Review: Girl Meets Class

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Girl Meets Class #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Humor

The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This book intrigued me because I am an educator in a public school. While it was interesting how often so many of Toni Lee’s struggles are real in schools across America, one thing was solidly not: a person without a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate and a special ed certificate would not be hired at any campus to work with SPED students. This element of the storyline REALLY bugged me.

This book is humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. The author eloquently establishes the playing field for Toni Lee and her coworkers. Clearly, from the beginning readers are supposed to root for and support her and Harriet Hall.

Toni Lee is a washed-up tennis player. After a wrist injury that changes the trajectory of her life, Toni takes full advantage of her trust fund spoiled brat status. When she is arrested, her Aunt Cordelia (who runs the family food company, which is the source of their wealth), has had enough. She stamps out this churlish, embarrassing behavior. There’s an ultimatum: keep a job that is actually challenging for a year, walk away with five million.

To Toni, that’s the easiest thing ever. Until she realizes she gets cut off while doing so. No more lush condo. No allowance. When the Harriet Hall SPED position pops up, Toni jumps at it and quickly finds herself in an unknown part of her own city she never knew existed. As much as she doesn’t want to be there, she finds her kids don’t want to be there even more. Through building relationships with these kids and the addition of a new student to the mix changes everything for Toni.

She struggles to hide her newfound reality from her friends, and her true self with her new coworkers. In the end, Toni finds a new woman beneath the layers she’s piled on and what I liked most about this new Toni was that she moved forward in life with integrity.

The book also has a focus on the naive perspective an individual can have walking into public education – and the realities Toni faced are not just at inner-city schools. I face these challenges at my school, which is too property wealthy (yet portables at every campus) that we fall under the “Robin Hood” legislation and must pay out several hundred thousand dollars to poorer districts. There are not desks from this century, and any minute you one of the crappily welded legs can go flying and drop a person (this happened to me this year) or it can bend and become a shank to any unsuspecting passerby. No air conditioning except in the office until students arrive. And that’s not even in a portable! Broken faucets. How are we supposed to promote good hygiene? Behavior students who seem to magically be placed in the exact same classes and prohibit learning from happening. Admin turning the other cheeck or pretending they don’t hear the most vital complaints and needs of teachers to make our primary job role (TEACHING!) possible. Referrals for repeat offenders deleted. Admin admitting they should have sent students to the alternative campus due to behavior, and yet continuing to do the same things and not addressing misbehavior and disruptions as serious classroom issues. Admin that are fearful of parents, so they must have a 1000% customer service role. This is education today, and Toni wasn’t making up anything in her teaching experience.

Toni encounters corruption and political agendas individuals have in public education. She finds that there are some straight jackass people who teach students. This is true. I have encountered this too, and I’m like “Why? Why are you here?”

I enjoyed seeing Toni become strong. A strong woman, a strong employee, a strong individual within her family unit. She got some class. Overall, a great ultimate feel-good read that takes some turns and requires some strong backbone.

Review: I Love You More

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: I Love You More
Author: Jennifer Murphy
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 304 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

One man, three wives, the perfect murder. A scintillating novel of betrayal and conspiracy.

Picasso Lane is twelve years old when her father, Oliver, is murdered at their summer beach house. Her mother, Diana, is the primary suspect—until the police discover his second wife, and then his third. The women say they have never met—but Picasso knows otherwise. Picasso remembers the morning beautiful Jewels showed up at their house, carrying the same purse as her mother, and a family portrait featuring her father with two strange boys. Picasso remembers lifting the phone, listening to late night calls with Bert, a woman heavily pregnant with Oliver’s fourth child. As the police circle and a detective named Kyle Kennedy becomes a regular fixture in their home, Picasso tries to make sense of her father’s death, the depth of his deceit, and the secrets that bind these three women. Cunningly paced and plotted, I Love You More is a riveting novel of misplaced loyalty, jealousy, and revenge.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I Love You More reminds me in some ways of The Three Little Pigs. Each  piggie is one of Oliver Lane’s wives, while he quite clearly manifests as The Wolf. Reality, perception, and lies were integral to each of the characters in this book.

Oliver Lane tells each of his wives lies. The biggst of all? “I love you more than life itself.”

Clearly not, as he proceeds to marry two more women. Three wives. Three different women. Three different homes and even three different offices. Three entirely seperate lives that he has maintained for a dozen years. Oliver Lane’s scintillating secret that has gone undiscovered by anyone for over a decade comes crashing down when one wife connects some strange dots.

Sneaky Oliver winds up murdered during a family beach vacation with his first family. Leading a triple life leads to no lack of suspects.

This novel is told in various perspectives, and begins with Picasso, Oliver’s first child. Picasso knows her mother has been behaving out of sorts and begins her own PI work. Like one of the wives discovered, she finds out about her father’s other two families.

Detective Kyle Kennedy is also in hot pursuit on this unusual case, and there are chapters for all of the wives. Oliver also has his own chapter, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was most definitely a sociopath. Like her father and all the adults in her life, Picasso learns how to expertly lie herself.

This book was thrilling and kept me turning pages to find out what bizaare thing would happen next or what the next lie would be. One thing that endeared me in this highly sensational story was that the wives’ circumstances were life-shattering, and yet they developed strong bonds. I highly recommend! The ending was not predictable as is often the case in a mysterious book.

Review: Spring in Sweetwater County

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Spring in Sweetwater County
Author: Ciara Knight
Publisher: Defy the Dark Publishing
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Sweetwater County #2
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Forty years after the death of her true love, Judy Gaylord discovers he’s alive. With the guilt of her falling into the arms of his cousin to console her grief, she now must face the man she betrayed.

Dr. James Benjamin has dedicated his life to helping people deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder in hopes of forgetting about his own trauma. Not wanting to risk the safety of others, he’s spent decades alone, but when he sees the woman he never forgot from before the war, his heart awakens.

When circumstances force Judy and James to work together, they soon discover old feelings never faded. Judy must forgive herself and James will have to face his fear or they will miss their second chance.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This seemed like a novella and not a full-length novel. The beginning is a convulted. I tried to work out all these ominous statements about characters and figure out what happened “all those years ago.” Obviously, despite what many individuals say about this being able to be a standalone, it is not. I have seen a couple mention that Winter in Sweetwater County is a must read prior to Spring in Sweetwater County. 

This is Judy’s story, Eric’s mother. As a young woman, she was in love with James Benjamin, whom she has believed all these years was killed in action in Vietnam. Her high school friend Cathy knows otherwise and has kept that a secret for decades. This information fuels Judy’s hatred for Cathy and a lot of plot is dedicated to Judy’s hot/cold blowing classification of friendship with Cathy and betrayal by Cathy. A couple of these blow-ups seemed inappropriate and childish for a grown woman later in life.

Dr. James Benjamin has been living in Miami all this time. He spends his life dedicated to saving others while he also struggles with his PTSD demons. This was painted eloquently and realistically for soldiers returning home with PTSD. This is the reason he chose not to return to Sweetwater County all those years ago.

However, he does find himself back there – facing Judy’s wrath and receiving support from Cathy. While the town is a cesspool for gossip, they truly care about their townspeople. There is no comfort for them in mean or spiteful behavior; they rally to support others in their town and that was heartfelt. The town comes together to aid James in restoring his childhood home and give James and Judy space and support and love and encouragement they need to choose one another.

I enjoyed most of the secondary characters in the town – Eric and Lisa, and especially Cathy. She was a stand-up friend for James and did everything she did for her love and care for Judy. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in her position. A town I can definitely get behind and one I’d love to move to just for the great people.

Review: Should’ve Been You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Should’ve Been You
Author: Nicole McLaughlin
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: January 2018
Length: 250 pages
Series?: Man Enough #3
Genre: Novella, Contemporary, Romance 

Childhood neighbors get a chance at love in Should’ve Been You, an achingly romantic novella in Nicole McLaughlin’s Man Enough series!

National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.

Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.

However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I was surprised this was also a novella. I thought it was a full-length novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. However, it is part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The series is composed of novellas that focus on a different couple, so they don’t have to be read in order.

Twin sisters Hannah and Becca grew up with Jase, a very cute neighbor. Becca has crushed on him since almost the beginning. Hannah and Jase were best friends and Becca was almost always left out.

Growing up, Hannah and Becca’s parents kept an eye on Jase once it was known that his father was abusive. He became a part of their lives and household. Due to manipulations, Jase always thought Becca didn’t like him, and was crushing on her in silence, too.

This was definitely a second chance romance. The plotline was clear and their pasts were easily established although you could see the writing on the wall from way back then. That backstory was important to the characters’ development, feelings over the years, and the current situation.

Becca comes home for the holidays and discovers that Hannah is engaged. But not to the only person everyone thought would be the man for her. Not Jase. Not knowing how he fits into Hannah’s life anymore, Jase pulls hard on the reins and refuses to be Hannah’s first lifeline. With an almost empty life now, Jase has the opportunity to spend quality time with Becca, who discovers she’s not getting engaged as she thought would happen and also has time to spend. When the two pair up and reminisce, things become crystal clear to them both.


Review: First

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: First
Author: M.A. Grant
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: January 2016
Length: 165 pages
Series?: no
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Maya and Cat have been there for each other through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the laughter and the heartache. But with college graduation on the horizon and real life looming, they find themselves facing an uncertain future: one where not even friendship can save them from confusing choices, bad decisions, and the risks of falling in love.

Maya knows that love only leads to pain, and the best relationships are short—one night short. But after waking up with Jake, her best friend’s older brother, in her bed, suddenly things aren’t as cut and dry. Cat and Jake are close, a tight unit since their parents’ death, and Cat will never forgive her if Jake gets hurt. Jake is a firefighter, and is used to running into flames—not away from them, and Maya can’t seem to resist. But she’s already decided her future, and it’s far away from here. The only way to get what she’s always wanted is to burn every bridge behind her, and destroy the possibility of a future with the one man she may be willing to love.

When Cat Jacobs’s parents died while she was in high school, her brother’s best friend Dallas Miller was there to help pick up the pieces. Several years and a looming college graduation later, Cat’s motorcycle-riding, tattooed knight is about to ride off into the sunset—and leave her in his dust. She only has six days to convince him to fulfil her secret fantasy of having him for her first before he’s gone forever. She’s stubborn and he’s tempted, but this is a battle for more than just some time in the bedroom—it’s a fight for both their futures.

Find the book: Goodreads 

my review

My Thoughts 

Two novellas tied together with the same characters. I loved both stories, but I wish Grant had taken both storylines and developed them into their own full-length novels.

Book 1: Maya and Jake

Jake is Maya’s BFF’s brother. She has always acted condescending and snide toward him. Meanwhile, he’s had a crush on her since forever and continues trying to be nice to her and chalks it up to the fact that she just hates him. One night they get drunk at a bar and wind up arguing about their one-night stand. Maya swears it won’t happen again.

Jake had to grow up too soon. His parents died, he was 19 and had to grow up and be his sister Cat’s guardian. He chose to become a firefighter and put everything in his life on the backburner to be a parent to Cat.

I didn’t particularly like Maya’s character. She was real bitchy and just an overall jerk. It was hard to see how Jake kept trying to be nice to her.

Book 2: Cat and Dallas

Dallas (nickname Dally) is Jake’s BFF. Cat is Jake’s baby sister. Their story made more sense to me. When Cat’s parents died, Dallas moved back home. And he’s been in love with Cat ever since. Cat is now of the age where she’s done with being a virgin and sets her sights on Dallas to teach her what she needs to know. She is relentless on the warpath. Dallas refuses at every turn, even though he would like nothing more, because Jake would straight kill him. Plus, he’s moving back to Arizona now that Cat is grown and Jake doesn’t need as much support any longer.

Dallas finally gives in and agrees. But things do not go according to plan, and the one person who needs to not know nothing discovers everything.

Cat and Dally had a playful, close relationship that I enjoyed seeing bloom from their individual sides to growing together. An endearing, cute couple that made for a great read.

Review: Holes

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Holes
Author: Louis Sachar
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 2000
Length: 233 pages
Series?: Holes #1
Genre: YA, Middle Grades

Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten- pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

My kids have come up with so many predictions as we read through the book. Some of them were pretty wild (but still valid) and some were pretty great connections based on things we knew.

  • Stanley’s dad played a part in his crime (as in he was to blame for it).
  • How was Stanley’s GG Grandfather wasn’t killed by Kissin’ Kate??
  • Mr. Sir has something to do with the yellow-spotted lizards. He trains them or can call them or keeps them as pets somehow with his sunflower seeds.
  • Zero is a spy for the Warden, which is why he doesn’t talk.
  • Zero is the Warden’s son, which is why nothing is known about him and he doesn’t have an education. He’s grown up at Camp Green Lake as a nobody.
  • There is no Warden. Stanley hasn’t seen him at all.
  • The Warden is Madame Zeroni.
  • The Warden is Kissin’ Kate’s descendant.
  • They are looking for Stanley’s GG Grandfather’s lost treasure.
  • The Warden does have cameras set up, and when Stanley is brought to her about the sunflower seed theft, she turned off the TV (cameras) real fast.
  • The line order is like the mafia and the order is how X-Ray views their loyalty to him.

This was my first time reading Holes, which many of my kids didn’t believe. The story of Kate and Sam was so touching and heartbreaking. The intertwined plot lines were done wonderfully. A MG book I definitely recommend!

Sunday Post ~ Tripping into Fall

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It is a weekly news post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase the books and other goodies you’ve received, and share news about upcoming events on your blog. Be creative and personalize it! To get in on the Sunday fun day, see the rules here: Suday Post Meme.

I have been gone again. I think this is going to be my life until something changes for me at work. As in teaching a different subject. And I have a plan for that. It was a light bulb moment on Tuesday. If this change ends up happening for me next year, it will solve all of my problems with the struggle between professional and personal life and I wouldn’t have to sacrifice my beloved yearbook kids and could walk out the door at 4:00 every day. And with this change, the 6th ELA team can have full classes instead of one less due to one of mine having to be yearbook, so smaller classes! Win for everybody.

I have been very overwhelmed the past two or three weeks with my admin and the 938202 things I have to do in the behind-the-scenes parts of my job as a teacher. I have all the advanced classes, one on-level class (that in reality NEEDS to be a co-teach class), and my yearbook class. I am struggling planning on my own because what I do for my ELA kids is different than my partner, who does have almost all co-teach classes, and don’t feel as connected with teaching anymore. I feel like an island under attack – and I’m fed up with feeling this way again. I thought that was gone with our last principal. As an elective, nobody cares what you’re doing or critically critiquing every second of your lesson and interaction with your students. That’s the direction I want to go in in the media world because I love yearbook and that is where my passion now lies.

I am in love with my kids this year, mostly. My advanced students are really motivated and enthusiastic and just fun. My non-advanced class is like a zoo full of monkeys in paper cages with their tails on fair in the middle of a tsunami. And then I have my yerds who are fabulous. Sadly, I am losing two of my staff soon due to moves. I have also lost two advanced students and one moved classes. Thankfully, that now makes my max number of students in two classes 33. I was able to move out two desks on Friday. People will actually be able to get around my room!

I recently saw one of my favorite bands, Restless Heart, with my mom. We are also traveling – with all my doggies – to Tennessee for Thanksgiving with my middle brother. We have the Suburban booked. I can’t wait! I took my mom out for her birthday Friday night and spoiled her with gray Isotoner gloves like she had when I was growing up and an opal necklace to match the ring we bought in Mexico last summer.

My coworkers at school keep making fun of me (and complimenting me) because I’ve lost 40 pounds and my pants won’t stay on! I want to continue to lose 45 more and get with my doctor about a new medication for my anxiety and depression that might also aide in weight loss.

I am continuing to try to make improvements with my house. By divine intervention, yesterday morning I was able to get an entire pallet of emerald zoysia sod for $175. My dad and I spent the day laying it. He pulled out two of the bushes my mom hates, but the rest have to be removed with the chainsaw at a later date. He also pulled out the oleander that I’ve wanted gone. My mom and I have already made plans and done finally measurements on fixing (and expanding) the fence for the backyard and adding a 10’x10′ dog kennel so I can put the crazies outside for a few hours at a time in a safe, enclosed space. The next thing on my list is really pushing my landlord to remove the two dead trees – both alarmingly close to the house. One will definitely require a professional, as the limbs are all entangled in 8 different power lines that run alongside my house. And it is leaning, so eventually it’s going to rip down those lines.

I have been so bogged down this year that I haven’t even picked up my book since I don’t know when. I want to finish this novel, but it was a bit of a struggle for me getting through the beginning. Our school also received some free copies of Gordon Korman’s novel RESTART. I am planning on reading it because he is coming to our school on October 29th!