September 2021 Reading Update

I am such a mood reader! I picked up a very slow, beautiful ficion narrative this month that was just not what I was in the mood for when I had time to read. It’s still on my shelf to be read, but this month I needed more fast-paced, easier to get into, fiction. I also had a headache for 11 days straight, which limited what I could read or when. What I read in September:

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris – I loved this book! It’s been on my TBR pile since I heard about it last spring, and since I bought a hardback copy for myself at an independent book store in July. Nella is the only Black women in the Wagner publishing office where she works in NYC. When another Black woman is hired, Nella hopes that she and the new employee, Hazel, can tackle the systemic racism of the publishing industry together. Soon Nella starts to get threatening anonymous notes to leave, and she isn’t sure whether she can trust Hazel or not. There are some interesting flashbacks and other narrators brought in throughout the story, and the reader is following along, unraveling the mystery of the previous Black women who have worked at Wagner. This was a fictionalized story based on a lot of reality, and there were a lot of unlikeable characters. The ending brought out a lot of emotions I need to talk about to other people who read this book (but I don’t want to spoil anything)!

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena – I loved this book too! I’ve come to love Lapena’s fast-paced thrillers. Not only must you distrust all characters, but they all end up being despicable and hard to like, as you chase after who the killer is. In this case, an older couple is brutally murdered and all three of their children are suspects. Dan has money trouble and never got along with his father. Catherine had just learned that her parents would be selling their house, the house she wanted to live in to complete her perfect facade. And Jenna, the youngest, a struggling artist, never had her parents’ approval. It was sad how quickly the siblings were able to lie to help themselves, and how little they trusted each other. While I loved the pace of the story, it was truly about a very unhappy family.

Beyond the Surface of Restorative Practices: Building a Culture of Equity, Connection, and Healing by Marisol Quevedo Rerucha – This is a professional book for educators who want to understand the what, why, and how of restorative practices. But really it’s a look into an educational leader’s role to build a safe, inclusive community where restorative practices can thrive. I appreciated Marisol’s direct examples from her work, from the work of Pedro, a high school RP leader (who I worked with a few years ago!), and from the research.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton – Untamed by Glennon is one of my favorite memoirs of all times. I know she wrote this memoir about her now broken up marriage, but I was curious to read the backstory. I love her brutally honest writing. She is raw, vulnerable, and open with her sharing, in writing, even as she shares how hard it is to be raw and open with people.

Patina (Track #2) by Jason Reynolds – I loved listening to the audio of the first book in this series, but I didn’t enjoy the audio of this book as much. I am such a finnicky audio book listener, and this was just not the best for me to listen to. But I love Reynolds’ story telling and the world he allows readers to experience. Patina was on the same track team as Ghost, from book #1, with a challenging family life. Her father died, her mother lost a leg due to diabetes, and she and her little sister were living with their aunt and uncle. Track was her favorite time of day and one of her greatest strengths, like Ghost. It was a good story overall.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard – I enjoyed this thriller! I didn’t think I was ready to read about people on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this was far enough removed from my reality that it wasn’t depressing. Ciara and Oliver meet in March 2020, both new to Dublin, and quickly start a relationship. When the city is forced into lockdown, Ciara moved in with Oliver to see if their relationship is worth pursuing, and to not break city rules. I liked how the story was told in flashbacks mixed with present, when a death is being investigated. There were a few good twists in the story! This is a new favorite author for me!

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – I loved this fun, romantic story about two authors, Eva and Shane. Eva is a fantasy romance author was has created a famous vampire saga, while living with chronic migraines and raising her daughter alone. Shane is a recluse who has written four profound novels but is never seen in person. As we learn of their connection in the past, and see them meet up in the present, we are treated to intense memories, raw emotions, and the potential of love. As someone who suffers from severe and regular headaches and migraines, I appreciated how the author made that a relevant part of her character’s life. This story made me happy!

Roar by Cecelia Ahern – This was such a unique reading experience for me. I bought this book as an Indie Press recommendation from the Currently Reading podcast patreon. They set up a buddy read opportunity for us listeners to read the book in small groups to discuss it. Since this is a collection of short stories, the goal was to form a group of 4-5 people, read one story a day in September (there were 30 stories) and then discuss in a virtual meet up (my group did Facebook messenger discussions). What I loved about the experience was the daily check ins, hearing about the different opinions from my group, and us sharing our personal connections. We didn’t love all of the stories, but we had fun discussions about them either way. What I didn’t expect was that the book is magical realism, so there are so fantastical events that you truly have to suspend disbelief to get through without rolling your eyes or laughing out loud. What I appreciated were the messages about how women are stereotypically treated or viewed in society. There was a lot of over-the-top and obvious lessons, but there was also a heart. Each story is called “The Woman Who…” and no main character woman has a name, which was a fascinating author decision. I truly could talk about some of these stories over and over again. I loved my first public buddy read expereinece!

The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha – I read this book as part of a book club with Laura Tremaine’s book club (where I read Stephen King this summer!). This is a self-help book that is very simplistic in the advice, yet easier said than done when it comes to changing our own practices. Some of the advice felt more relevant to me than other parts. I enjoyed the author’s “Big 7” ideas, which “if you do any of these seven things for two straight weeks, you will feel happier”. I’ve tried to include more of these in my daily practices since reading them: Three walks, 20-minute replay, random acts of kindness, a complete unplug, hit flow, 2-minute meditation, five gratitudes. A lot of the advice was around structuring your work life around your passions and what you love, and then structuring your work day around to be as productive as possible. He also advising to think of your time in three buckets: work, sleep and then play/ hobbies/ passions/ fun. Too many of us have a much bigger work bucket than we have a fun bucket. If you need ways to find more balance, this is a good read for you.

Fiction: 6

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices work: 4

Female author: 7

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 2

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: 

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August 2021 Reading Update

Of all the choices I make when deciding what to read next, the gender identity of the author is rarely a choice, unless I am consciously seeking out a nonbinary voice to expand myself. So it is by accident that so many of the books I read this month were by men, when the vast majority of my reading life is dominated by women authors. It is not, however, an accident that I LOVED many of these books! With a HUGE To-Be-Read (TBR) list, I am more discriminate on what I choose to read based on trusted recommendations.

I have officially read more in 2021 than I have read in any other year! This month I read:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J.Klune – Technically I finished this on July 31, but I had already published my July list, so here it is! I LOVED this beautiful YA novel! Linus Baker is a curmudgeon, who lives with his cat and works hard at his government job, inspecting orphanages that include magical children. But when he is sent on a classified assignment to review the situation in a special place, his entire world turns upside down. As he gets to know Arthur and the six children in the house in the cerulean sea, Linus learns about himself, love and friendship, and when it’s time to break the rules. I loved the musical references to many “golden oldies” and the interesting characters throughout the story. I love that a queer author was able to tell a genuine queer love story amongst fantasy and magic and some insane plot points!

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby – I really enjoyed this Book of The Month selection! Two men, Ike and Buddy Lee, form an unlikely friendship after their sons are murdered. The men are Black and white and their sons were gay and married and that was a problem for both men when their sons were alive. However, now that their boys are gone, their hearts are filled with guilt and they are driven by revenge to seek justice. Being former cons themselves, they are willing to commit crimes in very violent ways to find out what happened to their sons. It was gritty, pulpy, and bittersweet and I loved it!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – I LOVED this book! This is one of my favorite books of 2021 for sure, and maybe beyond. What a sweet, heartwarming story that was full of scientific information. Grace is a junior high teacher with a biology degree, who is called upon to help save Earth when scientists discover something from space that will destroy Earth. While we learn what is happening in that time, we also flash to Grace waking up from a coma in a space shuttle, with no memory of where he is or why. As Grace gets his memory back, we learn what is happening in both story lines. I don’t want to spoil anything that happens, but this book was so phenomenal. There was a LOT of science, which is not my area of expertise, but I enjoyed hearing the descriptions. Anyone interested in space would also like this fun adventure!

Miseducated: A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming – You know a book was good when you want to hug it at the end, or in my case, when you are left with tears of happiness. I read this book because Brandon P. Fleming is our district’s guest speaker for our welcome back event with all staff. I wanted to read it before we heard him speak, to know his story. I’m so glad I did, because wow – what a powerful story he has! After an incredibly rough childhood, which he details in great pain, Brandon finds himself working in a factory after failing out of college, with no hopes for his future. Throughout his life, he had a few key mentors who got to know exactly where he was, offering their advice, support, and encouragement. Brandon worked his way back up, back into college, learning all of the things he should have learned in school and learning all of the things many schools still don’t teach (he found a passion for the Harlem Renaissance that reminds educators that REPRESENTATION matters!). This was a beautifully told memoir with lessons for educators and humans on how to meet people where they are, how to NOT miseducate our Black youth, and how to raise the bar for all. I LOVED this book!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I think a friend read and loved this book about 1.5 years ago and told me about it. After that, I heard a few people mention it was “slow” and “character-driven” which are two of my least favorite descriptors for a book, so I wasn’t in a rush to pick it up. Then Meredith from Currently Reading podcast made me cry with her beautiful review, declaring this NOT slow and NOT character driven, among many other praise-worthy phrases, so I got it from the library ASAP. I’m so glad. This is a beautifully written story of a lovely man, Count Alexander. While on the surface the storyline is simply about his life living in “house arrest” within the presitigious Metropol hotel in Moscow, there is so much more to this story. Alexander’s adventures with the hotels, all of the supporting characters with which he builds relationships, and hidden gems I don’t want to ruin for anyone who wants to read this, all make this a fun, entertaining read!

Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds [audiobook]- I have read one of Jason Reynolds’s YA books, and I heard great things about this middle grades series. I enjoyed the audiobook as it was a quick listen, about Ghost, a young boy who wants to belong. When a track coach sees his innate speed, he recruits him to a track team, and helps him find his way.

Misery by Stephen King – This was the third and final book I read for Stephen King Summer with Laura Tremaine’s patreon book club. It was so fun to reread books I know I read 30 years ago, but obviously don’t remember that well. I think in the case of Misery and Carrie, I remembered images from the movie more than from reading the books. Rereading Misery was great because it felt families, yet it was all so surprising to me. I loved that King’s main character, Paul, was also a writer, and that part of this book was a story within a story. I found it fascinating that Paul wrote historical romances, which are SO DIFFERENT from King’s writing! I actually disliked reading most of the segments from that story that were interspersed, because it’s not my favorite genre. But the creepiness of Annie keeping Paul captive was enough to keep me reading to the end. I didn’t remember how it ended (of course, my memory problems are well documented!), but I wanted justice for Paul and an end to Annie’s insanity.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro – I bought this book when I visited an independent book store last month. It was in an area all about writing, which I always enjoying reading about. Halfway through the book of short essays on writing, I realized that I had read a memoir by this author back in December 2019. I loved her memoir, which was all about discovering her father wasn’t her biological father, after he had passed away. When she wrote this nonfiction piece, she hadn’t made that discovery yet. I enjoyed the way she discussed her writing process, and how an author never knows how a story will turn out, and the creation of a daily writing habit. Some essays were boring to me, but overall it was a decent read that, once again, gave me motivation to get to my own writing habits.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston – I loved this book! This is the second book I have read by this author and I love the positive, found-family, queer love stories they create. August meets Jane on the Q subway line and they fall into an unlikely (and fantastical) adventure to solve multiple mysteries that cross time and space. August’s found family in NYC are a treasure of good people who care about one another for all the right reasons. This was such a fun story!

Fiction: 7

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices work: 5

Female author: 1

Male Author: 7

Nonbinary Author: 1

Library books: 3

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon:  The Other Black Girl, The Nothing Man, Shadow Tag, and more!

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What Fills Your Cup?

I was recently reading Beyond the Surface of Restorative Practices by Marisol Quevedo Rerucha and she was sharing the habits and practices that she employs to keep her own cup full, so that she is better able to support others. As they say, “You can’t fill someone else’s bucket with an empty cup”. Marisol inspired me to consider what habits and practices fill my own cup. Some of these may be considered “self-care”, but for me, this is a list of what I need regularly in my life to feel my best.

  • Sleep – Sleep is very important to my physical and mental wellbeing. I know that people can function on a variety of hours of sleep, and I know myself well enough to know that 8 hours is my ideal night of sleep. A few nights with less than 8 hours begins to take a toll on me. My friends and family know not to call me near or after 9 pm for this reason!
  • Reading – For anyone who has read more than one of my blog posts, it should come as no surprise that reading is something that makes me happy. Reading is my happy time, my time to rest and recharge by myself, and to escape into another world. Reading is also my education, my learning time, and time to challenge old ways of thinking. I love reading and begin to feel bad if I have a few days in a row when I haven’t read fiction.
  • Water and Walking – I grouped the W’s because it was fun! Drinking water is a habit that I do well for awhile and then do not do well for awhile, until my body reminds me why water helps! Walking, whether with friends or alone, on a beach or around my neighborhood, is also good for my mind and body. Both of these habits help me feel better in my body and connect me to nature.
  • Friends & Family – Connecting with friends and family fill my cup in so many ways. Whether a friend and I exchange a few texts a month, or my nephews and I FaceTime once a week, I love connecting with the people I love and hearing how their lives are going, especially those who live far away. Making time to see my local friends and family is also important, for laughter, shared meals, and connections.
  • Vitamins, supplements and essential oils – While the specifics in this category change over time, I know that taking vitamins and supplements, and using essential oils, helps me. I carefully select specific oils to add to my diffuser each night for the best night’s sleep possible! When I’m feeling stressed in my office, taking a moment to inhale “Balance” can usually give me a moment or two of calm, which reminds me that deep breathing is also important.
  • Massages & Facials – I have gone to every woo-woo and traditional practitioner out there at some point in time, trying to help various health symptoms that have made my life challenging. The two practices that are currently in my regular rotation, and filling my cup with relaxation time, are massages and facials. Not only do these feel like a gift to myself, but the mental and physical benefits are gifts that keep on giving!
  • Music & Travel – My cup runneth over after a recent weekend away (real travel!) for a live concert of my favorite band (NKOTB!)! Whether dancing in my car, house, or a concert, alone or in a crowd, music lifts up my soul and fills my heart! Travel does the same. I can’t wait for it to be safe enough for much more of this!

What fills your cup? What do you miss after a few days out of your routine?

Recent books purchased from an independent book store!
One of my happy places – at an NKOTB concert!

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Revisiting Professional Books

How do you use what you read in professional books to make an impact in your work? 

I am an avid reader. I read fast and I read a lot. I do not, however, have a great memory. Once of the reason I blog about my reading each month is to keep a record of my reading for my own bad memory. That clearly does’t always help, as last month I read a book I had read 10 years ago, with no memory of it! Right now I’m reflecting on my reading of non-fiction, professional books. I like to read educational books to stay current on new research, innovations, and ideas.

When I’m reading a professional book, I prefer to have a paper copy, where I write marginalia, put post-it notes all over, underline, highlight, and generally just mark my thinking all throughout the book as I read. These notes are great to track my thinking while I’m reading, but I rarely go back and look over my notes again. Which means that if I happen to have a great idea that could apply to my work while I’m reading, it often gets lost in the pages of the book, never to be seen again. I’ve thought about ways to capture these ideas and I’ve tried a few of them, but none have stuck as a useful habit.

  • Keep a specific journal (I’ve tried written and electronic) for professional book notes/ ideas – I have set these up and haven’t bee successful. The problem with a written journal is that it might not be with me when I’m reading, since I read in multiple locations.
  • Write specific ideas on post-it notes and stick them on my computer – this work for immediate follow-up situations, but not long-term planning
  • Dedicate an area of my current notebook to these ideas – Even though I prefer electronic for just about everything, I do keep a small notebook for day-to-day written notes and things I need to follow-up on at work. One problem with this idea is the same as the first idea; I don’t always have this notebook with me when I’m reading.
  • Take picture of key pages/ notes in books to save – I have done this, but again, they sit in the photo area of my phone, not being used again.
  • Tweet out the ideas – I have done this occasionally, but they get lost and ever seen again. one idea I’ve seen recently that I haven’t tried, is to tweet ideas to a specific hashtag with my name in it, such as #IllingworthNotes (which is too long!) or #CoachADV (which is related to my book, The Coach ADVenture). Then I can search my own hahtag for my own ideas. I can even schedule in reminders to look back through my hashtag for ideas and reflections every few months. This might be where I start!

I often say that I use journaling and blogging for my own reflection. Sometimes my best thoughts come when I just sit down and let myself write until I answer my own question, solve my own problem, or come up with a new idea. Thanks for reading along! If you have other ideas that work for you, I’d love to hear them.

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July 2021 Reading Update

I have a funny reading story about my poor memory (and the reason I blog about what I read!). Earlier this month I was scrolling through my Facebook memories and the memory below, from 2011 pops up:

I blogged about reading Before I Go to Sleep last month, in June of 2021. I had no memory of ever having read this book before. This is especially ironic because the book is about a woman who has lost the ability to retain new memories, so each night when she goes to sleep her mind erases what happened that day. Sadly, I wasn’t keeping a reading blog 10 years ago. Also sadly, this was still a suspenseful book with an ending that surprised me. Not sure what this says about my memory, though my brother says I read too much for my brain to hold!

I’m so proud of how much I’ve read this year. As of this post, I have read more in 2021 than I have read in all previous years except 2019 (and I will be beating that number soon enough!). It’s been so fun to get this into reading, which is truly a fun habit and a self care tactic for me. I did have a full week of vacation during this month, in which I stayed in town and did even more reading than normal!

This month I read:

  • Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan – I heard this book compared to Leave the World Behind, which I loved last year, and I knew this would be a disturbing story. Arlo and Gertie and their kids move into a neighborhood and never quite feel welcome. One friendship is formed, but after a bizarre sinkhole opens in the neighborhood, everything begins to go awry. This story was full of despicable, dislikable characters, who treated others so poorly. The storytelling was engaging even when the content was hard to read. It was an enjoyable reading experience.
  • The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry – What a sweet story! Even though I’m not a huge fan of flowy, descriptive language, the author painted a beautiful picture of Southern life as we got to know Lila, Henry, and Abigail. The three siblings come together when their mother dies suddenly, and quickly learn of many secrets she kept. I loved Lila and Henry and their bond, and their shared desire to leave the south and be free. Their protection of each other throughout their lives was so nice to see/ read about.
  • Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock – One of the teachers on our district’s Equity Committee recommended this book to me as a book every teacher should read. I appreciated the practice ideas the author shared directly from her classroom experience. The author approaches Antibias and Antiracist (ABAR) work with a social justice lens, and her own unique experience of being adopted, being an Asian-American woman, and her own intersectionality. I appreciated that this was truly the over all message: “Teaching kids about diversity and antiracism is not about teaching them what to think. It’s about giving students tools, strategies, and opportunities to practice how to think (p. 113). Each chapter provides a list of resources that can support teachers in “not reinventing the wheel” as they begin their own ABAR journey in class.
  • Starfish by Lisa Fipps – A work friend recommends this middle grades story about Ellie a young girl who is bullied because of her weight. As she learns who she can trust, and as she works with people who help her love herself, we suffer along with her through multiple episodes of bullying at school and at home. So much of this made me sad for the character, sad for little girls all over the world who are made to feel less than because of their size, and sad for the bullies who are mean to cover up their own insecurities. I enjoyed this book and wish that a few of the subplots had been explored more.
  • Falling by T.J. Newman – I LOVED this book! I heard it descriped as a “Can’t put down, make time because you will finish it in one night” on the Currently Reading podcast, so I knew it would be good. I started reading after dinner and I didn’t stop until I finished it. It was a great, fast-paced adventure! Pilot Bill is given an ultimatum – crash the plane he is flying or his family will be killed. What follows is a tale about people’s true character, who to trust, and who bares witness. This was an incredible story by a first-time author who was a flight attendant. I hope she writes more!
  • Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – I enjoyed this thriller, but it’s not for new parents (or many parents, probably). Two American families go on a cruise for their holiday vacation, where they befriend an Argentinian family. During an incursion in a foreign country all six kids go missing. The rest of the book goes between the parents’ search for the kids, and the story of what happened to the kids. There are some sad and scary points that would be triggering to some people, but it was also a story about love, trust, perseverance, and fear.
  • Carrie by Stephen King – I read this book because Laura Tremaine, of my favorite podcast 10 Things to Tell You started a private patreon that involves summer reading of Stephen King, her favorite author. I read MANY King books when I was a young pre-teen and teenager, including Carrie (if my weak memory serves). I know I saw the original movie many decades ago, but I was still surprised by the book. There was so much awful bullying, fanatical religious zeal, and such an explosive ending, all of which I had no memory of. Reading it now, I can appreciate King’s storytelling; this was his first novel. I really wonder what my young mind thought as I read this, as I’m sure some of it went over my head. I’m looking forward to joining the book club discussion about this, as many of Tremaine’s followers have been “scared” to read Stephen King. I still love him and am looking forward to the next read, which is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption; I LOVE the movie but never read the story.
  • The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner [audiobook] – My favorite kind of books to listen to as audiobooks are memoirs read by the author, even people I don’t know. This was an interesting memoir about Ruth’s life growing up in a polygamist family who lived in Mexico, but often traveled to the US (for welfare checks and work as needed). When I heard the book described on a podcast I knew it might be a hard story, but worth listening to learn about a very different culture. Ruth had a very rough childhood, filled with poverty, abuse, insecurities, and siblings with physical and mental challenges. She was clearly resilient and was able to keep herself and many of her siblings safe from the worst of the dangers. I enjoyed the narration, even during rough parts of her story.
  • Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – I heard about this book from my Currently Reading podcast, when they do a monthly even to support independent book stores. I bought it because it sounded like a fun mystery. A romance author, Finlay, is meeting with her agent in a Panera, discussing ideas for her latest romantic crime novel. A woman overhears them and assumes Finlay is a contract killer. The woman hires Finlay to kill her husband. Silly hijinks, pratfalls, and ridiculous friendships follow, as the story moves forward. I found the plot too slow for me. I was invested enough to see how it ended, but not excited about reading this one. It reminded me of early Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich novels. [Andree, this was just a 3 star read for me!]
  • Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach by Meredith I. Honig and Lydia R. Rainey – My wonderful boss (hi Andrée!) bought us this book to read in preparation for a new year of supporting our principals’ instructional leadership. Both Andrée and I used Honig’s reserach in our dissertation, so we are familiar with her work. This professional book is a summary of many years of research, and the best ways to support principal supervisors. Not only was this a nice reminder about my favorite parts of leadership development and a blast from my past work as well, but it was also a work-related read focused on teaching and learning… not COVID protocols! I hope the tide continues in this direction.
  • The Pants Project by Cat Clarke [audiobook]- One of my work friends recommended this middle grades book, and I quickly downloaded the audio. It was a quick listen and I loved it! Liv has entered middle school, where all girls have to wear skirts. Liv knows that she is a boy, but she hasn’t told anyone yet, and wearing a skirt is awful for Liv. Liv goes through friend tribulations, gets made fun of for having two moms, and works through how to share her biggest secret with the world. This was such a sweet story!
  • We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin – My friend Barb recommended this and I enjoyed it! It was a medium-paced thriller. I loved the characters of Odette and Angel, both of whom narrate different parts of the story. As Odette is trying to solve the disappearances of people from her high school years, Angel is trying to escape her dangerous past. They are both strong, resilient women who go through so much to find the truth.
  • The Push by Ashley Audrain – This was a hard book to read; it’s so dark. The main story is Blythe, a mother writing a letter to her daugther’s father, about their child. Interspersed are stories of her mother and grandmother, multiple generations of women who struggles with motherhood (and some clearly undiagnosed mental illnesses). It was hard to see such poor mother-daugther relationships, lack of care for children, and lack of support from the men in the lives of these women and children. Yet, it was also a slow-paced psychological thriller because you didn’t know why Blythe was writing or what bad things might be coming. I enjoyed this for what it was.
  • The Power of a Teacher: Restoring Hope and Well-Being to Change Lives by Adam. L Saenz – This was a short professional book that I read after hearing Saenz speak to our management team in June. He was an inspirational speaker who talks about personal wellbeing (physical, spiritual, financial, emotional and occupational) and why all educators need to take care of ourselves in order to better take care of our students. Each chapter addressed one area of wellbeing with examples from stressed out teachers, ways to take care of yourself, questions to ask yourself or others, and ideas for putting a new plan in place. It was an easy read with some concrete strategies for anyone look to help themselves or any stressed out friends or colleagues.
  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – I LOVED this book! Who knew that I needed this kind of a mash-up? A queer love story that involves the son of the first woman president of the United States and the grandson of the queen of England, written by a young nonbinary author. There was so much to love about this story – all of the characters were so fun, from Alex and Henry, to their friends and family, to the international politics of the controversy. I put this book on hold with my library app as soon I began hearing about it on everyone’s recommended summer reading guides. I’m so happy it finally came through and it was even better than I expected! I can’t wait to read the author’s newest novel.
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – I LOVED this sweet, sappy story of friendship and travel and love. Alex and Poppy meet their first day of college and strike up an unlikely friendship. They end up traveling together each summer, through lots of misadventures, and as they both date different people. The story is told in flashbacks to various summer trips and in the present, when they travel again after what was some sort of mishap two years prior. The reader sees the love between them love before they admit it to themselves or each other. This was such a fun beach read for my mini beach vacation! Then I read the author’s note that said the author lives the story of When Harry Met Sally, which is one of my family’s favorite movies, and I loved the connections between the film and this story even more!
  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King – I read this novella as part of Laura Tremaine’s Stephen King summer. It’s so fun to talk about these stories in our book club! As I read it, I couldn’t help picture the movie, since I have seen and loved Shawshank Redemption many times (our book club is watching the movie together just like we did with Carrie a few weeks ago!). I loved that the story was told completely from Red’s perspective. It follows King’s writing style- no chapters, limited breaks, just long narrative storytelling. He makes us love Red’s respect for Andy, who was not a typical prisoner in any way. I loved the sweet ending so much!
  • Haven Point by Virginia Hume – I bought this novel as part of the Currently Reading podcast Indie book list. It’s a typical multi-generational family saga, set in a small, wealthy community in Maine, where rich white folks summer. Maren is the new wife to a local man, Oliver, and the story alternates between their courtship and early years, to the time when their granddaughter Skye, comes to visit whenever her mother needs to go to rehab. I enjoyed these characters, but there were SO MANY other characters mentioned, I felt like some were better developed than others. In the end, it was a bittersweet story of family, love, and a lot of misunderstandings based on false assumptions.
  • You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown – What a beautiful collection of stories by Black Americans that touch on their unique lived experiences, the intersectionality of being Black, a woman, and Queer, or a Black trans or nonbinary person in modern American. Each story was touching in the vulnerable way the author shared their own experiences with shame, from past trauma to every day microaggressions. Reading these stories helped me get just a glimpse into the realities of being Black in America. And with the recent Black athletes who have come forward to share their own trauma and who have taken steps to prioritize their own mental health and wellbeing, the people who don’t understand their actions need to read this anthology.
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas [audiobook] – This was the prequel to The Hate You Give, which is a YA novel I LOVED! I enjoyed learning the back story of Star’s father Maverick. With a father in jail, Maverick doesn’t see many choices for him so he joins a gang and sells drugs, especially once he learns he has a son. As we learn more about Maverick and his family, we see that he was never even asked about his own goals. Maverick has to learn about himself before he can set some goals for his future. I loved the ending!
Most of what I read in July!

Fiction: 15

Nonfiction: 4

Young Adolescent: 3

Audiobooks: 3

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices: 7

Female author: 20+

Male Author: 3

Nonbinary Author: 3

Library books: 9

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano, 56 Days, The Guncle, and more!

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Green Teams

I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last two years. Please follow along with my journey and share where you are in the environmental sustainability movement. 

One of the green initiatives in my school district is a district Green Team.  When our previous superintendent, Dr. Tim Baird, came to our district, he has a clear focus on being more environmentally aware.  One of his first steps was to establish a District Green Team.

Dr Baird says that the best way to begin a green initiative is with the three G’s:

  • Green Team
  • Garden
  • Garbage

I will address all of these in my green schools blog series.  Today we are talking about Green Teams. A district green team is comprised of district and community leaders with a passion for sustainability.  Our district green team includes:

  • our superintendent – It is critical in any green initiative to have support from your leader!
  • our assistant superintendent of educational services (that is me!)- we work hard to make sure our green initiatives are linked to our educational programming for students.
  • the director of facilities, maintenance, operations, and grounds – so many of our green initiatives (or ideas that become initiatives) have to do with how we can safely clean our schools or save energy more efficiently, and this position plays a key role in those discussions.
  • the director of purchasing – this person is often involved because they support all of the contracts we enter into for on-going purchasing needs.
  • the coordinator of our DREAMS campus/ Farm Lab – this person plays a critical role in the environmental education for our students as well as maintaining the business partnerships that allow us to grow our own organic produce for school lunches.
  • parent representatives from the sites – these are parents who are interested in environmental issues and passionate about making changes in our schools that will positively impact the environment.
  • community members – we often include key community members who are leading city-wide events that we can connect to our schools.

In the beginning, it is important for this team to come together to discuss their mission. The goals of this group need to be clear and explicit.  This is why it is important to have key positions from your organization represented.  Often these discussion fall either on the business side of a district or on the educational side. By bringing members of both departments into the discussion, you ensure that everyone is speaking the same language and working towards a common purpose. Similarly, by including parents in this group, you hear directly from the community, you garnish support for new initiatives, and you have a through-line from the district to each individual school site. 

Due to COVID-19, our green teams took a hiatus during the last 1.5 years. I’m looking forward to returning to these discussions in the upcoming school year. We will have new members to bring in fresh ideas, and we are so excited to welcome students back to our DREAMS campus for enhanced learning experiences. We were also excited when this book was published recently, as our district was featured prominently.

A Practice Guide to Leading Green Schools

I’d love to hear if you have a Green Team in your school or your district. Are you, personally or professionally, researching Green Teams for your school/district?

 Previous post(s) in this green schools series:

———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———– —

Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

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June 2021 Reading Update

This blog has become nothing more than a reading journal for me, and that is fine by me for now. It’s always interesting to see where my stats end up. Last month I read almost all books by women, so I did seek out more male authors to balance myself out this month. I had a few books that had been on hold at my library come up, along with a new book I was anticipating. So far this year I have already more than I did in all of 2015 and 2018, so it’s been a great reading year for ma already!

What I read in June:

  • Shakeup by Stuart Woods – Another typical Barrington novel, where he has to find the bad guys before they shoot him up. This time he only traveled to LA and to English, but was mostly in NYC, with either Holly, the new president, or Maren, the new FBI Director.
  • Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur – I enjoyed this cute, sappy, lesbian rom-com! Darcy and Elle are total opposites, so of course they meet and hate one another, which means you know that awkward disagreements will follow as they fall for each other. Then something will cause a riff near the end, and then the ending will wrap up with a nice bow, like all rom-coms, and all Hallmark movies, do. It was a fun read!
  • Double Jeopardy by Stuart Woods – Last month I accidentally read two Woods books out of order, but I am back on track again. This was the 57th novel in the Stone Barrington series and it is like a well-oiled machine. Stone has a problem (this time his evil cousins have gotten out of jail and are on a machine to kill him), he calls in Dino and Viv for back up, they travel to one of his many homes (this time Maine), he meets a new woman, and they all end up armed and dangerous and getting the bad guys. These books are my palate-cleansers – easy books I can read in one day in between very different kinds of books.
  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor- I really enjoyed the deep dive into how we breathe, why breathing through our mouths is bad for every part of our body, and how breathing can impact health and wellbeing. As I read the entire book, I was so conscious of my own breathing and posture, which is a good thing! I appreciated the history, the author’s personal experiments into a wide range of breathing techniques and scientific studies, and the practice examples shared
  • Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston – I loved this YA fantasy novel! There are similaries to the Harry Potter series – Amari, a young Black girl, gets invited to a secret summer camp that is part of the super natural world. She is looking for her missing brother, who also attended camp here. Then she learns she is a magician, though in this world that is a bad thing, and her brother is a hero. As Amari and her roommate Elsie study to pass their entrance exams and pick their junior career paths, they fight evil and help save the world! This was a fun fantasy and I’m sure there is an entire series waiting to be written about this dynamic, powerful girl and her magic powers.
  • Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson – I LOVED this book! I don’t know where I heard about it, but I loved it from beginning to end. I couldn’t read fast enough to get to the end. Christine has amnesia and cannot form new memories, so each day she has to rediscover her condition and try to put the pieces of her past together. An amnesiac is by nature an unreliable narrator, so I knew to doubt the other characters and the things that were happening. While I was suspicious of everyone, it was still fun to see what Christine would think and do with the knowledge she had.
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I love this author and the creative way she tells stories that connect characters over decades of adventure and mishaps. Half of this story takes place in Nina’s house at her annual Rivas party on the beach of Malibu, a party she throws for her 3 siblings each year. The other half tells the history of the Rivas siblings, their parents, and their heartbreaks and successes. I loved how one hour of the party was interspersed with history every other chapter. I loved the Rivas: Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. I hated their famous father and loved the way they cared for each other. This was an emotional journey and a fun story!
  • A Fateful Grace (#2) by Louise Penny – Once I read the first in the Penny series about Inspector Garmache, I knew I would continue reading the story. These are traditional police procedurals that take place in Quebec, in a sleepy, beautiful village that has more than it’s fair share of murders. I like how this second book brought in some of the original village characters (Ruth, Clara, Peter, Gabri, etc.), but also introduced some new people. I imagine with each new story, we will continue to meet more villagers as we uncover mysteries. I enjoyed this.
  • The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth – I enjoyed this book, though not as much as The Mother In Law, which I LOVED by this author last year. I liked Rose and Fern, their childhood memories and their adult interactions, as twins who are so different. I knew to expect an unreliable narrator from Hepworth, but was still surprised by the deviousness that ensued.

Fiction: 7

Nonfiction: 1

Young Adolescent: 1


Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 2

Female author: 4

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 6

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Tarana Burke, Nora Zelevansky, and more!

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May 2021 Reading Update

I had another great reading month in May! I intentionally watched less junk TV and read more whenever I could. It helped that I had a long weekend away (my first plane trip in 14 months!) and lots of time to read poolside! I read so many books that I LOVED this month, and I listened to some audio books as well. This month I read:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I LOVED this book! When I heard about it (on a podcast), I knew I would like it. Then I started reading it, and the e-book version was 1,100 pages long and it started slowly and I thought I would never get into it, much less finish it. But soon I was invested in the life of Addie LaRue. She was a young woman born in France in the 1690’s who didn’t want to get married and be owned by a man. So she traded her life with the devil and then lives a sort of invisible life for centuries. The story alternates between what happens to her in her early life after the deal, and her modern love story in 2014 in NYC, with Henry, a lovely character with his own demons. This was such a fun mix of realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and magical realism and I loved the author’s creativity. Such an interesting read!
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – Another book I LOVED! I hadn’t read Ng before, but I did love the TV series based on her other book Little Fires Everywhere. In this book, the story follows the a Chinese American family in the 1970’s in the suburbs of Ohio. The children, Lydia, Nath, and Hannah, are the only Chinese children in town, and they face a lot of prejudice and microaggressions. Most of the story revolves around the fact that Lydia is missing from the first page of the book, but no one knows what happened. As the stories continues, and flashes backwards, we learn that Lydia’s father, who is Chinese, and her mother, who is white, have high expectations that their daughter we reach all the goals they didn’t Her mother wants her to be a doctor and her father wants her to be popular. The siblings have typical, complicated sibling relationships and everyone in the family leaves so much unsaid. This was a bittersweet, sad, family story that, though set in the 70’s could be about today. I loved the way the author developed each character, and how realistically flawed they all were.
  • Wreckage of My Presence: Essays by Casey Wilson – I have loved Casey Rose Wilson ever since I discovered the Bitch Sesh podcast, where she and Danielle Schneider break down Real Housewives episodes every week! I enjoyed this because Casey is funny and self deprecating and honest and real. She shared some silly acting stories, some sad family stories, and some funny memories. Listening to her read it was as fun as the podcast! And I started watching one of her shows, Happy Endings, because of her love for her costars.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I vaguely remember hearing about this book last year, and knew that I couldn’t read it while we were in the thick of our very real COVID-19 pandemic. This book, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, takes place before, during, and after a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world. It was sad and scary and entertaining, to read about the best and worst of humanity during the worst of times. While there were some slow parts in the book, there were also some parts I couldn’t read fast enough and I was sad when it ended.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny – I have heard Louise Penny’s detective series mentioned on multiple reading podcasts, so it’s been on my TBR for a few months. I finally decided to dive in to the first book and I enjoyed getting to know Detective Gamache and all of the characters in the small Canadian village of Three Pines. There were a LOT of secondary characters in this story, which made it feel crowded at times, but I still appreciated the lead up to the reveal of the who the murderer was and was had happened.
  • Hush-Hush by Stuart Woods – I haven’t read a Woods book since December, and I found a few available through my library. Just now I realized that I skipped one, so I will have to go back. I try to read the Stone Barrington series in order, just because some of his personal life changes slightly in between books. I don’t know why I love these books so much – they are graphically violent and nothing that I would hope happens in real life. But for escapism, I enjoy the fast-paced, rich-life adventures that Stone and his friends always find themselves in. What regular people can travel from NYC to Paris to NYC to London to NYC to Maine and back again in the course of a week or two, all while being stalked by Russian mobsters? It’s good fiction!
  • Choppy Waters by Stuart Woods – As soon as I finished the last Woods book and realized I had skipped this one, I had to go back and read it immediately. Thank goodness for library e-books readily available! What I enjoyed about this story was it was less about Stone Barrington’s wealthy adventures, and more about the president-elect, Holly Barker, is sometimes girlfriend. As the FBI and CIA fought to protect Holly from a fanatical group out to kill her before her inauguration, there was some fund undercover work, some hiding, and some fake-out scenarios to get the bad guys. I love Holly’s character and appreciated how she was in this entire story, instead of a chapter now and again.
  • Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan – The Currently Reading podcast recommended this as a good YA to listen to on audio. I’m so glad I followed that recommendation, because the audio version was beautiful! This was a unique story, told in four parts. The first part was old fashioned fairy tale and I almost gave up because it was not what I was expecting. Luckily it was short and I loved the main sections of the story. It begins in Germany in 1933, then moves to Philadelphia in 1935 and then SoCal in 1942, and ends in NYC in 1951. Each of the three parts felt so separate, yet the author did a beautiful job of finding the connections. The ending was sweet and the story was light-hearted despite the challenges each character faced. I highly recommend anyone who loves YA books or this author listen to this story!
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – I remember loving this YA mystery as either a child or a new teacher, and I randomly decided to read it again this month. There are a number of wacky characters, brought together to solve a murder mystery, with a lot of word-play clues. From the first set of clues, I remembered bits and pieces of the story, which is shocking since it was so long ago when I last read it and I rarely remember details! This was a fun read, thought it felt old and I’m not sure that any kids today would find much excitement in the low-tech details.
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave – I loved this book, which I picked for my May Book of the Month Club selection! Hannah has only been married to Owen for about two years when their entire world unravels. Just as Hannah is learning to deal with her surly teenage stepdaughter, Owen’s company gets raided and he goes missing. Throughout the entire book, Hannah and Bailey, her stepdaughter, work to solve the mystery of what has happened to Owen, and all that they don’t know. This was such a fun read that kept me interested from beginning to end.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott – I believe I saw this book referenced during a photo challenge this month, which made me take it off my shelf and reread it after many years. The first time I read this was when I was an English teacher, diving deep into the study of writing and teaching writing to young adolescents. This time I picked it up hoping for some inspiration or direction for my own personal writing. There were some nuggets I appreciated that drove me to draft some junk first drafts (one of the nuggets), to write about my childhood (another), and a reminder to be open to ideas from anywhere. What I was thinking when I began was that I wanted to work on my own fiction writing, but where I am now is thinking about the art of memoir. I’m curious to read other memoirs and essay collections for writerly inspiration.
  • No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez – I loved this book because it was my favorite kind of mystery- fast-paced, with the reader getting only some of the clues at a time, so it was hard to piece together the story or to know what was right or wrong or where we would end up. When Cassie stops to help with a couple fighting on the side of the road, she has no idea what kind of mess she will bring into her life. Everything that follows is a race to save lives and figure out the truth.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – I love David Sedaris’s writing for the laugh out loud, self-depricating stories! I haven’t read one of his collections in over a decade, so even though this is older, I enjoyed it. Sedaris bought a beach house for his family, then filled this book with mostly humorous stories about him and his middle-aged siblings, their aging father, and their childhood memories. While there are some sad points, his humor shines through and always ends on a high note. His fitbit obsession was remarkable and I’m curious if he still aims for a minimum of 7 miles of walking every single day!
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I loved this bittersweet story of Louisa Clark, who after losing her job ends up working as a caretaker/companion for quadripalegic Will Traynor. As they get to know each other, Louisa learns the simple and complex challenges that Will faces every day, while Will inspires her to see and do more with her life while she has the chance. Have tissues ready when reading this!
Me Before You: A Novel
  • When She Returned by Lucinda Berry – I have no idea where I heard about this book, but I enjoyed it as a fast-paced mystery that was perfect for a poolside reading experience! The story jumps from the present, when Kate returns after an 11 year disappearance, and the past, when we learn what happened to Kate. I love a story that involves mystery, a cult, and multiple narrators, and this had it all!
  • Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare – It took me awhile to get into this book, because the main character narrates in broken English. When the story begins, Adunni is a young girl forced to marry at age 14. After that sad beginning, we follow Adunni as she fights to be able to get an education, fights for her freedom, and works to find and use her own voice. As the story moved on, I enjoyed the characters more and more. I enjoyed learning a variety of facts about Nigeria, although many of them were quite sad or disheartening, especially about human trafficking, and the young girls who are forced into servitude.

Fiction: 13

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 13

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 9

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Tarana Burke, Stuart Woods, Nora Zelevansky, and more!

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Currently 2.0

I loved this Currently post on one of the healthy living blogs I read regularly. I flagged it as a good idea for me, since I haven’t written a blog post about anything other than books in awhile and I’m trying to write more. Before I started drafting this, I had an inkling that I had done it before. So I searched my own blog and way back in September of 2015 I wrote my first Currently post. It’s fun to do a 2.0 version in 2021!

  • Currently Reading: Still Life by Louse Penny – I have heard great things about Penny’s mysteries and I’m happy to be enjoying the first of this detective series. It was a little slow to start, but I had heard that so I was prepared.

  • Currently Anticipating: Vacations! I have one vacation booked for later this month and I’m busy making plans for a few more this year. I cannot wait to get on a plane again for a fun vacation! I am so ready to see friends and family I have seen in over a year, see new places, and cross off some bucket-list items.
  • Currently Pondering: Writing. I set a goal in January to write every day and I met that goal. Since then, I have written very sporadically on this blog, in my journal, and no other writing. Recently, I pulled out an Anne Lamott book about writing as inspiration to get back to my own personal writing. I’ve been pondering whether I could be a fiction writer or whether I might have a memoir in me. TBD…

  • Currently Watching: The newest season of The Handmaid’s Tale. It always takes a minute to remember where we left off (two years ago!) and then to get sucked back into the wild story, but I love it. Since the last season I read The Testament, the second book by Atwood, so I’m interested to see how the TV shows moves forward.

  • Currently Relishing: The time I have dedicated to reading, a hobby I enjoy so much! And because I’ve found new podcasts that talk about books, I am also relishing my extensively long To-Be-Read list of books! I truly love reading and am happy when I know I have a good book waiting for me. A second idea I am relishing is that I have had fresh sunflowers in my office for the last two weeks thanks to two different colleagues who treated me with my favorite flower!
  • Currently Ordering: Plane tickets (see Anticipating above!) and possibly a subscription to Peacock. Even though I’ve been watching less TV, there are a number of shows on Peacock that I am interested in, so a new account may be necessary soon.

  • Currently Making: Schedules and plans for the 2021-22 school year! It’s hard to believe that this wild year is almost over and that we can actually start planning for a return to pre-COVID life in our school system. I LOVE being able to talk about instruction again!

  • Currently Moving: My body and my step count with daily walks, either on my treadmill or out in nature. I love that I have so many friends with whom I can plan walking dates. I enjoy walking around so many beautiful areas in San Diego, from my usual beach spots to different neighborhoods on weekend explorations!
A recent hike over 7 bridges
  • Currently Craving: My brother has become my personal chef, and he comes over to my house to cook us dinner twice a week. He is a good cook, he can follow any recipe and he makes it look easy, and since I hate to cook and love to eat, it’s a good situation for me! This week he made one of the most delicious meals we’ve had all year. It’s from Rachael Hartley’s book Gentle Nutrition and it was amazing!

That is my Currently 2.0. Would love to hear your currently!

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April 2021 Reading Update

This might be the best reading month I’ve ever had in my entire life! Our school district was on spring break for two weeks and I did take a few days off, which definitely helped me add to this month’s list. I watched WAY less TV, which gave me more time to read! I’ve been listening to two great podcasts by readers, for readers (What Should I Read Next? and Currently Reading), which are filling my TBR list so fast I can’t keep up, yet I was motivated to try!

In April I read:

  • Later by Stephen King – I loved Stephen King in my teens, and I have loved 11/22/62 and The Institute, two of his more recent novels. His writing style is so unique, and his horror is just fun to read! This story was about Jamie, a young boy who can see dead people. When a nefarious adult learns of his unique skill, she uses it for evil, which causes drama for everyone.
  • Too Good to Be True by Carola Lovering – I loved this mystery! The first half of the book was amazing, with the story told from the present point of view of Skye, the semi-present point of view of Burke, Skye’s new fiancee, and the past told from the point of view of Heather, Burke’s wife. The reader knows more than Skye for most of the book, and it’s painful how despicable both Heather and Burke can be. The twist mid-way through the book was a complete surprise to me, but such a great way to change the story. This was a fun read and a good pick from my Book of the Month club!
  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert – I loved this YA novel, that I heard recommended on the “Currently Reading” podcast. Marva is a young Black high school student with an intense passion for voting rights. She meets Duke, a mixed race high student when they begin their day voting. The rest of the book takes place throughout one day – election day- and the chapters are narrated by Marva and Duke, alternating their perspectives as they go from one mishap to another. While the story was cute and funny, it was also smart and had compelling storylines about voter suppression, what happens when Black teens are pulled over by cops, and interracial relationships. There was a lot crammed into this short, sweet story.
  • Win by Harlan Coben – Coben is one of my favorite mystery writers. I recently watched a Zoom where Sharia La Pena, another author I love, interviewed him about this book, his newest release. Win was a secondary character in all of the Myron Bolitar books that Coben has written. It was fascinating to have an entire novel about this rich, sociopathic character, who has always been the side-kick in other stories. Win spends this story trying to solve a mystery close to home, impacting multiple generations of his own family, yet spread out across the country. His insane wealth and desire for violence make this a wild ride!
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – I loved this fast-paced, psychological thriller (thanks JJ for the recommendation!)! Grace and Jack have the perfect life, at least from the outside. But between chapters that flash from past to present, we learn that there is a darkness to Jack, and that their marriage is anything but perfect. I was so tense reading this right up until the end, waiting to find out what would happen. That’s a sign of a good thriller!
  • Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Ramin Setoodeh – I have never been a regular watcher of The View, but I have heard snippets about this book ever since it came out. I read this during my spring break, when I was going for light and airy reads. This was a decades long chronicle of all of the in-fighting amongst the co-hosts, the lack of leadership from the show to the producers, to the political and personal battles fought on and off screen. While I enjoyed the celebrity gossip of it all, it was sad to read how so many smart women fought with one another, seemingly for power and control. It’s sad that an ensemble of women can’t be successful, no matter how many times they changed up the people sitting at the table. It sounded like an uncomfortable place to work!
  • Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger – This book is beautiful literary fiction at its finest. It holds a special place in my heart, and reading it in April is my way to honor my mom, who we lost 10 years ago. I love the improbably love story of Mary and Cobb, their love of nature, of crows, of travel, and myth. Their trip to Indonesia to see turtles and Yellowstone to count crows and wolves, make me want to travel to those places with a biologist. I cry every time I read this story, even though I know what will happen and nothing is a surprise any more. I cry for their love, their loss, and the beauty of the story, and I cry for my own loss.
  • Whisper Network by Chandler Baker – I liked this book for the powerful messages about female empowerment, standing up for what is right, and independence. I disliked this book because I wanted to like all of the female characters so much, but they were all so flawed, so painfully real in their secrets and lies. Sloane, Grace, and Ardie are lawyers for a company, working under Ames, a man who harasses women. When a new woman starts working for them, the women decide to put a stop to Ames’s behavior. Then everything goes wrong. During depositions and investigations the truth and lies come out in different ways. I loved the character of Rosalita, a cleaning woman in the building who saw everything. I liked the end of the story.
  • Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia – I loved this book! The author is a CPA and a writer and she combined her two passions in this story. Nora is a forensic account, hired by Strike gym to find $20 million that went missing. Gregg and Logan, the gym owners, are both suspicious and seem to be framing each other. I loved the way the author gave us glimpses of the story, and then went backwards to fill in past actions that moved the story along. This was a fun, fast-paced mystery!
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – I LOVED this ridiculous book that can only be described as mermaid horror. An entertainment company commissions a huge boat of scientists to go out to the Mariana Trench in search of mermaids, which most people believe are mythical, but which the entertainment company already believes to be real because of the destruction of a previous ship they sent out there to make a movie. What unfolds is truly mermaid horror, so you can’t stand descriptive horror stories, this is not the book for you. If you like that, know that this is fun, ridiculous, fast-paced, and full of fun and diverse characters.
  • When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris – This was a YA mystery that would be good for high school students. Jay is a young Black teen whose sister goes missing. Because they live in a poor area of town, there isn’t a lot of concern taken to help find her. It doesn’t help that she was hanging out with the local drug dealer the night of her disappearance, so people write her off as worthless. As Jay tries to solve the mystery of what happened to his sister, while supporting his aging grandmother, he doesn’t let anyone get too close. Then Riley, a girl from his church, just busts her way into his life. I love the character of Riley and how she opens Jay up to others helping him.
  • Broken (in the best possible ways) by Jenny Lawson – I love Jenny’s humorous essays – about life, fights with her husband, her mental illness struggles, and general merriment. This book has more seriousness, as she wrote it in the thick of deep depression, and I appreciated her honest accounts of the good and bad times. She is always honest, usually funny, and a gifted writer.
  • Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy – I heard this book recommended on one of my new readerly podcasts and appreciated the description so much I knew I had to read it. It’s hard to talk about this without giving away spoilers, but I can say it is fast-paced, has hints to Stephen King’s Misery, has an unreliable narrator, switches perspectives, and makes you question everything. I loved it!
  • Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones – I liked Luvvie’s TED Talk, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and I wanted to love this book and just couldn’t. She provides general self-help advice to build confidence, be independent, have the tough conversations, and be brave. I love all of those things, but Luvvie didn’t say anything new or unique about these ideas. Her writing style is very informal, like she is having a chat with a good friend, and she shares a lot of personal memories of her Nigerian grandmother and her own learning experiences. I confess that I skimmed through the last section of the book, because I didn’t want to DNF this, but I wasn’t willing to commit to fully reading every word.

Fiction: 11

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 9

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 7

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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