Monday, July 15, 2019

Summer 2019 Roadtrip - Gulf Shores/Fort Morgan

This summer has officially proven to me that spontaneous trips are the best trips.  We had been lounging in the pool the week before we left, when the need to be at the beach struck. Discussing schedules, I realized that I only had four days left this summer with no plans - luckily everyone else's schedules aligned with those four days. We struggled in finding a place to stay in the Gulf Shores area so last minute, and had all but given up when a 4-person VRBO magically appeared - obviously as a sign confirming our need for sun and sand. The weather looked good and the "book now" button was clicked in record time. Unfortunately, only a few days later, we saw a hurricane was predicted for the area. The day before departure we still weren't sure we would be able to go because of weather (and also this flesh-eating bacteria business!) Thankfully the morning of it looked as though the worst of the storm would miss us, and we knew that even if it rained all weekend, we could still have fun.

Day 1: Thursday, July 11, 2019

We left at 6AM for our trip to Fort Morgan, Alabama. Never before has a nine hour drive gone so fast!! Time flies when you're having fun! Apparently it also flies when you have Cookie Monster giving you directions while jamming to 90s country...As soon as we got to Gulf Shores, we stopped for food and snacks (priorities!).  You know how you're not suppose to go grocery shopping when you're hungry? Oops. Somehow we managed to squeeze all of our supplies in with us and our luggage into my little Corolla.

Beach Day 1
The second we got to our condo, we put on our suits and headed to the beach - unpacking could wait, as according to all of the weather apps, this could be our only opportunity to experience the beach with the sun in the sky. (Spoiler: it wasn't!) On our way there, we met the security guard, Earl. Our introductions provided him with fake names (because safety first!), and he was quite smitten with "Allie." 😝 He gave us directions on getting to the beach.  We sat in the sand and chatted, letting the waves wash over us...or sometimes wash us away!

Since we were on the outskirts of Hurricane Barry, the waves and wind were insane. There were riptide warnings posted everywhere, unsurprisingly. As soon as one wave headed back out to sea, another one was rushing in. It was easy to see why it was advised for people to be wary of going into the gulf.  The waves were able to carry us away, I can't imagine having children near that. Standing in the dry sand also provided a fun opportunity to get pelted with sand particles that felt like a bunch of tiny missiles - the wind, y'all!

I had gotten out of the sand to attempt to rinse off, when I saw something move. "Crab!" I yelled, causing the rest of them to look where I was pointing, scream, and fight the incoming waves to get up and away from the crustacean. The palm sized ghost crab scattered away, gliding sideways along the sand, as we laughed about how unexpectedly hilarious the situation had just been. It was the first of many ghost crabs we would see over the course of the weekend.

Eventually we headed back towards the condo, rinsed the sand off with a hose, and slipped into the pool on site. We had an indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub. Side note here - we stayed at the Dunes Condos, which we would all recommend for grown up gatherings. There isn't a lot for children to do in the area, but the beach is much less packed than the Gulf Shores beaches. From our room we could see the beach from the balcony, and the bay on the opposite side of the peninsula from our doorway.

Karaoke Ready!

For dinner we popped in a pizza from the store and got ready for the evening.  We had been told by a friend that Tacky Jack's had karaoke at 9, and we love our karaoke! It was only a 0.2 mile walk from the condo (again, great location for adults looking to escape the chaos of children!) Our song choices for the night were "How Do You Like Me Now" by Toby Keith, and "Two  Piña Coladas" by Garth Brooks, inspired by our 90s country carpool karaoke on the drive down. No one booed us, and the guy in charge of karaoke decorated us with boas, so I think that means we rocked it. After a late night, and fun conversation, we wandered back to the condo for leftover pizza and laughs before bed.

Hiding out from the rain

Day 2: Friday, July 12, 2019

We all slept in this morning and enjoyed donuts and coffee (not me!) for breakfast.  The sun was out, which we weren't expecting, so we wandered down to the beach to take a stroll.  On our way down to the beach, it started to downpour! We ran to the nearest beach house and hid under the carport until it tapered off. 

Luckily it didn't take long, and we sauntered up and down the beach for an hour.  It was crazy to see the damage from the wind the night before.  The steel beams from beach canopies were bent and mangled, and there was plenty of other debris scattered about the sand.  The wind was wild, but all of the sand was wet, so we didn't get attacked by it like yesterday.

We came back to the condo and got ready to go into town for lunch.  We went to ACME Oyster House, where I promised I would TRY an oyster.  I ordered fish and fries, but I did try one of Angel's oysters. It was actually pretty good, but don't tell her I said that. 

We stopped back at the store for a few more supplies before heading back to the condo.  The sun was still out, so we changed into our suits and went back down to the beach.  We sat in the water for awhile, but the waves were still so crazy from the hurricane to the west of us. We could be sitting in the sand having conversation one second, and the next thing we knew a two foot wave would pick us up and carry us ashore.

We were promised that an awesome band would be playing tonight at Tacky Jack's, so after showering and getting ready, we hung out for awhile before heading back down the road. As we walked in, we were greeted by people who remembered us from the night before.  We met some others from Tennessee as well, and had a great time. Before we knew it, it was after midnight and we were heading back to our condo for more pizza. We sat on the balcony for awhile, cracking up over the fun we'd had so far, and creating more memories. Do you ever start laughing and feel like you can't stop?? Because that is 100% what this weekend felt like. The walks back from Tacky Jack's and our evening balcony chats were my favorite. 💗

Day 3: Saturday, July 13, 2019

As I woke up, everyone else was still in bed, so I went out on the balcony to listen to music and watch the waves. We came into the weekend expecting rain the whole time, but thus far we had barely experienced any! It was raining HARD this morning though, coming down almost completely sideways. I watched the palm trees trying their hardest to stand their ground, but when the rain began to drench the balcony, I went back inside. Normally stormy weather would ruin a vacation, but since we had already gotten more sun than we expected, the weather made sitting inside together even more cozy.

We hung around the condo for awhile, chatting and deciding what to do for the day. Two years ago it would have driven me crazy to plan a trip such short notice and have no actual itinerary. The Gretchen of today LOVED this.  Because the trip was a spur of the moment decision, we had no schedule to stick to, which meant we could fly by the seat of our pants and do what we wanted when we wanted, which meant that today we were getting milkshakes for lunch!

We headed back into Gulf Shores, about a 20-30 minute drive, to go to The Yard Milkshake Bar.  A small shake was more than enough to fill all of us! There were a billion choices, and we each picked different ones.  I had the unicorn - I love cotton candy ice cream!!

After "lunch," we drove back to the condo.  Stuffed to the max with our sugary treats and exhausted from our late night before, we each snuggled into our own comfy spots to nap/read/listen to music for a couple hours. Our trip was meant to be relaxing, so we made sure to get some R&R!!

We had packed plenty of games just in case we were stuck inside all weekend due to weather, so after our solo chill time, we figured we should play one. Mary brought Mexican Train Dominoes - it was so fun!!

The time came to decide our goal for the night - either go back to Tacky Jack's or hang out at the condo and play games. Since we had a long drive ahead of us the next day, and we were already in "chill" mode, we decided on staying in. It was nearing sunset, so we wandered back down to the beach for one last walk.  We were extra excited about this one, because we knew the ghost crabs would be out! (Okay, maybe we all weren't excited about the ghost crabs, but I certainly was!!) We took off down the beach in the opposite direction that our walks had been so far.  On the return, we spotted ghost crabs EVERYWHERE! We had to move in slow motion to get pictures of them, otherwise they would scurry off into their holes. Luckily there were so many of them that we had a lot of opportunity!!

Can you spot the ghost crab?

Following our beach walk we went back up to our floor and pulled out What Do You Meme? It was the first time they had played, and we were rolling in laughter!! (If you've never played, its like Cards Against Humanities except with memes and captions). What a perfect ending to an already incredible weekend.

Day 4: Sunday, July 14, 2019

None of us were thrilled about this trip coming to a close. I'm usually ready to be home in my own bed by the end of the trip, but something about this summer has been different. I love home, but I love adventuring with friends even more. For me, home is people, more than it is a place, and since my Tennessee people were with me, home was at the beach!

We slowly got packed up and loaded up the car before heading into Gulf Shores for breakfast.  Of course this day happened to be sunny!! Mary had been to a cute little diner in the area before, so we decided to go there.  Hazel's Nook was exactly what you expect when you go to a breakfast diner in Alabama. The food was good and it the atmosphere had a very southern feel to it.

After eating, we begrudgingly got back in the car for the long drive home.

Girls' trips are the best, y'all. My heart is so full.

You can find all travel posts from Hey Dreamer Blog here.

Monday, July 1, 2019

#gretchensbooks2019 - June

Whoop! Met my reading goal for the year! Thinking I may bump it up to 100....Loving this summer reading time!! Also I got a little rant-y about one of these...sorry in advance!!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

50. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (4/5 ★)

Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens--until the day its complacency is shattered by a school shooting. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened before her very own eyes--or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show--destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

I listened to this book via audiobook at the same time I was reading a nonfiction book about the Parkland school shooting and its aftermath (great way to start off my summer reading, I know) so it sometimes threw me off switching between fiction/non-fiction on the same topic. I don't usually care for Jodi Picoult books, but I keep reading them in hopes I'll finally find some that I like - and this was one of them. I know its a touchy subject, but I think Picoult did a fantastic job with it. The biggest flaw was, like all of her books, it was too long; there was too many unneeded details that took away from the story rather than contribute to it.

51. Parkland by Dave Cullen (5/5 ★)

Nineteen years ago, Dave Cullen was among the first to arrive at Columbine High, even before most of the SWAT teams went in. While writing his acclaimed account of the tragedy, he suffered two bouts of secondary PTSD. He covered all the later tragedies from a distance, working with a cadre of experts cultivated from academia and the FBI, but swore he would never return to the scene of a ghastly crime.
But in March 2018, Cullen went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School because something radically different was happening. In nearly twenty years witnessing the mass shootings epidemic escalate, he was stunned and awed by the courage, anger, and conviction of the high school’s students. Refusing to allow adults and the media to shape their story, these remarkable adolescents took control, using their grief as a catalyst for change, transforming tragedy into a movement of astonishing hope that has galvanized a nation.
Cullen unfolds the story of Parkland through the voices of key participants whose diverse personalities and outlooks comprise every facet of the movement. Instead of taking us into the minds of the killer, he takes us into the hearts of the Douglas students as they cope with the common concerns of high school students everywhere—awaiting college acceptance letters, studying for mid-term exams, competing against their athletic rivals, putting together the yearbook, staging the musical Spring Awakening, enjoying prom and graduation—while moving forward from a horrific event that has altered them forever.
Deeply researched and beautifully told, Parkland is an in-depth examination of this pivotal moment in American culture—and an up-close portrait that reveals what these extraordinary young people are like as kids. As it celebrates the passion of these astonishing students who are making history, this spellbinding book is an inspiring call to action for lasting change.

I read Cullen's Columbine last summer and really enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a book documenting a tragedy), so when I saw he was writing about the aftermath of Parkland, I knew I had to read it.  I purposely don't read these books during the school year, because they evoke too much emotion. I knew the living victims of the Parkland shooting began a movement, fighting for the safety of school, but I hadn't realized the extent of their work. Cullen is a journalist, so his books are informative, but they're not political. I definitely recommend this one, and Columbine  as well. 

52. A Touch of Defiance by Gary Ponzo (4/5 ★)

An anti-government party called the Civil Resistance Movement is growing in popularity as tension mounts between police and civilians. The head of the CRM, Leo Frazier, has his own racist agenda which is unknown to his followers.
FBI Agent Nick Bracco and team must track down Frazier and his group of zealots before the MLK Day rally becomes ground zero for a terrorist attack. As usual, Nick turns to his Mafia-connected cousin Tommy to help search these extremists in places the FBI couldn’t navigate.
This is the fifth book the the Nick Bracco series, and from what I remember, it was just as good as the first.  I began this series when I had a Kindle Unlimited subscription 4.5 years ago in Costa Rica. They were so good, and pretty quick reads, but they were no longer free after the forth one, and I'm cheap and won't pay for digital books, only physical copies. These books are only published as Kindle books, but luckily I had won a digital copy of book 5 from Goodreads! The thrillers aren't your typical, domestic problems type thrillers, but are focused around the FBI and the situations they deal with. Reading the series in order isn't necessary, but it will give you a better understanding of the characters. I definitely recommend these books!

53. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (4/5 ★)

Meet Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.

She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.
Out of work and out of money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, el-primo bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook. Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli’s the inamorato who charmed Stephanie out of her virginity at age sixteen. There’s still powerful chemistry between them, so the chase should be interesting…and could also be extremely dangerous.

This book was chosen for our next book club book, and I'm so glad it was! I brought it with me to read at CMA Fest, as I always arrived a couple hours before doors opened so I could get prime parking. At least eight different people stopped me at some point during the day to tell me how much they loved her books and ask if I had read them before. It was HILARIOUS! I couldn't stop laughing out loud.  I thought for sure the people around me thought I was crazy, but then it seemed like I was the only one who had never read Evanovich's books, and that everyone around me understood exactly why I was cracking up. As I write this, I've got the next three books checked out from the library to read! My favorite character so far is the grandma.  She doesn't appear often, but when she does, she has me rolling!

54. Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (3/5 ★)

Here at last is McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and compelling honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faced in the classroom. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he worked to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents.

Since I loved, loved, loved McCourt's first memoir, Angela's Ashes, earlier this year, my friend loaned me this book to read.  This is the third installment in his trio of memoirs, and I will be reading the middle one just as soon as I get myself back to the library to pick it up. I didn't love it as much as the first book, but I enjoy his writing style. He is oddly humorous in a way most authors, or even people in general, aren't. His life reflections are enjoyable, and as a teacher myself, definitely relatable. 

55. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis  (2/5 ★)

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

Unpopular opinion, but I did not care much for Hollis's first book, Girl, Wash Your Face. I like to think that I'm a pretty fair person, so I wanted to give her second book a chance. I definitely liked this one better, but still was nowhere near my favorite in this genre. I feel like I had some pretty relatable moments with this one that I didn't with her first. I'm trying to remember what they were, but I returned this book to the library a couple weeks ago and completely forgot to write my reflection before doing so...

56. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (3/5 ★)

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

Another Hoover book to add to the list! This one was pretty good, though not my favorite.  I half listened to this on audiobook and didn't care for the performer, she was kind of bland.  Without spoiling too much, I did appreciate the unpredictable ending of this one. I was sure I knew what would happen, but I was proved wrong which was a nice change of pace! I loved how it switched between the "now" of the story, and the "then," so you could see where they're at and where they started, all while trying to figure out how they got there. Honestly there is nothing that I can say for this book that I haven't said for every other Hoover book that I've read this year - they're all good, quick reads!

57. What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan (2.5/5 ★)

In a heartbeat, everything changes…
Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.  
Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.
As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.
Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

I had read a book by her previously, and while it was okay, it wasn't great.  But again, I believe in second chances.  Honestly, I wasn't super impressed with this one either. It was unrealistic, unrelatable, and the lead to the perpetrator was anticlimactic. Maybe I just wasn't focused enough, I don't know.  If anyone else has read this one, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

58. Educated by Tara Westover (1.5/5 ★)

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

I checked this one out from the library three times before I actually had time to sit down and read it. The topic sounded good, but the pages were big and the font size was small and to be honest, it seemed like a pretty daunting summer read, so I continued to put it off. A couple weekends ago I went to one of my kiddos dance recitals, and as we all know, if I’m not early, I’m late, so I arrived with plenty of time to spare, plopped down in prime-time seating, and cracked open Educated

Alright, wildly unpopular opinion. I did not like this book. Don’t get me wrong, she was an engaging writer (which is the ONLY reason this book didn't get a zero rating), but the content was severely lacking. If I were to write a description for this book it would be “Girl has semi-abusive childhood and semi-radical parenting but uses privilege and opportunity to escape it. Now has a classroom education, but that's about it.”

I had a hard time getting into it, but once I’d passed 100 pages I was hooked. However...I didn’t love it like I expected to. Something felt off the whole time. A disclaimer, I’m coming at this read from a completely privileged perspective. I don’t come from a family that has problems. We don’t have a black sheep, and no one has ever done anything that would make me question their sanity, morals, etc. They’re just all good, well-rounded people. So maybe it’s not fair of me to judge her, but regardless, these are my (very rambled) thoughts.

First off, once grown, Westover was given the opportunity to study on another continent, where she complained about her family, but kept. Going. Back. I get it, they're family, its hard to let go of, yada yada yada, but my point here is that she still has years of therapy left before she really processes her childhood and early adulthood. Honestly, I think she should have processed it all before she wrote the book. If she re-wrote this twenty years from now, I think it would be a totally different (much better) memoir. 

She calls herself educated, but being educated is so much more than knowing facts and events. Yes, she overcame a lot. She got degrees from prestigious universities despite lacking a proper childhood education, which is incredible. But there is a difference between being smart and being educated. There is a difference between knowing things, and understanding things. She has conquered the classroom, but has yet to understand the world. 

Her story wasn’t unique. Okay so she came from nothing and wound up in these exclusive universities. But did she come from nothing? Yes, there was abuse, I'm NOT downplaying that. There are so, so many kids who go through just as much, if not more abuse on a daily basis. That doesn't mean that what she went through doesn't matter just because others had it worse, I know, but it also doesn't make this the huge over-coming horrendous obstacles story that it was marketed as. (Okay, I feel like I sound like a horrible person saying all this. Let me seriously emphasize, abuse is abuse, no matter how much or how bad, etc. Absolutely no abuse is okay and one person's story is not better than another because they went through more, but to me this story wasn't unique I guess is what I'm getting at. So many people overcome terrible childhoods, but I can't find what makes hers anymore worth reading about than someone else's, if that makes sense.)

Yes, her parents were radical. But she also had support. From grandparents, community members, other family members. She says they were all off the grid, but she worked and engaged in the (normal) community around her. They somehow had enough money always, even though she acts like they didn’t. They always had a home, food, clothing, expensive work equipment. One day she's a young adult that has 60 dollars to her name, the next she has an apparently ginormous grant for and expensive school and can fly off to Italy or back to the states at the drop of a hat. So many inconsistencies!!

The footnotes stated that she called upon others for their memories, but the story still felt very one-sided. She admits herself that her memories would change to fit whatever narrative she needed them to, so how much of what she wrote is actually accurate to reality?? She’s angry, and has every right to be, but I feel like that impacted the writing and recollections in a drastic and negative way (which goes back to the thing about needing more therapy and process time before writing this). I get it, it’s a memoir, hence why it is her memories, but it should still be factual, and the “facts” felt inconsistent. I know memories change over time, but I hard a hard time finding hers credible. It was not an inspiring story. It was more of an “I’m angry and want to get my side of the story out in the world” story. She was bitter and rightly so, but I don’t think that’s a good place to write a memoir from.

There was no conclusion to this. There was no this-is-what-I’ve-learned-and-now-I’m-here-in-a-better-place-because-of-it lesson. It was a published family feud which left me highly disappointed.

59. This Is Me by Chrissy Metz (4/5 ★)

In This is Me, Chrissy Metz shares her story with a raw honesty that will leave readers both surprised but also inspired. Infused with the same authenticity she brings to her starring role, Chrissy’s This is Me is so much more than your standard Hollywood memoir or collection of personal essays. She embraces the spirit of Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, and shares how she has applied the lessons she learned fromboth setbacks and successes. A born entertainer, Chrissy finds light in even her darkest moments, and leaves the reader feeling they are spending time with a friend who gets it.
Chrissy Metz grew up in a large family, one that always seemed to be moving, and growing. Her father disappeared one day, leaving her mother to work a series of menial jobs and his children to learn to live with the threat of hunger and the electricity being cut off. When her mother remarried, Chrissy hoped for “normal” but instead experienced a form of mental pain that seemed crafted just for her. The boys who showed her attention did so with strings attached as well, and Chrissy accepted it, because for her, love always came with conditions.
When she set out for Los Angeles, it was the first time she had been away from her family and from Florida. And for years, she got barely an audition. So how does a woman with the deck stacked against her radiate such love, beauty and joy? This too is at the heart of This is Me.  
I really loved this book! I met Chrissy at CMA fest this year, after which a friend saw the photo I posted with her and told me she had written a memoir! Of course I hopped right on checking it out from the library AND reserving it on audiobook as she is the performer. Prior to reading this, I knew nothing about Chrissy other than her role on This is Us.
I was reading the reviews for this book, as I do, and I found one of the biggest complaints was that this book was called a memoir, but it wasn’t memoir-y enough, or it was listed as self-help, but it wasn’t self-help-y enough. People were mad that I wasn’t classified as one way or another!! News flash, y’all, it doesn’t have to be!

60. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (5/5 ★)

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

I have yet to LOVE a Jodi Picoult book, but this one is definitely at the top of the list.  It was the second Picoult book that I read this book, the other which was at the top as well. I think that she does a great job working with difficult topics, and really shares realistic perspectives in a fictional story. Also, this is being made into a movie! (As of now it is in development, according to IMDB, so the release date is not yet available). This was the first Picoult book that I can honestly say I loved, and wasn't even annoyed with its length. Every bit of the story was completely necessary.

61. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich (4/5 ★)

Now Stephanie's back, armed with attitude -- not to mention stun guns, defense sprays, killer flashlights, and her trusty .38, Stephanie is after a new bail jumper, Kenny Mancuso, a boy from Trenton's burg. He's fresh out of the army, suspiciously wealthy, and he's just shot his best friend.

With her bounty hunter pal Ranger stepping in occasionally to advise her, Stephanie staggers kneedeep in corpses and caskets as she traipses through back streets, dark alleys, and funeral parlors.

And nobody knows funeral parlors better than Stephanie's irrepressible Grandma Mazur, a lady whose favorite pastime is grabbing a front-row seat at a neighborhood wake. So Stephanie uses Grandma as a cover to follow leads, but loses control when Grandma warms to the action, packing a cool pistol. Much to the family's chagrin, Stephanie and Granny may soon have the elusive Kenny in their sights.
Fast-talking, slow-handed vice cop Joe Morelli joins in the case, since the prey happens to be his young cousin. And if the assignment calls for an automobile stakeout for two with the woman who puts his libido in overdrive, Morelli's not one to object.

Low on expertise but learning fast, high on resilience, and despite the help she gets from friends and relatives, Stephanie eventually must face the danger alone when embalmed body parts begin to arrive on her doorstep and she's targeted for a nasty death by the most loathsome adversary she's ever encountered. Another case like this and she'll be a real pro.

I reserved this on audiobook and checked out a print copy from the library.  I had heard the narration was good so I wanted to give it a go, but when I compared it to the print copy, it wasn't the same!! Because of FOMO, I returned the audiobook and just read it in print. As I write this review, I'm currently reading the fourth book in the series, and from what I can tell, there isn't anything I can say for one book that I can't say for the rest. Because of that, I will continue to add the books to my "read" list, but won't add additional review unless they warrant it!

62. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich (3.5/5 ★)

In Three to Get Deadly, a "saintly" old candy store owner is on the lam---and bounty hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum is on the case. As the body count rises, Stephanie finds herself dealing with dead drug dealers and slippery fugitives on the chase of her life. And with the help of eccentric friends and family, Steph must see to it that this case doesn't end up being her last. . . .

As with any series, the story line is all kind of the same. But this series has been great for summer. Super easy, quick reads that don't leave you exhausted once you've finished them!

Reading Challenge: 62/50 books read in 2019

You can find previous book reviews here! As also, feel free to drop any recommendations!