Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Time Already?!?!


Where DID the time go?! Wasn't it Halloween just...yesterday? It certainly feels like it. Time moves at warp speed for me when school is in session. Even Thanksgiving Break flew by too quickly, but I found it quite relaxing...and productive. There's a lot going on around my house and my job these days. "Busy, busy, busy..." (to quote Professor Hinkle in "Frosty the Snowman").

I'm happy to say I've found some time to read (though, not as much as I'd like), and I do have a couple of books to mention to you I found quite entertaining.


The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley is a wonderfully enjoyable book. It's part mystery, part historical fiction, and part supernatural (in a haunting kind of way). I saw a reviewer compare it to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and I have to agree it does have that kind of feel to it. It's set in Scotland and the plot surrounds a woman who has come to help on an archaeological dig, based on the search for an old Roman military camp that vanished centuries ago and no one knows what happened to them. Excellent read. And I love Susanna Kearsley's writing. (If  you like this one, you'll definitely enjoy her The Winter Sea.)


After Her by Joyce Maynard was a random choice for me. I've never read anything by her, but the synopsis on the back intrigued me. The story is told by a grown woman who is looking back at her childhood and telling about the time the Sunset Strangler hunted women on the California hillsides behind her house. Her father was the lead detective on the case. The story is as much about her childhood, her bond with her sister, and her confusion over her parents' relationship, as it is about the murders and the serial killer. The story is written well, and I enjoyed it on many different levels.

I consider this story historical fiction, as it is loosely based on the real Trailside Killer and a detective who worked on the case. The author acknowledges she based the story on the real one, as told to her by the two daughters of the detective. It's a fascinating (and, sometimes, a bit creepy) read.

And, last but not least, (not by a long shot)...

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson was a fun ride! Of course, Ms. Jackson never fails to entertain me with her writing style. I fell in love with her when I read A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. She writes interesting, colorful characters that both surprise and amaze. Her characters are greatly flawed in the most beautiful ways. I feel like her stories shout to the world, "Hey, we all screw-up, but that doesn't mean we're not good people!"

In Someone Else's Love Story, it all begins when two people make a connection during an unexpected moment - when they're held at gunpoint by a convenience store robber. Any story that starts that way must be good, right? Absolutely. The great thing about Jackson's writing? You never know what twists and turns she's going to take you on. You just have to trust the ride,...and I do. I learned that from A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.

In fact, I trust Jackson with my valuable reading time so much, she's my first choice for this weekend. I'm just about to start gods in Alabama (yes, little 'g'), and I can't WAIT to see what she has in store for me with this one!

Happy reading to you all and to all a good read! :-D

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween! :)

I love Halloween! I already have the candy bowl ready (and it's a BIG bowl), and I can't wait to see the little ones dressed up at the front door. I've invited all my sixth graders to stop by for some candy tonight, as well, so it'll be a fun night!

I'm sorry I haven't posted lately, but life has been a blur. It usually is this time of year. I did manage to go on vacation early this month, but that's a story for another time.

I just popped in to tell you about a good book I read yesterday. I've been a bit under the weather, so I stayed in bed all day and read. One of the books I read was In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It was an excellent choice to read the day before Halloween. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I'd say it's a cross between Agatha Christie and Gillian Flynn. It's a psychological thriller, to be sure. It is well-written, suspenseful, and interesting. I liked it so much, I already ordered Ware's next novel, The Woman in Cabin 10. I can't wait to start that one!

Sorry to rush off so soon, but Halloween is howling for me!

Until next time...

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Unexpected Pleasure

I finished The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron this morning. It was a very good book. I didn't expect it to be. (If you want to see how it came to be in my hands, read my previous post.) And, now that I've finished it,...I miss it already.

There's one person in this world I know will appreciate this book the way I do. I sent him a personal recommendation. In fact, part of what I'm saying to you comes from the pieces I put together, in my own mind, to recommend it to him.

I've come to realize that it's difficult for me to recommend certain books to people without knowing them personally, without knowing what they like and dislike. It's also difficult for me to trust another person's recommendation, unless they know me personally. I also know that what you bring to a book has some bearing on what you get out of it. The season of your life can also determine the filter you look through when you read books. Some things offend certain people, while others would think nothing of the 'offense'. It's quite complex, when you think about it.

And, yet, I try to write a book review blog to the masses. Yes, ironic, I know.

With all that being said, it's unfair for me to ask you to trust me about this book without knowing you. You may not like it at all. So, I will recommend this one by using the same words a friend used to me. She said, "I know a book is good when it changes me."

This book changed me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dang, Broke My Promise!

I am sorry I haven't posted, as I promised I would last time. If I told you what all I've been doing since my last post, you wouldn't believe me. Heck, I don't even believe me. All is better now, though. Work didn't let up, I just got my priorities in the right order again.

On to books...

I was recently given a copy of a lovely book entitled Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. The book is a treat, no matter your age, but I'd say it's written for pre-teens. It has a beautiful cover and a few colorful treasures on the inside, as well. It's a life lesson for us all, showcased through the quest of a young girl who seeks to improve her family's fortune. She learns many folktales along the way, so it's many stories within the story. It's one of those books filled with simple wisdom, which we all need reminding of from time to time. I liked it so much I bought another copy for my classroom bookshelf.

And now...

I am currently reading The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron, and I just have to talk about this book before I've even finished it. I've never come across a book that sounds so boring when I try to describe it, and it is anything BUT boring! I am already halfway through the book, and I am absolutely enthralled!

I know nothing about the author, and I knew nothing about the book before I began reading it. I actually had a student who handed it to me on Friday and said, "You need to read this." (He's a young man of few words.) It is an adult book, but he reads on an advanced, high level. I honestly didn't expect to be crazy about the book. I simply started reading it this weekend because my student wanted me to. Now? I am completely hooked!

And before you get the wrong idea, let me try to explain something. I'm not an over-the-top animal lover. I never (and I do mean NEVER) read books where a dog plays a main role. Don't get me wrong, I like dogs just fine. I just don't treat them like humans because they aren't. I have nothing against people who feel that way, I'm just letting you know that I don't love this book because I'm a huge dog lover.

I love this book because it is well-written, intriguing, suspenseful, violent, passionate, and makes me want to beat up a few characters. Yes, it really is that good,...but I would never have believed it if I wasn't reading it myself. And reading the stuff on the back cover doesn't help you figure out how good it is, either.

I don't like to talk about a book until I've finished it, but there's no way this author could disappoint me. If it all went down hill from here (which I know it won't), I'd still give it a good review just based on the first half. Yes, I like it THAT much.

So, if you'd like to step out of your comfort-zone-genre, and I always encourage readers to do that, I think you should check it out. I promise it's like nothing you've read before. If it is, please post and tell me another book like it...because I will definitely want to read that one, as well.

That's all for now. I have papers to grade...

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Still Here...

I'll be brief. (I don't have any other choice.)

School is back in session, and I have my hands full. Unless you are a sixth grade English, Language Arts, and Reading teacher in Texas, you wouldn't fully understand. I would explain to you the difference in what I do, as a teacher, that's different because of the grade I teach and the content I teach and,...well,...many other things,...if I had the time.

Instead, let me say this:

As full as my hands are right now, my heart is overflowing! My students are precious and anxious to learn. We're getting to know each other quickly, and we've already read three chapters in our class novel, and we're working on a project for it. Good things are happening, and we're all excited to be together, learning together.

Life is BUSY, but life is GOOD!

(And I promise to post about books this weekend!!)

Happy reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I've listened to a total of...six,...yes, six,...audiobooks in my life. That's including one I used in my classroom. Needless to say, I do not claim to be an expert. And, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I'm pretty picky about what I listen to. I have sampled quite a few, but I know after just a couple of minutes if I like what I hear or not.

I've listened to Claire Danes read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I enjoyed. I'd already read the book, a couple of times, but it was a long time ago. Danes did an excellent job. I didn't choose it because she's famous or an actress. I chose it because I like the sound of her voice, and she paces her reading well.

The two books I've listened to most recently are Bare Bones: I'm Not Lonely If You're Reading This Book by Bobby Bones and Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. I really enjoyed hearing the authors read their own works, particularly because they're storytelling about themselves and giving their opinions.

I didn't know anything about Bobby Bones, but I learned he's a very popular radio DJ in Nashville. He's syndicated. After I read the book, I found out most people I know seem to know who he is, but I didn't. I enjoyed hearing about his life. He is very entertaining, honest, and an awkward kind of way. If you don't know his story, I would suggest it. The only reviews I saw that didn't seem to like it, as much as I did, were his fans who already knew his story. In other words, the book didn't reveal something to them they didn't already know.

Ellen's book was different. It isn't her life story, it's little stories and social commentary and...silliness. When I first looked it up, I saw it was only a little over three hours of listening time. That seemed a bit short for me, and too short to spent $14.99 on it. However, I had a credit with Audible, so I decided to get it.

I chose to listen to Ellen on my morning walks, and I found that it was entertaining and made me laugh. I will say, though, there are times when she's just rambling. I almost felt like I was hearing her random thoughts as they zoomed across her brain. Of course, I also found this entertaining because it's nice to know my brain isn't the only one who sounds that crazy. ;) I don't think I would have appreciated it, though, if I'd paid the full price for it. (I'm just being honest.) 

I've always liked Ellen, but I had no idea we agree on so many things about how the world should work. She's a bit of an old-fashioned kind of lady, and I appreciate that about her. While the book is light-hearted, she does encourage the listener to do good in the world and have a social conscience about what we're doing, as humans, to the world around us. I liked her before, I like her even more now.

Well, there you have it. My limited knowledge on audiobooks. I'm hoping to use my new found interest in audiobooks to read more books during the school year. I don't have any trouble fitting in the books I want during the summer breaks, but I always get less pleasure reading done once work cranks back  up.

I hope you're enjoying a good book, no matter what form it comes in. :)

Happy reading!!

Saturday, August 13, 2016


I've  never been one who listens to books on audio. It just...wasn't my thing. I'm not going to say it is now, in a broad sense, but I've certainly learned to appreciate what audiobooks have to offer.

I first gave audiobooks a chance when I used one for my classroom. I wanted my students, who were struggling readers, to hear a book that had thirteen different voices. It was a way of showing them how to hear 'voices in their heads' and differentiate between characters when they read. Needless to say, they loved it, as did I. I did not, however, see the need for me to listen to audiobooks, personally, as I love to read in my own head.

Then, a few years later (yes, seriously), I decided to take a long road trip alone. I went to Half Price Books and found an interesting book on CDs. I thought I'd try it. I really enjoyed it! The book kept me company, I laughed and cried along with the characters, and - as often happens with books - the theme suited something I needed to think over. It was good for the brain and good for the soul. And good for the miles! I drove eighteen hours and enjoyed every minute! Did that hook me into audiobooks? No, not really, though I'd learned to appreciate them a little more.

Fast forward to...almost four years later (again - yes, seriously)...

I was cleaning out and reorganizing my home library. I had a small basket with some books in it. When I dug through them, I found a book on CDs that I had bought long ago (after my inspirational road trip), but had never listened to and forgot I had them. I decided that I needed to either get rid of them or listen to them. I opted to see if it worked for me to listen while I just did my daily driving and trips to see my daughters (one lives an hour away, one lives three hours away). Once again, I loved the experience and enjoyed the narrator so much that I looked up to see what other books she narrates.

It was about this time that a teacher friend of mine showed me how her Kindle has her books on it, but that she can switch to audio when she wants. "Whaaaat?! How did I NOT know this?" (Possibly because my head is usually buried in a book? ;) I got excited about all the possibilities! I could read a book at home and, when I have to run somewhere in the car, take the voice with me to continue the story!

Now, I'm officially a member of Audible. That's right. I'm finding ways to get through my TBR list much faster, which makes me happy. I'm not rushing through the books (I'd never do that), I've just found more ways to enjoy them and allow them to filter into other places during my days and evenings.

I am picky, though. I have to like the narrator. I also still prefer to read for myself when I can sit with a book (or Kindle) in my hand. It also depends on my mood because I love to listen to music, too. I'm still pretty darn happy, though, to find more ways to get my reading time in - especially now that school is about to start up, and I have less pleasure reading time than I do in the summer.

By the way, I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile. Summer has flown by! I'll try to write on a more regular basis now that my yearly academic routine is about to kick in. I do have some books to tell you about, as well as a couple of audiobooks you might find interesting. I will post again tomorrow to tell you about those.

I have to go for now. My classroom is begging me to keep working and setting up for the new school year!

Happy reading!!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Creepy,...but Fun?

I decided to give this subject its own blog entry. It doesn't belong with "Enchanted and Unexpected." I'm not even sure where to start (or where it belongs), so...bear with me.

Creepy and spooky isn't really my thing (I've mentioned this before). Well, not when it comes to books, anyway. I've always loved to watch a good horror film, late at night, with my daughters. It's something we all enjoy when we're in the mood for it. I've never really been into creepy books, though,...until now. What's changed? Well, let's see if I can figure it out. (After all, I write to know what I'm thinking.)

I'm not quite sure how it happened. It started with The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson. I was a bit unsure of that one. But there was something about it I liked. I also enjoyed the short novel The Grown-Up by Gillian Flynn (both were mentioned in my June 5th post). I decided to test out a few more "creepy" ones to see if I actually liked the genre, or if I was just fascinated with something new. 

I just finished Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon, and I can definitely say I'm now hooked on weird, creepy novels where I'm never quite sure where they're going to end up. Don't Breathe a Word definitely fits that bill! The funny thing is, I actually became interested in this particular book because of the vast differences in reviews I read on Goodreads when I was trying to scope out some creepy books for my "testing" process.

One review gave McMahon's novel one star, and the reviewer ranted and raved about how stupid the whole premise of the novel was. She ranted so much, I had to stop reading the review because I was afraid she'd spoil it for me. I also read a couple of reviews where people just loved it. I was...perplexed. I decided to read it for myself and see which side I was on. You know, just for fun. :)

I can definitely say I'm in the category of people who loved it! (Maybe that one-star-reviewer is a Twilight fan?) It's even hard for me to use the word "love" when talking about a creepy book, but I DID love it - creepiness and all. I think the real fun for me is how busy it keeps my brain, as it tries to figure out how the tale will turn next, what is real and what isn't, and trying to decide if it trusts the narrator. 

Don't Breathe a Word is about a woman, Phoebe, who finds herself in the middle of a family mystery. Her boyfriend's sister disappeared fifteen years ago, and the mystery has come back to haunt them. It's difficult for Phoebe to know what is real and what isn't. She's haunted by her own demons, while she tries to help him figure out his and what happened to his sister. The novel goes back and forth between present day and fifteen years earlier. It is dark, it is twisted,...aaaaaand it is plays on that little girl "niggle" in the back of my brain that remembers (quite clearly) when I used to jump as far out from my bed as possible for fear of something grabbing my feet. 

The story really pulled me in, and I finished it much faster than I wanted (3 days),...but I couldn't help it. It is a definite page-turner! I am happy to say that McMahon has other novels along this same line, and I have just started the next one, The One I Left Behind, and I am thrilled!

I'm still wondering, though, why I'm suddenly interested in this genre of books. Hmmm...

I am aware I read books for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, it's to understand more about myself and the people around me. It's to find connection, comfort, insights, adventure, and laughter. When I think about the books I usually read, I know all the things I love about them. 

So, why the attraction to the weird, the morbid, the demented, and the creepy? 

I like that it's a puzzle I'm trying to solve, that's certainly part of it, but there's more to it than that. I think it's because...there's no love. (Wait, I'm checking my brain.) Yes,...yes, I do believe that is part of the appeal. I've never really read "romance" novels but, as my youngest daughter pointed out to me not too long ago, almost every story has some kind of love story in it. And she's right. In fact, I just remembered the reason I found The Butterfly Garden. My daughter told me she'd read more novels if I'd find books that didn't have a love story in them. THAT is how I got started down this warped (but enjoyable) path! And, I admit it, I'm enjoying the books being about the mystery, the weirdness, the oddities, the crime, and NOT being about who ends up with who in the end. 

Well, I'm glad we figured that out. ;) 

Enchanted and Unexpected


The last time I blogged about books (before my Oregon trip), I had just started The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I took my time reading this one, and read a few in between, for a variety of reasons. Some books I really enjoy in small doses, when the storyline isn't hard to hold on to and characters are so strong they stay with you. This is one of those books. 

The Enchanted April was first published in 1922, and it's as interesting to read about the author, and how the novel was received back then, as it is to enjoy the actual book. I won't hesitate to tell you that it is written more formally than contemporary prose, naturally. In fact, there were times I chuckled to myself about how much her detailed writing reminds me of Henry James (I chuckled because someone I know hates Henry James for that very reason. I happen to love him.). The women in the novel are SO Victorian...and, yet, so remarkably like women today. The language may be more formal, but the emotions are the same.

The novel revolves around four women who decide to put their money together and take a holiday together in Italy. They are tired of their dreary lives in London and take a month long vacation together as equal partners in renting a castle by the sea. The women don't know each other prior to this adventure. All they know about each other is they all have the desire to escape the city of London for a holiday to restore themselves.

It is a charming story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself quite enchanted by the lot of them. I found out there's a movie, made some time ago, but I watched the trailer and was disappointed in what I saw. I don't think I'll be watching it. Some characters are just meant to stay in books, and live in the mind, where they are the most colorful.


Now, I promise I'm not calling this part of the blog "Unexpected" because the title of the next book I'd like to talk about is The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright. I'm calling it that because I didn't expect to like this novel. I was attracted to it when I previewed it because I liked the cover, and the blurb on the back of the book sounded like my kind of thing. However, a couple of chapters in, I thought, 'I'm not going to like this one. I will not be able to relate to the main character and, at this point, I don't even like her.' I almost abandoned it. I told myself I'd read a little more before I gave up on it. 

I also admit the reason I didn't give up on it quickly was because the setting of the book is my hometown. I've never read a novel set in my own hometown, and I was interested to see it through the eyes of the author, who now lives there. While that was part of what propelled me forward, it wasn't what hooked me and made me enjoy the rest of the ride. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I enjoyed it.

The Unexpected Waltz is a life lesson for,...well,...let's just say it. It's a life lesson for people my age. By "my age," I mean anyone 40 and over. And, if you're an old soul (as I have always been), I'll say 30 and over. The lesson is about what you do when you find you're not at the place you thought you should be, and you may not even be the person you had always hoped you would be. What do you do? It is interesting and charming to find out what the main character does, how she deals with her life, and what she learns. She begins by trying to learn how to ballroom dance. What she ends up understanding is so much more.

And what did I learn? I can tell you a couple of things I learned without giving anything away...

1) Always make a large entrance (don't be timid)
2) Step strong (even if you're unsure it's the right step)

They're not just good dance tips, my friends. They're good life lessons. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Oh, Oregon...

I just got back from the Oregon Coast, a place I've never been to before, and my trip was perfection. There's no way I could describe it to you that would do it justice, so let me just say this:



Sunday, June 5, 2016

Books and More Books

I didn't realize how long it's been since I posted...until today. I wrapped up my school year on Friday, and I am just now settling into my summer break. It usually takes me a few days to realize I have free time now.
I have been reading, of course,...I can't do without that and keep my sanity. I just haven't posted about them. I thought I'd just give you some quick blurbs about a few you may be interested in.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Wow. This book This book is classified as YA, but it packs a powerful punch. It is a historical fiction set around World War II. Powerful stuff. It's a bit too harsh for middle school, but it would be good for high school students and for any adult.
One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner
I really liked this one. Maybe it was because I love London, I've ridden the trains, and I could imagine the setting so well. Of course, it's not about the setting that makes it a good book, it's really about relationships and connections and how one person affects another. One incident on a train full of morning commuters sets of a chain reaction of events. It's also, pretty much, a "girl power" kind of novel. Although the main characters aren't girls, they are women. I found myself cheering more than once.
The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
This is the twelfth book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. It isn't supposed to exist. The eleventh book, The Lost Stories, was supposed to be the last. Fortunately, two girls (mentioned in the dedication) must have begged the author enough to get one more out of him. I'm so glad they did! I loved reading about some of my most favorite characters again. I didn't have to go back and re-read any of the previous books. Will and Halt are the kind of characters my heart never forgets. I would also like to admit that I wasn't going to read this one. One of my students talked me into it. She loved it, and so did I. Thank you, Cassandra!
10:04 by Ben Lerner
Someone asked me if I'd read this one. He simply described it as "interesting," so I decided I'd try it. I don't think this book is for everyone, and I don't think it's a good as some reviews say it is. I swear, I think people give rave reviews about something odd sometimes because they think it shows them to be more intellectual than they really are. Truth be told, the book is not greatness. However, as a writer, I enjoyed it because it is further proof that what goes on in my brain is not insanity, it's just a writer's brain. Some of what he writes is genius (I highlighted those parts), some of it is total crap. Often times, his brain jumps the tracks in the middle of thought. Yep, total writer's brain. I would say that if you'd like to hear inside a writer's mind, this book is for you. It may feel, at times, like you're trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together with some of the pieces missing. I will tell you, none of the pieces are missing. But you may have to wait until the end to figure that out. At it's core, too, is a story about a unique and precious relationship.
The Promises She Keeps by Erin Healy
I listened to this one on audio for reasons I won't go in to. This is only the second book I've ever listened to on audio. I loved the audio narrator, Ann Harrison. I swear her voice made the book all the better. This is an odd book that I liked very much. You have to be an open-minded person to truly enjoy it. It has more odd turns than your average novel. I mean, how many books have someone with a terminal illness, an autistic adult, a witch, twins, gods and goddesses, God, quotes scriptures from the Bible, drugs, suicide, art, music, and love? It's a bit of a weird ride, but a good one.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

If you're a grown up, you have to read this. Be warned, though, it IS by Gillian Flynn who wrote Gone Girl. She has a warped and dark sense of humor. It is a small book (basically a short story) that she claims George R.R. Martin asked her to write. It is wickedly delicious.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

This one is a treasure. How could it not be? There's a man who owns a barge that holds a floating bookstore on the Seine in Paris. The shop is called Literary Apothecary, and the owner has a talent for matching people to the books they need to cure them. For a book lover, does it get any better than that?! Unfortunately, the 'physician' has been unable to heal himself of what ails his own soul. Will he ever find a cure? This book is a wonderful, lovely, incredible journey. I will also tell you that the next books on my TBR list are the ones prescribed in this novel to different characters.

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

I don't do creepy. Not really. However, I got this book free on my Kindle because I am a Prime Member. I decided to give it a try. It is creepy, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't good. It kept me reading the whole way through. The book begins after the FBI has rescued kidnapped victims, so you know the end first. The rest of the book is finding out what happened and how the victims were finally rescued. To be honest, I've never read anything like this before, so I don't know if part of the reason I liked it was because it was so different from what I normally read. I enjoy being pushed out of my comfort zone.

Well, that's all for now. It's time to get moving and shaking and enjoying this lovely Sunday morning. I hope you're all are reading something that feeds your mind and your soul.

Happy reading!



I abhor bullies. I have for most of my life. This may be because at a crucial point in my own life, I was bullied. No one stood up for me,...including me. That was long ago, but it altered everything in my world forever. Because of my own experience, I have this internal switch that clicks on when I see someone being pushed around. And, trust me, adults are better at being bullies than children have the skill set to be.

When I raised children of my own, it was the one thing I could not tolerate. I would never allow one of my children to be a bully, and I taught them to stand up for themselves if anyone tried to bully them. There were many times I embarrassed my daughters, or other adults around me, because I refused to be a bystander in the neighborhood, in the schools, or in the church. I've stood up to more than one adult who tried to bully someone else's child or bully another adult, while others stood by unable to believe my...what? My courage? People who've seen me level the playing field have called it that. No, it wasn't courage. It was disgust. It was anger. It was "I'll burn in hell before I'll see you treat someone else that way!"

I get physically ill seeing another human being taking control and taking advantage of another human being. I shake, my stomach lurches, and all my brain knows is I have to stop it. It may have happened to me long ago, but I will never allow it to happen again - not to me or to anyone else around me. Not on my watch. Not ever.

You know, it's a good thing I am like I am. It is, in part, what makes me a good teacher. Sadly, I find myself fighting bullies on a regular basis with my job. I fight them for children who can't fight for themselves, and the children don't even know the bullies exist. But they do.

The institution of public education cares less and less about children and cares more and more about the 'business end' of education. Yes, education is BIG business. Often times, adults in public education are motivated by greed or power or position or political gain. Along with those people, there are many uninformed, inexperienced-in-a-classroom adults making poor decisions that affect children, and their futures, across America, all under the guise of "it's in the best interest of the children."

It's more than a full-time job to teach children, teachers shouldn't have to fight "the powers that be" on top of that. They should be supported and asked what would work best for their students. We've lost good teachers, and continue to lose good teachers, who just couldn't take it anymore. And, trust me, there are times I get tired and desperately want to give up the fight...

Now, you know why I don't.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rude Reviews

Rude people annoy me. I mean, really, it says a great deal about a person who can't give a review of a book without spoiling it for the rest of us. Geez...

Fortunately, for me, I'm careful when I choose to read book reviews before reading a book. Very careful. Too often these days, reviewers don't give "spoiler alerts," which is the common and decent thing to do. When I see those words, I know not to read the review if I'm going to read the book. I won't read a book at all if I know too much.

If someone reads a book and doesn't like it, there's a way to say why they didn't like it without giving anything away. It isn't difficult. This is why I know it's done intentionally when some 'knucklehead' goes out of their way to spoil an entire book in one paragraph. And you have to wonder,...what kind of person, who is a true lover of books and reading, would ever do that? They wouldn't. They simply...wouldn't.

Why am I particularly perturbed about this at the moment? I just finished a book that was "meh," but fun (which I'll tell you about shortly). I went on to Goodreads to log that I'd finished it and decided to post my review. It was short and sweet and, I felt,...right on target. It would let people know if they might be interested, or not, based on my comparison to something else. I gave it three stars and here's what I posted:

"Ridiculously unrealistic, but I enjoyed the ride. It's a 'Blue Lagoon' for grown-ups."

After I posted, I decided to scroll down and see what others had said. One review summed up the entire novel in one, small paragraph and gave away everything. Rude! I couldn't believe it! You know, just because one reader doesn't like a book, it doesn't give them the right to spoil it for other readers by purposely telling the end. What a...#$!@#&^?!

There's no excuse for people like that. None. And there's no place for them in a booklovers' community.

The book I posted about was Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. This was Bleeker's debut novel in 2015. I actually read her most recent work first (When I'm Gone), and I decided to go back and read this one. I have a soft-spot for debut novels. I like to give new writers a place at the table with old favorites and classics.

I stand by the brief review I gave on Goodreads, though I'm aware some readers may not be old enough to remember the 1980 movie, "Blue Lagoon," with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. It was one of those movies where you enjoyed looking at the beautiful people and the beautiful paradise island they were stranded on, but you knew it wasn't a great movie. It had a certain charm, though, even in it's completely unrealistic context.

Emily Bleeker
I liked the characters in Wreckage and, while I shook my head in a few places, I was smiling. There is something that rings true beneath the struggles the characters go through. They have more layers to them than the characters in "Blue Lagoon." I'm empathetic to their internal conflicts, and their need for survival is realistic. Bleeker also shows a talent for writing some good banter between the characters at lighter moments in the novel. I read one review that said "with a little spit and polish" it could've been a better novel. I'll agree with that, but when you add in this was Bleekers first attempt? I say, "Let's give her three cheers for her first novel! You go, girl!"

And, since I already read her second one, I can assure you she's learning and improving as a writer, though both her books have reminded me of movies.

And, without knowing it, I just realized something...

I've used both Bleekers' novels as 'tweeners' - the type of book I reach for when I've been reading heavy-content historical fictions and non-fictions for awhile and need a break. It means they're novels I can read quickly and just enjoy in the moment. My brain won't insist on additional research while I'm reading. I guess you could say, 'tweeners' are my brains equivalent to what television-watchers do when they sit down to watch something that doesn't require a lot of concentration to get the meaning of a show or a movie. Easy to figure out and pleasant enough to indulge in from time to time.

And there's nothing wrong with that. :)

Happy reading!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Some day, my Prince will come..."

In 1981, I was sixteen years old and had just received my driver's license. What I didn't receive was my father's respect for earning them. I remember driving over to my dad's house (my parents have been separated/divorced since I was five) to show him what I had accomplished. My dad looked at me and said, "Did you learn on an automatic? Well, you don't really know how to drive then. You shouldn't have your license. You don't really know how to drive until you can drive a stick shift." He meant a manual transmission, one with a clutch and a gear stick. Did his words deflate me a bit? Of course. Did they hurt my feelings? Yes. But then? It pissed me off.

Later on, I told my friend, Tracey, what my dad had said. Tracey and I were a month apart in age and grew up on the same street with only three houses between us. Tracey knew how my parents were, as she'd witnessed all the drama at my house for the first sixteen years of our lives. She was that one friend I never had to explain anything to, including how I felt when it came to my dad.

Tracey offered to teach me how to drive a stick shift. She assured me it would be painless and told me I would not hurt her car (something I was worried about). We headed out to the opposite side of town from where we lived, so no one we knew could witness my struggle. (Annnnd, it might have been a way of flipping the bird at my dad, since Tracey drove us to "his" side of town to practice.) We ended up in the empty back parking lot of SouthPark Mall in Charlotte.

I'll never forget how nervous I was. Tracey thought I was taking it all a bit too seriously. She thought I needed to lighten up a bit and not overthink it. After she explained the basics, and I tried it a bit, my attempts would end in a grind, a jerk, and - most of the time - her little Toyota conking out. I would just cringe at my lack of ability, but Tracey just laughed.

Once I knew what I was supposed to do, Tracey said I just needed to practice...with some music. With mischief in her eyes, she whipped out a cassette tape and stuck it in the car stereo...

I'll never forget that moment. I'll never forget the shock at hearing music I'd never heard before, singing about things I shouldn't like to hear,...and loving it! And I'll never forget how it made me laugh! We were both laughing so hard, as I practiced shifting gears, tears were falling from our eyes.  After all, there's absolutely nothing like learning to drive a stick shift to Prince's "Jack U Off" blaring from the car speakers - nope, nothing like it.

And that was the very first time my Prince came to my rescue. But it certainly wasn't the last...

Thank you, my Prince, for being a crucial part in the soundtrack of my life that taught me many things: how to laugh at myself, how to appreciate life without taking things so seriously, how to love others, how to love myself, to feel sexy. Yes, your music has always made me feel sexy and beautiful - no matter how I look or how old I am. There's not many men on this planet that can do that for a woman. Not only did you do it well, you did it consistently. Your music has always been there for me, and there are no words that could ever truly thank you for sharing your tremendous genius and talents with the rest of us. Rest in peace, love.

While that was not the first time Tracey Rollins ever came to my rescue, it wasn't her last either. And I hope, wherever she is, she is loved and adored and appreciated for the excellent human being she has always been.

Thank you, Tracey, for everything. I love you. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shorts and Sweets

Ah, Saturday mornings...

I'm off to a slow start today, but it's a lovely slow start. I'm on my second cup of coffee and about to enjoy a bit of reading before I head out of my house for the day. Before I get into all that, though, I thought I'd post some brief shorts about a few books I've read.

I don't post about every book I read, just certain ones. I'll finish a book and feel I should make a post, good or bad has nothing to do with it. It's just...a feeling. Lately, though, it's been a lack of time to blog. This is my busiest season at school (not that they aren't all busy), schedules get more hectic and more is expected than usual and work hours are very long.

So, here are some shorts for you. Some are sweet, some are semi-sweet,...and some aren't sweet at all.


I love Paris. I've been there, and I love it. It has a special place in my heart. I'm letting you know this because it skews my opinion, a bit, when the story is set in Paris. That being said, I enjoyed One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau. I had read another novel by this author, The Ingredients of Love, and found it a pleasurable read. I wasn't disappointed with the second novel. (I also found out that Nicolas Barreau isn't Nicolas Barreau...or a man, for that matter. The author is a German woman. But that's a story for another day.)

The story is about a man who grows up loving the cinema his uncle owns. It is now present day, and he is the owner of the old cinema. When a young lady begins coming to the cinema alone on 'old movie night,' the man thinks he may have found love. The problem is, he'll have to go to great lengths to unravel a mystery before he can answer the question of love.

Good book, easy read, and best enjoyed with a glass of merlot. :)


I took a chance late one night and downloaded a book to my Kindle. I didn't have high expectations, I was just looking for a brain rest, a distraction. What I discovered was quite a surprise.

When I'm Gone by Emily Bleeker starts out like the movie, "P.S. I Love You' - or, at least, that was the first thing that came to my mind in the first few chapters. Wife dies, husband buries her, a letter from the wife arrives after the funeral...and more letters after that. Sounds like the movie, yes? I thought so, but the more I read...I realized there was much more to it.

First, the husband is now the only caregiver for three children. Second, he's always been the working dad, his wife was the stay-at-home mom. Of course, nothing has been normal with his wife's long-term illness, but he hasn't been the one making sure the kids were cared for. His mother-in-law and his wife's best friend had helped when his wife was ill. Now, he has to figure out how to raise his children, work, and live his life without the only woman he's ever loved. He's only in his mid-thirties, life wasn't supposed to turn out this way. Third, and worst of all, he discovers his wife may not have been the person he thought she was. And that may be the point that breaks him completely.

The story is more than it appears on the surface, or in the beginning, and I'm so glad I read the whole book. It is well-written, moves at a good pace, and has little nuances I really appreciated. The only reason I put this book in the 'semi-sweet' category is because it does deal with death and grief, but it isn't a depressing book. It's really a book about, "Do we ever really know each other?" and it's a book about hope and the power of restoration.


And unfinished. I seldom abandon books, so you should know just how unsweet these two are and I confess, up front, I did not finish them and have no desire to revisit them later.

First one...

I bought Just Kids by Patti Smith for two reasons: I like Patti Smith, and Joan Didion recommended it. That's it. I figured it was a win, win.

Nope. I was wrong. I made it to page 106 before I decided I just couldn't take it anymore. Maybe some people enjoy reading the train wreck people make of their lives for WAY too long. I don't. I've always considered Patti Smith a wise person, and I assume she is now because she messed up over and over and over again when she was younger.

While I realize this book is a National Book Award Winner, it was  not a winner with me. And I am going to do something with it I have only done one time before in my life: I'm taking it to Half-Price Books and selling it to the second-hand bookstore if they'll have it. If not, I'll just give it to them. While I have done that with a David Baldacci book before, I had - at least - read the whole book to make that judgment. This will be the first time I've ever done it without finishing a book AND, I might add, a book I paid FULL PRICE for at Barnes and Noble! I cannot, though, in all good conscience, keep a book in my home I don't like. That will never happen.

Second one...

My other unsweet is Hemingway's Girl by Ericka Robuck, and it's just...bad. Not horrible, just bad. I'm sorry, I seldom ever say that, is. Last night, I was on page 65 and was debating whether to give it up or not. I thought, 'Is it just me after a long day of working with middle school students all day...or does this author write like a teenager?'

I bookmarked my spot and looked up reviews on Goodreads. The first bad review I read said exactly what I thought: chick lit, too much, too fast, not enough development of characters, and not historical fiction. The book was promoted as  historical fiction and compared to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which I loved. This book is NOT like The Paris Wife.

Here's what I think happened:

Once upon a time, Robuck read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and fell in love with Hemingway, as so many of us do (myself included). She admits this much in her note to the reader at the beginning of the book. I will assume she read The Paris Wife after that and thought, "Hey, I can write something like that!"

What came out is book that reads like a high school girl's fantasy. The story surrounds a beautiful, poor, 19-year-old, Cuban-American girl in Key West who becomes Hemingway's maid during the time when he was married to Pauline (after divorcing Hadley and leaving Paris). She's instantly attracted to Hemingway and feels something "electric" between them at every glance and every touch. Everything happens too fast, is too cliché, and there's a bit of name-dropping, as well. I might look at it differently if the narrator was telling the story from her point-of-view. I would then say it sounds like a teenager because, well,...the narrator IS a teenager. But that isn't the case. It's written in third person and, as I said, not written well.

I will say, however, the cover is lovely and I like the title. And I like the idea, the premise, of the book. I believe it could have been a really great book. And, as much as I love Hemingway (and as much as I've researched him), I don't see him in the same way this author does. She seems to have the caricature version of him instead of the real man. Of course, that goes back to the high school girl fantasy thing. And, I will admit, I'm not fan of that type of genre,...not even when I was a high school girl.

I'll put this one in my mental category of Twilight and move on.


Now, the question is,...what will I read next from my TBR pile?