knowing any more information than what the reader reads in the summary. The Drowning Girls is suspenseful and chilling,  full of twists and turns. It was a great, 4 star, modern-thriller read for me!

It is due to be released April 26, 2016. Add it to your TBR list and preorder it now! 

This was my first book by author Paula Treick DeBoard but will not be my last! Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin (US & Canada) for allowing me the digital ARC to read and give my honest review. 

Happy Reading!

"The Sound Of Gravel" by Ruth Wariner

I've been in a HUGE reading slump. I can't remember the last time I just haven't been compelled to read. It had nothing to do with the books I was reading. I just didn't feel like reading AT ALL! I blame it on the abnormally warm weather. I decided to take a listen to The Sound Of Gravel to see if I could stay focused the audible way. It helped! Not only did I finish this in a couple days, but I also finished another book!

Ruth Wariner's story is about her childhood growing up in a polygamist colony just south of the U.S. border in LeBaron, Mexico. After her father is brutally murdered, her mother remarries a man named Lane, becoming his second wife. Lane is a horrible man who neglects and abuses his wives and children. Ruth, the 4th child of her mother, describes her early life in this sad yet inspiring memoir.

This story was so compelling to me. I don't know why I have this attraction to cults like Scientology and like the polygamist Mormon doomsday religion explained in this book. It fascinates me to hear about others' lives in highly religious communities. The audio version was read by Ruth Wariner herself, which made it all the better to listen to.

This book is filled with shock. The living conditions described are atrocious.  No electricity, no running water, and she describes her house as constantly reeking of rodent droppings. There was never enough food and lack of nutrition is believed to be the cause of several of her siblings being some degree of special needs. 

Then there is Ruth's mother, Kathy. Where do I begin with her? She was a woman who wholeheartedly believed in her religion. Eventually she birthed 10 children and, being a polygamist, she was basically a single mother. Lane was no help what so ever- gone for long periods of time working odd jobs and spending time with his other wives left Kathy and her kids struggling to make it through the day.

There were times in this story where I admired Kathy taking care of so many little ones, several of them in need of serious medical care, and one child even becoming a danger to others. I don't know how her mother did it. Since they were technically American citizens (though they lived in Mexico) Kathy and her kids would cross the border to collect food stamps and welfare/disability checks monthly, hoping to make it stretch until the next benefit allotment. 

Then there were times I absolutely hated Kathy. The horrors she put her kids through. Live electric wires throughout the house and yard posed an electrocution risk. There were no curtains on the windows, the floor throughout the house nothing but cold, hard concrete. There was rarely enough food. Ruth seemed to be the most responsible person in the entire family, caring for her siblings and trying her best to get through a bad situation . Sexual abuse at the hands of Kathy's husband Lane, Ruth's stepfather, with Kathy knowing about it all yet telling Ruth to forgive and forget. It is such a horrific story one would be inclined to believe it's fiction. How Ruth and her siblings made it through childhood and came out strong adults is amazing. 

This story is heart wrenching and sad. It is never easy to read about children living in poverty and being abused. Ruth tells of her childhood in an easy to follow manor, and I found myself eagerly following along, wanting to get to the part about how she managed to escape. 

I cannot imagine living the childhood that Ruth did. I cannot fathom having a will to survive after enduring the hardships and abuse she went through at a young age. I find it inspiring that in spite of all her childhood troubles she came out alright. She survived. It literally made me smile at the end. 

This book is so full of raw emotions. Happy to sad, scared to triumphant, anger to pure joy. You will not be disappointed with this memoir. It will make you believe in happy endings. 

A 4 star read that everyone should experience! 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Domestic Secrets" by Rosalind Noonan

 It took awhile to get this story going, but once it did, I was hooked. Domestic Secrets by Rosalind Noonan was a wonderful "chic-lit" book. It was entertaining and a very fast read.

Rachael and Ariel are long time friends. Both are now single women with their own businesses to run while simultaneously trying to raise their children and make ends meet. 

Every town has its secrets no matter how big or small the town is. This story starts with little secrets. Just little nuggets here and there that keep the story going. Then the huge secret is dropped and even then the reader still doesn't understand how or why it happened. I loved it!

The character's are well developed and for the most part likable. There were, of course, some characters where I just couldn't understand their thinking or behavior. This book is written from multiple character's points of view, which I loved. I have expressed before how, when done well, multiple views give the story depth and mystery. 

I will not give away any spoilers, but will say that I did not see the ending coming! I thought for awhile that I knew where the author was taking me, but was completely taken by surprise! This is definitely a compulsive read! You will be hooked!  

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for allowing me to read and give my honest review. This what another ARC that I just didn't get to review before it was released. The good news is that it available now so get your copy! A 4 star read! 

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Forty Rooms" by Olga Grushin

So, I am going to be the minority here and say I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. I am not sure I really even liked it. Let me explain...

I requested an eARC and was very excited when Netgalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnum approved my request. Full disclosure- I had so many books to read and review that I did not finish this book before it was released. The book was described like this:

Totally original in conception and magnificently executed, Forty Rooms is mysterious, withholding, and ultimately emotionally devastating. Olga Grushin is dealing with issues of women’s identity, of women’s choices, that no modern novel has explored so deeply. 

“Forty rooms” is a conceit: it proposes that a modern woman will inhabit forty rooms in her lifetime. They form her biography, from childhood to death. For our protagonist, the much-loved child of a late marriage, the first rooms she is aware of as she nears the age of five are those that make up her family’s Moscow apartment. We follow this child as she reaches adolescence, leaves home to study in America, and slowly discovers sexual happiness and love. But her hunger for adventure and her longing to be a great poet conspire to kill the affair. She seems to have made her choice. But one day she runs into a college classmate. He is sure of his path through life, and he is protective of her. (He is also a great cook.) They drift into an affair and marriage. What follows are the decades of births and deaths, the celebrations, material accumulations, and home comforts—until one day, her children grown and gone, her husband absent, she finds herself alone except for the ghosts of her youth, who have come back to haunt and even taunt her. 

Compelling and complex, Forty Rooms is also profoundly affecting, its ending shattering but true. We know that Mrs. Caldwell (for that is the only name by which we know her) has died. Was it a life well lived? Quite likely. Was it a life complete? Does such a life ever really exist? Life is, after all, full of trade-offs and choices. Who is to say her path was not well taken? It is this ambiguity that is at the heart of this provocative novel.

After reading the summary I was very interested in this book. However, after finishing, I was left with the feeling of just "meh". 

I think the biggest disappointment to me was the writing style. This book alternates between typical story telling and lyrical verse/poetry. There was also a lot of talk about poetry, which just doesn't appeal to me.  I think there are readers who will absolutely love the writing style though, so I don't mean to bash the style, it just simply wasn't for me.

Another element that left me confused was the alternating between 1st and 3rd person. It just made it confusing. It made reading disjointed. 

While this book did make me ponder about all the "rooms" of my life, it never really pulled me in. There were times I simply skimmed chapters, not fully understanding if the author was trying to show off her poetry writing skills, or if what I was reading was actually relevant to the story.

All in all, this book had an interesting premise and started out strong but fizzled quickly. Not at all what I was expecting and not my "cup of tea". 

I give this 3 stars. If poetry is something you are interested in I suggest buying and reading Forty Rooms and sharing with me how you feel about this book. 

Happy Reading!